Interactive journalism tools add info, flash

Dr. Oran A. Moser elementary school is the site of the newly proposed intermediary school. Rocky Hill schools are featured in the map below.

Map lists current Rocky Hill schools and proposed new intermediary school

The map above was created using Google Maps with some help from YouTube videos. Once I got a handle on the intuitive nature of the app, I was able to manipulate icons and add photos that I had taken of schools. Google offers many other features, from the appearance of the map, say, showing terrain or a street view, to URLs to websites and a variety of icons.

Survey created with Polldaddy asks students about news reading habits

The poll below was fairly easy to construct with the help of the Polldaddy app that offers a variety of question types and easy manipulation of questions, along with a variety of backgrounds and color options to personalize appearance.

Timeline provides a peek into teachers’ hopes for a classroom

I was unable to embed the code for this timeline, so viewing the timeline requires clicking on the link below and opening it in a new tab:

Waiting for a new classroom

Toki-Tiki offers one free timeline for anyone who sets up a free account.  Providing the embedded code to add the timeline to a website is not included in the free account. That feature is included in the basic paid account. That aside, the timeline creator’s free account is easy to use, as well as versatile, offering generous space to describe the timeline, add media, add captions,and add URLs. I did not include all of these feature in my timeline, but I did play around with them and learned enough about each one to say that using them is easy.

The experience of working with interactive journalism tools

In an earlier post for my Teaching Multimedia (TeachMM) class, I commented that I thought I did a fairly good job on a podcast because I prepared the way I would for a news interview. Looking back, I can see there is much more to preparing for a podcast as well as prepping for the use of interactive tools. Having been through the experience, now, with each, podcasts to maps to surveys to timelines, I would say the best way to prepare for using any of these tools is not only planning but hands on experience.

No matter how much reading I did in preparation for using each of these tools, I found that when it got to using one I needed by my side some type of support, such as a step-by-step guide or, even better, a YouTube video. I expect with experience using the these tools will become not only easier, but less time consuming, allowing for more creativity. The first experience, however, is critical to shaping an attitude in students that encourages them to get creative.

For each piece of the assignment, I tried several apps. For instance, the mapping exercise I tried each of the recommended apps and a few WordPress plug-ins. One of the plug-ins caused the site to crash. (So I learned that it is chancy to try a plug-in that has not been tested!) Most worked in a similar fashion. I ended up using Google Maps, which provided the embed code, skipping plug-ins altogether.

Regarding Google Maps, logging in and finding the “create map” function took up some time. Once in the intuitive structure was easy to use. My only advice is, for a teacher, to get some hands on experience, work out the steps for any exercise, anticipating that students might get frustrated.

Polldaddy was simple enough. The only issue that I encountered that need commenting is that it is important to save any changes, especially with the questions, immediately. Even then, there is no guarantee what you changed will be saved. Several times, I had to make the same changes multiple times. Even then, I had an issue with the order of the questions. I moved them around, thinking that the order I ended with might be preserved, but when I saved a last time and took the survey, the order of the questions reverted to a previous state. (The application allows for random ordering of questions, but I did not opt for it.)

Toki-Tiki, as with the others, was simple to use. After playing around with it, I learned fairly quickly about the adding new story functions, as well as how to add media and URLs.

And, as stated above, aside from knowing how each application works, preparing by having the elements for your map, survey or timeline is critical. These are not exercises where a student can just make things up as he goes. She needs to have the components of each at hand or at least know how to access them. For instance, I needed to upload the photos for my timeline into the media library of my website, and from there, I needed to copy each URL into the appropriate space in Toki-Tiki. Otherwise, the free Toki-Tiki account did not allow the uploading of photos from a computer.

As for using these interactive tools in a journalism class, these handy infographics, each one of them provides more opportunity for readers to actively engage. I recommend them for any story that would benefit from that interaction. A map not only gives the reader a visual but also allows for the opportunity to find and visit the location of a story. In addition, the map links the reader to the URL of a website with more information. A survey provides both an opportunity for a reader to answer questions but also to find out where he or she compares to other readers. The timeline is another visual that adds to text, with photos, links, video and audio components.

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