Monday, September 3, 2012

I enjoyed the interview assignment in Mass Communication

"Interview an older person, maybe a parent and most especially a grandparent, if you can," was the basic assignment. The subject of the interview was to be the changes in mass media the interviewee had noticed over the years and also what that person thought of these changes.

From a pedagogical view, this was one of my attempts to take the spotlight from the class instructor and put some of the learning on the class. One of my reasons for enjoying the assignment was that the pedagogy worked in this case. Most of the students got into the assignment and they came in with lots of material on the changes in mass media over the years.

Certainly, I could have lectured on these changes from my point of view. I am older. I have seen a lot of decades of change in mass communication. I might have even kept them awake with my recitation of the first Rome, NY - Healy Avenue phone number I remember 3-0-1-7-J. That was the party line in our house before we got the 7-0-4-8 phone number for the private line -- meaning others in the neighborhood could not pick up the phone and listen in on the conversation. (Note, you could not keep your same numbers as technology or service providers changed.)  And, while I might have kept them awake, I think they got a lot more out of hearing these experiences from their grand parents and maybe even a parent or friend.  Those interviewed did have some keen memories and interesting ideas.

Further, this way of approaching a quick bit of media history also helped us focus again on culture, a major part of this course. One interviewee, for example, talked of the importance of radio weather in Iceland and then we heard from a S. C. farmer who also mentioned the key role weather news from the radio played in their early years of farming. And, we got to hear of growing up in a small village of Mexico as well as a life in a big city in the North.

A major reason I enjoyed the assignment was that it is a great introduction to the history of specific mediums that we will be getting into. For example, the idea of only one or three television channels was mentioned in several interviews. The idea that people actually wrote each other REAL letters was also a common theme.

I am hoping that the students also remember one of the refrains that came from many of the papers. The regret in the words of the interviewees that in the old days they interacted face to face a lot more than they see or feel happening today. One of our BIG questions as we continue exploring mass communication and media over the next several months will be this question of connection and the question of how you get people engaged.

I got to read all the papers and enjoyed the approaches the interviewers and interviewees took with this assignment. (We used small groups so everyone's paper got read but we only used about six of the papers in the full class.) I will be hoping that seeing and feeling the connection with their own past will give them a feeling of the significance of studying the history of the media so they will be better prepared to mange the future of the media.

Should be a really interesting semester because the students are deeply involved!