Online Comment Sections Do More Harm Than Good

Online comment sections do, in fact, more harm than good. With the rise of cyber bullying and the safety of being anonymous behind a screen, comment sections have become unsafe spaces where people critically analyze whatever content is being put out. Here are 4 reasons why I think online comment sections are harmful:

  1. There are no consequences to saying negative things since you’re behind a screen. You don’t realize that your harmful words are affecting the lives of very real people on the Internet. There’s a YouTube beauty guru by the name of KathleenLights who sums up how harmful online comment sections can be. With 1.6 million YouTube subscribers, Kathleen has her fair share of “haters.” In May of this year, she posted a video in which she described one particular incident where she positively commented on another YouTuber’s video, but her comment was met with comments from others attacking her character and personal qualities.
  2. You can pretend to be someone else, even if it’s a well-known personality. A hater of KathleenLights created an account with her same name and picture, and  “this person [was] commenting atrocious things to people” pretending to be Kathleen. She addressed the issue and warned her subscribers in a video. This person acting as Kathleen went above and beyond to be hurtful not only to Kathleen, but to her supportive subscribers in the comment section.
  3. It can get mean pretty quickly, even if someone in the comment section is trying to stand up for the person that mean comment was about. Below is an example of how mean one person can be, and how quickly the mean comments escalated. Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 10.17.02 PM.png
  4.  Many people who have no other way of taking out their feelings use the comment section as a place to vent their frustrations, so they’re venting at people who don’t deserve it. Using the screenshot above as an example, TotallyFabtablous121 attacked both the woman who made the original YouTube video and the commenter Camryn Lamotte, who came to the YouTuber’s defense. Although we have no concrete evidence, it’s not a far cry to assume that TotallyFabtablous121 is either jealous of the YouTuber, that she gets bullied at school, or that she feels powerful by being anonymously mean online.

Final Project Outline

Story idea summed up in one line: When you look around any given classroom on a college campus, you’ll see many students clued to their cellphones while the professor is teaching. There are times when smartphones are allowed in class by the professor, but what about when their use isn’t permitted? My final project will examine the question of, “Are smartphones helping or hindering learning in universities?”

Which Media Will You Use?  (Text, photo, infographic, etc): I plan on using an audio interview. I would like to use a photo gallery as well.

Interviewees?: I plan on using an audio interview from Umich COMM professor Scott Campbell, whose research focuses on mobile communication. I will also interview Umich Linguistics professor Ezra Keshet. I am in his class now, and he allows the use smartphones, tablets, and laptops in class. I plan on using his interview for my own insight for the project, but I do not plan on sharing his interview as an audio piece. 

What are the main three questions will you ask?: 1. Do you or don’t you allow the use of smartphones in class and why? / 2. What do you do when you notice one of your students on their phone in class without your permission? / 3. Do you feel education has been digitally disrupted? In what ways?  

Additional background and notes: I will draw on research done in the field, as well as my own prior knowledge from classes I have taken where professors have strict technology-use rules.    

Information and statistics that might be useful: I will continue to research how smartphones have distributed higher education. 

Nick Anderson: Important Journalism for Higher Education

Sometimes I feel like coverage on education can be lost in the sea of articles that are published at a constant rate in today’s 24-hour news cycle. Thankfully, we can rely on The Washington Post’s higher education writer Nick Anderson. Thanks to Twitter, Anderson keeps his 12.7K followers in the loop on issues in higher education by tweeting links to news articles and analyses on the big issues.

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Anderson’s topics range from education for girls, racial issues on campus (you can read two of his on the events at Yale and Mizzou here and here), economics in relation to higher education, education scandals (such as an indicted collegiate diving coach and Bill Cosby’s degree revocation), as well as sexual misconduct on college campuses. In fact, Anderson wrote an article about the results from the University of Michigan’s sexual misconduct survey, which was given out earlier this year.

Anderson is a thoughtful writer; he looks deeply at the topic and relays the information to his readers carefully. He writes articles on information that is important for people to know regarding higher education. Not only does he look at the specific school that the issue is immediately affecting, but he also looks at how that could affect other universities nationwide.

In addition to the serious articles he writes, Anderson sheds light on the positive impacts in education news by education his readers. He wrote an article on Gallaudet University’s announcement of a new president. If it wasn’t for a linguistics class I’m taking, I wouldn’t know what was so special about the university (in case you don’t know, it’s “the nation’s premier college for the deaf and hard of hearing” which was founded during the Civil War). In the article, Anderson gives important and relevant information on the new president, as well as information and a brief history about the university.

Thanks to Nick Anderson, I feel more informed as a student of higher education. His articles help me to think thoughtfully and critically of what’s going on in the world of education by giving me the important and relevant details that I need now.

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Teach a Dog to Sit

Since my beat this semester is education, I thought it would be fun to create a photo gallery depicting teaching a dog to “sit.” Let me say, this was slightly difficult to achieve, but I think it highlights the frustrations that pet owners face when they teach their pets a trick. Enjoy!

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When Four Year Olds Own Tablets: Technological Innovation in Education

Let me be frank: education is being disrupted by technology. Students can access textbooks online, tablets and laptops are being used to take notes at higher levels than pen and paper, and students submit exams, essays, and assignments online via web portals. Education is increasingly getting more mobile, and this is especially true with kids. LeapFrog is a company devoted to aiding in childhood development and education with toys, games, and tablets. Yes, tablets. LeapFrog has a number of tablets for babies to toddlers to elementary aged kids, as well as interactive games which fosters learning in a fun way.

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The LeapFrog tablet is all about learning outside the classroom- or, in the case of many children, learning before one is old enough to go to school. Continued education outside the classroom is a big concern for parents. When I was growing up, we had a DVD player in the car, and my brothers and I would watch videos about math, english, or history on our way to school or on a car trip. The catch: they were funny rap videos, so the math songs would get stuck in our heads, and we enjoyed watching them. Little did we realize that we were actually learning while being entertained.

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Underneath each game in the LeapFrog App Center on their website, there is a description of the skills the child will learn, which means the parent is able to buy a number of different game for their child in a variety of subjects.

Although the idea of outside learning isn’t new, LeapFrog saw the changing environment of education and followed suit. Instead of a mom giving her child her iPhone to play with while waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in the car on a car trip, the child now has his own tablet specifically designed for him. What’s really cool is that LeapFrog grows as the child grows. A two year old will play a different game on his LeapFrog tablet than a five year old will. What’s more, the games for the LeapFrog feature characters that kids watch on TV or see in movies. In this way, it doesn’t even feel like learning: a child can go from watching an episode of Jake and the Never Land of Pirates to helping Jake and the other characters on a “magical mathematical adventure” on the LeapFrog tablet without skipping a beat.

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You might be thinking, “well, there are apps in Apple’s App store for kids. Why do they need their own tablet?” The LeapFrog is created specifically for kids, meaning it’s drop-tested and durable. You wouldn’t want your personal iPad to slip out of your child’s hand and break, would you? With the unique innovation of the LeapFrog, your child doesn’t have to worry about being extra-careful while she has fun learning in the digital age.

Data Visualization & Education: Is a Graphic Video Enough?

In a blog post written by Keith Hampson, PhD, he notes that design (i.e. data visualization) and education seek the same objection: to make the complex simple. He further explains that in both education and data visualization, you want to keep the viewer engaged and “maximize their retention of information.”

I am currently taking a class that studies global iconic events, and each class period students present on different events and how they’re covered in the media. Some of these events are very complex with many moving parts, such as the Iraq War and the Syrian refugee crisis. As a way to explain these events, some student presenters found a YouTube page called In a Nutshell – Kurzgesgat. This page is full of videos that educate the public on varying topics and boils it down in six minutes or less with animated graphics.

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The video explaining Iraq provides enough information to educate the general public. Since this topic is complex and, to some, boring, the animated graphics and overall presentation of the video make the information attainable and interesting. Moreover, the data presented is visual and easily understandable. Therefore, it is effective in maximizing viewer information retention. Below are a few screenshots from the video to highlight the effectiveness of their data visualization tactic of using animated graphics:

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Although this method is very effective in educating the general public on a complex topic, it vastly differs from traditional journalism in its presentation. The way traditional journalists use data visualization to educate their audience is through maps or graphs, whereas this video uses interactive, colorful, animated pieces to display its data and get the message across to viewers. However, one shortcoming to this method of boiled down, visual videos is that the viewer doesn’t understand the implications of this event and what it means to policy makers, or how that may directly affect the viewer.