Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

An Intro Class Launches an Impromptu 'Pause' Campaign, Learns Social Media Evaluation and Campaign Process

Academic journal article Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication

An Intro Class Launches an Impromptu 'Pause' Campaign, Learns Social Media Evaluation and Campaign Process

Article excerpt

When students in my Intro to Mass Communication course showed an interest in "doing" something about their generation's dependence on technology, I thought we better seize the day. As part of the class, they read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, and this semester they were particularly riled up! Each semester, the class connects with the 30yearold text about how television and its silliness would have a lasting impact. They read it now with a social media lens, looking at how every mention of television could be substituted with today's language of social media. Reactions range from disgust with themselves and their generation for how "silly" they are becoming because of social media/device dependence to how empowering social media and technology can be with regards to access and information.

To test the "silliness" factor, I ask students to abstain from using their phones on their ways to their destinations after our class-maybe a 10minute hiatus from their devices. (A 24hour fast is an option, but I have found the 10minute test makes the same point, and is less painful.) As soon as they reach their destination, they report on our class Facebook group. First, did they make it? Second, how did they feel about it? And lastly, what did they observe when not on their devices? Students typically talk about the "itch" to grab their phone and the willpower needed not to check the device. Others run to their next destination, or find quicker routes on campus-to minimize TWD, Time Without Device.

This spring semester, students reported how disconnecting for the 10 minutes freed them. They smiled at people on campus, walked without bumping into others, and even extended the time limit. One even forgot about her phone for the rest of the day. Class discussions about the exercise and Postman's book were laced with an undercurrent of activism. The students felt that something needed to be done, and I was excited to see what they could inspire on campus using their communication skills.

After a minibrainstorming session during class, the 40 students decided they wanted to show our campus how much they could gain from taking a break from their phones/technology/social media. Instructionally, a campaign would tie together many of the concepts they were learning in the intro class, and expose them to a realworld project in the firstyear course.

Our first plan of attack was to use the UNICEF tap project as a motivator. You bank servings of clean water for those in need for every minute you refrain from touching your phone. After a betatest, we figured out the water campaign was finished, and it would be only a hypothetical exercise. The betatest was important; in our excitement to launch a campaign, we almost bypassed this step and could have been very embarrassed with a defunct project.

It was a small setback, but the students rebounded with a campaign to help students study without their phones distracting them. On their devices, they looked for apps that monitored phone use, or limited access. App cost, ease of use and access on multiple platforms were considered. The Pause app was the best product they found to immobilize your phone with a timer, so you can devote time to other tasks. The app is free for iPhone and Android. The lack of a Windows version was debated, and ultimately students decided that more of their peers used iPhone and Android systems. This was based on an informal poll in our class. In a perfect world, they would have conducted more rigorous research for this decision-a point we discussed in class.

Students divided tasks into subcommittees: Fliers, graphics and memes; media relations; videos; radio ads; Twitter team; partnerships and personal contacts and the foot patrol.

Fliers: The team crafted a flier that was distributed via social media, mass email messaging on campus and physically handed out.

Graphics and memes: The team members used meme creators on their devices to develop memes for the campaign. …

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