What strikes fear in the hearts of students?

Midterms! 267c8fa7ccff6e7d88f624d63906f314 (The only thing to fear more is The Final Exam!)

Today is the day for a midterm for students in EN 504 Multimedia, Social Media and Software for the Professional Writer. There is no final exam, only a final project so this is the only test of the course.

The instructor is busy preparing the exam, an occasional “bwahahahaha” escaping her lips as she contemplates the torture she will inflict.

Well, not torture really. Tests should actually be learning experiences, although few of us think about them this way. And today’s test has no specific right or wrong answers — it is aimed to make students think.

Additionally, all students in the test can use Google or any other Internet tool. (Just no copying, please). Why? Because that’s real life. Having all kinds of information at our fingertips is no good, unless you know how to analyze it. So for those students taking the test today who are floundering or confused, take a look at these links.





And remember there’s nothing to fear except fear itself. And spiders.


Life in six words, six seconds

neon-145090_150Life is short and getting shorter. That is, brevity is not only the soul of wit (and, as Dorothy Parker says, the soul of lingerie) but the new soul of social media. The 140-character limit for Twitter has made us all into Haiku masters, that is, trying to say as much as possible is as few works as possible. Vine has taken brevity to a new level with six-second looping videos that, as Regis College Communications Associate Bryan Geary says, represent the intersection of multimedia and social media.

Geary spoke to the EN 504 class on July 15 about how colleges are using short videos, in particular, the increasingly popular Vine videos, which can be make on a cell phone with a Vine app.  Also, Instagram has now added videos to its social media ap, with slightly different formats. Geary showed examples of short video and made one key point — that schools can crowd source these videos; that is, encourage students to make them. By posting the best of these videos, a school saves money, enhances recruitment and provides a showcase for student work.

The EN504 class also delved into the fine art of writing less by practicing producing succinct descriptions of people and places. The class ended with a common writing exercise: The Six Word Story (or Memoir) supposedly based on  a short-story challenge made to Ernest Hemingway. The results were excellent. Here are some with more to come:

She wandered about to find herself. – Tara Holt

Murphy’s Law. Sucks to suck. Thanks. – Maura Murphy

No fortune, no fame; but happy. – Bradford Moore

Small world, small girl. Big dreams. – Jacqui Williams


Six words can say a lot.

Smacked by Klout

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Short video of Randy Ross speaking about ways to measure your social media impact.

How often should you tweet? Should you “get on” Instagram or Pinterest? And what about Snapchat — is that just for kids? (And what should I do about that blog I started years ago and then neglected?)

Questions, questions, questions. Social media is like the weather. Everyone is talking about it but no on can figure out whether to grab sunscreen or a umbrella.

Two guest speakers for EN504  helped the class navigate this new territory during the July 10 class on social media. James Guaragna, Regis College, Director of Communication and Orientation Management and Assistant Volleyball Coach, talked about his use of social media brought a sense of enthusiasm about Twitter, particularly for the sports world. (Check out @JamesGuaragna). Another was Randy Ross, a virtual one-person social media conglomerate, who discussed the different tools of social media (see his information here)  but emphasized that the old-fashioned way (i.e. getting addresses and keeping in touch through email) is still one of the best ways to build audiences. He talked about how he uses various groups on Linked In to promote his writing and his performances, and about the  the best configuration (horizontal) for maximizing the impact of photos on Twitter. Blogging was another topic.  He talked about using Klout, a service that measure a user’s social media impact, and how agents (and perhaps employers) will want to check this for new hires. With the top score of 100, his score was 55, which wasn’t too bad. (Prof. Schorow found she had a Klout score of only 43. Looks like she should have kept up that blog….)

Telling a story with images

How do you “write” a story with moving images?

Students of EN504 have been pondering this question with two guest lecturers who provided students with an inside-the-scenes look at creating video.


Erica Moura of the Boston Herald

On Thursday, July 3, Erica Moura, a multimedia reporter for the Boston Herald, explains how she films and tweets — all on the same assignment. She talked very specifically about the differences among writing a feature story, taking still photos for a feature story and shooting a video of a feature story. The class watched one of her videos, a short look at a recovering addict, which was both lively and moving. Video of her talk will be posted, pending permission, on this blog.

On Tuesday, July 8, Naomi Kooker, Regis College journalism instructor, delved into the challenge of creating a storyboard and organizing some of the elements — the introduction, the background, the narrative, the ending — and showed us raw footage of her interviews for a video production exploring the Regis Lay Apostolate, which  was a pioneering postgraduate lay volunteer program that grew out of the heyday of Catholic Action and the lay apostolate. She demonstrated tips for interviewing subjects — such as positioning them a bit off center, avoiding back lighting, learning to stay silent while they speak (instead of the usual “uh huhs”) and asking leading questions that provide evocative answers. She also talked about the process of editing — she might talk to a person for several hours, but only a few minutes might get into the final cut.


Sisters of St. Joseph Lay Apostolate

Naomi had some followup suggestions:

Video editing: The basic rule is 10:1, basically 10 hours of editing to get 1 minute of video; but that can change. Most of our EN 504 students will NOT shoot 10 hours of film. But the ratio is interesting to note.

Here’s a helpful link from Naomi:


Naomi also writes, “I did use VoiceRecord, a free app to record the voice overs for the documentary… just be sure to be close to the mic on the iPad or use some kind of attachable mic…I think Media Technology has one! ”

Many thanks to both  guest speakers.

And we get started


Marshall McLuhan from his Wiki page

Tuesday was the first night of EN 504 Multimedia and Social Media for the Professional Writer. In a lively class, with both discussion and video making, we covered a great deal of ground. Here are some takeaway points.

  • Social media and multimedia are “new,” but they build on human communication characteristics that go back centuries.
  • The theories of Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosophy and media analyst, remain surprisingly relevant today when applied to development on the Internet and social media. But not everyone agrees with his idea of a “global village” — that prediction does not seem to be true.
  • New apps are coming out every day. We should make efforts to “try them all,” but that might not be possible. There are many experts about marketing on social media but caution needs to be exercised in choosing which platforms to use (and invest money in)

Instructor Stephanie Schorow has developed some guidelines in evaluating social media, based on her observations, technology use and research in the past few years. What do you think?  Do these ring true or should they be modified or changed?

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How does Yo, the new one-word messaging app, stand up to these rules?

Rules for evaluating new social media or technology.

1. Ease of use.  Does it work with human tendencies or does it force a change in human behavior to use?

2.What need does it fulfill or does it create a new need?
3. How is it supported economically?
4. How likely is it to be used (or hijacked) by marketers, advertisers, politicians or pornographers?

5. What can it do for you, for your company, for your nonprofit or organization?

6. What dangers/pitfalls does it pose?