Ideas for using Encyclo in journalism classes

Have you looked at Encyclo, the new project from Nieman Journalism Lab? This is a really neat site for the present moment in journalism — when all kinds of new sites and apps are sprouting up like flowers in springtime.

Entries include groundbreaking news sites such as the Texas Tribune, technologies such as Flipboard, and traditional newspapers such as the Guardian. There are magazines, broadcast entities, and more. Each entry is chock-full of links.

Each entry page has five sections:

  1. The main entry text.
  2. Key links: “News articles and commentaries that give you an idea of the conversations that have gone on around the subject.”
  3. A list of links to the organization’s “peers, allies, and competitors.”
  4. The five most recent articles from the Nieman Journalism Lab archive on the subject.
  5. The five most recent articles from Mediagazer, an aggregator of news about the news business.

So here’s what I think we could do with students: Assign a different entry to each student in a class and have the student use it as a springboard into an exploration of that subject. So instead of “Write a report about …”, the assignment is to take a report that’s already been written and use it to find examples, exceptions, or even inaccuracies.

The student could write a blog post about his/her discoveries; make a presentation to the class (showing lots of examples); compare sites in a collaborative exercise with other students and their Encyclo entries. Students might even develop an “innovation scale” and rank Encyclo subjects on that scale.

The Nieman Lab folks have asked for help in correcting or otherwise improving entries (see their About page). This is a way to get journalism students involved in the conversation and the debates about our field.

And it’s so much more up-to-date than any textbook!

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