Using New Technology to Teach the Technology Students Will Need

By David Ostroff
Chair, Department of Telecommunication

An interesting aspect of teaching courses in journalism and communication is that the same tools we teach our students to use are also used in creating and delivering our lessons. Chemistry teachers don’t teach “using” chemistry, but we use video, graphics, the web, and so forth, in our educational efforts.

There are several emerging technologies that will significantly impact our professions, but that will also affect how we educate. These include augmented and virtual reality, 5g wireless and artificial intelligence.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented and virtual reality are similar in that they create a different view of the “real world.” Augmented reality superimposes an image, using special glasses, a screen, or device. Virtual reality creates a 3-d image that can be interacted with as if it were real. Currently, it requires wearing a helmet or other special electronic device in which the image is projected. Because of the inconvenience of the helmet, virtual reality will take longer to become common, but capabilities in certain circumstances make it particularly useful in our educational efforts.

As part of its coverage of Hurricane Florence, The Weather Channel used augmented reality to show how the rise in flood waters would look to someone actually in a flood situation. The reporter was shown standing in the water at different depths. This is an example of one way of improving our teaching. Student journalists could be put into artificial environments of natural disasters, civil disturbances, or other dangerous situations that they might encounter in their careers.

Augmented reality is already being used for in-store displays of furniture, clothing, and beauty products. Gartner Group, a technology consulting firm, estimates augmented reality will become wide-spread and mainstream as early as five years from now. We will be able to use it to help students learn to direct video programs under a variety of circumstances not available in studio or field conditions. One example might be to provide an experience shooting video under a variety of different natural lighting conditions—simulated bright sunlight, dark clouds, or noisy winds.

5G Wireless

Companies such as Verizon and AT&T will begin rolling out 5g wireless in the coming months, although it will probably be 5-7 years before it becomes ubiquitous. Worldwide standards are expected to adopted by International Telecommunication Union member-states in 2020, and the construction and installation of infrastructure (transmitters, receivers, etc.) will follow. 5g will enable more objects to be connected, helping to create the “internet of things.”

From the standpoint of journalism and communications, a major impact will be on download and upload speeds. With our current 4g LTE technologies, a high definition movie can be downloaded in about an hour. With 5g that download will take seconds. This capability will probably increase the demand for mobile content, and our students will have to learn to produce for a different size screen, and in a more mobile environment than we have typically used for standard video and film.

From an educational standpoint these rapid download speeds will be particularly valuable in our growing distance and online programs. Online students will have rapid access to course materials, without the delays of downloading. Opportunities for collaboration among online students will be enhanced, and the further development of mobile platforms will make taking these courses easier and more accessible.

Artificial Intelligence

For better or worse, artificial intelligence is a growing factor in our work and lives. There is no doubt it will become more important in journalism and communication, and find a place in education, as well. In an April, 2018 article in Forbes, Anthony Petrucci describes how AI can enhance corporate communication. His commentary applies to the delivery of news and entertainment in broader environments. Artificial intelligence can allow more targeted distribution of content to appropriate audiences. It will enable distant reporting of events, and more effective fact-checking and source checking.

AI is starting to be used by content providers and platforms to strategize and plan for distribution. More precise metrics of consumer behavior will move us beyond the days of broad, shallow ratings and surveys by research companies such as Nielsen. Our students will have to learn to use those data in their professional lives, as reporters, media managers, or in persuasive media.

AI will also become part of human/machine interaction. Remotely operated video production, news reporting, or testing of messages will become increasingly available and common.

Clearly, this technology will have direct benefits to education. Lessons, and course content, can be more precisely targeted to students based on individual needs and abilities. Assessment of curriculum outcomes is becoming an increasing part of what we do as educators, and artificial intelligence will enable us to be more precise in our assessments, and to make necessary corrections and improvements.

As these and other technologies become central to our work lives, professionals in journalism and communication will be challenged to become adept at their use. As educators, we will be similarly challenged to help our students reach that level of competence. But, we will also have the great opportunity, ourselves, to use those technologies to accomplish that goal.