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media development

Creating confidence in the classroom

Active acquisition of knowledge to solve concrete challenges creates confidence. And that’s something you need when you have to teach journalism to a classroom full of young Laotian twentysomethings, as do the instructors at the National University of Laos (NUOL).

These instructors are currently students themselves: they’re taking part in journalism teachers’ training and coaching, which is organized in partnership with DW-AKADEMIE’s Asia team.

At a workshop in December we reviewed some of the progress made so far. “I have more confidence in teaching these subjects now,” said one of the younger colleagues. Others agreed.

One senior lecturer brought along a revamped version of a project the training participants had created the previous September – a newspaper made from scratch. It was a showcase item at NUOL’s 15th anniversary celebration in November.

The instructors-in-training had put tremendous effort into producing it, and that has really paid off in their daily work. Here’s why:

Getting down to basics

The task we had set ourselves was quite simple: Create a newspaper. From scratch. In three weeks time.

There are several good reasons for choosing such an exercise. Creating a newspaper is low-tech. If necessary (and if you don’t mind creating only one copy), it can be done with paper, pens, a scissor and glue.

It’s also very tangible, easy to talk about, perfect for discussions in dual-language settings (in Vientiane we use Lao and English with translation in our workshops).

Most importantly, it’s a very generic form of journalism – and thus a good foundation for discussing the core elements of journalistic work.

Active participation instead of passive listening

Creating a newspaper from scratch turned learning into active acquisition of knowledge to solve concrete challenges. Much better than hearing lectures on writing, style, research, etc.

Among the many questions discussed during the production of the newspaper were issues like “What will be our editorial guideline?” (As opposed to the more passive “What is an editorial guideline and what is it good for?”) “What should our layout look like?” and  “Are we on track time-wise, quantity-wise, quality-wise?”

As a result of such exercises that produce tangible results, the university teaching staff are not only gaining a new understanding of journalism practice itself, but also experiencing first-hand fresh and viable ways of conveying knowledge to their students.

By Daniel Hirschler