You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know


By April van Buren, MJE

Technology is constantly changing, but our overall purpose for what we do as advisers hasn’t changed. We teach students to find their voice, communicate information to an audience of peers and the general community, and to think critically about the world around them. My goal with this blog is to share a bite or three of technology tips that may be helpful for your publication – tips to add more multimedia, digital media, social media to your current publication with the goal of better serving your audience and/or improving communication internally on your staff.

Apps, websites, social media, and multimedia in general can help us: 1) teach our students, 2) help our students build their audience and better communicate information to that audience, and 3) help student journalists plan, collaborate and communicate with each other overall more effectively.

How did I figure this out? Well, it’s likely the same way many of us have: through trial and error. As an undergrad and optimistic education major, I also studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The year after I took J100: Intro. to Journalistic Writing, the university introduced convergence into their J100 curriculum. Two years later, I traveled throughout the state of Missouri in search of my first scholastic journalism advising job, only to realize that, at least then, more and more schools were looking for someone to advise Broadcast and Online journalism programs. At 22, I was a new teacher and a new adviser with only print experience; I realized I had better figure out this “multimedia” thing if I wanted to stay current and also help my students to be cutting edge as well. And I have spent more than a decade trying to do just that.

After 12 years of advising, I may still consider myself a “spring chicken” but I am no digital native, and sometimes I can’t even figure out the most basic settings on my cell phone. What I will always be able to do, however, is to identify my student publications’ goals, provide them with tools and resources to help them meet those goals, and keep them focused on accomplishing those goals. I don’t always know about tech trends or useful apps or sites until someone tells me about them, and my hope is to be able to pass those tips along to you as we go. You don’t know what you don’t know… yet.

In other words, DON’T PANIC. Technology does not have to be overwhelming.

What I have learned in the 12 years since I missed that first convergence boat, aka,

April’s Top Five Tips for a Multimedia Newbie:

  1. It’s easier than you think.
  2. Don’t overextend yourself. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin and try to do too much (poorly) at once instead of simply doing a few things well.
  3. Know your audience. What are students and staff at your school already doing? Meet them where they are. (In working at journalism camps with students from all over, I see how Twitter is THE trend at some schools, while at others, kids won’t even touch Facebook or Twitter anymore.)
  4. Delegate! Know your students’ strengths and weaknesses, and go from there.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start new trends. But keep in mind that this takes more work to get the word out, and be ready to keep kids focused or the project may lose steam.

I will always be behind the kids on tech trends, but it’s my job to provide the focus and structure for use of new technology. They may know how to use it, but I remind them WHY they’re using it and refocus them when necessary.

Stay tuned for my next blog where I start sharing actual multimedia sites and apps, with a quick overview of each, and related resources!

In the meantime, please check out some of these great resources

JEA Digital Media:

Media on Social Media: Snapchats to Follow!

School Media on Instagram


April van Buren, MJE, has taught journalism at Parkway Central High School in suburban St. Louis, at Mesa Vista Middle and High School in rural New Mexico and is now starting a broadcast program in Madison, WI. She’s taught Beginning Journalism, Newspaper Production, Yearbook and some video and creative writing. She has also been an adjunct professor for the Communications Department at the University of New Mexico-Taos. From 2010 to May of 2013, she served as the New Mexico director for the Journalism Education Association and as the Vice President of the NM Scholastic Press Association. She earned her National Board certification in Language Arts in 2012 and studied journalism, education and library sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is currently KEMPA President, and the new National Quiz Bowl coordinator for the Journalism Education Association. In her free time, she likes to read young adult fiction, and plays roller derby and ice hockey.