Comm Class Teams Up with Mason LIFE Program

Posted: May 11, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: May 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

By Robin Herron

From left, Meredith Kaufman, Lauren Jost, Nicole Demmel, Darryl Gray, Stephanie Martinez, Robert Brown, Max Hershberger, Sarah Meade, Brittany Northington and Kristen Byrne. Photo courtesy of Steve Klein

Steve Klein, a communication professor who teaches COMM 361 Online Journalism, and G. Robert Brown, BAIS ’07, have known each other since Brown served as a technology assistant for one of Klein’s classes about five years ago.

Now an instructor for the Mason Learning in Future Environments (LIFE) Program working on a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in assistive technology, Brown would see Klein on campus and they would talk about the Mason LIFE Program.

Klein had the idea of having his online journalism students team up with some of the Mason LIFE students on a project. The Mason LIFE Program provides young adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities with classes to help improve their literacy, as well as employment and independent living skills. Some of the students live on the Fairfax Campus in residence halls.

Brown and Klein agreed that the online journalism students and the Mason LIFE students could learn from each other, and Klein made it a project option for his students. He connected Brown with Lauren Jost, a senior majoring in communication who served as a technology assistant for COMM 361.

Jost took a group of five students from the online journalism class to meet with Brown’s four Mason LIFE students, who audited the class. Beginning after spring break, the students met once a week to use technology, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and video, to tell stories.

The group used OnMason.com to post their blogs and videos. The group’s final project was a three-minute newscast that they presented to the whole class.

“We developed a really, really great relationship,” says Jost. “It’s been an awesome project, and we hope it’s just the beginning.”

For his part, Brown prepared his students for what was going to happen in the class by discussing how people get their news and how to collaborate with a different group of people.

“When I met with the online journalism students,” says Brown, “I told them that I wanted my students to work on three things that are challenge to them: to help each other, do better work and make friends with matriculated students.”

The Mason LIFE students were Max Hershberger, Darryl Gray, Sarah Meade and Brittany Northington. The online journalism students were Stephanie Martinez, Nicole Demmel, Octavia Trammell, Meredith Kaufman and Kristen Byrne.

“The online journalism students were very good at understanding how my students worked,” says Brown. “They were able to teach the students. I felt that I was not needed. For this project, that was part of the goal. They are all Facebook friends now and they say hi in the hallways.”

During the group presentation, Brown coached the Mason LIFE students so they were able to share what they did in the group project.

“My requirement was that they give their names and what they did. A few students went well beyond that,” Brown says.

Klein, who first introduced the Online Journalism course to the Communication Department’s journalism concentration nearly a decade ago, says, “The project worked because of Robert’s involvement as a former Technology Assistants Program aide and Lauren’s similar role this semester. Robert provided a unique bridge with the Mason LIFE Program.”

He adds, “I hope we can build on this project and relationship next year.”

Both Jost and Brown are graduating this year. Although their future plans are uncertain, they are both committed to working in their field or continuing their education in their field.

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