January 2, 2011

Knight Center concludes math for journalists course

This post is also available in: English Spanish Portuguese (Brazil)

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has concluded its popular course, Mathematics for Journalists, taught in Spanish. The course started Jan. 17 and ended Feb. 20.

The five-week course was taught by instructor Sandra Crucianelli of Argentina. Crucianelli has received national and international recognition for her reporting and teaching and is a specialist in precision journalism. A goal of the course was to train journalists in how to use mathematics in helpful ways that will enhance their stories.

This course incorporated digital resources for the management of numerical tools, tools for the visualization of tables and how to develop spreadsheets in Google documents. The course (view information sheet here) was offered to journalists who met the following requirements:

• Basic knowledge of: Excel, Office, WinZip, Adobe Acrobat and Internet browsers (Firefox, Explorer, Safari, etc.)
• Access to a computer with Internet and a broadband connection
• Daily use of Internet and digital tools for work tasks
• Ability to read English at medium level
• Have an avatar in Second Life and medium to high level of knowledge of Second Life
• Able to use voice chat in Second Life with other students during planned trainings
• Must have 10-15 hours a week to dedicate to course work
• Must have or able to create a Gmail and Yahoo email account

The weekly themes for the course were:

• Introduction to Mathematics for Journalists: Basic Operations
• Data Collection and Measures of Central Tendency
• Measures of Proportion and Comparison of Numerical Variables
• Web Resources for Numerical Data Interpolation
• Digital Visualization of Numerical Data

The entire course was conducted online. Students viewed weekly online video lectures, PowerPoint presentations and read lecture materials. A key part of the course was participation in online discussion forums with the instructor and classmates. The online discussion forums included weekly assignments. Students also had the opportunity to practice their math skills in some applied reporting cases — in the Moodle platform and in Second Life through the Virtual Journalism Learning Center, an initiative led by assistant professor of journalism Amy Schmitz Weiss, PhD.

Participants were asked to pay an administrative fee of US$50, which covered a small portion of the operating costs of the Knight Center’s distance education program. (The Knight Center is financed mostly through contributions from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.) All participants who successfully completed the course receive a certificate from the Knight Center.

Crucianelli has offered her popular online courses since 2004 as part of the Knight Center’s distance education program. She is author of the digital book Digital Tools for Journalists, which is available as a free download through the Knight Center website here.

Rachel Barrera, UT-Austin doctoral student in Instructional Technology and staff member of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, assisted with the course.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, contact Amy Schmitz Weiss at knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu.