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Knight Center teaches Math for Journalists course

M-a-t-h-e-m-a-t-i-c-s. This 11-letter word can strike fear in the hearts of many journalists. For reporters attempting to decipher numbers and present an accurate account for a story it is a necessity. Good knowledge of mathematics and the ability to represent those numbers accurately can make a story understandable versus confusing for readers. The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is offering its online course, Mathematics for Journalists, in Spanish, Aug. 16–Sept. 26, 2010. Fifty journalists from 17 countries are participating.

The five-week course is being 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 is to train journalists in how to use mathematics in helpful ways that will enhance their stories.

Participants come from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Crucianelli explains, “This latest iteration of the course will expand on the topics of the last time it was offered: incorporating digital resources for the management of numerical tools, from tools for the visualization of tables to developing spreadsheets in Google documents.”

The course is offered to those journalists who meet 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 are:

• 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 is being conducted online. Students will view weekly online video lectures, PowerPoint presentations and read lecture materials. A key part of the course is participation in online discussion forums with the instructor and classmates. The online discussion forums will include weekly assignments. Students will have 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 headed by assistant professor of journalism Amy Schmitz Weiss, PhD.

All participants who successfully complete the course will 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, will assist in 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 the Knight Center’s program manager, Jennifer Potter-Miller at jpottermiller at mail.utexas.edu or +1 512 471-1391.