The future is now and it’s in good hands

This semester I’m teaching “Current Issues in Mass Media,” a new class for me and one I was nervous about taking on. What do I know about communication theory, I thought. Still, it’s a topic that fascinates me. I consulted a few smart people and one of them, Jeff Jarvis, suggested I have the students blog about their thoughts on and encounters with mass communication.

Thank you, Jeff, because that suggestion has turned out to be a wonderful teaching tool.

In class, we have talked about legacy media and disruption. (Disruption is an overarching theme.) We have talked about Gutenberg and Google. We have talked about whether the Internet is making them stupid. We’re going to talk social media, net neutrality, vetting content and Reddit, Netflix and Snapchat. And wherever else the class takes it. (The class has 34 students, most of whom are interested in PR, advertising or journalism. Half a dozen have other majors — business, environmental studies, sociology — but understand how important mass comm is.)

If you want to know about what smart, wired college students are thinking about the media and the future, you should read their blogs. I aggregate/curate them here. They are techno-savvy and conservative at the same time. They understand the conflict between information they want and need. They understand the conflict between free and paid content. And they are curious about everything.

They write about the intersection of love and technology. They think about the impact of technology on their own humanity. They bemoan the loss of privacy at the same time they appreciate the personalization of ad messages when it involves something they want. They investigate business models and marketing ideas. They introduce each other — and me — to new apps, to new websites and new communication tools.

And two have written charming letters to the Internet — one heartfelt, one snarky.

The value of their blogging is:

* It teaches them a sense of discovery. They must write a minimum of three posts a week. I emphasize thoughtful, analytical and insightful. (Plus, it means I don’t have to do all the work teaching.)

* It teaches them about innovation because they find so many new, interesting things to write about. (Innovation is also a major theme in the class.)

* It helps them experience thinking and writing in public, a necessary skill for anyone in the communication business. They are establishing themselves as a brand.

* It allows them to teach each other and me.

One thing I tell them is that innovation is a young person’s game. From Marconi to Farnsworth to Jobs to Zuckerberg, youth is a common theme. I have every expectation that at least one of them will bring forth a new idea that could change the world. And I’ll be pissed if they don’t.