Friday, May 24, 2013

#FollowFriday - Public Ethnography as Innovative Learning

In the spirit of Twitter’s Follow Friday, but taking a page from Spin Sucks’ more thoughtful approach, I offer to you each week one communications blog, Twitter account, or website that offers great content. 

Term papers.

You remember them—those time-sucking exercises in futility that, once graded, gather dust in your professor’s hard drive or your bookshelf.

A professor at Royal Roads University is turning that model of academia on its head.

Instead of term papers, as the Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Public Ethnography, he’s encouraging students to take their ethnographic research out into the world.

Full disclosure: I work for that professor, and attend Royal Roads. But this #FollowFriday isn’t about Dr. Phillip Vannini, or Royal Roads.

It’s about being a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan living in the hometown of the Calgary Stampeders.

Adjusting to life as a “veteran” of the RCMP.

Queer culture in India.

What it means to be Métis.

These aren’t term papers. They’re ethnographic projects that students have taken to the public through the web, social media, public events, or by publishing in mainstream media.

Writing in plain, accessible language rather than academese highlights how fascinating the knowledge is instead of relegating it to a small audience of fellow academics – a lesson those of us who spend too much time in the corporate world could stand to be reminded of!

Public relations can sometimes seem a bit sordid, but projects like this remind us that PR is a force for good, too.

Using communications tools like press releases and social media, these students are able to get media coverage for their projects, and so give the general public an opportunity to share in the knowledge. And I’ve written before about the value of ethnographic approaches to communication.

So check out the Public Ethnography as Innovative Learning site –another student project is posted each week, and there’s some great stuff coming up. Or follow @EMACnetwork on Twitter and you’ll get the new projects tweeted to you as they’re posted.

Every week, it’s a small reminder of the value of both education and communication.