Archive for April, 2008


‘Sprouting’ new projects

April 30, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I learned about a new web-based tool that allows you to create Flash-based multimedia projects without having to actually learn flash. It’s called “Sprout Builder.” We’ve been growing multimedia classes at Cerritos College mostly with video, but I immediately see lots of possibilities with Sprout Builder as another way for our students to learn to tell stories in multimedia format.

This week a couple of our multimedia students created our first multimedia sprout using Sprout Builder. You can find it on the Talon Marks web site at It is the Noam Chomsky piece at the bottom of the page. The sprout is embedded into a College Publisher story page.

The sprout covers a teleconference event on campus yesterday morning. There is a lot more the students COULD have done with it, but something has to be first and they wanted to get it out in conjunction with today’s print edition. In the last month or so my newspaper students have learned some value in making available audio files of events, but they need next to learn to take those long pieces and build shorter podcasts with a story line. But we take things in baby steps sometimes. It took almost a year and half to show the value of audio connected with the newspaper.

The students included an hour-long audio file, but ran into a problem embedding it into the sprout. Seems you have two options: embed it as a sprout asset or merely link to it. An embedded audio asset cannot exceed 1.5 MB. An hour-long mp3 takes about 57 MB. So they uploaded it elsewhere and just linked to it. It was learning-as-you-go. They also had it completed and then realized that they lacked navigational buttons on secondary pages, so had to go back in and fix it.

The newspaper is just one area where I and my adjuncts see the value of storytelling using sprouts. I’ve already assigned sprout projects to my beginning newswriting students and expect results from them within a couple of weeks. (the students seemed excited about the projects and didn’t show any hesitation to learning to create the sprouts. Good! They have enough to learn about the storytelling aspect of gathering original data and aggregating data.) My adjuncts and I are talking about replacing traditional term papers with sprout research projects to add more fun to the assignments –and to make it more difficult to try to pass off the research assignment with a hastily written essay. And we’re seeing lots of possibilities for our multimedia: one of my adjuncts also teaches Anthropology at the college and wants to set up a partnership where we provide multimedia storytelling training for her Anthro students who would then build sprouts.

We are already building a strong partnership with our Political Science department to train students to edit video for that department’s MyDemocracy projects. (See the lower half of this previous post.)

We want to do a lot more in introducing not only journalism students, but students from other disciplines to storytelling through sprouts, blogging, podcasting, Soundslides and video. it’s exciting, even for an old dinosaur like me.

Thank you Byran Murley of Innovation in College Media for introducing us to Sprout Builder.


What a mess with Iron Man ad

April 23, 2008

What a mess we had this last week with Paramount Pictures and an Iron Man promotion ad.

Short story: Rather than pony up for a print ad promoting the movie, Paramount wanted a trade ad: It would give us free movie tickets and memorabilia to hand out if we would give them a free full page ad with color. The value of the giveaways would supposedly be what the ad would normally cost.

Iron Man contest imageWe balked at first, but then thought it might be a good way to promote signups for our online Talon Marks and Talon Marks MySpace sites. We could hold a drawing for interested subscribers/friends and maybe pick up some new ones in the process. We tried to get fewer movie passes and at least one thing of greater value that we could use as a First Prize in the drawing. No dice, Paramount would not budge.

Now keep in mind, that a full page ad would require extra pages (i.e. cost to us) and we had no other advertiser with a color ad, so cost for color would come out of our pocket. We finally reluctantly agreed to a half page ad and decided to spend a little money buying a couple of iPod Shuffles to give away and some dinner gift cards: make an evening of it.

But Paramount balked at the dinner gift cards because its movie partner was Burger King; if we were buying the cards, we didn’t plan to give away Burger King cards. Not that there is anything wrong with Burger King, but we were looking for something a bit more exotic. “Fine,” we said, “we’ll not mention where the cards were good for and just advertise it as a dinner and movie.” Nope, not good enough. We’re surprised that they let us give away the iPod Shuffles!

And then to cap it off, the movie tickets are good for only one showing on one night at one theater. Seems they’re trying to pack the press showing. And a ticket is not a guarantee of admission; they’ve purposely overbooked the theater in hopes of filling it up. Show up after the theater is full and you are out of luck; no rain checks.

Oh, and one more nagging detail. Paramount lied to us and said that it was setting up this promo only with University of California Irvine and Cerritos College –no other area community colleges. Mid-way into the process we found out that it had also set up a promo relationship with Fullerton College.

Hope we get some new subscribers/friends out of the experience. It will be a long time before we agree to a trade ad again. Not much in it for us.