High school teachers and advisers listen to keynote speaker, Linda Putney, discuss how colleges in the Midwest incorporate convergence.

“Convergence is the new buzz word, we need to embrace it and not be afraid of it,” Linda Putney, this year’s keynote speaker at the third annual Iowa High School Press Association Winter Thaw Retreat said.

The 20 high school journalism teachers who attended the retreat, held at the Best Western in Clive, Iowa, voiced their concerns about awareness of media convergence in the journalism industry.

“Fewer people are reading the newspaper and choosing to get their information elsewhere,” Gary Lindsay, IHSPA president said. Both he and Putney fear that students’ sense of ethics is getting “all muddied up.”

Putney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association and yearbook advisor at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., shared her perspective on the values of teaching journalism and the changing media scene of convergence and multi-platform delivery.

Putney admitted that convergence is “overwhelming,” but she tried to calm the high school journalism teachers’ fears by showing how some universities in the Midwest incorporate it into their curriculums. She also emphasized the point that the best story is told using as many dimensions as possible.

Vanessa Shelton, Director of the IHSPA, explained that The Daily Iowanat The University of Iowa is a leader among college newspapers engaged in what it prefers to call “media confluence.” The UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication is working to integrate convergence concepts and applications into the curriculum.

Group members, Vanessa Shelton and Deb Buttleman-Malcom from Central High School in Davenport, Iowa, work together to figure out how to include different media platforms into their assigned event.

“Whether you call it media convergence, media confluence or multi-media delivery, the basic premise from a journalistic standpoint is to tell stories the best way possible utilizing the strengths of each media platform,” Shelton said.

Lisa Flahive, a high school teacher from Glenwood, Iowa, brought up popular trends among students such as MySpace, Facebook and text casting. Text casting allows cell phone users to receive prompts, for example, appointment and event reminders.

“Text casting, it’s the way of the world I fear,” Putney said, but told teachers they must know what is available and had them participate in a team activity that utilized convergence.

Teachers broke into groups of three or four. Putney gave each group a card with a high school event written on it. The groups collaborated to combine various media platforms—the World Wide Web, text casting, broadcast and radio—into the event.

Shelton found the activity very useful.

“It helped the teachers visualize the process in action, while also modeling a teaching method they can use with their students,” she said.

The retreat also featured news anchor Kevin Cooney from KCCI-TV in Des Moines who spoke about “going where TV has not gone before.” Anne Visser, president of JEA and a Pella High School adviser led a round table discussion dealing with journalism endorsement and standards in Iowa.

“The retreat provided teachers with an opportunity to concentrate on the issues and practical considerations of how this evolution [convergence] can be integrated into scholastic journalism media class,” Shelton said.