Blog Post

08. Interactive 'Paper' Assignment

While teaching a Mass Media Law and Ethics course, I realized that it was hard to get university students to step out of the digital world and critically analyze the ways in which digital technologies alter traditional ways of doing things. Therefore, I created this interactive paper assignment to replace the traditional research paper. It is still a research paper at heart, asking students to apply theories from course readings and to do a little bit of their own research on their chosen topic. But, it also challenges the students to create a wikispaces page to showcase their analysis.

I titled this project "How do digital technologies complicate media ethics?" Each student chooses a media pop culture example of a morally or ethically questionnable act. Perhaps it is an uploaded YouTube video or a Twitter account created to mock a celebrity. It could be a new update to Facebook's TOS or a new Google App. Whatever the case, each student gets to choose a current event that interests her/him.

The students then analyze their current examples, applying critical theory previously discussed in the course such as traditional philosophical morality, media ethics, and copyright/fair use laws. Beyond the traditional research paper, the students are also expected to make their papers come alive on wikispaces. I set up a course page, and they add links to their interactive pages on this main page. Students include videos, sounds, pictures, links, and so on to further explore their topics.

Students tend to love this project because no matter if their strengths lie in writing, research, or design, they can find a way to shine. I really love this project because the students are using the VERY TOOLS that they are discussing in their papers; they are actively learning what morality, ethics, plaigiarism, copyright, fair use, and such mean in a digital media world. Not only do my students learn how to be more active consumers of digital media, they also acquire the skills to create positive digital footprints. After the assignment is completed, they are happy to show off their digital projects and to realize that Google searches of their names result in more than Facebook links. :)

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them!



This is fascinating.  Have you done anything similar in other classes or can you think of ways to adapt it to other subject matters, or do you think it's too closely connected to "Mass Media Law and Ethics" ?


Hi Alisa,

Thanks for your interest!

I think that there are two layers of this project. The first is that students must become more media literate and aware of ethical issues when it comes to copyright, plagiarism, and so on since they are using the very tools that they are exploring and, at times, critiquing.

The other layer though is getting students more involved in the digital humanities and helping them to realize how they can create positive and intellectual digital footprints. With that said, I think that it is pretty applicable to almost any field. For our digital humanities initiatives, it is important to teach our future thinkers that “alternative” ways of producing and distributing knowledge is just as valuable as traditional paper-writing and journal publishing. In fact, I think that we are quickly learning it is more valuable, such as with this project and the ability to include videos, sounds, photos, and hypertext that can really center the consumers in the topic.

If you give me an idea of your field and classroom topics, I can certainly suggest some ideas! :) Thanks again!



Interesting lesson, Angela!

I could easily see this being adaptable to other disciplines. For English, it might work with a lesson on different rhetorical appeals (like ethos, pathos and logos). It does seem to apply particularly well to ethics, though. It might be a natural fit for philosophy courses as well.


Thanks, Beth! I really don't think that it has to be an ethical assignment. It's just an added bonus! :)