Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Report Cards

Virtualpolitik friend David Folkenflik is covering an interesting story about access to educational records in "Prosecutor Turns on Crusading Journalism School" about the journalism course taught by David Protess and its links to The Innocence Project, which has launched investigations of the cases of Death Row inmates that has led to the exoneration of almost a dozen wrongly convicted people.

Now, the chief prosecutor for the Chicago region is turning the tables. She is demanding unusual evidence of her own from the professor and his students: their grades, e-mails, notes and course evaluations from a project in which they're championing the cause of yet another murder convict.

The prosecuting state attorney for Cook County, Anita Alvarez, worries that in their eagerness to gain good grades, students may have been motivated to find witnesses willing to fabricate stories in exchange for money and other benefits. According to the NPR story, "Protess says he is adamant he will never give up the grades, the notes, the e-mails or anything else," because the students are "acting as journalists" and should not be required to reveal their sources. Because both students' grades and instructors' course evaluations are being requested, the implication of Alvarez's inquiry seems to be that both parties in the pedagogical situation could be faulted.

The inclusion of e-mail is also interesting, since many faculty members complain about how time-consuming electronic communication with students has become. Managing and responding to the volume of e-mail involved in a typical course has become a praise-worthy attribute for any instructor.

I was interested to go to the website for The Innocence Project and consider the digital rhetoric that the initiative itself models. In addition to its blog, the project has links to Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, which it describes as the conduits to its "online communities," where supporters describe as the "best places to join the discussion about wrongful convictions and critical reforms to prevent injustice" without any privacy disclaimers. It is interesting that the page about how to "Build a Class Presentation" doesn't mention PowerPoint, despite its widespread use in both the classroom and the courtroom. As these instructions demonstrate, The Innocence Project has a liberal intellectual property policy that encourages remixing and reuse.

If you chose a case with an interview on our YouTube page, you may want to show that video to your class. If you chose another case, you can show your class the video "Freed by DNA" about Marvin Anderson's case and the need for access to DNA testing. You can copy any of them from our website or YouTube.

For papers, you can use the photo that appears with the full case profile on our website, or any images from our multimedia slideshows. You can also use any of the charts and graphs that appear on the Innocence Project website or in the hour-long multimedia presentation. (Permission is granted to use this material, provided you specifically state that the material was created by the Innocence Project.)

Thanks to Vivian Folkenflik for the link!

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