Most of today’s youth have little problem surfing the Web. But Web surfing is exactly what Amy Webb teaches an Internet-adept generation.
Her class, electronic information gathering, shows students how to effectively obtain information from the Internet, including data graphs and charts, for journalism purposes.
She has a hard job – teaching students something they think they already know, but she does so successfully and with a refreshing spin on teaching.
“I’m not an academic and the only reason I’m here is because I really enjoy mentoring young people,” Webb said. Webb, an adjunct journalism professor, is currently in her fifth semester teaching at Temple. Webb earned her undergraduate degree in political economics from Indiana University and also holds a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. When not in school Webb spent time abroad in China and Japan writing for the Asian Wall Street Journal and for Newsweek in Japan.
Webb’s teaching style developed from what she knew she didn’t want to be as a teacher.
“I took this political theory class and [politics] is what I think is really interesting but it was the most boring professor in the world and I just totally lost interest,” Webb said. Webb’s negative learning experiences have inspired her to make her classes interesting and interactive. “This is just sort of the way I do things,” Webb said.
After attending one of Webb’s classes it is easy to see that her approach is anything but ordinary, even though she said she doesn’t think her classes are particularly special.
“I don’t really care about anything else other than making sure that everybody comes out of here with really good practical skills,” Webb said.
Webb also is the founder of an online publication called Dragon Fire, created in response to the apathy Webb felt for foreign affairs in the United States.
The periodical’s 100-person staff, with one reporter from Temple, covers mostly foreign affairs and some local events. The Web site is www.dfire.org. Webb’s students agree the class will help them in their journalism careers.
“[Webb] makes the class comfortable,” said junior journalism major Mary-Ann Tyson. “She makes [the three-hour class] go by fast.”
“[It’s] more discussion oriented than other classes,” said junior journalism major Todd Tranausky. “You have to be on your game, you can’t hide from the teacher.”
Both students agreed that the class helps not only to improve journalism skills, but teaches students investigative reporting and research skills too.
Webb knows that boring, apathetic teaching makes bored and apathetic students. Her solution is simple. “If you’re excited about stuff,” she said. “[Then] you’re going to do well in it.”
Tom Hinkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.