Committee to investigate US government's treatment of reporters

September 30, 2013

For three decades, the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported on assaults on press freedoms in China, Iran, Syria and other countries with government regimes traditionally hostile to a free and robust news media.

This year, for the first time, the Committee is conducting a major investigation of attacks on press freedoms by the U.S. government, led by an Arizona State University professor. Download Full Image

“Journalists working in the United States have told us that their work has become more difficult as aggressive leak investigations and prosecutions have chilled certain kinds of reporting,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists asked Leonard Downie Jr., the former Washington Post executive editor now serving as the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to lead a study focusing on press treatment by the Obama administration.

“Given his experience as both an academic and media professional, Len Downie is the right person to look at these complex issues with clarity and purpose,” said Simon. “We look forward to his findings, which we hope will help lead to improved conditions for journalists in this country and ensure the United States continues to set a press freedom example for the world.”

The Downie report will be released at a news conference at 10 a.m., Oct. 10 in the Newseum’s Knight Studios at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street N.W.

The report comes at a time when U.S. journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to do their jobs in the face of aggressive criminal leak investigations and unprecedented government limitations on access and information. Just last week, a former FBI explosive expert agreed to plead guilty to revealing secret information to The Associated Press about an intelligence operation in Yemen in 2012. The story led to a leaks investigation and the seizure of AP phone records in the government's search for the information's source. In a similar case, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News was subjected to intense government monitoring as part of an investigation into possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009.

“The fact that the Committee to Protect Journalists felt compelled to investigate the U.S. government’s treatment of the press is a remarkable statement here in the home of the First Amendment,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “U.S. government tactics are increasingly impeding journalists and having a chilling effect on news gathering that can endanger our democracy.”

The committee is an independent, nonprofit organization founded 32 years ago to promote and defend press freedom and rights around the world. Each year it documents attacks on the press and on journalists, compiling an annual census of journalist fatalities, the number of journalists incarcerated around the work and the number in exile from their countries. It also assists journalists around the world who have been targeted for their work.

Each year the organization issues about a half-dozen special reports on the state of the press in selected countries where press freedom has been an issue. So far in 2013, the committee has completed reports on Burma, China, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Tanzania. The only time the U.S. has been the subject of a report was more than 20 years ago. That report was limited to attacks on immigrant journalists in the United States.

Reporter , ASU News


Intelligent software to help instructors build customized courses

September 30, 2013

Teaching just got a little bit easier, thanks to researchers at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation who are developing a software tool that will help instructors design more personalized courses. The software uses customized guidance to incorporate activities and assessments to meet individualized learning goals and outcomes.

Experts say goal-oriented teaching methods, or outcome-based education, create a more cohesive learning experience, and the web-based software tool will serve as a bridge between instructor-created curriculum and program goals. Download Full Image

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Instructional Module Development System (IMOD) is currently being developed by college faculty Odesma Dalrymple, Srividya Bansal and Ashraf Gaffar. The tool will first be developed specifically for instructors teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses, but the technology can be extended for use at any level and category of learning.

Dalrymple says the program will be easy for any professor to use. The software will first help the instructor define appropriate end goals for a course while guiding the instructor through selecting instructional activities and assessments based on those end goals. Throughout designing a course, instructors will be taken through self-paced training that will provide expert guidance in developing a course around learning outcomes. Software algorithms will allow the program to query and infer new knowledge, creating a semantic program that learns as the professor uses the tool. The semantic program will in turn be able to alert the professor when selected instructional activities or assessments do not align with the defined course outcomes  

The team stresses that this is not a learning management system, similar to Blackboard or eCollege. While many learning management systems provide structure, they serve primarily as an organizational tool without  any support to the pedagogic methods. IMOD instead helps develop a curriculum through learning outcomes by offering resources that bring about course goals.

“Many learning management systems, if not all, are at a very abstract level. Our tool uses semantics and gets feedback from previous use of the tool,” Gaffar said. “This program is one that will transform the way education is taught in higher education.”

While many courses are taught by faculty with industry experience, some faculty do not have the know-how to incorporate outcome-based learning principles into their current curriculum. Dalrymple says course design itself is no easy task, and trying to incorporate learning activities that drive specific goals is even more difficult.

“Most faculty are experts in their respective fields, but they aren’t necessarily experts in education,” Dalrymple said. “That’s why we are creating a tool that helps faculty who don’t have expertise in the curriculum design process. It takes some of the guesswork out of designing a curriculum.”

The end result of using the tool will create a more cohesive learning experience for the student, while providing an enjoyable way of creating an outcome-based course, Bansal said.

Along with a group of graduate students and faculty contributors, the team is currently researching methods in outcome-based learning to include in the IMOD system. As the tool is being developed, the team will apply several user-centered design methods and techniques for more intuitive design, and will conduct usability tests to improve user experience and to determine the most effective delivery of the tool. Faculty from the college and other universities will take part in focus groups that will help shape the tool into an easy-to-use, functioning system. Students will also be involved in the design process as the team determines appropriate learning activities, assessments and pedagogy for students in various STEM concentrations.

As professors in the Engineering and Computing Systems department, Dalrymple, Gaffar and Bansal are required to design their courses around Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology standards, which calls for outcome-based teaching and hands-on projects. The team considers their software tool a method with which instructors can successfully integrate board standards into their curriculum.

Dalrymple says the implementation of the tool at the College of Technology and Innovation will be a natural transition for faculty because the college's courses already emphasize outcome-based learning.

“That culture of hands-on learning and outcome-based assessing is already here at CTI,” Dalrymple said.  “We are simply bringing a tool to facilitate the propagation of that culture.”

Written by: Sydney B. Donaldson