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students are harnessing the power of digital media to problem-solve and strengthen human connection.

Hamline News.  July 2016

Students are Harnessing the Power of Digital Media to Problem-Solve and Strengthen Human Connection

Aaron McKain, an assistant professor of English who teaches courses in digital media ethics and First Amendment law, said he’s continually amazed by his creative, “digitally native,” and connected students. 

“They finally have enough Ghostbusters-type tools at their disposal that they can do things earlier generations never dreamed of doing,” said McKain, noting that technology has turned students into “hustlers” and constant networkers.

When he posed the question: “What if the scientists who said cell phones are dangerous were right?” to his digital media students, they arranged a conference call with several expert sources who had researched the issue in the 1970s, all of whom they’d convinced to talk with the class about their findings. They broadcast the exchange on Hamline Radio and later turned it into a podcast, all without prompting from McKain.

“The technology has shown them how easy it is to connect with people and get ideas out in the world,” McKain said. Other students turned ambient electrical noise they’d recorded into public art, showcasing their unique creations in an exhibit at Como Park. 

The potential is there for future leaders and problem-solvers to use the technology they’re so comfortable with in ways beyond cool class projects, McKain said. He’s adjusted his teaching style to match their entrepreneurial spirit. “They expect me to put forward solutions, even if they’re aesthetic or theoretical,” he said.

Generally, he views the current generation of students as optimistic and open to new ways of solving our most entrenched problems. 

“Technology has upended politics, journalism, art, and science, and the good news is these students are adapting and using these tools in positive ways, not just for 
fun and games.”

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