The Innovation Incubator students have headed to Toronto for the Online News Association conference. Working with the challenge of re-invigorating community journalism, students from seven institutions have been working long hours since the beginning of the summer to come up with innovative ideas through what turned out to be the ‘tough love’ process of creation netting.
As it happened, four students from St. Michael’s College ended up working together in the pre-conference phase with students from Ithaca College and Michigan State. Together they developed LockerTalker—an interactive platform targeted at middle-schoolers that combines news articles and interest groups with locker decorations, a flipbook, and ‘post-it’ messages to other users they know. The concept is an alternative to social networking sites, one that will help kids connect with news, with their local communities, and with community groups like sports teams, 4-H clubs, and conservation organizations. It has built-in safety and privacy features appropriate to the age group that not only satisfy, but attract, parents.
LockerTalker has been honed through feedback from media professionals, marketing specialists, and recently passed the ultimate test, parents. Since a recent TV news package on LockerTalker, the students that created the concept have been receiving inquiries from parents who want to find out how to get their kids and school groups involved—and connected—to this new format for news and discussion in their community. It’s the first signs of an answer to the question: If you build it, will they come?