Jill Hopke

Environmental Communication. Social Movements. Mobile Media.

Tag: teaching (page 1 of 3)

Teaching Climate Hope in an Age of Despair

A little more than a year ago President Trump announced he would pull the country out of the Paris climate accord on limiting global greenhouse gas emissions. It has been a challenging year to teach hope on climate change.

What I have learned is that we need to do better at teaching students how to talk about climate impacts and solutions.

The emotional labor of teaching on climate change is what I was not prepared for. I taught a brand new undergraduate course on climate change communication at DePaul University in the winter 2018 term. The 17 students in my class were largely there because they cared about climate change but were confused about how to talk about it.

There is an urgency to figuring out how to talk about climate change more effectively.

Decades of Inaction

Collectively we’ve wasted so much time. Scientists studied the greenhouse effect during the International Geophysical Year — in 1958. That’s right, 60 years ago scientists were working to figure out the impact of carbon dioxide on our global climate.

In 1979, an article in the New York Times warned about potential catastrophic effects of melting North Pole ice during the lifetime of someone then in their infancy. Today, ice cover at the poles is at an all-time low.

Climate scientist James Hansen, then head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about climate change in 1988.

Speaking of global warming, according to New York Times’ coverage at the time, he told senators at that hearing that “It is already happening now.”

What I was not prepared for standing in front of a university classroom teaching about climate change 30 years later was my students’ anger and confusion at hearing about Dr. Hansen’s Congressional testimony. I could talk at length about the latest social science research on effective climate change communication.

The questions I was unprepared for were the ones of why more hasn’t been done. Why have the adults, of which I am now one, and political leaders failed their generation.

To put it in perspective, in 1988 when James Hansen spoke to Congress, I myself was a child. Now, 30 years later, we are nowhere where we need to be to address what is essentially the ultimate collective action problem. The Paris accord to limit global greenhouse gas emissions was an important step forward. It is nowhere near enough.

Generational Shifts on Climate Change

This is an important psychological shift that is going on. Projected climate impacts still felt far when I was an undergraduate student in the early 2000’s learning about climate models for 2050.

Today, 2050 doesn’t feel all that far off. And, we are experiencing climate impacts which climate scientists have been forecasting for decades. In Illinois, we have already seen increased intensity of rainfall and flooding, along with droughts and rising average temperatures.

So the challenge for all of us is to understand how we got here. And, more importantly to understand how do we talk about climate change in a way that matters. In a way that bridges political divisions.

Much of the work of climate activist groups is focused on mobilizing the base and stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry. That’s important. But it is not enough.

To foster hope on climate change we need to also open a dialogue. Political ideology is a primary predictor of climate change beliefs.

To teach climate hope we need to understand the emotions that our changing environment sparks in students of all ages. Anger and fear are disempowering. We need to teach about climate solutions without sugarcoating the challenges.

Where we can find renewed hope on climate change is in talking about what we love that is impacted by climate change, as well as understanding how individuals come to their beliefs about global warming.

Let’s start with what we can agree on.

A New Narrative Is Needed

In my teaching I emphasize that the majority of people in the United States are potentially reachable on climate issues. In fact, less than one in 10 U.S. adults are actively dismissive, according to research from George Mason and Yale Universities.

What’s more, even a majority of Republicans support increased research funding for clean energy technology, teaching climate change impacts and solutions in schools and that the country should use more solar and wind energy.

What we need to do is change the narrative about who supports climate action in the United States. We need to talk about climate change in a way that connects to everyday lived experience. In a new handbook for IPCC scientists, the UK-based charity Climate Outreach recommends telling human stories and speaking to shared values.

At the end of my course, one of my students reflected on seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power at a local environmental film festival. The student wrote about how the film had sparked a conversation with his partner, who he described as doubtful, about climate change.

These are kinds of conversations we all need to be having. We need to talk more with those who don’t agree with us. We need to open dialogue on finding common ground, rather than the politics of climate change that may divide us. That is a way to find hope on climate issues.

Teaching climate hope is hard. It matters more now than ever.

This blog post originally appeared on Medium.com.

DePaul University spring 2018 online journalism courses in “Social Media and the News”

I will be teaching an online undergraduate and graduate course in “Social Media and the News” at DePaul University in the spring term.

If you are an instructor at another university, or a student interested in enrolling in either the undergraduate or graduate sections, please feel free to contact me with any questions. The course overview is below.


Graduate Section

JOUR 542: Social Media and the News

DePaul University, College of Communication

Section 301, Class # 36412, Spring Quarter 2018


Undergraduate Section

JOUR 376 “Topics in Journalism”: Social Media and the News

DePaul University, College of Communication

Section 601, Class # 32402 , Spring Quarter 2018


Instructor: Dr. Jill Hopke, Assistant Professor of Journalism

Contact: jhopke@depaul.edu (I strive to respond to emails within one business day, excluding weekends); 312-362-7641 (office)

Office location: 1123 Daley, 14 E. Jackson, Loop Campus

Office hours: TBA (and by email appointment)

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillhopke

Twitter: @jillhopke

Course Description

Journalists use mobile devices and social media in newsgathering, distributing content and engagement with active audiences. This course blends the theory and practice of social media to provide you will a hands-on introduction to, and practice on, a digital-first approach to journalism. We will analyze and apply a range of social and mobile media tools.

This course has a duel purpose:

  • On a skills level, you’ll be able to hone your professional social media practice and to build your technical skills with social media apps and platforms. By the end of the quarter you’ll have an online professional portfolio and should have developed a “voice” on social platforms for your professional self; and
  • We will put a critical lens to social journalism and develop a grounding in social media and news concepts and the application of journalistic ethics to mobile and social media, that you can then apply as you embark on your career in this ever-evolving field.

The course covers emerging theory on social media, including: networked gatekeeping, social listening as applied to journalism, audience engagement and analytics, citizen journalism, visual storytelling, best practices for content curation and covering breaking news events with social tools, as well as verification of social content and ethics. You will develop and implement a professional social media strategy, practice with a variety of mobile journalism and social media tools and curate an online professional portfolio. For your final project, you’ll conduct a social media audit and develop a professional social media plan.

Learning Objectives

Our learning objectives for the quarter:

  • Develop a “mobile-first” mindset for your reporting and mobile newsgathering technical skills;
  • Describe the changing role of audiences and the impact on journalism;
  • Be able to assess user-generated content (UGC) from social media apps and platforms and locate reliable information from social media to use in your reporting;
  • Design and actively manage your personal professional “brand” on social media;
  • Demonstrate the use of audience analytics to improve your professional social media strategy;
  • Assess the effectiveness of news organizations social media strategies and policies;
  • Identify how the core journalistic concepts of verification and objectivity apply to mobile journalism and social media;
  • Analyze future trends in social, “digital-first” journalism; and
  • Complete the Facebook for Journalists Certificate (joint with the Poynter Institute).

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New DePaul undergraduate course in climate change communication

I will be teaching a new undergraduate course in climate change communication at DePaul University in the winter quarter. The course is part of the university minors in Environmental Communication and Climate Change Science and Policy.

If you are an instructor at another university, or a student interested in enrolling, please feel free to contact me with any questions. The syllabus is below.

JOUR 311 / CMNS 363: Climate Change Communication

DePaul University, College of Communication

Section 201 / 501, Class 2504 / 25225, Winter Quarter 2018

Room 314 Arts and Letters Hall, Lincoln Park Campus, Monday / Wednesday 2:40 to 4:10 p.m.

Instructor: Dr. Jill Hopke, Assistant Professor of Journalism

Contact: jhopke@depaul.edu (I strive to respond to emails within one business day, excluding weekends); 312-362-7641 (office)

Office location: 1123 Daley, 14 E. Jackson, Loop Campus

Office hours: Mondays 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and Wednesdays 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. in my Loop office; directly following class in the LPC (and by email appointment)

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jillhopke

Course Description

Individuals make up their minds on climate change, energy development, and other science of pressing public policy importance through a complex set of factors: values, demographics, political ideology, and so on. Journalists, strategic communicators, scientists, and policy analysts need to be able to communicate effectively with diverse public audiences on climate and energy topics. This course is oriented from a science communication perspective and draws on social scientific research on communicating on climate change and energy issues. We will take a human perspective on climate issues and focuses on the social, political and cultural aspects of climate change. The course covers best practices for promoting and facilitating public dialogue on climate change policy and global energy systems. Topics covered include: climate change public opinion and knowledge, media portrayals of climate change and its societal effects, climate skepticism and denial, psychological factors that contribute to values and beliefs on climate science, journalism and covering climate issues, framing and developing narratives on climate impacts, and climate change in popular culture. Students will conduct original research to analyze and evaluate climate change communication. For the final project, students have the option of completing a major journalistic reporting project, designing an advocacy or marketing campaign, or conducting a research project.

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  • Explain the function of communication in shaping attitudes, values, practices and policy on climate change and energy issues in the United States and internationally;
  • Understand the role of worldviews, perceptions, and beliefs in shaping public opinion on climate change and energy development;
  • Understand the roots of climate denialism in a U.S. political context and internationally;
  • Identify and evaluate mechanisms for communicating on climate science and energy issues; and
  • Identify and evaluate rhetoric and visual communication generated, and used by, those communicating about climate change and energy topics.

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DePaul University faculty profile

I recently sat down with the DePaul University Newsline to talk about my research on climate activism and energy development. Below is part of that conversation.

Jill Hopke, assistant professor of journalism in the College of Communication, has dedicated her career to discovering the intersections of people, the environment and media. Her recent studies examine transnational anti-fracking activism on social media. She has also researched discussion of climate change solutions on Twitter during recent climate talks.

Read on to learn more about how Hopke’s research has transformed the way she approaches climate change in her own work and classroom.

Tell me about your most recent research.

I recently started a project with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin – Madison examining social media, specifically Twitter, in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock protest. The issue has been in the news again as President Trump issued a memorandum giving approval for the project to move forward in January. Work has since resumed on the pipeline. We are tracking how that protest emerged in the public sphere over the summer and into the fall. Most people are not aware that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the pipeline began prior to the spark of its wide-spread attention in August 2016. I’m exploring when, and why, the issue went from being relatively localized to being recognized nationally and internationally and what role social media played. We are comparing the movement against the pipeline to opposition of a proposed shale gas development in 2013 by the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada. There are distinct parallels between the cases, particularly the role of visual imagery.

How can we best approach discussions about the environment?

We are at a very interesting time politically for climate change and energy development issues. Both topics are very politicized, and it’s important to have channels for meaningful dialogue. From research, I’ve learned there is segmentation in social media discourse that makes it harder for meaningful dialogue to occur. My research on Twitter discourse about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, revealed segmented “hashtag publics” of activists and industry supporters, with an absence of dialogue between the two. When we talk about climate change communication, we need to understand the issue is not simply a matter of providing people with more factual information, but base our communication interventions in social science research. There is a spectrum of opinion about climate change that ranges from alarmed to dismissive. Beliefs may be based on an individual’s background, their social networks, political stance or ideology. In discussion of climate and energy issues, we must tailor our messages to reach individuals based on where they fall on the spectrum of dismissive to alarmed.

Read the full piece on the DePaul University Newsline.

“Sourcing and Verifying Social Content” Guest Lecture

Next week I am giving a guest presentation on “Sourcing and Verifying Social Content.” Below are the slides for my presentation and links to the examples I use.

Tools for Researching Trends on Twitter
Twitter Advanced Search: https://twitter.com/search-advanced
“8 Key Takeaways about Social Media and News,” Pew Research Journalism Project, March 26, 2014
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