Local Professor and Author Seeks to Address Social Media Troubles Among Students with New Textbook
Metropolitan State University of Denver journalism professor, Alfonzo Porter has come full circle. When Porter graduated from MSU Denver’s journalism program in 1987, he was ready to take on the world. During the past 30+ years, Porter has written for several newspapers including the Washington Post, tenured as a school administrator, and had started his own education consultancy.
Today Porter is the CEO of Vertex Learning, LLC an educational publishing and consulting firm with an operational footprint in Denver, Atlanta, Dayton-Cincinnati, St. Louis, Washington DC and San Diego. He has penned a new book, “Digital Citizenship: Promoting Wellness for Thriving in a Connected World,” a textbook designed to help students successfully deal with living in a digital reality. It includes critical lessons on such topics as cyber-bullying, sexting, hate speech, handling inappropriate content, and online dating; among others. The content is aligned with the academic learning standards of the Society for Health and Physical Education and seeks to speak to the social, psychological and emotional well being of young people in dealing with life online.
The book was written in collaboration with MSU-Denver‘s School of Education professors Lisa Altemueller, Philip Bernhardt and Todd Reimer through Vertex. It is designed as a tool for schools and students in grades six through 12. However, it can be used by parents and other community leaders in helping their kids navigate social media. Each chapter comes with real-life situations, case studies
and activities for teachers to apply in the classroom. The book is set to release early June globally and will be available for purchase through a number of distribution networks like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Book-A-Million.
“The message to youth is to be mindful not to negatively impact their lives and futures before it even gets started,” Porter says. “Today, a personnel officer, human resources or talent acquisition officer will likely search through your social media accounts even before contacting references prior make a hiring decision. If you’re engaged in questionable behavior online, all of that, at some point, will come to light.”
According to Porter, today’s youth are digital natives. They can’t fathom a world without devices and social media. Therefore, they need effective tools to aid in adapting to computer-generated realities.
“Our goal is to help them recognize the permanency of the information they’re putting on social media and let them know that this won’t go away,” Porter says.
Other titles by Porter are “More Like Barack, Less Like Tupac: Eradicating the Academic Achievement Gap by Countering Decades of the Hip Hop Hoax,” “The Four Letter Word Dictionary for the American Teen,” and “The X Stands for Excellence.”
Porter explains, “More Like Barack” is focused on helping African American and other minority students compete academically. Although the title of the book sounds anti-Tupac Shakur and anti-hip-hop, Porter reassures it’s not.
“When I say more like Barack, less like Tupac, I’m talking about the decisions that you make that drive the work of your life,” Porter said. “Clearly Tupac was gifted. I think he’d be a mogul today. He was totally immersed in the arts as an actor and even studied ballet. In the end, his immature was his demise. Growing in compromised circumstances in a single parent household only exacerbated the condition. It’s hard to imagine where he would’ve wound up as he matured. You can have the world laid out in front of you just like he did. And it can be completely destroyed depending on how those life’s lessons are manifested in ones behavior.”
Porter believes if students were to compete in writing, math, robotics or other competitions, it could inspire motivation because winning feels good. Embedded in the book are 50 world-class competitions to spark a sense of academic competitiveness among minority students.
After earning his degree at MSU-Denver, Porter relocated to Maine and worked at a small newspaper. He moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1988 and worked as a staff writer for the Dayton Daily News. He would later leverage his writing skills to become a high school teacher. For eight years, Porter managed a program for high school seniors, preparing them for life after graduation. He taught English at Trotwood-Madison High School in the Dayton, OH region before moving on to Whetstone High School in Columbus, OH.
While in Ohio, Porter attended Ohio State University and received his Master’s degree in Educational Policy and Leadership with an endorsement as a principal and superintendent. His doctoral program focused on the Administration of Teaching and Learning at Walden University. He accepted a position at T. C. Williams High School in Virginia, the school depicted in Denzel Washington’s Remember the Titans film, where he served as vice principal from 1996 to 1998.
He then moved to Baltimore to take on the duties as an administrator at Woodlawn High School. In 2001 he gave up his
schools administrative duties and started his own private consultancy firm; PE&C, Inc. which provided teacher staff development, professional development, curriculum writing, program evaluation and other services. The firm located in Maryland, like so many other small businesses took a massive blow and became a casualty of the economic recession of 2010.
Today, he is CEO of a firm focused on educational publishing and consulting.
“Vertex Learning, LLC is an educational publishing and consulting company,” Porter says. “We publish any kind of book –textbooks,
dissertation to book, monographs, novels, non-fiction, children’s books cookbooks, and more.”
Being an educator and working in various school districts allowed him to become vested in the underachievement of underrepresented students in America.
“I’d been in high schools from 1988 to 2001. I just began to see certain behaviors that I thought lent itself to poor academic performance on behalf of many minority students,” Porter says. “Ostensibly our students, particularly black boys are being groomed to aspire to jump high, run fast, or throw a ball through an apparatus rather than go to the library.”
When he took an interest in this subject, Porter wrote an op-ed about the disproportionate discipline of African-American kids in public schools, which opened the door to a three-year relationship with The Washington Post in 2011through 2014.
“I was on a panel with one of their reporters. So I reached out to him,” Porter recalls. “Told him I had a background in journalism and I was currently working the school system in the DC area. So I wrote the piece and then was contacted by the editor. We talked a bit. Gave him my background,” Porter adds. “They asked if I could submit my work to them and the rest is history.”
He believes that public schools are too heavily focused on athletics. Students who have traditionally underperformed academically have become pawns in a system that serves as a feeder system for the NCAA.
“We knew all about LeBron James by the time he was 14 years old.” He said. “When I would pitch story ideas regarding black students who excelled scholastically, I encountered significant roadblocks from editors. If we concentrated more on scholarship, we could erase the academic achievement gap that exists between African American students and all other students attending public schools.”
In 2014, Porter returned to his old stomping grounds, MSU Denver, to teach journalism classes to tomorrow’s journalists. He teaches Intro to Journalism, Mass Media, Reporting and Public Relations courses.
“I like the nontraditional student. The fact they are actually living, working and experiencing life as an adult,” Porter says, “makes them far more mature and serious about their education.”
Shaun Schafer, department chair of MSU Denver’s Journalism and Technical Communications, believes Porter is an approachable and genial professor.
“He has one of the fundamental qualities of being a good journalism professor–he has worked in the business,” Schafer says. “He knows what students need to succeed. I think he wants to make a difference in students’ lives and he works to not squander that opportunity.”
With every class Porter teaches, he wants to provide his students with real-world experience, starting with MSU Denver’s student news organization, Met Media.
“We’ve launched a new pilot program for reporting students to bring them to the Met one day a week and assign stories to them,” Porter explains. “Students can listen to me drone on in a lecture forever. But you take them to the source and Met Media is a wonderful opportunity for student reporters, broadcasters and even those who aspire to become PR professionals. Now my students have bylines.”
Steven Haigh, director of Met Media, describes how Porter and The Metropolitan newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Esteban Fernandez worked together to get his reporting students more involved with the paper.
“Using his spring reporting students as guinea pigs, Porter and Fernandez instituted a program to involve the reporting class directly with the newspaper’s section editors,” Haigh says. “On Thursdays, students spend their class time with the editors going over assignments and accepting new ones for future weeks. When you play a big role in determining the positive future of the student newspaper,” Haigh adds, “that’s a pretty big impact.”
Students in his Fundamentals of Public Relations course are expected to select a company or organization that could use a good public relations plan and are required to formulate that plan. Porter wants students to take their well-crafted plans and pitch them to their company.
“When we say PR, it’s not just writing a press release. It’s not about just trying to get reporters interested in doing what your company is doing,” Porter explains. “It’s about how can we effectively leverage PR to transform a company or organization.”
Haigh explains why Porter is valuable to Met Media.
“He is a reliable communicator and easy to talk to. He believes strongly in accountability, not only from student to the professor but also the converse,” Haigh says. “He comes to class prepared and expects the same from students. I’m very happy to have him as our faculty adviser for print and I look forward to successful years ahead.”
Editor’s note: Titles by Porter are available at www.vertexlearning.com. For more information call, 800-995-7670.