Stories that Must Be Told

It’s always been about you – Cassville

It’s always been about you – Cassville

Cassville or the story of Cassville has chased me for years. I went to Cassville Baptist just before 2000. We left just after 9/11. When I left the church, I carried the stories with me and a strong desire to write them down. I toyed with a fictionalized version of what happened to me there or what I thought was happening in the spirit realmIMG_0013, but after I got it out of my system I put it away. I left “Ichabod” alone in a file.

The other day, I came across an advertisement calling for short-story authors to submit to a new anthology. They were in particular need of writers of historical fiction. I thought of “Ichabod” sitting in pieces and notes on napkins in my desk file drawer.

I have convinced myself that I am not a fiction writer. Creative non-fiction yes, but not the mysterious workings of fiction writing. Well, maybe it is time I stopped saying,  “I do not write fiction.” Maybe I should take a chance and pull out that old textbook I borrowed (and never returned) from Professor and writer Melanie Sumner and learn the right way to write fiction.  Perhaps I have learned something about fiction writing from the many sections of literature I teach.Maybe I can scrabble together a readable short story based on real things that happened at Cassville. Maybe old “Ichabod” needs a resurrection and lots of revision.

Oh Cassville, a lost town of little significance, you have so much more to share. I am listening.

Maybe I will do it, write a historical fiction short story.  Maybe. Maybe not. There may be a fiction writer somewhere lurking within.  I will keep you posted.

 

Note: The first chapter of my new book, Lost Towns of North Georgia is dedicated to the real story (written as a microhistory in the creative nonfiction style) of Cassville. The book began as a book only about Cassville, but the publishers asked me to write about other lost towns in North Georgia.

 

Logical Fallacies in this Political Season

coffee_then_rhetoric_tshirtRhetoric is not just for liars anymore. Politicians have given “rhetoric” a bad name. This current political season is no different than any other. People trying to get elected use words to get you to do things – vote for them. At some point, the word, “rhetoric” will be spewed out as if it were a dirty word. Don’t sully the reputation of this beautiful word, “rhetoric.

Watch this interesting video, produced by Clemson, that will put the “rhet” back into “rhetoric.”

 

Michael D.C. Drout is an associate professor of English at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. He teaches Old and Middle English, medieval literature, Chaucer, Fantasy, and science fiction. Drout says:

“We tend to think of “rhetoric” either as something bad and manipulative (when we discount speech as “just a bunch of rhetoric”) or as something elevated and perhaps overblown, but in fact rhetoric is simply (and complexly)the art of using words to change the world.

The word “rhetor” means “orator” or “teacher,”and the art of rhetoric was taught in ancient Greece for public purposes: convincing and inspiring one’s peers so that they would take courses of action you believed to be wise.

Cassandra1
Cassandra

Don’t be a Cassandra

Drout further encourages us not to be a “Cassandra”.

In ancient Greek literature, Cassandra tricked the god Apollo into giving her the gift of prophecy. But as a punishment, Apollo cursed Cassandra to be right always but never to have anyone believe her. Cassandra thus exemplifies the rhetorically deficient person: She knows what is right, but she is unable to convince anyone to do anything about it.

I do not want to be a Cassandra. How about you?

Logos,Ethos, Pathos

Drout gives us a good way to remember the important rhetoric elements of logos, ethos, and pathos.

You can think of the three pieces, logos, ethos,and pathos, as logic, ethics, and sympathy (the root words are recognizable).

Fallacies 

My son, who agrees with me about most things political made a comment that kind of made me feel good, but also made me say, “Hmmm.”  We were discussion political issues when he said,

” Mom, you should have a talk show about politics.”

Maybe I should. I know for certain, I need to understand and identify some of the logical flogicalfallallacies. Some of the examples of these logical fallacies are mine and may contain rhetorical errors and thus another kind of logical fallacy. Please do not automatically assign Argumentum ad Hominem to me!

  • Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. This is a fallacy somewhat related to asserting the consequent. This is a hard one to avoid. This is assuming that the converse of a true statement is automatically true. “The economy is failing, it must be George Bush’s fault. The war in Iran was a victor, it must be Obama’s presidency.”
  • Denying the Antecedent. People incorrectly assume the invese is true. Inverse takes a true statement and puts NOT on both sides.  “If the economy is not failing, it must not be George Bush’s fault. The war in Iran was not a victor, it must not be Obama’s fault.”
  • Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. This fallacy is when a writer assumes that because something came after something else, the first thing caused the second thing. “Gore was in office during the birth of the internet, thus Gore invented the internet”.
  • Petitio Principii (Begging the Question). This fallacy is abused by newspaper columnists according to Professor Drout. This means you have asked the other side to concede the main point in the argument. A simple example:

If we are arguing about what to eat for dinner, you say, “just to speed things up, can’t you at least agree that we won’t eat seafood?” so that we can move on. But if I wanted to eat seafood, asking me to concede, for the sake of argument, that we won’t eat seafood, is begging the question: asking for me to give in preemptively.

To be fair and balanced…

A red flag for this fallacy:the use of an adjective or adverb to perform all the logical work in the sentence. When politicians campaign on the platform of eliminating “wasteful spending,” they are in fact begging the question. Everyone is against wasteful spending; there is no need to have an argument about it. The real question (which has been begged here) is which spending is wasteful and which is not. Therefore, the word “wasteful” begs the question by trying to get you to agree that whatever spending the politician is against, you’re against too. You’ll see that this fallacy is related to the enthymeme: It assumes that you share the enthymeme with the speaker even when you don’t.

  • Attacking the Messenger: Argumentum ad Hominem

Argumentum ad hominem is probably most commonly used today in attacks on people’s intelligence: Candidate X is stupid; therefore his policies must be bad. Note that “candidate X is stupid, therefore we should not elect him” is a reasonable syllogism (with the enthymeme of “we should not elect stupid people”), but this says nothing about the policies the candidate is advocating.

The other day I heard a “talking head” or political spokesman comment with a sarcastic chuckle, “Thinking people and a Donald Trump supporter? Those phrases do not go together.” So, just because someone wants a political change for our country and supports an outlier like Trump, they are automatically – stupid?  This is a childish argument and a logical fallacy.

  • Tu Quoque.

An example would be “famous actor X says that population control is a good idea, but he has eleven children.” Famous actor X may be a hypocrite, but that does not address the merits of the idea of population control, whatever they may be. The tu quoque fallacy is probably the most common in all of political discourse.

Red Herring (Ignoratio Elenchi—Irrelevant Thesis). Because tu quoque focuses on the hypocrisy of the speaker, it distracts the hearer or reader from the real issues. That is the same general idea of the red herring, which is an attempt to change the subject from one in which the speaker is losing to one in which he is likely to win.

Other Logical Fallacies

  • Sweeping Generalization (Dicto Simpliciter).
  • Appeal to Ignorance (Argumentum ad Ignorantiam).
  • Plurium Interrogationum (Too Many Questions).
  • and many more…
Grab Your Demons by the Neck

Grab Your Demons by the Neck

I suggest you stalk your demons. Embrace them. If you are a writer, especially one who has been unable to make your work count or stick, you must grab your demons by the neck and face them down. And whatever you do, don’t censor yourself. There’s always time and editors for that (Lerner).

Betsy Lerner in The Forest for the Trees, encourages “The Ambivalent Writer”
to find the real reason they write. Writers who do extensive research and read broadly in the face of a deadline are called – procrastinators. Learner describes ambivalent writers as those too frightened to share their emotional truth. This writer is stuck and sadly that writing may never stick.

Lerner speaks the truth with a mentor’s heart. She says we write because we are haunted, bothered, and uneasy in the world. Writers suffer from excessive feelings and must bleed on-screen to find motivation – the reason they write. Nobody has to read this first vent, but it is part of the process. If you do not connect with your own heart – you will not connect with anyone else’s. There is enough writing out there for the head. People want writing for the heart. This explains the reason Creative Nonfiction is so popular . They want history, biography, and science in story form; they want narrative to matter.

Recently while watching Book TV on CSPAN,  I was mesmerized by Rebecca Skloot discuss her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She writes about science, a topic I am not normally interested. She was talking about a woman, known to most medical researchers only by her cells, the HeLa cells. The author tells Henrietta’s little known story:

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like invitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

I would have switched the channels if they had told me the story of the women in their books that changed their world of medicine. They wrote science as narrative. I wanted to read this science book and know more about Henrietta Lacks. Rebecca Skloot allowed Henrietta’s life touch her own and it touches our heart. Skloot does more than write a textbook about cancer cells, she tells a

Henrietta Lacks 1940s

story she that haunted her about a poor black woman. “Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multi million-dollar industry.”

Writers carry around demons. Some of those demons are emotional, some are physical, some are spiritual, some are just stories that won’t go away – they haunt us and taunt us to deal with them. Writers are gifted with the opportunity to reach around and grab those things by the neck and wrestle it into words.

A wise graduate professor suggested that before we write anything else, that we deal with the elephant in the room. My Creative Nonfiction class has been a profound journey. It has forced me to look deep into the eyes of my demon and decide if I want to keep doing this writing thing. Why would anyone want to go through the agony of digging into the foundation of your soul, scaffolding your sentences so others can safely see what you are building? Then submit to the final humiliation – exposing your grammatical disability and giving your editor the power of life and death over your work? Why bother? That’s the question every writer must ask and answer. In that answer – you will find your motivation to write.

“Why?”  My Word for 2014

“Why?” My Word for 2014

w2c8otnonp8njtpnbgdhWords for the New Year. Social media and business expert, Chris Brogan has three words he focuses on each year. I just have one for 2014, “Why?”

It is easy to come up with “What” and “How”  is  simple. Just learn it and apply it. “Why?” Now that takes thought. Most people, most businesses, never start with “Why?” they just DO something after figuring out the  “What” and the “How.” Listen to Simon Sinek explain his theory of “Start with Why” Sinek’s new ideas fascinate me, but they resonant with something I learned a long time ago.

It is all about purpose. You remember, The Purpose-Driven Life? Rick Warren’s seminal book subtitled, “What on earth am I here for?” changed my thought life. I started looking for purpose in everything I do. The purpose driven mentality began driving my life. It keeps me centered and somewhat calm in a storm. Lest you be deceived, understand,  I am not perfect in the practice.

Recently, I got involved in something that was not purpose driven. It was redundant and purpose-less. I could not find the answer to my question, “WHY?” However, I have a strong work ethic and I am loyal to a fault. Often my time is over before I am ready to go, so I stayed longer than I was supposed to and it ended up messy. I do this with volunteer work, people I am only supposed to know for a season, and projects I should have never taken. Then I get mad and hurt, when all along, it was not part of the “WHY” for my life.

You will know your “Why?” and your purpose by the way it makes you feel. It is a deep longing that keeps dragging you back.  You can answer one question and discover your purpose. My sister asked that question over a year ago, “Lisa, if money were no object and you could spend the rest of your life doing anything, what would it be?”

Years and heartache have finally brought me to accept my “Why?” It is an honorable “Why.” I embrace it. It is my “Why?”  It is my purpose. What’s yours? Why not spend some time thinking of “Why?” instead of making hopeless resolutions? Why? Because when you figure out your purpose, your lifeless resolutions will fade away while your “Why?” guides your journey.

 

Digital Rhetoric: Doing Things with Words Online

Digital Rhetoric: Doing Things with Words Online

It is with great joy and relief that I can post my capstone, “Digital Rhetoric: Doing Things with Words Online”.  The free download is located in the digital commons on Kennesaw State University library site. I would love to hear your thoughts on this project. Here is the abstract:

Abstract

“Digital Rhetoric: Doing Things with Words Online”.

It is through rhetorical principles applied to digital writing that online writers can be heard above the din confronting weary online browsers. The synergy between classical rhetoric and new media practices leads to persuasive and memorable digital writing. Despite the hurried clip and the complex nature of technology, grounding writing in firm rhetorical concepts can produce compelling online content. The purpose of this capstone project is to teach specific audiences how to do things with words online through a series of three modules whose unifying themes include the broad topics of targeting niche audiences, persuasive writing, and using the digital medium of communications.

Twitter 101: A Series on Authentic Tweets

Twitter 101: A Series on Authentic Tweets


Twitter101
Twitter 101

One of the comments I received after my workshop, Connecting in an Authentic Way, was an alert to write this post – actually, a series of posts on how to use Twitter to help you get your words out.

This idea was spurred by this honest response to my survey:

The workshop was alot like the internet itself-all over the place. Their seemed to be no real, clear cut dissemination of info, just a bunch of links with one sentence summations about how much Lisa liked them. 

Thank you for this honest response! I appreciate honesty. I was aware that the presentation was all over the place. It is important to me to get it right, even after the workshop is over. The comment forced my hand away from my graduate thesis to my keyboard. I am writing a series of posts to supplement and strengthen what we started last Saturday in the workshop.

Many pre-workshop questions were about Twitter. A topic worthy of a series of blogs to help me use the tool better and maybe it will help someone else. Therefore, Twitter 101. Our class is in session. Please tell me what you think, respond with questions, and lets learn from each other.

I found this comprehensive overview of Twitter on Slideshare. So our first lesson in Twitter 101 will be this wonderful summary from  Bryony Taylor.

Our next class in Twitter 101 will be, “Using your Twitter, a Micro-blog as a Micro-bulletin”

Remember, it is all about relationship! Share this one of your friends so they can participate in our discussion about Twitter.

View more PowerPoint from Bryony Taylor
Be that Person: Trust Agent Mentality in Social Media Marketing

Be that Person: Trust Agent Mentality in Social Media Marketing

Today was unique. Today was an authentic meeting of like-minded writers wanting to grow as social media marketers. Normally I am out in the hallway watching the iPad and cash box and checking in late-comers. Today, thanks to Karen Pickell and Mac Elmore manning the administration of GWA, today I was in the front of the room and talking about social media marketing and connecting in an authentic way. We had one of the largest workshop groups ever. It was the topic. Using social media for writers is so important. I really felt like we became a niche right in that room. My commitment to them was to continue the conversation on this blog. It was impossible to cover everything. One thing I did not talk much about was Twitter, I will write about that tomorrow. For today, I forgot a favorite way to show what being a “trust agent” looks like. I will do my best to explain.

Chris Brogan
Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan is the guru, trust agent, brilliant thought leader in this area of connecting in an authentic way. He says that being  a trust agent is that person who connects others. Being the person at the elbow of deals being made is being a trust agent. It is someone who like to help make things happen, for someone else. I saw that happen at the end of the workshop when my intern got a paying editing gig from an attendee – I was happy to connect them. We talked today about how to make it all not about you and how to help others – being a good human being and not expecting something in return. But something is always returned to you – if nothing else the blessing of seeing an author find a great editor and that editor thankful for the job.

Last summer I did a directed study for the KSU Writing Center. My task was to build a strategic brand to communicate to students what was available in the Writing Center. We surveyed, studied, and implemented a plan. The class was over and I continued to help the Writing Center and now I am mentoring a new staff member. I even led a workshop and promote them on social media. I was no longer obligated to help the Writing Center, my class was over, but I was happy to watch the Center grow and flourish. I expect nothing in return and will continue to help them in any way they ask. What do I get out of it? In addition to the thrill of watching student participation grow by 500 students last fall, I have been given wonderful letters of recommendation from the Center Director, Dr. Mary Lou Odom and many proof read papers by the best in the business. Most of all, I get the joy of working with people who love their work and the friendships that have grown as a by-product of this successful collaboration.

When were you last at the elbow of a deal that did not benefit you directly? What have you given away this week?  Have you given your  time, talents, energy – your heart to someone with no expectations of a ROI? (ROI is your return on investment). Be that guy or that woman with a trust agent mentality. Be humble. Be honest. Be helpful. Be open-handed. Be that person.

Tell me how you want to be that person. Comment below and let’s create that kind of community. Writers rule the Web, lets change the digital rhetoric for good.

 

And One More Thing . . .

And One More Thing . . .

Steve Jobs would introduce the next Apple creation and leave the best for last. He would reveal something new by saying, “And one more thing . . .” I feel that we are on the verge of a wave of new instructional technologies. This will make learning online a smart choice for most adult learners.

My first semester in graduate school involved two writing courses, one was online and the other was a face-to-face traditional class. Several graduate students shared both classes. By the end of the summer semester, the students who took both the online and the traditional class compared notes and agreed to a more intimate learning experience online than in the classroom interaction. The reason may be the online professor’s ability to create community in a distant environment. Skillfully written discussion thread questions prompted students to comment beyond the three required posts. A class blog did not add busy work, but more ways to interact and learn from each other. The professor would then synthesize the posts into something with take away value. The online course requirements fostered a cohesive cyber writing group that lingered beyond the grade posting.  In the traditional class that same semester, the same collegial connection was absent.

An interaction in the Wired Campus blog on The Chronicles of Higher Education, a Kennesaw State University study was conducted to determine how to keep students from dropping out of online courses. The post begins, “Nothing works.”  The original published in The International Journal of Management in Education by professors in the Coles School of Business, concluded that students drop out of an online class at a rate 12-percent to 20-percent higher than traditional classes. The study by the team of business professors was set up to discover retention strategies. They tried calling students, quizzing on the syllabus and tour-guiding through the virtual classroom. They attempted to connect students in small groups calling for team projects. Parry reports the study concluded that nothing mattered and none of it worked. The results seem to blame the students and not the online class management and teaching style. Marc Parry, the blogger reports the conclusion of the researchers, ‘“If someone was going to drop out of the class, they were going to drop out of the class,’ says Stacy M. Campbell, assistant professor of management at Kennesaw State” (Parry, Preventing Online Dropouts).

However, another online learning expert Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield assigns program coordinators or online student peer mentors to help students navigate an online course.  The blogger concludes with input from Mr. Schroeder, “The practices tried by Kennesaw State promote engagement and deeper learning . . . but they could be more directly focused on preventing dropouts  (Parry, Preventing Online Dropouts).

New ways of teaching online are emerging. Research at Texas Technical University by Dr. Rich Rice is producing new ways to respond to student’s writing online. In his studies of andragogy (the study of teaching adult students) he is creating with Dr. Fred Kemp “Smart Casting.” “Smart Casting,” according to Rice is “a media interface that allows for ‘just –in-time’ video to be delivered at the point of need. It is target content and high production quality content that is attached to teacher’s commentary on a student’s writing” (Rice). Comments are specific and fit the needs of the student. Rice says in his audio file describing his research interests, Instead of generic comments or content at beginning of writing process we are trying to deliver specific content in the middle of writing process. If doing this when you provide comments and the type of comments perhaps supplementing with video or audio. Other research includes using electronic portfolios (selection collection of work) allowing students to have a portal to have reflective writing in final work. Another area he is adding to the research to discover ways to provide new support mechanism for distance learning students working on difficult topics such as the students in the only online Technical Communication and Rhetoric programs (Rice).

Another lingering attitude about distance learning is that students would rather be in a traditional class, but because of lifestyle issues they must take online classes. The facts are the demand for online courses exceeds what is currently being offered. According to a report in Online Learning, the number of “students who learn online has tripled in a decade”  (6 Online Learning Trends B21). This patronizing among academics might hinder the development of inventive online teaching strategies.

Personally, I would rather take an online class for many reasons beyond my schedule. I learn better and have time to savor the truths. I interact better on discussion boards than in a traditional class discussion. I simply will not compete in that environment. I am sure my learning style is more suited to online learning and another student does better pontificating in front of peers. The simple truth is online education is growing for whatever the reason.

In a study managed by the Babson Survey Research Group for Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 based on responses from more that 2,500 colleges and universities, the results show that while online enrollment has slowed in 2011, the overall growth rate far exceeds the growth of traditional enrollment. “The ten percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the less than one percent growth of the overall higher education student population.” In addition the study found,  “Thirty-one percent of all higher education students now take at least one course online” (Allen, p. 8). The 2011 report offers proof, “That number is now sixty-seven percent of academic leaders rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in fact to face (Allen 9).

The slate blackboard, invented in 1801 by James Pillans, headmaster of the Old High School of Edinburgh, Scotland, was considered innovative. In 1841 Josiah F. Bumstead said, “The inventor of the blackboard deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.” (The Blackboard) It took forty years for educators to recognize to significance of using a visual tool in teaching. In 2011, the Internet has become ubiquitous and an effective tool for education in less than forty years. With all the challenges associated with accreditation of online institutions and the problems of putting “old wine into a new wine skin” distance learning, it is a new frontier that will redefine the way we teach and the way students learn.

“We need to read the things that are not yet on the page” Steve Jobs says,  “Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the interaction of the humanities and science. I like that pace there is something magical about that place.” (Isaacson, chapter 54)

We are standing at an intersection that really needs a merge lane. We don’t need to decide one way or the other; we need both cautious observation and full Internet speed ahead.

I would like to see how Steve Jobs might have changed education the way he changed the telephone, music and movie industry. We have educators taking up the “imantle” that Jobs left behind. These educators are innovating ways for students to learn and professors to connect while expanding the definition of rhetoric in a new age.

Who will have the courage in the academe to change the way we teach online? There are better ways to teach online yet to be envisioned – things not yet written on the “page.”  Techniques that will use digital wisdom to create rewarding online class experiences. Students will want the online experience, not because it fits a work schedule, but it may just be the better way to learn.

Will we be able to integrate current pedagogy or andragogy with new inventions and innovative ways to teach? Will we help students to navigate and aggregate information giving students a view of the intersection of humanities and science? How will poetry and processors unite? It is a wild frontier and it will take adventurous spirits to pioneer the next big thing. And that’s not all . . . *

________

“6 Online Learning Trends.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11th ser. 11 (2011): B20-21. Print.

Allen, J. Elaine. “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 | The Sloan Consortium®.” The Sloan Consortium® | Individuals, Institutions and Organizations Committed to Quality Online Education. Babson Survey Research Group Babson College, 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011>.

Bunge, Nancy. “Why I No Longer Teach Online.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11th ser. 11 (2011): B36. Print.

Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 49.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 51.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 52.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 54.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

Kelderman, Eric. “Oversight on the Rise.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11th ser. Nov (2011): B4-B5. Print.

Mendenhall, Robert W. “How Technology Can Improve Online Learning – and Learning in General.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11th ser. 11 (2011): B23-25. Print.

Mims, J. “The Term “Digital Natives” – OwnLocal.com.” Own Local – A Newspaper & Local Market Software Company. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <http://ownlocal.com/newspaper-support-group/the-term-digital-natives/>.

Parry, Marc. “Online-Course Enrollments Grow, but at a Slower Pace. Is a Plateau Approaching? – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.” Home – The Chronicle of Higher Education. 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-course-enrollments-grow-but-at-a-slower-pace-is-a-plateau-approaching/34150>.

Parry, Marc. “Preventing Online Dropouts: Does Anything Work?” Wired Campus. The Chronicles of Higher Education, 22 Sept. 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2011. <http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/preventing-online-dropouts-does-anything-work/27108>

Prensky, Mark. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” On the Horizon 9.5 (2001): 1-6. Print.

Prensky, Mark. “Digital Natives Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?” On the Horizon 9.6 (2001): 1-9. 2001. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <http://www.rtmsd.org/744112551813560/lib/744112551813560/Prensky_-_Digital_Natives,_Digital_Immigrants_-_Part2.pdf, p. 1%u20139.>.

Prensky, Mark. “H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom.” Journal of Online Education (2009): 5. Web.

Rich Rice. Texas Tech University PhD. Program. Web. 5 Dec. 2011. <http://www.english.ttu.edu/tcr/Media_Files/rice.mp3>. Podcast introducing Dr. Rice to explain his research interests.

“The Blackboard.” Web page. MEAPA. http://meapa.com/toolbox/the-blackboard/. 5 Dec. 2011. Web.

*Steve Jobs often used this phrase when he was introducing the iPod, iPad, the iPhone, and other innovations. He always saved the best for last and introduced it by saying, “And one more thing . . .”

 

 

Online Instruction: What would Steve Jobs Do?

Online Instruction: What would Steve Jobs Do?

I got this in my email today: Russell_Lisa (1). In case you do not click, it is my certification to teach online through Quality Matter standards. I am not sure I will use this, but it was nice to see this come to my mail after a particularly difficulty two weeks both professionally and physically. Whether I am ever able to put this training to work or not, I am a committed evangelist for online instruction – distance learning as some call it.

The following are a series of blogs on my thoughts about distance learning:

 Distance Education: What Would Jobs Do?

“All books, learning materials and assessments should be digital and interactive tailored to each student and provide feedback in real time.” Steve Jobs told President Barak Obama in an airport meeting. After Jobs told President Obama that he was headed for a one-term presidency, he laid out his view of how education must change (Isaacson, Ch 51). Jobs was struggling with the cancer that would end his life in early October 2012, while plodding his next conquest.

Jobs wanted to, “ . . .disrupt the textbook industry and save the spines of spavin students bearing the backpacks by creating electronic text and curriculum materials for iPad” (Isaacson, Ch. 51). He was not alone. Bill Gates visited his old rival Jobs one last time in 2011. The

wealthy and prematurely retired innovators looked back over their asynchronous success with a longing to do more for education. Gates agreed with Jobs when he said, “Computers have made surprisingly little impact on schools unlike other industries like media, medicine and the law. For that to change, computers and mobile devices will have to focus on delivering more personal lessons and provide motivational feedback” (Isaacson, Ch. 51).

Given time, I wonder if Steve Jobs might have had the same effect on higher education and distance learning as he had on the music industry and mobile phones? What innovation would have displaced the misconceptions of distance education? Considering how Jobs’ unsettling genius remodeled the movie, music, media, and mobile industries, what would Jobs do with online learning?

While there are concerns about distance education, we do not want to miss the potential and possibilities. Beyond the myths and the fallacies fueled by regulation and hubris from the academe, there is a new frontier emerging in higher education. We are standing at the crossroads of the humanities and the digital.

 

_________

 Works Cited

“6 Online Learning Trends.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11th ser. 11 (2011): B20-21. Print.

Allen, J. Elaine. “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 | The Sloan Consortium®.” The Sloan Consortium® | Individuals, Institutions and Organizations Committed to Quality Online Education. Babson Survey Research Group Babson College, 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2011. <http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011>.

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Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 52.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

Isaacson, Walter. “Chapter 54.” Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. Print. Audio Book

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*Steve Jobs often used this phrase when he was introducing the iPod, iPad, the iPhone, and other innovations. He always saved the best for last and introduced it by saying, “And that’s not all . . .”

Digital Native, Digital Immigrant, Digital Wisdom

Digital Native, Digital Immigrant, Digital Wisdom

One professor lamented while taking the Quality Matters Certification workshop, “I need to take a sabbatical just to learn all this technology. I will never keep up with my digital natives.”  This instructor has a bigger problem than her lag in technology skills; she does not understand her students. A “digital native” is a limited description of current students in an online or a traditional classroom.

In 2001, Marc Prensky invented the term digital native to describe the generations born after 1980 and the “first generations to grow up with this new technology.” He referenced neurologist Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine to support his theory that “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (Prensky, Digital Natives: Part Two). Prensky generalized digital immigrants by saying, “As Digital Immigrants learn—like all immigrants, some better than others—to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their ‘accent,’ that is, their foot in the past” (Prensky).

Prensky’s motivation, while academically altruistic, may also have reflected a vested interest (Prensky, n.d.). He built an industry around the message that educators need to learn the language of the “digital natives.” “This is not just a joke,” he (2001 2) said. “It’s very serious, because the single biggest problem facing education today is that our digital immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language [that of a pre-digital age], are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” Prensky implored the digital immigrants to lose the accent.

According to Jeremy Mims (n.d.), digital native is a term “coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 (likely with the best intentions). But really, it’s just being used as a catch-all demographic for young people, and a way for people who don’t actually understand technology to sling _____ in sales meetings to those who know even less.”

Labels used for groups of people are never definitive. Why are natives those born after 1980? Why not 1984? 1990? Why not the year Facebook launched—2004? Labels limit, especially if they are misplaced. Even worse is being defined by your accent.

Labeling students as “digital natives” and instructors as “digital immigrants” places unnecessary barriers on the already difficult work of online education. It hinders innovation by believing less of yourself as an instructor with digital wisdom – with years of experience.

Labels help us organize: they help us store messy things in neat packages. Labels are great for files and boxes, but not so great for people. And so it is with the idea of a digital native. A person demonstrating the type of digital prowess Prensky talks about may be a 65-year-old professor who knows more about writing in the digital environment than her 18-year-old first-year student. The “younger generation” may be more comfortable with technology, but they may also lack the digital literacy of someone older and wiser.

Another assumption that was shared by several of the seasoned professors in my Build a Course workshop was that discussion boards did not mimic a face-to-face class interaction. Some of the class seemed to agree and no solutions were offered. A silent concession was made to the QM requirement for discussion boards, but (wink-wink) discussion boards are not really effective. The inference, online discussions are not authentic or productive. Personal experience and progressive online teaching tactics tell me otherwise.