Guest post on stage fright

I have a guest post up on about Stage Fright. Check it out, and the other posts on Saul Farber’s blog as well.

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Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 2)

Esher SketchCreative Commons License photo credit: Wild Guru Larry

In Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 1), we talked about an experiment I’m conducting this term, and explored the background a bit. In this part, let’s explore some of the advantages of the flip, especially for students.

Inside out

There are certain advantages for students getting “lecture” material outside of class via reading or podcasts (audio or video). I have tried to follow my own guidelines and speak rather than lecture, and I think it works in the way intended. I contend that “out loud” excels at giving the “big picture,” the context into which the details fit, making them more understandable because the audience sees the pattern, whereas print excels at explaining and mastering detail.

A skilled writer can show the big picture, and a skilled speaker can get detail across memorably, but neither are easy. Most of the time, why not simply focus on strengths? Give an audience a handout, a white paper, a book, etc., to master the detail, and use speaking to give the big picture.

Think about when you’ve been on the receiving end. Have you ever had a history teacher flood you with dates and names and wars and wound up simply empty? Have you ever gotten so lost in the details of a book chapter, you couldn’t find your way through? Most academic conferences, and most business reports, would improve fivefold from this simple realization.

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Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 1)

Thoughts Before the Jump
Creative Commons License photo credit: MichaelLaMartin

I’m trying an experiment this semester in the college classes I teach. In various circles it’s called a “flipped” or an “inverted” classroom, a term I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s a handy term at the moment.

While relatively new, it is rooted in ideas and practices that are not, and it seems to me to be good communication practice, recognizing the strengths of various forms and building on them.

The flipping background

A flipped (or inverted) class swaps out what goes on in the classroom and what goes on outside the classroom.

Traditionally, since the Middle Ages students listen to a professor lecture in class, and do application work (otherwise called “homework”) outside class. Reading could fall into either category.

Almost everyone has heard that the lecture is passé, exemplified in the now-cliché, “Be the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage.” I’ve taken a related approach, demonstrated in workshops I’ve done for teachers around the theme, “Stop Lecturing and Start Speaking.” When you want to master detail, you do better to work with the information in written form. When you want the big picture, “out loud” excels. That partly has to do with the way we process information, and also with the interactive nature of “out loud.”

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On a personal note: probably no posts for a week or so

My daughter

Forgive me if this gets too personal. It’s just that we are just about 18 hours away from major surgery on my special needs daughter, and I need to get some community support. There are a lot of “on the other hands” here. It is major surgery. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon (scoliosis surgery), and the doctors have done a lot of them. On the other hand, Hannah has medical issues that no one else has ever seen before. In the best of circumstances, unforeseen things happen. In these circumstances “foreseen” doesn’t mean much anyway.

Bottom line: I’m scared. I’m at work, and I’m getting my work done (and doing a good job of it, I might add), but every once in awhile the freakout wells up and it’s all I can do to contain it.

So whatever your spiritual bent might be, please, for Hannah and for us who will have to wait an unbearable few hours tomorrow, offer a prayer, chant, light a candle, sacrifice a chicken, meditate, sing, whirl, talk to your spirit guide, send out good thoughts, offer metta, or whatever it is you do. I think support in any form has no downside.

Please excuse me now–I need to go someplace quiet for a few minutes.

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Students need to get a jump on social media

Social Media Trends for 2012
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It’s easy to assume college students have social media all figured out. Experience shows, though, that while many are savvy about Facebook, they may not realize they need to build a social media presence in other avenues before graduation rather than after. Sue Murphy notes in her article Social Media Success Tips for Students two particular areas that seriously need attention while a student is still in school but looking to the outside world.

Many students believe they don’t need to worry about getting their profiles up on LinkedIN until after they graduate. But nothing could be further from the truth. You need to get on there. Now. LinkedIN is one of the best places to connect with the kind of companies and people you want to eventually end up working for. And the only way you’ll be able to find and connect with them is to start building your profile there.

She also builds a case for starting a blog–and she’s not talking about a chatty personal journal you share with the world.

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Choice of fact selection will bias your communication

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson

Last week we talked a little about the impossibility of reporting “Just the Facts.” I wasn’t actively looking for examples this week, but one just jumped up and slapped me in the face.

I followed a Twitter link to Mashable’s story entitled Kelly Clarkson’s Album Sales Down After Ron Paul Twitter Endorsement, intrigued by the headline. I knew they had reported last week that Clarkson’s sales were up following her endorsement of libertarian Ron Paul as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, although even then they focused on the “flap” rather than either the endorsement or the rise in sales. (The “flap” was about some followers who reacted badly to her endorsement. Other stories elsewhere reported a surge of over 400% in a single day, and quoted a number of tweets to her explicitly saying they had bought the album because of her endorsement. None of this was mentioned in either Mashable story.)

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Just the facts? The way you say it matters

Detail of Aaron's Tree assignment
Creative Commons License photo credit: goldberg

“Just the facts” is a phrase not only a part of American culture, but part of a values system–as if the facts can be separated from the expression of facts. Here’s the reality: there is no such thing as facts apart from the expression of those facts, and the expression of facts inevitably changes the perception. The mere selection of facts, of which facts to focus on, changes perception.

For instance, Scott Shane notes a very important dichotomy in the way people talk about tax increases on businesses (as if a tax increase on business doesn’t just get passed on to the rest of us anyway–but that’s a different point). In his article Less than a Tenth or More than Four Fifths? he says, “The share of small businesses and the fraction of small business income hit by tax increases are usually very different numbers.” Both are simply facts, and yet the choice of which to focus on in a talk or a paper yield very different impressions.

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