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From Mind/Shift: Lessons from YouTube

by | Posted November 17th, 2012

Think that YouTube is for enjoyment only? Think again. There are plenty of ways that the media sensation can be applied to other aspects of the world, even teaching. Mind/Shift’s “10 Lessons Teachers Can Learn from YouTube’s Popularity,” delves into this possibility. The 10 lessons are drawn from what the popularity of YouTube says about the mindset of today’s students. It gives such lessons as brevity, humor, and interdependence, which are exemplified in many of the popular videos from the site.

The basic suggestion of this article is to take the aspects of videos that keep people’s attention and apply them in a classroom setting to keep your students engaged and focused. Suggestions like the use of humor to teach lessons and the creation of lessons that are shorter but interconnected are just two of the examples of great teaching ideas that the article suggests. Connecting to the students in a way that seems more entertaining and accessible to them is definitely a promising strategy to keep learning current in such a changing environment.

From eHow: “How to Write an MLA Reference Page”

by | Posted November 16th, 2012

Another in the Academic Writing Tips series from eHow, here is a video on writing an MLA Reference Page. Whether you’re an undergraduate just starting out and want a quick way to learn MLA or you’re looking for a way to explain the ever-changing reference system to your students, this video is concise and explains the fundamentals of referencing.

On Experience

by | Posted November 16th, 2012

Last spring I taught the “portfolio workshop” class in the Professional Writing major. A core experience in that class is the preparation of a portfolio and the presentation of that work. Over time, these presentations have started to become more about the person and less about the work. My view is that this change is for the good. I am much more interested in how our students have grown as human beings than I am in particular communication skills or examples.

My interest in their development as human beings is connected to two longer-standing concerns of mine as a teacher: (1) an interest in learning (change), and (2) a curiosity about “having a rhetoric” as a meaningful outcome of a program of study like ours. The two are connected but not obviously so. And I don’t intend to take up either here except to say that both ask me to think about what facilitates learning or leads to one having a rhetoric.

As I sat and listened to students give presentations on who they were at the end of their time with us, I was struck by how many identified certain types of experiences as meaningful. Almost none of these experiences happened in a classroom or were curricular. Nearly every experience was extra or co-curricular. Study abroad in London. Study away in New York. The Poetry Center. Internships. Clubs, odd projects, and so on.

The value of moments (like an internship) doesn’t reside in their “content” or “curriculum” either. It is true that these moments play a key role in structuring experience. But something else happens in these moments that enables change for these students. I’m not precisely sure what it is except that I am convinced that an essential ingredient is that “the experience” asks something of our students that is challenging if not also a bit scary. Meaningful experiences make students uncomfortable.

I could have been upset given that only a few of our students named our classrooms, our assignments, or our curriculum as key moments of change. But I wasn’t. We can take some credit for making transformative experiences possible for our students. And of course, they are smart enough to take advantage of these opportunities. My point, however, is that there are certain sorts of experiences that facilitate change, some of them life-altering, and not all of them happen in our classrooms. Indeed, very few of them happen in our classrooms. Good academic programs, however, enable students to understand the world as a learning platform and to go into that world to transform and be transformed.

From the Creative Penn: So You Don’t Want to Go the Traditional Route?

by | Posted November 15th, 2012

Don’t like the idea of traditional publishing discussed yesterday? In this age of constant communication and technology, there are now other routes to take. In “Self Publishing Costs Nothing,“Joanna Penn discusses the other options available to writers. She covers e-publishing, Amazon publishing, self-publishing, and hiring a company to publish for you. Check out the article to see her thoughts on non-traditional publishing success as well.

Ommwriter: A New Platform for Writing?

by | Posted November 15th, 2012

The OmmWriter website opens with this video and a short description of the project. OmmWriter is a simplified writing program, free, that works to bring writing back to a simpler state. The theory is that we have adapted to the digital age and changed the process of writing to accommodate the multiple sources vying for our attention on the computer. The creators of OmmWriter feel that environment is very important to the creative process, and have created a “beautiful and inspiring environment” to help counteract the influences of the computer. The program is available in a free and pay-for version.

The program is an interesting experiment in focus. It could be very useful for people stuck in a writing slump, changing up the typical environment of writing and putting the emphasis back on the words and not on the program or format you are writing in. For students that have a difficult time focusing on their papers, this could be an invaluable tool. It cuts out all other distraction unless you actually go and minimize the program. There aren’t any windows blinking on the bottom screen (for a PC anyway) and there aren’t any notifications popping up about misspellings or “wrong” sentences like in other, more common, writing programs. While it may not replace the consistency, or have as many tools as other writing programs, OmmWriter could be a valuable asset to any writer’s process.

It has all sorts of settings so you can really make it your own personal writing space. I even wrote the second half of this article in it. Try it out, it’s free!

Storytelling: The Ultimate Weapon of Persuasion

by | Posted November 14th, 2012

As writers, we learn that storytelling is key. Some of our favorite stories begin with those infamous words, “Once upon a time…” and usually end with “…and they lived happily ever after.” But storytelling doesn’t only work in fiction; storytelling is crucial even in a business setting whether it be promoting a product or in designing an ad.

In a recent post from Co.Create, Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, says “science backs up the long-held belief that story is the most powerful means of communicating a message.” He explains in his article that “people are moved by emotion,” but also that they can be moved through the power of persuasion. Storytelling has the power to persuade. You see it every day in compelling advertisements on television or colorful, innovative designs in magazines. Even on YouTube, before you can watch a popular artist’s music video or the latest internet sensation, there is a fifteen second advertisement, telling the story of something, trying to persuade you in one way or another.

As writers – especially writers who intend to write professionally – we can create compelling arguments with our words as well as our designs. The takeaway from this article comes in the second to last paragraph where Gottschall explains how powerful storytelling really is and what we must do to determine how the “story” affects us.

He says, “Master storytellers want us drunk on emotion so we will lose track of rational considerations, relax our skepticism, and yield to their agenda. Yes, we need to tell to win, but it’s just as important to learn to see the tell coming—and to steel ourselves against it.”

From eHow: Grad School

by | Posted November 14th, 2012

For those of you deciding what you want to do with your life, many will consider Graduate School in the near future. An important part of the application process is the personal statement. Describing everything that makes you great in one simple statement can be a daunting task, so here’s a video with some tips on what should be included and how to write your personal statement.

From Writing Forward: Some Tips on Getting Published by a Publishing House

by | Posted November 13th, 2012

In terms of creative writing, actually composing the piece is only half the battle. Once the work is complete, the author must then start the process of getting their writing looked at by a publisher, if that is the route they choose to take. Writing Forward offers some great tips on making sure you have the best chance possible to get accepted in their article “10 Tips for Creative Writing Submissions and Getting Published”. Tips include knowing your audience and the submission rules as well as many more great things to think of through the submission process.