Monthly Archives: December 2013

So long, farewell, see you next semester!

I spent the semester reading, discussing, and connecting those readings and discussions to my current technical communication role. My goal in this program is to become a better technical communicator, and this class has been an excellent start for me. All of our readings and discussions have helped me to think about what communication strategies I am already using and what new methods I can try.

I found the Spilka text especially helpful and relevant, as it framed the evolution of and current trends in the technical communication field within the context of traditional technical communication roles and responsibilities. As I am new to the field, all of this background really helped to orient me and help me understand how my job role became what it is today. In my final paper, I traced three themes through the different authors in the Spilka text and applied them to my own role as a technical communicator.

It was extremely helpful and interesting to read all of your creative blog posts and insightful comments on my posts throughout the semester. Thank you all for creating a helpful and supportive discussion environment. Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season and a great new year! The abstract for my paper is below.

Abstract

The emergence of digital technology has had a profound impact on the field of technical communication and its actors. This paper explores changes in the field of technical communication and in the roles of technical communicators, evolution of the technical communication audience, and Information Design and Content Management Principles. My intent with this exploration is to establish where my current technical communication strategies are consistent with the field literature and theory and identify areas upon which I can improve and new methods that I can utilize.

 

Waiting until the last minute, as usual!

web-design-service2If I have learned anything in my 3 semesters in this program it is that I will use every last minute of a deadline!  I hate that I do this but I work better under pressure, I guess! Anyway, I have really enjoyed this class this semester and feel that I have learned a lot from both the course content as well as from all of your posts.  It always amazes me how you can get to know the different personalities of your classmates through this type of setting. I would have thought this would have been lacking in an online environment but I have been pleasantly surprised throughout this program.

For my final paper, I took my past experience as a web designer and took a look at the different design principles: creating a site optimized for the search engines versus a site that just designed really well but may not be optimized.  Can the two design styles meet in the middle for the benefit of the clients involved? The answer I found was  – sometimes.  There is still a lot of debate and tension between the two different professions. Site designers think their sites are optimized but complain when they don’t rank higher in search engine results. SEO’s think their sites are well designed but they are not typically winning any design awards.  There are, of course, plenty of designs out there that accomplish both but it is surprising how many sites really are not paying attention to what the search engines are looking for.  Granted, it is a constantly changing field but if you are in business to attract new clients/customers, you need to pay attention or else you might as well ditch the site.

The up and coming trend in both design and SEO is the integration of social media.  I actually think this can benefit some smaller businesses.  I have a friend that owns a boutique clothing store that her and her daughter run.  Megan (the daughter) is really good at posting to Instagram and Facebook, sites that are both free to use.  In order to have the same interaction on their website, they would have to pay an hourly fee to the designer to update the information and it would not be done in an instant (more like 2-weeks at least). According to a lot of the SEO experts, this integration is going to make or break you in the search engine rankings.

Well – off to study for class #2 and then finish the paper for class #3.  I am looking forward to the break, that is for sure!  Anyone taking 730 – User centered research or 750-Qualitative Research next semester?

Have a great holiday week and enjoy your break!

 

Final paper and conclusion

I nearly forgot that I needed to write one final post, which is why I am writing it now. : (

I chose to write my final paper about the impact emerging media and digital technologies have on the field of technical communication. I had originally wanted to write my paper on perceived privacy in the digital work, which was partially sparked by personal interest and partially because of the blog post I directed you all to a few weeks back. Unfortunately, that topic did not fit well with out course objectives, so I needed to go back and reconsider my topic. Thankfully that realization happened before I started writing my proposal and annotated bibliography.

 

My daughter and I

My daughter and I

I learned several things while writing my final paper. First. I really need to procrastinate less. I really should’ve started working on this paper a month ago. With a wife also in grad school, having a 15 month old little girl, and working full time, I really cannot afford to not plan ahead.

Second, 15-20 pages doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is more difficult to write that much when my usual writing is providing direction. Most of my work involves rewriting instructions to be as clear as possible and in as few words as possible. Aside from that, I really do very little writing anymore. Writers block set in several times, and I needed to step away to try to refocus.

Third, I really do enjoy the work that I do, and I take pride in it. I’ve really enjoyed the courses I have taken so far, and each semester seems to build on foundation laid by the previous semester. Also, I usually find textbook reading tedious, but I enjoyed our textbook selection from this semester, even though I frequently disagreed with Qualman.

Finally, while I did not fully enjoy the process of writing this final paper (entirely my own fault), I did enjoy the research portion. I read several articles and websites that were interesting, but unfortunately did not contain information that I could use in my paper. I also developed a new perspective on Spilka’s book, which I found to be a very valuable resource for my paper. I also found myself do the same sort of things I was writing about, such as checking my phone frequently, or randomly surfing the web when I should’ve been working. I was hoping someone would call or text me, but that was unlikely since my wife was at home.

From this course, I learned that I am a late adopter of new technology and that is a decision I am happy with. I feel relieved that I am not like the people that Turkle described in Always On. I still have the ability to unplug each day, despite being a salary employee. I am not expected to be available and working all the time, and my emails are not important or numerous enough for me to spend my own time keeping up with them.

I really enjoyed getting to know all of you this semester, and hopefully I will have more courses with you in the future. Have a great winter break and happy holidays!

Emerging from my “blog fog” to say farewell and thanks!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my investigation of using blogs in our Introduction to College Life classrooms, but I feel like I’m emerging from a “blog fog” and I can’t quite relate to anyone who’s not steeped in this subject at the moment.  My husband has learned to include the word “blog” in any conversation he attempts to engage me in – “Are we getting a Christmas tree blog this year?,” “Would you like scrambled or fried blogs?,” or “Have you talked to our son,Sam blog, this week?”

 But seriously, this was a great learning experience for me. I researched the use of blogs in university classrooms and designed a plan to use those findings to create a blog for our Campus Read program, which is just two years old.  Campus Read programs always list “building a sense of community” as a goal, and “community” is almost always listed as an adjective associated with blogs, so I thought it was a natural fit. One thing I learned, however, is that the community-building nature of blogs doesn’t automatically happen and that a great deal of work will have to be invested for my vision to materialize.

I gained this insight from reading about the Julie/Julia project, which was made into the movie Julie & Julia with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in 2009.

Even though Julie Powell’s blog was very popular, visitors only reported feeling a “moderate” sense of community and the community dissipated when Julie Powell discontinued the blog. To the degree that people did report a strong sense of community, it was associated with the comments function of blogging – both writing and reading, which makes sense if you think about community as being dialogic. Anyway, if anyone is interested in reading more about the Julie/Julia project, I recommend Anita Blanchard’s article “Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project.” You can retrieve the article here at the Into the Blogosphere series through the University of Minnesota, which offers a lot of great articles about blogging (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/blogs_as_virtual.html).

 Aside from my insights about community, I learned a lot about my own campus’s policies and preparedness for 21st century learning.  Probably the most interesting insight I came away with is the degree to which we’re still groping with how to effectively use new media.  I read an article that described all of the “invisible” issues we might have to consider in creating a campus blog and initially I put it in the “not relevant” pile as I was sorting through my research.  It kept bubbling back up to the top of the pile as I had discussions with people on campus about how to implement a blog.  (You can read the article, “The When of New Media Writing” by Danielle DeVoss, Ellen Cushman, and Jeffrey Grabill at http:// www. Jstor.org/stable/30037897). It wasn’t that anyone was being obstructionist particularly, but with any large institution, people and departments aren’t always communicating or communicating clearly. As I put the finishing touches on my paper, I still wasn’t clear about what I might and might not be allowed to do with regard to technology, sometimes for practical technological reasons, and sometimes because of local, contextual constraints.  I hope I am being sufficiently vague.

 Finally, I just have to briefly mention the role of audience and blogging. Because of my role in our Writing Center, I knew that the concepts of blogging and having a sense of audience were linked, but I didn’t expect that I would spend so much time thinking and writing about it for my paper.  We always tell students to “imagine” an audience with certain characteristics and so forth and not to think of the professor as the sole reader, but that’s always a difficult exercise because ultimately, students know that their professor usually is the sole member of the audience. Having a blogging experience, though, can fundamentally change the way students think about an audience and motivate them to write—this was probably the main learning outcome I had from my research project, and it isn’t really the one I was prepared for, since I thought my main goal was to use blogs to develop a sense of community.

 Which leaves me to you, my “audience.”  This experience was very educational for me, and I want to thank you all for your support during my graduation to the 21st century (well, at least from elementary school to middle school!). It has been my privilege to take this course with you.

 And now, in a nod to Lori’s sendoff from Michael on “The Office,” I leave you with these words from Creed  Bratton’s Blog, also from “The Office,” apropos of the fact that we are now fully immersed in Wisconsin winter:

 “Almost winter. Time to turn my tennis racket into snowshoes.”

 Good luck to all on final projects!

My Final Paper

For my paper, I explored how technical communicators have adapted and must continue to adapt their traditional practices and methods of writing in order to engage with their changing audience. My research questions included:

  • Is the importance of writing clearly and concisely giving way to learning to write in a voice that is engages customers on a social level?
  • Is writing decreasing in importance with the rise of video and other visuals?
  • Are these changes really fundamental to the field of technical communication? Or are they just the newest incarnation of the technical communicator’s call to write to their audience?

My paper was focused on how the technical communicator’s devotion to the needs of their audience will necessitate the modification of their communication methods as they engage in social media marketing. I looked at the stylistic differences in writing for social media versus those of traditional technical communication. I found that though writing for social media required a strong voice and differences in style, the core of how we write remained constant. Even in writing for social media, the thing that was most stressed in my research was the need for clear and concise writing. I explored the idea that the rise of video could decrease the importance of writing and found that most of the research emphasized content over flashy visuals.

Thanks everyone for making this a great semester!

My Final Blog Post – What I learned

The topic I choose for my final paper related to Objectives 1, 2 and 5. In this paper I examined the aspects of selecting, creating, and maintaining a Knowledge Management System. This relates to the course objectives 1, 2 and 5 in the following ways:

Objective 1 relates to the way new digital technologies affect writing, specifically technical and professional communication. Most writing being completed in the Knowledge Management System will be technical writing. It will be related to how to perform certain tasks and how specific pieces of functionality work.

Objective 2 relates to the way digital technologies will change the technical writing workplace. With the implementation of a new Knowledge Management System, this changes the way we write based on the types of text the new system can handle.

Objective 5 relates to the consequences of these new technologies for writing, managing and distributing information/knowledge to online audiences.  My experience with Knowledge Managements systems is that each has a customer facing option. We create content on our side and then it is available for our customers to use when and where they have the time.

Knowledge Management Systems are an important piece of a software knowledge transfer. A knowledge management systems allows software development/support staff to create content for dissemination to the internal customers and/or customer base. This report provides an overview of things to consider when looking at selecting, creating and maintaining a knowledge management system. Also included is a compare/contrast of Sansio’s current Knowledge Management System to Parature, the lead in what is being selected to replace it.

As could be seen throughout my blog posting, I had a hard time with this class. It took a while for me to get the AHA Moment that really connected it all for me. I think part of my issue was I was looking at this as a Social Media class and the more I thought about it, the more I knew Social Media was not going to be used in my job. It took a while for me to break out of the Social Media and think about it as Digital Communication, which includes a lot of what I do in my job.

I ended up really enjoying this class and can’t wait to find a way to apply what I learned to my job.

Final Paper Reflection

My final paper topic is how technology has changed marketing in retail businesses.  My experience working at an order management software company that hosted websites gave me a lot of insight into this topic.  I also think my work experience at Verizon Wireless has influenced this paper as well, due to their initiatives to launch destination stores and enhance their website to create a better customer experience.  In the event that you haven’t heard of these initiatives, check them out!

http://www.verizonwireless.com/news/article/2013/11/verizon-destination-store-unveiling.html

http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/videogallery/accessory-videos/gadgets-and-gear.html

I have to say, there’s a lot of information on this topic and I spent A LOT of time sorting through it all to try to choose the “right” ones to include as sources.  I also have a lot of thoughts on the topic.   I have to say, I think this is the first paper that I ever struggled to stay within the page limit.  Normally I’m stressing to add content.

I haven’t submitted my paper just yet.  It is finished, but I want a to read it over a few more times before I hit submit.  I appreciate deadlines, because when it comes to writing things wouldn’t get submitted without one, but, these days always give me anxiety!

For those of you that are interested, below is my Abstract.  It has been a pleasure sharing this class with all of you and I wish you all the best of luck with your semester and happy holidays!

Abstract

Social media and technology have changed the way retail businesses operate.  In a few keystrokes on a keyboard or taps of a finger on a smartphone, customers can view online shopping sites and product reviews.  In addition, there are sites on the Internet to “comparison shop,” and these include prices from both local retailers and online stores.  In this competitive atmosphere and tough economy, retailers need to change the way they market their products and support their customers to keep them coming back.  Retailers also must pay attention to their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking and the online, as well as in-store, customer experience.  This paper will explore the power the customer has and how retail businesses are changing to support customer wants and needs in fast paced environments that rely heavily on technology.

Dos and Don’ts of Social Media in Healthcare Marketing

Three weeks ago, I was uncertain what I would write about for the final project. Fortuitously, my boss talked to me around the same time and asked me about taking on more responsibilities, including managing the company’s social media sites. Although we already have a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn page set up, we post to them very rarely, and, until this semester, I would have had little clue as to what the best approach would be for capitalizing on social media. Well, I am happy to report that I have a much better idea now, especially after writing this final paper which I entitled “The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media in Healthcare Marketing.” I specifically looked at FacebookTwitter and YouTube as they are very popular and are increasingly being used within the healthcare sector.

In addition to being helpful to my job, I felt like this topic was very appropriate because social media is a perfect example of the move from traditional means of communication to digital methods, a primary theme in the English 745 course. In this specific case, social media is replacing traditional means of word-of-mouth marketing (i.e. face-to-face conversations with friends and family). Now, people talk about their medical conditions and recommendations on Facebook, blogs, and discussion boards. People are looking for medical advice and health updates on YouTube. They are following health-related events and news on Twitter. Social media is pervasive in healthcare communications, and organizations would best figure out how to jump on the social media bandwagon.

Like with many things, though, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Social media will not achieve all marketing goals for the company. It has a specific use for specific audiences and should be used in conjunction with other marketing strategies.

One of social media’s specific uses is to create greater awareness and increase conversation and participation, things that are not easily measured by normal ROI methods, but valuable nonetheless. The way I see it, social media can be a terrific means for getting your name out there to become established as the expert in your field. The company I work for used to be known for this and has taken a backseat lately. Perhaps being visible on social media will help bring our brand back behind the driver’s seat. Or, at the very least, allow us to be the “driving” force behind a social media strategy, rather than letting it sit, collecting dust.

Driving Social Media Image source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/224898

Driving Social Media
Image source: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/224898

 

In my research for this paper, I found an unbelievable amount of information so the most difficult part was narrowing down the resources. Fortunately, they all meshed well and I found many of the same themes, such as:

  • Determine how social media fits into your overall marketing strategy.
  • Decide which audience you are targeting and choose an appropriate social medium that this audience uses.
  • Share helpful, engaging and valuable information. Photos, links and videos can help make this content more interesting.
  • Regular, frequent posts are essential to stay relevant and keep your viewers coming back.
  • Use Facebook apps to make your site more robust and useful.
  • YouTube videos are more effective if they have an emotional element to them.
  • Use two or fewer hashtags per Tweet.

These are just some of the things that I learned while working on this paper. I’d like to share more, so I am going to end with posting some links in case you are looking for some help with developing a social media strategy.

The Healthcare Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit

http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ToolsTemplates/SocialMediaToolkit_BM.pdf

31 Twitter tips

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2013/08/30/31-twitter-tips-how-to-use-twitter-tools-and-twitter-best-practices-for-business/

25 ways to get more social media followers

http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/7512/25-ways-to-get-more-social-media-followers-aspx

Thanks for a great semester! Good luck to you all!

 

 

Farewell and enjoy your winter break!

Seasons greetings!

I have now completed my final paper.  The topic I chose for this lengthy process involves technology, digital literacy, and the degradation of quality and rigor in student learning.

The title of my paper is The Ugly Side of Technology: A Breakdown of What’s Happening to Education and Strategies to Maintain the Quality and Rigor of Student Learning.  Below, I have posted my abstract.  Enjoy!

Technology affords people innovative learning opportunities, such as using digital tools to shape understanding.  However, it produces many adverse effects that can overshadow the benefits, including the degradation in the quality and rigor of student learning.  Unless parents and teachers take action, student learning will continue to suffer.  In a detailed analysis, the author discusses the growth of technology by acknowledging the digitally literate generation and discussing the digital literacy narrative of a young woman.  Next, the author highlights the benefits of technology, but contrasts them with the many negative effects technology causes on student learning, including the breakdown of reading for comprehension and the increase of multitasking.  Finally, the author provides strategies for both parents and teachers to help maintain the appropriate and necessary use of technology.  Parents and teachers must provide students with strategies so they realize that technology does not replace traditional learning and that digital literacy requires the same, if not more, rigor as traditional reading and writing.

Therefore, I say farewell and enjoy your winter break! I am glad to have shared the experience of this course with all of you and I hope to collaborate again in another course.

Happy holidays!

Social Media has a Place in Higher Ed.

smMy final paper presented social media as a form of emerging media that allows higher education faculty to enhance instructional methods.  It presented background information on what it means to be a digital settler, immigrant, and native, and specifically addressed how to consider teaching our many natives that come into the classrooms today.

I think my future recommendations nicely sum up some of the most important thoughts for educators to take with them as they embark on their use of social media to improve student engagement and success, so I will include them here in this final blog posting, too.

As more and more students come to us having grown up in a digital era, it is only fitting that we utilize their propensity for technology and social media and use it to our advantage.

Emerging media forms and digital technologies have changed our classrooms and online learning environments and the students who fill them.  Faculty of higher education institutions will need to continue to change with them in order to best serve the students and prepare them for the continually advancing digital world.

Social media tools can improve student engagement when used properly with learners, and faculty members can utilize varying social media forms to benefit their instructional methods.  Resisting the use of technology and social media for educational purposes may leave those educators falling behind in a time that will continue to address the needs of our digital learners.

With extremely accessible, network-based tools, technologies are more than ever empowering students to create, customize, and share content with us and each other online.  This digital era and emerging forms of media open up to educators new opportunities for us to implement socially enriched pedagogies because it can allow for varied means to encourage student interaction and strong ways to manage a collective body of knowledge.

Faculty who decide to utilize social media can begin to design a socially empowered learning environment for their learners, and this can lead to greater student success and retention.  Given the growing role of social media in education, it is vital for educators to gain knowledge, insight, and training for how to effectively use social media for instructional purposes; furthermore, they must know how to solve problems and consider negative risks before its use.

For faculty willing to recognize the powerof social media to transform learning,they are able to offer teaching and learning that allows learners to create, co-create, and share knowledge sometimes with a global audience beyond the classroom walls.

 

 

 

 

On a personal note:

Thank you to all for making this term such a valuable learning experience!  Take care!

Christin

How Social Media Is Changing The World

A cool infographic one of my Digital Humanities undergrads found that I felt was worth sharing as we close the semester!