Sunday, June 6, 2010

Examples illustrating ineffective conversational writing on the Internet

We cover the importance of precise conversational writing on the Internet, suggesting practices like careful reading of other's messages, responding to specific requests, meeting commitments one makes, and quoting previous messages when necessary to retain context.

To illustrate these principles, I have posted two examples of ineffective conversational Internet writing. They are example 1 and example 2.

Can you find places in these examples where each of the above practices was ignored?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Writing very short documents -- Twitter posts

Writing short documents is one of our Internet content creation skills. Twitter posts are an extreme form of short document, and they are unique to the Internet (well ... perhaps fortune cookies too).

By spending a couple of minutes on a Twitter post, one can get two or three points across. My posts have gotten longer, approaching the 140 character limit over time.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Knowledge of measures of data quantity and transmission rate are part of IT literacy

A recent FCC survey found that only 20% of home Internet users know their download speed.

I would argue that being conversant with units of measure for data transmission speed and being generally familiar with the speeds needed for various applications are required for IT literacy.

We know that automobile speed is measured in miles per hour or some other unit of distance/time, and we are familiar with residential and highway speed limits, the top speeds of our cars, etc. Similarly, we know that fuel economy is measured in miles per gallon, kilometers per liter, etc. and we know typical values for economy cars, luxury cars, etc.

An understanding of fuel economy and auto speed is necessary if one is to be a rational consumer or to follow political discussion of energy policy.

One cannot evaluate ISP offerings or have an informed opinion on IT policy without understanding the units of measure for data transmission speed.

We all have a feeling for units of measure for distance -- feet, inches, miles, etc. -- but that is not the case for quantities of data -- bits, bytes, megabits, etc.

Going further, data is augmented with a coding scheme to produce information, and some knowledge of coding schemes, for example of ASCII for text, is needed to make data measures concrete and to impart an idea of the transmission speeds (and storage) required for various applications.

Should all of this be part of the IT literacy curriculum?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Using Twitter and a wiki in a collaborative writing assignment -- student evaluation

Last semester, I used Twitter and a wiki to illustrate collaborative writing and the writing of short documents in a Network News assignment. The student response was positive, so I will repeat the experience.

I started a class Twitter stream for links to current events relevant to our class, and told the students to follow the feed. I posted about 125 items during the semester.

The writing assignment was near the end of the term. Each student selected a particularly interesting post, and summarized it and its relevance to the class in a short document. Once the summary documents were polished, the students added them to a wiki page, creating a collaboratively authored Network News report for the term.

After the term, I asked the students to complete a short questionnaire on these assignments. Thirty three students responded. A summary of their responses follows.

They checked the class Twitter feed an average of 2.4 times a week and, on the average, followed the links in a tweet to learn more 3.2 times during the term. However, ten of the 33 students admitted they checked the feed less than once per week. Dropping them, the averages increased to 3.4 and 3.8. (We have a heterogeneous student body, and I run the class primarily for the benefit of the involved students).

I also asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

I found several of the articles interesting and useful - I am glad we had the Twitter stream for our class.

Overall, 23 students agreed with this statement. That fell to 19 (in parenthesis) when I ignored the ten who reported checking the feed less than once per week.

  • Agree: 23 (19)
  • Disagree: 3 (1)
  • No opinion: 7 (3)
The next question was: will you continue following the Twitter feed after the class ends, and their responses were:
  • Yes, regularly: 7 (7)
  • No: 11 (4)
  • I will check it from time to time: 15 (12)
I also asked for comments, criticisms or suggestions on the use of Twitter in class, and the replies were:
  • Since I am a CIS Major. I think it good to keep up with what is happening with Technology and IT which is why I like the twitter feed. The Twitter feed has many interesting articles related to IT. I plan to follow the Twitter feed after this class ends.
  • The questions did not mention TinyURL, which to me seemed like one of the most useful tools for Twitter.
  • It really helps... to know what's going on as far as what's new in the PC world.
  • It was fun to learn.
  • I learned more about information technology from the links provided on the class twitter. I also shared a lot of the information with friends and family through facebook.
  • Yes. It's great! Could you post (and write it on the board during class) when each tweet goes up, and, what each 'tweet' is entitled. Then you could just tell the class 'it's there if you are interested in reading it'. Maybe this can keep the audience for the posts. They (the class) then can't say you didn't let them know when you've tweeted. Please keep including this assignment requirement.
  • The ABC's of Twitter: Accuracy, Brevity, and Clarity.
  • Yes have Suggest use twitter to the Professor.
  • I was kind of disappointed, I think the use of Twitter in this class should be abolished. I really don't think its the revolutionary communication medium that the media tries to make it out to be. I mean, i know that the programming or whatever behind the service is impressive but that doesn't justify our class's involvement with the site. Our first time using it was cool, as people do sometimes need the practice just using things like that on the internet, but it shouldn't be as big a part of the class as it was.
  • More in class usage.
  • It's easy to view its just a little tedious.
  • I would have appreciated any number of Twitter feeds posted on the site from other Networking professionals.
  • Its okay but I would have preferred more interaction in class.
I also asked for feedback on the writing of the short document. We had covered several "tips" during the class, and I asked which ones they used for this assignment. The number who used each tip is shown below:
  • Set a draft aside to let it "cool off" then revise it: 15
  • Read a draft aloud then revise it: 17
  • Have someone else read and comment on a draft then revise it: 14
  • Spell check it: 26
  • Grammar check it: 26
  • Think about who your reader was and their interest in the topic: 18
  • Write a meaningful title to help the reader decide whether or not to follow the link: 19
  • Run it through PaperRater: 21
  • Include a statement as to why the tweet interested you and how it fit into our class: 21
  • None: 3