Who Are You and What Do You Want?

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                                                                                     Image Source: Flickr. Crystal Ball/Hands/Person.

Personal mission statements are a way to begin answering those questions.  Personal mission statements help us tell others about who we are, help clarify goals and help us chart a course of action (at least for now!). 

Do You Know These Corporate Mission Statements?

Corporations use mission statements all the time.  Mission statements are one way businesses can separate themselves as unique. 

Here are some missionCoca-cola.jpg statements for some very familiar businesses:

To refresh the world... 

To inspire moments of optimism and happiness...

To create value and make a difference

Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people's desires and needs.


When our customers feel this sense of belonging, our stores become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends. It's about enjoyment at the speed of life--sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster. Always full of humanity.

How Do I Write My Own Mission Statement?

What does it mean to write a personal mission statement?  According to Ronald S. Hanson in The Five Step Plan For Creating Personal Mission Statements:

"Writing a personal mission statement offers the opportunity to establish what's important and perhaps make a decision to stick to it before we even start a career.

Steven Covey (in First Things First) refers to developing a mission statement as "connecting with your own unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it."

We can ask ourselves:4418105917_32b64cd467_b.jpg  What is my unique purpose?  What kind of person do I want to be?

When I am old, what do I want people to say about me?  How will I achieve my goals?

Personal mission statements are less about the things we want to do, and more about the kind of person we want to be. 


Think Different.  Be Different.


Sometimes when we write personal mission statements we veer too close to cliche.  Cliches are those statements that people repeat over and over, causing them to lose their real meaning. 

                                                                                      Image Source: Flickr. Morning Cigarette.

Plus, cliches are boring and unimaginative.   Here are some common cliches:

I want to be happy.

I want to make a difference.

I want to be a leader.

I love people.

I value family and friends.

I want to live life to the fullest.

How do we avoid cliches?  By being very specific.  By thinking hard about what is really different about ourselves.  And by writing with flair

Data in Context - Avoiding Fallacies

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This "TED Talk" by David McCandless is primarily about how infographics help us understand data.  But the point that he is also making will serve us well as we research and propose solutions to potentially complex problems - and that point is that data (evidence, research) is often meaningless unless placed into a larger context. 

Fallacies of argument can happen when we propose solutions based on missinterpreted or insufficient evidence.    Think of the evidence, support and/or reasons you will be using for your own proposals.  Are they the most honest assessments you can find?  Are they placed in the proper context?  Will they be the most convincing arguments you can use for that particular audience?


Politicians Say The Darndest Things

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obama.jpgCongresswoman Michelle Bachman has said some crazy things.   Things like:

"But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." (Several of the Founding Fathers owned slaves.  Slavery didn't become a major political issue in the US under about a 100 years later.)

And:michelle bachman.jpg

"And what a bizarre time we're in, when a judge will say to little children that you can't say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it." (Enforced homosexuality.)

But when Michelle Bachman made an incriminating statement about the cost of a presidential trip to India last year, Anderson Cooper decided to check her facts.  

Say What??
According to a New York Times article,  Anderson Cooper asked Michelle Bachman where exactly the Republicans would cut the budget, during a televised interview.  Instead of a direct answer, Ms. Bachman responded by stating that President Obama's state visit to India was a massive waste of taxpayers' dollars - a visit which, she said, was going to cost taxpayers $200,000 million a day (for a total of $2 billion).

anderson-cooper.jpgIt didn't take long for the rumor to run the gamut of conservative talk shows: The massive number popped up on Rush Limbaugh's and Micheal Savage's radio shows.  By the time it was aired on Glenn Beck's show, the trip had become a "vacation" which was accompanied by one tenth of the US Navy. 

Just the facts, ma'am...
Anderson Cooper decided to check the facts.  He found that the figure originated with an unnamed Indian official quoted in an Indian newspaper.  The news source quoted no factual evidence, or supporting evidence any kind to support the claim.

The White House Press Secretary, who, for security reasons, is normally forbidden to discuss presidential trips, made an exception this time.  He said the cost of this trip was very similar to state trips taken by Presidents Clinton and Bush, which Cooper discovered were around $5 million a day.

The notion that the President needed to employ one tenth of the US Navy was, the press secretary said, "comical."

Why is this important?
Thomas L. Friedman summed the episode up this way:

"When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues -- deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate -- let alone act on them.

Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together. But the carnival barkers that so dominate our public debate today are not going away -- and neither is the Internet.

All you can hope is that more people will do what Cooper did -- so when the next crazy lie races around the world, people's first instinct will be to doubt it, not repeat it."

What do you think?
Have you ever been tempted to fudge or exaggerate a fact in order to persuade someone?   Do you think the media does enough to check the facts that are aired their shows?  It it the media's responsibility? 

Final Video Instructions

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 397641189_4c61436915-thumb-500x334-168092.jpg                                                                                  Image Course: Flickr. Joey Primiani.

You are almost there! 

You have researched and collaborated and interviewed and edited (and edited, and edited) and now you are ready to turn in your final History of a Controversy video project! 

Because of the unique nature of this assigment, there are a few extra steps you must take.  Here they are:

  1. Complete your video.  Very carefully, check the Video Grading Rubric.doc, then add any last professional touches and flourishes. Make sure your project is one you are proud of!   
  2. Upload your video to your own Youtube account.  You may already have one.  If not, creating an account is super easy.
  3. File for a Creative Commons license.  Choose your own license.  Also super easy.
  4. Post a link to your video in the Angel drop box
  5. Also paste the embed code for your Creative Commons license into the Angel drop box.  I will create a webpage with all our videos on it.  With your CC embed code, I will be able to post your license icon with your video.

On Wednesday, we will enjoy a special Video Presentation Day when we will watch all our videos in class!  Be prepared to give a short introduction before and answer any questions after your video.  Popcorn included!  Feel free to bring snacks to share!


Giving Credit in Your Video

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Most of us have had some training in using Thumbnail image for 4978090439_049364b08e_z.jpgMLA documentation style in our essays and papers, but how do we give credit in a video?  Here are some ways.

For in-text citations, use any or all of the following:

  • Verbal Citation. In your voice-over, give credit: "According to a 2009 study by the Center for Disease Control..."
  • Parenthetical Citation If you are using a fact or quotation on a slide, give credit on the slide. 
  • Textual Citation. Use a textbox at the bottom of the screen to identify an interviewee, speaker or video clip.

Of course, you will also create a list of citations.  Here's how:

  • Create a Works Cited in the Credits.  Use KnightCite or, for library resources, use the embedded citation generator, to generate your MLA style citations.  Then, place them in alphabetical order in the credits of your video. 
  • Create a List of Illustrations or Media List.  This list is for any pictures, video and/or music that you use.  It is separate and placed after the Works Cited.  Again, use KnightCite to create your citations then list them in alphabetical order.  You do not need to cite music you got from I-Movie.

You already know why citing your sources is important: to give credit where it is due, to increase your own ethos as a professional researcher, and, of course, to avoid plagiarism charges.

Image Source: Flickr.  Year Round Employment.

A Question of Policy? Or A Questionable Policy?

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In an attempt to combat childhood obesity, the San Francisco city council voted to ban toys from McDonalds Happy Meals that don't meet strict nutrition and calorie standards.

Most of us can agree that childhood obesity is a real problem.  Questions of policy, however, often generate controversy over possible solutions.  Did San Francisco go too far?  Will this solution be effective?  Feasible? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Check out this Daily Show clip that addresses the ban:
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
San Francisco's Happy Meal Ban
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Typography - More Than Just Type

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comic sand.jpg 

You may not have thought much about typography before, but consider how fonts can carry certain connotations that can help reinforce (or contradict) your visual argument.

And yes, you are making visual arguments, arial.JPGeven if your text doesn't technically include a "visual."

Font Attitude

Fonts have "personalities."  These personalities can help reinforce the message you are sending.

Font choices can help increase your ethos as a professional, serious student, or as a fun-loving artsy type, depending on the image you want to project.

Font choices can also increase the ethos of the technical document you are writing.  Font choices should be considered along with all the other discourse choices you make, like organization, design, color, etc., according to your audience and purpose.


sheriff.jpgThe Sinister Side

But beware: font personalities that are incongruous with your message can obscure your message and destroy your ethos. 

Some fonts, regardless of the context, have developed bad reputations.  Comic Sans, for instance, seems to consistently appear on many worst fonts lists.



College Humor has produces a couple of videos that illustrate the personalities that come with some fonts: 


Ethos of Barack Obama: Situated or Invented?

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Speech Tips and Requirements

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How to Give an Awesome Speech:


Grab Attention.  Your speech should Thumbnail image for 446084326_03616c988c.jpgcontain an engaging attention getter that goes beyond a predictable introduction of your name.  It should include contain a vivid central claim (thesis) that serves as the guiding idea for your speech and a preview that outlines the main points you will cover.


Include Description Early (Consider Using a Visual). If you are responding to or using a text, it should be quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or described early in the speech.  The speech should then provide reasons why the text says something important.


Organize Your Points Strategically - and Obviously.  Use clear transitions between points so that the audience can follow along with your ideas at all times, knowing where you are in the speech.


Conclude Well. End your speech with a focused and definite conclusion in which you revisit the main points and end with thoughtfulness and impact.


Use Extemporaneous Speaking Style.  Delivery should be engaging.  Use a conversational manner, with only brief notes or speaking outline. Do not read your speech or recite it from memory.  In this class, we think of public speaking as conversational and audience-appropriate, but not too informal. In other words, extemporaneous does not mean "on the fly."


Speech Outline Requirements

On the day of your speech, bring two copies of your speech outline - one for your use and the other the instructor to follow during your speech and to grade.


Your submitted outline should follow the following format:


·         Write the introduction, transitions, and conclusion in complete sentences.  (These areas tend to be difficult for speakers to navigate, so precisely thinking about how you will start, move between ideas, and close the speech is important.)

·         Include enough information on the body of the speech that the concepts could be understandable to someone who had not heard the speech (the body of the speech does not have to be written in complete sentences).

·         Use in MLA documentation style for all sources.

Other People's Money - Contrasting Speeches

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These two speakers from the movie "Other People's Money" try to convince an audience of opposite points. Pay close attention to tone, gesture, rate, eye contact and body language. Who do you think was more convincing? Why?


Hans Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine

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This is a persuasive speech given at a recent TED conference.  Are you convinced that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial age?  Notice both the structure (organization) and the content that is used. 

Speech on Gay Marriage

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Sample speech by a University of Iowa student.

"SOPA Opera Update"

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Here is a visual that illustrates the wide swing in opposition to the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation - over the course of 24 hours.  Chartporn.org asks: Democracy in action?  Or Congress blowing in the wind?

Click on the image for more information on SOPA Opera Update from ProPublica.


How to Write with Flair

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 Thumbnail image for 5295817405_c5ff058f5e_z.jpg                                                                                       Image Source: Flickr. Let It Snow...typefaces. tsevis.

Heather Holleman, Ph.D, is a successful author, blogger and Penn State writing instructor.  Here is what she says is the key to successful writing - writing with flair. 

Five Ways to Write with Flair

By Heather Holleman, Ph.D.


Most of us will have thousands of occasions for writing in the next year: emails, text messages, resumes, blog entries, cover letters, articles, love letters, essays, reports, memos, or our next big novel. How do we make our writing interesting to our audience? With flair!

It's easy. I know 5 tricks. Ready?

1. Choose a verb with flair. Eliminate feeble verbs (am, is, are, was, were, has, have, had, seems, appear, exists). These verbs don't show anything happening. Use exciting verbs. I love verbs like grapple and fritter. Grapple with strong verbs to fritter away the feeble ones.

2. Toggle between the Big 5 punctuation marks: When you want to create complexity and voice in your writing, try using the Big 5: semicolon, colon, dash, parentheses, comma.


Here's how:


  • To highlight a part of your sentence--like this one--use dashes. Dashes shout. On the other hand, if you want to whisper and share a secret with an audience (like this one), use parentheses. Parentheses whisper.


  • Semicolons confuse most; they unite full sentences that belong together because the second sentence explains or amplifies the first.


  • Commas help the reader along by following introductory clauses, or they combine two sentences when you want to use a conjunction like and, but, for, or, nor, so (commas can be really hard unless you had grammar instruction as a kid).


  • Finally, the colon designates that a list or definition will follow. So the Big 5 include: semicolon, colon, dash, parentheses, comma.


Do you feel smart?

3. Vary the length of your sentences and change the way they start to create rhythm. See sample paragraph above.

4. Garnish your paragraph with some clever wordplay if you can. Common cleverness in writing includes: puns, repeated first words, self-answering questions, understatement, just being funny, just being YOU. However, avoid overused expressions and clichés.

5. Engage your audience. Establish rapport by talking to them. Are you wondering how this works? Just notice them in your writing (like I just did). Make it obvious that you are talking to people.

Try these simple things to create some flair in your writing today. Enjoy some written flair.


Candidate Blind Date: Which Candidate Are You?

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I found this cool, interactive chart on Chartporn.org.  Check it out.


candidate match game.png

Anti-SOPA/PIPA Video

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Miss your Wikipedia?  Watch this video to get a better idea of what is happening.  Then do some research on your own.  What are the issues involved?  What is each side saying about the other?


PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Tragic Situations - Great Speeches

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Public speaking styles have changed from the dramatic, forceful and podium-banging techniques of the past to a more conversational style that emphasizes "storytelling, self-revelation and emotional appeals."

Google any famous Ronald Reagan speech and you will see how he was a master of this conversational style, often using humor and self-deprecation to great effect.  

The following two speeches are similar in that they are both in response to a tragedy.  The first, by Ronald Reagan, is his reaction to the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, when the space shuttle blew up less than two minutes after takeoff.  All crewmembers died, including elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was planning to report to her students from space. 

The second speech is by President Obama in response to the Tuscon shooting that killed a number of people and injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. 

Watch each speech.  Notice how each president tries to comfort the individuals and the nation while at the same time incorporating words that address the political climate of each time.



Below is a clip of President Obama's speech in Tucson.  The full speech can be found here.  John Dickerson of Slate.com wrote "A Beautiful Noise" describing the challenge Obama faced in this situation.  Dickerson also describes what makes a great speech.  Check it out.

How to Write For the Internet

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                                                                                                 Photo: Flickr. Aphrodite.

Or, "How to get someone to read my work when they may not want to."

As you write your blog entries and consider new text for your e-portfolio, keep these facts in mind. 

 People don't like to read entire documents on the Internet. 

 Wonder why?  Most of the time, we use the Internet for bits of information or entertainment.   If we can't find that information quickly and easily, we move on.   There's so much more there.

Medium over Message?

Make the appearance of your entries as interesting and inviting as the content of your entries.  In fact, how your blog looks may be more important, at least initially, than what you have to say. 

Think about it.  If you are reading on the Internet, and are faced with a text that is one long paragraph, in a hard-to-read font, how much time will you spend trying to decipher what it says? Thought so.

So How Do I Get People to Read My Stuff? 

Here's how you make your entries inviting and increase the chance that others will read them:

Write a Catchy Title.  There's nothing like an intriguing (funny, thoughtful) title to hook 'em in. 

Keep Paragraphs Short.  For your blog entries, 25-35 words should do it.  For additional impact, use a one sentence paragraph every now and then. 

Use Headings, Bullets, Boldings. Headings (not just titles) are wonderful things.  They break up text and signal a hierarchy of information, which will increase readability for your readers.   And they ALSO help YOU, as a writer, because they facilitate a logical organization of your text.

Add Links, Photos, Videos. Take advantage of the mediumLink out to sources instead of adding information.  This allows readers to choose what they are interested in and also builds trust, portraying you as someone who has done your research.

And don't forget visuals!  The Internet is a very visual medium.  Plus people like pictures!  Include pix, charts, graphs and videos.  If you use photos that don't belong to you, make sure they are not copyright protected (unless you get permission and/or pay a fee) and that they are adequately attributed. 

"It's Just You and Me, Kid." Talk to your reader.  Use you and we to form a connection.  No need to get too formal here.

Also check out this article by CopyBlogger on the Art of the Paragraph.  It not only gives some excellent information on how to write rockin' paragraphs (ones that people will want to read) it also models all the information mentioned here about how to write for the Internet:  Writing for the Internet.doc

Welcome to Class!

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Thumbnail image for 5311486823_a9bb83776e.jpgAs we move through the semester, you will want to check out this "What's New" page often (at least once a week)

Here is where I will post announcements and updates.  I  will also occasionally write blog entries on subjects that are important to our class.  

Sometimes I write "lesson" blogs on topics that will help us with our coursework. 

I also post blogs on stuff that's happening in the world, especially if it relates to what we talk about in class.   

I may require you to read and comment on my blog entry.  But even if I don't require it, I encourage you to comment on anything I post.   I would love to hear your perspective!

I'm looking forward to working with you!