In my role as an Assistant Professor, I teach classes exploring the role of rhetorical and media communication in our world. I consider myself an innovative and creative teacher. I try bringing interesting assignments, reading materials, and projects to my students to enhance their learning. Sometimes these things go over really well, with many students appreciating these efforts to breath new life into (what appears to be) static material. And, sometimes–of course–this enterprise falls flat. I go back to the drawing board. It is in the spirit of innovative approaches to learning that I embark on my newest teaching adventure: Public Speaking in a Digital World.
The University of Pittsburgh taught me how to teach Public Speaking well. We taught the well respected Stephen Lucas, “The Art of Public Speaking” textbook. Furthermore, I taught public speaking how I learned it: writing a thesis statement, creating an outline, conducting academic research, and presenting Informative and Persuasive speeches to attentive audiences. I still believe these aspects are paramount — but I acknowledge that teachers, like students, live in a digital world. It is from this perspective that I consider how to breathe new life into an old Communication Department favorite.
What is powerful about public speaking is learning how to orally present yourself in compelling ways to others. My goal is to teach students about the importance of presenting themselves in many public setting that, “count” for students. As a “student,” they do mini-interviews at career fairs, confront teachers about grade dispute, negotiate conflict with group members, present research papers, and so on. Students also live in a virtual world of Face Book, Myspace, LinkedIn, Flickr, Twitter and You Tube. They stay connected through mobile media technology accessible on iphones, Blackberrys, Side Kicks, Palm Pres and laptops. So, my purpose with Public Speaking in a Digital World is to have students use their digital/media/electronic technology knowledge as a starting point for learning how to present themselves in ways that are compelling, persuasive, and informative for the types of situations students find themselves. As we learn basic communication principles designed for face-to-face situations, we will take them to social media platforms. Students will simultaneously learn and teach public speaking about situations that “count” for other students. This will happen both offline and online. I will blog often about my experiences teaching Public Speaking in a Digital World. Look to read about the successes and the failures as the course progresses from January to May. If you have ideas and suggestions about what has worked or what to avoid, please let me know. So for now, cheers to a new teaching adventure!