Public Speaking in a Digital World: Feedback Loop

13 Dec

Technology is a significant part of the student experience.

Since developing this idea of teaching Public Speaking in a Digital World, I have solicited feedback from trusted colleagues about a technology focused course that takes public speaking broadly as the “presentation of self.” First I spoke with a recent Denison University graduate, Courtney Herring. Courtney is also a guest contributor on “The Erika Pryor Lifestyle Blog,” a current graduate fellow at the Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA in the Department of Media Studies. I worked with Courtney for nearly two years while at Denison both inside and outside the classroom. She provided some invaluable student insight and feedback based upon her recent experience as an DU Undergraduate. I also spoke with Cassanda Secrease-Dickson, Visiting Assistant Professor. has taught at DU for the past 2.5 years, and understands the student-body from the perspective of an instructor. She has also taught public speaking at a number of other universities as well. Jason Duff, ComstorOutdoor President/CEO serves on the Board of Trustees at Ohio Northern University.  Jason’s point of view is valuable in thinking about the incorporation of media technology in higher level academic advisory circles. What Jason also offers is a perspective of student  learning geared toward professional development. Finally, I spoke with a trusted colleague and friend, Melissa Swaugar, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Melissa has experience teaching online courses at Carlow University and the University of Pittsburgh. Melissa was also awarded the Pittsburgh’s Top 40 under 40, in 2009. She also provided insights about the public speaking across the curriculum.

 Class Learning Goals    

I explained to each the learning goals and purpose of the course:    

  • To promote an expanded knowledge, understanding, and awareness of public speaking to a presentation of self philosophy
  • To encourage students to consider themselves experts in an area due to experiential knowledge and educational training.
  • To facilitate a resource person ethic 
  • To teach students how to manage the likely moments when they are charged to represent themselves as students within the college setting.

I thought some might be interested to hear their opinions, thoughts, and advice on the subject. Here’s what each had to say:    

Ex-DU Undergraduate Student: Courtney’s initial impression of the course was excitement about the incorporation of speaking situations that students might actually find themselves in as a way to enhance their overall student experience. She also cautiously advised me to be aware that many students will hate the class initially. She noted, students expect to do traditional informative, persuasive, demonstration, and special occasions speeches. By giving them something they did not expect, I will need to work on buy-in early. Courtney indicated that once students got over the first shock, they would find it useful and beneficial to their student and post-studet lives.    

Current DU Visiting Assistant Professor: Cassandra was interested in how I intended to manage the intended student backlash about group work. Much of her feed back was encouragement to reinforce the potential benefits of the course for students. Also, Cassandra advised that I continue to include detailed assignment and evaluation rubrics so students understand the components of each assignment. An important suggestion she made — and I have considered — is to incorporate LinkedIn into the course. From the perspective of a Department of Communication instructor, she indicated the necessity of Communication faculty to lead the way in assisting students in their online communication technology competency. This concern led to her suggestion that students be assigned to develop an online profile page–at the least.    

Ohio Northern University Board Member: Jason was very excited about a course addressing the professional presentation of self while also incorporating new media technologies at a liberal arts university. He articulated an understanding of the potential student and administrative resistance to a class such as this within a traditional educational setting, and encouraged me to remain optimistic about the potential impact on students’ thinking and learning. Specifically, Jason identified the potential of this course to contribute to student awareness and understanding about personal and professional branding opportunities. Also, Jason indicated enthusiasm about a course that helps students develop a professional approach to their lives as students.    

 Assistant Professor of Sociology: Melissa, like Jason expressed interest in a course that helps students develop a professional approach to their lives as students. She noted that the infrastructure of this course could be quite useful for professors in other disciplinary areas interested integrating technology or assuming responsiblity for teaching “speaking across the curriculum” courses. (These courses have a speaking part but can be found in departments throughout a university, rather than housed only Communication Departments or Schools.)      

Takeaways: From my excitement, as well as the positive and constructive feedback I have received, I believe I have formulated an innovative and creative approach to a class that is often taught in an antiquated way. Everybody seemed positive about the potential learning for students. I am also aware that I am going to need to be heavy on the buy-in early in the course. Students are likely expecting to do a series of individualized speeches, engage in limited research and writing, addressing outdated and meaningless topics. Although the course has a number of assignments, most are short on time or page length– which is unlike existing public speaking courses in the Department of Communication. In fact, each blog post has a 300 word maximum, and each recorded speech is less than 2 minutes. Also, unlike current public speaking courses, for which students practice/prepare very little, the recording and the publishing of their presentation in an online venue suggests they may practice and rehearse more–hoping to capture themselves in the most flattering light possible. The last piece of information I find particularly compelling comes from Jason, the Ohio Northern University Board Member. He pointed out that higher level administration is most likely unfamiliar with the technology and will not see the value in the course such as this. Also, he indicated that I should worry about this group the least because they are slowest to change and less likely to hear about the course . I appreciate all the great ideas and information provided by my trusted colleagues. I realize this is a new endeavor for both myself and the students, but I’m excited about the possibilities. Stay tuned for the next installment of Public Speaking in a Digital World: Class Day 1

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Posted by on December 13, 2009 in communication


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