Communication: A Lost Art?

The focus this week was on communication and how technology has impacted each mode of communication in our lives. The three modes of communication that I will discuss in this response are conversation, discussion, and presentation. I chose these three modes because they are the three most frequent modes of communication that I experience in my life. Now, with modern technology, the way we interact within these modes has changed a great deal from the “old” way of spoken communication.

In my personal and professional life I communicate most frequently in the mode of conversation. In this mode all parties are equally involved in the conversation, including active listening, speaking, and reasoning with all parties involved. In conversation, all parties are involved, allowing every member of the audience to be an author within the conversation. One member may temporarily be the author in order to come up with a topic of conversation, but once this topic has been established every member becomes the author of his or her own viewpoint.

In my personal life I converse with friends and family both in face-to-face conversation and online/digital conversation. With how busy life has gotten, I tend to converse more with my friends and family using the digital form of conversation, which I would like to change. Technology has made it so easy for us to converse with others no matter where we are, and I think this has desensitized us from having face-to-face interactions with others. Sherry Turkle in her book, “Alone Together,” references that teens communicate via text even when they are in the company of others. I feel like this speaks to my personal life because I rarely see my friends, yet will speak to them a couple times a week via text.

What happened to getting together once or twice a month? Does engaging in a text conversation really replace the experience of hanging out in person? Does an emoji of a “thumbs up” or “smiley face” really replace a handshake or hug? Hanging out in person is more difficult as we get older and as responsibilities change (babies have a big impact on this).

I do not want to digress from my point, so I will discuss how conversation looks in my professional life. Recently, I participated in a professional development workshop to create graduation competencies for students in my department. I had to work with my team members to adopt competencies that all learners will leave with upon graduation. In order to do so, we needed to meet face-to-face and talk about what skills we want students to have once they leave us. Our conversations led us to listen to each other’s viewpoints and respond in a civil yet critical environment, in contrast to what Larry Sanger discusses in his work on “Internet Silos.”

Here is a small clip from the show, “The League “ that shows a typical conversation involving two members of a fantasy football league, with varying viewpoints on a particular player. There is no silo in this conversation!

The second mode of communication is discussion. In my personal and professional life, I interact in discussions every day. These discussions require the author to produce information that requires a response from the audience. The audience can then formulate an opinion to create their response; a great example is what we do in our course work in the IT&DML program. We are provided with information and assigned readings from our professor, and asked to create our own viewpoint to stimulate a discussion as a bigger audience.

Technology has impacted the way we discuss topics in our professional lives. In the teaching profession, students no longer are required to discuss topics face-to-face with their peers in real time. Students can respond to a discussion digitally using the social platform of the teacher’s choice (author to audience) and respond horizontally to others within the discussion. We do this using mediums such as Google+, Google Classroom, Edmodo, and many others.

The digital form of discussion has made it easier to assess how students are “getting it.” Recently, I have implemented the “choice” feature from Moodle into my formative assessment. I create a question that asks students how their current understanding is on a particular topic, and they select which option best represents their understanding. After I see the results, I use this to facilitate a verbal discussion with the class to reinforce what was learned and answer any questions that may arise, depending on the results of the question.

This can be compared to how we communicate with our friends and family on social media sites such as Facebook in our personal lives. We create the content (share a post) and our audience (friends) can comment on it to start a digital form of discussion (especially during election season). We ask our friends and family how they feel on certain topics, and share pictures and video, seeking input and affection from our social network. This can be seen on the Facebook group, “Southington Talks,” where community members can post a question relating to the local community, and respond to the member’s post. I use this anytime I am looking to hire a new contractor for my home, and has proven to be very helpful.

Here is a clip from “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” which shows a discussion amongst the Jedi council. This shows the author providing information, and the audience formulating their opinion to spark a discussion (in this case who will bring balance to the force).

The third and final mode of communication is presentation. Presentation involves the author to provide the audience with information, with little to no feedback from the audience. Presentation is a means of one-way communication, not requiring any response from those being presented to.

In my personal life I present information to my wife ever day, usually in the form of a story or experience from a day at work. I present the experience to her, and she listens (she might argue that I do too much of this). We use social media and text messaging as way to share information with others, with the occasional response back from the audience when necessary.

In education, presentation occurs on a daily basis. The teacher presents information to students, and they take notes based on the lesson that is being taught. The technology used is a PowerPoint presentation via the computer and projector, versus the old way of presenting on the chalkboard or whiteboard. Teachers also interact as the audience as well. Recently I had professional development where I had to listen to a presenter on Mastery Based Learning and its effect on education. This was a vertical mode of communication as it was a one-way form of presenting material to an audience, requiring little to no feedback from the audience.

Below is a clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day off that shows a classic or “old school” way of presenting material to a group of people.

-John V

*I chose to create my discussion response within a blog post because I feel it is most appropriate to the media that I chose to embed in my response. For each mode of communication, I embedded a movie/television clip to accompany it that provided a visual and supported my viewpoint on that particular mode of communication. The blog post format serves best in engaging the audience when embedding videos, images, and other forms of multimedia.

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