Sunday, August 06, 2006

Week 10--Abstract and Reflection

Final blog post. What is your thesis in your final project? Share the abstract that you will present to the class here in your blog. And, finally, what are the three most significant things you've learned in this course, and how will you make use of them in your studies and/or work?

Using Pathos in Online Learning: Engaging the User and the Learner


Using pathos as defined in ancient rhetoric to examine the rhetorical situation of the online learning environment allows us to re-examine our concept of audience and shift our understanding to one that is more appropriate for online learning which in turn allows us to rethink the strategies we use to engage students. I redefine our concept of online learner and assert that an online student must first feel competent as a user of the tools of the course, and must become comfortable within the learning community before he can become a successful online learner. Classical concepts of pathos correspond to our understanding of the learning process and can be used to help us understand and construct new strategies to connect with our audience. Learning theories such as constructivism and cognitivism demonstrate the importance of the student’s existing knowledge and affective domain in learning. An online course designer must examine the existing "frame of mind" (defined as a predisposition to a particular emotion) in the audience towards online learning and its possible causes to be able to change it to the desired "frame of mind" better suited for effective learning in an online environment. Strategies which utilize pathos to create the desired "frame of mind" in the user, the online community member and the online learner are presented.

Three Most Significant Things Learned

1. One of the most important things that I have learned is how little I know which according to Socrates means that I am wise. Unfortunately, I don't feel too wise. Learning classical rhetoric has made me curious about the how the ideas which began with the ancients have changed. Many of them, I have learned, have not changed. Instead, our focus has shifted the way we discuss them or we have "zoomed-in" on an idea and have lost the broader meaning in which it was first discussed. For example, the idea that emotion affects persuasion goes back all the way to Gorgias and is also a focus of modern "brain research" which also shows that how a person feels about something affects the way he responds to a situation. Old idea, new way to support it. On the other hand, when we clutch an idea such as using the "modes" to teach writing, we really exclude much of more interesting strategies which we can use to teach writing.

2. The second most important thing that I have learned in this class is how important collaboration and developing a support system is when confronting a new and difficult subject. Looking back what seems to have caused the difficulty is the amount of learning that had to occur in such a short time. Because I had very little knowledge about the actual texts and rhetoricians which we read, I was busily constructing new schemas or tearing some down to build them up. It truly is frustrating when that happens and having our "study group" really did help. Thanks guys.

3. The third most important thing that I have learned is that rhetoric was born out of the need to educate which makes it a much more interesting topic to me since I am an educator at heart.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I am going to use these. But let me give it a try...

1. I will re-examine some of my methodology to integrate some of the strategies developed by Aristotle for invention. I like the series of questions in the Crowley book and I will try to integrate those. So that instead of presenting a way to the students, I present a way for them to explore to try and find their own way. I hope that makes sense.

2. I know I'm not losing track of my study group since we are taking another class together next term (I think) and we are planning stress-relieving activities for next May already. ; )

3. The only way I can use this is to continue to learn more. In fact, I wish I could take the 20th Cent. Rhetoric class next term but it will have to wait.

I've learned alot. Thanks all for sharing your knowledge as well as your frustrations.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Week 9--Favorite Canon and Project

What is your favorite canon? That is, which canon do you find yourself most interested in and why? This week you're presenting on a common topic with a specific application. You might work out your ideas here in this blog, or create a space of stasis for your peers as they work to see or argue your point of contemporary contextualization. You might also share your notes on others' video projects either in others' blog posts.

I would say that my favorite canon is invention. I have to admit that I have never used any of the invention devices which C/H detail, at least not systematically the way they present it. I like invention because I love coming up with ideas and I think I am arrogant enough to think that other people might find them interesting too. But the invention stage can also be very painful. I find that I am one of those writers who needs to have ideas percolate before I can articulate what I am thinking. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I spend so much time on invention with my students. Usually I have them start with general brainstorming on the topic, what they know, and then we read and discuss, and brainstorm, and brainstorm some more. After some preliminary ideas are down on paper, even if they don't look or sound pretty, it is much easier to deal with arrangement, the actual drafting of the paper and the style. I find that students are much more willing to write a paper when they have something they can work with. Sometimes they end up with something that is different from where they started but having some ideas down gives them the courage to tackle a task that seems overwhelming.

Well, this week I'm presenting on audience. I ended up having to cut out 2/3 of my presentation and concentrated on the user/learner frameworks that are important in online courses and one video lesson designed for the students.

Throughout the entire process, I kept thinking how my definition of audience seems to (or does) become a part of each canon. I kept wondering if that was wrong and if my definition of audience is too broad. But the more I research into brain research, cognitive theory, constructivism, web design, and composition pedagogy it seems audience is integral to all of the canons and that I was not just imagining a connection. I think audience informs almost all our choices. It is almost impossible to write without thinking about audience. The style concepts of high, medium and low are a response to audience; the concepts of pace, tone, pitch in delivery are a response to audience; the concept of enthymeme and purpose in invention is a response to audience; and in arrangement the concept of beginning, middle and end is also, I think, a response to what the audience needs.

In contrast to Plato who believed one shouldn't consider the mindless masses, I believe we should especially when the "we" refers to educators. When we create meaning, we want to communicate. "Look mommy I made this." And communication cannot exist without audience. Even those of us who keep personal blogs or journals as a quest for that elusive "truth", we can think we are writing for ouselves, but the audience is a future "I" with whom we want to communicate. The "I" will be part of the mindless masses who can create meaning based on what was written.

I found it very interesting that we are returning to Artistotle's concept of cultural knowledge (which is part of the audience) present in the enthymeme and how that can help or hinder communication. The current issue of College English concentrates on language differences and how they problematize the field of composition studies. Language as cultural knowledge
influences the rhetoric as well as the rhetorical choices a writer makes. A special issue of Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in 2005 also concentrated on how culture affects communication. This interest in language and culture, I think, is rooted in the concept of audience. As the audience becomes more diverse (or the diversity is acknowledged) and the "myth of homogeneity" is dispeled, academia becomes more interested in audience and how we must shift our understanding and our approach in order to be more effective.

Week 8--St. Augustine and Video Project

Trace 3 elements of St. Augustine's rhetoric back to earlier rhetors. Also, relate how your 3 to 10 minute "video" project for next week is coming along. You might list key definitions here of the concepts you're relating, as well as the context in which you see yourself using this "video." That is, it's useful for our class, but can it help you in your final paper, in your teaching, in your workplace?

A’s idea of “harmful sweets must be avoided” reminds of Plato’s distinction between the pleasant and the good. They both acknowledge that something can sound good, sweet or pleasant, and thus “feel” good but it is not necessarily right. These things which “feel” good will ultimately lead to something which is painful. For Plato, that was living a life which was not virtuous, living only for what felt good for the individual but was not good for society, which ultimately meant that it was evil. For A. sweets can also be wholesome, Plato’s term would be virtuous, if they contain both wisdom, taken from the Scriptures, and eloquence.

Also, his statement that “through the art of rhetoric both truth and falsehood are pleaded” goes back to Plato. Plato equated rhetoric with falsehood and dialectic with truth or Truth. A also uses two terms one to denote the positive and the other the negative. He uses rhetoric for those who lie and say falsehoods and eloquence for those who are proponents of the truth. In essence, he is talking about the same thing but the difference is in the intent of the orator; what the audience is moved to believe because of the discourse.

St. Augustine’s argument that “wisdom without eloquence is of small avail to a country” and “eloquence without wisdom is generally a great hindrance” is similar to Cicero’s argument that an orator needs to have both wisdom and eloquence in order to be effective.

My video is about the concept of audience. For ancient rhetoricians, audience was tied directly to occasion and location (three branches of oratory). Audience is important because it determines the purpose and can help with invention.

I am working on designing an online course and the concept of audience has been central to the design. I am very interested in how in an online course the concept of audience as user and learner gets combined. When I am teaching a f2f class, I usually do not think of the tools of the class and how my students will adapt to them. I take it for granted that they will adapt without any intervention.

In an online course that is very different. There is a whole section of technical communication which deals with instruction, especially in composition, and another which deals with web design. The online course forces an instructor to consider both. I know that course management systems like WebCt help to diminish the types of things which instructors have to worry about, but I think that even some of the designs in WebCt are geared more for the instructor as the user rather than the student.

I have considered web design principles, or user centered design, in its design. I have also incorporated universal design for learning (UDL) principles in the design of the course and constructivism or learner centered instruction. So for my video I would like to tie all three frameworks together by showing the course shell which I have designed and show how I have considered audience, both as user and as learner, in my design, then an instructional video that I will use for class .

I have a rough outline sketched out and have over 100 slides so I think that I may have to cut some of it out.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Week 7--So who legitimized rhetoric?

If you had to provide a brief account of the impact of Cicero on technical communication today, how would you do it? What would that impact be? Also, what messages have you learned from the Rhetorica ad Herennium?

I would say that Cicero’s impact has to do with rhetoric becoming a legitimate endeavor which should not be questioned. The impact of this is that the field can grow once it is legitimized and the ideas which are developed within the field can be disseminated to a wider audience. Those who have the leisure time to get educated need to be able to turn to endeavors which will not cause ridicule or which will cause others to question their abilities.

The idea that there is a methodology which can help an individual construct an argument is very important in technical communication. Technical communication is not only about discussing ideas but learning what methods to use to apply these ideas. The impact of this idea can be seen in all the different manuals which set specific criteria which need to be met for a specific type of document or text. Each field has its own set of manuals so this concept of a structured methodology has gained much popularity.

I think another one of Cicero’s ideas which is influential in technical communication is the concept that all fields need orators: “if anyone should wish by speaking to put these same arts in their full light, it is to oratorical skill that he must run for help.” A person can have knowledge but being able to share the knowledge is very important. Enter the technical communicator. The scientist can design the product, make it work, but someone has to tell/show the consumer how the use the product. The argument in “De Oratore” that to become an orator a person must master many different areas is questioned because there is not enough time in the day to do all this. So it makes sense that people will specialize. One person can create the product and another can communicate its uses. Expecting that one person can do it all is not realistic.

I have learned two specific messages from Rhetorica ad Herennium. The first is that one should use ones own examples to help illustrate the concept which one is trying to explain. Creating ones own examples reinforces the idea which one is trying to teach. I think that most teachers today do not use their own examples because they do not have time to create them. The demands on their time are so great that they are forced to use the examples which are provided to them, usually in the textbooks which they use. Also, teachers are required to use the textbooks which they require students to purchase. I know that one of the evaluation questions at my institution is “Does the instructor use the required texts?” If an instructor created all his own materials and required that his students purchase a textbook, then his score for that particular question would not be very good. This question sends the message to the students and the instructor that the information which is valid is that found in the textbooks. Our evaluation instrument does not ask students, “Does the instructor use instructor-made materials?” to substitute the other one.

One method which many of us use is to take student examples to demonstrate something which we are discussing. Students seem to like this method (especially when their names are not visible) because it validates their own writing. Having the instructor use it as a teaching tool changes the focus on the writing from writing done by professionals (who students think do everything perfectly the first time) to student writing.

One other thing I learned from this text is that no sentence construction that I can think of is original. I remember doing an exercise in a Shakespeare class in which we had to identify as many of these rhetorical elements (some were a little different) as possible. I remember thinking that Shakespeare was such a genius to be able to manipulate the language to fit those structures and at the same time manage to create meaning which moved the plot forward. But if these rules were the types of things which the rhetoricians were teaching, I can see why Socrates or Plato would be against it. They seem very stifling to think of what should be done and what has to be avoided and that language can be knowingly manipulated to create a certain effect and that the knowledge becomes commodity.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Week 6--Jackson, Topoi, Ari vs. Plato, and My Teaching

In what ways do you think Jesse Jackson's speech makes use of topoi and concepts from Aristotle's Rhetoric? What are the key differences between Aris and Plastico? Which are you--Aristotelian or Platonic--in your teaching and/or work?

Concepts from Aristotle’s rhetoric in Jackson speech

Jackson uses several concepts from Aristotle. He uses a common topic—what is better— and enthymeme in “President Carter restored honor to the White House after Watergate. He gave many of us a special opportunity to grow. For his kind words, for his unwavering commitment to peace in the world…” He compares the Carter presidency with the Nixon presidency and claims that it is better because it restores “honor.” He also uses enthymeme in this section. By saying that Carter restores hope then the audience must be aware of the Watergate scandal and its repercussions.

Jackson refers to the “New South” several times to argue that things are better and will be better for people of color living in the south. Instead of roadblocks, they will find many opportunities, just like immigrants found in New York.
In the section
Twenty-four years ago, the late Fannie Lou Hamer and Aaron Henry - who sits here tonight, from Mississippi - were locked out on the streets in Atlantic City - the head of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. But tonight, a black and white delegation from Mississippi is headed by Ed Cole, a black man from Mississippi - twenty-four years later.
Many were lost in the struggle for the right to vote. Jimmy Lee Jackson, a young student, gave his life; Viola Liuzzo, a White mother from Detroit, called "nigger lover," and brains blown out at point-blank range; [Michael] Schwerner, [Andrew] Goodman and [James] Chaney - two Jews and a black - found in a common grave, bodies riddled with bullets in Mississippi; the four darling little girls in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. They died that we might have a right to live.
he refers to the Civil Rights Movement and many atrocious acts that were committed during that time. Here he uses two types of artistic proofs: the example or historical facts to make his argument that he deserves to be standing before the crowd. In the same section, he uses enthymeme to appeal to the emotion of the crowd.

He is obviously aware of his audience since he tries to “include” as many types of people in his speech. He concentrates on images of Christianity and then mentions the Jews and the crossroads in which different people can find common ground. To me it seemed like he was saying, “this is me, you may not be part of me but we can still coexist.” He was creating a message of inclusion and exclusion at the same time.

Many of the techniques he uses expect the audience to accept his view of the state of affairs when in reality the situation is different. Reality is that people of color still face many difficulties in the south and across the country. People may sit together but their differences still separate them and it is naïve to think that they don’t. I may be more of a cynic than most people who were part of the audience and I tend to distrust the message when it is clearly taking advantage of pathos which he does from the beginning.

Differences between Plato and Aristotle

One of the key differences between Plato and Aristotle is the type of reasoning which they consider legitimate. Plato favored dialectic, while Aristotle thinks that dialectic is important but so is rhetorical reasoning to arrive at practical knowledge using information which is accessible to the audience. He also values observation and scientific demonstration and rhetoric which can be used to share the knowledge achieved through observation and dialectical reasoning with others. He is interested in providing a systematic method which others can use to arrive at some type of knowledge. He acknowledges that the search for absolute truth may not be very useful to society especially because there are those who are unable or unwilling to grasp the concept.

My Teaching

In my teaching I am much more Aristotelian than Platonic. Even though I do think that writing can be used to discover knowledge that was at some point unknowable or hidden (although I don’t claim this is universal knowledge with a T), I am much more pragmatic in my teaching and understand that the student needs specific skills which he must learn or which need to be reinforced in my class. I think that the system which Aristotle provides serves as a scaffold for the beginning writer especially since it reflects the structure of the pieces which students read. Even though the students may never feel comfortable or competent using that structure, it is important for them to recognize the methods which are consistently used to communicate (at least in our culture). Since one of the primary objectives of the beginning writing classes is to prepare them for “academic” writing, the student who doesn’t learn about these structures will be at a disadvantage in many of their courses.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Week 5

What are the topoi, basically, and why are they important in what you teach or where you work?
What key idea are you thinking about tackling for your 10-minute video? (Send Dr. Rice confirmation sometime soon).
See if you can work out your topic for your final paper/presentation. You might share a thesis, and perhaps an introduction. What you write is subject to change, of course.

According to the site "Silva Rhetorica" , topoi means places in Greek. The topoi are connected to the process of invention or "finding something to say." They are the topics of invention such as cause and effect, comparison, etc. These categories became those things which one turns to when generating ideas for argument. Certain topics are appropriate to certain purposes and specific aspects of time (past, present, future).

The first thing I thought about when I finally understood (I think) what topoi is was grant applications. Many grantwriters have specific categories of information which they turn to when they are completing a grant application. They will use the information from that category according to the specifications of the grant application. So a grantwriter at a particular institution only has to develop those categories once and then the information from that category can be used multiple times. This also reminded me of the idea of copia which we discussed earlier. The more information that one has in each category the more choices one has for selection once one needs to "invent" or write something.

How is topoi important in what I teach? Most of us work within either a preestablished set of categories or some which we establish ourselves. For example, when I teach a course I think about the goals and objectives which I think are important for that course and then think about the goals and objectives which the institution (in which I work) has established for me. Then I have to navigate between the two. I have been fortunate to work in institutions where my choices (categories) were not questioned.

I am thinking about discussing the concept of delivery and online teaching for my presentation. I was thinking about doing something fun like discussing how Dr. Phil uses dialectic but then I figured I better choose something that is related to my final paper. I want to show how the delivery of instruction online, what some are calling the rhetoric of online instruction, is an important consideration when designing an online course. The goals are important; similarly considering the tools one has available to make the delivery more effective is crucial.

My final paper will discuss the idea of pathos and how that can be applied to online education. One of the arguments against online education has been that something is "lost" when one teaches or learns online. I will argue that what many say is lost is the power of the pathetic appeal which is closely linked to the canon of style with its concern with audience and affective appeals. Then I will look at the tools and delivery methods online educators are using to regain the affective connection with students which is lost because of the distance.

My ideas and questions connect with those Gillian is also considering, so I think she and I should work on a paper together using the ideas we present in this class.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Week 4--True/False Rhetoric

This week (as well as last week) we looked at True and False Rhetoric. What is it, according to Plato and Isocrates, and how have you seen it in your program? Do not disclose anything that might get you into trouble. But, what is the value of true and false rhetoric in our programs?

According to Plato, false rhetoric includes persuasion and belief. Through the use of false rhetoric someone may be persuaded to believe that something is good for them when in fact it is not or when it convinces someone to do something which will only benefit the speaker. True rhetoric is intended for the benefit of those practicing it as well as those being practiced upon.

These ideas are directly applicable to my current position as team member for a system wide implementation of the lms WebCT Vista. This is something which we have been considering. We recently had a teleconference in which members of the meeting were discussing the implementation and the goals administrators had for the implementation such as increased collaboration between colleges and more efficient use of resources. After about 45 minutes of conversation, one person reminded the group that the primary goal of the lms was to benefit the student and that we needed to keep that goal at the center of our discussions.

My concern is that True Rhetoric will not make everyone work like one happy family. It would be nice but realistically that is not the case. I think about faculty who will be faced with Vista implementation in the next year and the many personalities which the implementation team will have to work with. According to True Rhetoric I should be able to convince faculty that everyone will benefit, the students, the faculty member and the institution and they will want to use the lms because of the benefits. What many will argue is that this only brings the faculty more work. For those who have many years to teach, I would argue that this new knowledge will make them more effective teachers and more competitive in the field. But for faculty members who are close to retirement this argument will not work. They will not be convinced that the investment of time and energy is worth it for them (even if it benefits the students) and they may not be convinced that the technology will make them considerably (or even a little) more effective.

True Rhetoric would work only if everyone had the same priorities and if they were willing to do what is "right" which many would argue is still a matter of opinion.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Week 3--Plato

List out as many things about Plato that you know. What does he suggest about finding the Truth, about oral persuasion, about writing, about the value of rhetoric? Also, as we agreed from Week-1, please point out the progress you're making on your final project in each blog post. Thanks.

Plato suggests that it is possible to find transcendent absolute truth through discourse. Plato argues that a rhetor can use rhetoric to convey truth to an ignorant audience by any means as long as the rhetor is virtuous and is seeking the audience's self-improvement. This can also be done in a more methodological format with a "give-and-take" between two individuals, the more knowledgable one correcting the inexperienced thinker by demonstrating the logic he uses to arrive at the truth. Plato is interested in finding the one characteristic which is shared by many examples which cannot be achieved through the senses but through the mind. The absolute/forms are real but cannot be seen.

I haven't made a final decision about my paper yet. I'm thinking about working on online course instruction and how the idea of either kairos or pathos can be applied to it.