Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Complexity, Ignorance, and Educators

Now here’s a scary thought:
“The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. “
So reads a press release about a recently published study that explores the links between awareness of social issues and dependence on and trust in government.   Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and other universities reached these conclusions following a series of studies in the US and Canada.   

Researchers presented participants with simple and complex descriptions of the same problem and found that people reading the more complex description felt higher levels of helplessness.  One of the conclusions that co-researcher Aaron C. Kay, reported was that:
“people tend to respond by psychologically ‘outsourcing’ the issue to the government”   
So what does this mean for educators, especially those who teach complex issues and like to emphasize critical thinking?  The authors suggest:  
“Beyond just downplaying the catastrophic, doomsday aspects to their messages, educators may want to consider explaining issues in ways that make them easily digestible and understandable, with a clear emphasis on local, individual-level causes.” 
To learn more, check out Ignorance Is Bliss When it Comes to Challenging Social Issues at

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who Cares about Their Customers? Who Doesn’t? Website Responses Are Telling

The experience of contacting companies through their websites about problems provides some interesting insights into their real attitudes towards customers.

Who cares?
  • La Quinta Inns. 
  • Cheesecake Factory.  
  • Starbucks 

I reported issues to each of these companies over the summer and heard back from each within 4 business days—each offering an apology.  Starbuck’s sort of freaked me out (in a good way) because I sent the note at 6:30 pm and heard back at midnight.  I realized, at some point, that they must have an off-shore customer service team.  (Just a guess.)  

Both the managers of the La Quinta Inn and Cheesecake Factory I wrote about personally contacted me, one by phone.  

But other companies are another story:   
  • Delta.
  • Air France.
  • Loblaws

Delta responded within 48 hours, but offered an empty apology and made no effort to correct the situation (which was not a weather-related delay, which is beyond their control).  

Air France outsourced the response to a concern about a letter with a refund check that contained no refund check to Delta.  Writing on behalf of Air France 6 weeks after I sent my note, Delta told me that they couldn’t do anything (why the person didn’t refer the issue to the appropriate person at Air France is beyond me.)

At least these airlines had the decency to acknowledge the concern.

Loblaws? Happy to take my money; could care less about responding to my concern. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays Thursday

The holiday season has Black Friday to kick-start in-store sales and Cyber Monday to pump online sales.

Today must be Happy Holidays Thursday--a new event, 10 days before Christmas--when every organization to whom I have given money, conducted business, or just merely written for more information sends me a Happy Holiday card.

But I'm not sure if they really care about my holiday or just want to make sure that the season doesn't end without my buying or donating.

Technology and the Schools in the Popular News

Technology and the schools has made the popular news on both sides of border in the past week or so.

On the one hand, the Globe and Mail has run a special section on education, with a discussion of the need to re-design primary, secondary, and tertiary education to take advantage of the technologies now available for teaching. 

On the other hand, the New York Times has published a couple of articles raising the red flags about all-online schools.  The first appeared in Gail Collins' column, in which she raises a red flag about too much technology in primary and secondary education, specifically raising concerns about the tendency for many states to outsource online school programs to the for-profit company, K12 Inc.--and the lack of research evidence on the effectiveness for children of learning full-time in an online environment.

She’s right to raise that flag. Although the research is clear that online learning is at least as effective as classroom learning, none of the studies were conducted in full-time, long-term environments.  Studies of long-term, full-time effects would, by necessity, need to look at side effects of learning, such as the effects on social development of spending most class time on the computer rather than with other children.

She also raised a red flag about the sales pitch used to generate enrollments in these online programs, positioning “online learning as an alternative to a violent in-school experience.”  See her column at

The Times  followed with an in-depth of the for-profit charter school industry this Monday.  Profits and Questions at Charter Schools by Stephanie Saul provides an-depth exploration of online charter schools, suggesting that they perform better on Wall Street than Main Street.  Among the measures on which the schools are underperforming include student-teacher ratios, churn rate (numbers of students enrolling then transferring out), and all-important standardized tests.

The article concludes that K12, one of the leading for-profit companies running these schools "a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards."

View the entire article at

The common themes underlying all of these articles are that technology in the schools is still viewed as something separate and something to be viewed with suspicion, and that some of the implementations of technology--intended to promote its virtues--only deepen those initial concerns.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alternative to Blackboard and Moodle?

Fast Company reporter and Do-It-Yourself college education advocate Anya Kamenetz reports on Coursekit, a free online application that is positioning itself as a more student- and teacher-friendly alternative to market leader Blackboard.  

Kamenetz focuses her December 5 article in Fast Company on the business model used by Coursekit.  Coursekit is available free and ad-free for the next year (its first year in operation).  After that, it will continue to be free (that’s its value proposition) but could feature ads as a means of generating revenue.  

To provide background, Kamenetz notes that Coursekit was developed by some dropouts from the undergraduate program at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania to provide an easier-to-use experience than Blackboard.  (I had actually read this before; whomever is launching this company has hired a great PR firm.)

That intrigued me, because when Blackboard first hit the scene a bit over a decade ago, its ease of use was the key to its success.  Instructors could easily create course websites without knowing anything about HTML or Dreamweaver.  All they had to do was upload Word, Powerpoint and Excel documents, and fill in a few templates.

But after a semester or two of work, Blackboard looked clunky and I returned to writing my own course websites in HTML.  

After it established itself in the market, other educational technologists, too, tired of Blackboard.  Blackboard and its then competitor WebCT dramatically raised their prices, added a host of features that only a few teachers needed, and drove many schools to the open-source competitor, Moodle.  Moodle operates similarly to Blackboard and offers similar functions, but the software is open source so organizations avoid licensing fees.  I use Moodle but mostly for its privacy capabilities or when I'm told to; my feelings about the application and its usability are neutral. 

So Kamenetz's article--the second I had seen in a week about Coursekit--piqued my curiosity.  I wanted to see whether Coursekit was easier to use.

So I checked it out myself and created a simple course website.  Its interface is cleaner, using a social media feed rather than the announcement boards typical of its predecessors.  The gradebook and submissions processes look much simpler than Blackboard and Moodle.

What I liked the best was the calendar function, which lets instructors present all of the materials needed for a single session together.  I also appreciated the privacy settings, that let instructors keep some parts public and others private.  In terms of usability, the product seems to live up to its promise (won’t know until I use it under the real pressures of a term).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

More about Writing

As I mentioned in my blog post yesterday, good, clear writing is a skill that's needed on the job.

But many people (including a PR firm I once sub-contracted for) mistakenly feel that buzzwords are a tool of clear writing . The PR firm felt that those buzzwords helped build credibility among prospective customers.

But if the Evil HR Lady and the salacious anti-meeting tweeter MeetingBoy are to be believed, all buzzwords do is make people run out for the PeptoBismol.

Find out which buzzwords are generating groans:
  • Evil HR lady:
  • Meeting Boy:

Montreal--One of the Top Ten Hippest Cities in the World

The New York Times and its sister paper, the International Herald Tribune, recently identified the 10 hippest cities in the world.  
The staffs specifically
“examine[d] some cities that aim to be both smart and well managed, yet have an undeniably hip vibe. Our pick of cities that are, in a phrase, both great and good.”
Presented in alphabetical order (so no one knows exactly how each city actually ranked), the cities include:
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Curitiba, Brazil
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Santiago, Chile
  • Shanghai, China
  • Vilnius, Lithuania

Not only is my city the hippest in North American but apparently, my neighborhood is also among the hippest on the continent.  Both the Utne Reader and the Project for Public Spaces ranked the Plateau Mont-Royal as one of the hippest neighborhoods in North America.  

But the Utne Reader gave that rating in 1997 and there’s no date in the Project for Public Spaces discussion, so I have no idea if the neighborhood is still hip. Or worse, whether I’m personally dragging down the hip factor.  

(To see the original article and find out why the editors ranked these cities so highly, visit

Friday, December 09, 2011

Life Lessons Not Learned in College

One of the ongoing challenges of academic education is preparing students for the real world.

In “What Students Don’t Learn About Work in Work in College” (, US News & World Report blogger Alison Green identifies 10 lessons that are often lost on students.

Several of these relate to one of the skills that I think is so important--especially for students hoping to become instructional designers and technical communicators (the two fields for which I prepare students).  But most are skills that students actually should develop in school.

Green advises students: 
"You need to address both sides of an issue," 
noting that students typically learn to argue 1 side of an issue when preparing assignments for school.  

But this is a skill that can be learned in school.  The best way to argue for one side is to explore the other side of the argument, then explain why that is the less effective approach to the situation.  This balance is also called critical thinking and the extent of that critical thinking is what  distinguishes A papers from the rest.  One need not wait for the workplace to develop this skill; it's something to start while in school. 

But admittedly, some faculty members assume that students know that arguing both sides of the issue makes for a stronger paper and, as a result, do not explicitly explain this strategy to students.  
Green advises students that:
You need to be concise when writing in the workplace. Good writing isn’t stiff and formal.  
Like the last skill, this one can be developed in school.  The truth is, most faculty find stiff, verbose writing painful to read.  Most grimace when reading such assignments.  

Unfortunately, some faculty members do not factor in the quality of the writing when grading papers, they reward such papers with passing or excellent grades.  Worse, because some faculty often assume that students know how to do things without verifying it, they do not comment on these issues when grading papers nor do they address the problems of verboseness and stiff writing with their classes.

The last tip for writing that Green offers is
Procrastinating is a really bad idea. 
That, too, is a skill that students can learn in school if their professors emphasize it.  So often, students can easily get extensions.  (I know well--when I was an undergraduate, I developed expertise in requesting them and, by the time I was a doctoral student, I was the designated "Can you give us an extension" requester in many of my classes.)

But having had learned the same lesson in the workplace--sometimes painfully--(to be honest, I still struggle with deadlines), I have developed a zero-tolerance policy on late assignments. In fact, it's a 
totally zero approach--late assignments receive a 0.  

Recognizing that students sometimes really do need an extension because they're juggling too many due dates for their classes, I do offer a "get out of jail free" card each term.  For one assignment, each term, students can ask to submit it a week late.  This does not work with some time-dependent assignments, such as in-class presentations and exams--but is well received by students.  Students merely need to tell me that they want to take advantage of this before the assignment is due; they do not need to provide me with an excuse and I advise them to take the full week of the extension.  

Such an approach also teaches students how to negotiate schedules and actively confronting their schedules in advance--rather than at the last minute.  Those are important project management skills, and they're ones that can be developed in school.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Don't Pay--Technically

In his New York Times article, Paying for News? It’s Nothing New, Jeremy W. Peters shattered my belief that major news outlets don’t pay for interviews.

In the most technical sense, major news outlets don’t. But they provide various types of expense reimbursements in exchange for an interview. As Peters notes:

The payment is always for something else, tangible or intangible, like one’s time or the rights to memorabilia.

So what’s the difference between paying for a picture or paying for the interview? The money ends up in the interviewees hands.

Peters also notes that this practice has existed in one form or another for over a century—citing an example of his own paper paying a survivor of the Titanic.

Maybe the real issue is not paying for interviews but the guideline of not paying for interviews isn’t realistic. Major news outlets can’t seem to follow the intent of their own guidelines, even if they have met the guideline in its most technical sense.

Read Peters’ analysis at

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Collectively, We Can Make a Difference

I recently saw a headline in the Montreal Gazette asking, “What can YOU do about the road mess?”

For those not familiar with the road situation in Montreal, it’s pretty frightening.  We live on an island, so our bridges and tunnels are essential to travel here.  

But we can’t always trust them.  A bridge in one of the suburbs fell 5 years ago, killing people who were driving under and over it.  At the beginning of the summer, another bridge was abruptly closed after the public had been assured it was safe, and a report was leaked that the most traveled bridge is like a “patient” with “terminal cancer” and wouldn’t withstand an earthquake.  Those are rare here, but more frequent than those in Washington, DC.  

And if that weren’t enough, the overhang on a tunnel fell.  Fortunately, it did so on a lazy Sunday morning and no one was hurt.  

Although concerned about the politics of the situation, the provincial government responsible for the roadways has been short of forthcoming on information.  

While these emergency repairs go on, most of the major roadways are in various stages of reconstruction, with little or no seeming regard for the disruption the combined construction efforts are taking on Montreal. 

So when Annabel Soutar asked,  “What can YOU do about the road mess,” my instinctive response was, Nothing.  Soutar got interested in the situation when the bridge fell 5 years ago.  She noticed that a culture existed in which no one had to take responsibility for the problem.  Each actor could absolve him or herself of blame—and no  one realized that the collective innocence led to real deaths of real people that really could have been avoided.

So she wrote a play to call attention and raise anger.

And she advises people to, at the least, be informed and, at the most, actively hold elected officials and civil servants for our safety.  

This is truly one of those situations in which only collective efforts will bring openness and accountability to this system.  Although that has hardly been accomplished, recent actions by transportation officials suggest that the concerns are on their radar, even if they’re far from solved.  

Dealing with Disappearing Friends

Having had been on both sides of this equation, I know how hard it is when friends drift. In his advice column in the New York Times, Philip Galanes suggests that, just because a friend drifts, doesn’t mean that friend stops caring. It’s just that their lives and yours are moving in different directions.

Check out the complete story at

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dining at Dollarama

About a year into the current economic slump, I read an article saying that dollar stores like Dollarama and Yankee Dollar were carrying more food items as cash-strapped consumers sought to stretch their grocery budgets.

In one of the funniest news pieces I’ve read in years, Toronto Star, business columnist Tony Wong discovers that “Dining at the dollar store might be cheap, but you can feel the effects on more than just your pocketbook.”

Hillarious, but with a touch of melancholy underneath it all.

Read it for yourself at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bilboa Is So Yesterday

Following the lead of Bilboa in transforming a European city considered to be a remote outpost of civilization, the New York Times recently showcased two other cities following the same formula.

The city of Santiago de Compostela in the northern Galicia region is home of a new City of Culture, which includes a library, archives, museum (which sounds like it is primarily going to exhibit temporary exhibitions), and performance spaces, in an uber-modern building located in a centuries-old historic district. Details at

Reporter Finn-Olaf Jones reports that the city of Perm, on the western edge of Siberia (and, apparently, considered the last stop in civilization as one enters Siberia on the TransSiberian Railway), is transforming itself from a closed city of the Soviet era into an avante-garde visual and performing arts centre, and is attracting notice worldwide. The city is doing this by dedicating some of its economic development resources for the arts. The transformation involves strengthening and expanding cultural institutions like remodeling the museums. But more importantly, the transformation involves developing and promoting local talent. In the process, Perm is also attracting emerging international talent to its burgeoning arts scene.

Check out the whole story—as well as travel suggestions—at

Monday, November 14, 2011

Management Training for Nonprofit Executives

Philanthropists are giving Human Resources a good name.

According to reporter Stephanie Strom, some major philanthropists are requiring that the leaders of organizations they fund participate in management training as a condition of the funding. 

Although many nonprofit executives rightfully resist such intrusion of donors on everyday operations, many of those interviewed by Strom appreciated this type of advice. The donors recognized that, although the organizations they fund are passionate about their goals, some minimize the role of management practices and principles in achieving those goals.  As Strom writes:
“People in this sector, just like scientists and doctors, get promoted because of their issue expertise and then no one really ever teaches them how to manage,” said Jerry Hauser, the center’s chief executive and a former consultant at McKinsey & Company. “Then it becomes a vicious cycle, where the next generation coming up in an organization comes up under someone who doesn’t know how to manage.”
Following training, the nonprofit executives gained new insights into their operations and devised new ways to more effectively achieve goals and prepare for the future.  

To read the entire article--and learn about some specialized sources of management training for nonprofit executives--visit 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Digital Content, Disappearing Archives

Transferring content to digital formats has its advantages. For example, think of thousands of songs you can store on an palm-sized iPod or the hundreds of books you can store on a single Kindle, which is thinner than a book.

But archival purposes isn’t one of those advantages. As University of Maryland Information Studies and English professor Kari Kraus reports in When Data Disappears (published in the New York Times, August 6, 2011), digital media like hard disks, thumb drives, DVDs and CDs, are “inherently unstable.” Most of these media start to degrade with time. Even if the media survives, the formats do not. (Don’t believe me? Try to open a Word 95 file with MS Word 2010.)

We may be producing more content in a week than all of civilization produced for centuries, but if we don’t find a way to preserve it so it’s accessible to future generations, all of that great content could disappear from our historical consciousness.

Learn more about the issue at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ranking and Choosing Online Degrees

U.S. News & World Report, the pioneer in college rankings, is in the midst of conducting a new first-of-its-kind study: rankings of online universities.  But according to “The Online-College Crapshoot” (by Laura Pappano, New York Times, November 4, 2011at some of the biggest online universities, including Capella and Kaplan, aren’t participating.  
Among their concerns is the concern that the criteria one might use to rank a traditional university do not apply to online universities.  For example, because many of the students in online universities are non-traditional students, some of the information about class ranking in high school is less relevant.  

Some of the issues are that the strengths of traditional and online universities differ.  According to the article, traditional universities focus on research and promote the expertise of their faculties; online universities focus on teaching and learning support.  (I think that sells both groups short; nearly all traditional universities have units that promote teaching and learning; some online universities focus on research).  

In a related article, Pappano suggests some tips for choosing an online university now—before the ratings are available (Before Signing On: A Checklist, New York Times, November 4, 2011, at 

To get information, speak to someone who “isn’t hawking courses, like a program director” rather than a recruiter.
  • Course quality (what you’ll learn, assignments, and whether the instructor is qualified to teach the course)
  • Educational support—that is, someone who will provide advice on courses and preparing for work after graduation—and do so on a timely basis
  • Technical Support—that is, if the technology fails, how quickly will the problem be addressed (some programs only have support during normal business hours; most online students sign onto their courses on weekends and evenings
  • Credit transfer, that is, if you decide to switch to another university later in your studies, will they accept your credits
  • Accreditation—that is, will anyone recognize your degree?  Most employers and universities only recognize degrees from accredited institutions.  
  • Costs, jobs, and other indicators—that is, the likelihood that your degree will translate into a job afterwards, based on the experience of previous graduates 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Oprah's Favorite Thing

Even though Oprah isn't on TV anymore, she's still compiling a list of her favorite things and publishing them in her magazine.

Among her favorite things for 2011 are some dreamy carmels from my sister-in-law's company.  Check them out in the Oprah magazine--the carmels from the Velvet Chocolatier (

(Don't usually plug things, but it's not every day that someone in my family is on Oprah's list.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sadie Katz's Is Closing

Burlington, Vermont loses its Jewish deli

From the best I can tell, Sadie Katz’s Deli in Burlington, Vermont is the closest thing to a traditional New York Deli between Boston and New York, and the North Pole. (Montreal has lots of Jews—but their interpretation of Jewish food is significantly different than their brethren in the U.S.)

But Sadie is closing her doors next Sunday (the day before Labor Day). Someone bought out her lease and, from the best I could tell while eavesdropping, the owner is focusing on a brewpub with pizza by the slice.

Although we discovered a New York-style bagel shop in Burlington the same day we heard this news, it’s a bagel shop, not a deli, and it doesn’t serve matzo ball soup.

If anyone knows of a deli in Western Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Albany, Saratoga Springs, or even Syracuse, please comment.

Otherwise, try to patronize Sadie before she closes her doors for good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pleased to Announce a "Promotion"

I recently received a note from TripAdvisor, saying that I had been designated as a Senior Reviewer. It made me feel like one of those correspondents on the Daily Show, which only employs senior correspondents.

Seriously, I thought the TripAdvisor approach was a rather clever way of acknowledging volunteer contributors to the website.

And the criteria for promotion are clear:

1-5 Reviews: Reviewer
6-10 Reviews: Senior Reviewer
11-20 Reviews: Contributor
21-49 Reviews: Senior Contributor
50+ Reviews: Top Reviewer

Of course, the quality of reviews is inconsequential to this scheme.

But it's a great way of recognizing voluntary contributors to the site and encouraging them to contribute more. I'm already working on my promotion to "Contributor."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Technologies to Watch in Higher Education: 8 Years’ of Predictions

The New Media Consortium and Educause recently published their annual Horizon Report, which "describes six areas of emerging technology that will have significant impact in higher education within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years" (Johnson, Levine, Smith & Stone, 2010).

In response, I compiled the lists of technologies to watch from the eight Horizon reports that have been published to date:

Time to Adoption: 1 Year or Less
Time to Adoption: 2 to 3 Years
Time to Adoption: 4 to 5 Years
Learning objects
Scalable vector graphics (SVG)
Rapid prototyping
Multimodal interfaces
Context-aware computing
Knowledge webs
Extended Learning
Ubiquitous wireless
Intelligent searching

Educational gaming
Social Networks & Knowledge Webs
Context-Aware Computing/Augmented Reality
Social computing
Personal broadcasting
The phones in their pockets
Educational gaming
Social networks and knowledge webs
Context-aware computing/augmented reality
User-created content
Social networking
Mobile phones
Virtual worlds
The new scholarship and emerging forms of publication
Massively multiplayer educational gaming
Grassroots video
Collaboration web
Mobile broadband
Data mashups
Collective intelligence
Social operating systems
Cloud computing
Geo-everything (geo-tagging of data)
Personal web
Semantic-aware objects
Smart objects
Mobile computing
Open content
Electronic books
Simple augmented reality
Gesture-based computing
Visual data analysis
Electronic books
Mobiles (mobile devices)
Augmented reality
Game-based learning
Gesture-based computing
Learning analytics

Food for thought: Which technologies did they call correctly? Which ones not?

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K.,  (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report.
Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

An Infant with Great Potential

Yesterday's post explored that, despite the hype, e-books are still in their infancy.

But everyone has high hopes for them.  Some of those hopes are admittedly hype.  But some are based on actual data and experience. Here are three cases:

  • A partner approach to online and print
  • Signs of life in the nonfiction market for e-books
  • New online course packs

Case 1. A Partner Approach to Online and Print

Some publishers are discovering that the path to e-books takes a journey through hybrid approaches, much like the route to e-learning involved a journey through blended learning.

The conversion of much workplace and university learning programs to electronic formats ended up involving blended formats, in which parts of programs were presented online and other parts remained in the classroom. This allowed all stakeholders to become comfortable with learning online. It reduced (but did not eliminate) instructor and learner resistance, and provided skeptical executives with an opportunity to try e-learning before making a full-fledged commitment to it.

Some evidence is arising that print media might be re-thinking their options along the same lines. The New York Times recently published a profile of the re-worked Hollywood Reporter. Until recently, the Reporter published a daily newspaper. Much of its news became redundant with the increasing myriad of Hollywood news sites. And it lost its focus on its core readers--Hollywood insiders--rather than Hollywood obsessed fans (OK, me).

To shift the focus back--while acknowledging the current realities of the entertainment news industry--new editor Janice Min reconceived the Hollywood Reporter as a combination of online and print contents:

  • Online news outlet, where breaking news was published on an ongoing basis
  • Glossy, weekly print publication, which publishes feature articles of interst to the traditional core audience of the Hollywood Reporter

The initial results after a year or so of publication suggest the transition has succeeded. Ad revenues--a key metric of performance in publishing--and which had fallen prior to the makeover, have--is up by 50 percent over the old daily version.

Min believes that only an outsider could have remade this publication (she came from US Weekly). Perhaps insiders could not have conceived of it; perhaps entrenched interests would have prevented an insider from implementing this vision.

So many visions of online publications approach them as clones of their print versions. Perhaps more publications will explore this partner approach.

Case 2. Signs of Life in the Nonfiction Market for e-Books

Industry figures suggest that early adopters of e-books primarily use them to read fiction.

But I always though that the real benefit would be in non-fiction.

Update-ability. Non-fiction titles feature time-sensitive information and electronic formats allow for easier updating of content.

  • Quantity. To keep up, many professionals and academics need to read many books and, ideally, have access to many of them simultaneously. e-Book devices provide readers with relatively easy access to several books on a single device.
  • Price. Because non-fiction titles are often highly specialized and intended for small slices of business and academic markets, the market potential for these books is limited, print runs are limited and--most significantly for consumers--prices are high. (An early article about e-books mentioned that one medical book that costs $US 3,600).

Now comes the first evidence that, perhaps, my hunch has some steam. e-Books seem to be waking the sleepy academic publishing market. Academic publishers specialize in research-based books that receive reviews similar to those of peer-review journals. Most of these books have small market potential, although a few become hits--at least, wihtin the disciplines they represent.

For the most part, print runs of these books are small and, once they're sold out, the books become rare books, difficult to find through book sellers and, sometimes, libraries.

Well, in a report on recent sales figures in the academic publishing industry (mostly represented by university presses) for the website Inside Higher Ed, Steve Kolowich reported that, although sales of print books are down, sales of electronic books have substantially risen since the first of the year.

For some presses, the rise has been as high as 1000 percent (from about 1.6 to nearly 11 percent of sales). Others have seen more modest gains.

The growth in e-book sales has two unqiue characteristics:

  • Most of the sales are for back-titles. Backtitles are books that are no longer available in print.

  • Most of the sales have occurred despite next to no marketing. In other words, readers are finding these books on their own.

Kolowich speculates that these results have implications for the marketing of e-books, which probably involve substantially different marketing schemes that used for printed books. As Kolowich notes, big displays of cardboard cut-out characters probably have no place in the marketing of e-books.

Case 3: New Online Course Packs

Two University of Chicago students realized that they were paying for something they had already bought--the readings in their course packs.

Students essentially pay three times for those readings. They pay twice for the readings in the course pack:

  • A per-page royalty for each reading, which goes to the publisher (at my university, they cited $C .21 per page)
  • A copying fee of about $C .05 pe page
    (plus Markup)

In addition, the student fees that students pay with their tuition also entitles them to an online copy of the same content through their university libraries.

Put in practical terms, students might spend as much as $C 6.00 for a 20-page article in print through a coursepack, when they could download it themselves from their university library (no additional cost) and print it on their own printers (let's say it's $.03/page) for a total cost of $C .60 for the same 20-page article (a savings of 90 percent).

That's one of the reasons I no longer provide course packs and just indicate to students that the article is available in the library and point them in the right direction. The other reason I do that is to help students become familiar and comfortable with the online library resources. Most of the students in one of my courses are first-time graduate students and, by directing them to the library weekly, I hope that the online journals become their first source of content and that the students become equally comfortable with peer-reviewed journals as a key, trusted source of information.

But I digress. The two University of Chicago students came to the same realization. But they also recognized that many students like the conveninece of a course pack.

So they devised an alternative--an online course pack, which Ben Weider describes in a recent posting on the Wired Campus blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education online.
The two students compile the readings for a course into a single online source.

And, in an innovation that could have positive impacts on education, the students who run the service also let professors who teach similar courses see one anothers' course packs so they can compare readings and, ideally, share the ideas.

The two students wondered whether their idea was legal and consulted a number of attorneys. The attorneys seem to believe that the students have not broken any laws.

Right now, the idea has received some funding and its business potential is being explored. Assuming that it succeeds, the coursepack could be reinvented for the electronic age.

Some Thoughts on What this Means

As both of these cases suggest, e-books show promise in non-fiction categories, both for periodicals and books.

But both cases also suggest that publishers need to do more work in re-conceiving of the ways in which people kinteract with print and electronic publications, and the means of marketing to potential readers.

These human processes take time--perhaps more time than was needed to develop the e-book readers.

And these are just two cases. I believe they signal something, but time might suggest otherwise.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

e-Books: The Hottest Infant on the Market?

e-Books grows in interest among professional communicators and instructional designers.

  • Several sessions at the most recent Society for Technical Communication Summit addressed the topic.  
  • Furthermore, the most recent Horizon Report from EduCause and the New Media Consortium names e-Books as a trend that is likely to affect education in the next 12 months.  

But several pieces of evidence suggest that e-books is still in its infancy.

One has to do with hardware and software formats.  They still proliferate. Two broad categories exist and, even within them,  standards compete for supremacy.

Purpose-built e-book readers, such as the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony e-Reader. Each has its own market.  For example, according to the New York Times (published May 22, 2011 at, the Barnes & Noble Nook has a strong appeal to women.

Although many believe that EPUB is the file format used on all e-reader devices, it is not.  In fact, the Kindle does not support it.

Tablets, such as the iPad and Playbook. The iPad has its own proprietary bookstore with iBooks, but the makers of other devices make compatible software for it.  For example, Kindle has an app that works on the iPad, so people can read Kindle books on an iPad.   Similar apps are available for tablets running under Android and Windows.

Another has to do with the definition of an e-book. Some people see the future of electronic books as interactive, multimedia experiences like the demonstration version of Sports Illustrated prepared by Wonderfactory.  Yet despite those images and claims like those by a recent tweeter at the STC Summit that “PDF is not an e-book,” many of the magazines for the Nook are PDF files.  And readers do not appear to be complaining about them.

Perhaps that gap between the potential and what readers are willing to accept can be explained by acceptance issues.  Several research studies suggest that, despite the acknowledged benefits of e-book readers—portability and lower cost of books—readers are still having difficult y giving up printed books.  That includes young readers.

A recent study noted that students believe that tablets will transform college—but most down own one.  And when they have used them, the study found that students had some practical problems, like writing notes in books.  (Chronicle of Higher Education online, ).

Furthermore, business models for e-books are still being defined—and publishers of books have different allegiances than those of magazines.  Publishers of books embraced the iPad and iBooks because Apple was going to charge more for e-books than Amazon, which had insisted on $9.99 for popular titles.

In contrast, magazine  publishers are as frustrated with Apple as book publishers were with Amazon.  Until earlier this year, Apple would not let publishers offer subscriptions.  Even when they do, Apple won’t provide magazines with information on subscribers, which is essential for advertiser-sponsored publications as advertisers demand demographics of the audience to verify that the magazine is helping advertisers reach their intended customers.  In contrast, Barnes & Noble has partnered with magazines in offering subscriptions and provides magazines with data on their subscribers.

The last piece of evidence that, despite the increasing interest in them, e-books remain  in their infancy is the lack of empirical research on them.  Few studies exist and, of those that do, most explore attitudes towards e-books.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Caught My Eye: Yet Another Discussion of the Flawed Millenials

In the past week, I’ve read a few pieces that address the strengths and flaws of millenials.

One was a paper from a master’s student.  Like much work by early researchers, despite the endless flurry of statistics, this one relied  more on emotion than fact in drawing its arguments.  The earnest student cited statistic after statistic to make the case that young people are heavy users of social media.

The student tried to put this into a broader social perspective.  Among the many points raised were that social media lets adolescents interact with strangers online without the knowledge of their parents.

I pointed out that it’s only in the last 20 or 30 years that young people have been housebound and monitored like prisoners.  100 years ago, many 15 and 16 year olds were already married.  Of those who weren’t, many were 1 of 7 or 8 or 10 or 15 children (like my grandparents).  With that many children, parents did simply could not follow the doings of each child the way they can when they have just 1 or 2 children.

This historical perspective is what seems to get lost in all of these discussions about Millenials.

One important part of the historical perspective is that we tend to forget that nearly every emerging generation in the past 100 years has been decried for one reason or another.

In her essay, A Generation of Slackers? Not So Much (, New York Times, May 28, 2011), Catherine Rampell notes that
It’s worth remembering that to some extent, these accusations of laziness and narcissism in “kids these days” are nothing new — they’ve been levied against Generation X, Baby Boomers and many generations before them. Even Aristotle and Plato were said to have expressed similar feelings about the slacker youth of their times. 
In other words, one of the issues that is often lost in our quickness to judge the rising generation is the historical perspective.  This perspective could balance conclusions in several ways:

  • Placing the family situation of young people into the larger perspective of time.  Some of the issues that people raise are unique to this generation.  Consider parents’ involvement with their adolescents.  Parents always loved their adolescents but, as a  result of several generations of slow change as well as longer education cycles, longer life spans, and smaller families, they are playing a guardian role longer than in the past and often with more attentiveness to this role.  So role-based expectations have also shifted.  What parents expect to know about their Millenial children might differ from what parents expected to know about their Boomer and Generation X children, much less what parents expected to know about their Depression-era children.  
  • Placing social phenomena attributed to the current generation into the larger perspective of time.  For example, an applicant for a degree program once said that we had a responsibility to study educational technology because of all the social phenomena affecting children.  I asked which phenomena.  She first mentioned crime—“there’s so much crime these days.”  But crime rates in the past decade have been far lower than those 20 to 40 years ago.  Perhaps the perception of crime is high but that’s not the same as actual physical threats.  

Somehow, the discussions about Millenials seems to lack this type of perspective.  The truth is:

  • Growing up always has its struggles.  What differs across time and people is what each person struggled with.  
  • Part of those struggles arise from the times in which the young people were born and raised.  Some were born and raised in hard times; others during years of relative peace and prosperity.  This has a general effect on people because it establishes some of the social norms and values that guide people the rest of their lives.
  • Some of those struggles have nothing to do with the times; they have everything to do with the individual circumstances.  Some people grew up in relatively comfortable home situations (define comfort however you choose); others had difficult circumstances (define difficult however you choose, too).   This happened  in every generation until now and is likely to continue in every generation to come.  
  • Young people tend to have a higher level of comfort adopting new technologies (though this is not universal).  In this generation, it’s social media.  In previous generations, it was AOL Instant Messenger, personal computers in general and even telephones.  Yet no matter how strong the presumed attachment of the young people to these technologies, the technologies are only a part of their lives.  They do not define them.

So many people who write and research generational issues seem to lose this perspective.

Certainly journalists should write about young people and researchers should study them.  How young people adopt technology could affect the way that people use it tomorrow.

But more than technology (which is what I study) or attitudinal issues of millenials, the primary reason that journalists should write about Millenials and resesarchers should study them is that we apparently have forgotten the experience ourselves as we have aged.

And perhaps it’s that lack of empathy that prevents us from embracing Millenials.  Rampell suggested this at the beginning of her essay:
YOU’D think there would be a little sympathy. This month, college graduates are jumping into the job market, only to land on their parents’ couches: the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is a whopping 17.6 percent.
The reaction from many older Americans? This generation had it coming.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Toronto this Week, New York Next

Perhaps you can make one of these presentations.

Toronto--this Wednesday, June 8

Presenting Informal Learning and You: 10 Issues and Technologies to Consider, to:

Toronto chapter of the Canadian Society for Training and Development

6-8:30 pm

CMC - Canadian Management Centre

150 York Street

5th Floor

To register and see a complete session description, visit the event page.

New York--next Thursday, June 16

Presenting an afternoon workshop and a dinner speech to the Metro New York chapter of the Society for Techncial Communication.

  • The afternoon workshop, Tips for Internally Marketing your Communication Services , is scheduled 1:30 - 5 pm.
  • The evening presentation (and start-of-summer social), Lessons for Technical Communicators and Trainers from Cancellations of "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," is scheduled 5-8:30 pm (no--I'm not speaking the entire time :))

RSVP a must.

The event venue is:

Thomson Reuters

195 Broadway/Fulton

New York, NY 10007

To register and see some speculation about what I'll be saying in the evening, visit the event page.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Caught My Eye: A Plateful of Healthy Eating

For those of you interested in communication about diet and health (especially of the visual kind):  The U.S. government has unveiled the replacement to its food pyramid: a dinner plate.

Both the pyramid and its replacement, the plate, are supposed to provide a visual representation to guide healthy eating.

Given the high levels of obesity in the U.S., the pyramid wasn’t doing its job.  According to the New York Times article, Goodbye Food Pyramid, Hello Dinner Plate,  (, the pyramid “basically conveys no useful information.”

Originally intended to communicate the building blocks of healthy eating by showing food groups in horizontal bands in roughly some relation to the proportions in which people should eat them, the pyramid was reworked before its first introduction to address concerns by the dairy and meat industries that it under-represented those types of foods (as was the intention).

Later, the proportional horizontal bars were replaced by vertical ones that present all food groups on an equal footing (which diet experts say, they’re not).

The replacement image, a plate, is like a pie chart (the pie reference is not intended as a dietary suggestion) that roughly shows foods in the proportions that people should eat them.

Check it out for yourself.  

As a professional communicator, I empathize with the challenge facing the people who designed the plate: how to clearly convey useful technical information while acknowledging some difficult political choices.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Dose of Reality

Dear Class of 2011:

I am here to congratulate you for your success. It is real, it demonstrates initiative, and it automatically puts you ahead of the 30 per cent who do not graduate high school.
I am also here to disabuse you of, and apologize for, some notions that adults have seeded in your minds.

Despite the constant repetition to the contrary, you cannot be anything you want; you cannot necessarily follow your dreams. Unfortunately, some paths are blocked.

Although it might not sound like it at first, retired high school principal offers high school graduates some realistic, yet hopeful, advice for the future.

In doing so, he separates fact from widely held—but not necessarily substantiated—beliefs.

Check out “For 2011 high school grads, some sobering advice” at:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

First Target Canada Sites Announced

Target announced the locations of its first stores in Canada today.

19 are in Quebec including one at Place Alexis Nihon. I expect to get a lot of exercise walking the kilometre between my office and that mall. Fortunately, the Metro station is just a few steps from the store, so I'll have help carrying my packages home.

For a complete list of stores:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Textbooks to Train Your Staff

On my blog for technical communication and training managers, I've posted some thoughts about books to train new technical communicators.

Check out the list at

And please feel free to contribute additions to the list.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Announcing Associate Editors for IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

I am pleased to announce that the following people will serve as Associate Editors of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.  

Joining as Associate Editor-in-Chief, a new position, is Constance Kampf, an associate professor with the Aarhus School of Business at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark.  Kampf will oversee the ongoing sections of the journal as well as special issues.  

Returning as Associate Editor for Teaching Cases and Tutorials is Nicole Amare, an associate professor at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, USA. 

Returning as Associate Editor for Book Reviews is consultant, Tiffany Craft Portewig, from Texas, USA.

And serving as Associate Editor for Special Projects is Jo Mackiewicz, an associate professor at Auburn  University in Auburn, Alabama, USA, and the outgoing editor-in-chief of the Transactions. 

I expect to name two more Associate Editors by mid-year, so stay tuned for announcements. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Check out my other blog

I have a blog that specifically explores Managing Training and Technical Communication Groups.

It was created to continue the discussions of basic principles and practices in people, project, and business management for training and technical communication groups from my academic course, Administration of Educational Technology Units, and professional courses, Training Manager Certificate Program, Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program, and the upcoming workshop on writing business cases.

Some recent posts:

  • Employment Issues and Keith Olberman's Firing (Do I get political? The only way to find out is to check it out)
  • Can Bosses Be Friends?

Visit the blog at Managing Training and Technical Communication Groups

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Guide to Transferable Credentials--and a Certification Decoder--for Trainers

From Training magazine online:
Thinking about certifying as a training and development professional? You certainly have many choices. U.S.-based professionals can choose among the CPLP, CPT, and CTT and those living in Canada have national certifications.
In addition to spelling out those acronyms, this article identifies the certifications available to training and development professionals. But first, it places certification within the broader scope of external credentials, and describes the role of transferable credentials in attesting to the qualifications of training and development professionals.
Check out the entire article at

Recent News about Higher Education that Caught My Eye

Three themes unite news that I've recently read about higher education.

The first is for-profit colleges and universities.  They've been in the news because the U.S.   The U.S. Department of Education placed restrictions on the programs for which it will underwrite student loans.   The qualifying criteria are the percentage of graduates who are able to pay down the principal on their student loans and the ability of those students to get jobs that will allow them to pay off the student loans.  The majority of graduates who have difficulty repaying their student loans come from programs that do not meet these criteriap--and the majority of the schools offering those programs are for-profit colleges and universities.

Some successful American attorneys who recently asked me about my opinions on the situation, felt that the regulations limit student choice, ultimately amounting to government control of educational choice.
I didn't respond that the government controls choice by which programs it funds and whicih ones it doesn't (an issue for all Canadian universities, and many public universities in the U.S.).

More significantly, why should the government underwrite loans students won't be able to afford? The attorneys with whom I was speaking said that the conditions leading to the mortgage crisis of 2008 had already established a precedent and implied that was OK.

But is it OK?  Most students only make the choice about attending college once, maybe twice.  Most are not as fully informed in making this decision as might be preferred.  So it's not surprising that stories frequently appear in the news that report on recruiting practices by for-profit colleges that target particularly vulnerable populations or steer applicants to programs  that are not likely to lead to success (such as telling convicted felons that they have futures in criminology and education, where the majority of jobs require a clean record).

If the promise is that higher education in a professional discipline is going to lead to gainful employment and taking out a student loan is great investment in one's own future, shouldn't some checks exist in the system to make sure that colleges can actually meet these claims?

To learn more about the new regulations on student loans that affect for-profit colleges and universities, check out the New York Times article, Rifts Show at Hearing on For-Profit Colleges by Tamar Lewin, at

To learn about the types of practices that led to these types of regulations, check out Profits and Scrutiny for Colleges Courting Veterans by Eric Lipton at

And to find out what's at stake, consider John Philpott's argument that the number of graduates might exceed actual needs, at  Philpott is not alone in arguing that higher education should not be the automatic choice for students; it's a question that Anya Kamenetz frequently raises in her book DIY U.

The second theme is the assessment of the performance of university professors.  Simon Head's  The Grim Threat to British Universities, from the January 13, 2011 New York Review of Books, (, is ostensibly a review of  the 2006-2011 strategic plan of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the books, The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers by Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein and Academic Capitalism and the New Economy by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades.

Head explores the impact of the introduction of performance metrics into the higher education system of the UK and their origin in American consulting firms.  Head warns that such a system could eventually find its way to other higher education systems, including the U.S.

Head objects to such systems, commenting that
The British universities, Oxford and Cambridge included, are under siege from a system of state control that is undermining the one thing upon which their worldwide reputation depends: the caliber of their scholarship. The theories and practices that are driving this assault are mostly American in origin, conceived in American business schools and management consulting firms. They are frequently embedded in intensive management systems that make use of information technology (IT) marketed by corporations such as IBM, Oracle, and SAP. They are then sold to clients such as the UK government and its bureaucracies, including the universities. This alliance between the public and private sector has become a threat to academic freedom in the UK, and a warning to the American academy about how its own freedoms can be threatened.

The theme is a timely one as my own employer considers instituing its own system of performance metrics.  On the one hand, no system of metrics is flawless.  On the other hand, systems that track activity and results often provides useful insights into effectiveness and impact.

Consider this example.  

Suppose I weigh myself with all of my clothes on, with keys and a lot of change in my pockets and my heaviest boots on.  My weight will admittedly be higher than it might be if I stepped on the scales without clothes.  But if I had gained more than 5 pounds, I'd still have a hard time arguing that I had gained weight.

By the same token, suppose I had published just one peer reviewed article in the past 2 years, had not generated any research funding, had not participated in any committees, and had lousy teaching evaluations.  I could probably quibble with the numbers but the reality remains the same: my performance would be something short of what's expected for a university professor.

Over the years, I've observed as many organizations have introduced evaluation systems. Some organizations introduce evaluation systems with great fanfare then ignore them.  Other organizations introduce evaluation systems with promises that poor performance won't be used against the people and organizations evaluated, then go and use poor performance against them anyway.  And in a few situations, organizations use evaluation as a tool for continuous improvement.

Fearing that the evaluation systems will be used against them, some advocate actively resisting the evaluation process.  It's an understandable fear; indeed, many people have lived it.

But if the same people aspire to greater things, then they must embrace the  evaluation process all the same, because it's the only means of finding out if the individual or organization is actually making progress against these greater goals.  Flawed or not, the evaluation can help people figure out what's working and what isn't working, so they can effectively focus their efforts at improvement.

The last theme in articles that have recently caught my eyes is learning (a surprising topic for higher education, I know).

  • As the behaviorist - constructivist battles continue to rage, comes a piece of evidence that will probably boost the behaviorist camp.  In a controlled experiment, published in the journal Science,  students who studied for a recall test (the behaviorist model) were able to retain more information from the same message that students who used concept maps (a constructivist learning tool), studied repeatedly, or were assigned to a control group.  Check out the abstract of the original article at  and reaction in a New York Times article at l. 
  • As evidence continues to mount about grade inflation, some universities are trying to address the problem.  In A Quest to Explain What Grades Really Mean, New York Times reporter Tamar Lewin describes some of the many attempts by universities in the U.S.  Some have instituted targets for the percentages of As and Bs that professors can assign,  Others won't do that, but will try to put grades in context for those who review transcripts, providing information such as the average; a high grade could lose some of its lustre if the reviewer learns that an A was the average grade in the class.  (Of course, that assumes that people reading the transcripts are really reading them closely.)  See the entire article at

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Upcoming Presentations During the First Half of 2011

Following are the presentations that I am scheduled to give in the first half of 2011.
They tend to focus in three areas:
  • Specific issues and techniques in instructional and information design
  • Issues in the business and management skills of groups that design and develop learning and communication materials for the workplace
  • Reports of my recent research

Slides for these presentations are typically available through the Concordia University repository about 10 working days after a presentation. Slides and papers for older presentations are currently available.
Presentation Event Location Date
Spending on Training Stuck in Neutral Training 2011 San Diego, California February 5-6, 2011
An Integrative Review of Literature on Perceptions of Training Held by Clients (with Colleen Bernard) Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Bridging Research and Practice: An Interim Report on 5 Pilot Projects Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Certification and the Branding of HRD Academy of Human Resource Development Research Conference in the Americas Schaumberg, Illinois February 23-26, 2011
Research-Validated Practices for Designing Effective e-Learning The User Assistance Conference by WritersUA Long Beach, California March 13, 2011
Eight Design Lessons We Can Learn from Museums Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 23, 2011
Out of Range or Out of Touch: Verifying that the Development Staff Has Up-to-Date Skills Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 24, 2011
Is Informal Learning Right for You? Ten Issues and Technologies to Consider Learning Solutions Conference of the e-Learning Guild Orlando, Florida March 23, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking e-Learning Program Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Annual Conference Chicago, Illinois April 12, 2011
Profession Building: What the Peer-Reviewed Literature Tells Us (with Nancy Coppola) Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 15-18, 2011
Narratives Over Numbers: Why Qualitative Research Is Essential (with Jamie Conklin, George Hayhoe, Hillary Hart, and Menno de Jong) Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 15-18, 2011
Informal Learning and You: 10 Issues and Technologies to Consider American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Exposition Orlando, Florida May 21, 2011
Visions of TechComm 2.0 Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Upcoming Workshops

Following are the workshops that I am scheduled to teach in the first half of 2011.
Several develop skills in instructional and information design; the others develop business and management skills for instructional and information designers.


Workshop Event Location Date
Advanced Design for e-Learning Certificate Program Training 2011 San Diego, California February 5-6, 2011
Writing Engaging eLearning Exercises and Test Questions The User Assistance Conference by WritersUA Long Beach, California March 13, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking e-Learning Program Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Annual Conference Chicago, Illinois April 12, 2011
Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program Society for Technical Communication Annual Summit Sacramento, California May 14-15, 2011
Developing the Business Case for a Major Project American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Exposition Orlando, Florida May 21, 2011
Following Form: 13 Real-World Insights for Template-Based Writing Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011
Additional Half-Day Workshop Metro New York chapter of the Society for Technical Communication New York, New York June 16, 2011
Technical Communication Manager Certificate Program Online Education by the Society for Technical Communication Online TBD

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Starting Term as Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

Effective January 1, I have started my term as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.

I'm excited about working with this journal, which in its half century of publication, has earned its place as one of the leading journals in the field of professional and technical communication.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Transactions, it publishes original, empirical research (that is, research that collects data first-hand, and reports that research in a way that others can replicate the studies).

The Transactions is still focused on research typically addresses one of these contexts:

·         The communication practices of technical professionals, such as engineers and scientists
·         The practices of professional communicators who work in technical or business environments
·         Research-based methods for teaching and practicing professional communication

The Transactions is specifically looking for articles presenting research on these topics:
·         Communications technologies and their impact on the workplace, such as the impacts of content management systems, social media, electronic books, intelligent agents and similar technologies
·         Design, techniques and readability of communication materials in various media, such as the design of web-based materials, online help, printed and electronic books, user interfaces, and live presentations
·         Design, techniques, and impact of communications materials in various genres, such as technical reports, user assistance, proposals, public relations materials, slide decks for presentations, and engineering specifications 
·         Management of groups that produce professional and technical communication materials
·         Social impact of communications and related technology to engineering efforts
·         Reports on the effectiveness and limitations of research methodologies used to study these issues

The Transactions will continue to publish teaching cases, tutorials, and book reviews. 

The research submitted for consideration might have been conducted using:
·         Quantitative methodologies, including experimental and survey-based studies
·         Qualitative methodologies, including action research, design research, ethnographies, case studies, interview-based studies, and usability test results
·         Critical methodologies, including discourse analysis and integrative literature reviews.

Primary readers include:
·         Professional and technical communicators, including corporate communicators, editors, linguists, technical writers, translation specialists, and visual communicators (graphic designers and illustrators)
·         Engineers, scientists and other technical professionals who communicate as part of their job, such as consulting engineers, technical authors, and technology-transfer specialists
·         University instructors who include professional communication as part or all of their courses

If you're interested in learning more or want to discuss an idea for an article, please contact me.