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Melanie McFadyen

Welcome Back!

Posted by Melanie McFadyen Aug 23, 2018

While it may be too early to start eating pumpkin-shaped candies or drinking pumpkin-spiced lattes, the inevitable truth is that summer is once again ending. Of course, that's exciting in itself, as it means fall is on the way - and a new school year with it!

 

 

This year, Macmillan is welcoming the new academic year with a series of back-to-school blog posts written specially by our authors. Each Thursday over the next few weeks, we'll have a new blog to help you start the semester off right - including tips for keeping students engaged, trends to discuss in class this fall, and more. We'll also have another message from our team announcing the addition of GIFTs, our professional resource to help you better communicate in the classroom, to our community site.

 

Be sure to stay tuned over the next month! You can get notifications of our new blogs to your email by clicking the "Follow" button in the right-hand corner of the page. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the rest of the summer, and have a wonderful start to the new academic year!

 

Sincerely,

The Communication Team

Macmillan Learning

Last month, Macmillan Learning welcomed to our New York office economist and author Betsey Stevenson to discuss choices, communication, and her time working as the chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor from 2010 to 2011.

 

When I first saw the announcement for Betsey’s talk, “The Power of Communication,” I'll admit I was a little skeptical. What does an economist have to say about the power of communication? Yet as I listened, I found not only that she had a lot to say on choices and communication, but that her words of advice could apply to anyone trying to make solid decisions and get ahead in their respective fields, even if those fields had nothing to do with numbers and data.

 

 

 

Betsey began her talk by highlighting the three key principles she has followed throughout her life and career: 1) have no regrets, 2) communicate, and 3) do your best. These may sound simple and easy enough to follow, but as Betsey could attest to, they're anything but, and will be challenged repeatedly throughout one's career.

 

In Betsey’s case, the first principle, have no regrets, was tested when she had to choose between her ongoing career in academia and accepting an offer from former President Obama to be an economic adviser for the Department of Labor.

 

Thinking like a true economist, she realized that the key to making a choice without regret is to know and understand the costs and weigh them against the benefits. Life is full of risks that we take every day without thinking about it (getting into a car, for example), but it's when the risks are unfamiliar that the choices become harder. As Betsey said, the key to making a choice is to "Make the best decision I can with the information I have at the time." By doing that and carefully weighing the risks, you can make a choice you're comfortable with. Then, regardless of what happens, if you start to feel regret you can remind yourself that you made the best choice you could at the time. Sure, it's not as easy as it sounds, but it's the best way to move forward confidently with your choice, and in Betsey's case, it worked out in her favor, with her enjoying her time as a chief economist and later finding a teaching position at the University of Michigan.

 

After jokingly acknowledging that economists aren’t always the best communicators, Betsey then shared an important tip for communicating: "don't think about you, think about your listener. What do they want, think, and need?" Even if you aren’t the best speaker, if you can think of your audience, emphasize with them, and get in their head, you can communicate effectively. For example, if you start to explain something to someone and they say, “I’ve got it,” stop explaining. They’re telling you that they already understand, and you can both move on in your discussion.

 

Her last bit of advice was to do your best. When making choices and communicating, it’s important to think about the information you have, weigh the costs and benefits, make the best choice you can, and then be adaptable to whatever changes you’ve chosen to make. “Your brain is out to get you,” she said, with psychological traps like procrastination, which you can beat with lists, tiny tasks, tiny rewards, and acknowledging progress being made. Other psychological traps to avoid include overconfidence, assumptions, and not taking the time to process information.

 

As an economist, author, and speaker, Betsey Stevenson gave us some excellent advice during her Macmillan visit, and hopefully this advice can be useful to you throughout your career, and with your students.

 

For more from Betsey, check out her talk, “Making Economics More Inclusive," or her panel on “Economic Empowerment."

Spring is finally here! 

Last January, we promised you a new blog, with posts from instructors like yourself. And with the long-awaited spring, we also have our long-awaited blog!

 

Stock photo of a laptop, mug of coffee, journal and pen, camera, calendar that says "January 2018," and a phone with its calculator open to say "2,020".

Photo obtained from www.twenty20.com 

 

Stay tuned for blog posts on teaching tips and best practices, emerging trends in the field, and more! If you're interested in contributing to our blog, click  the link here. If you know what kind of blogs you'd like to see, let us know by clicking here and filling out our short survey.

 

Keep an eye out for our new posts this month, and have a very happy spring!

 

Sincerely,

The Communication Team

Macmillan Learning

What's Your Love Language?

 

Have you ever received a gift from a friend or romantic partner, only to wish you could spend more time with them instead? Have you ever given someone a hug only to find that physical touch makes them uncomfortable?

 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, that may be due to a predisposition in how we prefer to receive and give love to others. Though this book was originally published in 1995, new editions and online quizzes have ensured that the concept is still highly discussed in academia, friend circles, and (of course) social media.

 

For those unfamiliar with love languages, the theory suggests that there are five main ways in which we show our affection for others, and that we each have a preference for both how we receive affection, and how we give affection.

 

For example, if you enjoy baking cookies for your friends, that doesn't necessarily mean that you want your friends to bake for you in exchange. Instead, you might appreciate having your friends offer to help pick up groceries, or hearing them praise your baking skills. Of course, while your friends might be grateful for the time you took to make them, they might have preferred that you spent that time with them instead.

 

 

These individual preferences can lead to communication problems, especially when we unknowingly prioritize our relationship goals over theirs (#relationshipgoals, anyone?). When you bring your partner out to a nice restaurant, you may consider that a sign of love, but they might be wishing you'd just clean the kitchen instead. 

 

 

Whether or not you subscribe to this theory, it's important to consider the ways in which we express our affection for others, and make sure that we're paying attention to their preferences for how they want to be treated. It's also important to recognize how we want to be treated. Once we recognize and communicate those distinctions, we can ensure that we're giving and receiving love in the ways in which our loved ones - including ourselves - deserve.

 

See below for a list and a brief description of each of the love languages discussed in Chapman's book. Of course, you'll likely enjoy expressions of love in all five categories, but the theory of the five languages is that there are one or two you respond to more than the others, whether or not you realize it right away.

 

Words of Affirmation - Verbal or written communication that encourages, validates, and offers active support and appreciation. Examples: "I love you," "I really admire you," "I'm here for you."

 

Acts of Service - Helpful, thoughtful deeds that show your attention to their needs and your willingness to help ease their burdens.  Examples: Offering to help with their cleaning or cooking, driving, or running errands.

 

Receiving Gifts - The thought, effort, and care that goes into the choosing of a gift can mean a great deal to those receiving it. 

 

 

Quality Time - The act of giving someone your undivided attention (that means not looking at your phone, but at your partner) while talking or participating in an activity together. 

 

Physical Touch Physical touches like hugging, kissing, or even holding hands can prove a powerful way of providing support, attention, and a feeling of togetherness. 

 

 

What do you think of these five love languages? Can you think of other examples of showing someone you care about them? How might understanding another's primary love language help you improve your relationship with them?

 

Whatever your primary and secondary love language, I hope you have a great Valentine's Day!

Melanie McFadyen

NCA 2017 Wrap-Up

Posted by Melanie McFadyen Dec 7, 2017

Last month, a few of our editors flew down from our New York offices to Dallas, Texas, to participate in the 103rd annual conference for the National Communication Association. There, we had the chance to meet with Communication instructors like yourselves, from a variety of courses and institutions. If you were in attendance at this year's NCA and stopped by our booth or chatted with some of our editors, THANK YOU! We had a blast, and hope you did too!

 

For those who couldn't make it this year, see below for some pictures and insights from our editors in attendance:

 

Hellooooooo, Dallas!

 

This year marked the first time the conference was held in Dallas, and the city proved to be a great location for the event! In this commercial and cultural hub, scholars around the country learned a lot from each other as they shared ideas, engaged in civil dialogue, and discussed educational tools and teaching methods.

 

Tony Tasset's Eye (2007), found in downtown Dallas

 

The days of November 16th - 19th were filled with educational panels, meetings of special interest groups, and other exciting programs. If you wandered among the vendors and other book-sellers at the exhibition booths you may have spotted Macmillan's red-and-white banner at our booth, where we had great conversations with instructors about our catalog this year. 


Just look at those lights!

 

And of course, after long days of engaging in scholarly discourse, it was time to party! Bedford/St. Martin's held hteir party at the Midnight Rambler, a gorgeous location perfect for a party of communication experts. It was the perfect even to wrap up the conference and the week!! 

 

Next year's NCA conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 8th - 11th. The theme will be "Communication at Play," which, according to the event's website, "is intentionally and playfully ambigious." We can't wait to see what next year's theme shapes up to be, and hope to see you there! 

 

Did you attend the NCA this year? What were some of the highlights and takeaways for you? Tell us in the comments, or email a brief statement to melanie.mcfadyen@macmillan.com, and I'll add it to the blog!

Oh, I just can't wait to see The Lion King!

 

That's something I would not have said a week ago. I'll admit, I haven't been the biggest fan of Disney's live-action remakes these past few years, mostly because I'm still re-watching the original animated classics, and I'm tired of seeing the same movies again and again (get some new stories, Hollywood!). No matter how great the live action film is, I'm ultimately going to be comparing them to the original classics.

 

Image result for lion king zazu gif

My reaction to hearing that even Winnie the Pooh and Chip n' Dale are getting live-action movies

 

But with Disney's cast announcement released this Wednesday, I can't help but be excited for the upcoming film. See below for a photo of the full cast below: 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have heard what I'm about to say already, but here goes anyway: Beyoncé as Nala! Donald Glover as Simba! John Oliver as Zazu! I'd be freaking out over James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, if it wasn't so clear that he could never be replaced as Mufasa. No one can replace Mufasa (It's been over 20 years, and I'm still not over it).  

 

While this announcement is exciting simply for the incredible amount of talent assembled here, it's also being rightly celebrated for being representative of the film's setting, which is strongly implied to be set in the African savanna. This is in contrast to the 1994 animated movie, which had a majority of white actors voicing characters whose names were in Swahili. Disney has struggled with updating their classics to include more diverse and representative casts, and has been criticized for some of their casting choices for Aladdin and Mulan. The casting announcement has given fans hope that the live-action remake will be not only true to the original film's story, but also more inclusive for children of color. As pointed out in my recent post on the Emmys, the entertainment industry still struggles with diversity and inclusion; like this year's Emmy awards, this is a wonderful step in the right direction.

 

Nina Bradley's article in Bustle points out that "being able to identify with someone that looks and sounds like you on screen plays a critical role in one's growth and validation...the Lion King movie will offer young black children an opportunity to feel that their presence matters." For a new generation of children, this live-action version may be their first introduction to The Lion King, and many children of color will be able to appreciate the story in a much deeper way as they can identify with the characters they see and hear onscreen. The live action movie, expected to hit theaters on July 19, 2019, will not only be more authentic to the story's roots in African heritage, but will show both children and adults how a diverse range of talent can take a beloved classic and make it even better.

 

 

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We've been posting a lot on Media lately, but we haven't forgotten other Communication topics! What would you like to see more of in our blogs? Let us know in the comments! 

 

Banner image source: Have You Seen The Current Cast Of The New “Lion King”? Check Inside! | WADL TV Detroit  

The 2017 Emmy Awards aired a week ago, and as the news turns away from this year’s ceremony, the prevailing theme of highlighting diversity will remain relevant for many award ceremonies to come.

 

Overall, this was a great year for diversity in television, as host Stephen Colbert was quick to point out during his opening monologue, stating “For the third year in a row, this is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history” (2017). To further back up his claim, a montage later in the night showed clips from shows that told diverse and inclusive stories, including Master of None, The Handmaid's Tale, Atlanta, This is Us, and Insecure.

 

In an age of peak television, when there are more scripted shows out and available for streaming than ever before, there’s also a better opportunity for those who have not been previously represented on television to have their stories told. Some of this can be attributed to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which rely less on ratings and therefore have more creative freedom. Other times, such as in the case of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Mindy Kalin’s The Mindy Project, stars who have already established themselves in other shows sometimes have to take matters into their own hands to create the shows that better reflect who they are and what they know.

 

Some of the winners from this diverse group of nominees have done exactly that. Donald Glover became the first black director to win an Emmy for comedy direction for his show Atlanta, and Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win for comedy writing for her episode on Master of None, “Thanksgiving,” which was based on her life growing up as a queer black woman. Other record-breaking winners included Riz Ahmed, the first man of Asian descent to win an acting prize; Sterling K. Brown, the first black actor to win best lead actor since 1998; and Reed Morano, who became the first woman to win for directing in 22 years.

 

Image of Lena Waite with her Emmy Award from www.indiewire.com

Lena Waithe with her Emmy Award. Image from www.indiewire.com

 

These winners are rightfully being celebrated by the television industry and viewers alike, but some industry leaders are skeptical of the self-congratulatory manner in which this year’s diversity was covered, both during and after the show. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Shonda Rhimes said that “it feels embarrassing that we are still in a place in which we have to note these moments…I’m hoping that it’s not a trend. I’m hoping that people don’t feel satisfied because they saw a lot of people win, and then think that we’re done.”

 

It’s certainly true that there’s still a great deal of work to be done. Other critics of this year’s award ceremony pointed out that the pool of nominees and winners were completely devoid of Latino actors, directors, and producers. The only Latino American nominated for an Emmy this year was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live last October (the award went to Alec Baldwin for his guest appearances on the same show).

 

As previously mentioned and as noted by Eliana Dockterman for TIME, the winners who broke records this year all won their awards for work “that dealt explicitly with issues of identity. Donald Glover, who won…for his show Atlanta, has said that he wanted to…share the black experience with the world. Lena Waithe…took home the trophy for an episode about her character coming out to her family.” While these are important stories that deserve to be told and should continue to be told, it should also be normal for marginalized actors to win awards for their talent alone, and not just on work that directly relates to their personal identities.

 

Of course, as television leads the charge in offering diverse stories and then celebrating those stories, it’s wonderful for marginalized groups to finally have a chance to share their points of view with the world. During her acceptance speech, Lena Waithe thanked Netflix and Universal “for creating a different playground for us to play on and shine,” and added that, “the things that make us different, those are our superpowers.”

 

 Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award

Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award. Image from www.eonline.com

 

While presenting the award for Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Riz Ahmed called attention to the importance of giving women more opportunities to tell their stories, as “Time and again we see how the stories we tell are often skewed in favor of the male perspective. When this happens we miss out on an opportunity to let our best talent shine.”

 

Overall, the diversity in this year’s Emmy Awards is a wonderful step forward but, as Shonda Rhimes pointed out, the work isn’t over yet. Now that the Academy has rightfully celebrated the progress it’s made so far, it’s up to the entire television industry to keep up the momentum, because diverse television makes for really great television.

 

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Students will be arriving back on campus over the next few weeks, and many will be coming in to the 2017 - 2018 school year with thoughts and questions about distressing recent events in national and local news. One way to help students process these events is to discuss them as a group in class. While it can be daunting to bring hot-button topics into the class environment, chances are high that these topics are already weighing on students’ minds and students will want to talk about them. Allowing students to express their thoughts and questions among their peers will help them develop the skills they will need to participate in ongoing discussions and debate outside of class.

 

These conversations also present an opportunity for students to practice their media literacy and research skills, which will lead to more informed discussions with fact-based support. Leaders of The Choices Program, an educational nonprofit at Brown University, note that tying curriculum to current events “prepares students to become more informed and engaged citizens.” By sharing their personal experiences and stories, these conversations also have the potential to help students recognize how these issues impact people from different racial, economic, and social backgrounds. That being said, it can still be a challenge for instructors to begin such discussions in the classroom – here are some suggestions for getting started.

 

Prepare students for the discussion beforehand.

 

Despite these clear benefits to discussing current topics in the classroom, it is also important to remember that these issues will impact students in different ways. If you suspect a student might have a particularly strong emotional response to the topic, talk with them and help them prepare for it beforehand (or give them the chance to opt out). Another approach would be to inform all students of the upcoming discussion beforehand, so that concerned students may discuss it with you privately. This tactic also gives students the opportunity to research the topic beforehand, so that they may practice finding reputable sources and using those sources to support their viewpoints. Consider asking students to write down what they know and what questions they have beforehand, so that their responses might help you decide how to frame the conversation.

 

Create a safe, supportive, and respectful classroom environment.

 

For any conversations on an uncomfortable topic, it is imperative that all students feel that their thoughts and feelings are respected, and that they have an equal chance to share. On the day of the discussion, have the class create a set of ground rules that will allow them to share their perspectives without fear of judgment, interruption, or rebuke. Examples of potential ground rules include “One mic” (one person at a time), “I statements” (saying “I feel that” instead of “You’re wrong because”), and “Step up step back” (pay attention to how much space you’re taking up in the conversation and adjust as necessary). Once the students have agreed to the ground rules, ensure that they remember to uphold these rules, and address any violations immediately. In the article “10 Ways to Talk to Students About Sensitive Issues in the News,” Jinnie Spiegler from The Learning Network recommends that instructors encourage students to talk openly about their feelings in the discussion, and to occasionally check the emotional “temperature” of the room. These talks can become very personal and cause intense emotional reactions, which can be helped with a safe, open, and respectful classroom environment.

 

Determine your role and prepare accordingly.

 

Many instructors struggle with the ethics of sharing their own personal and political beliefs with their students, especially during group discussions. Therefore, some might decide not to participate in the conversation at all. Others might play the role of a moderator, facilitating while not participating in the discussion. A moderator has the ability to steer the conversation away from off-topic threads, remind students to keep the conversation respectful, and make sure that the discussion is productive with equal chances for all to contribute. Some might choose to answer questions as they come up or clarify misconceptions when necessary, and some will participate fully in the dialogue. Regardless of the role you choose to play, it is important to research the topic fully beforehand so that you can participate, respond, or clarify if needed. Instructors are not immune to these topics and may have an emotional response of their own; if you feel that you might have such a reaction, prepare yourself beforehand in the same way that you might help a concerned student prepare. Along with the links posted at the bottom, there are various resources available either in print or online to help you with these types of discussions. Finally, remember that while these conversations are uncomfortable, by addressing them head-on, your students will be better prepared to engage in public conversations going forward, and may even start to challenge their own biases and assumptions as a result.

 

Questions: How do you teach current events in the classroom? Do you host a group discussion, create lectures, or show news clips or other videos?

 

Resources

10 Ways to Talk to Students about Sensitive Issues in the News

Uncomfortable Conversations: Tools to Teach Current Events and Controversial Issues

 

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Whether or not you watch Game of Thrones, you probably already know that the seventh season of the action-packed fantasy returned last month (to record-breaking ratings, no less). Maybe your friends held a viewing party, or posted about it on social media, or slipped “Winter is coming” somewhere into a recent conversation. Even if you’re behind on the show (three seasons behind, in my case), it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait long before the events of the current season come to your attention (curse you, spoilers!).

 

In an age where countless varieties of television shows are available for your entertainment in a growing array of mediums – like Netflix, DVR, and various online streaming platforms – it’s rare to find one single show that captures such massive appeal and has an audience dedicated enough to tune in every week. Game of Thrones manages both, drawing in 16.1 million total viewers for the seventh season premiere, which includes 10.1 million who watched on the linear channel as the show aired (Variety). While not the only example of “consensus” or “appointment-viewing” television left, it is currently the strongest, growing in its last few seasons while other examples Scandal and The Walking Dead have seen viewership drop off (TIME).

 

Why, then, has Thrones been able to command not just viewers’ attention, but also their Sunday nights? Is it just the merit of the show itself, or is there a social aspect to it as well?

 

Game of Thrones is a prime example of communal TV - shows most enjoyed when we share them with others. Methods of sharing a TV viewing experience include physical watch parties or social media shares - Thrones fans use both.

 

In fact, so many people participate in Game of Thrones parties that The New York Times recently published an article asking “How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’?”. Reactions from fans were mixed, preferring either total silence, some chatter during unimportant or dialogue-light scenes, and free talking throughout. Some fans need to fully immerse themselves in the show by watching it alone first, and others need to watch with others so that they can ask questions when they lose track of the plot. Fans from both sides cited “the shared experience” as part of their rationale, so which is it? Does the shared experience refer to quietly watching a show as a group, or does it mean talking as a group while watching a television show?

 

If you prefer to watch alone, you can still participate in the communal viewing experience through social media. Here, fans can share their opinions, reactions, and thoughts on the show without having others physically present. In an attempt to increase ratings, many shows have started to encourage (spoiler-free) live-blogging and live-tweeting by having cast and crew members participate. With Game of Thrones, it feels inevitable that as soon as an episode airs, the internet will become a minefield of spoilers for anyone who dares to watch the show later.

 

And that, in part, explains why Game of Thrones is one of the last appointment-viewing shows on television. Because of the communal experience, fans are all but required to view the show each Sunday night when it airs, either because they have agreed to watch with someone else or because they want to avoid having the episode spoiled ahead of time. While spoilers are difficult to avoid for most television shows, it’s particularly risky with Game of Thrones, where dramatic plot twists and power plays are infinitely more enjoyable to fans who didn’t see them coming.

 

                  

Spoilers on Game of Thrones are so hard to avoid that Stephen Colbert introduced the “Spoiler-Proof Bucket” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. All you have to do is wear it on your head and you’ll be spoiler-free! (Image from www.cbs.com)

 

Overall, Game of Thrones is a fun show to watch with others – either electronically or in person – for a variety of reasons. With a large cast of characters to root for (or against), the frequent plot twists and shifting power dynamics compel viewers to tune in week-to-week. As someone planning to catch up to the show this month (to join a viewing party, of course), all I can say is: winter is coming, and it’s bringing communal television back with it.

 

Questions:

  •     Do you watch Game of Thrones? If so, how do you watch it? Alone, with a group? Do you post your thoughts on social media?
  •     How do you think the communal viewing experience differs from the individual viewing experiences? Does it increase your enjoyment of the show, or decrease it?

 

 

 

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere Shatters HBO Ratings Records | Variety 

Game of Thrones' New Finale Record Proves It's Consensus TV | Time.com  

How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’? Fans Disagree - The New York Times