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More often than not, college students are completely overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to complete. They often have lengthy lists of tasks they have to do from professors who seem to love to pack on the workload. Although this may be a generalization, the majority of students are exceptional procrastinators and will take the easiest way out when doing their work, trying to get the least amount of work done in the shortest amount of time. Students try to balance their academic studies with their social lives and sometimes the latter trumps the former.


A lot of times students start the semester off strong: being on top of their assignments, up-to-date with readings and reassuring themselves that this semester will be different from the last. They tell themselves that they’ll continue to be organized, study for exams, and get projects finished on time. By the middle of the semester, professors’ assignments are more frequent and students are suddenly faced with a daunting list of time-sensitive tasks to complete. This is the point when some students give up and start showing serious signs of sleep deprivation, procrastination, and overwhelming anxiety. Things like Netflix or going out to a party easily distract students and sometimes hinder their productivity. At the end of the semester, all hell breaks loose. Students are especially sluggish and seriously slacking with their work, and they may start scrambling to recover their grade in a class.


Many different factors influence whether or not students will be motivated to do work for a class. Most factors are situational: where they go to school, what professors they have, their upbringing, their economic background, and the state of their mental health and so on. Every student is different in how they work best. As stated earlier, some are great at time management and others are better at procrastinating, or some are a mix of the two. In the fall of 2016, the American College Health Association conducted a survey of over 30,000 university students that measured their physical and mental health. One specific section of the report found the biggest factors students reported that affected their individual academic performance within the past 12 months. 32.2% of students reported that stress was the biggest factor in their academic performance, followed by anxiety at 24.9%, sleep difficulties at 20.6%, and depression at 15.4%.

To ease students of their stresses, professors can take simple steps to encourage students to be more motivated in and out of class. As a college student myself, I find that when professors exercise these techniques, I, along with other students, are more likely to be interested in the class as well as more willing to work to receive a good grade. Some specific practices include:

  • Inform students on the value of a college education. A lot of students view college as something they have to do because their parents expect them to, rather than a time to be as invested as possible in their education.
  • Get to know your students. Students often need to be told what to do and need significant guidance during college. Giving students the opportunity to have a relationship with their professor is often extremely beneficial. Students are more comfortable to ask questions and are more motivated to excel in a class. Be flexible with office hours times and always be available to be reached by students.
  • Get students engaged in class by having class discussions frequently. If students are comfortable to speak in class, they will actually enjoy coming to class, participating, and being friends with other students.
  • Keep the information during lectures current by relating the topic to students’ lives. References to media and pop culture spark students’ interests and are easily identifiable for them. The more interesting the topic is to the student, the more they will want to learn about it.
  • Give students an incentive to do well. Giving them a participation grade, extra credit opportunities, or reward for a job well done will make the students appreciate you and motivate them to do well.
  • Treat all students equally. Students pick up on a professor who favors certain students and can dislike them for that reason, making them care less about the class.
  • Ask students for feedback on the teaching techniques that work and the ones that don’t. Give students choices on project and paper topics. If the topic interests them, the more likely it is that they will do well when graded.
  • For more tips on motivating students click here.



About the Author 

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.

Throughout our lives, we meet many different people, each with different personalities. Sometimes we get along with people and are able to communicate well with them, while other times we don’t. Have you ever wondered why?


One of the biggest factors influencing our connection to other people is our personality. According to the American Psychological Association, personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.” It is clear by now that understanding who we are and how we perceive ourselves is crucial to interpersonal communication. Having greater insight into why we do the things we do and what personality type we are can improve the way we effectively communicate.


With the internet right at our fingertips, there are endless ways to dissect who we are and what personality we have. Facebook and Buzzfeed quizzes pop up every time we scroll and tempt us to find out which Friends character we are, what type of wine we are, or which ninja turtle we are by taking a pizza quiz. Some of the quizzes are simply for entertainment’s sake, while others can actually give us interesting feedback. In the world of psychology, there are personality tests that are backed by research and have taken years to perfect by highly respected individuals in the field. Some of the more well-known tests include, the Myers-Briggs type indicator test, the Rorschach inkblot test, and the Thematic Appereception Test.


One of the most trusted tests is the Big Five Personality test, based on the Five Factor Model of personality, which is the most widely accepted theory of personality today. The test consists of 50 questions, asking questions such as do you make friends easily or do you carry out your plans. At the end, you receive a score that measures a low, average, or high level of five traits:  

  • Openness to experience: Describes how open you are to think in complex, abstract, and creative ways. This measures how intellectually curious you are.
  • Conscientiousness: This trait describes a person’s ability for self-discipline and tendency to aim for goals.
  • Extraversion: This refers to a person’s inclination to seek stimulation from the outside world and from the company of others. It also describes a person’s degree of talkativeness, assertiveness, and sociability.
  • Agreeableness: This trait is used to describe how compassionate, kind, and cooperative a person is while interacting with others.
  • Neuroticism: Neuroticism is the likelihood a person is to feel negative emotions, including anger, sadness, and anxiety. This trait measures a person’s emotional stability and their ability to control the negative emotions they experience.


You might be asking yourself, how can the measure of these five traits determine how well we communicate? Those traits can influence the ways we communicate with others. Someone highly open to experience is probably someone who is always coming up with new ideas and isn’t afraid to share them with others. People who are highly conscientious are usually dependable, hardworking, and cautious. They might communicate well with others because they are honest and not afraid to go after what they want. Those who are highly extraverted exhibit enthusiasm, friendliness, and ambition. Extraverts communicate more easily because they know how to talk to people and are not afraid to tell someone how they feel. People who score high in agreeableness are very kind, compassionate, and sensitive to how others feel. They communicate well because they are very cooperative and typically put others before themselves. Neuroticism, the last of five factors, is the hardest to measure. Most people experience negative emotions from time to time although it happens more often to some. People who score low in neuroticism usually have a good handle on their emotions, don’t let those emotions cloud their judgment, and don’t let stress take over their lives. On the other hand, people who are highly neurotic can be sometimes unstable and overly reactive. In these instances, these people can be difficult to communicate with due to unpredictability in their words and actions.


Exploring our personalities in depth by taking personality tests can give us insight into who we are. By beginning to understand ourselves and others, we can better understand how we communicate the way we do. Whenever you are in a situation where you are communicating with others, you can be mindful of how the other person is speaking or acting towards you. Whether you know the person well or not, you will be able to gauge what their personality is. From there, you can adapt accordingly to the conversation. If you encounter someone with a personality conflicting with yours, you can try to improve your communication skills by adapting to be sensitive to their personality. If you’ve scored low in agreeableness and want to aim to improve in that area, you can try to be more easygoing when communicating with others and more willing to cooperate. Effective communication in relationships starts with understanding the various aspects of personality and using that knowledge to adapt to day-to-day interactions.


Find out your results by taking the Big Five test here.



About the Author 

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.


Spring in New England is a glorious time.  The ice and snow of winter are finally melting, flowers are poking their heads up, and the population of the city of Boston seems to double as people come out of the woodwork to ride bikes, take walks, cheer on marathon runners, and enjoy the outdoors without having to wear six separate layers of clothing to stay warm.


I fully appreciate the rebirth and energy that comes with the change of seasons, and trust me – I'm going to get out there to experience it soon.  I must admit, however, that I also love spring for a reason that’s a lot less about fresh air and a lot more about couch time: the considerable joys of spring television viewing.  As a self-diagnosed TV junkie, I can officially say that – when it comes to high quality TV – spring is the new fall. 


While many of the network shows are drawing to a close, with finales just around the corner, there are a number of other programs that are just now making their debuts. In particular, I have two cable networks to thank for occupying so much of my time these days: AMC's fascinating character study/Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul is just back for its third season, and FX's thoughtful-yet-brutal spy drama The Americans has returned for its fifth season.  Both of these shows feature top-notch acting and writing, which has led critics like this one and this one to christen them among the best dramas on TV.  (Spoiler alert for these links if you're not caught up to the current season.)  But in addition to overall high quality, both of these shows have internalized an important TV lesson that helps them stay fresh: When it comes to prestige dramas, less can actually be more.  Saul has only 10 episodes per season and The Americans only 13 per season, which keeps the shows humming along.  Before you know it, the run is over and you are left mentally calculating how long it will be until the next anticipated season debuts. 


Image from TV show The Americans

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This "less in more" approach is certainly not unique to these two shows – in fact, when it comes to cable, premium cable, and streaming services, shorter seasons are the new normal.  FX's perfectly pitched Fargo (which also begins this month) is another short and sweet series of just 10 episodes per season, while Netflix's breakout show Stranger Things, an ode to 1980's spine-tinglers, is only eight episodes long.  And juggernaut Games of Thrones (normally another show with an April debut, though its penultimate season has been pushed back to a summer start) usually runs just 10 episodes long.  (The upcoming seventh season will be further truncated, with just seven episodes.)


The power of the short and sweet season is a lesson that all not showrunners have internalized – perhaps to their own detriment.  AMC’s The Walking Dead, for example, just wrapped up its seventh season with a total of 16 episodes. In the grand scheme, 16 episodes is not overly lengthy (the latest seasons of network shows NCIS and The Big Bang Theory had 24 episodes each), but even a few extra episodes can drag a show down and ruin its pacing.  As my husband and I made our way through 6.5 seasons of The Walking Dead – only to abandon it, finally, at the midpoint of season 7 – we found ourselves remarking time and again that certain "filler" episodes felt sluggish, unnecessary, and just downright boring.  Apparently, we were not the only ones who jumped ship, nor were we the only ones to describe a show about the zombie apocalypse – which should have you on the edge of your seat – using the "b" word (big-time spoilers here). We can't help but wonder if the later seasons would have done a better job of holding our attention if the showrunners were more brutal in the editing room.


Meme of The Walking Dead that says "We're Goin' to War, But We're Gonna Talk about It for 3 More Episodes First" 

(Image from:

Of course, just because a show's season is shorter, that doesn't guarantee that it will be good: Though Season 2 of HBO's True Detective ran for only eight episodes, it was considerably less interesting (and less well-acted) than the atmospheric and arresting Season 1 (also eight episodes). Generally, however, when it comes to quality dramas, short and sweet seems to be a step in the right direction. I, for one, am glad to see some of my favorite shows return – and I’m just as glad that they won’t be overstaying their welcome.


Have you found yourself experiencing the joys of spring TV over the last few weeks?  Have your students?  What are the qualities in a TV show that keep audiences coming back for more, and what types of decisions can writers and producers make that ultimately cause ratings to slide and attention spans to wane?  Feel free to share your own thoughts about television viewing in the comments section below, including recommendations for any must-see shows and spring debuts.  Happy watching!



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The latest in the series of Disney’s planned remakes, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast stirred up controversy prior its release over the filmmakers’ revelation that this adaptation would feature a Disney movie’s first “exclusively gay moment” with the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad. This decision correlates with Disney’s wider efforts to increase inclusivity in representations of modern gender roles and sexuality in order to appeal to a wider contemporary audience; recent films in the Disney brand exemplify this strategy, such as Tangled (2010), Brave (2012), and Frozen (2013) with their proactive heroines who reject the damsel-in-distress archetype often foisted upon fairy tale females and instead, display character traits that subscribe to contemporary Western feminist values.


Disney’s relationship with the Beauty and the Beast tale has always been progressive on issues of gender representation. In TIME magazine, Eliza Berman hails Belle as Disney’s first feminist princess, and attributes that to the efforts of the 1991 animated film’s screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, the first woman to write a Disney film. The article also details the challenges Woolverton faced in attempting to realize her vision of Belle, whom she was determined to make “a new kind of Disney heroine,” one more active and intellectually curious than her predecessors.  2017’s treatment of Belle, played by Emma Watson, furthers the portrayal of modern sensibilities on gender roles and juxtaposes current gender politics with those of the indistinct eighteenth-century time period of the film: Belle, rather than her father, is the inventor (she applies this trade to the domestic chore of laundry through the invention of a rudimentary washing machine), her bookish quality is expanded to include a scene of her teaching a young girl to read (an act met with hostility against female literacy), and her father describes her as a woman ahead of her time when she voices concern that the townspeople find her odd.


In her introduction to Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales About Animal Brides and Grooms from Around the World (Penguin Books, 2017), Maria Tatar points out that while different cultural iterations of Beauty and the Beast still feature the heteronormative romance as their centerpiece, their variations express cultural  and generational differences in ideas about social issues. Disney uses the version of the tale published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as a foundation for their adaptations, but brings its themes into the twenty-first century by eschewing de Beaumont’s moral of virtue to convey a message of acceptance. The 2017 adaptation distinctly underlines the concept of self-identity to resonate with a diverse contemporary audience. This emphasis on being true to one’s self is particularly appropriate for the filmmakers when navigating representation of gender and sexuality in a time of shifting attitudes on these subjects. LeFou may remain a supporting character, but his character arc is updated to reflect the movie’s themes of self-discovery and acceptance. According to the film’s director Bill Condon, “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody just realizing that he has these feelings [...] And that’s what has its payoff at the end”.


From oral storytelling to film adaptations, fairy tales endure because of the manner in which they reflect a shared set of cultural norms and values. Disney’s latest Beauty and the Beast adaptation continues that tradition by expanding the film’s inclusive representations of gender and sexuality to reflect the changing cultural landscape.

I am fascinated by storytelling. I am a Moth podcast junkie and am a regular at story slams around Boston. Something about hearing other people’s stories helps me place my own experiences within a meaningful context. They have the power to help me empathize with other people’s perspectives. They can inspire and teach me.


Recently, I’ve been reflecting on why storytelling holds such power. In a three-part series on Fast Company, Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Mariner Books, 2013), talks about the ubiquitous, powerful nature of stories and their influence on us and our culture. He begins by illustrating how storytelling infiltrates many aspects of our human experience:  


"Humans live in a storm of stories. We live in stories all day long, and dream in stories all night long. We communicate through stories and learn from them. We collapse gratefully into stories after a long day at work. Without personal life stories to organize our experience, our own lives would lack coherence and meaning."


Storytelling isn’t new. As a social and cultural activity, storytelling predates writing and began as an oral tradition. It is a distinctly human endeavor that serves to share and interpret experiences, teach, and entertain. We are drawn to stories for a good reason. Turns out, we are wired for it. “Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them,” Gottschall writes. You see our desire to tell and consume stories in our love of television, movies, and books as well as our fascination with social media. Telling stories shapes how we interact with others not to mention well-constructed narratives are often behind compelling initiatives in advertising, business, and journalism.


Storytelling is woven throughout all aspects of our media and culture and is evolving as we do. With the digital era, we are also seeing our increased ability to participate in and have an effect on the stories being told.  Though the exact extent to how much media can change our society and vice versa is still unknown, storytelling's capacity for creating empathy and shifting cultural attitudes is an interesting phenomenon to look at. While trying to convince somebody to change a belief is largely ineffective, telling them a story with characters they can empathize with can be more persuasive. For example, Gottschall argues that social scientists believe that storytelling might have had an impact on shifting American attitudes on homosexuality over the past 15 years with television shows such as Will & Grace, Glee, and Modern Family. That's some powerful stuff!


With storytelling being such a huge part of the way we consume media, teach, and learn, I suspect we will continue to talk and hear a lot about storytelling in the coming years. Want to learn more? Gottschall’s interesting three-part series on storytelling is available to read here:


The Science of Storytelling: How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction Like Nothing Else

Infecting an Audience: Why Great Stories Spread

Story 2.0: The Surprising Thing About the Next Wave of Narrative


How has storytelling impacted your life? Have you changed a perspective on something because of a well-told story? How do you think storytelling will evolve in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts below!

A while ago, I wrote a bit on COMMblog about the idea of "one perfect shot" that encapsulates a movie perfectly (or just looks really, really nice). That's been on my mind again as I finish up helping the authors of The Film Experience with the visual program for our new fifth edition of the book, which is coming out this fall. Editing lots of different types of books is fun, but I can say confidently that the visual side of editorial work is most fun with film books. The authors and I are constantly looking for examples to illustrate technical concepts (related to editing, cinematography, and, trickiest of all, sound!) as well as broader categories (like genre or narrative).


We want some examples that students will know immediately -- often this involves looking at a list of the highest-grossing movies of the last year or two, and then trying to figure out which of those are most likely appeal to a wide-ranging "college student" demographic that can include teenagers, adult learners, and plenty of people in between (it helps if they're good movies, too). But we also want examples that come from classic movies, or obscure titles that students may not know right away, but should. We've heard from film instructors that they have similar struggles in the classroom: Trying to teach concepts through instantly recognizable movies but also trying to expand students' horizons and include movies from -- get this -- before they were born! 

Here's a little preview of just a few of the images we're going to include in the fifth edition:


Ghostbusters wasn't a huge hit last summer, but it's a good go-to example because it includes comedy (including good examples of comic framing, as in the frame below), special effects, four excellent female leads, and "intellectual property" from the past that so many studios are desperate to mine.



Of course, there are always superhero movies. No matter how you feel about them, at least a couple images from them will make their way into an intro to film book these days. The first frame below is from X-Men: Apocalypse, which I admit wasn't the biggest hit in terms of recent superhero movies, but on the other hand, has this really cool shade of purple in this scene. Contrast with Captain America: Civil War, a very entertaining movie that, as you can see, has far less purple. I may sound flip, but that's also part of our consideration: How these images will look and catch students' eye on the page, be it in print or on an ebook reader.




Not everything has to be super-current, either. In the Cinematography chapter, the authors use a series of images from Carrie (1976) to show different points of view within the same sequence. This overhead shot is one of my favorites.


A box in the book's final chapter on writing about film discusses the creation of a video essay on Touch of Evil, which has similarly striking images to choose from. A lot of students supposedly don't watch black-and-white movies so it's especially important to choose memorable images to get them interested in the form.



Finally, sometimes when a movie is being used for an example that's not 100% shot-specific, you can suggest particular shots that you just love. These images from God Help the Girl (2014) and It Follows (2015) perfectly convey aspects of their genres (musical and horror, respectively); it doesn't hurt that they're two of my favorite recent films.



Don't you want to see those movies now, if you haven't?!

The Film Experience will be out in the fall with literally dozens more new shots like this. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from any film or media instructors who have favorite frames or other visual cues they use for teaching!

Recent reports from Common Sense Media revealed that American teens spend an average of nine hours per day using media, excluding time during school or for homework. If you think that's a lot, additional reports state that parents, too, spend about the same time. When generations young and old are spending more than one-third of their day using media, it's no wonder that Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief of trade magazine PR Week, called media literacy "the social issue of our time."  In the wake of the 2016 Presidential Election and the controversy surrounding "fake news," media literacy has become a buzzword for educators and journalists alike, who now see the need for media consumers to be able to understand not only what "fake news" is, but also the importance of knowing where they're getting their news, what biases are possible in the news they're consuming, and what message this piece of news is trying to send.


So, in case you missed it, here are a few places where we can see media literacy gaining traction around the country:



Are any media literacy initiatives occurring at your school, in your state, or in other communities? Leave a comment below!

Kate George

The Reality of Fake News

Posted by Kate George Employee Nov 29, 2016

Since the very beginning of the 2016 election, the media have been a key player. Donald Trump was able to use his star power and his active social media presence to breeze past his opponents and win the Republican nomination with very minimal advertising spending. He publicly fought with media personalities, such as Megyn Kelly, and entire news media companies, like the New York Times. Even now, as the President-elect, he continues to tweet his thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.


But as the election came and went, its relationship with the news media has, if anything, become more complex. In recent weeks, Internet news has been brought into the spotlight, and many people are questioning what impact “fake news” had on the outcome of the election. In a time when a quick Google search or a scroll through your Facebook newsfeed can return thousands of “news” stories, ranging in quality from extremely well researched and reputable, to utter lies, those who are not critical media consumers may take any “news” story that passes through their Facebook feed as fact, without verifying the validity of that particular story. A recent article in the New York Times explores how both Google and Facebook are looking into their algorithms and trying to weed this fake news out of their sites to ensure that only reputable news is being spread.


As the generation who is most heavily immersed in social media, but at the same time is less practiced at the art of determining a credible source from a bogus one, your undergraduate students may be even more susceptible to these fake news stories than their older counterparts. As your communication students study the news media, how can you guide them in the right direction? One instructor at Merrimack College has compiled a list of fake, misleading, clickbate-y and satirical news sources that has been shared many hundreds of times and can be a great starting point for a discussion.


Have you incorporated a more in-depth study of fake news into your classes since the election? What ideas do you have for helping students become more critical of their news sources?

Media examples are crucial when teaching a mass communication course. Luckily, LaunchPad for Media Essentials has a wealth of samples available for your students to view so that you can practice convergence in addition to teaching it!


LaunchPad for Media Essentials has over 50 video clips with accompanying short answer questions to help students think critically about the topics discussed. We have several clips per chapter, organized by chapter, so it’s easy to assign based on what you’re teaching in class that week.


Our videos range from interviews with the chairman of the FCC to learn more about Media and Democracy and Net Neutrality, to clips from Pop Culture including Saturday Night Live, Transformers, or the music video for Uptown Funk. These videos give a behind the scenes look at media and issues that will help students understand how the media works.


In addition to our video library, you can also upload any video or audio clip saved on your Computer or embed a video from YouTube using our video assignment tool, which allows for time based commenting.

Additional suggested videos are available in the Instructor Resources Manual, which can be found under the resource button in LP.


LaunchPad for Media Essentials also includes our game-like quizzing tool LearningCurve to motivate students and adapt to their needs based on their performance. LearningCurve includes reporting tools and metrics help teachers get a handle on what their class knows and doesn’t know. There are also two pre-made traditional quizzes for each chapter, which can be used in conjunction with LearningCurve.


If you’re interested in seeing LaunchPad in action, please view the brief screencast below, and be sure to schedule a demonstration with Learning Solutions Specialist Heather Halter



You can access LaunchPad for Media Essentials here: To get access, enter your email address in the box that says “Request Instructor Access.”


Just because A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking is a bargain priced book, it doesn’t mean that we cheap out on the resources! Our LaunchPad contains priceless tools to help your students become better public speakers.

As a former public speaking instructor myself, I found that videos are a great way to connect students with the presentation process. LaunchPad contains over 200 videos, many of which also have multiple choice questions associated with them to create a well-rounded Activity.


Our videos feature real students, presenting real speeches, which are shot professionally. Simply type a term in the search box on the LaunchPad homepage to find one that will be perfect for your students. Great examples of full length speeches include topics on Preventing Cyberbullying and Becoming a Socially Conscious Consumer.


Not only do we have full length sample student speeches, we also take those videos and cut them down into smaller segments, so that you can focus specifically on a particular part of a speech. Talking about instructions? Use our clips on Attention Getters, Thesis Statements, and Previews. Lecturing on delivery? Assign students our Speech Clips on Effective Eye Contact and Effective Gestures.


We take our videos one step further through our “Needs Improvement” clips, which demonstration what NOT to do during a speech. For example, see speeches with Logical Fallacies, or a student using too many Vocal Fillers and Not Enough Eye Contact. While showing great sample speeches is certainly helpful, I found that students internalize these clips more; they don’t want to make these mistakes in front of their peers or when a grade is on the line!


All video clips can also be incorporated into a Video Assignment, which allows for time based commenting and rubric grading functionality. Click here for more information on how to build these activities:


In addition to our large video library, LaunchPad for A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking also contains an interactive version of James McCroskey’s PRCA and PRPSA to assess Communication Apprehension, A Relaxation Audio Download to help those apprehensive students, plus Speech Outlining guides and  templates, and tutorials on Presentation Software and Avoiding Plagiarism. Of course, LaunchPad also contains our ever popular LearningCurve adaptive quizzing.


If you’re interested in seeing LaunchPad in action, please view the brief screencast below, and be sure to schedule a demonstration with Learning Solutions Specialist Heather Halter


Bettina Fabos, an award-winning video maker and former print reporter, is an associate professor of visual communication and interactive media studies at the University of Northern Iowa. She is the author of Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age, 2016 Update, and Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction, 3/e. 


Q: What courses are you teaching this semester?

BF: Digital Culture and Communication ( is a class about the major issues facing us today with regards to the Internet. Interactive Digital Communication is a foundation interactive digital studies class that combines web development with design and some digital citizenship.  


Q: What has been your favorite course to teach and why?

BF: I loved to teach Mass Communication and Society, especially assigning students our oral history project towards the beginning of the semester, where they interview a person in their 70s or older about the way they grew up with media, so we can integrate their histories in class throughout the course of the semester. I don’t have a chance to teach it right now because I am very active in our Interactive Digital Studies (IDS) program, and my favorite course there is probably Digital Culture, which has some connections with Mass Comm and Society. I also like to teach Interactive Digital Visualization, and I love to teach the foundation IDC class, too. This is when I see students discover they are really good at code or design, and that’s pretty thrilling.


Q: What advice do you have for other instructors who teach this course?

BF: I would say help students make connections with their own personal and family histories as much as possible; I would say show a LOT of videos and play a lot music; bring in current events with each class; try to make the radio chapter—which can be tough (why should students care about radio networks?) but so important—interesting by helping them visualize what it was like to live in the 20s, 30s and 40s, and make comparisons between radio and the Internet, since there are so many comparisons.


Q: What are some of your research interests?

BF: I study digital archiving, interactive timelines, public memory, critical literacy and I pull all this together through creative digital projects, like the Hungary timeline I’m working on right now. It tells the story, over 16 online chapters (filled with photos and animation) of how my Hungarian family emerged from serfs to become successful farmers, and how they survived the calamitous 20th century.


Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges students face now when they enter college?

BF: I think one big challenge is getting to know the students in their own classes, because students come today with their phones, and are immersed in their little personal bubble before class, and don’t reach out to each other, so I have to work extra hard to build community in my classrooms.


I think another big challenge is that Universities are underfunded. Students often have to work longer hours to pay for college, and are strapped financially. Universities are also putting too many students in classes, and hire so many adjuncts who are underpaid and don’t have time to schedule office hours. Ultimately this kind of “that’s the way it is” and “we all have to tighten our belts” environment affects learning and students. I don’t believe this has to be the future. Our society needs to invest in education.


Q: What motivates you to continue teaching?

BF: My students are so amazing. I love being the first one outside their family to tell them that – just a simple comment like that can ripple through them their entire lifetime, and I’m completely aware of the impact I have on my students.   I’m taking my four student collaborators to Hungary next June to present our Hungary project to the U.S. Embassy, the Fulbright Commission, and the Central European University, and two of them have never been to Europe before. So this is incredible, being able to introduce them to things they would have never done before.


On a personal note...

Q: How do you spend your time when you're not teaching?

BF: I love reading just about anything well written. I like to cook and have dinner parties. I play the violin and I have lots of musician friends and we play chamber music together. I LOVE to hike in Switzerland (I have Swiss citizenship), and getting inspiration from traveling. I grow lots of flowers, and I make cakes for friends. I do yoga but I’m sadly inflexible: I still haven’t even perfected “Downward Facing Dog”!


Q: If you hadn't pursued a career in higher education, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

BF: I could have made documentaries (that was my path before I met my husband Chris – my goal at one point was to travel around the world making interesting travel documentaries); written children’s books or teen novels; owned a café…I could have fixed up houses and flipped them. Sometimes I worry that I spend way too much time in front of a computer screen!


What’s your favorite TV show or movie of the year so far?

BF: I like Swedish police dramas like The Bridge. I’m into Stranger Things. This year I have not had time to see one movie—I go for TV series over movies these days! I have watched Spotlight three times though!  


Q: What was the last book you read?

BF: In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi.


Q: What book has influenced you most?

BF: I would say a series of interviews by Bill Moyers called A World of Ideas. I was a failed journalist, living in Switzerland, working as a secretary for a nonprofit foundation, and I picked this book up (it was a fortune in Geneva’s one English bookstore), and it changed my life.


Q: Where is one place you want to travel to, but have never been?

BF: I would love to go to Buenos Aires.


Q: When you sit down to listen to music, which artists or genres do you go to most?

BF: Indie music like Kishi Bashi; early, early baroque like Monteverdi; anything my daughter Olivia tells me to listen to…she is such good influence on me!


Q: What is something you want to learn in the next year (Communication-related or otherwise)?

BF: I’d like to learn more JavaScript, and become a better gardener. We live on a prominent corner in Cedar Falls so the pressure is on.


Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you (i.e. What's your "fun fact"?)?

BF: I’m pretty shy, and I don’t like to speak in public!  Teaching, actually, is difficult for me for that reason. I don’t like to be considered “an expert” like some people, because I always consider myself a work in progress. My husband, Chris, is such an amazing public speaker and gives radio and TV interviews all the time. I am much better as a behind-the-scenes person.

With the 4th edition of Reflect and Relate comes the first time we’ve had a full media package to accompany the text. That means that you now have access to LaunchPad for your Interpersonal Communication course, which contains carefully selected and custom curated content for each chapter of the book.


The resources available in LaunchPad truly do live up to the title of the book. Students work through reflection activities such as journal entries and self quizzes, and then relate to the material with our flagship offering – Making Relationship Choices case studies, featuring “The Other Side.”


Making Relationship Choices activities immerse students into a situation they’re likely to experience in real life – Choosing Between Friends, Struggling with Family Transitions, and Dealing with Mixed Messages. Students are provided with a communication concept for background, then are presented with the “Case Study,” which lays out the scenario. Then, they are taken to “Your Turn” – 5 short answer questions that require reflection on the situation. Next, we see “The Other Side,” a video in which the other person involvedtells his or her side of the case study story. As in many real-life situations, this video shows information which wasn’t available when crafting a response to the Case Study. The video reminds students that even when we do our best to offer competent responses, there always is another side to the story that we need to consider. Lastly the student is asked to take an interpersonal competence self-assessment to evaluate their previously submitted responses and is given a chance to think about what he or she might have done differently.


Other resources available in this LaunchPad include Journal entries for topics such as Ineffective Listening Behavior and Self-Assessment Quizzes that look at skills such as Evaluating Empathy. Our video library contains over 75 clips that show communication concepts in action, such as “I” Language and Power Distance. Of course, we also have afull test bank, pre-made multiple choice and true/false quizzes, and our popular LearningCurve adaptive quizzing is available with this book for the first time.


If you’re interested in seeing LaunchPad in action, please view the brief screencast below, and be sure to schedule a demonstration with Learning Solutions Specialist Heather Halter


Kate George

The Great Debate(s)

Posted by Kate George Employee Sep 29, 2016

Source: Joe Raedle/Pool via AP


With the presidential debate season officially underway after Monday evening’s event at Hofstra University, public speaking and debate are in the forefront of more and more mainstream conversations. Embracing the spirit of convergence, I sat and watched the debate unfold across three screens: the TV on which I watched the debate, my phone where my Facebook News Feed was overrun with opinions, articles, and memes of the event (Hillary’s sassy shoulder shake later inspired this amazing gif), and my computer where I followed the NPR fact checker.


Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the ubiquity, not only of discussions of the event in general, but specifically of the conversation of the art of debate and of public speaking that surrounded it. What makes an individual “the winner” of the debate? Who decides the rules of public speaking in such a forum, and what happens when one of the participants throws all the rules out the window? What level of preparation can and should be expected of those given the chance to participate in such an important tradition?


In reading and participating in several such conversations, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing opportunity this series of debates will be for students studying public speaking this semester. They will see that public speaking is vitally important, not just as an assignment in a class they need to pass to graduate, but as a life skill that can help them succeed in school and beyond. They can analyze, in real time, modern public discourse, and have conversations with their friends about these events. They can predict, and later reflect upon, what effect these debates will have on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The possibilities are endless.


How are you incorporating the presidential debates in to your public speaking classes this semester?

A very special congratulations to Steven McCornack for winning Best Article Award from the International Association of Language and Social Psychology! Steve is the author of Reflect & Relate, 4e, Interpersonal Communication & You, 1e and the newly published Choices & Connections: An Introduction to Communication, 2e. 


For more details on Steve's paper, click here

Recent findings from the Pew Research Center may come as no surprise: 92% of American teens report going online daily, and 24% say they are online "almost constantly." 71% of teens are on Facebook, followed by Instagram and Snapchat with 52% and 41%, respectively. 


Social media may seem pervasive among American youth, but a small population of teens have opted out. In an article from The Wall Street Journal, Future Tense Fellow Christine Rosen discusses this group of teens who are rejecting all social media and their reasoning for doing so. Of the teenagers whom Rosen spoke to, they didn't see the need for social media in their lives because they thought it was "just a joke" and not "valuable communication." One teen believed "there's nothing really new or creative on it" and that it "will be pretty much be gone" in ten years.


By removing social media from their lives, this group of teens is not susceptible to what Rosen called the "immediate and chronic danger" of social media: teens who frequently use social media are more likely to compare themselves to their peers and evaluate their self-worth each time they receive (or don't receive) "likes" or responses to what they've posted.


Do you have students who have rejected social media? Do they feel it's "just a joke"? Do you think there's a way for these teenagers to use social media in a way that feels more authentic to how they want to communicate with their peers?