Writing a Good Complaint Letter

We’ve been reading on complaint and praise letters this week (despite the snow days). Then I saw this post from i09.com on a 1750 BC Customer Service Complaint.

That is so cool. I’m going to email it to my students.

“Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.”
1750 BC Babylonian tablet customer complaint letter
Note: He does owe the guy a mina of silver. But if that were the problem, he shouldn’t have said he’d give him good quality copper.

Using the Smiley Face Pain Scale to Discuss Communication Mediums

I heard a speaker talk about the difficulty of communication mediums and he said how they get more difficult when the communication is not face-to-face. He suggested using the smiley face pain scale (created for children) to say how positively or negatively you generally interpret communication f2f and then move down the scale three or so for how you will interpret online communication like emails.

I think it is an interesting idea and a good thing for students to think about for their audiences.

This image is from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/beyond-the-smiley-face-pain-scale/384049/
This image is from The Atlantic.

HOF: Job Interview Q&As

Quote from: chaosbydesign on January 11, 2013, 9:36:22 PM

1. “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”
I couldn’t possibly get rid of just one. That would leave an uneven number of states, and I dislike uneven numbers.

2. “How many cows are in Canada?”
None. There is only a ‘c’ in that word. You also need an ‘o’ and a ‘w’ to spell ‘cow’.

3. “How many quarters would you need to reach the height of the Empire State building?”
The Empire State building is 443m; a quarter is about 2mm thick, so you’d need approximately 221500 of them to reach that height.

4. “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”
He says “why am I here?”. If he doesn’t know, how could I?

5. “What songs best describes your work ethic?”
Still Alive by GLaDOS

6. “[Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos walks into your office and says you can have a million dollars to launch your best entrepreneurial idea. What is it?”
Art made from failed scientific experiments.

7. “What do you think about when you are alone in your car?”
Work, of course.

8. “How would you rate your memory?”
I don’t remember.

9. “Name 3 previous Nobel Prize winners.”
Albert Einstien, Barbara McClintock, Shinya Yamanaka

10. “Can you say: ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ and cross-sell a washing machine at the same time?”
If the person I was trying to sell to did not speak English and I had a translator who said ‘Peter Pepper Picked a Pickled Pepper’ meant ‘this is the most awesome washing machine in the world — you have to have it’, then probably.

11. “If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?”
That depends. How would you prefer to be cooked?

12. “How would people communicate in a perfect world?”
In a perfect world, there would be no people.

13. “How do you make a tuna sandwich?”

14. “My wife and I are going on vacation — where would you recommend?”
That you both go to different places. You’ll enjoy it more.

15. “You are a head chef at a restaurant and your team has been selected to be on [the TV show] ‘Iron Chef’. How do you prepare your team for the competition, and how do you leverage the competition for your restaurant?”
Watch the show, and tell them to watch the show too.

16. “Estimate how many windows are in New York.”
With a population of around 8 million, I would estimate that taking offices and homes into account, there are probably around three windows per person, so around 24 million.

17. “What’s your favorite song? Perform it for us now.”
I would, but I was always advised not to interview drunk.

Clock ClipartQuote
18. “Calculate the angle of two clock pointers when the time is 11:50.”

19. “Have you ever stolen a pen from work?”
You mean those weren’t free?

20. “Pick two celebrities to be your parents.”
John Cleese and Marie Curie

21. “What kitchen utensil would you be?”

A fork. More points to stab you with.

22. “If you had turned you cell phone to silent and it rang really loudly despite it being on silent, what would you tell me?”
I tried to silence that, but technology rarely listens to me.

23. “On a scale from 1 to 10, rate me as an interviewer.”
1 or 10, depending on whether the scale goes from ‘awesome to terrible’ or vice-versa.

24. “If you could be anyone else, who would it be?” That guy over there. Because he already works here.

25. “How would you direct someone else on how to cook an omelet?”
Google it.

So… would I get the job?

For B&P writing class…. What other outrageous answers could we come up with? Could we come up with amazing answers? Let’s practice these for fun the first day. How many different weird amazing answers could we generate?

Oral Culture

Visual and Acoustic Space
Jennifer Bradshaw

SCMLA, took notes rather than live blogging. Lost notes. Have now recovered them. These are my notes.

for PhD looked into glossalalia, tying it into culture and mountain witches

Looking at Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, etc.

acoustic space – ear as primary function
how function in oral society
time is unfixed, fluid
sound disappears –> going out of existence
sound dynamic indicates presence and power

students reading in libraryvisual space – eye as dominant
time fixed
writing is fixed

acoustic –> shows there (lion roar)
v. image of lion

acoustic = names have power
don’t speak curse
man situated within space, within God’s space

acoustic can hear what is behind
visual can only see what is in front

acoustic = community
from interior of one goes into interior of another

visual = distances
can read without connection

visual –> leads to separation and division
function of symbol

secondary orality:
Ong- radio, TV
McLuhan- included computers

typinghas features of orality
still sound, surrounds
but time becomes more limited than visual
must be instant
have absence and distancing
sound becomes a fixed location–doesn’t indicate presence or power

digital rebuilds communities
renewed sense of community
not like original oral communities

problems with secondary orality
overlaid onto the visual
grounded on visual space

benefits of secondary orality
disseminate information
build community

“speaking silence” Ong
silence = active, dynamic of acoustic space
can encounter God in active silence
silence doesn’t change–no beginning or end, so it is fluid

empty spaces in visual are like silence in acoustic

empty in visual = potential

situated in our empty space in visual
empty space –physics –void, black hole, vacuum
but Frank Close says light + light = darkness

sign that God exists within darkness
light in light can be darkness

shows potential in empty space

secondary orality and the media
foster awareness of self as situated
think of these silences
empty page as silence

language has lost power because we are overwhelmed with sound

negative effects–potentials/benefits may let us revisit and develop positive

Richard Lanham secondary orality –like primary participation and feedback

words dynamic, not fixed online, so can change
good and bad to that

importance of practice theory–>
eye contact, pacing, voice, gestures = 2nd orality
Really? Seems like these would have been important during orality in general.

empty space could be negative potential
(salt thrown behind you to get the devil in the eye)

I screencast-o-matic for feedback.
No spaces for reflection.
Wonder if feedback gives them time.
They have to write my comments into their papers.
So should I have silence in the feedback?

Silence is not necessarily a bad thing.

Metacognitive Peer Review

“Metacognitive Peer Review in the Tech Writing Classroom”
Leticia French-Slabaugh
SCMLA, I believe.

I took notes rather than live blogging and it has taken me this long to find the notes again and post them.

part of the process is revising and peer reviews

getting quality peer reviews is difficult

discuss quality feedback
Why? Help everyone make an A.
People will make decisions based on your writing and feedback helps create good writing.

Spend time getting students to buy into it.

male studying computerThey need to see themselves as having the ability to give feedback.
They are concerned about their own writing quality and experience.

What does good feedback look, sound, and feel like?
Prime them.

“This sucks” is not useful. Explain why not.
“This is good.” “I don’t see anything that needs to be changed.” These are not useful. Students have to say WHY it is good, so the writer can do even better.

Give specific information and reasoning.
“Because inside address should be recipient’s, your addresses need to be flipped.”

Then they work.

Have students post drafts.
Everybody peer reviews the 3 that are under theirs.

Don’t let them do Track Changes. Just Insert Comments.

The student needs to determine whether suggestions are correct. Insert Comments makes them think this through.

So students draft. Then they get 3 or 4 peer reviews.
Then they review those.
Which was the most helpful? Least helpful?

Then I gather the results, compile it, and publish it back to the students.
I don’t publish these back to that class–but to a different class. That way they don’t see theirs up there as least useful.

At the end of the semester 1 or 2 mention that they are glad we did peer reviews and that they got useful information.

It DOES improve their writing.

Retrospective: Business Writing

This is the second semester I’ve taught Business Writing at my university during my three years here. While I was looking at their white papers, I made some notes about things to do differently next time.

For the report sequence:
Have the students develop and choose topics early. This will enable them to construct the surveys and interviews for their primary research in a timely manner, so that I can review them and give feedback.

Perhaps the proposal should be revised to include:
–research parameters, including methods and assumptions (require criteria for choices–Why these three expensive restaurants and not the others?)
–justification for the topic (Why does this topic need covering for the intended audience? Why is this project worthy of your time and effort? What will your project add to the developing core of information that Dr. Davis has?)
–survey and/or interview questions
–secondary sources with annotations

That will give me time to give feedback on all the potential issues which have come up in the last two semesters. I need to develop an example paper for this, since it is different from what I have had the students do.

The progress report should include:
–primary research methods and results. This will insure that I get to see these and that, if they have done them incorrectly, they will still have time to re-do them.
–individual surveys (if paper) or access to the data (if online).

Consider additional areas where work the students do in this class can be used. (We printed out R’s flyer on What English Majors Earn and include it in the departmental information handouts. The international student office is posting the digital presentation for international students. I have a developing database of information for entering freshmen.)

For communication disasters:
Introduce the “rules” for PowerPoint.

Require the first one to be done in the first three weeks.

Require the second one to be done in the second three weeks.

Allow extra credit comm disasters to be done in the next six weeks.

For brochures:
Bring examples and discuss positive and negative points. (Both of prior semesters and actual brochures from other places.)

For brochure grading rubric:
I am also going to change the grading rubric, since I want a handout that is related to the project and a good “fit” rather than something that simply repeats the digital presentation. Content and integration will change. Mostly this is due to the change in the topics students are presenting.

Also I am going to add to the Presentation Style and Handout Style section. Poor folding (rather than simply not folded) should be included in the former and layout should be included in the latter.

I changed the brochure and I am going to put both the old version and the new version here, in case someone could use it. The rubric was created for a handout (either a brochure or a flyer) that was designed to either match a digital presentation (the old version) or support a digital presentation (the new version).

Rubric for brochure old version

Rubric for brochure

Pedagogy of the Visual

[A]ny application of technology introduced into the classroom should make significant strides toward achieving what may be done differently than if the technology was never used at all. (Rice, The Rhetoric of Cool 151)

This is a main point that Rice is arguing/discussing/proving. How are the essays we teach our students any different now than they were when they were handwritten or typed?

I remember when computers first came into the classroom (1991 at my present university) trying to incorporate images into traditional student essays. I asked for them. The students incorporated them. But they were not particularly well done and I was not particularly comfortable with the assignment of them. Eventually I returned to a “standard” college essay.

I do, however, once again have students incorporate images into texts. I have my business writing students do it with their white papers or research projects. They must include images and/or tables/figures within the body of their papers. These inclusions change the length of the required texts and the compositional aspect of them as well.

The assignment reads 10-12 single-spaced pages, if images are incorporated, or 10-12 double-spaces pages, if images are not at least 1/4 of the paper. My students were appalled when they first read it, as they stopped with 10-12 single-spaced pages. However, when I moved them along in the reading and they saw that they could use images (I do limit images to 2/3s of the paper), they were satisfied (some even happy, while others were simply relieved).

Rice says the technology we use in the classroom tends to most closely mimic print-based culture (151), so PowerPoint slides–mostly words–are just outlines with color.

However, there is also the element of interactivity, of the visual, of association, that he has talked about earlier and so this argument’s foundation is less sturdy than most.

I think that, yes, we are most likely to engage with the technology with which we are most comfortable and as instructors from before the computer was ubiquitous (even if only by a few years) then we are most likely to present computer-assisted compositions that closely resemble print-based compositions. That does not mean that we are engaging only with that.

Digital Presentations at 3 Universities

steampunk_archive_icon_by_yereverluvinuncleber-d5jsav0Meeks, Melissa and Alex Ilyasova. “A Review of Digital Video Production in Post-Secondary English Classrooms at Three Universities.” Kairos 8.2 (2003). Web. 12 February 2014.

“digital video has the qualities we are looking for to engage students in combining design, production, and literac(ies) in the classroom”

Finally found an explanation of why video isn’t linear, even though we watch it linearly.
“non-linear video production in digital bytes allows for the deleting, adding, moving, and repeating of clips”

Iowa State U
Students are required to create a communication portfolio their sophomore year that includes written, oral, visual, and electronic communication.

Upper division course requires an interview and a presentation of the interview in three ways. These are as text, as an audio file, and as a video file, which combines both audio and visual elements.

Also requires a 2-minute video for a professional audience, describing an object.

Finally requires a “promotional commercial for a product, organization, or idea.” This might be an idea for business and professional writing class.

Graduate course there requires productions, to apply the theory to the application. Two assignments involve digital presentations.
1. Create video as a tutorial using screen captures. –tutorial for software
2. Digital presentation that focuses on exploring the uses of iMovie. Has groups create videos in two weeks on the history and use of buildings on campus. Video is two to three minutes.

Michigan Technological U
Describes the strong culture of support for technology application at the uni.

Introduces Cynthia Selfe and her foray into digital presentations. Says she has only been doing two years [now 13], but won’t teach again without multimodal assignments.

UG Adolescent Lit class
students will create enrichment assignments for ages 11-18, focus on engaging with books
1st show own, focus on sound
shows videos with and without sound
discuss how sound adds or subtracts from work

Then iMovie
students use 10-20 photos and a sound file
Goal is to choose photos that cluster around a theme or topic
royalty free source of photos: American Memories Collection
Has students save a song, too. Then create a video.
Says important to remember that things will go wrong

Erin Smith
Says students not engaged in traditional reading practices, but practiced in film and television.
She has the students write their own assessments, explaining why they made the choices they did.

Alison Crockett
Says digital presentation and a written essay share similar processes.

First, the concept or a thesis/main idea is created.
Then a treatment or brainstorming occurs – a more developed and detailed idea coming out of the concept.
Next, an extended treatment or an outline might follow.
Research or getting your elements – which might include interviews, film and video footage, music, stills, graphics, etc. – is next.
Then, depending on your elements, storyboarding or a more developed and complete outline follows.
The script or draft is developed around this time.
Finally, post-production or possibly a second/final draft occurs where you blend the elements together to tell your story.

UNC Chapel Hill
Daniel Anderson has been teaching video production for twenty years, beginning in 1994.
He “focuses on teaching students to think “in” non-alphabetic literacies, making use of rhetorical strategies in multimedia compositions.”
In his graduate classes students wrestle with and think about non-alphabetic composing.
His advice to those interested in using the technology in their classrooms is to “play with it” and “don’t over think it.”

Scott Halbritter
using video for the first time this fall in a remedial writing class
students produce a 5-minute video talking about honor, integrity, and ethics in the uni
Having remedial students creating digital presentations “infinitely complicates and enlarges the strategies they have learned to ignore when they sit down to compose text.”
Very important to find a “legitimate rhetorical goal” before assigning video production.

Heather Ross
uses a PSA group project, students are producing cultural artifacts
collaborative environment
five weeks
Student excitement comes from competitiveness and seeing the videos as creative acts.

Todd Taylor
students in his class must complete community service work
1. intro case study of documentaries
2. “The second move addresses the rhetorical and technical aspects of each of the following media individually: HTML, texts, photographs, and audio; this sequence culminates with a consideration of the rhetorical and technical aspects of video, which combines all of the previous media. This pairing of technical proficiency and rhetorical savvy prepares students for integrating media in sophisticated ways.”
3. establish audience: judges of contest, classmates, public at competition
4. turn class into workshop

Digital production challenges multiple literacies, encourages collaboration, shows composition as a process, and requires more than a single person.

Authors note that the relationship of digital presentations to academic discourse remains problematic, as essays are still important collegiate exercises.