The Collegiate Technological Revolution – progressing or digressing students’ experiences?

Surrounded by my laptop, iPhone, iPod and flash drive in my book bag, I have seemingly packed the essentials for a 21st century girl day at the library. In just my immediate area I can see 19 people working, but only 1, just one, singular individual in this sea of college students has no sign of technology with him at the library.

And how did I spot him out so fast, you ask? Well, I realized he somehow looked different from the surrounding population…he had something special about him. Well, it’s not his glistening Power Rangers t-shirt, so it must be the fact that he’s holding only a highlighter and a book.

Gasp!

It’s ultimately a little sickening to me that a strong majority of my peers, including myself, don’t really know how to study without a computer in front of us, yet it doesn’t shock me at all. Our generation, labeled the Net Generation by a How Stuff Works article, has come to be so dependent on technology it’s actually terrifying to think where our college educations would be if all of our technological systems shut down and vanished tomorrow.

But we, the American college-student demographic, weren’t always like this. Even ten years ago students were just starting to integrate technology into their day-to-day studies and it was barely a thought in the educational days of our parents. So with this I have to wonder, if they made it through without technology why can’t we? Is our relationship with technology an advancement in our educational paths or a digression in our incredible reliance on it? My guess is a little bit of both.

An incredibly informative and incredibly long infographic I came across highlights the major differences in today’s tech-savvy student compared to the traditional resources a college student would have used in decades prior. The article starts out by giving eye-opening statistics like:

– More than 90% of college students use email to communicate with professors.

– 73% of college students say they cannot study without technology.

– Seven in 10 college students take notes on keyboards instead of paper.

– 38% of students can’t go more than 10 minutes without checking their smartphone or other device.

– Students spent $13 billion on electronics in 2009.

And what I thought was the most shocking that twelve million students take at least one class online today — in five years, that number is projected to exceed 22 million. By 2014, analysts say, more than 3.5 million college students will take all of their classes online.

—all according to research compiled by Presta Electronics.

The article goes on to make “farewell statements” to the types of traditionally-used student materials that are being replaced by technology. These mediums that have become out dated and “farewelled” include:

Original: Note cards – small, lined, easy to carry and quick to study from.

Replacement: Evernote Peek – a virtual notecard application that helps students study and also stores their grades.

Original: Student day planner – fits in backpack, can quickly write down assignments and keep track of obligations.

Replacement – Wunderlist: application that tracks assignments, creates daily to-do lists automatically and can be synced to your computer’s web interface.

Original: Hand-held calculators – plastic, graphing, scientific and useful.

Replacement: Grades 2- Smartphone application that allows students to calculate exactly what grade they need to get on a test in order to achieve a goal and tracks GPA and course credits.

But it’s not just college students who are adapting these technological changes, it starts much earlier on in the education world. Almost exactly 5 years ago a video was posted on YouTube where elementary-aged children were advocating the need for their teachers to integrate technology into their learning. This was a topic of interest even 5 years ago, so I can only estimate the incredible magnitude this issue has grown in K-12 schools since.

And if you’re still wondering about that boy in the Power Rangers t-shirt…well, he pulled out an iPad. It was nice while it lasted.

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True Life: I’m 20 and I’m a Twihard.

And I wish I could end it there. But, here I go as painstakingly and bashfully reminisce and elaborate on my five-year tour as a Twilight Saga fan.

The main characters as they sprint into a lifetime of post-Twilight abyss.

On the eve of having two, preliminary presentations due that will account for about a third of the school work I have put in thus far in the semester; I am being whisked away by a car full of Twilight fans to see the midnight premiere of the final installment in The Twilight Saga series. A few questions may have arisen in your mind thus far as to why I am embarking on such a journey in a crucial time in my education, so let me do my best to answer a few, possible scenarios for you…

Q: Are you being forced into this?

A: No. Absolutely not.

Q: Is this a good idea?

A: No. Absolutely not.

Q: Have you ever been to a midnight premiere of Twilight?

A: Yes. All 4. (I shudder).

Q: Will the majority of the movie-goers be driven there by their mothers and in their early teen years?

A: Yes.

And even after I type all of this out, I still plan on spending 4+ hours of my sleep hours saving a seat, waiting and watching the “swan song” of the famed-vampire series this evening. Some may call that insanity, yet I like to think of it as extreme dedication. It’s this very dedication that has led me and my three roommates to attend every single midnight premiere of The Twilight Saga (and Harry Potter, go muggles!) since we became friends over two years ago. At this point it seems like a rite of passage for our generation of Twihard (Twilight + die-hard) fans to indulge in this yearly-escape away from the stress and commonalities of our vampire-less world [insert conspiracy vampire theory], to escape to a big-screen depiction of the Cullen clan, Bella Swan and Forks, Washington.

Shockingly, I am not a member of this crowd.

For those of you that have never been exposed to the madness surrounding the Twilight series, I can only make the assumption that you live under a rock or you have been very systematically-avoiding all gossip magazines, entertainment news and trending social media for the past five years. The buzz around Twilight has been incredible since 2005 when first-time author Stephanie Meyer published her first best-selling novel, and has sparked at an alarming-rate in recent months with the alleged cheating-scandal with the movies’ stars, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. The movies’ characters are loved and hated by millions of fans across the world, which has shown through in the masses of social media hits the premiere has received tonight.

Everything from tweets to Facebook posts to Instagram photos of the big night have been pouring in for hours prior to the night’s first-time 10 p.m. premiere. On the Twilight Twitter page fans have been posting links that direct to stories that are referring to the final installment in the series “an event of a lifetime” and “theatres will be in a cheering and gasping uproar.”

End verdict: mediocre acting, one great fight scene, sappy ending and an all-around media frenzy. The almost-all-female crowd at the premiere followed its usual pattern of girls screaming whenever Taylor Lautner took off his shirt, swooning when Edward and Bella got romantic and erupting in laughter when the “king” vampires turned on their incredibly cheesy and creepy charm. However, the ending fight scene had the crowd, me included, in an uproar of disbelief and emotions, only to find out minutes later it was just a vision.

Leaving the theatre I heard numerous, concerned people wondering what they will do without Twilight in their lives, and I began to reflect on my time in the Twilight world. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it was the first novel in the series that sparked my 16-year-old self to have an interest in reading for pleasure, which has carried on until the present day. Maybe I would have found another book that did the same for me, but none like the cultural-phenomenon of Twilight.

Do these three ever have an off day?

So cheers to you Twilight and Stephanie Meyer for forever impacting our lives with a one-of-a kind love story between the most awkward girl around and her gorgeous vampire counter-part, sparking the cultural phenomenon of our vampire-loving generation.

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The Shorty Awards

It is a tradition in our society to receive awards and notoriety for accomplishing special tasks or acquiring skill sets in an impressive way. Looking at the way the recently-spectacled 2012 Olympics invoked the utmost sense of pride and success in the winning countries, it’s clear that people everywhere thrive from awards.

One award I never thought to look into before, contrary to spending so much time investigating the ins and outs of the strategic communications world, was one that could be awarded to individuals and groups who produced the best content in social media.

Cue The Shorty Awards.

This award society is fully committed to analyzing entire bodies of work associated with an individual or organization to honor those who have displayed the most creativity and growth in social media in a given year. These awards recognize the people and organizations producing real-time short form content across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare and the rest of the social Web.

There are hundreds of categories that are assessed for the awarding of a Shorty, a few of the most popular ones being apps, celebrities and journalists. Each year millions of people visit the award organization’s website to tweet their nominations for their favorite social media creators, in hopes they will make it to the annually-held award ceremony. These awards actually attain much more notoriety and attention that I had originally expected, with media coverage and previous ceremony attendees including Tracy Morgan, Conan O’Brien, Ricky Gervais and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

For the past two years The Shorty Awards have also awarded the top agencies, innovators and industry professionals responsible for producing this content professionally, and will be repeated at the next ceremony held in January of 2013. The previous 39 categories for professional work have included best Twitter campaign, best Twitter hashtag, best Facebook advertising, best social media agency and best use of a mobile app in a campaign.

Alongside these categories are five special awards that honor the pioneers in emerging social media platforms. These awards include Real-Time Photo of the Year, Foursquare Mayor of the Year, Foursquare Location of the Year, Microblog of the Year on Tumblr and Answer of the Year on Quora.

My take on The Shorty Awards: unique, innovative and fun. Is it really necessary? No. But is it really necessary to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the production, air-time, media coverage and fashion for The Oscars, Grammys, Tonys and Emmys each year. Double no. But it’s entertainment, and it’s just what people want to watch.

In the case of The Shortys, it’s a nice way to honor one of the world’s most rapidally-growing trends, and if nothing else will promote a positive spin on social media practicing. I have to think it’s a little bit ironic that their Facebook page only has around 22,000 likes and less than 50 people “talking about it” when the website advertises it as a source tweeted by millions each year, but it wouldn’t be social media without a little bit of truth-stretching. There will always be vocal critics of social media, but hey – why not take the high-road and reward their content with a Shorty nomination? Tweet about them @shortyawards in 140 characters or less today!

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Changing your life goals 9 times and how to [not] communicate them to your parents, Part Deux.

With my last blog on this topic, I’ll give a few, key examples on how I communicated these “certain life changes” to my parents and what I could have done better to save them from the stress and possible blood pressure increases as a result of my poor tactics.

Scenario 1: Me -“Mom, I’ve been looking at all of the programs here and I’ve decided I’m going to become a design major. The professor I met with says it’s okay that I don’t know much about design or have any experience in it, but it just feels right so I’m going for it.”

Key mistakes: “I don’t know much about it.” – Letting your parent know you have done little to no research into your future career path is a great way to make yourself look like a naive idiot and lessen their trust in you to make adult decisions.

“It just feels right so I’m going for it.” – I’m sure that most of the time parents would love to hear the inner-thoughts and feelings of their distancing college-aged children, but certainly not in this context.

Better approach: Treat them like a client. Pitch your campaign. “Mom, through careful research, talking to the department’s students, seeking out future job possibilities and taking a deeper look into what I’m talented at, I strongly believe I could make it as a successful individual in the industrial design profession.” – Shows your dedication to the choice…can’t go wrong.

Scenario 2: Me -“Dad, you know how much I love staying in hotels, so get this – I’m going to become a Hospitality Management major! Isn’t that the coolest?”

Dad – “Well it’s a little late to switch your major, will you be behind?”

Me – “Yeah, I’ll probably graduate a year late and I really hate all of the chemistry, computer science and math classes I have to take for the first year but I’ll probably love it after that!”

Key mistakes: “I love staying in hotels”…so this is my life-path. When your daughter is over a year into her college career the last thing you want to hear is that she’s basing her future off of the fact that she enjoys vacationing to different hotels. Likes are not career paths, they are hobbies.

“I’ll graduate a year late and hate a year’s worth of my classes.” – Even more ill-received than a flighty idea, is letting your parent know that you have not only been wasting your time and tuition money, but will be hating your classes and wasting your time and tuition money for another entire year.

Better approach: Eradicate the sense of uncertainty in your decision-making processes and re-structure your wording. Try, “Dad, I know it will be a challenge for me to tack on an extra year of classes that I’m not overly-excited about, I’m confident that by taking the time to better understand these courses I will have a solid future in the hospitality management industry.

So after all of this, I have settled mine and my parents’ anxiety by happily pursuing a B.A. in Strategic Communications with minors in Arts Entrepreneurship and Dance. I still propose crazy ideas to them each week as to how I want to live in different cities all over the world this summer, but they’re learning to take each idea with a grain of salt. But for the most part, I watch myself to keep my approaches thought-out and (seemingly) researched. All I can say is I hope this pattern keeps up in a couple of weeks when I ask for a puppy for Christmas.

[FYI – I know this post doesn’t have much salience to the communications industry or academia, but I was on a roll and just went with it. Feels good to be a blogger!]

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Changing your life goals 9 times and how to [not] communicate them to your parents.

Hey, do you know what’s hard?

– Applying to college.

But do you know what’s even harder?

– Applying to college while taking 28 hours of dance classes per week while taking (and trying to pass) 5 academic classes while teaching 2 dance classes a week while being a captain of a school team while taking 4 college classes a week while trying to have a life/boyfriend/friends/social skills.

Not like I’m complaining or think my senior year of high school was any more hectic than the rest of our nation’s graduates, but I’ll admit – there was a time when I didn’t know if I could see it through till the end. Waking up at 6 a.m. to go to school and getting home at 10:45 p.m. from dance rehearsals every week night was both emotionally and physically draining, but I always knew it would be worth it in the end. So to add to the craziness of my last year of high school I traveled around to different universities to audition for their dance departments, most of the time requiring an entire weekend of observation and supplemental interviews and essays. What kept me going was knowing that the thousands of hours I spent throughout my lifetime striving to refine my dance technique was going to be completely worth it when I was a college dance major, studying at one of the nation’s most acclaimed college dance departments.

Well, that dream half came true.

To give a quick time table of my senior year would look like this:

October – Audition at OSU.

November – Audition at George Mason University.

December – Get accepted to the dance programs at OSU and Point Park University. Cheers, hugs, tears, exasperation and immense feeling of life-long achievement.

February – Get accepted to the dance program at George Mason. Shock, awe, more tears, more cheers and feeling like I have options.

Fast-forward to August (1 month before I leave for OSU/week of my orientation) – Me to my parents, “Mom, Dad, I’ve thought long and hard about this and I have made the decision that I am dropping out of the dance program and will not pursuit dance as a career.”

“Oh, and I have no idea what I want to major in!!!!!”

–crickets—

Now, my parents are never at a loss for words about any topic, but for the next three minutes their mouths elicited almost nothing besides grunts, “whaaats” and looks of sheer and utter confusion. I know they had to be feeling a sigh of relief to not be sending me to a school with a hefty, out-of-state tuition price tag, knowing full-well that I would most-likely become a “starving artist” someday. But at the same time, a bit of panic and disbelief that I had dedicated my life (and a good chunk of their time and money) to a future plan that we all thought was bullet-proof.

I give this lengthy description to preface how the nest 2 years would go with telling my parents every few weeks that I had a new life plan, and I’m sure it was going to be the final one. To date, my college major choices have included Journalism,  Hospitality Management, Marketing, Fashion and Retail Studies and Industrial Design. That list is short in comparison to the gargantuan list of minor options that have included Professional Writing, Leadership, General Business, Animal Sciences and Non-Profit Organizations. Now that I have actually decided on a major and two minors to pursuit it’s funny to think about how many times I changed my mind, but probably not so much for my parents.

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Sharing is caring, even in the blogging community

            Most of the time I like to believe that living and going to school in a large, college community is an amazing way to surround myself with diverse minds who can teach me new things about every aspect of life. From professors to students, it seems like there’s an infinite population to question and learn from, and most of the time they’re more than willing to share their knowledge with you. But then and again you come across those individuals who like to keep all of their precious knowledge and expertise all to themselves, seemingly thinking if they shared a simple tip with you, it would be lost from their skill set forever.

Wrong selfish intellectuals. Wrong.

Today I came across a group of individuals who are extremely devoted to promoting the work of other bloggers on their own sites to share with them the audiences they have acquired.  These people are also committed to facilitating a weekly tweet chat to share their knowledge of social media writing with the online blogging community.  The facilitator of this blog, Ann Smarty, uses the online identity of “My Blog Guest” on her twitter and blog to foster the participation of other bloggers and professionals in the social media community and offer advice to anyone who is interested.

When I began monitoring the chat I waited about ten minutes to start tweeting in order to gauge the flow of the conversation and approximately how many people were repeatedly participating. There seemed to be around nine people who were actively participating in a conversation about the group’s top ten rated blogs, which they seem to rank every few weeks. I started off simple by identifying myself as a student and aspiring blogger, asking what they thought was the most important aspect of having a personal blog was. Almost immediately I received numerous responses giving me their advice on what to keep at the top of your priorities when blogging, including personality, promotion and to always increase your number of social media contacts. When tweeted at one of the participants asking for further clarification on promotion in blogging, he graciously suggested I follow a woman he deemed “the pro” at self-promotion in the blogging world. No matter what I asked this group was quick to respond, and toward the end thanked me for my participation in their chat and invited me to come back next week. Now that’s what I call online hospitality!

Another tweet chat that I came across and admired greatly was a forum centered on self-empowerment and inspiration, facilitated by a woman named Joanna Cipressi under the hash tag #InspireChat. Now, normally I don’t get into inspirational quotes or anything of the sort, but when I came across her listing on our tweet chat website I felt intrigued and wanted to learn more. When I saw the mass amounts of inspirational and encouraging words complete strangers were saying to each other I couldn’t feel anything but touched. It may not be related to the “professional blogging” content I’m aiming for with my class blog, but I appreciated this woman’s effort too much to not mention it.

When it comes down to it, these people are so apt to answer their peers’ questions because they are passionate about their interests and want to share it with others on the same path. It’s human nature to associate with those of similar interests, so why not use one of the world’s most popular means of communication to do so?

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Finding my voice with internal communications

If there are two things I’m good in life it’s cracking bad jokes and rambling on for as long as I possibly can, in any possible situation where words are involved. So, what better than to put me in charge of a student organization’s weekly email here at Ohio State?

With all of the emails student get daily, I aim for mine to stick out and engage my readers.

Given this duty at the beginning of my term as the Vice President of a student-run dance organization called Dance Connection I was nervous about how I would make time each week to compile the information and send it out to everyone, but early on I realized it would not be a tricky task in the least bit. In fact, it has quickly become one of my favorite responsibilities and something I look forward to each week.

What I think I enjoy so much is the fact that I get to have a voice in my organization and have the opportunity to communicate with each member of the organization. Although Dance Connection only has 55 members it gets hard to get to know each one personally with the everyone’s hectic schedules, so with this I can keep everyone informed and get to know our members better all at the same time.

Last year, the former Vice President of Dance Connection had a lot of problems with getting our members to read all of the weekly emails, so I’ve been experimenting with different ways to keep everyone engaged until the end. A company that specializes in creating company newsletters for business talks about overcoming these types of issues on their website, as well. Their content focuses on how to face problems with upper-management individuals who are having difficulties effectively engaging their employees. The article points out that these company newsletters benefit both the upper-management, as their core ideals and concepts have a platform to be communicated with a large audience, but usually show more benefit toward lower-level employees, as it keeps them informed and boosts their motivation levels.

In my weekly emails I like to include helpful hints on information for staying informed with our organization, so last week I included a bit on staying tech-savvy and linking email accounts to mobile phones. Trying my best to make it interesting and engaging to read I said:

First item of news is to make sure you’re checking our private Facebook page frequently because someone is always posting something new and exciting, and most of the time it’ll be something you need to know. Also, email is crucial females. CRUCIAL. If you haven’t already, go ahead and link it to your phone – it’ll make you appear so much smarter/tech/savvy/up on it. Here’s a link for directions to slap that buckeyemail on your handy dandy smart phone.

Giving your audience the tools to simply connect with your message makes a world of difference when you’re trying to get a point across.

With Dance Connection, we don’t usually have problems with keeping our members on task, since they made the choice to sign up for and attend weekly rehearsals, but keeping them informed of all the organization’s aspects. Every week I take a group of DC members to The Boys and Girls Club of Columbus Westside location, which requires 4-5 members to sign up each week. I like to recognize the previous week’s members who came along to make them feel like their efforts were worthwhile, while promoting the idea to the other members. For example, in this past week’s email in the outreach section I wrote:

Thanks so much to Ashley Montecalvo, Lauren Every, Libby Bates and Caitlin Tinkler for signing up for Outreach this week. The kids were SO excited to have a full group of dancers at the club. Next week our only soldier signed up is Hannah Scott, so there’s still 3 spots left. WE WANT YOU!

It never hurts to thank your members for doing something well. Doing this can increase their desire to repeat the appreciated behavior and gives their confidence a little boost, which most people really thrive off of.

Wait, who am I kidding – we’re dancers, our egos are already gargantuan  and thrive on any sort of attention or compliments.

Combining these elements with a personal touch makes a traditionally-mundane email compelling and easy to read, which is important when sending a message to a group of people who get dozens of emails each day. Not to toot my own weekly-email-writing horn, but since I started writing the email I’ve had multiple members who have told me reading the DC weekly email really makes their day. If I can make one person laugh with my cheesy humor or unrelated tips (I tend to give monthly timelines of new movies being released along with my unsolicited opinions of them) I feel like I’ve succeeded. Maybe some day I’ll take up professional employee newsletter writing and give my internal communication skills a chance to thrive.

Other employee newsletter writing services that offer interesting insight into their approaches include:

The Newsletter Company

Biz Actions

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