contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Instructional design, educational technology, teaching methodology, training, and learning.

Why I Write? Because I Can Spell

Posted by contentgrrl on April 12, 2011

Dictionary Indents By Till Niermann (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsI was discovered as a writer because I could spell.

Spelling is not difficult when you have:

  • Great teachers early on fostering a love of etymology.
  • Great books peppered with foreign languages and highfalutin’ vocabularies.
  • A great father who gave me my first dictionary, set of encyclopedias, and book club membership. (Am I dating myself? It’s obviously before the Internet 🙂 .)

My writing had humble beginnings. In Texas, each school district sends students to district University Interscholastic League (UIL) meets, running the gamut of academics to arts to sports.

I was a geek: I won best actress in One Act Play, regional contests in Accounting and Typing, and several respectable ribbons in Ready Writing and Spelling.

Dr. Tom Buckner, director of the journalism department at McLennan Community College, had the dubious honor of judging such contests. Bless him, he always contacted the winners of a certain age for followup interviews, to recruit them to his department.

I got a scholarship, joined Dr. Buckner’s staff, became one of his editors on the Highland Herald, and went on with his guidance to win collegiate awards in headline writing, editorial writing, and investigative reporting. After I received a degree in journalism, he introduced me to an internship at a national trade magazine, Occupational Health & Safety, which hired me for my first full-time job as an associate editor.

I followed in Dr. Buckner’s footsteps a few times volunteering to judge UIL contests. I still keep in touch with some of the cartoonists, and other editors of the time. My contacts there have led to several gigs over the years.

For Dr. Buckner, I am very thankful. I have a career that I love.

How were you “discovered”? Please comment!

Posted in community, heroes, learning, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Work Addictive like World of Warcraft

Posted by contentgrrl on March 8, 2010

Hi, my name is Tere, and I’m a workaholic. The projects I do and the communications I draft make me feel productive, needed, adept.

But I am extremely averse to housework. I have tried to reframe it in terms of blessing my home, blessing my family and pets, blessing the neighborhood, blessing the friends and family who visit. That works sometimes. But more often I just downright hate pulling the same weeds that cropped up last year and picking up the same clutter as yesterday.

Today I was reading Jim Lee’s blog on KMEdge.org, Knowledge: How Much Is Too Much? and especially his comment lower down in response to another link, A better way to manage knowledge. The Harvard Business Review article said,

“the real value is in creating new knowledge, rather than simply ‘managing’ existing knowledge. …That’s why we’re not keen to spend time entering our latest document into a knowledge management system. …

We’ve found in our research into environments like World of Warcraft (WoW) that new knowledge comes into being when people who share passions for a given endeavor interact and collaborate around difficult performance challenges.

The HBR article touted how WoW player Gullerbone completed The Burning Crusade expansion pack within an impressive 28 hours after its release in 2007. How did he do it? By using his guild, and related videos, blogs, wikis that make up the social media “knowledge economy.”

Jim Lee’s response: “I’ve said for some time if ‘KM systems’ could mimic the behaviors of WOW players, that we would see immediate impact and improvment [sic] of collaboration and outcomes.”

I sometimes feel the same way about updating old documentation as I do about cleaning the toilet. It’s gotta be done, but it makes me feel all grungy, and I’ll just have to do it again soon enough.

Fishing in World of Warcraft, by Captain Oblivious on Flickr Creative CommonsIn World of Warcraft, that kind of chore is akin to fishing. If you want to level up your skills enough to make some great coin and get the ingredients for the meals that will elicit extraordinary buffs for your guildies in raids and dungeons, you gotta pay your dues in the water. Many dedicated players are so addicted to getting that next level, they don’t mind putting in a few hours at the shore. Of course, it’s not as physically messy as it would be away from keyboard.

And so I’m trying to find a new way to reframe some of work’s less glamorous chores.

I wish that someday we may bring the addictiveness of gameplay into the world of work, and even (ugh!) housework. Can you imagine being able to track in reality:

  • how much coin you’re earning or wasting on your current task,
  • the buffs you gain by eating well/working out/working well with certain people, and
  • the upgrades/badges/titles you can win along the way?

Wish, wish, wish…

Meanwhile, here are the ways I’m making my chores more attractive:

  • Breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. For example, I made a long outline of what I need to do, and categorized it, counting the documents and estimating how much will fill a half hour or an hour.
  • Scheduling the bite-sized chunks across several days.
  • Rewarding myself for completing a bunch of chunks with a fresh cup of Joe and a break where I do something more creative like the next newsletter draft.
  • Testing it like my target audience would, and putting myself in their shoes when I find it easy to learn how to do what I want.

I’m glad I work in a place where the coffee is free, even the flavored kind, and the cleanup is minimal. 🙂

The next challenge is even more social: making technical edits fun for my wonderful developers, product managers, project managers, and technicians. There’s gotta be more than bringing cake and asking pointed questions. Any other thoughts?

Posted in community, games, grrly, learning, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Real Me & My Authentic Niche(s)

Posted by contentgrrl on March 5, 2010

Isn’t the point of blogging to offer insight, value, and entertainment?

But I abandoned blogging for several months, partially because it became inauthentic. It didn’t feel like me. And I have precious little time to be anyone else.

My new profile pic.

Here is reality. For proprietary reasons of course, I don’t reveal much if anything about what I’m working on for my paycheck company or even my freelance work. I have also been escaping from housekeeping, procrastinating administrative tasks, spoiling my kids and then struggling with their behavior, stuck behind boxes of un-scrap-booked photos and memorabilia, losing and gaining the same five pounds, and wallowing in unfulfilled yearnings in my spiritual journey.

There: transparency. 🙂 Sounds just like hundreds of thousands of other working moms slash writers out there.

But I love writing, and I love having a blog. I would like to publish an blog entry weekly. I could even schedule a poll/survey or book review for when I’m in crunch time elsewhere.

Maybe I can spend time with an editorial calendar, leaving a bit of leeway every month. My interests are so broad, and something new is always happening!

Maybe I can narrow it down to a niche of topics I actually care about, that can help mentor other people. Something that makes me shiny and happy.

Something may come to me as I purge and reorganize my bank of drafts. Some of my older essays discuss things I don’t actually want to associate with my name. For example, even though I did well years ago to train in JavaScript, ASP and MySQL, I have to admit I am not a programmer; it’s use it or lose it.

Better, I like to use and polish my wordsmith skills to make life and work easier for people.

My own niche is in there somewhere. I can spend some time formulating my direction and exploring the passions where I will invest the next 10 years or so of my life’s work. I can’t even think about moving to my own hosted URL until I’ve got this down.

I tried an elevator speech:

“I translate experts from various industries into plain, compelling English (and sometimes images), making them look even better on paper and online.”

But elevator speeches and mission statements may not be enough.

Here’s the big question:

Does contentgrrl need to split into two or more niche blogs, or disintegrate?

Here are some possible splits:

  • writing & inspiration from news, media, TV, movies & books (Some gems may go to my freelance editor’s site, http://www.MarketItWrite.com)
  • wife, mom, home & gaming stuff (these get more hits, but newer material may go to Facebook & BigTent)
  • spiritual stuff (I thought I would blog more about the heroes who influence me, but I never seem to do them justice. I may just return to my favorite forums, like http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com/forum/)

Related links/tweets:

@cywitherspoon “You can’t build a reputation on what you are about to do!” -Henry Ford (1863-1947)

anything on http://copyblogger.com

Entrepreneurs Who Blog Well Foster Trust Among Prospects, Partners, Industry | Mashable http://bit.ly/ahErtx

30 Tips On How To Make Your Company’s Blog Rock http://bit.ly/bxmLYQ

StoryToolz: Readability Statistics, another online tool with FleshKincaid reading level and detailed counts http://bit.ly/c2e2Bu

Good tool for bloggers on the go, per @10000Words: http://www.polishmywriting.com – not only spellcheck, grammar, but style guidelines too

Posted in community, grrly, learning, project management, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Create Free Online Quizzes for your Blog, Site, Social Network

Posted by contentgrrl on November 12, 2008

OK, so I’m on my business system software company’s year-end task force. Every year for the last five years. The mission: to make year-end easier for both our customers and for our technical support team. That means publishing updated instructions, communicating tips, hosting customer Webinars, and conducting internal training.

This year, we were looking for a way to make it easy to hold other support techs accountable for setting up their test systems, practicing lab procedures, and acquiring knowledge & troubleshooting skills.

Oh, sure. I’d love to have a Learning Management System. But do we have the budget for that? No. Is there an LMS that’s easy to implement? Maybe.

Meanwhile, are there free alternatives? Yes. Bingo!

I found ProProfs.com’s  QuizSchool. Here are 20 reasons I think it’s cool so far.

  1. It’s free. Woo-HOO!*
  2. It’s very user-friendly. YAY!
  3. It’s easy to share/publish via iframe on your site, or via email link, or via widget for your Blog/Forum/social media.
  4. You can create multiple choice questions, including multiple answer and true/false. There’s a standard limit of 5 possible answers.
  5. You can create short-answer or fill-in-the-blank questions, and give the system up to 5 possible versions of the expected answer, typical misspellings, and so on.
  6. You can create essay questions, and set a maximum character count.
  7. Although each question will accept any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want, the answers at the time of this writing are strictly text.
  8. For all questions, you can add explanatory feedback for display post-answer and/or on the detailed score report.
  9. Scoring is instant for multi-choice and short-answer questions, as long as you set the correct answer.
  10. For essays, although you can’t have the system automatically score it, the test author can review score reports with pending answers after a student has completed the test, and select how many points the essay answer has earned. The system automatically calculates how many points each essay can earn based on the number of points assigned to the entire quiz. Interestingly enough, somebody’s apparently using this as part of the process for conducting job interviews.
  11. You can customize the quiz banner with any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want. Same thing with the end-of quiz message.
  12. You can randomize the quiz questions to fight cheating.
  13. You can set the time limit up to 180 minutes (divide by 60, that’s three hours).
  14. ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    You can customize the scoring criteria as shown here.

  15. On the score report, you can enable the display of scores, answers, and certificate of completion. The individual score report also allows students to enter comments and suggestions about the quiz.*
  16. You can set up a quiz as public or protected by password. *
  17. You can require that each student enter a name and/or password.*
  18. Each quiz’ score report shows each user’s attempts at a quiz, including their IP address, city/state, country, time taken, and link to their individual score report, with an option to delete attempts or entries.*
  19. Each individual score report lets the quiz author assign bonus points to add to the total score for any student’s attempt.*
  20. The quiz stats provide numerical and graphical representation of scores and pinpoint the locations of students on a world map.*

* Update May 2010: features marked with an asterisk (*) are available in Educational and Commercial versions that track scores/analytics and hide ads.

The only three things I have trouble with is:

  • There was no online help when I authored my quiz, and I had to experiment with a few things.
  • I worked for several hours on a number of questions without Saving Changes and lost it. Lesson learned: Save often.
  • I couldn’t find a way to limit the students to taking the test only once. (subject to change)

Word of advice: Save Changes after every question.

And although I keep forgetting my password (that’s user error, I kept forgetting whether I capitalized something) the Forgot Password process is super fast.

I’m looking forward to completing the 50-question Year-End Tech Support Knowledge & Troubleshooting quiz in a few hours. For the test data system setup, we’re using a checklist using the forms available on SurveyMonkey, where our company already has an account (SurveyMonkey, by the way, does not offer automated question scoring). For actual procedural lab work, we’re using a worksheet where you can compare before & after; I may eventually find the time to build a tutorial/exam around it.

I’m also looking forward to including a couple of quizzes right here in my blog. Should be fun.

Posted in community, games, learning, publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

the secret behind lorem ipsum dummy content

Posted by contentgrrl on February 6, 2008

For the latin text that supposedly served as the source of the “lorem ipsum” dummy placeholder content, see lipsum.com.

According to this site, it’s from The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero in 45 BC:

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

There’s even an English translation:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

The site also has an application that generates so many paragraphs of the stuff from the source. You can use these generated paragraphs in your template layout designs to test styles and image placements, without  distracting your reviewers with the actual content. At least until they approve the design and the real content can take its place.

Posted in culture, learning, project management, publishing, reading, tools, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

3 sites for more writerly blogging

Posted by contentgrrl on January 25, 2008

On FreelanceSwitch, I’ve found a new thrill of writerly blogs and advice on improving writing:

In particular, Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas is an inspiring model of good writing, even if it is a bit long. The intro reminds me of an homage* in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou?, but the meat of the article is 5 ways to observe differently (learn for life, change perspective, free your mind, travel, and listen).

Another site I’m adding to my blogroll is FigaroSpeech, by Jay Heinrichs, author of Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. I’ve bought the book, and I’m both captivated and compelled to try some of those rhetorical tools.

*OK, here‘s the homage to blues legend Robert Johnson from the movie:

Tommy Johnson: I had to be up at that there crossroads last midnight, to sell my soul to the devil.
Ulysses Everett McGill: Well, ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one that remains unaffiliated.
Ulysses Everett McGill: What’d the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?
Tommy Johnson: Well, he taught me to play this here guitar real good.
Delmar O’Donnell: Oh son, for that you sold your everlasting soul?
Tommy Johnson: Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.

Posted in learning, persuasion, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

20 questions: scoping out a writing assignment’s focus and misconceptions

Posted by contentgrrl on January 17, 2008

To fully capture a writing assignment’s focus and value, twenty questions are usually in order. Give or take a few. At the beginning of a gig, I’ll ask all of them. I never know when I’ll run into a misconception or political curse. But after a while, experience with a particular topic teaches me the answers to more and more of these questions.

Overview

  1. Topic: What are the keywords?
  2. Service or product: What product or service is involved or might be helpful?
  3. Timeliness: Why is this article timely at its writing/deadline?
  4. Focus: What merits a special focus?
  5. Expert Technical Reviewers: Who can serve as a resource for information and to verify the accuracy of the article?
  6. Communication: What channels do we want to use to get the word out — mass email, newsletter, Web page, fill-in form, press release, FAQ?

Audience

  1. Audience: Which target audiences, customers, or prospects are affected?
  2. Assumptions: What does the target audience know? What’s been rumored?
  3. History: What related issues have the audience experienced that may color their motivation or response?
  4. Misconception: What is most likely to cause the target audience to misunderstand or err?

Action

  1. Task: What is the target audience trying to do or accomplish?
  2. Trigger: What situation or case triggers a problem?
  3. Flow: How is it supposed to work?
  4. Solution: What do we want the audience to do? What sequence of steps are recommended in this particular case?
  5. Out of Scope: How do you know if you’re not affected? Are there special cases that merit more in-depth attention?

Value

  1. Benefits: What are the desired outcomes? What does a successful result look like?
  2. Consequences: What are the consequences of errors or inaction?
  3. Alternative: If there are alternative solutions, why wouldn’t you want to use them?
  4. Validation: What case data, evidence, statistics or resources can be used to confirm the veracity of our information?
  5. Illustration: Is there a metaphor, diagram, or image that might attract attention or help understanding?

TIP: With seven really good interview questions, a talkative expert can fill an hour. For the sake of efficiency, I try to get the basic facts out of the way, email my questions ahead of a meeting, and schedule a followup for during draft review to cover the rarer questions.

Posted in illustrating, learning, publishing, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

report: new evidence for evolution, lack for intelligent design

Posted by contentgrrl on January 4, 2008

Yesterday, the National Academy of Science and its Institute of Medicine published a report, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, touting new fossil evidence for evolution and emphasizing that non-scientific creationist positions have no place in public school science classrooms.

The report emphasizes the need to teach evolution. That’s just in time for consideration by certain state education boards (including Florida and of course, Texas, which I’ve already mentioned in “teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world”) who are considering adding or adjusting standards for teaching evolution in their curriculum.

The book, which can be read online for free, also takes the stance that creationism and its repackaged intelligent design alternatives are not science, and thus should not be included in public science classrooms:

Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes. Many teachers are under considerable pressure … to downplay or eliminate the teaching of evolution. As a result, many U.S. students lack access to information and ideas that are both integral to modern science and essential for making informed, evidence-based decisions about their own lives and our collective future. …

…[T]he science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material. Teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses what constitutes science and what does not. [page 43]

The conclusion emphasizes that the science of biological evolution forms the basis for biomedical sciences, ecology, and some engineering fields that are profoundly important for the health and welfare of future generations.

Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future. (page 47)

Why can’t we all just get along? Because we — both fundamentalist and atheist, both anti-evolution and anti-creationism — say hurtful and defensive things that turn us away from each other.

In the Dover, Pa., case, duly appointed judge upheld the evidence presented by the plaintiff (Kitzmiller) to declare a certain school-board required statement promoting an Intelligent Design text unconstitutional. Afterward, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson said “to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God — you just rejected Him from your city.” It seems so unChristian and hateful of him. Just because Robertson didn’t agree with the results doesn’t mean that a loving God would retaliate against the faithful citizens of the town where the case took place.

And yes, I’ve heard my share of “infidels” discounting and insulting creationists. Them’s fightin’ words.
I for one am glad that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If parents and church thought leaders want somebody to teach intelligent design, something clearly the realm of religion, shouldn’t that be part of their Sunday School curriculum?

I found the story originally on beliefnet news, Importance of Teaching Evolution Noted. There is an interesting set of reader comments there. The Associated Press story also appears in Dallas Morning News.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world

Posted by contentgrrl on January 1, 2008

Promoters of Intelligent Design may get their wish in Texas, due to state education board appointments and an impending review this month of state-mandated science textbooks.

This week I was passed a Dallas Morning News editorial warning that the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in Dallas has been recommended to prepare graduate students online to teach Science in Texas.

DMN is usually a rather conservative paper, but this time they at least at first took a stance supporting the separation of church and state: “It’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

And then there was the closing call to respect faith: “It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

The ICR’s CEO wrote a letter to the editor defending his curriculum and calling into question whether the theory of evolution has been scientifically proven. But the ICR stands to gain tens of millions of tuition dollars from students around the world who want a Texas-certified master’s degree taught from a fundamentalist perspective.

An earlier story reported a Texas state board of education employee’s forced resignation, highlighting the tensions around “the first review of the science curriculum in a decade. …As one of the largest textbook purchasers, the state could dictate content across the nation.The agency hopes to fill the position in January, the same time review groups are set to begin meeting and examining each aspect of the science curriculum.”

President Bush has said he advocated teaching Intelligent Design in schools. His protégé Texas Gov. Perry appointed a Bryan, TX, dentist (who teaches Sunday School at a very conservative Bible Church) to the position of chairman of the state board of education, and Dr. McLeroy said he could support an addition that requires teaching the strengths and weaknesses specific to evolution.

Skeptics (including Science Avenger, Texas Citizens for Science, and Panda’s Thumb) think such a tactic of “teaching the controversy” is yet another repackaging of creationism and intelligent design.

Let’s take a look back to 2004, when the Dover, Pa., school board added this requirement to their curriculum, which sounds similar to what TX education board members are looking into:

Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.

That Dover school board also required a statement promoting a textbook on Intelligent Design be read to 9th grade students; dissenting board members resigned with frustration and teachers refused on the grounds that they did not believe the statement was true, so an administrator was called upon to do the reading.

In Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, the plaintiffs argued successfully that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, partly because its proponents did an obviously poor job of replacing the term in a draft of the proposed textbook, and was therefore unconstitutional in accordance with Edwards v. Aguillard. Nova had a documentary on this case recently.

But Teaching the Controversy could leave a big footprint. Once they can establish in the public’s mind that a controversy exists, then it would be much less controversial later to reintroduce intelligent design into public school curricula. Discovery Institute fellows have documented this reasoning and the new Texas state board chairman agrees. And if they establish this controversy in Texas, other states who buy from the same textbook publisher will follow suit.

At church this Sunday, one member asked, “If they add this to the public school’s current 180-day curriculum, then what will they have to take out? Will we have to sacrifice proven science for pseudoscience?”

At home, my husband asks, “Would you trust a doctor, who doesn’t believe in evolution, with the medical treatment of your children?” Well, squarely in the Bible belt, I am certain that many fundamentalists would flock to such doctors were they known.

On a Parenting forum, it brings up the question, “Who is the state board of education to circumvent my rights as a parent in indoctrinating my children on something that is clearly the realm of religion?”

In a more and more cosmopolitan population where more and more people come from different countries, heritages, and belief systems, I am vigilant to examine the sides in question, but I don’t see any scientific evidence on the part of intelligent design, only rhetoric that is either transparently offensive or vociferously defensive. It makes me watchful of steps that could lead a teacher or classmate to belittle, proselytize, harrass, or exclude my sons if they happen to offer an argument for evolution.

On Sept 17, 2007, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a report of American creationist efforts to influence European schools that concluded, “If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe…. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements… some advocates of creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.”

I hope the Texas education board will listen carefully to science educators and parents of all backgrounds during the comment period. I hope they don’t make a decision that will have to go to court when the money for that expense would be better spent elsewhere. Say, on research to cure disease or on organizations who help children get out of abusive families into safe and healthy environments.

Posted in citizen, culture, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

a little sugar for the season

Posted by contentgrrl on December 21, 2007

This week at work, our inboxes are graced with thank-yous to the few very hardworking “Santa’s elves” who brought the Childrens’ Holiday Party to reality this year, broadcast to all employees.

One of the elves responded with fond sentiments for the parents who helped and for the children who participated.

Then, one guy joked, “Yeah….that’s a lot of words….I got “thank you” and “have a very merry Christmas” out of that ;).” He referred to the only capitalized phrases in the single large block of sentiments, obviously meaning to be funny. But as with the other messages, it went to all employees.

Kudos to the guys who made light of it: “And the award for tact goes to…” and “Suggested reading: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.”

Kudos to the ladies and gentlemen who responded to the original sentiments with thanks for making their day.

And kudos to the joker who actually apologized rather well. After a talk with his manager, and a review from another manager. ;^)

But it reminds me of my whippersnapper days when I was still working (at another company) at 3 am due to last-minute changes that had to be done to get the product out the door, and what to my wondering mind did appear but a idea to suggest (via email, of course, to the entire department) that the project should have been user-tested earlier. In hindsight, it was useless and inconsiderate. The next day, I learned that months before I was hired, well, they actually had gone through that testing. And I wasn’t with that company for long after the project ended.

That's a pretty stupid idea, John. I'm afraid I'll have to kill you.So. I commemorated the event with a coffee cup, decorated with a cartoon of a guy in a suit at a meeting, pulling a gun out of his coat, saying, “That’s a pretty stupid idea, John. I’m afraid I’ll have to kill you.”

But thanks to one of the humorous respondents, what inspires me is the lesson of this Carnegie exerpt:

Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment. …The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.

George B. Johnston of Enid, Oklahoma, is the safety coordinator for an engineering company. One of his responsibilities is to see that employees wear their hard hats whenever they are on the job in the field. He reported that whenever he came across workers who were not wearing hard hats, he would tell them with a lot of authority of the regulation and that they must comply. As a result, he would get sullen acceptance, and often after he left, the workers would remove the hats.

He decided to try a different approach. The next time he found some of the workers not wearing their hard hat, he asked if the hats were uncomfortable or did not fit properly. Then he reminded the men in a pleasant tone of voice that the hat was designed to protect them from injury and suggested that it always be worn on the job. The result was increased compliance with the regulation with no resentment or emotional upset.

As Mary Poppins loves to sing, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” I’ve learned that even if I think pretty good with my keyboard, I come across much better when I let some ideas wait their turn. And when it’s truly worth the trouble to take the time to speak to someone privately on the phone or in person, you have the chance to let small talk and a human connection open doors.

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