Monday, December 10, 2012

Dr. Faulkner: Communication


            December 3 was the 20th anniversary of the text message.  The first text message was “Merry Christmas.”  That brought to mind some other first messages.  The first experimental telegraph line between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore was demonstrated on May 24, 1844 and commenced with the transmission of Morse's first message, "What hath God wrought!"  On August 16, 1858 the first message sent via Morse code across the Trans-Atlantic cable was, "Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men."  "Mr. Watson. Come Here. I need you," was the first telephone transmission by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10, 1876.  One of the earliest television broadcasts occurred January 13, 1928, broadcasting from the General Electric factory in Schenectady, NY, and consisted of an image of a Felix the Cat doll, rotating on a turntable.

            On a side note “OMG” is not an invention of the twitter-verse.  The first recorded instance of the abbreviation has been found in a 1917 letter from one Lord Fisher to Winston Churchill.

            Communication has certainly come a long way.  One recent evening I marveled at the fact that I was sitting in my living room with iPad in hand, wirelessly connected to the Internet to view pictures of the Martian landscape taken by the recently landed Curiosity.  In the December 4th issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education blog there is a report of a class at George Mason University where the entire classroom discussion took place via Twitter.

            The question is, “While speed and volume have improved, has the quality of communication improved?”  I think not.  If we are to believe what experts tell us - that a large percentage of communication goes beyond just the transmission of words - then all these devices are leaving out a large portion of what is intended to be conveyed. 

            I’ve been characterized as being overly fond of face to face meetings and I admit this is a preferable means of communication.  I do realize, though, that e-mail, texting, and Twitter and other forms of electronic communication are here to stay.  So I have an obligation to use them effectively and efficiently. 

            In our recent sessions exploring what we can do to help students succeed, one of words that was prominent was “communication.”  So let’s all ask ourselves, “What can I do to communicate more effectively with students?  With co-workers?  With the community around us?

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner 

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