My semicolon experiment

As a professor, there are certain remarks I find myself writing over and over again, to the point that I have several things I can cut and paste in student papers without too much effort that cover common issues. For example, if you are a student who received this message from me, you are probably not the first: “Grammar is not where it needs to be. I would recommend visiting the writing center before the next assignment to work out some of these issues!”

To amuse myself while grading papers, I have begun to add a sentence to my canned remarks for semicolon abusers for every error made. I find semi colons are the most misused character in the English language by students.

Right now, as mid term assignments roll in, here is where it stands:

“Never use semicolons. College students misuse them, and this hurts your grade. I can’t emphasize this enough. I wish I got paid per instance of semicolon misuse. I would be a very rich man.”

Updates forthcoming as necessary!

Implications of improper email format in an academic community

By Guest Author Kelly Roby

I see parallels in the social consequences of improper email etiquette in academia and business. I believe that the parallels of increased use of technology and lack of focus on proper communication have grown at a rapid rate.

Stephens et al., conducted two studies using Interaction Adaption Theory (IAT) to examine improper or casual out-of-classroom emails and the impact these had on the student, student credibility, message attitude and overall willingness of a professor to comply with simple requests for a face-to-face meeting. IAT helps explain how individuals choose to respond to communication in either a matching or complementary manner. To accurately predict a response to interaction IAT uses three conditions:

  • Requirements (R)-what the receiver feels is necessary in an interaction
  • Expectations (E)-anything anticipated in the interaction and typically considered social norms or prescriptions
  • Desires (D)-what one hopes or prefers to occur in the interaction

R, E, and D form to make the interaction position (IP). When this position is compared to actual behavior (A), a positive or negative reaction occurs.

Study one utilized 152 instructors ranging from full-time tenured professors to adjunct faculty, with an average age of 38.0 years. It attempted to identify the affect on instructor opinion towards the student by manipulating message quality and familiarity.

Study two involved a more-pinpointed effort to expound on the results of study one. The intent was to identify whether generational differences had influence on student email content, why students might violate instructor expectations and the specific email aspects that bother professors more than students.

The results of the two studies points to a correlation between the use of casual email and text messaging. While generational aspects were evident, they were not significant enough to explain the reason for student decorum in out of class communication and professors’ response and opinions to such violations. The results supported the general consensus of a need for instructional emails from professors, and also identified a negative opinion towards students with casual or improper email. It is hypothesized that second and third order effects of continued violations could follow students to the business world and possibly generate the same affects from future employers and business relationships.

All in all it appears that with the increase of technology, the perceived need for training on proper correspondence rules and techniques has changed. With the rush of everyday life and immediate electronic conversations via texting, it appears that young students are creating habits that might echo beyond school. Effective communication is a vital skill in the business world. If students do not learn proper etiquette, it is quite likely they will expose themselves to embarrassment and criticisms in a business environment were perception is reality. Their communication with professors is a good place to start!

Stephens, K.K., Houser, M.L., & Cowan, R.L. (2009). R U Able to Meat Me: The Impact of Students’ Overly Casual Email Messages to Instructors. Communication Education58(3), 303-326.

Recent Presentations

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_5316765″><strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”” title=”SEO presentation 2010 share”>SEO presentation 2010 share</a></strong><object id=”__sse5316765″ width=”425″ height=”355″><param name=”movie” value=”″ /><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”/><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/><embed name=”__sse5316765″ src=”″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”355″></embed></object><div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”>View more <a href=””>presentations</a> from <a href=”″>Michael Rabby</a>.</div></div>

I recently gave two presentations for the DTC program, housed in the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University-Vancouver. It was part of their Technology 101 series, the details of which can be found here:

Below is the slideshow for the presentation I made this afternoon at Washington State University-Vancouver. It covered search engine optimization (SEO) for the beginner.

I also gave a talk entitled Social Media 101, which covered the basics of social media.

Texting While Driving as a Pre-Meditated Act

Texting while driving image of a road From DQMountaingirlAs any Oprah watcher can tell you, texting while driving is a problem. We can make it illegal (it is in a majority of States), but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate what to many still seems like an innocuous act. A coinciding approach involves looking at the reasons people engage in the behavior, and engaging motivations by starting with intentions. Nemme and White took this approach, a variation of the Theory of Planned Behavior, in their study of 17-24 year-old Australian students.

They looked at five factors that contributed to intention to text while driving:

  1. Attitude towards texting
  2. Subjective norm, or the person’s perceptions about how others feel about texting while driving
  3. Past behavior
  4. Group Norm, or if the people they know read or send text messages while driving
  5. Moral Norm, or if the person feels it is a right or wrong action

Following the theory of planned behavior, these factors lead to intention, which then leads to behavior (measured a week later as both sending and receiving texts). Perceived behavioral control, or how much control the person feels she/he has over his/her behaviors, also influences both intention and behavior.

They found that 1) attitude predicted intentions to send and read, 2) subjective norm and perceived behavior control predicted sending but not reading, 4) past behavior is the strongest predictor of intentions and behavior, and 4) adding group norms and moral norms (an addition to the Theory of Planned Behavior) strengthened the model they posited in the paper.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to deter people involves stressing that driving while texting is a shameful behavior, and that your friends do not do it, nor do they approve of it. Think of how you never thought a thing of one-time-only usage bags for your groceries, until you realized you were one of the only people who didn’t bring their own. Others retain a large hold on our behaviors even though we would like to think we left this behind long-ago in high school.

Nemme, H. E., & White, K. M. (2010). Texting while driving: Psychosocial influences on young people’s texting intentions and behavior. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1257-1265.

On learning: How important are relationships in the classroom?

By Guest Author Natalie Wheeler

My favorite classes in school have always been those in which I get along with the teacher and students. I seemed to not do well in the classes where my instructor and I did not have good rapport, but I always chalked it up to my own stubbornness.

student teacher courtesy of Rex Pe

According to research by Frisby and Martin, however, I was not such a rarity. Their sample of 232 college students reported on their perceptions of three categories: interpersonal relationships, participation, and learning. Interpersonal relationships were classified as both rapport between the instructor and student and rapport between student and student. Learning was also divided into both cognitive learning (knowledge or mental skills) and affective learning (attitude or growth in feelings/emotional area).

The results showed that rapport in the classroom correlated positively with classroom connectedness, participation, and learning. Rapport between both instructor-student and student-relationships resulted in classroom connectedness, which in turn resulted in classroom participation. Interestingly, however, only instructor rapport consistently predicted participation, affective learning, and cognitive learning.

These results incdicate the importance of good relationships in the college classroom towards but achieving what should be every teachers goal: learning. While student-student relationships may be helpful in creating good classroom connectedness, only the instructors relationship with the student aids in promoting learning.

Both the instructor and student have to take responsibility if they wish to reap the benefits of this good classroom relationship. It is important for educators to understand the positive connection between good relationships with their students and the students absorption of class material. After all, a teacher is none other than an aid to help foster students’ intellectual growth, and it is much easier to let a person help you if you can trust them. That said, college students are equally responsible for maintaining good rapport with both the instructor and their peers. A student who does not make an effort to interact with the instructor or his or her peers might adversely affect the learning environment and process, while an educator who does not promote positive interaction is also stifling their students potential learning. Both instructors and students need to realize this correlation and engage, not only with the learning, but with each other.

Frisby, B., & Martin, M. (2010). Instructor-student and student-student rapport in the classroom. Communication Education, 59, 146-154.

Parent-Teacher E-Mail Strategies at the Elementary and Secondary Levels

By Guest Author Amy Bernert

As someone studying education and planning to pursue a career in teaching, adapting to the changing needs in parent-teacher communication is imperative for success. With today’s emphasis on computer-mediated communication we need to not only to know how to communicate face-to-face, but through the convenient and prevalent method of e-mailing as well.

Blur of teacher in classroom from a study that addressed the problems that arise in the e-mail strategies of parent-teacher communication, Thompson conducted 60 interviews with 30 parents and 30 teachers, as well analyzed a total of 188 e-mails (from 27 teachers) and 153 e-mails (from 26 parents).
Misinterpretations prevailed as the biggest problem in parent-teacher computer mediated communication. Participants explained that this occurs because there is no inflection involved in e-mails, and some messages often come off as angrier than intended, especially when the parent does not know the teacher well.

The perceived dehumanizing factor of e-mailing also reoccurred as a problem in this study. There are concerns for both the parent and teacher in this case that e-mailing was replacing face-to-face communication.

With the incredible convenience of e-mailing, teachers found the problem that their accessibility to parents was developing too informal of a relationship. Some parents found it appropriate to explain student punishment at home, and teachers found that the relationships forming with parents via e-mail could cause favoritism.

The fourth problem was an educational concern; teachers found that students were relying on their parents to keep track of their schoolwork. Parents also agreed that their children relied on them to e-mail the teachers.

So with the recent and ever-growing spike in computer-mediated communication, the problems listed are sure to occur if both parents and teachers do not use specific strategies to help cut them back. Misinterpretations can be few and far between if you regulate your tone, try to remain positive in e-mails, and use face-to-face communication if you feel a misinterpretation has occurred. Parents and teachers also agreed that getting to know each other better could help reduce confusions, and, of course, this same strategy can be used to hold back the dehumanizing factor of e-mailing to communicate.

Since the last thing a teacher wants to do is tell a parent to stop talking to them so much, the only real way to help with the over-accessibility of teachers through e-mail is for teachers to be aware of their tendency to “play favorites” and make sure it does not occur. It is also important to use e-mailing as a backup, allowing the student to handle issues themselves before involving a parent. This strategy ensures students take responsibility for their actions as well as their schoolwork.

E-mailing has given us all the ability to communicate conveniently through technology, but I would not be surprised if more parent-teacher communication problems arise in years to come. Novice teachers have grown up in a world far more tech-savvy than any other generation and may see computer-mediated technology as a replacement to face-to-face communication, and both parents and teachers need to be aware of the continued need for balance.

Thompson, B. (2009). Parent-Teacher E-mail Strategies at the Elementary and Secondary Levels. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 10(1), 17-25