Tag Archive: Central Penn College


The internet is the most wonderful thing that has happened for college students in many decades as it allows us to have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips. Gone are the days of debate about who won the 1998 World Series (New York Yankees) or who won the Best Actress in 2005 (Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby). Anything we want to know is only a moment away. Seems great right?

The unfortunate side of the information age is the quality of information our students use in their research. High school and college students today are so used to using Google and Wikipedia in their personal lives that they transfer that into their studies. And while technology literacy is a wonderful attribute for them, understanding the pros and cons of the internet when writing and researching is essential to success.

In this blog piece, I’ve decided to take a look at the positive and negative aspects of the internet when it comes to certain aspects of the writing process. Hopefully, this will make students aware of some of these pitfalls before doing their next paper.

The Information Age has changed how students do research.

The Information Age has changed how students do research.

#1 – Prewriting

This is a crucial step that frequently people forget to do at all or spend adequate time with. Many feel that it is an extra step or extra work that they can skip and still provide a quality product. What I often explain to students is that without the framework of a paper, your organization is lacking. An example I give in class is: Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint. What is most likely to happen?

Cons – Students often attempt to sit down with a blank Microsoft Word document when it comes time to write their paper. Prewriting guides the entire work, especially giving you direction when it comes time to research.   You can ask questions that you want to answer that can at least give you an idea of what you want to say by allowing you to formulate a central idea of your paper. Without prewriting, your “house” may not stand on its own.

Pros – A frequent statement that I hear when research papers are assigned is: “I have no idea what to write about”.   This is where technology comes into play. In the information age, bloggers have become the modern day public opinion meter.   Blogs are out there about any topic, therefore reading a blog piece or two may help inspire you about what topic to write about or what opinion to have. Much of writing comes from feelings and ideologies that the writer has and sometimes reading an opinion piece can help writers form their own opinion about certain topics.

#2 – Research

To me, research is the aspect of writing that has changed the most in the information age. Prior to the internet, researchers had to find books, magazine articles, or even microfilm to find information that they needed. Today, we have an infinite number of resources at our fingertips, including Google and Wikipedia. Understanding how to evaluate these resources is extremely important to success in writing.

Cons – Wikipedia – While Wikipedia is a wonderful asset to us as a society, many still do not understand the numerous problems that Wikipedia presents. The main issue is the fact that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. If I wanted to go change an entry right now I certainly have the opportunity to do so. That said, academically Wikipedia is just too general to be useful in a college setting. It’s the same reason that researchers wouldn’t use an encyclopedia in research; it is just too broad for the type of information that we seek as researchers at a college level.

Cons – Blogs – For the individual college student, blogging is a necessity. Blogging though is another major facet of research that has watered down the quality of information that we are presented with on a daily basis. Think of it this way: Writers have to painstakingly get edited before their work is published and journalists have an editor that can dice up their stories to fit spacing guidelines or other factors in the news media. Bloggers, however, have little or no oversight and some bloggers do not take the time to fact check. Also, blogs are often meant to be persuasive in nature. Books, news stories, etc. are typically meant to be informative in nature, to present the facts to you and allow you to make your own opinions.   Blogs are typically trying to attempt to make you change your opinion on a matter, which detracts from the validity and usefulness in an academic setting.

Pros – Wikipedia – Wikipedia does offer many positive things to a researcher though. First, if you are new to a topic and have limited knowledge on a subject, Wikipedia may be a good starting point for general information, as it may point you in the right direction for future research. Also, Wikipedia has extensive references and further reading sections that can direct you to other sources that provide a wealth of quality information. So, while Wikipedia shouldn’t be cited as a source, it is a great place to start your research.

#3 – Revision and Proofreading

One of the aspects in writing that is often neglected is the step of revising and editing a paper. Technology has made us “lazy” in the sense that once we run a spelling and grammar check, we feel that this step has been completed and often may not even read back over our work

Cons – Spelling and grammar check – Microsoft Word and other word processing programs have come a long way in providing us a great deal of tools that can assist us in the revision and editing process. As I mentioned, however, many students think that this tool is a substitute for taking a little extra time to reread their work. In fact, the most common error I see as a professor is students either not using it at all or only using it and not reading through their paper prior to turning it in. And to a professor, this is quite obvious.

Pros – SmartThinking – At Central Penn College, we have series of tools that students may use to help improve their revision and editing skills. The first and most useful is SmartThinking, a tool on Blackboard that provides online tutors to help assist you in your writing. I encourage students to learn more about this wonderful tool by check out their website (http://www.smarthinking.com/explore/how-it-works/) and accessing the tool through Blackboard on the “Tools” tab.

Pros – Emailing your professor, classmates and others

Technology has made getting feedback on your work much easier than in the past. First, you should always reach out to your professor at their office hours or via email. I’m always happy to look over a paper and provide feedback to students should they email me their paper in advance of the due date. You could also email classmates and get their feedback, realizing that you may also be helping them in their studies by seeing how someone else approached the assignment.

As we are clearly in the information age, instructors have realized that this is both a blessing and a curse for students. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of technology could be the difference between success and disappointment when it comes to the writing and researching processes that all college students face. Using some of the tools I’ve suggested here could make the navigation of this information age less of a challenge and more of an adventure!

By:  Paul M. Miller

Professor, Central Penn College

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/pub/paul-miller/3b/b5/495/

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LinkedIn: The Time is Now!

I have been afforded a fantastic opportunity at Central Penn College. Other than the fact that I love my job teaching future generations of professionals, I get to make up for a huge void in my college career. This Tuesday, February 25 at 4pm, I am moderating a workshop at Central Penn College entitled “LinkedIn: The Time is Now!”.

For those of you who are fans of my blog, you may remember some references I made to shortcomings in my college career. To refresh your memory, I feel that my education did not provide me with adequate job search skills in today’s landscape. This said, this may have stemmed from a few different reasons:

1. I didn’t seek out the available resources.
2. Social Media was only just beginning to enter the landscape when I graduated (and no one ever used Myspace for a job).
3. The job search has changed drastically over the past decade.

I don’t want that same mistake to happen on my watch. I’ve already moderated a workshop at Central Penn College entitled “Social Media and the College Student” where I discussed the right and wrong ways to operate on social media for the present college student. I received an unbelievable amount of positive feedback from that workshop, but many comments said “I understand LinkedIn is important, but I don’t know why”. It is from these comments that I felt I needed to address this question.

So for those of you that have this same question on your mind, I encourage you to attend this workshop. If you are looking for work, are about to graduate from college, or simply want to have an all-star profile, I encourage you to attend this workshop. I want to help.

Over the last few months, I’ve finally had some good fortune come my way.  The opportunity to be an Adjunct Communications Professor at Central Penn College has been an amazing experience thus far.  I hold out hope that I will continue to teach there for many terms to come.

There are some things, however, that have been challenging to me.

1) Social Media is the way young people communicate.

While I am far from a social media expert, I still think that my level of social media knowledge is much higher than the average individual.  I’ve been running successful social media campaigns for all of my clients over the past year and have an increasing presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  That being said, I can help businesses, but can I help the students learn more about social media?  Every Communications class should have some form of discussion about social media and how these Communications students can and will use social media in their future jobs.

2) Teaching Communications classes is challenging due to the constant stream of new technology.

The book that I’m using to teach my class is called Media Programming:  Strategies and Practices.  While it does a wonderful job being current and even has an online portal for constantly updated information, the field of communications technology is constantly changing and will continue to do so.  It is certainly my responsibility to stay current on things that could impact not only my class but the communications field in general.

3) My College Classes included no Social Media instruction.  I will not make that mistake as a professor.

Looking back at my time (specifically at Shippensburg University) in college, I quickly realized that not one of my professors ever mentioned social media, even in passing.  Granted, I graduated in 2009 when Social Media was just beginning to become relevant, but I still look at it as a disservice to my education.  Everything that I know about social media I learned myself, being very fortunate along the way to meet two amazing Social Media professionals, Chris Dessi and Rachel Strella.  Even though my current class has no mention of social media anywhere in the course description, relating social media to the subjects we discuss in class will help the students understand how important it is to the field of communications.

4) Colleges and Universities must be proactive when teaching social media.

Just because college-aged students have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts doesn’t mean that a) they know to use it properly and effectively and b) understand how important social media is in finding a job or c) how leveraging social media will directly impact their future career.

Central Penn College does a fantastic job understanding the importance and value of social media and how we as professors must integrate social media discussion within our classes.  I look for many colleges and universities to expand classes to include social media related courses for students.