The Traditional English Class

While  proper essay writing and a good understanding of the English language are still important when it comes being successful as a writer, editor, web developer, or whatever other careers an English major might be interested in, the internet and social media have opened up new, more successful pathways for English students.  While reading Shakespeare is entertaining and teaches the reader how to develop plot twists and interesting characters, does Romeo & Juliet teach a student anything when it comes to getting a job?

As an English major, of course I enjoy Shakespeare and other traditional English courses like American Literature and Milton.  However, as an English major focusing in professional writing, I find that courses that discuss HTML and web development are much more helpful than courses on literature.  As a senior, I am taking more and more classes that are specific to my major.  In other words, four of my five classes that semester all focus on some sort of web writing, from HTML to online collaboration apps to Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. While, all these classes are helpful, I simply get tired and sick of staring at a computer screen all day when the first couple years of my college education focused on textbooks and notes.

The only class I have this semester that is not computer-based is Shakespeare. And, boy, is it refreshing. While there may not be as many takeaways than my professional writing courses, I find myself appreciating Shakespeare more because it is different from all of the other things I am learning this semester.

New English courses are arising and are indeed more useful than Shakespeare and other literature courses when finding a job, but traditional English courses still have a place in education.

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Teaching Social Media

There are thousands of articles online that warn younger generations about the consequences of posting unprofessional material on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  However, kids are starting to use social media at younger and younger ages, and at that age, they are more worried about what the boy in Math class thinks about them than what a future employer might think about them.  Because of this, I believe social media needs to be taught at the middle school and/or the high school level.

Too many times, I scroll my Facebook feed and see a post or picture that I know the person will regret in a few years.  Whether its a promiscuous selfie, a rant about an old friend, or protest for the legalization of marijuana, younger generations are simply unaware of the consequences that these kinds of posts can have on their future.

Teaching social media to the younger generations could be as simple as having a guest speaker come in and discuss how companies really do check out Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds when analyzing an applicant.  Or, it could be as in-depth as hiring a teacher that lone responsibility is to teach students about the dangers and implications of social media.

Either way, we can not let our younger generations fall victim to things they posted in the past and the only way to do that is to educate them, because as young teens, they don’t know any better.

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Microsoft Word’s Dilemma

For years, Microsoft Word has been the default word processor for writer, students, and professionals.  However, as companies transition from print-based releases to more web-based releases, Word has seen its popularity and reception take a dip.  More and more writing applications are being created that cater to online writing, rather than print-based writing.  This leaves Microsoft Word in need of a major change.

One reason why Microsoft Word is troublesome for web writers and developers is because transforming a Word document to HTML is troublesome.  Some text comes up as unidentified characters and the styles do not usually make the transition into HTML.  Also, most web writers and developers would rather style their documents in CSS than styling them in Word and converting it to an HTML.  In this regard, Microsoft Word pales in comparison to new apps like Editorially, which provides its user with many export options, HTML included.

Another reason why Microsoft Word is losing popularity is because of its cluttered layout and distracting design.  The current trend in web development is clean, minimalist layouts, and Word is the exact opposite.  There are simply too many buttons and options on the top menu bar to provide for a distraction-free writing environment.  In comparison, apps like Editorially and Write Or Die have minimalist designs where the only thing the user needs to focus on is the text.

In conclusion, Microsoft needs to make changes to Word in order to avoid extinction.  They need to create a word processor with a minimalist design and make it more user-friendly for writers and developers that will be export the document to HTML.

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Writing For The Web

This semester, I took a class titled ‘Developing Online Content.’  The class provided students with a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, BootStrap, and WordPress.  It explained good and bad practices and also explained professional processes, like working with a client and designing a website for a company to continue to manage.  By the end of the semester, I realized that this class was one of the most helpful classes I had taken at college and, although it was challenging, was also one of my favorites.

However, the semester before, the same class was called ‘Writing For The Web.’ The name switch stemmed from students’ initial opinions about the class based on its name, and rightfully so. ‘Writing For The Web’ sounds more like styles and formats that are appropriate for writing online articles and not the technical side of it. ‘Developing Online Content’ on  the other hand, designates that the class will be focusing on web design and development.

Since writing online information is becoming more and more popular as more companies transition to web-based releases, what ‘Writing For The Web’ should have been should be a class.  Students should learn that writing a traditional essay on a word processor is not the same as writing and uploading an article to the web.  Even though ‘Writing For The Web’ lost its name, it should make a return and provide students what its name entails.

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How The Internet Has Changed Sports Fandom

Why watch an entire, three-hour football game when you can just check the box score every few minutes for updates?  Why buy a ticket to watch a baseball game when you can watch a stream of the game online for free?  These are some of the questions that many so-called sports fans ponder with day in and day out.  With the speed of the internet and how often updates are provided on Twitter, Facebook, or sports websites, box scores and stat sheets are being watched just as much as the game itself, because if a person knows Peyton Manning threw for 300 yards and five touchdowns, then they don’t need to watch the game to know Manning had a heck of a game.

Not to mention, that people are beginning to care about their fantasy teams more than their reality teams.

I love stats and box scores.  I look through the box score of every NFL game every week.  I read books of baseball stats.  I create my own stats.  But, as much as I love stats, there are things that happen in sports that stats can’t explain.  The only way to see and understand these things is to watch the game.  Turn off the computers.  Put away your iPad and iPhone.  And just watch the game.  I guarantee, if you look at the box score after the game, you will scratch you head, thinking he ran for that many yards?  Or I thought he threw for more yards than that?

Stats are fun to analyze and compare, but nothing can top the gameplay itself.

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Spreading Tapestry

After finishing my Tapestry essay for my Writing & Digital Media class at Virginia Tech, I decided to send it to my mom, who has always been my biggest fan when it comes to my writing.  Although I was unhappy with my final product (I didn’t like writing an essay in short sentences and words), my mom loved it, and loved it more than she usually does.

However, what surprised me even more was that when I came home for Thanksgiving break, my mom wanted me to come in to her 1st grade classroom and teach her kids the basics of Tapestry.  Rather than going into a classroom full of screaming toddlers on a day that was planned for relaxation, I decided to give my mom a quick summary of how to use Tapestry, since the app is not very complex.

I explained the text alignment features, how to add images, and how to change the color of the text and background.  I just went over the basic features of the app, since my mom would be using it with young kids.

Turned out that the kids loved the app and were able to easily understand how to write a short story on it.  This led me to think that maybe Tapestry is better suited for a younger audience than college kids because of its limitations and glitches.  Either way, Tapestry is a breath of fresh air for people who are tired of reading traditional essays and online articles.

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Online Group Writing

As finals week dragged to a conclusion, one of my big group projects needed a memo of transmittal.  Since all four members of the group were busy studying for other tests and assignments, there was not a time when all four of us were able to meet before the memo was due.  Rather than breaking up the memo into chunks, which would cause the memo to be poorly structured and not cohesive, we decided to try out writing the memo together in Google Docs.

As it turned out, writing the memo together in Google Docs turned out to be a great idea.  We used the chat box and comments feature to discuss how we wanted to write certain sections and what details to include.  While I had used Google Docs and other collaborative writing apps before to have my work edited and revised, I had never used them to collaboratively write an entire document.

The memo ended up being much longer than it needed to be, but there wasn’t a detail left out, since all four group members had different ideas they wanted to discuss.

Having no free time during finals week actually turned out to be a plus, as it opened my eyes to how easy online collaborative writing can be.

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A Good Read About The Millennial Generation

Here is an article written by Leslie Tolf posted by the Huffington Post.  I found this piece as I was doing research for a final project I had that discussed the Millennial generation.  While many of the articles I read had negative connotations and criticized the Millennials for a number of reasons, such as laziness and selfishness, Tolf was enthusiastic about our generation becoming a bigger part of the work force.

She lists five tips that Millennials should keep in mind as they go through their professional lives, but there were two points that stood out to me.  The first is that Millennials need to be build relationships in more old fashioned ways, such as writing a handwritten thank you letter or going out with coworkers for lunch.  The second was that patience is key because of the increasing gaps between generations that are created by technology.  “Understanding why someone believes something that they believe is almost, if not more important, as actually agreeing with them,” states Tolf.

In other words, in a world that resolves around social media and computers, communication skills, both written and verbal, are the keys to success.

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Online Reading ADD

The internet and its speed is changing the way people like to read online.  Today, people (myself included) seem to enjoy reading a quick summary of something rather than a lengthy, detailed explanation.  For example, people seem likelier to click and read the article titled “Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums Of 2013″ than “Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ Is Manic, Melancholy and Brilliant.”  The same can be said for sports, as more people will read “Top 10 Quarterbacks in College Football” than “AJ McCarron is royalty in Alabama, and underrated everywhere else.”  Nowadays, people want all of the information, and they want all of the information fast.

This style of short analytic writing is seeing a rise because of how many people rely on the internet for news and current events.  Websites like Bleacher Report, Complex, Pitchfork, and ESPN Insider have seen a huge boost in popularity over the years, and their most popular articles are lists and rankings.

While, I enjoy reading these lists and rankings because it provides a bigger picture, many times, the articles lack detail, opinion, and analysis.  At times, I think any person on the planet could write these lists because they are so vague.  The lists and rankings are great for a quick read while online, but a detailed reviewed of an album or an in-depth story about an underappreciated quarterback should receive the spotlight over a list of albums or players.

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Telling A Story

In my Writing & Digital Media class at Virginia Tech, we have continued to strengthen our ability as storytellers, just in a more technological fashion.  First, we created digital narratives, putting our voice over images and videos in order to describe some sort of process.  In other words, we created videos telling a story of how or why something works that way it does.  Then, we created argumentative Tapestry essays.  In other words, we used the Tapestry app to tell a story about a current controversy.  Finally, we gave a speech about the pros and cons of a composition app.  In other words, we told a story about how to use an app.

In the end, we told stories using different mediums and applications.

Even though the world is becoming more and more digitized and computer-based, humans are still consistently telling stories, something they’ve been doing since the cave men drew on rocks.  Even if it’s virtual, it’s still storytelling.

Whether it’s recapping how our day went to a friend or explaining a process to a coworker or describing a new song you heard, humans are always telling telling stories, and will continue telling stories forever, no matter how much technology invades the world.

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