My Comments On Geography-themed Writing Assignments

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Below, I have provided the word-for-word Announcement I posted to Canvas today to convey some thoughts to my 100-level World Geography class. I post my Announcements here, on my blog, to see if people agree with me, to and show an example of an Announcement, as I am frequently looking for good examples of communicating with students. I’m not saying my example is wonderful. I’m just offering it up to the good folks on the Interwebz.

The responses I read for the Chapter 5 Writing Assignment were overall really good. Most everyone did a fine job of not only discussing particular concerns and issues but also picked out specific countries which exemplified the issues addressed. Seeing data, specific countries mentioned, like Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica, plus statistics related to a concern like education rates or poverty rates are really important details to see in reports. Please keep up that level of writing.

I spent Monday through Wednesday at a state-wide geospatial conference in Owensboro. I had the opportunity to listen to various speakers discuss qualities and traits of new hires, employees, and good attributes on resumes. 100% of employers said reading and writing skills are fundamental. Writing reports for supervisors, clients, or government agencies is a common practice. People need to know how to write and communicate effectively. I translate these comments into, “Do not use txt msg, slang, or other informal language when writing for academia or for any task related to employment.” When faculty harp and badger students about writing, we are really coaching you into developing good habits so you will be an exemplary person in your workplace. When you get that first great job, you’ll be faced with a number of stressful circumstances and learning how to write well should not be one of those things to worry about. So, really practice writing and communication skills.

The other qualities employers were looking for, in addition to writing skills, were HTML, Javascript, and Python programming experience (OK – not everyone may need those particular skills). Or, at least the ability to write code, and be able to break problems down into workable components, and work towards a solution. Sound familiar? If you have seen “The Martian,” the current movie starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney, and astronaut/botanist stranded on Mars, Watney uses a similar process to help him survive. The novel upon which the movie is based, contains far more problems than the movie requiring solutions. The lesson here is being able to critically think about a problem, break down the problem into manageable bits, then solve each bit using skills you possess. Then, maybe…hopefully, you will have solved the major issue.

Don’t think about where your were (academically), don’t even really think too much about where you are (academically); instead, think about where you want to be, research and plan for that eventuality.

Lastly, when you begin college, your graduation is 3-4 years away, perhaps longer. How many iPhone generations is that? How many Android phone generations is that? How many times is Facebook going to change its user agreement? Is SnapChat still going to be around? Will Tumblr replace Instagram? I have no idea, really. Whatever the answers are, the reality is you need to be skilled, knowledgeable, creative, and nimble enough to be able to adapt to circumstances 4-5 years away, when you graduate.

Oh, and one more thought. If you made it this far, these comments may not apply to you. But, feel free to read them, anyway. “Africa” is not a country. “The Caribbean” is not a country, either. Neither is “Asia.” Please, do not talk about “South America” as if this continent is a country. Pay attention to your writing. Read aloud your words if you need to. Too many students are writing as if Africa is country like Germany, or Canada. There is no president of Africa, or of the Caribbean, or of South America. These are continents and regions, and in some sense, realms.

PAX

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