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December 31, 2006

Multimedia learning

I just ran across a book that looks interesting:

Richard Mayer: Multimedia Learning Richard Mayer: Multimedia Learning

From the description on the Amazon site:

For hundreds of years verbal messages have been the primary means of explaining ideas to learners. Although verbal learning offers a powerful tool for humans, this book explores ways of going beyond the purely verbal. An alternative to purely verbal presentations is to use multimedia presentations in which people learn from both words and pictures--a situation the author calls multimedia learning. Multimedia encyclopedias have become the latest addition to students' reference tools, and the world wide web is full of messages that combine words and pictures. This book summarizes ten years of research aimed at realizing the promise of multimedia learning.

Posted by jmm at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

Digital storytelling

Dana Atchley was a pioneer in digital storytelling, and an evangelist for the use of rich storytelling techniques for business and professional presentations. He died in 2000.

Stories are how we connect on the most fundamental, human level. Stories are the best way to embody, share and remember knowledge. Before the advent of the written word stories were the only way of communicating history.

He was one of the early critics of bullet-point presentations, which he referred to as "corporate Sominex". You can get a sense of his talents and style from the website of the Digital Storytelling Festival he ran.

I have long understood that storytelling is one of the most effective ways of communicating complex information. I learned a fair bit from a little-known book by one of my former Ford School of Public Policy colleagues, Martha Feldman. In Reconstructing Reality in the Courtroom (with Lance Bennett; Rutgers Univ. Press 1981), she argues, based on field case studies, that juries navigate the maze of evidence, rhetoric, body language, and legal tactics by organizing them into a story, and that the side that presents the most coherent, internally consistent and compelling story wins.

Posted by jmm at 01:50 PM

December 05, 2006

Books on writing

Can't overemphasize how important good written communication is. It is usually the most durable form in which we transmit our ideas to others, and is naturally asynchrononous which relieves coordination problems across time and space. Oral presentations at conferences play a crucial role in building our social networks and gaining the attention and recognition of other scholars, but our written publications usually play a larger formal role in our career advancement.

So, I'll be making posts about written in addition to visual and oral communication. Today I'll start with a list of books that I have found helpful over the years.

















Strunk and White: Elements of Style Strunk and White: Elements of StyleThe true classic. Pithy set of style rules that, applied firmly, almost always improve clarity and vigor in your writing.


William Zinsser: On Writing Well

William Zinsser: On Writing WellAnother classic (just released in revised 20th anniversary edition). He preaches stripped-down simplicity. Has chapters on audience, usage, etc., but also a chapter on scientific writing.


Lyn Dupre: Bugs in Writing

Lyn Dupre: Bugs in WritingSimilar to Strunk and White in that it's a collection of style principles, but not short (some 140 terse chapters). Focuses on writing in technical fields, especially computer science.


Gary & Glynis Hoffman: Adios, Strunk and White

Gary & Glynis Hoffman: Adios, Strunk and White -- A Handbook for the New Academic EssayA writing guide specialized to academic writing. Goes beyond dogmatic rules to discuss features of good writing (flow, pausing, disarming, intensifying, etc.).


Deirdre McCloskey: The Rhetoric of Economics

Deirdre McCloskey: The Rhetoric of EconomicsNot really a writing guide, but an excellently well written inquiry into the rhetorical (persuasive) methods used in economics writing, and how these serve to obscure the nature of knowledge and learning. Reading this will help almost any social scientist write more effectively.


Maxine Hairston and Michael Keene: Successful Writing

Maxine Hairston and Michael Keene: Successful WritingAnother writing guide for academics, focusing on the process and structure of writing (adapting to audience, revising, polishing, etc.).


Martha Davis: Scientifc Papers and Presentations

Martha Davis: Scientifc Papers and Presentations


Vernon Booth: Communicating in Science

Vernon Booth: Communicating in Science -- Writing a Scientific Paper and Speaking at Scientific Meetings


Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Writing

Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Writing

Posted by jmm at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)