Communication in the 21st Century: Effective or Flawed?

The other day, I sent a text message to a friend and it read, “Ok I’m done just sitting around if I can help out let me know.” After I sent the message, I re-read it and realized that I had sent the wrong message. What I meant to say was, “I’m done. Just sitting around. If I can help out, let me know.” There is a world of a difference between the first message and the second message. The first sounds like I’m frustrated with sitting around and I want to do something about it. The second one sounds like I just finished what I was doing and now I’m sitting around. If I can help out, I’m available. This text message is not the first and won’t be the last text that sends the wrong idea. Everyday, more and more people are using text messages, instant messages, social networking sites and e-mail to communicate with one another. Everyday, fewer and fewer people choose to meet in person or even pick up the phone.

When we have a face-to-face conversation with someone, we have a number of factors that help us get the message across. We have our eye contact, body language, vocal inflection and most importantly, the ability to correct a miscommunication immediately. Over the phone, conversations still have the vocal inflection and ability to correct a miscommunication. With a text message, you simply have typed words, often with poor grammar, and the way your message will be interpreted is at the mercy of the one receiving the message. At least we have emoticons that allow us to set the tone of the message.

So if face-to-face communication at its best is still challenging, what hope is left for us who choose to communicate via text messages, instant messages, email and social networking sites? How can we be sure that we are communicating effectively? It is important that we take effective communication into consideration when we send a text or instant message. We can start by simply proof reading our text messages to ensure that we are sending the clearest message possible. But more importantly, at some point, it would be wise to check in either over the phone or face-to-face with the person we are texting, to make sure that there wasn’t a communication breakdown. Use of emoticons helps as well. ;)

Hand holding smart phone

Tina Babajanians, M.S. CCC – SLP, is a speech language pathologist working in Los Angeles, California. She works in variety of settings including elementary schools, full-time and hospitals, per-diem. Her passion is voice therapy and she is working on launching a private practice that specializes in the treatment of voice and resonance disorders. You can visit her website and find her on Twitter @lavoicetherapy.

The Communicative Function of (Blog) Commenting

Diagram of blog comments

Photo by cambodia4kidsorg

Blogs are a pretty recent entry in the history of the written word, and a lot of people don’t quite know what to do with them. Our ancestors seem to have known that it would have been considered rude to pick up the paint or chisel to respond to their neighbors’ musings via cave painting or stone tablet. Books and magazines have been similarly non-interactive; it seems senseless to deface these writings with our thoughts- “Right On!”- when the author would never see our ball-point pen scrawlings. But here we are in a new age, that of the “Social Web,” and anyone who wants to put their writing out there can, and does! Why? Well, we all have different motives, but in the case of SLPs and other educators who blog, I believe it all boils down to sharing. I recently was at a conference, and a wonderful Massachusetts principal- who is so pro-sharing that he keeps his desk in the middle of his high school lobby- put it something like this (excuse my paraphrase if you should ever see it, @bhsprincipal): “It’s not that I think I know better than everyone else, it’s just that no one else is sharing.” That “no one” has thankfully gotten a bit inaccurate in the past year, with the blossoming numbers of SLPs who blog. And we are definitely seeing that you read, so THANK YOU.

However, because we are demanding little creatures, we SLPs, we have something else to ask you for: comments. Comments feed us! It’s really great to know that others have read and have thought about our writing, and, being in the same profession, have ideas to share back. This is why we choose blogging as a medium, rather than trying to track down a publisher: we don’t want it to be just a one-way conversation! So, we know it’s hard to break out of that mode of reading that dates back to “I better not write anything on Shakespeare’s Folio,” but now, really, we are asking you to write all over our posts. In addition to meeting bloggers’ seemingly insatiable need for attention, your comment will live on with that post, along with your expertise, and enhance the experience of all who read it!

See that little “LEAVE A COMMENT” link? Unfortunately, it means no one did. But I’m not asking you to feel bad for me. OK, I am a little. But also, I put that there so that first of all you know HOW to comment.

When you click there, you’ll see this, a similar form to what you would see on any blog:

ASHAsphere asks you to leave your (real) name and email address, though others can’t access that email through this blog (be careful on other blogs- I sometimes use a “spare” email address, like my yahoo account to make a comment on a blog I don’t often frequent). Should you feel bad if you leave the Website field blank? No. ASHA and other readers don’t care if you don’t have a website. So what to write in that “Comment” field? It’s up to you, but here are a few suggestions to spark your commenting:

  • “Add a Thought”- Michelle Garcia Winner posed this excellent explanation of what a comment is- it’s simply when we “add a thought” to what has already been said. In our literacy classrooms, this is described as “Making a Connection” to one’s own experience, and the best blog commenting uses this strategy. Yet another way to think of this type of comment relates to the positive momentum of improvisational performances, which use the rule of “Yes, And…” to keep the interaction going! We can think of our conversations, real or virtual, as following the same principle.
  • Feel free to disagree (but maybe not eviscerate)- My suggestion of “Yes, And…” as a guideline for commenting should not be interpreted as meaning that you should never disagree with a blogger, especially when his or her opinion is “out there.” However, I have seen some pretty harsh (in the case of YouTube and news websites, almost inhuman) comments written in social web outlets, and I know that we SLPs, as communication specialists, can avoid that pitfall. Using the sandwich technique is always helpful: site a positive you found in the post, then a negative, and end with a positive. Maybe you can’t find two positives? Make it an open-faced sandwich! In any case, we all know that the written word looks harsher because it is devoid of all our contextualizing nonverbal signals; so it’s best to remember that sharing is caring and give bloggers a little slack when disagreeing, eh?
  • Questions Welcome- Was there something you did not quite understand about the post or do you want to delve a little further into the topic? If the post described something new and techie, do you need help? Throw that up there in a comment! I always try my best to get back to people on questions, and though it might take us a few days, you should check back on the blog for an answer. In general, the blogger will leave a response there rather than bother you at your email address!

As a blogger, I know that one way to encourage comments is to end with a question. So: what has been your experience with professional discussions, commenting and questioning online? How have you seen it change, and how has it shaped your practice?

Sean J. Sweeney, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public schools and in private practice at The Ely Center in Newton, Massachusetts. He has presented on the topic of technology integration in speech and language at the ASHA convention and is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens, which won the 2010 Best New Edublog Award.

Blogging and podcasting for Speech Therapy

Geek SLP TV logo

Photo by Barbara Fernandes

Many of us were born before or when the Internet was just a luxury. I did not even put my hand on a computer until I was 11 years old. From that day forward, I often stayed awake at night just to learn how to create websites, play games or to surf the Internet. Today I still spend many hours daily in front of the computer– I love to blog and network with my fellow speech therapists online.

Imagine that each one of us now has the potential to share our knowledge with millions of people around the world, including with other speech therapists, parents and even individuals whom have a communication disorder. We all have something we can share; we can each be both creators and disseminators of information on a daily basis. I wish I could get paid just to blog, but so far it has been only a hobby.

On my blog called, “GeekSLP Blog”, I write mostly about the use of technology for speech therapy. I am an Apple fan and fan of all the gadgets that make my work easier and more entertaining for the children whom I give therapy. Blogging made it possible for common people like you and me to be the creators of information. We are no longer dependent on big corporations to “teach” us; we learn from one another and grow together. One of the greatest things about blogging is connecting with people that share the same passion (e.g I have several virtual SLP friends that share my passion for technology).

Podcasting has the same function as blogging just in a different format: video or audio only podcasts. I have named my video podcast “GeekSLP TV” (how creative!); people can watch it on YouTube or they can also download episodes on their iPhone, iPod or iPad. At first, it was kind of weird because you are putting your face out there; however, after my seventh episode things started getting a lot easier. I just hope people enjoy watching the podcasts as much as I enjoy recording it for my audience. The best aspect about podcasting is that you do not even have to be a geek to create a podcast; a voice recorder or a video camera is all you need to get started.

I hope you get inspired and start blogging or podcasting today. I would love to hear from you and your new way to share your knowledge with the world.

Barbara Fernandes is a trilingual speech and language pathologist. She is the director of Smarty Ears and the face behind GeekSLP TV, a blog and video podcast focusing on the use of technology in speech therapy. Barbara has also been a practicing speech therapist both in Brazil and in the United States. She is a an active participant of the Texas Speech and Hearing Association as a member of the TSHA Culturally and linguistically diverse issues task force. Barbara has created over 15 applications for speech therapists.

Connecting With My #SLPeeps on Twitter

Screenshot from Twitter of a post using the hashtag SLPeeps

Speech Language Pathologists speak their own language that only other SLPs truly understand. This is the case for many different professionals, but it is complicated by the fact that most of the time SLPs are isolated from others. We’re usually the only SLP at our school or in our town. Often we’re in a closet away from everybody else. And, no one at our schools knows exactly what we do.

As a result, when we go to conferences with other SLPs it’s a relief to be able to speak in our native tongue and to talk about our experiences, our problems, our great ideas, and our frustrations with another SLP. After all, this is someone who completely understands what we’re talking about. I’ve found that it usually takes the speaker a little bit of time to get a group of SLPs to stop talking in order to start their presentation. Then, after the program, they sometimes have to kick us out as well. We’re not trying to be rude, we just love hanging out with other SLPs. We are trying to fill our canteen while we can before we go back to the desert where people don’t understand the frustrations of vocalic /r/ and our exciting new therapy toys (as you can tell, I work with children). We just don’t get to see each other often enough.

So, when I stumbled upon Twitter I quickly realized the potential for networking with other Speech Language Pathologists. Slowly I’ve found a good group of SLPeeps (the name that we’ve given ourselves on the web), to which I’ve been able to direct my assessment and therapy questions, give my frustrations, and talk about SLP issues in general. Sometimes we just get a little silly and have a good time with our conversations. It’s been wonderful to be able to have a group that understands SLP talk and what I’m doing at my finger tips.

I’ve made friends with other SLPs all over the world. It’s interesting to find out how they do things in other places. Different educational backgrounds, experiences and interests have resulted in a rich resource on Twitter. I’m beginning to feel like I’m part of a greater international community of Speech Language Pathologists.

There are many people and resources for SLPs online that you can easily find via Twitter among other sources. There are many vendors, specialists, professors, and plenty of clinical SLPs. I’ve found that they are always willing to answer questions. We’ve been able to get special discounts from some of the vendors. One time Super Duper gave us a special discount on Chipper Chat products just because one of the SLPeeps asked about it. Super Duper frequently has Twitter promotions. I have also had Dynavox answer simple support questions over Twitter. SLPs also share online resources, including websites that provide free materials for education or therapy.

Lists of SLPs and other related stuff on Twitter.

You can find followers by searching SLP-related words; well, you can find a few at least. The better way to start finding other SLPs on Twitter is to start looking through the follower lists of other SLPs (my Twitter name is @speechbob), or better yet, look at the followers of @ASHAweb.

So, come join us. We don’t bite, promise.

Robert Bateman, MS CCC-SLP is an educational SLP working at Davis School District in Utah He’s also the co-writer of the new SLP blog Pathologically Speaking.