About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The sound of silence

I realized yesterday, when I had to moderate comments for my last post, that it had been more than a week since I last posted. Boy, does time fly! However, between shuffling my children to and from camps, working on my dissertation, preparing to teach a new course (for me), and doing the mountain of paperwork necessary for the kids' schools next year, time got away from me.

I also had begun to review my posts in response to a challenge by Ken Allen. I think it'll take some time to write my response. However, in the meantime, I thought I would address an issue that happens to me in times like this.

I check my regular blogs that I subscribe to on a daily basis. Last January, there were a couple of weeks when Ken did not post. It did not occur to me that he might be on "summer break". All kinds of thoughts went through my head. Is he teaching? Is he doing some new research? Likewise, over the last couple of months, I have notices that Michelle Martin was not posting as much. However, she had a post that explained that due to work obligations, she might not be posting as much.

Finally, I have had trouble submitting comments on Michelle, Michael Hanley and Jenny Luca's blogs (all wordpress blogs). At first, I thought I had somehow insulted these authors. Then I realized and was notified that it was the wordpress software.

All of this leads me to my point about online learning and communication. I tell my first year communication students that no feedback IS feedback. In the US culture, silence is awkward and negative. This is not so in other cultures. Nothing was more obvious than the international project my students worked on with other student groups in Italy, Peru, and France. Each culture interpreted silence differently. Sometimes it was used as a delaying tactic. Sometimes there were forces out of control of the group members (in one case a flood in which all of the computers were destroyed, in another there was only one computer available once a week, and in another, the students were on vacation). Yet other times, student groups did not want to make a mistake, so waited until they had the project completed.

The lesson is that it is important to provide consistent information and communication (i.e. once a week or even once every two weeks if that is all you have time for). When you are unable to do so, it is important to let others know. Finally, rather than looking at silence as a negative void, look at it as a type of feedback which requires more communication to figure out what is going on with the others you are communicating with.

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