Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Minnesota e-Learning Summit wrap-up

Last week, I attended the Minnesota e-Learning Summit. A colleague and I were invited to present a poster, but it was also a wonderful time to interact with peers from other institutions and learn from them about what works best in online and mobile learning environments. Over half of the presenters have shared their materials via the e-Learning Summit online repository. I encourage you to review the presentations for topics that interest you.

A few presentations that I found most engaging:
Accessibility & Universal Design in Online Learning
Scott Marshall, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Sara E. Schoen, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Kimerly J. Wilcox, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

5 Words You Never Thought You'd Hear at the eLearning Summit: The Cognitive Science of Clickbait
Ann Fandrey, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Alison H. Link, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Cristina Lopez, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Creating Engaging Recorded Lectures
Robin O'Callaghan, Winona State University

Keeping yourself organized when designing courses
Mary Bohman, Winona State University
Robin O'Callaghan, Winona State University

Web Accessibility Assessment for Everyone
Tonu Mikk, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

The Open Textbook Network: Building Capacity and Momentum
David Ernst, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Speeches That Changed the World: Using Software to Help Students Analyze Rhetorical Patterns
Jim Hall, University of Minnesota - Morris
MaryElizabeth Bezanson, University of Minnesota - Morris
That last one is the poster session that Dr Bezanson and I gave about using DICTION in her "Speeches that Changed the World" class. I've mentioned the DICTION software before, as a way to make rhetorical analysis easier. If your research involves analyzing texts, you may be interested in this software.

DICTION is a computer-aided text analysis program for determining the tone of a verbal message. Conceived by rhetorical analysis scholar Roderick P. Hart, DICTION generates a "fingerprint" about rhetorical texts based on several key variables: Activity, Optimism, Certainty, Realism, and Commonality. This analysis gives the researcher a jump start in examining a text. DICTION can be used to analyze all sorts of texts: speeches, novels, political ads, inaugural addresses, court opinions, etc. If you can put it into a text file, DICTION can analyze it!

The power of DICTION is comparing multiple texts at once. While we have some reservations about the normative measures used in DICTION (the processes to apply norms to texts is hidden) we were able to escape this limitation by using means and standard deviations, to compare texts to each other. In our poster, Dr Bezanson and I demonstrated DICTION analysis of Queen Elizabeth II's Christmas speeches, throughout her reign: (the poster has the same charts in a slightly different format)


In this analysis, you can see several peaks and valleys. For example, the three-year peak in Optimism around 1960 was the Queen discussing royal births, and what wonderful lives they will have. The spike in Realism and Certainty in 1968 was the Queen's commentary on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, and how this was a moment in history and civil rights that cannot pass unmarked. The dips in Activity in the late 1970s and in 1999 were from the Queen's reflection on a major anniversary of the British Empire and the passing of the Millennium, respectively; in these speeches, the Queen did not advocate a particular agenda or action, but reviewed events in history and quoted past leaders.

We also demonstrated an analysis from the Obergefell v. Hodges (gay marriage) Supreme Court decision, with the majority opinion and four dissents:


For example, you can see that the majority opinion scored high (relative to other opinions on the same case) on Realism and Commonality, and low on Activity, as the justices ground the case in legal theory and use language that seeks to unite. In the dissents, Justice Thomas has higher relative scores for Activity and Certainty, and lower relative scores for Realism and Commonality, as Thomas has a tendency to speak ex cathedra (based mostly on personal opinion and a sense of "The Right thing"™).

DICTION doesn't provide all of the rhetorical analysis, but is one tool to help researchers and students to jump start their deeper analysis.
photo: Pam Gades

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