Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reflection Essay

I Can Write A Paper :)

English 250 consisted of experimenting with many different forms of communication: written, oral, visual, and electronic. I value the skills I have gained in all of these different forms of communication, but I would definitely say that the skills I have learned in written communication will be of the biggest benefit. Written communication is something that has always been “scary” to me because I never really knew how to do it. But, taking English 250 has helped me improve greatly when it comes to communicating my ideas in an essay. There are many different aspects of writing a paper that I have improved on by doing each of the assignments and projects.

The first thing I learned was to not use such “choppy” sentences; I need to make the sentences in my paper flow so that the reader isn’t stopping every few words because of a period. If a person would look at my first draft of assignment one and then compare it to my final draft of assignment one, they would see the difference. For example, in the first draft I say, “My uncle sneaks up behind the chair I am relaxing in. He tips it over and laughs. I scream,” versus my final draft where I say, “It is only the beginning of the first day and my Uncle Jeff has snuck up behind the chair I was trying to relax in and tipped it over backwards so he can laugh as my arms instinctively go up in the air and I scream.” As you can see, assignment one definitely taught me to put some “flow” into my sentences.

Assignment three is where I learned that I need to guide a reader through my paper by making connections for them from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. The technique I used to help me to do this was to go back and read my paper while asking myself, “Is this going to make sense to someone else?” If I thought that something didn’t connect, then I changed it. I think I am still a little weak at making connections, but I have improved and am aware that they are needed.

Sentence structure and word variation were two characteristics of writing a paper that I worked on during assignment five. I noticed that many times I would start a sentence the same way, i.e., “I went…/I researched,” or, “They have…/They need.” Along the same line, I saw that I was using the same words over and over again. For example, I used “improve” numerous times in my first draft of assignment five, but by the final draft I had replaced “improve” with words like “progress” or “get better.” After realizing the need for variation, I now write my paper (get all of my ideas written down), then go back and change words or sentence structure.

I can proudly say that writing a paper doesn’t scare me anymore or stress me out as much as it used to. Becoming confident in written communication is a relief to me, because I will use it in a lot of other classes here at Iowa State and in my life after being a student. The skills that I have learned in English 250 are probably more beneficial to me than any others I have learned in different classes this year. I am so glad to finally know how to write a paper!!!

Electronic Communication

Electronic Communication: Reflection

Of all of the different types of communications we have experienced in this class, electronic communication is the one that is becoming bigger and bigger. E-mailing, Facebook, MySpace, text messaging, etc. are all types of electronic communication that are widely used and gaining popularity. In English 250, I think I gained the most electronic experience by communicating through e-mail and using the class moodle to get the information I needed.

I learned that when sending an e-mail, I needed to be thorough and ask myself how the other person is going to read what I am trying to say (because they can’t just ask me a question if they misunderstand me- like they could with oral communication). Thoroughly examining my e-mail saves me and the other person time and confusion by not having to go back and forth to clarify what I am trying to communicate. Also, I am glad that we had to e-mail our assignments to Ms. Martin because that taught me how to confidently use the “add attachment” feature.

Using the class moodle has helped me to navigate through a website to get important information. This is beneficial because I’m sure that in future classes and even in my future job, I will use the skills of using an on-line site to find information.

As I said, electronic communication is growing, so gaining the skills of communicating electronically is essential to my life as a student and future in having a career.

Visual Communication

Visual Communication: Introductory Reflection

Visual communication seems to be everywhere; on billboards, in magazines, on the internet, etc. While learning about visual communication, I realized that I had never thought critically about the ads that businesses put out- I had just thought of them as pictures that were trying to get me to buy a product. So, when I heard of the techniques of businesses using ethos, pathos, and logos to sell items and services, it surprised me since I had never really noticed it before. While we looked at numerous ads in class, I thought it was interesting how everyone would have different opinions on the same exact ad- this taught me that every part of an ad is important; color, font, word choice, location… any little aspect could change the meaning or feeling that an ad portrays. So, with my new, improved way of thinking about visual communication, I analyzed a Diet Dr. Pepper billboard and it is amazing how much depth one ad can have.

Cute and Catchy with Meaning

“Nothing diet about it.” is the cute and catchy slogan appearing on a billboard advertisement for Diet Dr. Pepper. From experience in today’s world, we all know that ads are used for promoting certain products and increasing sales, but in our fast paced lives we might not realize that ads can have deeper contextual meanings. So, while it is obvious that the Dr. Pepper marketers put out this ad to promote their product and increase sales, there are other parts of this ad that aren’t so obvious and need to be analyzed. We need to think about why Dr. Pepper put this ad in the location it is in, why it is so simply organized, and how ethos, logos, and pathos are used. Also, when I first saw the “Nothing diet about it” slogan, previous knowledge of America’s obesity epidemic and diet fads came to the front of my mind. I think this simple, catchy phrase represents the problem of obesity in America today.

First, because location and organization are related in this situation, let’s start with the decisions Dr. Pepper had to make considering these two topics. The ad is on the side of a fast moving, traffic filled street in Des Moines, Iowa and features a Diet Dr. Pepper can on its right side, with five delicious looking cupcakes lined up to the left of the can. The clever slogan sits directly above the cupcakes. “Nothing diet about it” is printed in big, easy to read, white text that stands out from the dark background of the billboard. The Diet Dr. Pepper can is the biggest object on the billboard and the text and cupcakes lead the potential buyer’s gazes to the can. Overall, the ad is organized simply and easy to read so that people driving by or pumping gas into their car at the nearby QuickTrip can comprehend it quickly. Since the ad is quickly comprehended and located right next to a QuickTrip (which would have Diet Dr. Pepper) the people driving by or pumping gas into their cars could stop to buy a Diet Dr. Pepper in a matter of a few minutes. But, why would these consumers use their time and money in order to get a Diet Dr. Pepper?

Because the cute little cupcakes and Dr. Pepper name pull out ethos, pathos, and logos, the ad is persuasive, causing consumer to use their effort to get a Diet Dr. Pepper. Most people who see this ad know of the many years of success the Dr. Pepper brand has had. Because of this, they think that if Dr. Pepper has sustained itself so long then it must be a good company and they can trust that the ad is telling the truth. Cupcakes might make a person crave a sweet bite of food, so they think that Diet Dr. Pepper will satisfy their craving just as a cupcake might. Also, the cupcakes in the picture are bright and colorful and people associate these little morsels with happiness and celebrations (such as weddings and birthday parties), so one would assume Diet Dr. Pepper must give off the same effect. However, too many “fun” cupcakes can lead to a bad effect, so with respects to the obesity problem, this ad uses pathos for those on diets.

Currently, an estimated 65.2 percent of U.S. adults, age 20 years and older, and 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight. 30.5 percent of these adults are obese (Obesityinamerica.org). These percentages are determined by a calculation known as Body Mass Index, which uses the height and weight of a person to determine whether or not a person is healthy, overweight, or obese. With 65.2 percent of Americans being overweight, many are on diets (ever heard of Weight Watchers, low carbohydrate diet, or Jenny Craig?) that consist of foods that aren’t necessarily their favorites and that are frustrating, therefore “nothing diet about it” makes them want to try Diet Dr. Pepper. In this ad, the Diet Dr. Pepper can sits in a cupcake holder like the actual five cupcakes do, so potential consumers think that the pop is as good as the cupcakes. The marketers at Dr. Pepper know that a lot of people are on diets (look at all of the diet pills and products on the shelves at the grocery store) that they are tired of and that these dieters are looking for something they can have that is diet, but doesn’t taste diet. Therefore, knowing about obesity and dieting in America, this ad is not only catchy, cute, and clever; it represents a bigger meaning.

The reason why Dr. Pepper chose to market their product like with this ad is important and interesting. Dr. Pepper recognizes that many Americans are overweight and on diets, so by marketing their pop in this way, they catch the attention of a big group of possible customers. Also, the target group of this ad isn’t only made up of people on diets, but also people who simply like to drink pop. As I said earlier, most find that diets get frustrating and people want new foods they can eat and new products to help them out while trying to lose those extra pounds. If the dieting person looks at the billboard and sees the cupcakes they might think of all the bad foods they shouldn’t eat, making them discouraged, but then they see the Diet Dr. Pepper which they can have because it is diet but doesn’t taste diet. This would appeal to them because Diet Dr. Pepper is something they could have and not feel guilty about.

Advertising is a big business worth a large amount of money, so the marketers behind the advertisements know exactly what they are doing; location, convenience, simplicity of the ad, and the world view behind it. Every detail matters- from the color of the text to the overall effect. Us as potential buyers see hundreds of ads everyday, so an ads job is to put out a positive view of the product and get our attention quickly to make us think that if we use this product, it’ll make us a better person. However, sometimes the ad has more of an effect than just making us want the product; it can represent bigger issues in our world today such as unhealthiness in America.

Works Cited:

ObesityinAmerica.org. 2004. 21 Feb. 2008.

Oral Communication

Oral Communication: Reflection

Oral communication is a very important aspect in our world today; we communicate orally nearly every day of our lives. It is crucial to make sure your communication is being understood by the people you are in contact with, because otherwise a misunderstanding could ruin things. In English 250 I have learned a lot about communicating clearly, mostly through the small group projects.
As we worked on our group projects for assignments two, four, and six, I noticed that understanding one another and making plans was essential. If we had misinterpreted what part of the project each member of the group was going to do, then the project wouldn’t have been finished on time. Or, if we made plans to meet somewhere at a certain time, and one person didn’t get the memo, then our plans would have to be inconveniently changed. Now, being a little late on an assignment or changing plans is not a huge deal, but what if a business president or an army commander didn’t know how to correctly communicate with words? That would be a problem. Communicating orally is important in serious jobs all the way down to small assignments. So, with the right oral communication skills, projects (and many other things in life) will work out great!

Written Communication

Written Communication: Introductory Reflection

The argumentative research essay, assignment five, is my favorite paper from this class. I enjoyed writing this essay for two reasons. One, I had practice with four previous assignments so I felt prepared to write a well-written paper. I had learned to guide the reader with connections from sentence to sentence, and paragraph to paragraph, vary my word choice, and vary sentence structure. The most helpful aspect in writing my paper was learning to look at it through the eyes of my audience and ask myself, “Will this make sense to my audience,” and “Have I guided the reader through the paper?” By learning and using these techniques, I think I wrote a nice paper, and I feel that I can communicate to any audience through writing.
The second reason I enjoyed this assignment is that Tennis is an activity I love, so obviously researching it and writing about it came easy to me. I learned that when choosing a topic to write about or make an argument for, that topic definitely needs to be something the writer is passionate towards. So, as you read “Step by Step” I hope that you see my improved writing and learn a little about helping the North High tennis team.

Step by Step

The girl’s tennis team at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa has had many losing seasons; the previous four being seasons that I personally experienced. Tennis is a sport that takes money, time, and resources to be able to improve. Many would say that a school like North (where the same students spread themselves thin to play all of the different sports, money is hard to come by, and tennis resources are limited) has a slim chance of improving on anything. But, in my opinion, I think that if small changes were made, the girl’s tennis team could improve drastically, thus giving the girls on the team something to be motivated about and simultaneously inspiring them to work hard. With something to be motivated about and to work hard for, the members of the team would not only experience the successes of tennis, but also learn that trying your hardest at everything in life will bring success.

A couple of popular arguments against North High School’s ability to improve; they do not have enough money (the school or individual players) and they do not have enough resources to do what it takes to build a competitive tennis team. In all honesty, these are logical arguments that a lot of people would stand by. Many of the students at North are from low-income, single parent homes, where they themselves need to work to help support their family. Also, the students who are able to be involved in extra curricular activities are usually involved in different sports all year long, leaving little time to practice year-round for tennis. I recognize these obstacles as I was submersed in them for four years. Therefore I am not making the argument that the North tennis team will be number one in the state, but that with small, realistic changes, the tennis team can improve.

As I looked through numerous books and websites and from my past knowledge from playing tennis, a common theme is that improving in tennis takes time, as in year round play, which means paying for indoor courts and lessons. During the summer and fall, the outdoor courts North uses in the spring would be great for once weekly, off season practices. But since the winter season is so long in Des Moines, the need for indoor courts arises. The Des Moines Golf and Country Club offers tennis lessons and indoor courts to its members, but it would be too expensive for most of the players on the North team to pay for a membership (dmgcc.org). So, another option that fits North’s situation better would be to get a membership to Aspen Athletic Club on Hickman. Aspen on Hickman boasts a nine court, indoor facility for tennis (Aspenathletic.com). Membership would be about $25 per month per player (Aspenathletic.com). The girls would need a place to play for four months (November, December, January, and February), adding up to $100 per player. Players could meet maybe once per week (or however many times they can) so as to not interfere with other sports the team members are playing during the tennis off season. As I said, many books and websites and my personal experience all agree that just keeping your racket swinging at least a little throughout the year will improve any tennis game.
Tennis is an expensive sport; a player needs lessons, money to rent indoor courts, rackets, gear, etc. There are numerous types of fundraising that can be done to raise money for a sport. Fundraising.com has many ideas for raising money, two of which grabbed my attention. The first money raising idea that stuck out to me was a magazine fundraiser that is done through e-mail. The team members would send out e-mails asking friends, family, and teachers to buy magazines and then get 40% of the profit back to pay for courts, gear, or whatever they might need (Fundraising.com). Also, the magazines are offered at a low price to the people who are being asked to buy them so then the potential customers are more likely to support the tennis team by buying a subscription to a magazine. The second fundraiser is a box of 52 chocolate bars that are sold for one dollar each (Fundraising.com). This would be easy for the tennis players to sell- during the school day other students would buy the chocolate up fast. As an example, if the entire team sold only 20 boxes, earning 45% profit, they could earn an easy $468 that could be used to pay for most of the Aspen membership during the winter. With these fundraisers, the tennis team could generate enough money to use indoor courts and replace any needed gear, but they would still need some help with lessons and technique.

While there aren’t many physical resources for North (instructors who give lessons) there are other types of instructional resources such as books and websites. I read through several of these books and websites that have success tips and skill improving drills for tennis to try and figure out if any were “do-able” for North. One book, 228 Tennis Tips, offers such advice with drills and tricks for tennis that I think would be useful for North. My idea is that the North tennis coach and players could use resources like this to have new, fun ways of leading practice that would improve the team’s tennis skills. These drills and techniques could be used at normal practices in the spring and at once weekly practices throughout the rest of the year. For even more help, the team could hire a successful tennis player and North High Alumni, JR Kappelman, who would give tennis lessons to North for $20 per hour (it would be less if he did a clinic for all of the girls at once).This is definitely a great resource and while it’s probably not realistic all year long, they could hire Kappelman a few times just to get them going.

Through my prior experience with North and the new knowledge I have obtained through research, I feel that North could truly improve in tennis by using the methods in this paper. So, while North is limited on the resources tennis requires, they can find ways to get better. With the step by step processes listed above, I think that the tennis team and its members will not only gain skills for tennis, but also gain a view on life that success is possible in all areas.

Works Cited:

Aspen. Aspen Athletic Clubs. 21 April 2008.
Des Moines Golf & Country Club. Dmgcc.org. 2006 Des Moines Golf and Country Club.
21 April 2008. <http://www.dmgcc.org/>.
Fundraising.com Inc. Fundraising.com. 1996-2007. 21 April 2008.
Kappelman, J.R. Telephone interview. 12 April 2008.
Laver, Rod. 228 Tennis Tips. Chicago: Follet Publishing Company.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Home Sweet Home

“I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore” by Carrie Underwood is a song I like because of the fact that I can relate to it. In this song, Underwood sings about her hometown, Checotah, Oklahoma, and how it is much different from her life now (as a former winner of American Idol, Underwood’s life changed from that of a slow-paced small town girl to a fast-paced starlet). The lyrics of this song are about how Underwood thinks her life now is new and exciting, but that home is home; and she misses it.
“I’d rather be tippin’ cows in Tulsa, than hailing cabs here in New York,” and “My hotel in Manhattan holds more people than my town,” are two of my favorite lines in the song. These two lines are catchy and kind of ironic because many people would want to live in a fancy New York hotel and hail cabs in New York rather than tipping cows in a small town. But different places are home to different people; if you grew up in NYC you probably love activities like hailing cabs, but if you grew up on a farm, you probably enjoy activities like tipping cows. However, I don’t think of “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” as only comparing Checotah and New York. It can relate to anyone who has recently moved away from home, wherever home may be.
This past year, I moved away from home to go to college, and while I love to be in college and move on with my life, I miss home. When Underwood sings about things such as Friday nights with her friends, prom, football games, and her favorite home activities, I think of all of my memories and fun times from home. With the upbeat rhythm of the song, it helps to bring out fun, special memories for whoever is listening. So, whatever your idea of “home” is, “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore” is a cute song that captures the meaning of a place to call home.

Carrie Underwood. "I Ain't in Checotah Anymore." Some Hearts. Artista Records, 2005.

Friday, April 18, 2008

An Ironic Play of Events

“Grizzly Man” is a 2005 documentary directed by Werner Herzog. In this documentary, Herzog puts together clips of video that Timothy Treadwell, a man who lived in the wild with bears, had taken over many years. Treadwell spent his summers in Alaska at Katmai National Park where he lived amongst bears; wild bears. Treadwell camped in the park and spent his time filming and getting to know the animals so that he could help them.
In his video clips, Treadwell shows many bears doing various activities. The things he caught on tape were of the bears living life; eating, playing, fighting, sleeping, etc. Timothy also interacted with the grizzly bears- he would get close enough to touch them and he even gave each grizzly a name. “I’m in love with my animal friends!” said Treadwell on one of his takes (he also interacted with foxes, not just bears). Throughout “Grizzly Man,” Treadwell proclaimed many times that he loved his animals and was there to protect them, but there were many interesting facts in the documentary that lead the viewer to believe he was out there for more than just the animals.
One clip would be of Treadwell saying how much he loved the animals, but the next would be of him saying how troubled he was- he didn’t have a girlfriend, maybe it would be better if he were gay, he used to be an alcoholic, etc. It was almost as if he lived with the bears to escape the human world. Timothy lived out in the wild to help the bears but also to help himself. Either way, Treadwell didn’t realize the danger he was in.
In 2003, a bear killed Timothy Treadwell and his friend that was with him (Amie Huguenard). It was an ironic play of events- Treadwell was out there to help the bears but one ended up killing him. There are many opinions of whether or not Treadwell should have been living with bears to help them, but it is a sad story that family members lost a son and daughter, and many lost their friends.