CMN 3109.. what a class? “Advanced theories of communication” is a third-year course at the University of Ottawa. It was taught by Professor Pierre Lévy, author of Collective Intelligence, 1994. Without a doubt, this is by far the most innovative class I’ve ever taken. I was intrigued by the teaching style which I’ll come back to soon. I was also fascinated by the professor behind this pedagogical style. In my many years as a student, I had never encountered anyone so happy to teach and who really wanted his students to learn-encouraging questions even the challenging ones. This was interesting to me because where I come from, most teachers/professors do not like to be challenged in class or asked questions outside of their comfort zone.
From the first class, we were introduced to communication in nature and I learnt that communication existed before the world of humans, as there is communication in every level of life- right from molecules to humans. What sets humans apart is our ability to manipulate symbols and we are able to do that because we have language. Then we learned about the trivium- which is grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (input, process, output). Grammar is concerned with the thing as-it-is-symbolized. Dialectic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known. Rhetoric is concerned with the thing as-it-is-communicated. Sister Miriam Joseph described the Trivium thus: Grammar is the art of inventing symbols and combining them to express thought. Dialectic is the art of thinking. Rhetoric is the art of communicating thought from one mind to another; the adaptation of language to circumstance. Grammar is about meaning, dialectic is about truth and rhetoric is about persuasion- how to convince people.
It is only through the good use of language we can access these three. Of course, I was drawn more to rhetoric because it is the power of language but one cannot learn the techniques to create powerful messages until we master grammar and dialectic.
Rhetoric is divided into three stages. Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Logos is the narrative, the story or idea one wants to share. Ethos focuses on how the messenger chooses to present himself. It is about personal image and branding. Pathos is about the emotion the presenter wants to invoke in his/her audience. everything comes together to create a powerful message. First, you have to choose a message and design the way it will be delivered. Then after creating a composition, you have to accommodate the style of the message and then execute in order to create a lasting memory in the minds of your audience.
As a student very interested in media studies and forging a career in that path, it helped to learn how to be a powerful communictor. What will set me apart from the rest? I want to produce television- that will change lives and leave lasting memories. I want to impact my generation using media. What I learned about rhetoric is a step in the right direction for me achieving these goals of mine.
Like I mentioned above, his teaching style is unique. His was a social media based teaching. We were encouraged to take notes on Twitter and ask questions. An hour was allocated to the professor giving the day’s lecture and then the next 30 minutes involved going to the class twitter feed which was curated with the hashtag #UOAC. I’m sure my fellow students as myself were shocked. It is not a shocking revelation that students are always on social media in class anyway so that directive can be likened to placing a bone in front of a dog. Over the weeks, one could notice that students actually engaged on the twitter platform and were putting it to good use. When a student asked the reason behind using social media in class, the professor said: ” I try to empower the younger generation to make the best possible use of new tools.” I became very interested in this form of teaching which led me to research further the use of twitter in a classroom for the purpose of collective intelligence. I wrote a research report on this for another one of my classes. this goes to show how affected I was by the class.
This struck me because there are so many situations or things that we have that are less then perfect but we can choose to put it to good use. We need more people like Professor Pierre Levy who can invoke change and create innovations in pedagocical settings.
Thank you for a great class and learning environment!!