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Communicating with Hyper-Tweets

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Non-Technical Skills in ET

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.342.1 - 22.342.10



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Paper Authors


John M. Robertson Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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John Robertson, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Engineering Technology Department at Arizona State University Polytechnic where he specializes in semiconductor technology. His research interests include process control and its application to educational development. He was formerly an executive with Motorola and now participates in many senior technical training programs with the JACMET consortium.

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Communicating with Hyper-tweetsComplaints about poor student writing skills have been rampant for generations. Students feelthe pain and frustration too and they are fully aware that the skill is valued by future employers.Not least of the reasons is that their immediate boss is usually the person who has to correct theirdeficiencies. In spite of every student taking English composition and technical writing classes,the misery persists so an alternative (or at least a supplementary) process is needed. A seconddriver for change was to find a reporting format that was more laptop-friendly than a Worddocument that was poorly structured and formatted. The solution was to develop an extendedTwitter system for short technical reports using PowerPoint. The paper offers a very modesteducational contribution but the problems are too deep-seated to ignore any positive step,especially when it can be easily implemented.The context is a group of courses where students write their own short explanations of key topicsevery week after they have prepared the class material but before the class. That allows theclass discussion to focus on the points of common concern. Every week, there is also a follow-up report to use what has been learned. Each report is short (100 – 300 words) with a singleclear topic and limited scope. That eliminates most of the excuses that relate to not knowingwhat to write. Having five or six reports per week quickly builds up a routine for writing andtime commitment. Since every student is familiar with Twitter, the reports are called hyper-tweets. That name has more sales-appeal than a claim to have re-discovered the paragraph as acommunications construct.The distinguishing feature of the process is to use a common PowerPoint template. This hasfour advantages: Students have to fill a text box. They see how much has to be done and it is less intimidating than a Word document. Having the whole text image in one place allows them to focus on the message. The reports are easy for the professor to read on a laptop. There is no more scrolling back and forth trying to make sense of a fractured Word document. If an extended report is required, it is first prepared as a series of discrete hyper-tweet slides. By switching to ‘outline mode’, the text in several slides can be copied into a Word document. It is already in a structured sequence so the final document only needs minor editing.Results from six classes at junior and senior level are available. The students’ feedback is goodand the professor can read a hundred or more of these short reports in a few hours and still begoing strong at the end.

Robertson, J. M. (2011, June), Communicating with Hyper-Tweets Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17623

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