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University of Michigan Week 6 The Art of Effective Communication Discussion

University of Michigan Week 6 The Art of Effective Communication Discussion

Question Description

WEEK 6 Assignment Details


For those of you who are unfamiliar there is a website called TED TALKS and TED stands for Technology, Education, and Development, and basically it features short talks by many leading innovative thinkers in many fields. Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

TED’s early emphasis was on technology and design, consistent with its Silicon Valley origins. It has since broadened its perspective to include talks on many scientific, cultural, political, and academic topics.[7]

Here is the link:

Please read all of this assignment before going to the website, but once you go to their website, take some time to look around and figure out how it is organized so that you can find something that interests you. After you have acquainted yourself with it, you are going to do the following:

Watch 3 Ted Talks on any given subject such as Education, Technology, Business, Health, etc. Try to find talks that you are inherently interested in, but that also address some kind of social problem that needs addressing. In other words, no Ted Talks on the “joys of fishing.” Page length: 2-3 pages

I did this assignment myself on the topic of Education, so read over my example so that I can give you a basic idea of what I am looking for, but please make sure to double space your assignment.

After you watch 3 Ted Talks, write down the title and the names:

I watched the following Ted Talks:

Ken Robinson: “Are Schools Killing Creativity?”

Justin Suarez: “12 Year old App Developer.”

Danielle N. Lee: “How Hip Hop Helps Us Understand Science.”

Then, choose the ONE you liked the best, and write a formal summary of it using the beautiful template I have given you that should be becoming quite familiar to you at this point.

Here is my example:

In the Ted Talk “How Hip Hop Helps Us Understand Science” by Danielle N. Lee, she examining whether scientific knowledge can be transmitted to youth culture through the lens of a hip hop “lexicon.” She does this by illustrating how a famous song about being unfaithful to one’s partner from a rap group called Naughty By Nature can be related to certain species of birds. By playing the relevant lyrics to the song, she is able to point out how there is also infidelity among some bird species that were once assumed to be monogamous. She argues that through more sophisticated methods of analysis, these bird species were shown to have multiple partners or what is called in scientific nomenclature, “extra-pair copulation.” In the end, Lee argues that framing scientific issues into a hip-hop context enables students to better relate to and understand the material that might otherwise seem alienating. As Lee states, this relationship “..allows students to tap into vocabulary they already know, and systems they already understand.”

After you have summarized your favorite Ted Talk as I have above, I would like you to answer the following questions as intelligently as possible, utilizing power words, and sounding as professional as possible:

Question 1) What did you like about this Ted Talk? Be Specific.

The most compelling aspect of this Talk for me was the way in which Lee is able to incorporate the pedagogy she is talking about within the talk in a kind of meta-demonstration so that the listeners are able to experience what her students experience as she is talking about it. Moreover, the efficacy of the lesson plan is demonstrated by the way in which the audience is able to engage with the song, and repeat it’s message, albeit in a somewhat banking modality.

Keep in mind I could have answered the aforementioned question in a less intellectual sounding way, but not increased my fluency in academic writing.

“I really liked the way she brought the rap song into her talk and got the audience to sing along with her. It really showed how engaging her style was and that it was working because they could repeat it, even though it was kind of banking in a way.

This informal style of writing, albeit a correct answer, doesn’t in any way increase my fluency in academic discourse, nor challenge my ability to utilize the vocabulary and concepts from previous assignments, and thereby leaves my linguistic skills unimproved. Furthermore, it is my firm belief that simply speaking as if one is more intelligent, actually makes one more intelligent. Also notice how I bring back banking, even though it wasn’t about banking per se. The more you can bring in older concepts we have talked about, the more you will retain the material, and impress me with your intellectual prowess.

Also, keep in mind one doesn’t have to speak like this all the time, and there is a time and place for high academic discourse, and that time and place is NOW!

Question 2) What critical questions did you have after seeing this Ted Talk? Is there anything that didn’t make sense or needed more evidence, etc?

In addition to questioning the “banking” methodology employed in her lesson, I also wondered about the metaphorical implications of the study she used as an example. She seemed to be implying that if birds “are naughty by nature,” then humans must be as well. In other words, in the context of the song, somebody could act unfaithfully, and justify one’s behavior by saying it is innate, and therefore they cannot be held accountable for their actions. In other words, I wondered if this was an oversimplification of the concept of fidelity that didn’t take into account other variables such as the choice thereby denying agency in a kind of quasi-sexual-social-Darwinism. In all fairness to the speaker, however, this wasn’t the primary thesis of her talk, which was to show how scientific terminology might be better understood within the context of hip hop culture, and in this she succeeded more admirably.

Question 3) What could have made this Ted Talk better? Be Specific.

I didn’t include an example for this question, but I believe you have the idea of what I am looking for at this point.

Question 4) Can you put the TED TALK into a PERSUASIVE ARGUMENT TEMPLATE?

One of the best ways I know to break down an argument and get to the heart of what the author is arguing for is to put it into what I call the PERSUASIVE ARGUMENT TEMPLATE.

Basically, if somebody is arguing for something, they should be able to fill in the blanks of the following formula.

There should be………………………………………….because……………………,and this is important because……………………………………………………………………

This formula, though it appears simple, actually forces us to figure out what somebody is arguing for and what their reasoning behind it.

Here is what Danielle N. Lee’s Ted Talk looks like when broken down into the formula:

There should be more connections made between scientific knowledge and hip hop
culture because it allows students from diverse backgrounds to better understand
the relevance of scientific concepts, and this is important because it creates a
common “lexicon” from which the teacher can better educate the student.

If you can’t put the talk into the persuasive argument template, then either the speaker didn’t do a very good job conveying their message or you didn’t understand it or perhaps a little of both. It could also be an issue between what we would call an explicit argument and an implicit argument.

An “explicit” argument is an argument that says directly what it is arguing for.

An “implicit” or “implied” argument, however, leaves it up to the reader to figure out what they should do with the argument presented.

For example:

An explicit argument would be:

There should be money sent to Australian firefighters, so that they have the resources to fight fires, and this is important if we want to save the Koala bears.

An implicit argument would be:

In conclusion, there are 10 Koala Bears dying each day from forest fires, and without us, the will be in trouble.

In the second example, the author doesn’t explicitly say they want money, but they are implying it or what in the heck else do they want me as a reader to do with the information. I have started to call this the implied action of an argument, and I use it all the time as it is the quickest way to cut to the chase in any kind of argument, advertisement, you name it. I simply ask myself: “What does this person want me to do with the information they are presenting me, even if they are not telling me explicitly to do it?”

You will be amazed at how much BS this can cut through with this simple technique. (I don’t mean to imply here that saving the Koala bears is BS)

So, even if the speaker doesn’t come right out and say what they want, I want you to fill in the blanks and see if you can put it into the persuasive argument template anyway.

Question 5) What evidence does the speaker present to support this thesis? Be specific. After somebody makes a clear argument, then they have to present evidence to back up their claim. For now, we are just going to identify what that evidence is, and later we will talk about evaluating the sources of evidence.

The evidence Lee uses to support here thesis is embedded within the lesson plan she
implements. She asks the audience to sing along with the chorus of the hip hop song in order to show how they can learn via music. And by the end of the talk it appeared that most of the audience had integrated the new “lexicon” into their singing.

Finally, end this assignment by listing any specialized terms that might not be known to the general public is critical to understanding the Talk. Defining specialized terms (nomenclature) is something that is essential to good argumentation. Keep in mind these terms would not be specialized for biologists, but they are for a lot of the general public.

Lexicon: a vocabulary used in a specific context

Extra-pair-copulation: the term given to describe how a certain species of bird may
have multiple partners.

DNA: the genetic code for the development of a species


Assignment number 2: Page length: 2 pages


Since we don’t get to meet in a regular classroom, it has been nice to read some of your personal narratives to get to know you folks a little. To continue that end, I am giving you the following assignment which is an assignment I wish an English instructor had given me.

Think of a work of art that has inspired you, moved you, helped you, changed you, etc. This could be a song, a poem, a novel, a youtube video, a self-help book, a TV show, a dance, etc. Then, tell me the story of how it affected you. Here is the outline of this narrative:

Summarize the work of art using the same formula we have been using. It should work for anything, even songs.


In the song, “Wish You Were Here” by the band Pink Floyd, the lyrics are about somebody struggling with the absence of somebody that is dear to them. They do this by using deep acoustic riffs and classic chords that address the person who is absent by asking a number of poetic questions, such as, “Do you think you can tell heaven from hell, blue skies from pain?” None of the questions posed are answered, however, leaving the listener to interpret what they mean. The thesis of the song, on the other hand, is pretty explicit. The singer sings soulfully about how he wishes the absent person was there with them. He sings, “How I wish, how I wish you were here, we’re just two lost souls living in a fish bowl, year after year…” The end result is haunting and beautiful, and it’s vague poetic lyrics allow the listener to interpret the lyrics as they wish, and relate however they want.

After you summarize the work, then I want you to shift modalities from this formal academic writing to the more personal narrative voice; it should sound more like you’re normal speaking voice, and not use academic power words unless that is how you normally tell a story. Finally, tell me the story of your relationship to this work of art, answering the following questions:

What was going on in your life when you encountered this work of art?

What do your remember thinking and feeling when you encountered it?

How did if affect you on a personal level?

What was most meaningful about it to you then?

What does it mean to you now?

P.S. Don’t forget to implement tools from writing a deluxe scene, such as description, dialogue, and inner response!

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