We’ll be meeting via Zoom on November 15 to discuss The Revolutionary Author: Write Smarter With AI Tools & Reach New Levels Of Productivity, by A.C. Hamilton.
Hamilton covers a wide range of approaches to writing with AI that technical communicators may find helpful to their professional and personal lives. Readers can expect chapters ranging from how ChatGPT and other generative AI models work, how to prompt ChatGPT effectively and create content with it, to using it in creative writing, marketing, and even music generation!
Attending STC Summit is a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and techniques for writing, network with new and familiar faces, gain inspiration from seasoned speakers, and interact with vendors that support our professional development goals. But STC MGL attendees Kelly Smith and Kylie Jacobsen made sure to enjoy all the conference has to offer, especially the social events.
The Summit welcomed three keynote speakers this year.
Andrew Lawless: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals
On Monday, Andrew Lawless, founder of the High Performance Consultant Academy, a Behavioral Scientist and Certified High Performance Coach gave a presentation on how to energize yourself to achieve your goals.
Judith Glick-Smith: Using Flow to Craft a Life of Excellence in Tech Comm
On Tuesday, Dr. Glick-Smith tech comm expert and past president of the STC discussed the concept of Flow as featured in her book Flow-based Leadership: What the Best Firefighters Can Teach You About Leadership and Making Hard Decisions. She related how the concept of flow can help us in our tech comm careers.
Scott Abel: Inclusive Language: Survey Findings and Best Practices for Content Strategy
On Wednesday, Scott Abel, content strategy evangelist, pointed out that inclusion is just being mindful of how we talk about and treat other people. He presented best practices for adopting inclusive language in the workplace.
Every day, the host chapter, STC Atlanta, planned a special outing for STC members. These events required pre-registration, and offered the opportunity to stretch our legs and hang out with new friends.
Illuminarium: After Dark
Unfortunately, neither Kelly nor Kylie could attend the first social event of the conference, but on Sunday evening, attendees were invited to meet up at the Illuminarium. The Illuminarium is an all-encompassing sensory experience which places guests in a room filled with lights, sounds, scents, and even in-floor haptics. STC members were admitted to the After Dark experience, which was described as the daytime experience, but 21+.
Sky View Ferris Wheel
Several groups walked from the hotel down to the Sky View Ferris Wheel, where for $17 we got a view of the city, Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca Cola Museum, and the Georgia Aquarium. We took selfies and pics of the tall buildings and blooming magnolia trees.
Kylie volunteered to host a dinner at Big Kahuna, a late-night spot to order surf-themed Mexican food in Downtown Atlanta. A group of 10 people made the short walk from the conference hotel to the restaurant by dodging the rain in the enclosed pathway through Truist Plaza. The best part of the dinner was that Kylie got to carry a sign that read “Big Kahuna” the whole way!
Kelly attended dinner at Gus’s Famous Fried chicken with about 25 people, including our student volunteers. The food was simple and delicious! We ordered appetizers of fried green tomatoes and fried okra, then enjoyed juicy fried chicken with a very subtle kick of spice.
After the final keynote, several of us went to the Georgia Aquarium and took the Behind the Seas tour! In addition to viewing the sharks, rays, otters, sea lions, sea turtle, fish, frogs, and other creatures through windows, some of us got to go topside and look down into the 6.2-million-gallon saltwater tank, just a few feet from the giant whale sharks and other creatures. We learned where they came from, how they were rescued, and that if we were daring (and had a few hundred dollars to spare) we could swim or scuba dive with them! We also got to see the trainers working with the beluga whales and learn about the aquarium’s coral restoration project.
As summer winds down and your STC chapter begins to make preparations for another successful season, we thought we’d share a bit about our STC Summit 2023 experience to inspire your programming goals or cement your professional development plans for 2024. Please enjoy a reflection of our trip to Atlanta for STC Summit!
Arriving in Atlanta
The STC held their seventieth Summit from May 13 through 17 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Georgia. Kylie Jacobsen and Kelly Smith attended on behalf of the MGL chapter.
If you’ve never been to Atlanta, the city earns the title Hotlanta! At one point the humidity was 81%! Rain and thunderstorms cooled things down a little later in the week. The food was spectacular, even at the breakfast and lunch buffets and always featured little touches of southern delicacies.
New this Year
This year’s event featured a new buddy system where first-time attendees were paired up with experienced Summit-goers. Kelly signed up to be a buddy and really enjoyed the experience.
“I got to introduce my newbie to others in the Society, give her pointers, answer questions, and help her feel more comfortable. We shared several meals together, and she always had a familiar face to look for in a crowd if she had a question. I look forward to doing this again next year!”
Kelly Smith, STC Senior Member and Gold member
Kylie coordinated the group of student volunteers who helped manage some of the daily tasks of the conference. Eighteen university students signed up to volunteer to staff the registration desk, monitor the rooms during sessions, and help distribute awards at the award ceremony. Students represented schools from New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Georgia.
“Summit really can’t operate as smoothly without our student volunteers!”
Both the first-time attendees and student volunteers had the opportunity to meet each other and tour the conference space on Sunday evening, before the majority of attendees arrived.
A society-favorite, the annual Honors Celebration, occurred over lunch on Tuesday, May 16. The Michigan Great Lakes chapter was awarded the Platinum Community award for providing our “members rich opportunities to shape technical communication, both within and beyond Michigan Great Lakes Chapter.”
In addition, our immediate past president, Katherine Baeckeroot, was awarded the Distinguished Community Service award for her “exceptional leadership as STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter president, innovative programming and inexhaustible enthusiasm for providing additional value to the membership, and for your wisdom, experience, and sound advice.”
Our chapter is excited to announce that we have earned a Platinum Community Achievement Award (CAA) for our community’s efforts in 2022.
The CAA Committee noted that STC-MGL remains one of the most consistent and active communities in the CAA process. For our programming plan and collaboration efforts, the citation on our certificate will read:
For providing your members rich opportunities to shape technical communication, both within and beyond Michigan Great Lakes Chapter.
Our community will be recognized during the 2023 STC CAC Virtual Leadership Program and members are invited to the STC Summit Honors Event where the Community of the Year and Most Improved Community will be announced.
We wish to extend a special thanks to Wes Schoenherr, STC-MGL Vice President, for spearheading the process for submitting our application and to the several community members who shared their documented activities, spent time reviewing the form, and providing feedback over the past few months.
Katherine Baeckeroot, STC-MGL immediate past-president, was nominated and awarded a Distinguished Community Service Award for 2023.
Katherine has been an incredibly involved member of Michigan STC Chapters since June 2017, and she even attended 2014 summit as a student at Michigan Tech. Katherine expertly navigated a significant portion of the migration from two Michigan-based chapters into one during 2020. At the time, Katherine was the president of the STC Southeastern Michigan chapter (which merged with the STC West Michigan Shores chapter). After 2020, she took on the role of immediate past president but because of the large amount of work required to successfully transition and rebuild a chapter, she was heavily involved in leadership, even agreeing to a second presidential turn in 2021. We cannot overlook the dedication and expertise she brought to the chapter, especially during the upswing in virtual programming. Katherine has provided extensive support beyond what is typically necessary of past leadership.
Katherine established several innovative programs for the chapter. Namely, she created our succession plan, overall operating management plans, and established our programing structures, many of which she initiated with other chapters (such as Toronto, Chicago, and Ohio’s). She began the virtual book club program in 2018, a program our chapter hosts biannually to this day. As a chapter, we’ve read over 7 technical communication books and hosted discussions with members across the state over the material. Some of the textbooks have now been included in the college curriculum. She also co-created Tech Comm Trivia night questions in 2021 and designed the interactive playing board, which is publicly available for other communities to use. Additionally, she created the marketing materials for our chapter and approximately 50 blog posts promoting our chapter activities.
Katherine’s citation reads:
For your exceptional leadership as STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter president, innovative programming and inexhaustible enthusiasm for providing additional value to the membership, and for your wisdom, experience, and sound advice.
We’re so thankful for your contributions, Katherine, and congratulations!
Dr. Andy Fiss, STC-MGL member and Associate Professor of Technical & Professional Communication at Michigan Tech, was awarded a 2023 CCCC Technical and Scientific Communication Award for Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication. Andy and his book, Performing Math: A History of Communication and Anxiety in the American Mathematics Classroom, were honored at the CCCC Awards Presentation on Friday, February 17, during the 2023 CCCC Annual Convention.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Andy to ask him a few questions about his work. When I asked him how he found himself conducting research at the intersection of communication, anxiety, and mathematical instruction, he answered that he was a mathematics major as an undergrad. He reflected on the weird reactions and phrases like “I hate math” he received when he told people his major and recollected that other majors didn’t get the same type of response. As a result, he started thinking about the history of the pedagogy of mathematical instruction and became curious where where communication and anxiety arose in that early work. Notably, related studies are limited to high school mathematics instruction. His book expands on the general dread many people express toward math by analyzing several historical documents including songs and plays written about math education.
The selection committee awarded his book the title of Best Book in Technical or Scientific Communication because it is “Compelling, well-researched, and a very interesting read. Though Fiss’s book focuses on the historical instruction of math, his ideas about classroom performance can be translated to other fields,” so I asked what can writers/communicators take away from your book, in or out of the classroom? He replied that this book is a collection of stories of past practices and can shed light on general approaches to helping make things unfamiliar more familiar, much like the work of technical communicators.
The selection committee also said “… It offers some insight into how we may accidentally create anxiety when producing technical communication.” In response to my question about how this happens, he explained that, for example, the pedagogical practice of “chalk talk” suddenly required that students not only demonstrate proficiency in mathematics but also oratory instantly. The connections between increasing demands for skills outside the purview of a subject may certainly ring true to the technical writer experience today.
When I first started researching how ADHD affected writing and the writing process, I found an overwhelming number of articles, research, and resources filled with tips, tricks, and accommodations for students with ADHD. Only, all these sources were intellectually directed towards parents and/or teachers who are trying to help elementary or middle school age students.
The problem with this is that none of these resources could directly help me, a college student consultant in the university writing center and soon-to-be-professional, learn how to better assist other college students with ADHD. So, that’s what this is: a guide for a peer-to-peer approach for consulting with college students and who have ADHD. This guide may also be adapted for working with adult team members with ADHD in the workplace.
What is ADHD?
One of the most important parts of accommodating students with ADHD is having a good idea of what it is and how it works. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.” In other words, ADHD makes getting through the day much more difficult than it should be. Someone with ADHD struggles with everyday things such as completing simple tasks, focusing during school or work, balancing between their work and personal life, and low self-esteem.
With this understanding, I share how we can figure out how to identify some common signs and patterns present within a college student’s writing.
The Signs and Identifying Them in Students
Since college students are not obligated to, most might not disclose that they have ADHD – or even know that they have it – when they visit the writing center. And writing consultants don’t typically ask much about a student’s personal life, which makes it imperative that they know what the signs are so that they are able to recognize them during a consultation.
There are two different categories the signs of ADHD fall under; I’ll call them internal and external. These signs are categorized in the context of what a consultant can and cannot see during a consultation.
External signs are the easiest to identify since they are presented through a student’s actions and/or behavior, e.g., constantly adjusting in their seat, tapping their feet, playing with their hands, etc. However, it is important to know that hyperactivity isn’t always a set-in-stone sign of ADHD meaning the student could easily just be anxious or bored. So, use these external signs as an indication to look further.
Internal signs, e.g., difficulties focusing and disorganization, can be much more difficult for a consultant to identify initially because they are often things people with ADHD struggle with on their own and aren’t usually obvious during the first meeting. What’s so fascinating about this category of signs is that they are sometimes projected within a student’s writing and can be identified as the student and consultant read together. If the tutor is noticing a lot of run-on sentences with many different thoughts, or a string of ideas that jump from one to another very suddenly, those could be signs a student has ADHD. The consultant can then try the two methods listed and explained below.
Two Methods for Consulting with Students who have ADHD
In creating these methods, I used inspiration from Susan Osborn’s “Writing Help for ADHD Students,” which, like most resources I found, was directed towards a parent searching for ways to help their K-12 age child with writing. I used the central ideas from some of her strategies and modified them in a way that can be used for an adult peer-to-peer approach as seen at the college level.
Each method, Talking It Out and Writing it Out,are laid out here:
Talking It Out
This method will help a student who is having trouble coming up with specific points to make for their argument, or an overall direction for their paper.
Supplies needed: Pen and Paper or Computer
Have the student talk to you about everything they know about their topic.
It’s crucial that you don’t limit them to talking about just the things they thinkare important, so avoid phrasing introductory questions in a way that is too specific. Perhaps start with: “Can you tell me everything you know about your topic?”
While the student is talking, write down points they make that can or have the potential to be used in their paper. These things can be anything content related: argument points, transition ideas, the ‘why’ they think this point is important.
Go over what you noticed with the student. Point out what points you think they can do further research on.
Writing It Out
This method will help a student get all their ideas out of their head and on paper. It can be used to either help ADHD freeze or come up with ideas.
Supplies needed: Pen and Paper (recommended) or Computer
Set a timer for 10 minutes and instruct the student to write non-stop about their topic. It’s important that they don’t stop writing for the duration of the exercise, even if they get on a tangent that sounds like: “I don’t know what to write about, but I have to keep writing…” because the ideas will come out, they just have to keep their brain moving.
If the student does say something along the lines of “I’m not sure what to keep writing about” you can encourage them to just write whatever is going through their mind, including “I don’t know.”
After the 10 minutes are up, ask the student what ideas they came up with and start working on an outline. If they said they couldn’t come up with anything, ask if you can read what they wrote about and see if you can see anything that they didn’t.
While working as a writing consultant, I have used these methods a few times. Once with a student who disclosed to me that they had ADHD and two other times when I recognized specific patterns in a student’s writing, which were discussed earlier in this article. When I asked these students if either exercise helped after the session was over, they said that both or at least one did, which suggests these methods do help college students gain clarity and direction for their paper.
Overall, writing consultants that incorporate this information into their consulting practices will not only benefit students with ADHD but any student who might be struggling with focusing their topic and writing their paper.
Wender, Paul H., and David A. Tomb. ADHD: A Guide to Understanding Symptoms Causes,
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Changes Over Time in Children, Adolescents, and Adults. E-book ed., Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 4 Oct. 2016.
Madison Cesarz is student at Grand Valley State University, working on a Bachelor of Science degree in Writing with a minor in Anthropology. She has immersed herself in the writing community at GVSU by serving as a Writing Consultant at the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors, and volunteering as a writer, reviewer, and copyeditor for student-run publications such as Fishladder: A Student Journal of Art and Writing and InWriting: The Writing Department Newsletter. Aside from writing, she plays the piccolo and serves as a section leader in the Laker Marching Band and is the Historian in the Mu Kappa Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.
If you’d like to contribute to our blog, please propose a blog topic and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for review.
This year, Kelly Smith was nominated and awarded the Distinguished Community Service Award.
The Distinguished Community Service Award, or DCSA, is a societal level award that acknowledges the work of chapter members who provide exemplary service to the Society through their dedication to the chapter and its activities.
Kelly has been a member of STC, STC-SM, and STC-MGL for several years. And she has been an excellent contributor to our chapter. Kelly is our social media manager, membership manager, and co-webmaster, and during her time with our chapter she also volunteered as the newsletter editor for the Instructional Design and Learning special interest group. While doing all of this she completed her masters degree through Mercer University.
Her citation reads:
For your sustained contributions to the Southeastern Michigan and Michigan Great Lakes chapters through your exceptional service as Membership and Social Media Manager.
We’re so thankful for all that you’ve done for our chapter, Kelly, and we’re delighted that you received this recognition at the societal level. Congratulations!
This year, Peggy Frizzo was nominated and awarded a Distinguished Community Service Award.
Peggy has volunteered with STC for many years, and in particular she was a longtime member of the STC West Michigan Shores chapter. Peggy graciously agreed to help co-president during our transition from two separate Michigan STC chapters into one STC Michigan Great Lakes chapter.
Peggy’s citation reads:
For outstanding leadership in multiple roles in the regional chapters before, during, and after the merge into the Michigan Great Lakes Chapter—for inspiration, enthusiasm, wisdom, and dedication to the community.
In addition to this, we also want to thank her for continually volunteering and making sure we get all the things done. So during our transition year and even after, Peggy has taken on co-webmaster responsibilities, chapter email management, Eventbrite registration, website events, and more. We’re so thankful for your contributions, Peggy, and congratulations!