Thursday, September 20, 2007

Words as weapons

People are always talking about how books can heal – those Chicken Soup for the Soul books are a good example. But the opposite is also true. Books are often used as tools of propaganda (Hitler’s Mein Kampf) or of more subtle manipulation where the writer’s objective may not be so clear. In this sense, books and words are weapons and can result in both perceived and real damage.

There is a way to defend yourself, and your “W” requirement is part of it. One of the aims of the written requirement is to get university students used to thinking about the written word. By examining books and articles to be used in essays, you can learn about bias, voice, logical progression of thought and tangential arguments. No one publishes anything without a reason and having the skills to decipher that reason means you will be less easily manipulated.

The important thing to remember is that the skills you learn plodding through some seemingly incomprehensible article can just as easily be applied to the newspaper, television, advertising or the internet. Those skills are continually relevant just as someone will continually try to convince you of something. Words are weapons, but education is your armour.


Friday, September 14, 2007


First week. Aaahh!
Don’t any of the professors know that I’m taking more than just their class? How the heck am I supposed to get all this reading done? What does this assignment mean? No one is making any sense!

What you have just read is so commonly said and felt in the first few weeks of school, that they may as well just broadcast it over the campus radio.

The first step is to take control of the careening car of anxiety by realizing that everything you’ve been handed is doable. Generations of students have succeeded before you and you’ll do just as well (or better). Coming and talking to one of our friendly writing tutors or chatting with your friends with more university experience can also be extremely helpful. A more experienced student can help you break down your dramatically overwhelming chores into itty-bitty, accomplishable tasks. So can the assignment manager on the Virtual Learning Commons.

The Learning Assistance Centre also has workshops and handouts on time management, essay writing, research, textbook and lots of other areas that students find tricky.

Relax and remember, it’s only the first week. No one’s expecting miracles…yet.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Study spots

You’re reading a textbook. It’s boring. Very boring. You’re getting sleepy…very sleepy. BANG! You wake up when your head hits the desk. Now your forehead is red and you have to re-read that stupid, boring paragraph for the third time. How are you going to get through the entire chapter? Who will save you from the Boredom Fairy?

You will. It is possible. Getting through overly dense and jargon-filled text is a challenge for any student, especially in a less-than-interesting subject area. (Note: The Learning Assistance Centre officially denies that any of University of Manitoba’s subjects are dull, and we in no way imply that any specific subject is.) Success is just a matter of getting creative and knowing your own limits.

I read my plays for my Shakespeare class on the kitchen counter near the sink. That way, I had plenty of natural light, I was able to put my feet up, but I wasn’t so physically comfortable that Dreamland threatened to invade Renaissance England.

My brother made a point of studying for his accounting courses next to an open window in the middle of winter. He was cold, but he was able to focus through it and get his reading done.

My cousin used to read journal articles while sitting on the bus – all night. She liked being able to sense people moving around her, but the bus was quiet enough that she wouldn’t be distracted and, most importantly, she could get off and get a coffee when the bus driver did.

In the end, a unique study spot can help you through a difficult text, but mastering the material is more than just gimmicky fun. Knowing where and when you learn best is often a matter of experimentation, and thinking outside the box. Just like university is.


Monday, September 03, 2007

VLC Contest for UM Students

If you're a University of Manitoba student, this is a contest for you:

Google or Facebook - which is more important to you? Tell us why and you could win:

1st prize: 80GB Video iPod $399 courtesy of Student Services
2nd prize: 30GB Video iPod $299 courtesy of Learning Technologies Centre
3rd prize: 1GB iPod shuffle $89 courtesy of Learning Technologies Centre

Contest Instructions:

1. Go to the University's Virtual Learning Commons and under the discussion topic 'Google or Facebook' post your rationale for why either Google or Facebook is more important to you.

2. You will have to log in to the Virtual Learning Commons with your UMnetID to post your rationale.

3. The winner will be selected at random from all posts that meet the following criteria:

  • Posts must be exactly 54 words long
  • Posts must offer a compelling argument as determined by our judges rom UMSU.

4. Postings must be submitted by Sept 21, 2007.

5. One entry per student.

While you're at the VLC, why not explore a bit and find out how the assignment manager works, discover what other students are interested in doing, and find the writing or study supports you might find helpful.

Welcome to university!