Online Communication Efficacy

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Increasing International Online Communication Efficacy by: Keith Macdonald

Online Communication Efficacy[edit | edit source]

Grade Level: Collegiate Level Teachers Preparation
Subject:Online Communication Efficacy
Sub-Subject:Improving International Online Dialogues
Length/Duration:60 min. Lesson
Technologies Used:Computer Accessed - Internet Resource Pages On English Language Mechanics And Secondary Translation to Other Common Languages

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Online communications via text e-mail and instant messaging can bring a sense of anonymity to the people engaged in the communication. This perception is not necessarily borne out during the exchange as there are many clues to a person's background and status to be found in their spelling, their choice of individual words, their grammar and their prosaic style. Fortunately, there are some online tools that are readily available to help level the communication playing field.


  * 1 Languages- Common Tongues and Specialized Vocabularies  
  * 2 Stereotype Threat Concerns
  * 3 The Usefulness of Embedded Dictionaries and Web Page Dictionary Resources
  * 4 The Usefulness of Web Based Thesauruses
  * 5 Using The Open Source Dictionary and Wordnick
  * 6 Using Specialized Scientific Vocabulary
  * 7 Using Google Translator
  * 8 Places for Teachers to use These Communication Tools
  * 9 References

Languages- Common Tongues and Specialized Vocabularies:[edit | edit source]

Because I reside in America, I am used to using English as my common tongue. Personally I recognize that English is not homogeneous in its usage across the world. It is also not homogeneous in America nor in my region of the southwestern portion of the country and not in my state of California and not in my city of San Diego. None the less, I can discern things in my own communication which may give anyone communicating with me a clue as to who and where I am just by my use of this common tongue.Because I use a relatively refined vocabulary and write with a fair amount of clarity, someone communicating with me would find it easy to assume that I am well educated. If my communication is of a formal business nature they may have a hard time gaining more insight into anything more about me including my nationality, my race, and even my gender. If I am using a user name online it can hide or reveal things about me depending on how I craft it. I am comfortable in my communication abilities and I also feel that I am a fair judge of other people's communication skill. In addition to common speech forms I also have some knowledge of several specialized vocabularies. My background in general science and biology allow me to understand and exchange information in these subject areas that would be less comprehensible to others who have little background in these areas. I also have some background with several foreign languages but I do not have enough mastery over them to feel comfortable on my own with any extensive communications with anyone who is fluent in those languages.

Using Specialized Scientific Vocabulary

I advise caution when you encounter the need to use specialized vocabulary or encounter it being used by someone else. Scientific vocabulary can be especially tricky. Terms such as carrying capacity have nothing to do with weight in the scientific discipline of Ecology. The term is used when describing what amount of a certain type of living organism a particular ecosystem can sustain. It would be difficult to anticipate all the potentials for miscommunication with specialized vocabularies and just smarter to admit that you do not know everything instead.

Stereo Type Threat Concerns:[edit | edit source]

A stereotype threat is faced by someone when anything they do or say makes someone else and perhaps even themselves be likely to characterize them as being a typical example of the stereotype.When the stereotype is a negative one, it can be self threatening enough that it can be disruptive to the efforts of the effected person just by the existence of this threat alone. African American students have historically labored under this condition. "Whenever they perform an explicitly scholastic or intellectual task, they face the threat of confirming being judged by a negative societal stereotype- a suspicion- about their race's intellectual ability and competence." (Stereotype Threat and the Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans, Steele & Aronson 1995). In regards to online communications, this threat can have a dampening effect upon the participation of African Americans and other potential groups who would be negatively stereotyped. Even though written communications via e-mail or instant text messages should carry some anonymity, the threat could stop their participation before they even begin. Hopefully if they know that there resources available in real time for them to use while communicating online, they will be less likely to fall prey to the stereotype threat.

The Usefulness of Embedded Dictionaries and Web Page Dictionary Resources[edit | edit source]

To be honest, my spelling is atrocious (ha ha I actually spelled that right the first time by some miracle). I tend to be phonetic when I attempt to write out the words I am thinking about. I am quite grateful for embedded dictionaries in most text programs that are on the computer and in email and other online communication programs. I also have an online dictionary bookmarked and in those times when I am using a simple text program without an embedded dictionary or those times when I need to hand write something, my browser is usually opened to the online dictionary for quick reference. My dictionary of choice for this is: They have a nice search bar that works with those of us who can get close to the spelling but not hit the mark and they have an alphabetized listing for those who are further from getting the right spelling.

The Usefulness of Web Based Thesauruses[edit | edit source]

So after you have the spelling of the word you want to use and you successfully use it in your communications, you may find that you are worried about being redundant. A good thing repeated the same way can be too much of a good thing. This is where the online thesaurus comes in handy. For example, if I am talking about a boat, I don't want to sink my link by using that appellation over and over, so I click on the tab I have open to: I type in boat in their search bar and here is what I get;

"Main Entry: boat Part of Speech: noun Definition: vehicle for water travel Synonyms: ark, barge, bark, bateau, bottom, bucket, canoe, catamaran, craft, dinghy, dory, gondola, hulk, ketch, launch, lifeboat, pinnace, raft, sailboat, schooner, scow, ship, skiff, sloop, steamboat, tub, yacht Notes: a boat is a vessel that can be hauled aboard a ship, according to the Navy, with a ship being somewhat larger."

This information gives me lots of ways to call a boat by any other name, though it will not necessarily be as sweet. It keeps you afloat on the sea of communication and not foundering on the rocks of redundancy.

Using The Open Source Dictionary and Wordnick[edit | edit source]

This is all well and good if someone is just needing to communicate one way. But when an online exchange is more instantaneous, you may need an additional resource or two at your disposal. Fortunately you can have multiple tabs and full browser pages open on most modern computers. If someone you were communicating with was to throw the term "carbolicious" at you, you might have nary a clue as to it's meaning and your online dictionary may not have it either. there are several places though where this term may be found. One is: They have alphabetized listings and a search bar as well so just type in the term in the search bar and you have improved your chances of knowing what the other person is talking about. Another good site for this type of communication impediment is: They also have listings of unusual words and phrases. If neither the traditional resources or these alternate resources have this information the I suggest calling out your online communication partner by asking did you just make that up or something?

Using Google Translator[edit | edit source]

Venturing you online communications into the realm of internationalism can be daunting. Not only do you not share a language with many of the people across the world, you also may lack an understanding of their cultural norms. The way to go when you encounter someone from a foreign country online who does not speak your language is to proceed cautiously and respectfully. It is not generally too hard to establish names and country affiliations but after that you may be at a loss as to how to proceed. If the other person speaks and writes in one of a few of the most common languages, I suggest using: This is not a perfect translator so expect that there may be snags to your communication, but overall it is a good way to have conversations longer than the equivalent of "Me Tarzan, You Jane".

Places for Teachers to use These Communication Tools[edit | edit source]

I have found several teacher's resource web sites that have chat enabled that could be a good place to try out theese tools. they are: and: Good luck with the chatting and be careful of those specialized vocabularies and foreign tongues.

References and Resources[edit | edit source]


"Stereotype Threat and the Intellectual Test Performance of African Americans" in the Journal of Personality and Psychology, 1995. Vol. 69, No. 5 by: Claude M. Steele & Joshua Aronson

"The Language of Science, The Language of Students" Heldref Publications 2005 by: Edyth Young

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