As any former technical communications student can tell you, in the hands of the wrong professor, technical writing subjects can seem dry, abstract, and even boring at times. That’s why this recent article on The Western Front drew our interest. The article features English professor Michael Bell, and his teaching methodology for his English 302 class, Introduction to Technical and Professional Writing.
Bell has his students write instructions and rules for a game they create. He points out that “If a student is able to write a set of rules for a game, they’ll know how to write a professional document.” Makes sense to us. The benefits of such a teaching method include:
- Classmates get to play the game and then give feedback on how easy it was to interact with the game manual
- By working with a game, students are more inclined to not only have fun, but to make sure it works as described
- Because games are something tangible students can readily relate to in the real world, class concepts don’t seem so abstract
- It allows students to focus on a single project while still coming away with the principles and concepts of the course
Bell found that by allowing students to learn old concepts in a new way, they cared more about the work they did instead of viewing it as just another assignment. When students care about – and can feel a passion for – what they are doing, the result can only be positive. Don’t you agree?
What are your thoughts on Bell’s teaching method? As a teacher or student of technical communications subjects, have you experienced similar methodologies or other approaches you felt were very effective? Please leave a comment, we’d love to hear your thoughts.
As in most professions, an excellent technical writer might not make a very good documentation manager. Different personality types respond differently to managerial roles. For some, such a promotion can be downright terrifying.
Because many companies approach management training from a “one size fits all” perspective, many candidates struggle. To meet the needs of management candidates, training programs must be both extensive, to cover the necessary bases, and flexible to account for individual personalities.
In her article, Training Technical Communicators for Management, Jessica Erber-Stark looks at how the best managerial candidates can be identified and how different personality types may benefit from specialized training.
Read: Training Technical Communicators for Management and then leave a comment below with your thoughts on this topic.
Making the Transition from Technical Writer to Manager
Wearer of Many Hats: One Management Style Does Not Fit All
Even if you’re fairly confident in your ability to string together a coherent sentence, it never hurts to brush up on your writing skills. The deeper you move into your writing career, the more you will see other writers doing things you haven’t done – or even thought of doing.
Maybe you just need a refresher course on how to think and how to express your (or the client’s) thoughts.
To choose the right course, think about:
“The technical writing program at De Anza College is a program that teaches people skills that businesses are looking for,” according to a recent article. While this might not seem like a big news story, or even something you should worry about in the technical writing market, it should serve as a warning.
Technical writing courses are in high demand today, due to the rise in the need for technical documentation and medical technical writing. But since education still has troubles getting the funding it needs, programs get cut – like the one at De Anza College.
Simply a matter of budget cuts, it seems that this type of writing isn’t as valued as other programs at the school, which can hurt the current student population.
The future business leaders of the world will need to have some sort of background in technical writing. They need to be trained in how to create strong documents, or at least how to guide others to accomplish this sort of task for them.
Technical writing can certainly be a process of learning the skills through a course from a university or going to a conference. But using hypothetical situations isn’t as effective as putting technical writing skills into use. At Northwestern State University, students are learning about writing technical documentation while building robots.
Surprisingly, the course in which students are learning about technical writing isn’t a technical course or a technology class. They’re learning in an English class, building their technical writing skills with each step of the robot-making process.
Why does this process work to teach skills? According to the instructor, Ramey Prince, students learn because:
The University of California, Santa Barbara understands the need for technical writing in today’s world. It’s offering a course starting on May 8th called “The Fundamentals of Technical Writing,” to create a starting point for many of today’s new writers. A solid educational background can help the next generation of technical writers prepare to face the current challenges in disseminating information.
We’re all busy, aren’t we? While it seems we’re busier than we have been in the past, that doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on (or even learn) technical writing concepts. All you need is a learning system that works with your hectic schedule, and allows you to learn when you have the time.
While the Internet has always been a place where you can learn about anything, open courseware seems to be more readily available than ever. Whether you’re interested in learning more about technical writing or you want to just find out how to use technical writing in your business, the more you know, the more you can fully utilize this type of writing.
Users are the main concern when it comes to technical writing. Beyond words, beyond formatting, and beyond details, technical writers should be thinking about the end user. If you’re not worried about the user when writing, then you can’t write effectively or create a document that can be used consistently.
Adobe Systems is offering an e-seminar to help technical writers and technical writing teams with conveying information to users. Read on to find out how this seminar will help you.
Technical writing isn’t something that simply happens incidentally anymore. While technical writers might have been good writers in school and then had the technical experience to bolster their writing expertise, times are changing and schools are offering degrees in technical writing.
At Carnegie Mellon, students are able to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Communication. Students will take classes to help them become technical writers in one of two different tracks:
- Technical Communication (TC)
- Scientific and Medical Communication (SMC)
Those who maintain a B average in these programs at Carnegie Mellon will be able to apply for internships in technical writing, helping them get valuable experience that will support their career development. The documents that students write during these internships will be the beginning of a portfolio that students can then pass on to prospective employers, allowing them a better chance of getting a job when they’re out of school – or perhaps while they’re still in school.