Learning How to Do and Learning How to Learn (Was: New Hires)

Subject: Learning How to Do and Learning How to Learn (Was: New Hires)
From: "George F. Hayhoe" <george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2000 11:18:19 -0500

There have been a bunch of interesting replies to Susan Loudermilk's
query about the types of classes/activities/skills/portfolio work that
industry is looking for when hiring newly minted undergrads.

First of all, hats off to Susan. It's great to see technical
communication programs practicing what our profession preaches by
doing user and task analysis when preparing new "releases" of their
curricula.

Now regarding some responses to Susan's question:

People have suggested quite a few software titles and types that
students should know. In the 20 years I've been using and documenting
software, I've learned hundreds of programs of every imaginable kind.
What was far more useful to me than learning how to use any particular
program was the knowledge and set of associated skills that I
developed in puzzling over those products, from cranky
command-line-driven applications to the best-behaved GUIs. I learned
how to learn software and other technology. I learned how to analyze
products, ferreting out features that developers had done their best
to hide, discovering how product features map to user tasks, and
figuring out workarounds that helped me fit the tool to my needs when
the match wasn't perfect and I couldn't find--or afford--anything
better.

Undergraduate programs need to provide opportunities for students to
familiarize themselves with a wide range of programs but should
recognize that technology changes so quickly that the standard tech
comm tool set of today is subject to change without notice. And far
more important, the tools students are exposed to should be presented
as more than just software for software's sake. The assignments built
around the use of these tools should encourage students to become
explorers of technology. The facts, theories, and skills learned as a
result of such guided explorations are far more valuable and
long-lived than the knowledge of the particular applications.

In addition to learning to do and learning to learn, there's learning
to think . . . but this posting is already too long!

--George Hayhoe (george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com)

George Hayhoe Associates
Voice: +1 (803) 642-2156
Fax: +1 (803) 642-9325
http://www.ghayhoe.com

Winner
APEX '99 Grand Award for Publication Excellence

Awards of Distinguished Technical Communication
South Carolina/Carolina Foothills STC Chapters
1998-99 Technical Publications Competition





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