RE: Tech Writing Curriculum

Subject: RE: Tech Writing Curriculum
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- vt -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 13:59:09 -0500

At 11:25 AM 11/12/2001:

Michael Oboryshko said (among other things),
<||>Don't shy away from teaching software tools. I suspect a lot of
<||>schools don't teach tools because (a) they are too cheap to pay
<||>for the licenses or (b) they are making a LOT of money teaching
<||>the tools at night to corporate Continuing Ed students.

At the risk of starting the holy war back up, the other reason some of us shy away from teaching tools is that 1) tools change and 2) tools don't make the writer. (No, wait: the 2 reasons are 1) tools change, 2) tools don't make the writer, and 3) tools cost $$$. . . "No one expects the Spanish Inquisition," anyone?)

Seriously, it is difficult to keep up (economically) with the latest and greatest. It's not really a matter of being "too cheap" - our computer lab has 25 computers, requiring more licenses than any tech pubs department I've ever been part of. And if we want it in both the Mac & PC labs, that's 50 copies. (Out of curiosity, how many of you work in companies that have 25+ copies of Frame, RoboHTML, and Dreamweaver?)

Most of the "industry standard" tools don't come cheap, and even if we could afford enough copies for a 25-seat computer lab, that means that the students have to have access to the lab after hours to complete their work (few want -or can afford - to shell out $500 or more for a piece of software), which means staffing $$. And then there are upgrades. . . . Requiring software beyond what comes at a manageable educational discount is difficult on a number of different levels.

Beyond the $$, if we rely too much on a particular tool, then we have students who aren't very good at adapting to different technologies and/or who don't understand the basic premises behind using the tools. The flip side, of course, are job ads saying "SuperFrameWordSingleSourceHTMLJavaXML version 6.435 a MUST."

Don't misunderstand me: I think it's important to teach students key concepts about tools - things like templates, styles, importing graphics by reference vs. putting them in the document, file management, etc. - i.e. how they work. But even though I would rather slit my wrists than write another long manual in Word, I'd argue that if you can do it there - and understand what you've done - you can do it anywhere. And if students can learn web design from basic programs, then something like Dreamweaver - though I'd be cranky without it in my own work - is a luxury for us and for them.

So, that's my 2 cents, FWIW.



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