teaching tech writing

Subject: teaching tech writing
From: Dickie Selfe <rselfe -at- MTU -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1993 12:35:41 -0600

>To Mary Massirer and others who teach technical writing:

I run a computer lab that serves a large tech. writing program at Mich.
Tech. U. Here's a quick list of software that you may want to try.

It seems to me that students could learn a great deal about information
design, screen design, and on-line documentation by using hypertext
systems. Some are quite simple and terribly flexible. I use the word
'terribly' on purpose. One of the most significant lessons will be in
developing navigation tools, metaphors for navigating and maps.

There are synchronous conferencing systems that allow many people to
discuss on-line at the same time. Daedalus Writing Systems, IBM's Team

How about on-line version tracking and collaborative writing software?

Animation and other graphic capture and manipulation soft/hardware are very
useful for some projects.

Presentation software is also a useful tool.

I agree with Mary Beth Raven when she says that "I'm sure there's an awful
lot you can teach them about process and about "good writing" without ever
having students touch a computer." I also agree that Wprocessing and
e-mail are the primary tools you'll find useful.

But I disagree with the statement that "a computer is just a tool." (In
fairness to Mary, I pretty sure she didn't mean "just a tool" in quite the
limited sense that I'm thinking.) It is a loaded tool that allows us to
work in certain relationships within institutions (For instance, I'm
certain that e-mail has changed that relationship to some extent.) and that
a discussion of the ethical and social implications of these 'tools' needs
to be part of our curriculum.

And I wonder if some of the tools we now have won't change the nature of
our instruction and work pretty radically. I had an ex-student call me the
other day and practically beg me to push multimedia experiences in our
program--video & audio editing, animation, graphic manipulation,
interactive hypertext systems. I'd be interested to hear what readers on
this list think of this request. Very expensive tools.

Dickie Selfe 102 Walker
rselfe -at- mtu -dot- edu Michigan Technological U.
906-487-3225 Houghton, MI 49931

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