Re: Re[2]: what tools to lear...

Subject: Re: Re[2]: what tools to lear...
From: Johndan Johnson-Eilola <johndan -at- SAGE -dot- CC -dot- PURDUE -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 1995 17:29:14 EST

Most of the responses on the "What tools do tech writers need" thread have
addressed specific programs, but I have a slightly more general (and
maybe more difficult) issue: Should undergrad tech writing students be
learning specific platforms, or should they be learning more general
and transportable skills (audience analysis, levels of edit, user
testing, layout, writing, interviewing, etc.)?

The reason this is particularly difficult is that at Purdue our
department's lab is a Mac lab, while many of the students insist
that if Intel/DOS/Windows machines are more prevalent in the workplace,
we should be teaching them Word for Windows on a 486. My advise thus
far has been along these lines:

1. Your general skills are more important in the long
run than knowing how to set up an auto-index in
in Word for Windows. We *do* teach them some functional
skills, obviously, like basic formatting in Word and
PageMaker, how to get into their unix accounts to
use email in collaborative projects, etc. But these
skills are always in the context of a broader project.

2. Knowing the standard applications is useful and makes
you more marketable. But you can learn the ins and outs
of DOS or Word or Windows by buying a book at Dalton's or
Barnes & Noble and teaching yourself the program in one
of the many public access labs on campus.

This argument has been only partially convincing, but I thought it
might be useful if I could pass on some feedback from the members of
this list (even if it disagrees with my own position). Although it's
possible for me to schedule time in a different (Intel or Sun) lab,
our own department's support structure revolves around the Macs.
Professional Writing majors use the same lab throughout most of their
career, a setup designed to keep them from having to learn basic
things in every class. (Those specializing in computer-
related issues typically take other classes and have experience with
Intel/Windows machines from there).

- Johndan Johnson-Eilola johndan -at- sage -dot- cc -dot- purdue -dot- edu
Department of English voice: 317/494-0367
Purdue University fax: 317/494-3780
West Lafayette, IN 47907

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