TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Steve Anderson said,
>didn't teach how to use any applications. They did require us to use a
>word processor, presentation software, etc., but we learned that on our
>own. That, in my opinion, is the way to go. Let the people who teach
>computer programs (the campus computer center for example) teach
>computer programs to TC students and save the TC faculty for teaching
As a tech writing educator, I have to agree in principle, but in practice,
I know my students need software skills and familiarity to get that first
job. So I end up trying to balance the two needs, rather than coming down
for one or the other.
I spend a good amount of my time stumping for money to buy software for our
program, and I teach my students how to use everything I can get my hands
on. But I tell my students that what my university can afford is always
going to be a step behind industry, and that they should get used to being
behind throughout their careers -- after all, isn't there always another
upgrade or software package coming? Two years ago, it was still Winhelp;
last year, Robohelp; this year, Robohtml; next year...?
On the other hand, I always try to help my students understand the basic
principles behind tech writing and document design, so they can know what
to use software *for.* I teach them all the software skills I can, but let
them know that they have to develop their own software skills as a matter
of ongoing professional development.
I'd recommend *not* following Steve's suggestion of letting your
organization's computer center or support personnel teach software to you
or your students or employees. In my experience, training like that is
literally pointless -- the people doing the training don't know to what
purpose or toward what ends people want to use the software, so the users
end up learning stuff they don't need and missing out on the stuff they do.
Pretty darn inefficient, if you ask me.
Good trainers, like good teachers, can tailor instruction to individual
students' needs -- but that skill is rare. It's more likely to come into
play, though, when the teachers or trainers can combine their tech writing
expertise with a thorough knowledge of software.
For what it's worth --
Miles A. Kimball
Director, Professional Writing Program
Murray State University
miles -dot- kimball -at- murraystate -dot- edu