Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication

Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication

Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication

Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication

Synopsis

Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication offers a variety of activities, projects, and approaches to energize pedagogy in technical communication and to provide a constructive critique of current practice. A practical collection, the approaches recommended here are readily adaptable to a range of technological and institutional contexts, as well as being theoretically grounded and pedagogically sound. Throughout the collection, its editors and contributors demonstrate the importance of critically engaging students through creative and innovative pedagogies. Programs in technical writing, technical communication, and/or professional communication have recently grown in enrollment as the demand among employers for formally prepared technical writers and editors has grown. In response, scholarly treatments of the subject and the teaching of technical writing are also burgeoning, and the body of research and theory being published in this field is many times larger and more accessible than it was even a decade ago. Although many theoretical and disciplinary perspectives can potentially inform technical communication teaching, administration, and curriculum development, the actual influences on the field's canonical texts have traditionally come from a rather limited range of disciplines. Innovative Approaches to Teaching Technical Communication brings together a wide range of scholars/teachers to expand the existing canon. The editors and authors in this volume suggest that, for various reasons, the field has not been as flexible or open to innovation as it needs to be. Given pervasive technological and workplace changes and changing cultural attitudes, they say, new and more dynamic pedagogies in technical communication are warranted, and they are addressing this collection to that need. Contributing authors include a number of scholars with a strong record of work in composition, technical writing, professional communication, and allied areas (e.g., Selfe, Wahlstrom, Kalmbach, Duin, Hansen), who deliver a variety of approaches that are grounded in current theory and represent pedagogical creativity and innovation.

Excerpt

The idea for this collection grew out of a discussion about humor in technical communication. Humor is usually proscribed in technical communication practice, both because it does not cross cultures well and because it may make complex and even dangerous technologies seem frivolous. When the three of us started paying attention to and collecting humor related to the technical communication field, we noticed that it is most often connected to Dilbert cartoons, the For Dummies genre of third-party software manuals, and Dave Barry–like rants about poorly written instructions. in short, the available humor about technical communication doesn’t paint a pretty picture of our chosen profession.

Because we enjoy playful attitudes toward technical communication, we put aside the field’s reservations about humor and began to ask ourselves how we might incorporate humor into our technical communication classrooms. Under what circumstances, we wondered, might humor be permissible or even desirable? How might it be used productively in the technical communication classroom?

In exploring that question, we concluded that perhaps what we were really talking about was how to demonstrate to technical communication students how creative the field could be. We were all teaching at Michigan Technological University at the time and had begun to notice that many students seemed disillusioned with the prospect of beginning their careers as traditional technical communicators. Writing instructional manuals for the computer industry or documenting iso 9001 procedures for a government contractor seemed as dull as Dilbert’s cubicle to them, especially when juxtaposed against the seemingly glamorous career prospects of Web or multimedia design. We didn’t agree with them; in fact, our technical communication work as teachers, practitioners, and . . .

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