Learning and Teaching New Tricks in Technical Communication: Presentations on Single-Sourcing and Digital Literacy

LCARS Initialization Screen from Star Trek: TNG Technical Manual for Windows 3.1

As a member of Georgia Tech’s Brittain Fellowship in the Writing and Communication Program, I have the tremendous opportunity to participate in seminars with my peers after the day’s teaching is done.

All Brittain Fellows are required to participate in the weekly Digital Pedagogy seminar on Wednesday evenings and those Fellows who are specifically teaching technical communication or business writing are also required to join the weekly Technical Communication seminar on Monday nights. Since I am not teaching tech comm but eager to teach it in the near future, I volunteered to join the tech comm folks on Mondays.

At the beginning of the semester in both seminars, we brainstormed and chose topics to present on. From the list of topics, two people elected to work together to choose readings and guide the discussion. For tech comm, we picked these topics to discuss during the fall semester: Rhetorical vs. Instrumental; Career planning; the Ethos or Soul of Technical Communication; Syntactics, grammar, conventions in tech discourse; Gender and Technical Discourse; Visual literacy; Accessibility issues; Single-sourcing and user experience (UX); Digital Literacy and Social media; Workplace Ethics, Technical Discourse, and Business Culture; Service learning; Orality and Nonverbal Communication in the workplace;  and Disciplinary distinctions and conventions.

As you might guess from my research interests in digital discourses, I volunteered to present one week on Single-sourcing and user experience (UX) and another week on Digital Literacy and Social media.

Rachel Mahan and I presented on single-sourcing and user experience on Oct. 29, 2012. After I introduced different approaches and theoretical issues surrounding single-sourcing, Rachel shared her personal workplace experience with single-sourcing. I also shared firsthand experience from fellow Georgia Tech alums Smitha Prasadh and Andrew Pilsch (many thanks!). You can find our discussion readings and questions on TechStyle here.

Olga Menagarishvili and I presented on Digital Literacy and Social Media on Nov. 5, 2012. I lead the group through a number of tools for analyzing social media privacy, and Olga prepared a fun active learning “jigsaw” assignment to lead the group toward a deeper discussion of “layered literacies.” You can find our readings, discussion questions, and online resources on TechStyle here.

I am now developing my first technical communication syllabus and assignments. I have some ideas about how to approach technical communication from simultaneously practical (workplace-oriented) and imaginative (science fictional) directions. I want to guide students to be exemplary technical communicators who capably demonstrate and understand the rhetorical, critical, and ethical dimensions of what that entails. We will see when the opportunity for me to do this will present itself.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.