Site Update: Course Syllabi and Assignments Added Under Teaching Section

Over the weekend, I added new pages under the Teaching menu option for the courses that I have taught, am teaching, and will teach. Each course page includes descriptions, syllabi, and assignments arranged chronologically by school:

If any of these materials might be useful to your course and assignment design, please feel free to adopt or modify as needed.

While assembling these pages, I discovered that some assignments and supporting materials were missing. Of course, it is best pedagogical practice to reflect and archive these kinds of materials for reference, improvement, and growth.

LMC3403, Technical Communication: Lego, Haptics, and Instructions

Students at work with Lego.
Students at work with Lego.

My LMC3403, Technical Communication students are well into their second unit project on reader-centered and process-driven fundamentals. In a fun assignment, I wanted the students to try out many different types of technical communication deliverables for different readers/audiences. Also, I wanted them to think differently about nonverbal communication with the heavy emphasis on haptics, physicality, and making.

Students at work with Lego.
Students at work with Lego.

In this project, their primary task is to build a set of instructions for a Lego model of their own design.

Their Lego model should represent something about their studies, their professional field, or their entrepreneurial spirit.

Students at work with Lego.
Students at work with Lego.

Their project began with the creation of a proposal memo that laid out their entire project: designing instructions, testing instructions, reporting on tests in a memo, revising instructions, and reflecting on the project in a memo.

Students at work with Lego.
Students at work with Lego.

Throughout the process, they have to be mindful of different audiences (executives, managers, and customers).

In these photos, the students are busy at work creating the first version of their Lego models.

Students at work with Lego.
Students at work with Lego.

I was happy to overhear someone say, “It’s nice to actually do something fun in a class for once!”

Brittain Fellowship Year Two, Fall 2013: ENGL1101 (English Composition I) and LMC3403 (Technical Communication)

A year has passed since I began my three year tenure as a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program of the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

During my first year, I taught six sections of ENGL1101 (English Composition I), which gave me a unique and welcomed opportunity to refine and revise my approach to composition. I made changes to class readings, organization, assignments, and projects. During the process, I invited students to reflect on and comment on their work. This demonstrated their mastery of the outcomes, concepts, and processes of the class. This information, combined with student opinion surveys at the end of each semester, guided my thinking on my class revisions.

Over the summer, I had a very special chance to teach an upper division LMC class: LMC3214, Science Fiction. When I was a student at Tech, I originally tried to take this class from the legendary Professor Bud Foote, who went on to found Georgia Tech’s Science Fiction Collection in the Library. Unfortunately, his popularity combined with my minimal accrued hours, I was unable to take his class. However, in the summer of 2002, I took Science Fiction from Professor Lisa Yaszek, who inspired me to become a teacher and researcher.

My experience teaching Science Fiction at Tech was the realization of a dream long held–to teach a subject specifically in my field and training. As I blogged in earlier posts, I enthusiastically led my students to discovery of the historical and cultural relevance of Science Fiction through a panoply of layered, multimodal approaches to learning–ranging from lecture, active learning, team-based discussions, research projects, and a final haptic building project involving Lego bricks.  From my students’ feedback, I believe that I provided them with rich learning outcomes and fueled their interest in the genre, and it brought me great joy to teach SF and to give back to my alma mater.

Now, in Fall 2013, I have a slightly different schedule than what is typically given to Brittain Fellows. For the most part, Brittain Fellows are given one prep per semester on a 3-3 load. However, several of us who have shown an interest in teaching Technical Communication (e.g., I took part in the Fall 2012 Tech Comm weekly seminar–something required for those teaching Tech Comm for the first time at Tech but voluntary for everyone else) were given a choice to have two preps–one for Tech Comm and two for ENGL1101. I opted to do this, because I wanted to expand my teaching skill set with a topic that I was already very aware of and thought about from my experiences at Tech as an undergraduate and my experiences in the workplace at IT companies.

In order to try out new approaches to ENGL1101 and LMC3403, I redesigned my ENGL1101 syllabus [Fall 2013 ENGL1101 Syllabus] while building my new LMC3403 syllabus [Fall 2013 LMC3403 Syllabus] so that the first unit of both courses would overlap in readings and a similar assignment. This year’s First Year Reading Experience book is Donald A. Norman’s Living with Complexity. I used this as the framework for this shared unit across the two courses. My freshmen would already have this book–something given to them by Tech over the summer, but my LMC3403 upper classmen would have to purchase the book. I thought that it was well worth the investment for them, because I choose to adapt Norman’s idea of managing complexity as a way of thinking about what Technical Communication is: managing complexity through communication. In both courses, students were asked, following a week long discussion of the book, to propose a plan to manage some kind of complexity that they identified around Tech or related to Tech (it could extend to applying to school, the Atlanta area, etc. as long as Tech provided an anchor for their proposal). My ENGL1101 students were asked to propose their plan for management in a 2 page essay that could include photos or illustrations of their making. My LMC3403 students were asked to write a more detailed proposal memorandum that thought through all aspects of the proposal from identifying the problem to a plan for action to costs. I plan to write a pedagogical paper about the types of thinking and composition that my ENGL1101 and LMC3403 students created, but it suffices to say here that the students in the two classes approached the task with enthusiasm and produced sharp proposals.

I want to thank Rebecca Burnett, Andy Frazee, James Gregory, and Emily Kane for their advice and suggestions while I was building my LMC3403 syllabus and assignments.

Here’s to year two!

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.