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.

Thoughts on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion After One Week of Regular Use

I installed Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on my MacBook 5,1 just over a week ago, so I have had plenty of time to get to know the latest cat in the Apple OS family. Overall, I like the new features of Lion, but I have hit a few snags along the way to adopting the newest Macintosh operating system.

After some trouble learning the natural gestures for trackpad and Magic Mouse, I like these features a lot. I like flicking my way between full screen apps, the Finder, and the Dashboard. It did take me awhile to retrain my brain to use natural finger movements to scroll in documents, and I cannot say that I am completely out of the woods on unlearning the mechanical scroll wheel paradigm of document navigation. This is particularly interesting, because I have owned an iPhone since their introduction and I also own the first iPad. Both of these feature a natural way of navigating document windows by placing your finger down and moving it as if you were sliding a paper around beneath a framed window. However, my brain would shift modes when I used my trackpad or mouse, and I would fall back into the scroll wheel paradigm. Now, I have nearly integrated the natural paradigm with my MacBook.

As much as I love the new gestures, I have had difficulty getting them all to work properly on my MacBook’s trackpad. Occasionally, the four finger flick between apps movement doesn’t work and I end up inputting an unexpected gesture. This might result in my Safari window zooming in or out, or it might navigate to an earlier web page. Another gesture that I have only had work once after much practice is the thumb and three finger pinch out to the Desktop. I think this is a good gesture, but I can’t get my trackpad to pick this up correctly. Usually it interprets my gesture as the four finger upward swipe to Mission Control.

I have noticed Safari hogging a lot of RAM, which may explain some of the sluggish behavior that my Mac exhibits as compared to Leopard and Snow Leopard.

I like the look of the new full screen Mail.app. However, I find that it, like the iPad version, occasionally has trouble finding emails that I can easily locate when I login to Gmail.

I turned off the typing autocorrection feature that is built into Lion. This became a problem when it was autocorrecting real words that it apparently doesn’t have in its dictionary with alternatives.

I would recommend users visit the Security Preference Pane and activate the firewall, which is deactivated by default.

I haven’t noticed this with my trackpad, but I have noticed this with the Magic Mouse: the mouse jumps to the corners. I have tried turning down the tracking speed, but it still does this occasionally. This is new behavior that I had not observed before with this mouse and Leopard or Snow Leopard.

I helped a friend do a clean install of Lion on his MacBook Pro, which went off without a hitch. After performing the installation, we restored his documents and applications from his Time Machine backup. For him, he still has all of the older, Apple desktop pictures. My fresh Lion install only has the few desktop pictures that came with Lion, because I did not backup my entire system with Time Machine (I perform manual backups of my files).

Other applications that I use regularly seem to work fine: VLC, Jview, Microsoft Office 2011, and iPhoto 09.

Have you installed Lion on your Mac? What have your experiences been like? Leave a comment below.