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Posted by Quinn Warnick April 21, 2011 Comments Off

The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, and you have just a few weeks to complete and deliver your oral presentations. I know how busy you’ll be with final projects in all of your classes, so I have eliminated all readings and homework assignments that aren’t part of Unit #4. I have also added several links to the Resources page that might be helpful as you look for images to illustrate your presentations.

Here’s how we’ll spend our time during the last few weeks of the semester:

  • On Tuesday, April 26, two Austin-based technical communicators from National Instruments will visit our class to discuss what it’s like to work in the field of technical communication. Come to class ready to ask any questions you have about careers in tech comm. After our guest speakers depart, we will spend the remainder of class working on your PowerPoint files. Your homework between now and Tuesday is to add content to all 20 slides in your PowerPoint file. It’s OK if the content is rough, but you should have something on every slide. If you have any technical problems along the way, we can address them during class.
  • On Thursday, April 28, we will conduct a peer critique workshop. By this point, your PowerPoint file should be complete and your oral presentation should be drafted. You will deliver your presentation to a small group of your classmates, then offer feedback on your peers’ presentations. We will also determine the presentation schedule for the following two days of class.
  • On Tuesday, May 3, and Thursday, May 5, we will enjoy your oral presentations. The order of presentations for Tuesday is as follows: Sam, Margeaux, Stephen, Ari, Matt, Sara, Andy. The order of presentations for Thursday is as follows: Nicole, Rachel M., Lucas, Amber, Cayley, Michael, Rachel W., Stacie, Estevan, Kori. On the day of your presentation (or before), you should upload your file to my Dropbox account using the private URL I sent you via email. (If you have trouble uploading your file, please email me.)
  • We will not meet as a class during finals week, but your two deliverables for Unit #4 are due on May 10 at 3:45 p.m. (the time of our assigned final). Here’s what you need to submit: (1) An electronic copy of your PowerPoint presentation, including any final revisions you made after delivering it in class. (2) A 1-2 page, single-spaced, self-analysis memo, in which you critique your work on this project, address your strengths and shortcomings, and describe how you would approach this assignment differently if you were to complete it again. This memo should be uploaded to Google Docs and shared with email hidden; JavaScript is required. (Be sure to give me editing privileges.)

And that’s it! It’s been a great semester, and I’m exited to watch your oral presentations. If you have any questions about these plans, please let me know. I will gladly make myself available to review your PowerPoint file or help you rehearse your presentation.

Posted by Quinn Warnick April 15, 2011 Comments Off

I really enjoyed our discussion about the best and worst PowerPoint presentations you’ve ever seen. Next week, we’re going to extend that discussion by focusing on some specific strategies you can employ to make sure that your oral presentation doesn’t become one of the Worst Presentations Of All Time.

Before you come to class on Tuesday, please print out and read “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint,” by Edward Tufte, and “In Defense of PowerPoint,” by Donald Norman. You can find PDF versions of both pieces on the Readings page. In class on Tuesday, we will look at a few more examples of successful and not-so-successful presentations, then work on converting your Pecha Kucha storyboards into a real PowerPoint file. Your homework for the weekend is to finish the storyboarding exercise and bring that completed document to class.

We will not meet on Thursday, due to the Easter break, but you should continue working to draft the script and find images for your Pecha Kucha presentation. A rough draft of your PowerPoint file will be due after we come back from Easter break (April 26).

Last but not least, all of the steps listed above are contingent upon your selection of a topic for the Unit #4 presentation. If you have not submitted your topic and received my approval, please email me ASAP.

Posted by Quinn Warnick April 1, 2011 1 Comment

I was very happy to see how well our Green Team / Red Team review session went yesterday, and I hope that each team left class with a long list of suggestions for improving your reports/proposals. Next week I will be attending a professional conference, so we will not meet as a full class. You should, however, use our class time to meet with your teammates to put the finishing touches on all of your deliverables for Unit #3. As you work on your project, refer to three documents for guidance: (1) the original assignment sheet, (2) your team’s memorandum of understanding, and (3) the “Final Checklist” document I gave you in class on Thursday.

Your final project is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 12. Please bring printed copies of all deliverables and all supporting materials described in your team’s original MOU. In addition, please upload a PDF version of your team’s report/proposal to Google Docs and share it with my Gmail address. Specific directions for submitting your project can be found on the Unit #3 assignment sheet and on the Final Checklist.

For the final project, we will shift our attention from written communication to oral and visual communication. In class on Tuesday, April 12, we will discuss the details of the assignment and map out our plans for the final weeks of the semester. Your only homework for Tuesday is to finish the Unit #3 project.

On Thursday, we will begin our exploration of oral presentations. Please read Chapter 11 in the textbook before you come to class, and be ready to answer (with specific details) these two questions: What is the worst PowerPoint presentation you’ve ever seen? What is the best PowerPoint presentation you’ve ever seen? (Update: Try to watch a few Pecha Kucha presentations before you come to class, and if you find one that you really like, add a link to it in the comments section of this post. You might want to begin your search at one of these two sites: PechaKucha Night or Ignite.)

If your team has any questions about wrapping up the collaborative project, please let me know. (I will be checking email while I’m out of town and I’ll respond to your messages as quickly as I can.) Otherwise, I will see you on the 12th!

Posted by Quinn Warnick March 25, 2011 Comments Off

I hope that our in-class writing session yesterday was productive for everyone. From this point on, you should be directing your full attention to drafting the report/proposal and your deliverables. Remember that I am NOT the primary audience for these documents; your client is the primary reader, so write the documents with him or her in mind.

Next Tuesday will be our last day for in-class team meetings. I will hold a short conference with each team, but otherwise you will have the hour to work on your documents. You should bring drafts of all of your documents (report/proposal, plus any additional deliverables) to class and be prepared to walk me through them. I don’t expect these documents to be polished, but they should be more than just outlines or notes.

On Thursday, we will conduct a team critique exercise to help you identify and eliminate problems in your documents. At minimum, your team should come to class with two printed copies of your report/proposal. If you have drafts of your other deliverables, that’s even better (bring two printed copies of those, too). One of the other teams will read your document(s) with a critical eye, and you will do the same for them.

A final reminder: Your finished proposal/report, along with all of your other deliverables, will be due on Thursday, April 7, which will be here before you know it. Please make sure your team paces itself to avoid a last-minute panic.

Posted by Quinn Warnick March 14, 2011 Comments Off

I hope all of you are enjoying Week 9, a.k.a., Spring Break. Before you left for the break, you and your teammates should have assigned individual tasks that need to be done during this week to maintain your momentum on the collaborative project. (That said, I hope everyone takes at least a few days of genuine vacation!)

Next week, we will pick up where we left off and begin drafting sections of your reports and proposals. On Tuesday, we will discuss the basics of document design, then conduct an in-class workshop on using style sheets in Microsoft Word. Before you come to class, please read Chapter 5 in the textbook, as well as Tips for Understanding Styles in Word and MS Word Styles. You don’t need to print out these last two documents, and you should ignore the fact that these instructions may be for older versions of Word than you are currently using. The purpose of reading these two articles is to help you understand the logic behind using styles.

On Thursday, we will return to our discussion about proposal writing, and your team will begin drafting the situation and methods sections of your report or proposal. As time allows, I will meet briefly with each team to make sure things are going well.

Finally, please keep in mind that your team should be wrapping up its “data collection” phase by the end of Week 10. After that point, you should be focused entirely on drafting your report/proposal and your other deliverables. If you need help at any point along the way, remember that I am ready and willing to meet with your team to discuss your project.

Posted by Quinn Warnick March 4, 2011 Comments Off

Next week, we will continue our discussion about reports and proposals, then examine what separates effective business writing from ineffective business writing. Along the way, you’ll have time to meet with your teammates to stay on track for Unit #3.

Before you come to class on Tuesday, please read Chapter 8 in the textbook and the short IMRAD handout I gave you on Thursday. Come to class ready to apply those concepts to your team’s situation.

On Thursday, we’ll talk about issues of style and readability. Business writing has a reputation for being dry and often confusing, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Before you come to class, please read Chapter 4 in the textbook and “Why Is Business Writing So Awful?” by Jason Fried.

Finally, a quick note about your team projects: If you have any questions about what your team should be working on, or how far along you should be at any given point in time, please let me know. Because each team is working on a unique project, my advice will vary from team to team, but I’m always happy to meet with your team if you’d like my help staying on track for this assignment.

Posted by Quinn Warnick February 25, 2011 Comments Off

I loved eavesdropping on your first team meetings in class yesterday—I heard so many good ideas for potential collaborative projects. Over the next few days, keep thinking about your options and stay in touch with your teammates as new ideas come to mind. This weekend is the time to check with potential clients to see if they would be interested in having your team help them. As you do so, be careful not to commit to a project until your entire team agrees on its topic.

By next Tuesday, your team should have a draft of its memorandum of understanding, which should follow the template I shared with you on Google Docs (linked on the Assignments page). Come to class on Tuesday ready to have me review that document; when we agree on the scope of work and the evaluation criteria for this assignment, your team and I will sign the final MOU. At that point, the MOU becomes the governing document for your team’s work over the next month. In order to accommodate differences between the various teams, Unit #3 will be much less structured than our previous units. If you and your teammates thrive on structure (or struggle to find motivation without external deadlines), be sure to build some checkpoints into your MOU—these will hold you accountable to one another throughout the course of the project.

On Thursday, we will consider the similarities and differences between proposals and reports, then discuss how to align the documents you are creating for Unit #3 with your client’s needs and expectations. Please read Chapter 9 in the textbook before you come to class.

If your team has any questions about potential clients or the scope of your project, please let me know before class on Tuesday.

Posted by Quinn Warnick February 18, 2011 Comments Off

The photos you brought to class on Thursday looked very promising, and at this point you should be editing (or in some cases, reshooting) those photos, then integrating them with the written text for your Instructable.

During Week 6, we’ll wrap up the Instructables unit, then turn our attention to Unit #3, a collaboratively written recommendation report. To help me put you into balanced teams, please print out and complete the Teaming Inventory document (linked on the Readings page), then bring the results page with you to class on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, we’ll conduct a peer-review workshop for the Instructables assignment, so you should have a complete draft of your project (images and text) uploaded to the site before you come to class. You shouldn’t “publish” your project, but you should make sure that your images and text are divided into the appropriate number of steps and that you have added annotations to your images as needed.

On Thursday, you will submit your Unit #2 memo at the beginning of class. (Please refer to the assignment sheet for submission instructions.) I will place you into teams for Unit #3, and you’ll hold your first team meeting to establish your team’s policies and procedures. In addition, we will discuss the role of ethics in technical communication, so please read Chapter 3 in the textbook before you come to class.

As always, if you have any questions, or if you want to talk about your Instructables project, just let me know.

Posted by Quinn Warnick February 11, 2011 Comments Off

Several of you missed class on Thursday (is everyone OK?!), but for those of you who were there, I had fun watching you complete our visual instructions activity. I read through them last night, and given your time constraints (and my intentionally vague instructions), I was very impressed with what you produced. We’ll conduct a short debriefing exercise about this activity on Tuesday, and I would love to hear more about your successes (and your frustrations) with this activity.

If you have not submitted a proposal for your Instructables project, please complete that task right now. I have responded to everyone who has submitted a proposal, so if you submitted a proposal and haven’t received my feedback, please let me know. Generally speaking, your proposals sound great, and I’m excited to see what you come up with as this assignment moves along. Once I have approved your topic, you can begin drafting the text for your instructable. When you have a rough draft, perform your instructions, taking lots of pictures as you do so. We will spend some time in the lab next Thursday editing photographs and uploading them to the Instructables.com website, so make sure you have photographed your tutorial by then.

An important note about taking photos for your Instructable: In order to avoid re-shooting all of your photographs, be very careful about setting up your photo shoot. Use the best camera you can find (translation: don’t use your cell phone) and set the camera at the highest possible resolution. Make sure your lighting is good. Eliminate background “noise” (dirty counters, unsupervised roommates, etc.) before you start. Shoot double or triple the number of images you think you’ll need. Take shots from multiple angles. Before you begin in earnest, take one or two shots and import them onto your computer to see how they look. In short, I don’t expect you to be professional photographers, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to have clear, bright photographs for this assignment.

During Week 5, we’ll continue our exploration of visual instructions and turn our attention more squarely to producing (not just analyzing) visual instructions.

On Tuesday, we’ll talk about using illustrations in technical communication. Before you come to class, please read Chapter 6 in the textbook and Tom Johnson’s Minimalistic Callouts Heighten Visual Appeal (you don’t need to print that one out, but read it carefully).

On Thursday, we’ll focus on editing images for use in printed and online documents. By this point, you should have taken the photographs for your Instructable. Please bring these files to class, where we will spend most of the day in workshop mode.

Posted by Quinn Warnick February 4, 2011 Comments Off

With the correspondence unit behind us, we are ready to move from business communication to technical communication. The instructions unit puts a new twist on a very old genre, and it will help us develop our visual rhetoric skills at the same time. I’m always amazed at what my students do with this assignment, and I can’t wait to hear your ideas.

On Tuesday, we will compare various approaches to delivering instructions. To prepare for our in-class discussion, please read Chapter 10 in the textbook before you come to class. In addition, you should familiarize yourself with the Instructables website by reading the tour page and clicking through to read several of the Instructables linked on that page. You should also explore the site to see what kinds of Instructables catch your interest. Finally, you should create an account on the site and come to class ready to share three original ideas for your own Instructable.

On Thursday, we will practice our instruction-writing skills with an in-class activity. You don’t need to read anything to prepare, but if you have a digital camera, please bring it (and any necessary cables) to class. By the end of class, you’ll be ready to begin creating your own Instructable. Your proposal for the instructions unit is due no later than Thursday at midnight; please email me with your proposal.

Finally, a quick reminder about Delicious accounts. If you haven’t sent me your Delicious username, please do so as soon as possible. I would like to get our Delicious network up and running by the end of Week 4.

Posted by Quinn Warnick January 28, 2011 Comments Off

I hope Thursday’s peer-review session provided you with some usable ideas for revising your letters. We won’t spend any more class time on the correspondence unit, but if you have any questions before you submit your letters, you can come see me during my office hours or email me to set up an appointment.

Next week, we will spend a day discussing the influence of social media on business communication, then dive into our second unit, which is a new twist on the traditional genre of instructions.

For Tuesday, please read the following articles before you come to class:

Your only other homework for the weekend is to synthesize your reviewers’ comments from Thursday’s peer review activity and draft your response letter to one of the three complaint scenarios. If you have any last-minute questions about the correspondence unit, please be ready to ask them at the beginning of class on Tuesday.

On Thursday, you will submit printed copies of your positive and negative letters, accompanied by stamped, addressed envelopes so I can mail your letters after I have graded them. In addition, you should upload an electronic copy of your correspondence unit (all three letters) to your Google Docs account and share it with me before you come to class. (I will show you how to do this in class on Tuesday.) In class, I will introduce the technical instructions assignment and we will conduct a few exercises about instructions.

Finally, I will soon be asking you to contribute items to the “Delicious Links” sidebar, so sometime this weekend, you should register for a Delicious account and make note of your username and password. (If you already have a Delicious account, you’re all set — just make sure you can login to it.) When we have a few spare minutes in class, I’ll show you how to add your own bookmarks to the class website.

If you have any questions about these plans, leave a comment on this post or send me an email. Otherwise, enjoy your weekend!

Posted by Quinn Warnick January 21, 2011 2 Comments

We got off to a great start during our first week, and I’m excited to see what topics you choose for the correspondence unit. If you haven’t done so already, please download the file that contains the scenarios for Part 3 of the assignment and begin thinking about which letter you would like to respond to.

We will focus on the correspondence unit for most of Week 2, with some discussions about audience and the writing process along the way. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what we’ll be doing each day:

Before you come to class on Tuesday, please read Chapter 2 in the textbook and come to class with ideas for a few different positive and negative letters you could write for the correspondence unit. You’ll have a chance to give one another advice on your letter ideas, then you can begin drafting your letters after Tuesday’s class. In addition, please download, print out, and complete the Negative Letter Exercise, linked on the Readings page. (The password for this page can be found at the top of your printed policy document.) Come to class on Tuesday ready to discuss your rankings of the six letters in this exercise.

Before you come to class on Thursday, please read Chapter 7 in the textbook. We will spend most of the day in peer-review mode, reading one another’s letters and giving each other feedback on our drafts. Please come to class with complete drafts of the first two letters (the personal positive experience and the personal negative experience) in Microsoft Word format.

If you have any questions about Week 2, or about anything else related to class, please leave a comment on this post or send me an email. Otherwise, I’ll see you in class on Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Posted by Quinn Warnick January 13, 2011 15 Comments

Welcome to ENGW 3335: Technical and Business Writing. This website will function as the online headquarters for our class this semester. Each week, I will post an update to the website with details about coming week, deadline reminders, links to helpful resources, etc… I plan to use SEU’s Blackboard site to record your grades, but otherwise, everything related to this course will be posted here. If you ever wonder what’s due on a particular date, or what you need to read before you come to class, you can check this website for the answer. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can email me or stop by my office (211 Premont Hall) during my office hours (M/W 1:00–3:00, F 8:00–10:00).

A bit about me: I started at St. Edward’s in the fall, and I love it here. Before I moved to Austin, I was a doctoral student at Iowa State University, where I taught classes in the English Department and worked as the instructional technology coordinator for ISU’s communication-across-the-curriculum program. I study the relationship between rhetoric and technology, and I love experimenting with new technologies in the classroom and in my personal life. I’m married to a brilliant freelance writer and we have two daughters. During the holiday break, I drove 3,200 miles (it’s a long story), so I’m happy to be back on campus and starting a new semester.

We’re going to dive right in to our first project this week, so you’ll need to complete the following items before you come to class on Thursday:

  • Please read pages 3–10 in The Essentials of Technical Communication and bring that book with you to class.
  • Complete a short biographical sketch (no longer than 1 single-spaced page) that answers the following questions: Who are you? (Tell me a little about yourself and your background.) Where are you going? (Describe your plans for post-SEU life.) Why are you here? (Help me understand what you hope to get out of ENGW 3335.) You will submit your biographical sketch at the beginning of class on Thursday.

Finally, a quick note about this website. Throughout the semester, I’ll be asking you to respond to posts on this website. To help you get comfortable with that process, please add a comment to this post that introduces yourself and answers the following question: What is the longest and/or most complicated document you have ever written (either alone or collaboratively)? Before you post, a couple of warnings: (1) Your classmates will see what you write, so don’t include anything intended just for me. (2) This website is public, so we will stick to using first names only. Also, please be sure to use the same email address every time you post to the class website. Once I “approve” your first comment on the site, you will be able to post comments for the rest of the semester without waiting for me to approve them.