Widgets 210: Imagination and Ownership to Increase Core Competencies in Technical Communication Students

Ms. Liticia Salter
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In most universities across the United States, Technical Communication is a course most experienced English faculty avoid teaching; most favor instead the more intellectual aims of deconstructing postmodern literature and the like. A mandatory course in most colleges within our university, Technical Communication has been historically shoved-off on graduate students who conducted their classes of hundreds of students with gallows enthusiasm. Students thought the class was only marginally relevant to their futures, but generally an easy A. In the end, however, students too often found themselves ill prepared for the workplace demands they encountered upon graduation. Without sufficient regard for learning outcomes relevant to the world of science and commerce, many instructors continue teaching the methodology of a decade ago; creating crisp, white sheets of mundanely formatted text using cellophane transparencies on overhead projectors. Students, on the other hand, within months of graduation, are thrown into a world demanding not only a mastery of the rhetoric, but also the ability to translate that rhetoric to languages of html, xml, sgml, and other complex formats. Unfortunately, this same trend is observed in any of the dozens of technical communications textbooks, few of which break any new ground.

How, then, as Technical Communication educators, do we ensure that our students will be graduating with the core competencies in both the rhetoric of science and technology as well as having in-hand the collaborative and technological skills necessary to meet the expectations of their future employers? Using recent research done by Rainey et al and combining that with data collected from my own surveys of practicing technical writers in six countries, this paper explores the implications facing technical communication faculty and suggests heuristics more closely aligned with the demands of the global workplace.

Keywords: Heuristic, Technical Communication, Technical Writing, Curriculum Design, Core Competencies
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Ms. Liticia Salter

Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Texas A&M University - Qatar Campus

In addition to teaching rhetoric and technical communication at both Texas A&M University campuses in the US and Qatar, she has taught numerous courses in two-year colleges and has facilitated e-education courses. Early in her career, before her return to academia, Liticia established her own advertising agency and, later, an equine magazine. In addition to her current teaching duties, Liticia is a member of the editorial board and involved in the planning and direction for the newsletter for Texas A&M University at Qatar, "The Platform". Additionally, she serves on the five-member admissions board for the Qatar campus. Liticia has a particular research interest in integrating heuristics of technology and technical communication as well as creative and travel writing endeavors. She is a member of the National Council of the Teachers of English, the Modern Language Association, the Society for Technical Communicators, and Phi Kappa Phi.

Ref: T06P0289