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So You Want to Be an Instructional Designer? | EdSurge News

Good listener. People person. Lifelong learner. Sound like you? No, we’re not trying to arrange a first date. These are some common traits of people with successful careers in a booming job market: instructional design. Colleges, K-12 schools and companies increasingly turn to  instructio

Source: So You Want to Be an Instructional Designer? | EdSurge News

I wish I had seen this article several years ago.  Getting into Instructional Design isn’t easy if you don’t have a degree in it, but you still have a lot of the foundational background to break into the field. Some just “fall” into the field, but I have yet to see a job listing for an entry-level instructional designer in the last five years.  Even so, this article will let you know some basics about what it takes to be an instructional designer.

Do you agree with the article’s assessment? Include your comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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BBC – Capital – Native English speakers are the world’s worst communicators

In a room full of non-native speakers, ‘there isn’t any chance of understanding’. It might be their language, but the message is often lost

Source: BBC – Capital – Native English speakers are the world’s worst communicators

The BBC has done it again with another excellent article about English language. I have to admit, even though I am a native English speaker, there are times that I don’t understand some of the abbreviations used, and I prefer to spell things out (I think that abbreviations can be a little bit lazy sometimes). But this article makes a fantastic point that native speakers don’t always think about the larger audience of those who speak English as a second or third language. I have no problem asking what something means even in my own language, but that shouldn’t be necessary. One of the things I didn’t like about a job I had was that I was expected to write content in native English, and not try to make it closer to some sort of standard English. “Leave that to the translators to figure out,” I was told. That response irritated me, but I had to comply with what they wanted, even though that’s the wrong way to approach it.

With the advent of the Internet, global communications are much more frequent and common now than even 10-15 years ago. While other countries are making an effort to use the lingua fraca of the Internet, native English speakers should make more of an effort to meet the non-native English speakers part way in being more clear in our communications as well. If someone says they don’t understand me, I’d rather they tell me, because then that’s MY fault, not theirs.

What do you think? Include your thoughts in the comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom

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Will Tablets Replace PCs? Part 2

"Nope. Even I can't see much improvement over the last few years," says Geordi LaForge.
“Nope. Even I can’t see much improvement over the last few years,” says Geordi LaForge.

Four years ago, I wrote a post that was in response to RJ Jacquez’s post on his blog about the advent of the Microsoft Surface’s release.

My response to RJ Jacquez’s question: Will Tablets replace PCs?

RJ’s argument was that while mobile was the wave of the future, he felt that the Surface was not a mobile product. Since the Surface still ran full programs rather than streamlined apps, it really didn’t qualify as a mobile device, despite its tablet-like form. His argument was that the industry needs to learn to streamline code to make lighter programs for heavy duty use so that mobile can become more prolific.

My argument at the time, more or less, was that while I agreed with his thinking and supported more use of mobile, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon because PCs enabled people to use more powerful programs that tablets just couldn’t handle. I supported the idea of cloud technology, which was just barely emerging at the time, but I knew it wasn’t there yet. Only when cloud technology could catch up, I contended, then we could start making a bigger move to mobile devices as our primary work tools.

surface_pro_4_vs_ipad_pro_5Well, here we are, four years later. Have we made huge strides in moving more to mobile? Yes and no.

More tablet-like devices have been created in these four years, and the main leaders in this arena, Surface and iPad, have made improvements over the years. Surface has its standard version of the device, as well as a “Surface Pro” and “Surface Book”. iPad has developed its competition creating iPad Pro, but the various MacBooks continue to be the competition for the Surface Book.

Surface’s OS is still the same thing that runs on laptops, namely full versions of Windows 10. Windows 10 runs regular, full version programs, but it also runs on apps that can be bought through the Microsoft Store, including many cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365. But, it’s still a really flat PC in a tablet format. People still use it like their PC, running more powerful programs in it, and use it as a laptop, just smaller. It’s certainly more portable than a standard laptop, but as laptop design gets thinner and thinner, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, the price tag on the Surface is still pretty high. To get a powerful enough machine that can create and edit video, you’d pay somewhere around US$3000.00+ for a Surface, when you could get something just as powerful in another brand of laptop for less than half that price (like I did for my current laptop).

iPads, in the meantime, have become more robust, and while still more dependent on cloud-based apps such as its own Work suite and it does run the cloud-based Office 365, other apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud aren’t the same. There are Creative Cloud apps available for iPad, but they are still the watered down versions of them, and not the full versions that can be used on a laptop. Even though Adobe claims that Creative Cloud is cloud-based, it’s only cloud based insofar as it will save your work in iPad to your storage within Creative Cloud, but that’s about it.  iPads have definitely been a frontrunner in promoting  cloud-based storage, but running robust apps that are memory-intensive isn’t part of its anatomy.

Still, with these minimal advances, they are still steps forward in the right direction. For example, I do used Office 365 or iWork on my iPad when I help my son write up his homework assignments, and I can store them on my OneDrive or my iCloud. If he’s working on a bigger project, he can use PowerPoint or Keynote on my iPad, save it to OneDrive or iCloud, and then continue working on the project using my laptop or his desktop.  Cloud-based storage, and some other cloud-based apps have definitely gotten better, for sure. I like this ability to switch from my laptop to my iPad to work on low-impact project, like doing my son’s homework.

There are some apps that won’t ever happen on iPad. For example, I’ve been working heavily in Dreamweaver this past week or two. This is not to say there aren’t other HTML/JavaScript editing tools that are probably iPad apps out there, but this is the most popular one and a standard one to use. Is there an iPad version to access? No. I need to use my laptop for this.  This might be where Surface would be the better choice, but again, it’s still really a laptop in a different device shell, as mentioned before.  I doubt that Flare or Adobe TechComm Suite tools are ready for the iPad treatment either. They can probably run on a Surface, but would you really want that?

Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira's help in straightening this out!
Even a StarFleet Captain like Benjamin Sisko can find this sort of thing daunting, and needs to seek Kira’s help in straightening this out!

It looks like the PC versus tablet/mobile wars will continue to rage on for a while. I don’t think they’ve gotten that far in four years, but the few improvements made have certainly been in the right direction. We’re not quite there yet. I think RJ’s original thought that all apps need to be streamlined for mobile use was a great observation then, and it’s still one that needs to apply now.  If we are truly going to move towards the mobile age, bigger steps have to be made. These are steps forward, for sure. I think more has been concentrated on mobile phones, to be honest, since more people own them. And that seems appropriate. I don’t bring my iPad or my laptop with me everywhere, but I bring my phone everywhere. Then again, I’m not working on HTML code on my phone, so there has to be some sort of balance at some point.

Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time, but it looks like we’ll have to be a little more patient before we see another big leap with technology. I know there are some “big” announcements from Microsoft and Apple about these tablet products sometime this week, but I’m not holding out for any big advances, even though they are certainly overdue.

What do you think? How will this lack of technology development–or the future of mobile technology–help or hurt tech comm? Include your comments below.

Diverted from law, but destined for tech comm

Legally Blond image
Not all of us blond chicks are meant to be lawyers like Elle Woods.

The other day, I had jury duty. I was rather anxious on a number of levels, but mostly because I was fearful of being chosen for a jury that would last more than a day or two, because I had already put off the first day of a new contract to fulfill my civic duty. My anxiety really got the best of me, as it made me physically ill all day.

I felt very nervous being in the courtroom during the jury selection process. I shouldn’t have been. It was straightforward. This was for a civil case, so it wouldn’t be about anything too gory, awful, or drawn out like a criminal or murder case.

But here’s the irony of the whole thing: when I started college, I was very determined that I was going to be a pre-law student studying international affairs, and that I’d eventually continue to law school. I had participated on high school mock trial teams, and watched courtroom shows all the time, soaking in all the courtroom action whenever I could. So, what happened?

Eventually I’d work for law firms during the summer as an office clerk or a receptionist, and found that I really didn’t like it. I also was having second thoughts about going to law school, since I had some trouble with certain courses in my undergrad years.

As I sat in the courtroom the other day, my memory was refreshed on how court proceedings were done, such as what it means if a judge says that an objection is overruled or sustained, how a court case is run, and the types of questions that need to be asked to elicit the responses that the lawyer wants to get out of the witness. It occurred to me that I was GLAD I wasn’t a lawyer after all. I would have hated it after a while. Sure, there’s a structure to how things are done, and laws are often written so there’s as little interpretation as possible as to what is liable and what isn’t. But sitting in that courtroom made me grateful that I did not lead a lawyer’s life.

After being dismissed from that courtroom and waiting to see if I would be called to another trial, I had time to think about how my life choices took me in another direction. I thought about the qualities of a lawyer, and thought about which of those qualities would make me think I’d be good for that, yet would be applicable to my current career in technical communication.

The reasons were very clear to me almost instantly. Both lawyers and technical writers need and like structure. Lawyers work off the law guides, while technical writers work with style guides. Both are very keen wordsmiths. They often are the authors of policies and procedures and other documentation. The wrong word or the right word can make the difference in what they are doing. Related to that, they are acutely aware of details. One incorrect detail can make or break the situation at hand. Both professions work to relate to their audience, whether it’s a judge and jury, or end-users at large. Both have to be at least a little bit clever to be able to convey their content clearly, cogently, and concisely.

So, was my time being a law wannabe for nothing? I don’t think so. Little did I know that it would help me figure out skills that would be needed for a vocation that I did not know I had yet. If anything, it most likely helped me ease into the technical communications field more easily because I had attuned these skills at a young age for a different purpose.

The very next day after jury duty, I started at my new contract, going back to doing content strategy and management. Oh, what a relief it was! Even though I was working with a new client and a new content management system that I hadn’t used before, I knew that I had something substantial to provide with my skills, and I felt so much more at ease than having to present a case based strictly on law and courtroom decorum. I didn’t have to worry about my skills not being enough to convince someone to judge in favor of someone–or something– I was advocating. Instead, I got to work in a team environment, where my voice was heard as one of a few contributing ideas to create something with a positive outcome–no matter what the outcome. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but I think many technical communicators know that they must have some of these same skills to be able to produce the best outputs they can to serve a larger audience for positive purposes. We have to advocate for our field constantly, to prove that we are needed in the workforce, and we strive to get positive results.  There are even technical communicators whose specialty is to write up policies and procedures.  Not law school worthy? I beg to differ.

What do you think? Do you think we possess many of the same skills as lawyers, or not? Include your comments below.

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John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning about taking his editing class- Baltimore Sun

Take a seat, school’s back in session. Here’s John E. McIntyre’s “trigger warning” to new students at his editing class at Loyola University Maryland.

Source: John E. McIntyre’s trigger warning – Baltimore Sun

I highly, highly encourage you to watch the video in this link, especially if you’ve ever taken an editing class.  This reminded me SO much of what I had to go through in the technical editing course that I took at NJIT with Dr. Norbert Elliot.  He’s retired now, but his lessons definitely live on! I showed this to one of my classmates from the class, and she said this was exactly how she imagined Dr. Elliot in her imagination, but with a different appearance, naturally.  I spent many weekends and weeknight pouring over texts. Our usual assignment would center on a particular common grammatical error, such as the use of commas. We’d be provided eight to ten sentences, which we would not only edit, but we had to give citations from various grammar rule books–such as the Chicago Manual of Style–and explain WHY it was wrong. It was NOT an easy class by any means, but I eeked out an A, and it was one of the first grades I received in grad school.

Did you have an editing class that was similar to what this gentleman was teaching or what I experienced? Did it help you as a technical communicator (I know it helped me!)? Share your experiences in the comments below.

–TechCommGeekMom