Week 14, Week 15, and Finals Week: Wrapping Up the Persuasive Oral Presentation

The end of the semester is rapidly approaching, and we have just a few weeks to conclude our work on the Persuasive Oral Presentation. Here’s how we’ll spend our time between now and finals week:

  • Week 14, Tuesday: I will hold brief conferences with each team, and you will have the remainder of our class session to meet with your team. Please bring two things to your conference: (1) Your team’s completed presentation storyboards. (2) A rough sketch of your team’s one-page handout. Before your team leaves for the break, everyone should know exactly what role he or she is playing during the presentation.
  • Week 14, Thursday: Thanksgiving Day; no classes.
  • Week 15, Tuesday: We will discuss procedures for the oral presentations and your team will have time to rehearse its presentation. (Please note that this should not be your only rehearsal!)
  • Week 15, Thursday: We will enjoy presentations by Team 5 and Team 3. If time allows, we will complete course evaluations.
  • Finals Week: Our final will be held Tuesday, December 7, at 9:00 a.m. We will enjoy presentations by Team 2, Team 4, and Team 1. In addition, you will submit your team evaluation forms for Unit #4.

If you have any questions about these plans, please let me know. I will gladly make myself available to review your documents, help you rehearse for your presentation, etc…

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Week 13: Moving Beyond PowerPoint

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 team 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 explore a few new tools and approaches to electronic presentations that might be game-changers.

There are no readings for Thursday, but you do have a short homework assignment: Based on what we have discussed in class, find a video of an outstanding oral presentation and come to class ready to show your video and explain why you think it’s successful. (Remember, we’re not just looking for good use of technology; oral delivery matters, too.) You may want to begin your search for excellent presentations at these sites: TED, PechaKucha Night, Ignite, Gel. [Update: Please add a link to the presentation you found in the comments section of this post.]

Of course, all this talk about oral presentations has a point: to strengthen your team’s performance on the Persuasive Oral Presentation assignment. Your work on that project should be ongoing throughout Week 13. By Tuesday, you should have a specific coding scheme for your data, and everyone should be working on some aspect of that task. By Thursday, your team should have preliminary results from your data analysis; in other words, you should be ready on Thursday to start drafting your team’s presentation. We’ll spend a portion of the class session on Thursday in a storyboarding workshop, so come to class with ideas about what form your team’s presentation might take.

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Week 12: New Teams, Oral Presentations

Next week will mark the beginning of our final unit (!) in this course. At the beginning of class on Tuesday, you will submit the final version of your team’s collaborative project. 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 original assignment sheet for Unit #3 and on the “Final Checklist” document I distributed in class on Thursday.

For the final project, we will shift our attention from written communication to oral and visual communication. In class on Tuesday, I will assign you to new teams for Unit #4, and 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? [Two updates for Thursday: (1) Your team evaluation form for Unit #3 is due at the beginning of class. (2) Your Unit #4 team should have collected all of its data before you come to class.]

If your team has any questions about wrapping up the collaborative project, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see you on Tuesday!

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Week 11: Rough Draft Review and Document Design

Since I’m going out of town tomorrow morning, I thought I would update the class website early this week to make sure that everyone knows what to do before I come back.

Remember that this Thursday should mark the end of “data collection” for your team. If you need to interview your client again, conduct more surveys, or hold focus groups, please don’t delay. Thursday should be a productive work day for your team, and by this time 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, I will hold a short conference with each team. You should bring drafts of all of your documents (report/proposal, plus any additional deliverables) to this meeting. I don’t expect these documents to be polished, but they should be real drafts, not just outlines or notes.

On Thursday, we will hold a document design workshop in the lab, which will give your team time to focus on the visual aspects of your documents. Before you come to class, familiarize yourself with the six phases of desktop publishing. Warning: this site contains a lot of sections and subsections. You don’t need to memorize every page on this site, and you may already know many of these principles, but please spend enough time on the site that you can converse intelligently about basic principles of document design.

A final reminder: Your finished proposal/report, along with all of your other deliverables, will be due on Tuesday, November 9. That may seem a long way away, but it will be here before you know it. Please make sure your team paces itself to avoid a last-minute panic.

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Week 10: Collaborative Writing Tools, Style Sheets, and Team Workshops

Based on my meetings with each team on Thursday, I think all five teams are where they need to be at this point in the report-writing process. In Week 10, we’ll focus on how your team can streamline its work with some software tools, and you’ll have plenty of time to work with your team.

On Tuesday, we will continue our discussion about collaborative writing tools, then we will conduct an in-class workshop on using style sheets in Microsoft Word. If time allows, you will be able to hold short team meetings at the end of class. Before you come to class, please read Tips for Understanding Styles in Word and MS Word Styles. You don’t need to print out these 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, I will be at an academic conference, so we will not meet as a class. However, I strongly recommend that you use this class session to hold a team meeting. You can use our classroom, if that’s the most convenient location for your team, or you may want to meet somewhere else. Whatever your team decides, remember that Thursday should mark the end of your team’s “data collection” phase. After this point, you should be focused entirely on drafting your report/proposal and your other deliverables.

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Week 9: More on Proposals vs. Reports; Conducting Research

At this point, each team has a committed client for the collaborative project, as well as a signed MOU to direct your work over the next few weeks. 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.

On Tuesday, we will continue our discussion about the differences between proposals and reports. Please read the short IMRAD handout I gave you on Thursday, and come to class ready to apply those concepts to your team’s situation.

Thursday will be a team workshop day. I will meet with each team for approximately 15 minutes to discuss your progress, and you will have the rest of the time to draft your data-collection documents (surveys, interview protocols, etc.). If that sounds vague, don’t worry—we’ll talk more about these documents and what I expect to see from each team on Tuesday.

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Week 8: Getting Started on the Collaborative Project

I loved eavesdropping on your first team meetings in class today—I heard so many good ideas for potential collaborative projects. I hope my feedback helped you sharpen your focus as your team weighs its various options and decides on a setting for your project. Over the next few days, keep thinking about your options and stay in touch with your teammates as new ideas come to mind.

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. 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. I will be away from technology for part of this weekend (camping, here we come!), but I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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Week 7: Working in Teams, Introduction to Unit #3

I was very impressed with what I saw during our peer review workshop yesterday. Your instructables look like they’re very close to being done, and I hope the feedback you received will help you put the finishing touches on your projects. We won’t spend any more time in class working on the instructables assignment, but if you’d like to meet with me to discuss your project, please stop by during my office hours or email me to set up an appointment at a different time.

Next week, we will 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. In addition, please read Chapter 8 in the textbook before you come to class.

On Thursday, you will submit your Unit #2 memos at the beginning of class. (Please refer to the assignment sheet for submission instructions.) After I introduce the Unit #3 assignment, we will spend the remainder of the class talking about collaboration and team work. If time permits, you’ll be able to hold your first team meeting and begin drafting your team’s memorandum of understanding, which will be due the following Tuesday.

As always, if you have any questions about these plans, you can email me or leave a comment on this post.

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Week 6: Achieving a Readable Style; Instructables Workshop

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. By the end of class next Thursday, your Instructable should be almost ready to publish. Here’s how we’ll get there:

On Tuesday, we’ll talk about issues of style and readability. Technical writing has a reputation for being dry and often confusing, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Please read Chapter 4 in the textbook before you come to class and bring your textbook and whatever text you’ve drafted for your Instructable with you to class.

On Thursday, 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.

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

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Week 5: Graphs, Charts, and Images

It was inspiring to watch you put together your visual instructions so quickly on Thursday. I read through all of them today, 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.

By now, all of you should have received my feedback on your Instructables proposals. If you haven’t, please let me know as soon as possible. Many of your proposals intrigued me, and I’m excited to see what you come up with as this assignment moves along. 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 the importance of data in technical communication and practice turning raw data into charts and graphs. Please read Chapter 6 in the textbook before you come to class.

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.

Finally, a 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.

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Week 4: Written Instructions, Visual Instructions, Instructions of All Kinds!

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 explore the Instructables website and look at some of my former students’ projects on the site. Before you come to class, please read the tour page on the Instructables site and click 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. Come to class ready to discuss your favorite Instructables and bring three ideas for your own Instructable. Finally, please read Chapter 10 in the textbook before you come to class.

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 night; please email me with your proposal.

Finally, a quick reminder about Delicious and Instructables accounts. If you haven’t sent me your usernames for these two sites, please create accounts and email me with your usernames as soon as possible. I would like to get our Delicious network up and running by the end of Week 4.

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Week 3: Ethics in the Workplace; Introduction to Unit #2

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 ethics in the workplace, then dive into our second unit, which is a new twist on the traditional genre of instructions.

For Tuesday, please read Chapter 3 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.

On Thursday, you will submit printed copies of your positive and negative letters, along with 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, you may have noticed a new sidebar on the class website labeled “Delicious Links.” Right now, all the links are mine, but that will change starting next week. Sometime this weekend, register for a Delicious account and make note of your username and password. 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 Labor Day weekend!

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Week 2: Understanding Audiences and Writing Correspondence

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. As I promised in class on Thursday, here is the PDF file containing the three negative scenarios for the final part of the correspondence unit. Please download that file and begin thinking about which letter you would like to respond to.

We will spend most of Week 2 focused on the correspondence unit, with some discussions about audience and the writing process thrown in for good measure. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what we’ll be doing each day:

Before you come to class on Tuesday, please read Chapters 2 and 7 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.

On Thursday, 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 for the first two letters (the personal positive experience and the personal negative experience) in Microsoft Word format. [Update: The class voted to conduct the peer review exercise on paper, so please bring three printed copies of your letters to class. Also, please note that the printer in Moody 126 was not working on Tuesday, so do not plan to print your letters in the lab.]

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!

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Welcome to Technical and Business Writing!

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 (T/Th 1:30–3:30, F 9:00–11:00).

A bit about me: I’m a new assistant professor at St. Edward’s University. For the past six years, I have been completing my graduate work at Iowa State University and teaching classes in ISU’s English Department. 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. Austin is a little hotter than we expected, but we’re slowly adjusting to the climate.

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.

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