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Technical Writing Across Disciplines


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This presentation looks at how a technical writing course can emphasize a research approach and problem solving unlike the academic writing done for most classes. Students learn to do audience analysis, work in collaborative environments and gain familiarity with tools used for writing digital modes. While designing professional documents, such as proposals, they become familiar with the cultural and ethical concerns of a global workplace. The writing tasks are all based on the content of their majors.

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Technical Writing Across Disciplines

  1. 1. Technical Writing Across Disciplines Kenneth Ronkowitz NJ Institute of Technology and Montclair State University
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  3. 3. ENG 352 Required in many majors including engineering, computer science and liberal arts, and is a recommended elective in management & architecture. Generally 12 sections offered per semester including hybrid and online sections. ENGW 207 Option in the new Professional and Public Writing Minor Elective for many majors One section offered each spring
  4. 4. ENG 352 - Technical Writing (3 credits) Prerequisites: English Composition: Writing, Speaking, Thinking II and one from among (Humanities) The Pre-Modern World, The Modern World and (History) The Twentieth-Century World or their equivalents, all with a grade of C or better. An advanced writing course. Combines current theory with actual practice to prepare students as technical writers. Analyze complex communication situations and design appropriate responses through tasks that involve problem solving, rhetorical theory, document design, oral presentations, writing teams, audience awareness, ethical considerations, cultural and gender equity issues.
  5. 5. Why a Professional and Public Writing Minor?  Employer demand for better written communication skills  ALL professional fields require some form of specialized non-academic writing, so the minor offers MODES, METHODS and MEDIUMS you are likely to encounter in the workplace  how to analyze audience and adapt your writing for different audiences and purposes  designed documents  proposals, reports, presentations, websites, client correspondence  digital media and writing for the web  working in collaborative environments online/offline in drafting, editing, designing, and revising  familiarity with tools used for writing in a digital environment (templates, software)  Considerations of professional, ethical, cultural, and political dynamics of a global workplace
  6. 6. Course of study 18 credit hours 2 Required Courses Introduction to Professional and Public Writing and Survey of Rhetorical Theory Required Applied Course [Choose 1] Writing for Clarity and Style Workplace Writing Technical Writing Digital Writing Elective Courses [Choose 3, or any applied courses not already used] Special Topics in Writing Ethnographies of Writers Coauthoring and Collaboration Cooperative Education (English) Writing Women Safe Teaching Writing in the Public Schools Tutoring Writing Community Writing Seminar in Writing Minor in Public and Professional Writing
  7. 7. Fear of WRITING Fear of TECHNICAL
  8. 8. * NOTE: NJIT class in hybrid format with 30 students. MSU in traditional F2F with web-enhancement and 15 students.
  9. 9. MODES, METHODS & MEDIUMS MODES Reports (feasibility, technical, comparative analysis etc.) Proposals Correspondence Hypertext (web) Infographics, storyboard, script METHODS Audience analysis, organization, information architecture, PROCESS (pre, research, topic formation) style guides, revisioning MEDIUMS : print, journal, magazine, newspaper, Web, television, radio, film, video -- and the intersections: web video, podcasts, e-zines, wikis
  10. 10. Students Spring 2014 Construction Management 3 Chemical Engineering 4 Civil Engineering 3 Computer Science 5 Industrial Engineering 1 Electrical & Computer Engineering 2 Information Technology 3 Architecture 6 Management 2 29
  11. 11. Students Spring 2014 English 9 (in minor 5 ; education 1) Biology 2 Computer Science 2 Psychology 1 Information Technology 1 15 * + 1 PhD candidate in Environmental Science
  12. 12. Technical writing is not only about technology. Like educating young students about the 200+ types of engineering fields (systems, human factors, ocean, math, biological, genetic, biomedical, vehicle, aeronautical…), students do not think of technical writing being used in fields like art, finance, fashion, architecture, agriculture, language, marketing, hospitality, law, public relations, design (fashion, product, web etc.), journalism…
  13. 13. Methods cross over into all modes and mediums. For example, audience analysis for: - a proposal aimed at constituents from finance, technical and end-users - a video for a global audience - an alternate version of a website for teens
  14. 14. Technical writing is presented in a designed format.
  15. 15. Aligning to Standards
  16. 16. The Common Core State Standards and Their Implications for Career and Technical Education  The writing standards include a strong emphasis on argument and informative/explanatory writing, along with an emphasis on writing about or from sources or using evidence to inform an argument.  The CCSS include speaking and listening standards that also can be applied in technical subjects and have particular relevance for preparing students for the expectations of the workplace.  The ELA standards also pay attention to the use of media and technology and to language, with an emphasis on academic and discipline-specific vocabulary acquisition.  Unlike the ELA standards for reading and writing, the standards for speaking and listening, media and technology, and language are not broken out specifically for science and technical subjects.
  17. 17. CCSS abstracts of articles lab reports field guides revising for other audiences user guides (visual + text) poster sessions & infographics proposals & presentations interpreting data (data visualization)
  18. 18. The standards 1. Are aligned with college and work expectations 2. Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills 3. Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society 4. Are evidence-based 1. Examining college syllabi that are based on workplace expectations 2. Students aware of the skills & their use is clear & intentional. 3. The global workplace, world is flat; ethics and cultural concerns. 4. Using “real world” examples & models, including ones collected by students.
  19. 19. Technical writing probably belongs to some degree in all subjects and classrooms. It is not the sole responsibility of ELA or English teachers, but they may be needed as trainers and resource people for other disciplines.
  20. 20. WAC and WID Writing Across the Curriculum • writing in classes outside of composition, literature, and other English courses. – approximately half of American institutes of higher learning have a program identified as WAC Writing in the Disciplines • focus on the genres and writing procedures that occur within specific fields of research – writing in the sciences, engineering, business, history, heakth etc.
  21. 21. Technical Writing Across Disciplines Kenneth Ronkowitz Presentation at: Twitter @ronkowitz Web