A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Course Materials

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Activity Theory

Activity theory was developed in the Soviet Union. The philosophical underpinnings of this theory include the ideas of Hegel and Kant, as well as the theory of dialectical materialism developed by Marx and Engels. The theory evolved from the work of Vygotsky as he formulated a new method of studying thought and consciousness. Vygotsky was working on this theory at a time when the prevalent dominant psychological theories were based on reflexology (stimulus-response - which was later developed into behaviorism) and psychoanalysis. Reflexology attempted to ban consciousness by reducing all psychological phenomena to a series of stimulus-response chains.

Mappin, David, Michele Kelly, Bonnie Skaalid and Sharon Bratt. University of Alberta. Academic>Course Materials>Theory>Rhetoric


Analyzing an Organizational Web Site  (link broken)   (PDF)

The Web is still so new that there is very little consensus about what an organizational Web page should be and what purpose(s) it should serve. You will start this exercise by examining some organizational Web sites (preferably organizations in your field). You will develop criteria by which to judge organizational sites, and then use those criteria to evaluate a single Web site, with the site’s creator as your audience. Your criteria will doubtless include elements like the elegance of the design and should certainly include the navigational system and other Web page practicalities. They should also include the fundamentals that are important in all technical documents: suitability to purpose(s) and audience(s), content, organization, and tone.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Web Design>Assessment


Anthrax Case Research

Compare the Anthrax technical information offered at the three major sites below. Where does the information seem most credible? Where is it the most complete and detailed? Where is it the easiest to navigate and read? Write a detailed analysis report comparing the information at the three different sites.

Lannon, John M. Pearson Education (2003). Academic>Course Materials>Biomedical


ATTW Teaching Resources   (members only)

This site provides course syllabi and teaching materials for graduate and undergraduate courses in technical communication.

Kahn, Russell L. ATTW. Academic>Course Materials


ATTW Teaching Resources: Syllabi   (members only)

This section of the ATTW site includes course syllabi and teaching materials for graduate and undergraduate courses in technical communication. Faculty and staff may submit and view syllabi in HTML and plain text (ASCII) format. The syllabi in the categories cover such things as home pages used in the classroom, course assignments, textbooks used, and class projects. Many of the syllabi include links to other websites and teaching materials.

Kahn, Russell L. ATTW. Academic>Course Materials


ATTW Teaching Resources: Teaching Tips   (members only)

This section of the ATTW site allows visitors to view and post teaching tips, including effective class activities and course assignments.

ATTW. Academic>Course Materials>Education


Audience Analysis of a Usenet Newsgroup   (PDF)

For this exercise, you will be working with and expanding on the concepts of audience discussed in the textbook by completing these preliminary tasks: · Selecting a Usenet newsgroup that discusses issues in your field · Writing and posting a relevant question to the newsgroup · Collecting responses to your question After completing these tasks, you will write a report in which you evaluate your success in adjusting your communication to your chosen audience. In the process of completing this assignment, you will gain a more sophisticated understanding of audience and get better acquainted with the kinds of interactions with professionals and students that are possible on the Internet.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Audience Analysis>Online


Case Studies in Instructional Technology and Design

Multimedia cases allow novices and experts to explore issues and practice in instructional design. During the course of study in instructional design, often only a few design projects can be completed. Case studies serve as a valuable supplement, providing students with opportunities to experience and respond to complex practice issues in a variety of professional settings. In the process, students reflect on relevant theories and techniques as they attempt to understand a real problem, develop a response, and consider the potential consequences. Once each year, we sponsor a case event, and invite universities across the country to advance a team. Teams analyze the case, while experts pose probling questions, evaluate case responses, and contribute their own perspectives on the cases.

University of Virginia. Academic>Course Materials>Instructional Design>Multimedia


Case Studies Online  (link broken)

The March 1998 special issue of BCQ included 15 original cases for classroom use. We have now run out of the print version of the journal, but this site provides .pdf versions for your use. You are welcome to download and print these for your classes. Copyright for any other use of this material rests with the ABC. Listed below are links to supplemental materials for some cases. The materials include sample student responses to assignments (with identifying information masked) as well as comments on those samples and teaching and learning notes. The materials are not intended to be answers to case problems nor models of best practices but points for analysis and discussion.

Business Communication Quarterly (1998). Academic>Course Materials>Case Studies


Collaboratively Planning and Preparing a Memo   (PDF)

A great deal of writing in the workplace is done collaboratively, and it’s important to get practice not only in writing, but in writing with others, which can be a very different process. In this exercise, you will write a memo collaboratively with another student, following the directions for assignment 1, text pages 153- 156, in Chapter 5 (“Collaboration in Workplace Communication”). You’ll also revise an information sheet.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Collaboration


Communicating Across Cultures   (PDF)

In today's global village, you will work with people whose cultural backgrounds differ from yours. Culture refers to the beliefs, customs, and assumptions that determine perception and behaviour. For example, residents of small towns and rural areas have different notions of friendliness than do people from big cities. Montrealers and Cape Bretoners talk and dress differently, as do people who live in Vancouver, Regina, Halifax, and Toronto. The cultural icons that resonate for baby boomers mean little to members of Generation X and Y. And gender culture often creates conversational incongruence between men and women. All human beings conform to a culturally predetermined reality. Part of Canadian cultural identity, for example, has been formed by our dual linguistic heritage and by the economic and military might of our southern neighbour. Geography, weather, population density, and natural resources also contribute to cultural reality. For example, the Canadian values of courtesy, community, and cooperation may have evolved as survival strategies in a vast, sparsely populated land. Perceptions about gender, age, and social class are culturally based, as are our ideas about race, ethnicity, religious practices, sexual orientation, physical appearance and ability, and regional and national characteristics. Regardless of your own cultural biases, however, your organizational productivity and individual professional success depend on your ability to communicate sensitively and flexibly with others.

Locker, Kitty O., Steven Kyo Kaczmarek and Kathryn Braun. McGraw-Hill (2002). Academic>Course Materials>Cultural Theory


A Concise Guide to Technical Communication Online: Instructor Resources  (link broken)

Instructor's resources for A Concise Guide to Technical Communication, by Laura J. Gurak and John M. Lannon. Among your choices are links to Web sites focusing on a range of topics related to writing and technical communication, including audience analysis, ethical issues in technical communication, layout and document design, web-site development, and research. Each chapter's resources also includes teaching tips and notes you can use to supplement your teaching materials.

Gurak, Laura J. and John M. Lannon. Pearson Education (1998). Academic>Course Materials>Undergraduate


A Concise Guide to Technical Communication Online: Student Resources  (link broken)

Welcome to student resources to accompany A Concise Guide to Technical Communication, by Laura J. Gurak and John M. Lannon. First select a chapter from the pull-down menu above. Once you have selected a chapter, you can choose from the left-hand menu a variety of resources to help you understand the topics covered in the text. Among your choices are links to Web sites focusing on a range of topics related to writing and technical communication, including audience analysis, ethical issues in technical communication, layout and document design, web-site development, and research.

Gurak, Laura J. and John M. Lannon. Pearson Education (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Undergraduate


Conduct an Analysis of Your Professional Language and Culture

Take any combination of the projects below and use them to generate data for a comprehensive report on the Language and Culture of your field. You will find one sample of such a document in the Models and Templates section of the web site. Study it closely, as it is a strong example of how such a report can be written.

Lannon, John M. Pearson Education. Academic>Course Materials>Professionalism


Conducting a Productive Web Search

There are two main types of indexes: those that are hierarchical (i.e. that lead one from a general topic to a more specific one) and those that list sources in some sort of order (most commonly alphabetical).  The first type of index often contains a broad range of topics while the second are usually sources designed to address a particular topic or concern.

Purdue University (1998). Academic>Course Materials>Online>Search


Constructing an Organizational Web Site   (PDF)

Many business people and scholars see computer-mediated communications as the inevitable future of business and technical communication. Certainly we are seeing meteoric growth on the Internet. Increasingly, companies are relying on computer-mediated communication for external and internal communication, and Web page design and construction are becoming more and more a part of what professionals do on the job. For this exercise, you will be working with a team to develop an organizational Web site.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Web Design


Content and Development

As a writer, you need to know some strategies for developing the content for a writing project: what topics and subtopics to include, what to write about, how to think of material to cover concerning a topic.

McMurrey, David A. Illuminati Online (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Style Guides


Creating a Visual   (PDF)

Research in visual design has demonstrated that tables are “the best way to show exact numerical values” when the reader needs to compare those values. In other cases, when comparison of exact numbers is not vital, other visuals may be more appropriate. Effective professional communicators analyze their audience’s need for the data and the purpose of the visual to determine the best presentation.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Graphic Design


Creating an Instructor Kit  (link broken)

After you've tested the in-class exercises, polished the presentation materials, printed the handouts and workbooks, and created the data files for class, are you ready to hand over the course to an instructor? Not yet. You have one more thing to do before calling your course finished: Create the instructor kit. An instructor kit often differentiates a good course from an exceptional course. It is more than a pretty package or a finishing touch. It is an integral part of any training course that you must hand off to an instructor. The instructor kit's ultimate goal is to increase the quality of the students' experience, by helping the instructor to assimilate, set up, and deliver your course.

Rice, William H. IV. WilliamRice.com (2000). Academic>Course Materials


Cross-Referencing: Using MLA Format   (PowerPoint)

This presentation teaches your students the purposes of MLA documentation, as well as methods for using parenthetical citations and a Works Cited page. This presentation is an important addition for the beginning of a research unit in a humanities course or any assignment that requires MLA documentation.

Liethen, Jennifer Kunka. Purdue University. Academic>Course Materials


Culturally Sensitive Community Service

A group in your class has decided to help a local homeless shelter get some computers to assist people in their job searches. Now you must approach several local charities and businesses and ask for money for the project. Begin by compiling an audience profile (see page 32) on the student body. Then write a PowerPoint proposal that persuades the audience to support your project. Deliver it to your classmates as a stand-in audience. Make sure you state the need clearly, address issues of mutual concern, support any claims with evidence, and avoid violating any constraints.

Lannon, John M. Pearson Education (2003). Academic>Course Materials


Description-Writing Exercises

Linked to this page are 6 high-school-level exercises that teach (through worked and scaffolded examples) how to write good technical descriptions. Also included is a set of description-writing guidelines on which these exercises depend. The summary table below links to two versions of each exercise: * A plain version suitable for classroom use as is, and * An annotated version that: * spells out the goal of each exercise and the writing issues that it addresses, * compares the exercise with others in this set, * suggests effective, relevant teaching strategies, as well as extended activities, and * notes the specific 1998 California English-Language Arts content standard(s) that the exercise most strongly supports.

Girill, T.R. STC East Bay (1999). Academic>Course Materials>Writing


Designing a Style Guide  (link broken)

For this project, you'll create a style guide for at least two markedly different technical publications. Your style guide will be used by technical writers on your documentation team to get these publications in conformance with each other, as well as other publication.

Rogers, Will. Illuminati Online (2002). Academic>Course Materials>Style Guides


Designing Visual Aids for a Presentation  (link broken)   (PDF)

In addition to preparing and reading documents, professionals spend much of their time communicating their ideas orally. These oral exchanges take many forms—from informal telephone conversations to speeches in front of large audiences. During their careers, most professionals are required to give formal presentations—often they must give presentations on a regular basis.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials>Presentations>Visual Rhetoric


Editing Documents Collaboratively   (PDF)

In this exercise, you will work in a group of four students to collaboratively edit an information sheet about your campus library. As a group you will decide what type of collaborative relationship will work best for this exercise. After reviewing and editing the document, you will individually prepare a short report about the exercise for your instructor.

Burnett, Rebecca E. Thomson (2001). Academic>Course Materials



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