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April 2006

Editors

Gretchen Herrick

Kevin Sanderfoot

 

 

 

Feature Articles

Podcasting Education

Minnesota State Mankato STC Judges Entries in STC Twin Cities Competition

World Usability Day 2005

Text Message Communication

Cellphones as Mobile Offices

 

 

 

In Every Issue

Letter from the Editor

Bulletin Board

 

 

 

 

 

Podcasting Education

by Andrew Robertson

Podcasting is the use of a digital music player that plays downloaded files from the internet. But how does this innovate technical communications? It does so in many ways. Podcasting is being used to download news programs, radio programs, museum tours and other audio or visual files. In technical communication, the transmission of an instruction set, or quick guide or any other type of help file is useful for users working in their workplace. With the current trend of online documentation, users can go online to get help files and download them to a MP3 player. With Podcasting, a user can download instructions and view or listen to them on their personal computer or digital music player. 

For example, a user could download an audio help file about how to plant flowers. He or she could listen to the files on an MP3 player while completing the task. The user can repeat the file as many times as needed to complete the task. A visual Podcast is useful for a process that requires complex visuals. An aircraft mechanic could download visual instructions for removing a part or other complex task. With a small hard drive visual player, such as an iPod, the user could even crawl into a tight section of the airplane, perform the task and receive instructions from the Podcast. This would be helpful for the mechanic when they need to use both hands for the task. Then the Podcast could instruct the user how to remove an avionics module or how to repair a fuel tank.

Podcasting is also used in educational situations. Students can download a Podcast and listen to the lessons. Podcasting is useful for learning second languages. The student can listen to a Podcast lesson and repeat the language. With the advent of the Internet the user can upgrade to new lessons when they are ready. Home schooling education is an area ripe for Podcasting. Education itself is also a form of technical communication. And the use of podcasting will innovate the profession, on all levels of education.

Stanford University offers an example of Podcasting in action.  Students can download lectures from the iTunes store. This is helpful for students that don’t have the time to sit in class and listen to the lecture.  Distance education will also become more accessible to those that want to learn via the Internet. Other uses of Stanford’s Podcasting, is for students of other universities that want to learn more about a topic.  Education at Stanford has changed since the introduction of their podcasts. Many other universities are posting Podcasts for students. This will alter the way that information will be exchanged.

In museums, Podcasting is used as a guide to inform patrons about the exhibits on display. This is innovating tech comm because of the user/task relationship. The museum patron learns about the exhibit and other technical information about the artist. This application of Podcasts can augment the placement of exhibitions and the related content that the patron receives at the museum. The Walker Art Center of Minneapolis uses Podcasts to inform its patrons about the center and the works on display. This is useful for patrons that want to view the outdoor exhibits and listen to the information while they  enjoy the sights.

This application could transfer to situations that involve many people that speak different languages.  If groups needed to receive information relating to relief efforts, they could listen to a Podcast in their native language and then complete the instructions. This is useful for those that need information that is standardized. One Podcast could be recorded and those that need it could download it to their mp3 player or computer.

Podcasts will innovate education from many points of view. The mechanic will be able to bring instructions and tutorials to tight places. The student can listen to lectures on their own time. A second language can be learned with Podcasts. Presentations can be downloaded for museum functions or any type of tour. Those that use this technology in their communication will innovate technical communication. The true potential for Podcasts is still unknown. But more and more people are using Podcasts for communication with technical content.

Sources

http://itunes.stanford.edu

http://podcastalley.com/podcast_genres.php?pod_genre_id=7

http://www.walkerart.org

 

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Minnesota State Mankato STC Judges Entries in STC Twin Cities Competition

by Lee Tesdell

Minnesota State Mankato STC chapter members participated in the Twin Cities chapter’s 2005-2006 STC competition. Five students and one instructor served as volunteer judges.

Five technical communication graduate students, Gretchen Herrick, Arlandis Jones, Andrew Robertson, Kevin Sanderfoot, and Denise Ware, joined by faculty member Lee Tesdell, assisted in judging entries. The entries came from the Lone Star chapter in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas area. The Lone Star chapter, in turn, judged the entries that were submitted to the Twin Cities chapter.

The judging effort was coordinated by graduate student Kevin Sanderfoot, who also serves as president of the student chapter. First, several students attended the judges training session held in the Twin Cities. Second, all judges met on campus to receive the entries and learn how the judging procedure. Third, after filling out their own judging forms, all judges met to reconcile their evaluations of each entry. Finally, Kevin delivered the entries and evaluation forms to the Twin Cities chapter for final tabulation.

The awards banquet was held Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 5 pm to 9:30 pm in Minneapolis, MN. The event was called “A Chorus of Stars—Displaying Shining Examples of Brilliant Technical Communication.”

The winners in each of the three categories, Online Communication Competition, Technical Art Competition, and Technical Publications Competitions, were announced.

The keynote speaker, Mark Hanigan, spoke on “Shining Stars Light our Future Paths—Technical Communication Evolutions in the 21st Century.” Mark is an STC Fellow from Tampa, Florida, and an inspirational presenter.

Information for interested entrants or volunteer judges for the 2006-2007 competition is available from the Twin Cities STC website: http://stctc.org.

Photo by Gretchen Haas

Judging participants and STC officers (l to r) Gretchen Herrick, Kevin Sanderfoot, Denise Ware, Andrew Robertson, and Arlandis Jones

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World Usability Day 2005

by Kevin Sanderfoot

On November 3, The Minnesota State Mankato student chapter of STC hosted a fieldtrip to the World Usability Day festivities at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The event was an excellent chance for STC members to learn more about usability testing and to meet other students interested in technical communication. Students attended information sessions and listened to speakers discuss task-based methodology with eye tracking in usability evaluations, terminology reviews and card sorting in website development, and website accessibility.

Students also received a tour of the university’s usability lab and a demonstration of the eye tracking software and technology used by the lab. By tracking the evaluator’s eye movement, the lab technician is able to see exactly what the user sees, what users are looking at and what areas of the computer screen the users are giving the most attention to.

At the end of the day, STC members meet with students and faculty from the University of Minnesota’s technical communication program and usability lab staff and ate dinner at the Loring Pasta Bar in Dinkytown before driving back to Mankato.

Photo by Andrew Robertson

Professor Tesdell gets ready to drive the group to Minneapolis

Photo by Andrew Robertson

STC members listen to one of the day's speakers

Photo by Andrew Robertson

STC treasurer Arlandis Jones volunteers during one of the information sessions

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Text Message Communication

by Arlandis Jones

Communication has drastically changed due to the increase of cell phone technology. In fact, the English language has once again been stretched to new possibilities. Some might refer to the way that people communicate via cell phone text messages and computer “Instant Messages” (IM) as slang or short hand. However, this new type of language has become accepted for communicating to one another. Text messaging language is short and to the point.

Besides cellular phones, computer IM’s employ similar technical language. Many computer messaging programs such as YAHOO! and AOL have advanced features when expressing emotions. YAHOO! has icons and features known as “Emoticons” and “Audibles.” Emoticons are used the same way as the cellular emotions; however, these features are more advanced.

The use of symbols shows emotions; these symbols are generally made with the parentheses, colons and semi colons. For instance, to convey happiness or joy we use : )… to show sadness  : ( . These types of expressions are typically used for text messaging or in email.

In addition, many of the words and expressions that are used are abbreviations, for example, “ttyl” and “lol” which translate to “talk to you later” and “laughing out loud.” In most cases, the language integrates with numbers and letters: “2morrow” “4 get it” “n2” “4eva” “str8” “2nite” “no1” “every1.”

For most words ending with “ing” the “G” is most likely dropped: going = goin, doing = doin, talking = talkin, and playing = playin.

Words like (are, be, see, you) are given one letter to represent its meaning: “R u” okay? I will “c u” later, I will “b there 2.” Shortening these words reduces the time it takes to enter text on the keyboard. 

With this popular culture of usage, the question becomes “is this method of communicating stigmatizing the use of Standard English Language?” A dissertation by Dr. Ylva Hard af Segerstad from Goteborg University Department of Linguistic primarily exposes the use of text messaging communication and its effect on language: “Strategies such as syntactical and lexical reductions are employed to reduce time, effort and space. These techniques appear to serve multifunctional purposes, by expressing interpersonal intimacy by choice of words and phrases while reducing keystrokes.”

Segerstad adds, “IM gives the impression that it is something you do “as fast as you can.”

Sources

http://www.ling.gu.se/%7eylvah/dokument/eng_diss_abstract.pdf

http://www.ling.gu.se/~ylva

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7052920

 

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Cell Phones as Mobile Offices

by Denise Ware

Technical communication is concerned with the way one speaks, presents to audiences. Writing, visual presentation, and style to name a few are all aspects of technical communication. Technology relates closely to technical communication and one example is cellular phones. Today cell phones are made so the user can do just about anything at the touch of  a button.

It is amazing to see how cellular phone developers can expand the technology of the hand-held wireless device.  It seems like yesterday when researchers were trying to develop the actual cell phone, but because of the time, technologies to do so were non-existent. At first, the goal of the cell phone was to be able to reach another person regardless of location, altitude, or depth. Now, the cellular phone does that and more.

Today, the cell phone has many uses. Besides the obvious of facilitating communication between people, the cell phone acts as a mobile office. A person can conduct many aspects of business through the use of their mobile phone. Some of the different technologies that we see on the phone include calendars, alarm clocks, reminders, snap shot and video cameras, wireless internet, two-way radio, am/fm radio and the list goes on. These features help one to run or conduct business. Developers have made it so that the consumer would have convenience at our fingertips. 

The cell phone can be technical communication at work. One can format his/her phone to their specifications, making it easy to read and pleasing to the eye. Cell phone users design their phones mostly for fun and entertainment. This is somewhat related to putting on a visual presentation in technical communication. When one conducts a presentation, the presenter designs the visual aspect of the presentation to please eyes and makes it easy to read.

Another example includes the way cellular phones give instructions on how and what prompts to use in order to carry out specific functions. When a person dials a number, he/she has the option to send or end a call. In the technical communication workplace, writers write and test instructions on how to execute a certain task. For some, having a cell phone is important as having an office assistant. In some ways the two work hand in hand. For instance, just as one would give instructions to an office assistant, one would do the same to a cellular phone.

As one thinks about the many uses of the cell phone, it is no wonder if maybe, one day in the future it will replace many existing products such as the phone books, personal am/fm radios, and alarm clocks to name a few. Cell phones continue to advance and become more complex while adapting to the 21st century, which one may call “the age of technology and information.” Technical communication continues to grow in the same sense. 

Sources

http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa070899.htm

http://www.affordablephones.net/HistoryCellular.htm

 

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Letter from the Editor

This edition of Techniques includes three articles originally published in the Fall 2005 online edition. Podcasting Education by Andrew Robertson, Text Message Communication by Arlandis Jones, and Cell Phones as Mobile Offices by Denise Ware come from the recent online edition, titled Innovating Technical Communication, which focuses on the influence of technology in technical communication.  

We welcome letters from our readers. Send comments, questions or concerns to our faculty advisors.

 

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Bulletin Board

 

Upcoming Technical Communication Courses at Minnesota State Mankato

* offered online

 

Summer 2006

ENG 271 Technical Communication

ENG 271 Technical Communication*

ENG 4/572 Topics in Technical Communication: Int'l Technical Communication

 

Fall 2006

ENG 271 Technical Communication

ENG 271 Technical Communication*

ENG 4/571 Visual Technical Communication*

ENG 4/572 Topics in Technical Communication: Topic TBA

ENG 4/574 Research & Writing Technical Reports

ENG 4/577 Technical Documentation, Policies, & Procedures

ENG 479 Rhetorical Theory Applied to Technical Documents

ENG 673 Research & Theory Technical Communication

ENG 680 Topics in Computer-Assisted Writing: Topic TBA*

 

For more information, visit http://english.mnsu.edu/techcomm

 

STC Annual Conference

This year, STC's annual conference will be held in Las Vegas from May 7-10. The registration deadline for individuals interested in attending is April 21.

 

For those who are unable to travel to this year's conference, the 2007 conference will be held in Minneapolis.

 

For more information, visit http://www.stc.org

 

Upcoming STC Twin Cities Events

Friday - April 14

Community Meeting (11:00 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.)

Panel Discussion: "What are Employers & Consulting Firms Looking For?"

 

Tuesday - May 9

Community Meeting (5:00 P.M. - 8:30 P.M.)

Corporate Tour

 

Friday - June 9

Community Meeting (11:00 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.)

Creativity Workshop

 

For more information, visit http://www.stctc.org

 

Upcoming STC Student Chapter Events

Wednesday - April 26

Meeting (5:00 P.M. - 5:45 P.M.)

 

Alumni Event

A discussion forum with alumni from the Minnesota State Mankato technical communication program is being planned for the end of April. See the student chapter website for details.

 

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Last Updated: 09/11/2006