Archive for teaching

Catching up

Posted in MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2009 by Mike

It’s 6:45a on a Sunday morning for me. Current Husband is sleeping, the animals are all asleep, and I’m awake. I’ve been up for an hour and a half, because the old dogs wake me up at 5am to go out. And once I’m awake, I’m up.

In a way, I don’t mind being up so early. I’m home and it’s quiet. I have so little time at home to myself, it’s rather nice.

Other stuff I do

Saturday morning, I taught my first Crochet class at my favorite local yarn store. What does this have to do with Tech Comm you might be asking? Oh, lots.

Friday night, I realized that if I were teaching crochet to people, they needed a thing. So I had to come up with a thing that could be made easily with simple stitches. I could teach the stitches in class and then send them home with the pattern. So I wrote a very simple hat pattern and quickly made a sample to show in class.

In class, I had them start with the simplest stitches and then do those over and over until they were confident. Then we did the next one. And so on, until they had practiced all the stitches they needed to have to make the hat. After 2 hours, I sent them on their way with the pattern.

Coat of many Tech Comm colors

Teaching this crochet class was Tech Comm in action. I identified the:  

  • Audience: Knitters
  • User goal: Learn the basics of crochet
  • Learning attention span: About 2 hours
  • Skills needed for the goal (that fit with the above): 4 stitches
  • Order to teach the stitches: from simplest to more complex, building and reinforcing skills from one stitch to the next
  • Opportunity for reinforcing with self learning: The simple hat pattern

My Tech Comm background was very useful in putting this class together! I had a good time teaching it and several people are now able to crochet. I’ll do another class on Tunisian crochet in March sometime.

It’s fun to get slightly outside my usual life and teach new skills to people. I think that when we stop learning, we spiritually die. It’s why I love our field so much – I learn new stuff every day.

Work, work, work

Work this week was long and busy. We have a new promotion you may want to look at for the month of February. It’s a screaming deal and should help you get noticed if you’re looking for work or think you might be looking for work soon.

We did the second of the webinars this week as well. These are so successful, I’m working with several people and scheduling June and July now. Keep watching our website for more webinars on various Tech Comm topics.

Between the new promotion for Feb and the webinars, your skills should be so up to date, you can’t help but be successful!

The rest of my day

I have a fairly busy day ahead of me. I need to do laundry, meet a former student for lunch, work on the sweater I’m making for my grand daughter, watch Super Bowl and spend time with Current Husband.

Be very good if I could get the oil changed in my car and get it washed, too. That would be a productive day!

Off I go!

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So Cal is lovely in the winter

Posted in DITA, MadCap, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by Mike

With much of the nation in frigid temps, I have to tell you it’s about 75 F today, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue.

Wow.

You really have to love So Cal on days like today.

Webinars, get your free webinars!

Today, I did the first webinar in the series we’re doing. If you didn’t get to sign up for the Topic-based authoring webinar, we recorded it. You can click here and see the recorded webinar.

I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I’ve listened to most of it and, other than verbally stumbling more than I like, it’s pretty good.

I think we’ll be recording all the webinars, so if you want to sign up but have a conflicting meeting, sign up anyway. The day after the webinar, you will be sent an email, saying we’re completely bummed out that you couldn’t make it but here’s a link to see the recording.

We’re also adding more as time goes on, so make sure you regularly check our site at http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx to see what we’re adding to the line up.

Yes, but are the webinars any good?

Good question. Here’s some feedback we got today:

“Thanks for today’s well-structured, well-executed, and informative intro to topic-based authoring. And thanks for the continuing series of webinars; I’ve registered for many of them.”

and

“I particularly appreciate your vision of providing non-tool-specific information.  I’m not currently using MadCap software (but I think I wish I was), but I am at the end of a dev. cycle and your presentation has really given me a good basis for setting my agenda for the coming year.”

My personal favorite:

“I just wanted to tell you that that was the most enjoyable webinar I’ve ever attended. You’re absolutely hilarious and I learned a lot, so thanks!”

So, in sum, I was funny and I presented information people could use. Perfect!

Want to be a star?

Want to have people tell you things like this? Of course you do! It feels really good.

I’m looking for more topics and people who can give the topics.  I’m not looking for PhD topics – you don’t have to change the world or break new ground. You don’t have to talk about MadCap tools.

I’m looking for people who have something useful they’ve learned and are willing to share it.

If that’s you, contact me and let’s talk.

End of the quarter blues

Posted in Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2008 by Mike

I seem to like blogging on Saturday morning, when the animals and Current Husband are sleeping, so I thought I’d post.

The free webinars are filling up nicely. We have the info posted on our website now, so you can go to http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx and sign up there as well, if you like.

We use GoToWebinar and are probably not recording these. I know the time is a problem for people in Asia and that part of the world. If that’s you, send me an email and tell me the names of the webinars you’d like a replay of and I can schedule those just for you all. 6pm for me is about 9am for you all – it’s doable.

And remember, if you want to present a topic, contact me and let’s talk about it. It’s a good line item on your resume and gets your name out. In this economy, anything you can do to stand out is a good thing.

Are you Certified MAD?

Another thing you can do to stand out is be certified, Certified MAD, that is. For $149, a short test, and a small project, you can be Certified MAD in Flare. That lets you use the Certified MAD for Flare logo on your resume, blog, website and other places. Potential employers or clients can call and verify your certification with us.

I like this program a lot. It shows you know what you’re talking about and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve seen these programs before and they were always a lot of money – $1500 or more. We priced this one low because we want to make it affordable for people. It’s a win all the way.

To find out more or to sign up, go to http://madcapsoftware.com/training/certification/.

Want to teach MadCap products?

I’ve been teaching part time for 10 or 11 years. I love teaching because it lets me know I’m doing good things to help people. I’m giving back to the community I love, training people in something I’m passionate about. In a few cases, I’ve been part of changing people’s lives by helping them get the background they needed to start a new career. That’s exciting.

So with that in mind, I’m thinking about starting a program to make our products very available to programs offering Tech Comm classes. If you teach for a program or coordinate a Technical Communication program, contact me at sburton(at)madcapsoftware.com. I’d like to bounce some ideas off you to see if these would work and find out what else you might need.

Finals, finals, everywhere

My students took their finals this week. That means this weekend is one long grading binge until we’re done. Today is grading and tomorrow is putting together the grades and then electronically submitting them.

Bonni isn’t as good in Excel as I am, so I get to put together the grades and submit them. And Sunday is her birthday, so it seems mean to lock her up with a spreadsheet as her birthday gift. Happy Birthday, here’s a spreadsheet.

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I’m taking 2 weeks off around Christmas. I’m cleaning out the garage, my home office, and probably helping a friend who is retiring clean out his office. It’s going to be a cleaning frenzy.

I typically use the last week of the year to clean out the junk and give it away, usually to Goodwill. This year, I’m trying something different.

There is a movement called “Free-cycling”. It’s based around the idea that the more stuff we can keep out of the landfills, the better. So local groups have email lists where you can post what you have to give away or what you are looking for. People respond if they need what you have or they have what you need.

I’ve been watching my local list (found on Yahoo) and I think I’ll be giving away a lot of stuff. I’ve not cleaned the garage in about 5 years, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s perfectly fine, I just don’t want it any more.

In these economic times, this seems a good way to pass on some Good in the world. The stuff will go to people who actually want it for the cost of gas to come get it.

Time to start my day

OK – it’s time to start looking at finals. I can’t put it off any longer. I have piles of sleeping dogs on the floor in my home office, Current Husband sleeping in the next room, I’ve read the ‘Net, posted to my blog, answered emails.

Short of starting laundry, I have no excuse left.

Start of a new week

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2008 by Mike

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, if you celebrate Thanksgiving. If you are not a celebrant, I still hope Thursday was a good day for you. Current Husband and I had a pleasant time with his family and ate lots of yummy food.

I don’t see my mother-in-law as often as I should, but I think of her. I try to bring her gifts when I do see her. This time, I brought her a crocheted shrug and a crocheted sweater. She seemed to really like them and showed them off to the other female relatives as they arrived.

I crochet in the evenings and on the weekends. It’s a way to force my mind to be quiet and still after a 12+ hour day or a week of 12+ hours days. It’s meditating with a useful result.

A brief tech comm side step

Apparently, the Japanese are crazy about crocheting but were frustrated with the lack of patterns in Japanese. So they came up with a way to show any pattern as a picture.

The most complex pattern can be created as a diagram that shows all the stitches as symbols and how they all go together. You don’t need language to follow the pattern, making the craft available to anyone with the materials. For an example, click here.

Knitting and crocheting are kinesthetic activities, by definition. I’m not a visual learner; I’ve stated that before. But I find the graphic to be very helpful if I’m working on a complex project. I can see how this goes together and what to do next when the words make no sense to me. The best patterns include words and a graphic of the pattern to help “see” what to do if you get lost.

This is a brilliant way to think about the information. How much of the information you are working on could be reduced to a graphic? Are you using graphics as supporting materials for people like me who are not visual learners but would like the visual to help them stay on track when the words make no sense?

If a strongly kinesthetic activity can be reduced to pattern pictures, what can you do to support your users and reduce confusion?

The week ahead

This week I’m planning and scheduling free webinars for January and February. WIth training budgets gone in the economic meltdown, we’re hoping to help by offering tool-independant topics and topics about our products.

I’m thinking about (in no particular order):

Moving to topic-based authoring—the last one had 225 people signed up with 170 attending. Hopefully, there’s still interest out there.

Planning for content reuse—regardless of the tool you use, how do you migrate legacy content? How do you start? What about new content?

Building the business case for topic-based authoring—how to make the case to your boss. How to state the issues in a business way and then show the solution so your boss understands why this is the right move.

What’s new in Flare 4—an overview of new features in Flare 4 that will make your life so much easier.

If you have more ideas for other webinars on topics that interest you, go to my poll at this link.

Virtual is good

If you’re interested in learning more about our products or about tech comm topics (such as the above), I’m always available to do a virtual meeting for STC, AMWA, PMI, QA/Test and other organizations. All you need on your end is an internet-connected computer, speakers, a microphone (so people can ask questions) and a Skype account (or a speaker phone and phone line) and we’re good to go.

This is a great way to get a demo or other topic for your professional group at no real expense and reduce the carbon footprint. I was responsible for finding speakers for 2 STC chapters over about 5 years. It can be really hard to find speakers month after month on topics that interest your members.

Contact me (sburton(at)madcapsoftware.com) and let’s set it up!

Fly away duckings, fly away!

This upcoming week is also the last time we see this crop of baby engineers. The last lecture is Tuesday night and then they go into their finals. I’m never ready to let them go.

We only get 10 weeks with them and we have to let them go, assuming they don’t fail the class. As much as I don’t want to let them go, I also don’t want them to fail, so there we are. Off they go!

We get a whole new crop in January. The U is so happy with what we’re doing with the undergraduate students, they offered us 2 more classes. Starting with this Winter quarter, we’re doing Technical Communication for the Graduate students – a huge honor. Probably starting in Summer 2009, we’re offering User-centered Design, 10 weeks about designing for humans and what that means at every step of the process.

Time to start my day

Time to start my day. I have a pot of soup to make, a house to pick up, lunch with a former student, a dog to take to the U to run off leash, laundry to fold, and other household tasks.