Welcome to Technical Writing!
College students and recent graduates are often surprised by how much “writing” their internships and jobs require. Sure, most students expect emails and memos, but what about pitches, multimodal presentations, or videos? What about lengthy collaboratively written technical documents? Change logs? What about being asked to design new document templates? These types of writing are typically referred to as technical writing. These compositions are specific to professional settings and communications and are absolutely vital to the daily operations of those settings.
This technical writing course will explore the rhetorical practices of technical communication as we critically read and create professional compositions to specific audiences with a shared outcome. While we discover professional writing conventions and experiment with the affordances of writing, design, and communication technologies, we will critically reflect on the ethical, social and cognitive implications of the available choices. To better understand these principles and conventions, the course will be themed around the gaming industry.
Why Theme This Course?
We learn best when we can engage in a sustained project in which we can constantly work towards a comprehensive goal. This allows us to focus on working through our understanding of the rhetorical situation and the genres we are asked to write in. The theme makes it easier so we don’t have to divide our focus and attention throughout the semester. By using the game industry as our theme, we can use real documents, genres, and techniques that are easily identifiable and available to us. The video game industry is one of the top industries in the world (citation) and analog games are on the rise (citation & citation). Like all industries, the gaming industry relies heavily on technical communication not only for its documentation, but it pre- and post-production work as well. Making a game and all the documents that surround that are technical writing. By focusing on game design, production, and analysis in this class, we will create a vast portfolio of technical writing which will help us all understand the importance of this type of writing and communication.
What are the Course Objectives?
This technical writing course follows the general learning objectives of Clemson University’s Advanced Writing Program:
- Master critical reading skills and basic rhetorical concepts as they apply to professional environments and the ethical considerations within them
- Apply effective communication strategies to targeted readers
- Compose effectively in a variety of forms and media appropriate to the discipline
What are the Course Outcomes?
This course is designed with the following objectives in mind:
- Knowledge: You will gain an in-depth understanding of technical writing conventions, professional and open-source composition tools, and digital genre conventions.
- Comprehension: You will leave the class with a comprehension of the critical and rhetorical elements of technical writing which will make you a more efficient technical communicator.
- Application: Upon completion of the course, you will have a digital portfolio reflecting a rhetorical understanding of the processes of composing in multiple technical compositions and will be able to present these documents.
- Analysis: You will be able to critically analyze a tool, medium, and genre and be able to articulate the affordances and limitations of each, incorporating research and rhetorical consideration of audience and discourse expectations within technical communications.
- Evaluation: By the end of the course you will be able to articulate your role or position as a technical communicator.
Habits of Mind
To meet these outcomes, we—both students and instructor—will learn, enact, and invest in the eight habits of mind as outlined in the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing:
- Curiosity – the desire to know more about the world.
- Openness – the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world.
- Engagement – a sense of investment and involvement in learning.
- Creativity – the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas.
- Persistence – the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.
- Responsibility – the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others.
- Flexibility – the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
- Metacognition – the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge.
How is this Course Designed?
This class is designed as a multiplayer game space. You are the players. I am the game master. I will serve as your guide, mentor, and ally. Your objective is to complete as many quests (assignments) and raids (projects) as you can to acquire enough experience points (XP) to hit the level (grade) you deserve and desire. On your journey you will also navigate random encounters (impromptu presentations), PVP and PVE challenges (workshop critiques and presentations), update your journey log (weekly blog), builds (2D and 3D compositions), and engage in three raids (projects) alone, as well as with teams (groups).
With the class being designed as a game space, you—as the player—have agency to forge your own path to success. Quests, builds, journey logs, and raids will all have variations based on what specialization you choose during character development. The specializations are as follows: Warrior, Mage, Bard, Builder, and Ranger.
**See course site for further explanation of terms, course expectations, and specializations**
What Materials are Required for this Course?
- Technical Communication (11th Ed), Mike Markel. Bedford/St. Martin’s (2015) [ISBN: 978-1-45767-337-5]
- Computer Games and Technical Communication: Critical Methods and Applications at the Intersection, Jennifer DeWinter and Ryan Moeller (Eds.). Routledge (2014) [ISBN: 978-1-47242-640-6] (library ebook)
- The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2nd Ed), Jesse Schell. A K Peters/CRC Press (2014) [ISBN: 978-146659-864-5]
- Minecraft: Education Edition (Free)
- Adobe Creative Cloud (Provided)
- Adobe Spark (Free)
- Google Drive (Provided)
- Camtasia (Provided)
- Wordpress, Adobe Portfolio, and/or Weebly (All Free)
- Introduction to Game Analysis, Clara Fernandez-Vara. Routledge (2015) [ISBN: 978-0415703277]
- Habits of the Creative Mind. Richard E. Miller and Ann Jurecic. Bedford/St. Martin’s (2015) [ISBN: 978-1457681813]
- Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. Douglas Eyman. University of Michigan Press (2015) [ISBN: 978-0-472-05268-4] (Free Online)
- Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. The MIT Press (2003) [ISBN: 978-026224-045-1]
How are Players Assessed?
All players will begin on the first day of class at Level One with zero experience points (XP). Level Twenty is the highest level that can be achieved. XP can be earned by completing quests, attendance, raids, random encounters, and other objectives. The class letter grade will be based on your final level, as well as classroom etiquette, participation, and initiative. You must be at least Level Fourteen to pass this course. In order to pass, you must create an avatar, raids, and attend most sessions to achieve at least Level Fourteen. Since each raid builds on the next, the player will not be allowed to progress further without completing all associated raids.
This course is designed to help you be mindful of good learning habits, but also to promote success in academia, your careers, and life more broadly. Following the habits of mind will greatly increase the chance of success in this class, but, more importantly, in all situations that require learning and thinking. For this course specifically, in order to succeed, students must take the initiative to challenge themselves, take risks, and reflect on failures. You will be taken out of your comfort zone and be presented with challenges that will require creative solutions which can result in failure, but that is okay; Failure is part of the learning process.
I want to promote a culture of experimentation and play that does not punish risks, but rewards effort. There is the common adage in composition: process over product. With this in mind, if you feel the desire to revise or modify your work, come talk to me. If you have an idea for a new project, course policy, or approach to a project, share your ideas. As I am demonstrating with the pedagogy of this course, I encourage you to lead with your interests and passions. We will be using a lot of technology this semester, but it isn’t the mastery of the software that is important, it is your ability to think through creative solutions to problems in multiple modes. Remember, I am your ally; I want you to come out of this class with the grade you want, pride in completed projects, and the skills you need to continue writing and researching at the academic and professional level.
What are the Expectations for an “A” in this Course?
ENGL 3140: Technical Writing will be a demanding course that requires you to be attentive, invested in your learning, and solve problems creatively based on the rhetorical situation surrounding your tasks. If you don’t miss more than two sessions, turn in all your work meeting minimum requirements, and work well with your fellow classmates, you will earn a “B” in the course. To earn an “A,” you must show initiative, command of the habits of mind, and take risks that go above and beyond what is asked of you for assignments. Being creative means to take risks and to try something new. If you make an effort in this course, you will do well.
Overview of Major Assignments
Over the course of the semester, we will engage with two frameworks: Aristotle’s knowing, doing, and making; as well as Kafai and Burke's connected learning. Both of these frameworks are built on the understanding of a knowledge process that moves from a theoretical understanding to a praxis based in production and dissemination of knowledge. These raids are designed to work through these frameworks:
Raid One – Emergent Technology Survey
You will do a survey of an emergent technology/program (podcast, software, game, etc.) and learn about its uses, functions, production history, affordances and limitations. A complete media product profile will be generated using text, images, audio, and video to create an infographic and accompanying webpage. This raid should be at least 1000 words with multiple referenced sites, videos, and technical documents.
Potential Programs Used: GoogleDocs, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Spark, Wordpress, Weebly, Infogram, and/or Canva.
~10% of Final Grade
Raid Two - Game Design, Production, and Presentation
In teams, players will work together to create a game either coded game in Minecraft: Education Edition or paper prototyped and printed. The group will decide on the overall theme, audience, and purpose the game serves by researching market share, exigency, and procedural rhetorics. The research and creation of the game will demonstrate collaborative digital technical writing and spatial reasoning and, once completed, marketing and presentation materials--posters, box art, promotional videos, business cards, sales sheets, website, etc.-- will be composed to “sell” their game. The game will then be presented in a “Shark Tank” style presentation to compete with other students in the class.
Note: This is a large project that will take up most of the semester. See the course website for the raid breakdown by chapter.
Potential Programs Used: GoogleDocs, Behance, Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Audition, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Wordpress, Minecraft: Education Edition, and others.
~55% of Final Grade
Raid Three – Professional Portfolio
After Raid Two players will have a lot of different technical documents that can be combined into a professional portfolio that can be used to demonstrate skills to get a job. Every player will have a different portfolio—depending on what parts of the raids you contribute to—but the end result will be the same. The documents will be annotated, a resume will be created, and it will all be hosted on a website for distribution.
Potential Programs Used: Microsoft Word, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Weebly, and Wordpress
~10% of Final Grade
Other Writing Assignments
Players will address the course outcomes and how they mapped onto their projects and course readings. They will also critically reflect on what technical communication and game design are and how they helped them understand professional communication.
~5% of Final Grade
Journey Logs (weekly blog posts)
These weekly logs will be used as process logs and production logs where students will reflect on their use of technology and knowledge gained.
Potential Programs Used: GoogleDocs, Adobe, Premiere, Rush, Adobe Premiere, and Adobe Spark
~10% of Final Grade
Quests can be weekly assignments or smaller activities that help you learn about the technology and raids later in the semester. Some of these will contribute towards the grade of a raid.
~10% of Final Grade
Turning in Adventures, Quests, and Raids...
Most work will be turned in electronically via GoogleDrive, but you should make sure to check the parameters of all quests (assignments) before turning them in. We will utilize different platforms (i.e. Minecraft: Education Edition, the Adobe Creative Cloud, and others), so it is important to submit your work in the appropriate way. All assigned work is due before the class session starts unless otherwise stated. A missed class or late attendance does not excuse the student from this rule.
Can I Turn Work in Late?
All work should be turned in on time before the start of the class session. If a quests or journey logs is submitted after the deadline, it will lose 10% of its points for each week it is late.
Raids, however, become tarnished if they are submitted late. Once the project is tarnished it is only worth ½ the allotted XP, and it will be assigned a zero within seven (7) days.
Deadlines for drafts and other aspects of raids will be dealt with in one of two ways: 1) If the game master requires a draft or a check-in from you and you do not have the required materials, the item will receive a zero for that portion of the raid; 2) If the missed deadline is in association with guild work, then the guild leader must be informed and an agreed upon assessment will be reached.
Attendance and Participation
This is a writing intensive course, so you are expected to attend on time and be prepared to work. Players are allotted two unexcused misses. After this the player’s final score will be affected by up to 10%. As game master, I reserve the right to drop any players that excessive misses before the last “drop date.” I will also determine what to do in case of extended illness or personal crisis on a case-by-case basis. However, excessive absences are an adequate reason for being failed in this course, even if you submit all work on time.
The university recognizes the following as excused absences:
- Documented medical emergency (self or family member)
- Documented participation in authorized University-sponsored activities, not including practice for the activities
- Religious observances
- Documented participation in court-imposed legal proceedings
- Required participation in military obligations as certified by the student’s commanding officer
- Interviews for jobs, co-op assignments, internships, graduate school, or professional school. Students should make every effort to schedule appointments around their class obligations and will provide documentation beforehand to verify a class conflict.
As long as you communicate with me in advance about your excused absence, I don’t need documentation. We are all adults and we understand that life is unpredictable and we cannot always control when certain obligations are. Please keep your absences under control and we should not have a problem.
It is unprofessional and disruptive to attend a session late, up to 10 minutes past the starting time, and you will be designated as late. Habitual lateness will be counted as missed sessions. Players that sign in after 10 minutes will be considered absent.
If you will be late or miss a session, it is your responsibility to contact the game master and team leader (if applicable). If contact is not made, the player will be at a disadvantage and will not receive information about the session from the game master.
What if the Game Master is Late?
You are obligated to wait for the game master for up to ten minutes before you may leave without penalty. If I am holding you to a high standard, I should be held to that same standard. Always be sure to check your email for any communication from me.
What are the Guidelines for Class Participation and Conduct?
I ask all of you to be respectful. There will be times when players and guilds will be competing against one another, so trash talking in the spirit of the game is expected, but all players need to know the limits of their playful banter and when it becomes disrespectful. When you are with your guild, you will be expected to fully participate and work as a team. Each player will be evaluated by their guild mates based on active participation.
What if I Observe Religious Holidays?
I recognize your rights to observe religious holidays without penalty. You must provide advance notice to the game master in order to make up work, including examinations that they miss as a result of their absence from class due to observance of religious holidays.
Technology and Conduct Policies
You will be interacting with a variety of sites and programs during the semester. Please let me know if you need help using the Internet or any computer program. When using a computer, save work frequently, always make backup copies through a cloud service and/or using a thumb drive, and plan all raids with extra time allowed for unexpected technological difficulties. Most finished work will be uploaded digitally, but it is important to save drafts of ALL compositions.
The use of computers, tablets, and e-readers are strongly encouraged, and at times mandatory, in session. All in-session use of technology should be focused on the quest related activities, such as note-taking, research, and reading. As long as you are respectfully attentive when another player is speaking, in-session technology use will not be a problem. That said, use of a cellphones in-session are discouraged, unless they are being used for session related activities. All phones are to be set to silent (not vibrate). I reserve the right to ask any player to put away their electronic device if it appears to be distracting other players. Abuse of this policy will result in XP penalization.
A full list of technologies used in the classroom is on the course website (and indicated in the graphic above). You are required by the university to have an updated laptop that can run most of the programs required for this course. The more demanding programs can be used in the library and in the Adobe Studio. Forgetting your computer is as inexcusable as forgetting a writing utensil. Please make sure you always have a computer charger on you as well. Come to class prepared and ready to work
Communication with the Game Master and Players
Communication out of session with the game master or other players should be conducted in a professional and respectful manner through your Clemson Email. Make arrangements with other players to get contact information, especially with your guild. If you ever have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact one of your peers or your instructor. With rare exceptions, I will always respond to all email inquiries within 48 hours Monday – Friday.
Note: All emails should have a relevant subject line, respectful salutation, clear and concise body text, and signature. We will discuss email communication further this semester.
What is the Policy on Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty?
A simple definition of plagiarism—one that we will expand upon this semester—is when someone presents another person’s words, visuals, or ideas as his/her own. The instructor will deal with plagiarism on a case-by-case basis. The most serious offense within this category occurs when a student copies text from the Internet or from a collective file. This type of academic dishonesty is a serious offense that will result in a failing grade for the course as well as the filing of a formal report to the university.
See the Clemson site below for information about Academic Integrity and procedures regarding the violation of Clemson policies on scholastic dishonesty: http://www.clemson.edu/academics/academic-integrity/
A useful graphic we will be going over in class can be found here: "Did I Plagiarize?"
Also, this course will be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and affirms people of all gender expressions and identities. Please address me as Chris and my gender pronouns are he/him/his. I was provided with a class roster with your name as it appears in the iRoar system. However, if you prefer to be called a different name than what is on the roster, please let me know. You may also share your gender pronouns.