Last week, I posted a question to the STC discussion board on LinkedIn as to whether I should purchase Adobe FrameMaker 10 and/or RoboHelp 8. Recently, I’ve seen some tech comm job listings mentioning them. “Is it a good idea to buy and learn these programs on my own?” I asked. My graduate program provides significant discounts for FM and RH—about 66% off retail—but they’re still pretty expensive. But I’d be willing to spend a few hundred bucks to learn something useful. Might have to wait until next semester, when I have a little more cash, but I could do it.
A few days later, I got a message from Joel Carrillo of MadCap Software offering to help me out with a Flare license. Wow! I was flabbergasted and grateful. Flare is really powerful and becoming more and more widely used; I’m very excited to learn it. Along with Flare, I’ll also be learning CSS and XHTML.
Thank you for your help, Joel. MadCap Flare rules, and so do you!
This is one of the first “how-to” videos I posted in September 2011 for my ENGL 1101 students. I used Camtasia Studio 7.0 for the screencast, and a Creative EF-0170RX headset mic.
Many characterize today’s college students as “digital natives.” Umm, no. Most students have never attached a file to an e-mail before their first semester of college. None that I’ve encountered so far have ever added headers, footers, or page numbers to a Word document. A large proportion of these students come from middle- to upper-middle class homes, and attended ”good” high schools.
Apparently, computer skills aren’t included in college prep curricula—too much studying for standardized tests, I guess. A surprising number of first-year college students, then, find themselves lagging far behind where society assumes their tech expertise lies.
So I end up helping my students with much more than their writing.
In September, it was time for my students to post their first essay drafts in CourseDen (my university’s version of the Vista/WebCT learning management system). A few days before the due date, I took an informal survey in each class: “Who knows how to add a running header or footer in a Word document?” Out of 75 students, two raised their hands. For anyone out there doing the math, that’s 0.0267%.
Oh, my. This would take some creativity. “How many of you have ever watched a video on YouTube?” All of them, of course. “Would it help if I were to put together a how-to video? Maybe a screencast to show you exactly what I’m doing, where I’m clicking, what to type?”
“Yes! That would be great!”
It took about two hours to put this together and then post it, false starts and do-overs included. The payoff? Seventy-five students created running headers in their essay drafts—and they learned something they can use every time they create a Word document. And of these 75 students, most have been able to recall the steps. If they forgot, they simply reviewed the video.
My video helped 75 people do something new in a program they had seldom used. That’s so good to know.