I have a great group of mom friends who also happen to be technical communicators. One day last month, my friend posted this picture her 6-year-old daughter made and asked if technical writing is genetic. Ha!
Her mom says, “These are her first 12 steps of 20 that show how to make a Play-Doh apatosaurus.” You may know the apatosaurus as the brontosaurus.
This elementary-school student definitely “gets” that the future of tech comm is in pictures. She knows her audience – likely a non-reading audience that can recognize numerals. Plus she starts at the very beginning, piecing the steps and not making any assumptions. She even shows how to pop the top off the container of Play-Doh.
I loved this illustration and just had to share. I got permission from the copyright holder through her legal representative, her mom. Thanks to both of you for sharing your talents!
So, how do we learn how to get the steps right? One educational exercise I’ve learned to demonstrate technical communication is to have students write out instructions for how to prepare a bowl of ice cream. You can have students write and illustrate the steps, and then exchange instructions to test the quality of the steps. Ice cream may never land in a bowl, or there may be no scoop tool, but it sure is fun to take a task and put it into the smallest self-contained step that you can. Students learn quickly that you should write down prerequisites and ensure your assumptions about the starting point match the end-users concept of the start point. I find myself coaching technical writing now that I work with a volunteer writing group. I wonder if I can run an ice cream demo at one of the doc sprints sometime. What are some other coaching ideas for technical writers?