Archive for April 13th, 2008

This may be what I get for trying to kill two metaphorical birds with one assignment. I wanted to have the students read a chapter on proposal writing and then do a little practice. That was Bird #1. Bird #2 was to have the students do some international thinking: how could you apply what you were learning to problems outside the US?

Activity #1: You’ve just been reading articles about how people apply knowledge from their fields to new problems — specifically, complicated problems that need to be solved cheaply [using as few resources as possible]. You’ve also just completed a Field Guide, which had you talk to Experts about how they might use their skills if they weren’t doing their current jobs.

So now you are ready to think about how you might apply the knowledge that _you’ve_ been getting to a real-world, difficult problem.

Goal: Find a real-world problem in another country, and describe how you could work with other people in your field to help create good solutions. Think of this as a cross between what the freshmen at MIT were doing with their projects, and what the IBM people were doing during their international assignments.

Format: a short proposal for a project, in which you describe where you want to go, what problem you’d like to tackle, and how the knowledge you have gained from your undergraduate work/job experiences so far, will help solve that problem.


1) You aren’t going alone — there will be other people with your training [and perhaps with more experience, but still in your Field] going with you. Some of those people will have the language skills and the finances to help the project along.

2) The IBM activities weren’t Changing the World — they are doing small scale things. That’s fine.

3) Your proposal does not have to be long, but you will want to post it to Blackboard to get feedback by Thursday, and you should help each other out by commenting on each other’s work before next Friday, so that you each have time to revise your work for Tuesday’s class when I’m back in town.

I’ll be here until Tuesday morning if you have questions. Post your questions on Blackboard, so that everyone can see my responses.

Reading for the week: Technical Communication Today, Chapter 21 – Proposals

The goal was that they would review each other’s work during the week I was away in Naw’lins, and then hand in nice clear mini proposals. I even sent them information about Watson Fellowships [for examples of a post graduate year of interdisciplinary, international adventure and research], the Peace Corps [for examples of problem-solving with very little funds], and IBM’s international fellows program [to see how businesses actually value people who can do these sorts of things].

Given all this, I’m thinking that I should at least get the following features in their work:

  1. There will be a problem described, and there will be a non-US place that has this problem.
  2. There will be a description of the field-specific skills which will be used to help address this problem
  3. There will be a description of what things they hope to do
  4. There will be some description of what the ideal outcomes could be
  5. There will be some formatting that follows the basic shape of proposals as described in Chapter 21

Care to lay bets on how outrageous my expectations are…?

Then again, I just looked over at a fellow English prof’s site, and got some perspective: at least I’m not reading placement essays this season. Yowza.

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