What's a manual typewriter? Writing for the right audience.

At dinner with friends over the weekend, we got to reminisce our word processing journey to Office’s Word 2010. We laughed at using Olivetti typewriters like the one below on the left, which I had as a kid btw, to learning WordStar then WordPerfect then onto Word.

Remember how having two colours (red or black) meant turning the wheels over so that we use red when we run out of black. Oh and we used onion skin to make carbon copies?

Oh and the carbon paper ink would be all over our hands so we had to learn how to handle it correctly?

And remember Beth Nesmith Graham’s liquid paper? We were happy when the liquid didn’t drip to words we didn’t want to erase.

We continued this banter, laughed, and laughed some more. Then it happened. A partner of one of our friends chimed in with “What a manual typewriter?” with such innocence that “Leave this room now!” would not have been an appropriate response. He’s 27.

olivetti typewriterWe not only realized immediately the generation gap but our conversation turned into both education and realization. (We were all learning professionals, after all).  Education to the young padawan on the old world but realization that when we have a dialogue with a multi-generational audience, we need to address those needs so they can participate in the banter.

We do this when we’re performing instructional design work, would have been good to remember to do this as well at dinner.

Often I’ve seen my students write courseware to their learning style only and not to the ever-changing learning styles of their audience. They still come up with Vark’s auditory-kinesthetic-visual mantra or Kolb’s Diverging (CE/RO), Assimilating (AC/RO), Converging (AC/AE), Accommodating (CE/AE) model when the world has become a bit more complex that this. Visual-Spatial, Metalearning, and many combinations thereof are commonplace now which means not only a need to understand what this is but also know how to write for this audience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for these models, and I still use them every time, BUT there is a need to be more aware of what’s being discussed at conferences and learning forums so we ensure we address the needs of our new learners. As I’ve said to my students at GBC, it’s better to build a fuller toolkit so you can pull new models when needed and when appropriate to a project you’re working on. 

With the conclusion of the Summer Institute on Learning Styles sponsored by Western Virginia University  last Friday and next week’s International Learning Styles conference in NYC, I wonder what new methods are being identified with more tech savvy learners having highly customized needs juxtaposed with the pressures of consistency, quality, and profitability of the learning industry, in general.

What are your thoughts on this? Do post your comments below.

11 comments to What’s a manual typewriter? Writing for the right audience.

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