A Theory at the End of the Rainbow

Subject: A Theory at the End of the Rainbow
From: Karen Schriver <ks0e -at- ANDREW -dot- CMU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1998 10:12:27 -0400

Hi Doug,

You raised a question about computer book author Laura Lemay discussing her
education at Carnegie Mellon.

> Computer book author Laura Lemay, on her Web
> page,
> details how she designed her own major at Carnegie Mellon, which mixed
> courses from
> [paraphrasing]:
> "1. the computer department
> 2. English
> 3. Courses on theory of and the presentation of information."
> My question: what could be being referred to (passive ad nauseumus), in
> the third point above? What would be the fields of endeavor or departments
> of knowledge where one would look for such things?

> Is there some research in something called
> perhaps 'theory of learning' that
> you draw upon when deciding upon a felicitous arrangement of your
> material? Or have the principles of clear writing, hard work, and
> experience helped you more?

Since I was one of Laura's teachers, I can answer that question. Laura took
courses that helped her develop her ideas about how people learn in a number
of courses. For example, she took my course Planning and Testing Documents,
in which BTW, she used to come in full motorcycle gear and put her helmet on
one chair with her boots up on another :-). By theory, she probably means
theories of how people learn, read, write, and program. She had courses in
cultural theory (in English) as well as theories of planning, project
management, user-centered design, usability, and document design (in my
course). She had courses in software engineering, computers and writing,
graphic design, cognitive psychology, and programming. She was also active
in everything she could get her little mitts on. She acquired an
understanding of theories and the practices of the presentation of
information across all of these courses and experiences.

Of course, we are all very proud of her brilliant career.

karen schriver
KSA, Document Design and Research
(former codirector of Professional Writing and Document Design at Carnegie

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