Hello to fellow iPad users. The thing that unites us, the iPad, represents the culmination of my working life. Back in 1979, miserable in my job, I happened upon a friend's Apple II Plus and it was love at first sight. I bought one immediately and learned everything I could about it. I took courses in introductory programming (which I'm not into) and the basics of computer technology. But I knew I was never going to be a techhie. It was the things my Apple could do, and was capable of doing, that appealed to me most. The possibilities seemed limitless back then and as we've discovered in the meantime, they were.
I needed to make my love of microcomputer technology into a full-time job. So I put it together my other love, writing, and went back to school AGAIN. (Which I've been doing on a regular basis over the past 30 years.) I enjoy expository writing: making complicated subjects clear to non-expert readers. (Literary writing has no appeal for me, though I enjoy reading it.) This suited me perfectly to technical writing. I've always preferred working for myself, and I've made an excellent career out of being a self-employed contract technical writer of user docs: manuals, online help systems, Captivate tutorials, and so on.
In the mid-90s I moved to Silicon Valley (actually, the Oakland Hills overlooking the Valley) to be at the heart of the industry. I love it here and will never leave. I'll never stop working, either. I've just turned 60 and am just as stoked by this fantastic technology I've had the privilege to grow up with as I was when I started. The iPad is proof I made the right choice. The revolution of mediated inter-personal communication technology is the best thing that's happened to our society in my lifetime, in my opinion.
With the minimal docs needed for Web 2, the need for my services has diminished over the past few years. That's okay, because I was getting a little burned out, and wanted a change from the isolated nature of technical writing.
So after a few months of thinking, reading, discussion, research, you name it, I came up with another way to pair my love of American English with technology: helping IT professionals who have moved here in getting comfortable speaking the language (they can usually read and write it pretty well), and just as importantly, get an understanding of how to get along in the IT culture, Silicon Valley style.
I'm at the early stages but have some clear goals: ESL is kind of a gray area among the teaching professions. You can get an instructor's certificate pretty much by forking over a couple thousand bucks and sitting through some incredibly boring grammar classes (which will be of next to no benefit to my target clientele). A lot of young people get ESL-accredited so they can make a living teaching English while traveling around the world. In the courses I took the quality level of these would-be teachers was all over the chart: some were born to it and took it seriously; others barely stayed awake and obviously were in it for just the piece of paper.
I am in the former crowd. Over my years of working with a multitude of software developers, I've noticed the uncertainty foreign-born workers (and we get the best of the best) bring to the American workplace. I want to make a difference in their quality of life here. These guys earn top dollars; they don't displace American engineers by lowballing them. And I'd rather have a developer keep their operations here than farm them out overseas. So, I think I could put together a pretty good mission statement for my new trade. But I've got other issues to overcome in getting the basics of a program together.
The ESL industry is stuck around 1975 in its incorporation of technology to enhance the learning experience. Adult ESL students are forced to work with cartoon-book exercises, written in the 1960s and intended for children. The programs are far too heavily grammar based (who in America knows grammar?) and the classroom environment just isn't going to cut it for professionals whose time is worth a lot of money.
This is why I'll be one-on-one tutoring rather than classroom teaching (which I've done), and at the time and place most convenient to the client. IMO it's vital that ESL tutoring be done in person, with get-togethers no more than a week apart. But for the in-betweens I'm going to schedule videochats. All my courseware is being developed around social networking applications. Tools like the iPad will play a vital role in facilitating communication between myself and my clients. Which makes me double disappointed that there's no built-in front-facing cam to enable videochatting. My theory for this omission of this mission-critical feature is that the carrier, currently AT&T, is already swamped just with iPhone transmission. Our wonderful American business model, where a few telecoms got to own the market and charge us users through the nose while being stingy about investing in bandwidth, puts us leading-edge users at a disadvantage compared with people in Asia and Europe.
Nevertheless I'll work around the limitations of our creaky telecommunications infrastructure and put the brilliance of communication tools like the iPad to the best uses I can think of. Any other tech writers or ESL trainers in this bunch who'd like to swap notes are most welcome to drop me a line.