Do You Speak IT

by Cherie Tucker

April 2015

I taught a class at the University of Washington last quarter and had to learn a computer program called Canvas. I had to call the IT folks a couple of times to find out how to do something, and what I discovered is that the language they speak in IT is not quite conversational English.

My first question came when I wrote an announcement to my class, and then searched the screen for something (anything) that would say “Send.” I looked from top to bottom of the screen and from side to side. Nothing. So I called IT and told the fellow who answered what my problem was.

“Oh,” he said, “just click ‘Save.’”

Save? That to me said that that page would be there if I ever needed it again, but it didn’t seem to mean that anyone else would get it. But “Save” worked, and I nearly made it through to the end of the quarter without having to call them again. When I had to turn in my students’ grades to the UW, however, there wasn’t anything on the screen to tell me how to do that.

So I called IT and asked how I could post my grades. The first fellow told me I had to come in and take a class on Canvas. I told him I’d already done that, but he argued with me for a few minutes, told me to use Catalyst, and then transferred me. This one told me to transfer my grades to Catalyst, the program I had told him I wasn’t using, and then he transferred me yet again.

I explained to the new fellow that I couldn’t find how to post my grades to the UW on Canvas. We went round and round until I stopped him and said, “If I have a student named Jim Smith who has a 3.7 in my class, how do I let the university know that?”

“Oh,” he said, “you mean submit!”

Yes, yes I did.

Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.  She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits as well.

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