If you are interested in how to teach writing effectively, you might be interested in my Labour Day post on another of my blogs – http://joanvinallcox.ca/40-years-teaching-college-composition/
A big part of the teacher’s role has always been to serve as an example to their students, of what it looks like to be educated. When knowledge was the key to future success, a teacher was the living, breathing example of a learned person. Students could look up to their teachers and aspire to […]
Here’s a picture I want to link to another website and have it open in another tab or window:
The image above links to the website it’s from, but opens on the same page as this post, replacing this post.
I click on the image (in Edit) and choose the far left icon of a picture, and check that the link I want to target is there:
Then I click on “Advanced Setting at the top, and scroll to the bottom of the next screen
Click beside “Target, and now, your link will open in a new tab or window:
The most fascinating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.
The most frustrating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.
Everything is always changeable. My website – jnthweb.ca – is not the same now as it was a half-hour ago. I just added my most recent brilliant idea,
Currently, I look at Twitter using the third or fourth application I’ve tried. It’s Nambu now; it was TweetDeck, and who knows what I’ll try next. And Twitter is the poster child for constant change, as Tweet after Tweet flips by.
My friend showed me her new laptop today, and I drooled enviously, although mine does everything I want and need and is only a little more than a year old.
I’m behind in my Bloglines again, no, make that still. I never did fully catch up.
So I love the web, and I learn so much from what often feels like frittering my time away, but there is no end to what you can learn to do and learn and do on it. Clay Shirky, in Here Comes Everybody, says in the first 100 years after the invention of the printing press, it broke more than it fixed. I know that the printing press brought endless developments with it from dictionaries to science, from the Enlightenment to romance novels, and more. And here we are in the same early stage with the web, where everything is alway beta, never done!
Seems like a contradiction in terms, but autodidacts are social; we have to be. When I learn from the web, I access websites, support people, books, friends, and the wonderfully generous denizens of the web. I’ve spent much time over the last couple of weeks trying to get on top of creating the website I want, one that looks competent and meaningful. (I believe, as I repeatedly say, that we start reading before we decode a single word. We get an impression of the page or screen and our attitude hinders or helps us understand what is in front of us. So I want a site that appears knowledgeable.) To create the site I want I have,
- searched for information on Google, using different queries;
- complained on Twitter (and elicited help);
- phoned a generous web-friend and accepted his help;
- bought and read parts of books;
- downloaded and read parts of pdfs;
- talked to knowledgeable friends;
- tried out all kinds of WSIWYG solutions, both offered by friends and found through Google;
- finally circled around to deciding on either (decisions are hard for me ;-> ) KompoZer or WordPress.org both of which I’ve been learning piecemeal over a number of years;
- settled in to create the site I want on my domain;
- read up on FTP through Google and on my domain host’s Support pages;
- sorted out, with phone help from my domain host’s Support, NetFirms, how to use FileZilla;
- re-installed the use of WordPress, which I had deleted in a fit of frustration and pique, with the help of NetFirm’s phone Support;
- choose a free wp template, Titan, (brother of the theme I’m using in this, my wp.com blog) and decided I would need their Support, and to pay for it because they have to make a living;
- decided to follow Jestro on Twitter for information and quick requests for support;
- Spent all day trying to follow a tutorial on how to access Titan’s CSS, gave up and added my problem to the Jestro Pro forum and went to supper. (I had done similar CSS work with help from Dave Ferguson on my wp.com blog so I knew it was possible.);
- Got back from supper to find the answer already on the Jestro Support Forum (and an explanation that the tutorial could have been clearer);
- made some changes I feel good about, but also discovered that my learning will be continuing! ;->
All of those were interactions with people or the communications created and left by people. Even autodidacts are, by necessity, social learners.
I will be accepting the help of other generous people, directly and indirectly, but there are two more important observations I want to make:
- As a teacher, I understand why students get cranky and worse when they are frustrated because they are just not “getting” something they want to learn. It makes me (and I suspect them) feel unintelligent and inadequate, and I, (and I’m sure them) get upset with myself and anyone else I can blame. It must be even more so for those who learn differently than our schools teach. That is why I am revealing my own struggles; learning is only easy when you are, by your own nature, good at learning in certain areas. We ought to be compassionate for our own and others’ struggles to learn in the areas where we don’t have the natural velcro for.
- It is hard to ask for help, even help you have paid for, but you must in order to keep on keeping on (as Gladys Knight advised)! I don’t know if it’s a societally developed fear of loss of face or an inherent fear of showing weakness, but I find it difficult to ask for help. I think others do too.
So that’s my current learning struggle, which I will continue on with, after I get some work that I’m good at 🙂 done.
a dang’rous thing”, at least according to Alexander Pope. He declared that we should “Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring.” I, however, think a little learning is a wondrous thing; it can addict you to drinking deep at the Pierian Spring, that is, at wanting to know more and how to do more.
Little Learnings – a Bit at a Time, as Needed
I came to the digital world initially with fear and reluctance at a time when those who knew how the technology worked were seen as the digital specialists. People with a communication background who were enthralled by the communication possibilities offered by the digital world (as I came to be) were invisible to those looking for web expertise. When I was told that part of my writing course would include introducing my students to MSWord, back in the 1990s, I began to look around my college for help because I realized that I couldn’t ask my husband, as I did at home, to come into my classroom (a computer lab) and open and set up the program for me. Besides, he preferred Word Perfect.
So when my college offered half day courses in various computer aspects, I signed up. I took many of the courses, (Word I, II, & III, Web Browser I, II, III, & IV) many times. (My working memory has always been a bit wonky; I need a lot of repetition and/but I get bored easily. Bit of a problem sometimes;->)
I bought books on MSWord and tried to sort out what would be useful for my students. I couldn’t figure out how to figure out stuff in the books. What the @#$%, for example, was this thing that had “Normal” written in it? And why would anyone want to use a “View” called “Outline”? Meanwhile, in my writing classroom where I was ?teaching? students how to use Word for their essays, something interesting was happening. Some of my students were telling their friends, and sometimes even me, some things that could be done using Word. One taught me about Styles and Tables of Content. Wa-HOOOO! (Sometimes translated as “eureka”!)
While I didn’t totally depend on the kindnesses of students, I was encouraging social learning in my classrooms, not just because it was a trendy pedagogical approach, but because it helped me where I worked! I was learning from my students that the trendy pedagogical approach of group work was highly effective for teaching writing and computer use, and that it was highly effective for my own learning. They learned how to use a word-processor to make their own writing easier to revise and edit; I learned various aspects of word-processing that I was responsible for teaching, and that I could also use in my own writing tasks.
I was shanghaied onto a PD committee to introduce other professors to the web and other things digital. I knew that I didn’t know enough to be on it, but I was crafty enough to know there would be people on it I could learn from. I attended religiously. There was a woman my age, (shall we say “mature”) who taught humanities subjects and was not a computer programmer or technician, but knew so much about the web’s technical aspects! She had her own website hosted on our college’s server. I was filled with admiration for the way she dressed, and for her knowledge and ability in the digital world. I decided (unconsciously) to take her as my role model. After all, she wasn’t young, male, or a computer programmer, so maybe I could learn more digital stuff and be more like her.
When I tried to learn more, for example HTML code, so I could have my very own website, (hosted on my college’s sever) I was frustrated. I heard about “WYSIWYG” software for creating websites and I was intrigued. A little learning (people can put up websites without learning HTML code because there’s software that lets you do it based on how it looks!) made me hungry to learn how to do this thing that was easier than learning HTML code. (Although I had memorized <b>bold</b> and its companion <i>italics</i>.)
I took weekend courses in this WYSIWYG software, where we followed detailed instructions so we all could produce identical web sites, presumably based on the learning theory that if we followed instructions once, we would know how to use the software. (Did I mention my wonky working memory?) I learned enough to go out searching for easier WYSIWYG software and found Netscapes’s Composer. I was thrilled and excited; I could figure out (with the help of a website put up by a female professor whose name is lost in the mists of my memory) how to put together a web site, and I did, individual link by individual link.
- employment-aided, and
learning had moved me along, and also taught me how much more there was to learn, and started a dangerous ;-> addiction.
(A young writer I coach likes to say, in square brackets, at points in her novel draft, “much happens here”.)
[MUCH HAPPENS HERE]
So my awareness of
- how much I am a social learner and
- how manuals and books only work for me after I already know something and
- how important the web is to human communication (more than the printing press, even!)
has led me to
- blog and
- join Facebook and
Through blogging and Bloglines I have encountered some people repeatedly, most of whom I’ve never met f2f, but I feel like I know them. Some of them have commented on some of my blog posts and/or “friended” me on Facebook and occasional messages between us – usually connected with education and the web – have made them feel like colleagues – and I need colleagues now that I teach only part-time, and yet still hunger for fellow learners in this rapidly changing communications world. Many of these colleagues I follow on Twitter, and recognize their icons.
Ah Twitter, that time-sink and/or valuable resource, that place for sharing treasures, over-sharing quotidian detritus, and just plain bitching complaining!
So I was again searching for the perfect WordPress template for my edublog (this one) and I found it, except that the body was in serif font! I can’t stand serif font, except on paper, and even there, not so much. I NEED Lucida Grande, or at least some kind of sans serif. (Good audience-aware web design, IMHO, requires sans serif on screens because it’s easier on our eyes.) I poked around and figured out that for U.S. $15.00, I could get an upgrade that would allow me to alter the CSS. (Did I mention how little I know about HTML? Even more about CSS.) I had poked around on Google and found out the definition of CSS and it sounded … interesting. So I used PayPal and got the upgrade. But I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. I tried. I searched and found out more. I even read the FAQs and tutorials. For a break, I opened my TweetDeck and … complained.
I got a direct message from one of my web colleagues inviting a phone call, called, talked for a long time with both of us looking at both our blogs’ backends (really – not a rude thing at all;->). Eventually, after much help from the phone call and another book (WordPress for Dummies) I got the sans serif font I wanted in the body of my blog – as you can see!
When I boasted in a later Tweet, I got the kind of feedback I most value –
Thanks so much Dave!
And when I later got a request for a post for Dave’s Carnival –
I was delighted for this inspiration, this opportunity to look at the cascading impact of each bit of little learning, and the generosity of digital colleagues!
So, what’s my point? My point is that real tasks and social colleagues, whether coffee line-up or digitally based, move a little learning into into a deep enough draught at the Pierian Spring, so that we
The more we learn, the more we see there is yet more to learn, one small real task and consequent social encounter at a time.
If it’s this big …
the education community should be taking notice!
I confess I know almost nothing about gaming, but I suspect it will be (should be) deeply important to education. As a student, I used historical fiction to help me learn history, and it worked. The learning promise for gaming appears to be much richer and deeper.
This slideshow by Jerome Sudan (found via Stephen Downes) outlines the power of gaming quite succinctly.
The only “game” that I play regularly is the beyond simple iPhone widget Blanks – and I’m amazed at how seductive the experience is, (although occasionally I find their match-ups of definitions and words too obvious and/or grammatically different – but even that is fun). In Blanks, you are given a definition and four possible words. You are supposed to drag the matching word to a a ripped hole in the “lined paper” background. I suspect much rote learning of definitions – of language, parts of systems, geography, etc. would be much more efficiently taught (and learned) by having students play simple games where they drag one part to its match-up connection, thus adding a kinesthetic componant to immediate feedback and repetition. Movement on the screen and the privacy of “correction” are also part of the power of such simple games.
Do you know of any online effective educational games? (Preferably free ;-> )
Michael Wesch is a pedagogical hero of mine. I’ve watched videos his classes made; I’ve watched a video of him explaining his teaching, and I asked a question on Twitter, and even though he doesn’t follow me, got an anwser from him within a few hours! He understands the impact of the new communication ecosphere we swim in, applies his understanding to his teaching, and can explain clearly why this is urgently central to education.
Here is a link to my highlighted copy of his recent Academic Commons article – From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able which I discovered via Stephen Downes. Indeed, as Wesch says, you set up your network and information comes to you.
Sometimes you find someone saying what you have been thinking about. I think the future of higher education is in danger, and I would hate to see the loss of something so precious. Through Stephen Downes wonderful newsletter, OLDaily, which can be linked to here – http://www.downes.ca/, I found David Wiley’s 2008 ELearn presentation – http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/660 – which I’m embedding below. Serious food for thought
I have two questions related to this video:
- What do you think of the message?
- What do you think of how it’s presented?