Lost Password

I’ve lost the password to what used to be my life.
The air is strange and I’m losing my sense of balance.
I search through remnants in the home I sold,
wondering what to keep, or sell, or trash.

I listen to the chatter of family discord:
recent losses, expected deaths, while mangled hopes
fall like tears, splashing on me,
where I sit, creating a new password.

Writing and Reading (Old Tech)

image

You are reading
this,
far away
from the time and place
where/when synapses
fired
their ballet
and I thought
a feeling
a rhythm
holding these words –
first sliding in black
ink
on a page,
waiting
for synapses
and time
and fingers
taping
green life
through electric connections to a screen
that holds
and releases
thoughts, words
reconstituted
regained
and printing up,
through black tape,
in a rhythm
of line and page
these words
which bend
and fold –

and, enveloped, travel
to be studied,
held,
approved.
A bored stranger submits
these words,
through the finger ballet, to the machine that prints
these words
for you
to read
now.

Why I Like gMail’s New Tabbed Inbox

This might make some of the people and organizations that send me emails unhappy, but why I like gmail’s new tabbed Inbox is because it makes it so easy to sort my mail, and throw out what I’m not interested in. Let me explain. I sign up for lots of stuff; I like having blogs I follow come into my inbox rather than using RSS.  and a Reader. Lots of people, especially the highly tech-able ones, may criticize that, but it’s my habit, and I’m sticking to it. What this means is I get a lot of mail, and only some of it interests me. gMail’s new Inbox makes it easy for me to continue in my subscribing habits without being too overwhelmed or annoyed by piles of messages. Here’s what I do:

After checking my Primary tab for personal and important messages ( To learn how move messages so they land in your Primary tab – see https://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/gmails-new-inbox-tabs/ ) I go to one of my other tabs. The first thing I do is click the little box just above the Primary tab.

Select all above the Primary Inbox in gmail
Select all above the Primary Inbox in gmail

This will select all the messages in that tab.

All messages are selected in this tab
All messages are selected in this tab

(This works best on my laptop, and not so easily on my tablet or phone.)

I de-selecting the messages I want to keep, which I find easier than individually selecting the ones I have no interest in.

Once I’ve done separated out the ones I want to read, – –

gmail tabbed inbox with some messages selected
gmail tabbed inbox with some messages selected

I simply click on the trash can –

gmail's Trash
gmail’s Trash

and all the checked and highlighted messages that I don’t want disappear. Easy and time-saving. I could individually check the boxes on the ones I don’t want, but I find it emotionally easier to make one (large) negative selection by clicking the box at the top, and then saving (unchecking) the ones I do want.

The nest and final post will explain how to get rid of the tabs and go back to the previous plain, untabbed gmail Inbox. Coming soon.

The Web is a Creativity Generator generating a Culture of Creativity

Photo by Tabea Dibou, from Flickr

We can see more people creating more works than ever before in history. And it’s because of the web and because the web is social. On the web, much is possible. Whether you are finding the right beautiful photo (with the right Creative Commons license) to illustrate metaphorically the connectivity and the beauty of the internet for a blog post, or whether you are playing with a web app (Skitch –  http://skitch.com/) to draw

or to explain something

The web is a space where people want to make, to create. I’m creating this blog post, because it’s FUN! And easy. The phrase “user-friendly” developed with the personal computer. Web apps are aimed at being user-friendly to entice and encourage people to use them, to be creative.The social aspect of the web, the possibility of being seen/heard/recognized, even if only by a very few others, encourages people’s creativity. I might not have composed this blog post if the one I created yesterday hadn’t been re-tweeted, and got  a comment. That thrill of recognition is energizing. So people are playing on computers and posting their creativity on the web. As we get responses ourselves, and even if we just see others get responses, we are encouraged to join in the play. And playfulness spreads.

So serious people who sell cars and race cars become part of the crowd playing:

Two typographers ( Pierre & Damien / plmd.me ) and a pro race pilot (Stef van Campenhoudt) collaborated to design a font with a car.
The car movements were tracked using a custom software, designed by interactive artist Zachary Lieberman. ( openframeworks.cc )
Which I downloaded – nl.toyota.be/iqfont and played with.

Art, play, creativity – that’s how we humans learn and that’s what makes us happy and healthy. And the web is our creativity playground.

Styles in MS Word – A Jing Video

I’m attending the PBWorks Camp for teachers, and this is my homework for my second week, a screencast made using Jing on how Styles in MS Word can help in writing long pieces such as academic papers or business reports:
2009-07-02_1211
I re-did this a number of times, dealing with –

  • fitting what I wanted to say to the time available
    • figuring out what to leave out
    • making sure my set-up worked
  • reducing the size of my Word screen so I could fit everything into a smaller frame
  • stumbling while I was recording

I really like learning from screen captures myself, so I enjoyed creating one

WordCamp Toronto 2009

Live Tweeting vs Live Blogging

WordCamp Toronto 2009 May 8, 2009
WordCamp Toronto 2009 May 8, 2009

At the Toronto WordCamp 2008, I live-blogged, and that was fun:

  1. https://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/live-blogging-at-wordcamp-toronto-08/
  2. https://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/live-blogging-wordcam-day2/

At WordCamp Toronto, 2009, I Tweeted using the hashtag #wct09, and that was fun, and more social for a couple of reasons.

  1. I was less focussed on getting every piece of wisdom and could relate more f2f with the people around me; and
  2. I could have conversations via Twitter with others at wct09 (if they were using the hashtag) pick up pieces of wisdom from their tweets, and talk f2f with them after meeting on Twitter.

So, for me, with the current social applications, Live Tweeting was a richer experience than Live Blogging, but both were fun.

Learning

I learned from the mix of new information in presentations and conversations around and between the sessions, and my most frequest conversationalists were –

I enjoyed great conversations on shared interests with them – who could ask for anything more?

Sessions

  • James Walker – Your Blog is Your Social Network

There was much more of value there, and others will be blogging about WordCamp Toronto 2009, but this is my contribution for now.

at wct09 - picture from Flickr - Uploaded on May 10, 2009 by LexnGer
at wct09 - picture from Flickr - Uploaded on May 10, 2009 by LexnGer

Thanks to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lexnger/

Oh yeah, and I won:

My Winning EduBlog WordCamp Toronto 2009
My Winning EduBlog WordCamp Toronto 2009

An Autodidact is Social

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.

An Autodidact Learns From the Web

An autodidact is someone who learns outside of regular school settings, someone who teaches herself (or himself). It used to be a kind of demeaning label, meaning someone who had spotty and uncertified knowledge. I claim the label “autodidact” as a badge of honour! I used to learn from books, even sometimes from tv, but now we have the web. I love the web. I learn so much from what I find on it.

Recently I gave myself a task that requires me to learn more about how to create web pages. I’d heard about CSS and knew, theoretically, what it could do. But every time I tried to do anything using it I hit THE GAP. THE GAP is the point where I get stuck and can’t go any further, even though I can see what I could do two steps along the learning path I’m on. When I hit THE GAP, I’m stuck. What I do then, is ask a knowledgable friend, if I can find one, or, more often, find a workaround. For a while, my workaround was wikis. I love wikis but they’re meant for sharing, not for using as your personal website, although they can work, sort of, as one.

One of My Wikis
One of My Wikis

Sometimes I find something a lot of the design work has been done for me, and I use that. Blogger had templates, and so does WordPress, which I graduated to.

My Blog
My Blog

But my design vision just isn’t satisfied.

I used tools like the old Netscape Composer and currently its grandchild, Nvu, both of which are WYSIWYG web page creators.

My Domain
My Domain

But my reach exceeds my grasp because I want something I have more control over. I want to produce the kind of website that says to readers “this person has powerful content: you can tell by the appearance!” (I’ve read the research on how people are reading before they decode a single word. The appearance of the text and page gives information that signals information to readers which profoundly affects how they take in the content.)

I’ve learned a little HTML code, and I’ve bookmarked sites where I can find more. But I’ve never taken a course in it, and a lot of it just looked bizarre and unreadable to me. (I was a text person initially, and not technically inclined, but I want to communicate on the web so I have to learn how to do so wholistically.) And using “View Source” and copy/paste seemed to me like a kind of plaigarism and theft. (What can I say? I’m old-school.)

Sometimes I think I learn backwards. I know my desired destination but I keep getting blocked at THE GAP. But I continue to struggle to build a little further out into the unknown territory, and I learn something from each struggle. Each struggle closes THE GAP a little more. I read manuals and follow instructions but I think most people who are inside the knowledge bubble have trouble being aware of what those outside the bubble might not know. The instructions are crisp and clear until they mention going to the “terminal shell” or some other ‘obvious’ term. Huh? Wikipedia tells me what it is, but I don’t get how to use it in this set of instructions. (I’m not the knowledgable audience they were writing for.) So I stop and try some other path. Till I get frustrated with it, because I’ve found THE GAP in it. I’m really good at finding THE GAP. So when I find someone, often on the web, who explains things in a way I can understand, someone who gives me the practical aspects of the concept, I am delighted, excited and grateful.

That happened to me today. I found Chris Coyier’s video on HTML & CSS – The VERY Basics. 32 minutes of pure pleasure. He shrank the gap – till it virtually (no pun etc.) disappeared for me.

He has a gift for teaching and I’m a grateful student.

From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able by Wesch

Academic Commons
Academic Commons

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.