What Do I Believe / Know

succulent
What do I know to be true? Hmmm…
Love exists and is more than chemistry and convenience, although those can help start or reinforce it.
You never know what will happen next in your life, no matter how much you try to control it.
Other people are endlessly mysterious, no matter how well you think you know them.
Cruelty, both unconsciously and consciously intended, is real and dangerous to both the causer and the victim.
Everyone suffers sometime, and some people frequently.
You never fully understand someone else’s experience of the world.

What do I believe? Hmmm…
How you feel about yourself correlates with how you feel about others.
You can never know for sure what is true in life, but you can chose to experience life through the lens of what you believe to be true.
You can never know for sure what “God” actually means, but you can chose to live “as if” “God” is “real”, because your life will be better lived that way.

Related

Getting Rid of the Inbox Tabs

My 93 year old uncle inspired these posts on gmail’s new tabbed inbox. He didn’t want all the tabs; he just wanted the untabbed inbox. For him, like for many other people, the untabbed inbox fits their email needs, and gmail gives them information on how to set up that choice

All this information comes from Google Support – https://support.google.com/mail/answer/3055016?hl=en

How to return your gmail inbox to its untabbed state.

First, click on the + sign on the right of all the tabs –

gmail's tabs and where to click to start changing them
gmail’s tabs and where to click to start changing them

Second, unclick all the tabs you don’t want –

gmail tags to uncheck
gmail tags to uncheck

Don’t forget to click on “Save”.

 

And that’s it!

Why I Use More than One Social Bookmarking Service

Not that I’m paranoid (or maybe I am but I like to call it cautious skepticism) but I am always aware than any of the free web services that I use, or even ones I’ve paid for, could go belly up and my stuff on it (them) could vanish into a black hole. So when I read about speculation that my wonderful collection of bookmarks on del.icio.us could disappear, I feel my paranoia is justified.

Internet search marketers could lose some invaluable free tools from Yahoo such as their Site Explorer. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb was concerned what the deal meant for Build Your Own Search Service (BOSS), Yahoo’s search developer platform Search Monkey and social bookmarking service Delicious, which he described as “one of the last era’s most heartbreaking symbols of untapped potential in social media”.

Bing is exciting as an effective challenger to Google, but if that competition comes at the cost of cannibalising Yahoo’s innovative search work – then we won’t be so excited about Bing any more.

I also celebrate that I have a strategy to deal with this. What are the odds that two similar web services will disappear at the same time? Not good, I hope.

My web stuff paranoia has led me to set up another social bookmarking service called Diigo. So I have two active accounts on different social bookmarking services.

So does that mean I have to save everything I like twice? Well, sort of, but that’s because I’ve recently taken to using Evernote, a broader and more visual saving application. But back to strictly social bookmarking. I only save once.

How? you ask. In Diigo, under my account name, I go into “Tools” where I can “Import Bookmarks”, but more importantly, I can “Save Elsewhere”. I have added my del.icio.us account here, and every time I save to Diigo, I also save, without any extra work, to del.icio.us.

So I’m prepared! If Yahoo and Microsoft let del.icio.us die, I still have all my bookmarks in Diigo. (Same thing if something happened to Diigo.) And I have Evernote too!

The Web is a Bottomless Toy Chest

I like to play on the web, and my biggest problem is my “I-can’t-catch-up” anxiety. There is always more to explore. And for free, either for the basic version or for a month. I can never try everything out. I can’t catch up. Ever.

I make things even more intense by following people who suggest really interesting web toys. Like Jane Hart, with her Jane’s E-Learning tip of the Day

If you teach or train, or just like to play on the web, you should check out her blog, and subscribe to it.Another of my current people to follow ’cause they give really neat toys – whoops, I mean URLs – away, is Steve Rubel – http://www.steverubel.com/ – Twice he mentioned Posterous. The first time, I tried it but left it orphaned. The second time, months, maybe years, later, I found my original account and started playing, even sort-of lifestreaming, copying him. Great fun.

His constant exploration and evolution is inspiring. Check him out, and subscribe to him in Posterous, and maybe to me too;-> As they say on tv, “Time well wasted!”

MagNet Presentation on Researching Using the Web


I’ve noticed that when I speak, I have my deepest focus on what I’m saying and trying to communicate, but that I pay substantial subsidiary attention to the audience’s reaction. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t matter how good my material is and my intentions are, I feel like I’m tanking. So, yesterday, when I presented, I automatically checked the audience’s reaction.

Before I fill you in on what happened, let me describe the set up. There was a big screen at the front of the third of the ballroom we had, in the middle. I project well, but I couldn’t be heard without a microphone. I was using a PowerPoint (because I suspected the wifi would fail. It did.) so I was tied to my laptop, especially since the remote that worked before and after the session didn’t work IN the session. My laptop was on a podium, on a platform on the audiences’ right at the front of the room.

Let me clarify, My podium was in line with the edge of the audience seats on one side, the screen was in the middle of this wide room, and the audience stretched out in a slight curving layout beyond the screen. There were only a few rows, but it stretched 20 feet, maybe more, across. My over 3 feet high platform had my podium on it and a six foot table, with at least another six feet across the floor to the screen, and, as I said, the audience ranged beyond that. It was the most bizarre set up for a speaker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been in some clumsy ones.

Then there was the beginning as the IT guy tried to make the wifi worked. I tried to speak while I was re-starting (wifi still didn’t work) and re-setting up myPowerPont program. Not smooth. Finally I started, only to be interrupted by audience members and coached on how to position my head so the mic would work. I kept on going, only somewhat daunted.

During my talks, I usually throw out little bits of humour to get a sense of the audience. I did this to the MagNet audience a few times, and nobody laughed. Whoops. I kept going, but noticed subliminally that I was feeling disconcerted. Looked out at the audience and noted that a substantial number were highly focussed on taking notes. Decided that must be a good sign, and, anyhow, the show had to go on.

I got several positive comments after I finished, but I won’t know until I get the formal feedback, what most of the audience thought.

When I present, I love having a slideshow to help me stay on point and keep me going when I talk! It’s a great security blanket when I don’t feel much resonance from the audience, and so it was yesterday. My PowerPoint was there when the wifi wasn’t, and when I felt worried about whether the audience was with me.

I have some observations, I hate under-designed, almost anti-speaker designed venues BUT I can survive them.

Finally, in lieu of handouts, I put my presentation up on SlideShare. This morning I received an email from them telling me it would be up in their News & Politics feature page for 16 to 20 hours, (News & Politics?!?) so that’s an audience reaction I can enjoy ;->

Beyond Google featured on SlideShare
"Beyond Google" featured on SlideShare

MagNet ’09

I GO-trained into Toronto today to attend some sessions  at the MagNet ’09 Conference. I was really impressed with the excellent level of organization and with the high quality of the two sessions I attended, a session with a panel of literary agents answering questions and a session with Harry van Bommel on self-publishing. Both were excellent. Harry van Bommel speaks frequently and if you ever get a chance to hear him, do it! I learned a lot from him. http://www.harryvanbommel.com/Harry_van_Bommel/HOME.html

Harry van Bommel's Home Page
Harry van Bommel's Home Page

It was a lovely day to be in downtown Toronto:

Torontos Old City Hall
Toronto's Old City Hall

Toronto's current City Hall

Tomorrow I give my presentation on researching using the web.

iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot
iQ mobile Search - an iPhone Screenshot

I worry a little because the audience will be doubly diverse. They will have many different angles on what they want to research and what for. Plus, today I noticed a wide range in web awareness and know-how in those attending the sessions I was in. As well, I’ve been tweeting using the hashtag #MagNet09, and when I’ve searched, very few seem to be using it. I’m hoping I’ve got something for everyone but tomorrow will tell.

I’m using a PowerPoint, for three reasons.

  1. I like KeyNote better, but if anything went wrong with my laptop, there might not be another Mac handy and a PowerPoint file will play on a Mac or a Windows platform. (Not that I’m paranoid ;-> but I’ve emailed a copy to my Google mail, and I have a memory stick with my presentation on it which I carry separately from my laptop,)
  2. I’ve just found PowerPoint’s Presenter Tool –  something I thought only Keynote had – and that will make my presentation easier to run.
  3. I don’t trust hotel wi-fi having had previous bad experiences with giving web-based presentations where the promised wi-fi was down more than up.

So tomorrow, I will be looking at this screen –

PowerPoints Presenter Tools
PowerPoint's Presenter Tools

Wish me luck ;->

MERLOT 2008, Web 2.0, Part 2

I’m home again from the MERLOT Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and found it exciting for a number of reasons, especially as it was the first academic conference I’ve ever attended that had a strong focus on the importance of web 2.0 for teaching and learning. I think the MERLOT members are ahead of many other educators because they are most concerned with distance learning, and the possibilities of web 2.0 are really useful in making online courses rich and lively.

Here are some of the presentations I attended:

The 12/10 Conspiracy: Guiding Faculty and Staff Exploration of Web 2.0  as Learning Tools – Fritz Nordengren gave a highly polished performance using the 12/10  tarradiddle as an amusing shell for valuable suggestions about how to encourage exploration and adoption of web 2.0 applications to support learning and teaching. I found his reference to the PEW Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users especially helpful. I agree with him that people have individual needs and often require individual coaching, and that we are still defining what the basic technology skills are. Very enjoyable and informative.

ZSR Library Presents: Blogs & Wikis @ Wake Forest University – Susan Smith, Lauren Pressley and Kevin Gilbertson, from the MERLOT 2008 program:

Blogs and wikis are valuable communication and educational tools. These technology-enabled instruction tools can supplement or replace the traditional LMS. To provide the faculty with 21st Century educational tools, Z. Smith Reynolds Library offers locally hosted blogs and wikis for classroom use. This service supports the university’s academic mission, as well as allows the library to fulfill its mission of collecting, indexing, and preserving local content. To create a successful program, library staff integrate instructional design and technology training for faculty. This presentation will provide a program overview, explanation of the instruction, and the specifics of the open-source technology implementation.

I like their approach of hosting WordPress – http://mu.wordpress.org/ and MediaWiki http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki installations on their server for multiple accounts. WordPress is a highly regarded free blogging application; I use the WordPress.com account myself, while theirs is the WprdPress.org version. MediaWiki is the wiki used for Wikipedia; I prefer wiki applications that are totally WYSIWYG while MediaWiki requires some wiki coding. Intelligent and interesting presentation.
Talking with Technology: Asynchronous, Synchronous Communication and Beyond Using Free Software – Takako Shigehisa. Of special interest to teachers and learners of languages. In this excellent presentation, the following applications were introduced: Audacity, which I use in my own Oral Communications course, Photostory3, SkypePowergramo, and Chinswing, plus Gizmo ProjectVoiceThreads and iVisit – A rich selection of very useful teaching/learning tools.
Facebook and Podcasting: Convergence for Freshmen – Peter Juvinall suggests going where the students already are:

Facebook provides a unique opportunity for educators in that it enables a convergence of communication technology. This presentation will cover the benefits of using Facebook as a classroom management solution, the lessons learned from a freshman-level class, and a proper approach to using it in a classroom environment in conjunction with podcasting and traditional means of classroom communication.

Interesting approach, although I’m not sure I’d want all my students on my Facebook account, and not sure they would want me on theirs. Juvinall, however, makes sophisticated use of Facebook Groups and other possibilities. Very interesting and student-oriented approach.
eLearning Strategic MERLOT – Robbie Melton is an amazingly skilled speaker, and I found her strategies fascinating and practical. As the chief academic officer for the 5th largest system of education in the USA, with a 29% increase in online learning this year, she has her institution use MERLOT as an integral part of faculty development. As a teacher of rhetoric, I was deeply impressed by her speaking skills, and personally envious. As a teacher educator, I admired her sensible approach for involving both teachers and students using MERLOT.
Wikis and the Pressure of Public Writing – Dorothy Fuller case study on having groups do collaborative research and writing using wikis was very valuable. Her description of how inhibited people are when editing other people’s text, matched my own reactions to using wikis. This is an important aspect to using wikis for collaboration; we, as a culture, have to learn the ‘skill’ of sharing writing tasks in a public space. An informative piece of research.
Web2.0, the Social Media and Academia: Using Personal Learning Environments to Expand Teaching and Learning – my presentation – described by blogger Lauren Pressley http://laurenpressley.com/library/?p=623 She kindly didn’t mention the technical snafu when the Hotel Hilton’s irritatingly weak wireless system caused my computer to crash, leaving me to talk through the last third instead of showing. My PowerPoint can be found on SlideShare here – http://www.slideshare.net/vinall/merlot2008-vinall-cox-j-presentation

So I learned a lot at MERLOT – check out the richness of the program if you like, – http://conference.merlot.org/2008/Program2008.html – and I met people interested in the web applications I find both useful and fascinating for teaching and learning. Some people I will encounter again on the social network based on Ning called MERLOT Voices – http://voices.merlot.org/
I recommend MERLOT membership –  http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

Personalizing Web Access

Sometimes a bunch of experiences mash together and inspiration results. A couple of day ago I received a comment on one of my posts – #2 by Virginia Yonkers where she said “Try working on another’s computer! Just as we have idiosyncrasies in the speech, how we do math, writing (think of handwriting), we develop different patterns for tools and how we use them. If we can see how to modify a tool or how it is used to achieve our goals, we are more motivated to ask for help, persist through problems”. That has been my experience in my own learning.

Later in the day I was working with some people who were not that efficient at using the web and wanted to show them what I regard as an essential web tool, del.icio.us, the social bookmarking application. I reached out to the laptop, not my own, to try to open up my del.icio.us account so I could show them why it was so useful. Two problems:

  1. Although this was the same model as my laptop, the owner doesn’t use a mouse, and I do. I have to think to use the trackpad and that slows me down and klutzes me up;
  2. The owner’s desktop looks different and so do the applications because she has them set larger than I do mine, also disorientating.

Both of these reminded me of Virginia’s comment, and an often overlooked factor in encouraging people to expand their web efficiency. I think knowing how to set up and manipulate our tools is essential to any skilled artisan, knowledge workers included. Which computer we use is important, but knowing how to set up our PLE (Personal Learning Environment) or, the term I prefer, our PLWE (Personal Learning and Working Environment) is foundational. To work efficiently and effectively, you need to streamline your access to the different software and applications you are going to use. You need to fit your tool to your use.

Because I have a laptop, I can travel with it and use it for presentations. Because I am on it for several hours almost every day, and because I am impatient, I have researched and developed my own idiosyncratic setup.

Working SetUp

So let me explain, starting at the top left:

  1. I use Apple and Firefox because experts I know talked about how easy and handy they were, and that has been my experience too; I like them.
  2. I have my applications dock on the left side where I am less likely to “bump” into it. What can I say; it works for me.
  3. Most importantly, I have a personal toolbar, right under the address bar, where I keep all the links I regularly use. I use the Bookmarks feature to put these in the order I want them in, and to shorten their names so I can squeeze more on. I add other links I frequently use too, but allow these to be beyond the “>>” at the right end of my personal toolbar. When I click on the “>>” a long list of these medium important links appears and I can choose from them.
  4. Most of my “Saved for possible future use” bookmarks, I don’t put in the Bookmarks feature of my browser (Firefox) because they are then tied to my computer, and when I get a new one (yum!) or have a crash (the pain! the pain!) or use another computer (awk-ward!), I don’t have access to them. Instead I use an online application for social bookmarking, usually del.icio.us, (although I’m also checking out diigo). I can access my del.icio.us (or diigo) accounts from any online computer, provided I can remember my user name and password. (Not always that easy ;->) So I always have access to the links I’ve saved. Saving to del.icio.us is easy using the (circled) icons (which I dragged onto my address bar from the del.icio.us site) to the left of the URL field. The checkerboard, when clicked, opens my del.icio.us account so I can find previously saved links.  The  tag icon that says “TAG” on it, when click opens a small field in front of the site I’m saving, and allows me to add tags so I can easily re-find the site when I want it.
  5. I have a Google toolbar even though it takes up screen space on my small laptop screen because it has an icon, circled, that allows me to open a new tab with one click. I like having lots of tabs open so I can switch from site to site with ease, which brings me to my final PLWE essential >
  6. When I took the screenshot above, I had seven (count ’em!) tabs open in Firefox. Often I have more because it makes my work easier. When I finish this draft, I will add links, and what I usually do is open the site I want to link to in another tab, copy the link address, return to my draft and add the link. Multiple tabs – I love ’em!

So there you have it, some of my secrets for making my work efficient and easy to manage, for setting up my PLWE, my “tool”. All learned, I’ll add, over years of chatting with others and reading about what the possibilities are in this ever changing web world.

How To Get Efficient at Using Your Computer

Well, that may be a title for a book rather than a post, but I have many very smart friends who declare themselves Luddites or troglodytes when it comes to anything beyond email. I keep thinking that there must be a way to entice them into learning more about the computer and the web.

I know I don’t help them by whizzing around the screen and doing stuff in front of them (but knowing that doesn’t always stop me from doing it). I know telling them how easy it it just causes the, voiced or unvoiced, response, “For you, maybe” and cynicism. I created my thesis, Following the Thread, as an exploration of how I managed to move from hating and fearing the computer to my current absorption with it. I discovered some things:

Then

  1. I was forced to use the computer as part of my job. Having no choice is very motivating.
  2. I learned from my students. I could make “deals” where I earned my teacher “cred” by coaching students in their writing, and they earned their learner “cred” by showing me how to use wordpro and the web. (It worked in the mid-Nineties but it might not as much now.)
  3. My college had ongoing half-day hands-on tutorials that I could take over and over till I “got” it. I think was especially useful because using the computer and the web required a fundamentally different understanding, and I needed a lot of guided repetition before it started to make sense to me. In a way, it was like learning a new language where it takes a while to “think” in it. Before I could get “fluent”, I had to grasp the pattern, and it was radically new. (I find it interesting that many ADHD sorts “get” this new pattern faster than the more academically inclined. My most helpful students were often dyslexic and really struggled with writing, but they grasped computer and web understandings very quickly.)
  4. Having real-life projects drove my learning. I found weekend courses on creating web sites excruciating, but I was happy to work on material for my teaching all weekend till I figured out how to make stuff work. (I soon discovered a great passion for WYSIWYG, the essence of user-friendliness in my opinion;->)
  5. Having a loose network of friends with expertise in different aspects of using the computer and the web allowed me to ask for help when I was stymied for too long. Joining the committee that created P.D. events to help teachers learn how to use the web for teaching (and volunteering to share what I knew) was a great leap forward for me, because I had a more structured network of experts to get help from.

Because I was one of the pioneering teachers on the web, these approaches helped me learn, however, I think the landscape and culture have changed, and some of the approaches would no longer work.

Now

What changes in this list might work now?

  1. Having a strong reason/desire for having to use the web is essential. If a group decides to use a wiki, or a family decides to set up a Ning network, or friends start using Facebook or Flickr, that might be the kind of pressure that encourages learning. Work demands are always “encouraging”.
  2. Learning for social reasons also creates a situation where you can learn from others; asking questions from your fellow learners or the group’s “experts” works really well. (I remember, when I was learning wordpro, just asking my cubicle neighbour the same question over and over, and she graciously answered me over and over.)
  3. Repetition is highly under-rated as part of academic learning, but dancers, musicians, athletes understand its value. If you want to learn something that’s difficult, repeat it as often as you can. Using Slideshare, you can repeat watching presentation as often as you want.
  4. Agree to take on web projects that stretch you. (Make sure someone can answer your questions; ask either someone you know or make sure you know where the “Help” button is – it might help.)
  5. Having a network of people you work or play with is still very helpful. The biggest change since the early stages of my computer and web learning is all the help that is now available online. Search for sites to learn from and bookmark blogs that offer on-going tips for whatever it is you want to learn. If you follow a few blogs regularly, and comment occasionally, you may find yourself part of a “community” and comfortable asking questions in comments or by email.

My blog is aimed at providing helpful information for those who are learning more about using the web. Finally, I suggest you set up a del.icio.us account, if you haven’t already, and an RSS reader, either Bloglines or Google Reader to use the web to help yourself learn about it.

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