Image Copyright Made Easy

All Rights Reserved
Original image: 'All Rights Reserved*' http://www.flickr.com/photos/79752071@N00/3664187720 by: Paul Gallo Released under an Attribution License

My experience teaching university students has led me to believe that they don’t know enough about how to attribute images that they haven’t created themselves. From my own experience as both a student and a teacher, I am familiar with applications that make creative bibliographies much easier (BibMe, EasyBib, etc.). I am also familiar with what happens when it’s easy to correctly create bibliographies and citations; I (and others) are much more likely to make sure we’ve give credit where credit is due.

So I was delighted to read Judy O’Connell’s description – https://heyjude.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/greasemonkey-and-flickr-for-the-adventurous/ – of how to get images from Flickr that have Creative Commons licensing, and are totally easy to attribute.

The image above was my experiment, and, as you can see, it worked. Now it is easy to find free images in Flickr and correctly attribute them. I strongly recommend her post – https://heyjude.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/greasemonkey-and-flickr-for-the-adventurous/

Teaching in the 21st Century

Here’s why I love the web.

I found the video embedded below on Twitter, with a mention in the post of Ignatia, a woman whose knowledge and sharing I have respected for years  – http://ignatiawebs.blogspot.com/2010/04/meaningful-and-powerful-learning-how-to.html.
I think the video is beautifully designed and presented, and it’s what I believe about teaching for today.
I hope you enjoy the 10 minutes it takes to watch it, I hope it gives you ideas and enthusiasm, and I hope you spread it.
Joan Vinall-Cox, PhD – joan.vinallcox@gmail.com
JNthWEB Consulting – http://www.jnthweb.ca/
Social Media & Learning
https://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/my-e-portfolio/

Second Last Class – Seeing Early Results

I’ve been teaching a course called Oral Rhetoric, a course where I work with students on their public speaking, both in face-to-face situations and in creating online audio recordings. Yesterday was the second last class and we spent most of the class time listening to their second last assignment, a commercial/pitch to advertise their final assignment – a story of theirs that they create a recording of and post online. The recordings of their pitches we heard were wonderful, and why wouldn’t they be. These students have spent all their lives listening to radio and tv commercials. They might not have Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of commercial-listening to gain expertise, but they do have hours and hours of soaking in just how persuasion works.

Over the term, I asked them to read about and practice two kinds of rhetorical skills:

Both the traditional and the current forms of rhetoric were in evidence in the pitches we listened to, but what really thrilled me were the spontaneous responses. We’re using PBWorks for our course container and it allows comments on pages. At the bottom of the Pitch page, was a conversation, a series of comments praising many of the pitches. I was thrilled because I had been trying to develop a Community of Practice approach in the course. After almost every presentation or posting of student work, I asked students to describe their own experiences while doing their own presentation/recording and to give positive feedback to at least three of their classmates. This was an assignment and posted on a weekly Discussions page on the course wiki. I wanted them to learn from each other, and to get used to learning from colleagues as a way to continue learning in their futures. The responses in the Comments section of the Pitch page were an unrequired, spontaneous manifestation of giving each other feedback. What that says to me is that some of the students have developed the habit of responding, and could recognize the technical possibilities (the Comment space at the bottom of the page) for sharing those responses. They have both the communication and the digital know-how.

Makes me happy

Joan Vinall-Cox, PhD (905)
JNthWEB Consulting – http://jnthweb.ca/
Social Media & Learning

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.

A Little Learning is …

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.

This post is part of a carnival of blog posts hosted at Dave’s Whiteboard. To drink deep at this particular Pierian Spring, check out http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/archives/1724.

Daves Whiteboard / Carnival
Dave's Whiteboard / Carnival

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”!)

2009 Version of MS Words Styles
2009 Version of MS Word's Styles

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.

My First Website, made with Netscapes Composer
My First Website, made with Netscapes Composer

A little

  • employment-forced,
  • employment-aided, and
  • social

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
  • Twitter.

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 –

Feedback on Using CSS to Change My Font
Feedback on Using CSS to Change My Font

Thanks so much Dave!

And when I later got a request for a post for Dave’s Carnival –

Daves Carnival
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

behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!

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.

Kluging: An LMS Alternative

I confess I’m ambivalent about Learning Management Systems such as WebCT ad Desire2Learn. (I’m not at all ambivalent about Content Management Systems, such as WordPress – I am an enthusiastic user.) The distinction is that an LMS is a container for class work –

Learning Management System is a broad term used for a wide range of systems that organize and provide access to online learning services for students, teachers, and administrators. … web.mit.edu/oki/learn/gloss.html

and a CMS is

used to edit your website by giving the user an interface where they can log in and make text, graphic or structural amends to then publish the new pages on the live website. … absolute-digital.co.uk/glossary.php

I’m ambivalent about LMSs because I learned to use the web in teaching using an early version of WebCT – it was a scaffold for my learning and, as such, I hold it in some affection. However, as a teacher of communication skills and arts, as someone fascinated by language, I continued to learn about what could be done on the web, even outside of the LMS. Both passion and a sense of (teacher) responsibility drove me.

Currently I avoid, as much as I can, LMSs. Instead I kluge together a loose collection of free web applications, (Eduspaces Community blog, PBwiki, Pageflakes, Audacity, a password-protected mark site, and whatever free file-hosting service my current students recommend.) It’s a bit more work than using a LMS but I believe this approach, the kluging together of a selection of free web services, is a richer and more productive teaching practice.

Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together cellection of web apps for my course
Pageflakes - the homepage for my kluged together collection of web apps for my course

Instead of keeping my students within a walled (and very expensive for the institution) garden, I am requiring them to learn how to use sites that are easily available to them for their personal and professional purposes. I am helping them become more indenpendant and sophisticated users of the most profoundly new communication tool our species has ever seen. And I’m pulling/pushing them into being part of creating the evolving web culture.

Teaching Communication Now!

As a longtime communications teacher, I am fascinated by our changing communications media and platform. And when I’m teaching, no matter the direct subject I’m teaching, I never lose awareness of the changes our culture is going through, and the responsibility of teachers to help prepare our students for this new and rapidly evolving communications environment. They will be swimming in it for the rest of their professional and personal lives.

What is often unnoticed is that in just over a century we have gone from having one way of recording, putting marks on paper, to multiple ways of recording, all more viscerally immediate than text. Photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures all speak more directly to our senses and emotions than squiggles on paper – which our minds must translate into meaning before we can have our sense and emotional responses. It is easier to think critically when text is what we are ‘reading’ than it is when we see and hear less mediated (so to speak) representations of the world we live in. We are now living in what Ong called “secondary orality” and that is what our students have been growing up in, and to a certain extent, what we grew up in too.

I have never known a world without photographs, radio and records, movies and television. However, text was still the dominant medium, at least in my educational experiences, for most of my early schooling, and mass media ruled. I looked, listened and watched, but I could only critique; I couldn’t participate.

Now I can sit in my study and produce multimedia, as in this blog post.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The audio is poor, but understandable, and I’m combining text with video. I can embed other sites, like what I thought about this new multimedia platform that we can access using computers –

and I can link to other sites for readers/viewers who want to explore more of the educational possibilities – http://jnthweb.pbwiki.com/

and I can make movies using my screen –
Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Generating a Table of Figures in Word…”, posted with vodpod

There are other tools that I can use to create a mixed media text, and, here is the point I want to make:

We need to be teaching our students (technical and non-technical) how to compose using the expanding possibilities of the web as a multimedia, participatory communication platform!