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;
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.
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.
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
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
I used to try and blog once or twice a week – and felt badly if I failed to keep my blog current. My earliest blogs were long ruminations, almost essays, using academically correct formatting and referencing. I actually kept two, sometimes three blogs, trying to keep my professional, academic, and personal interests separate. At that time, I got many of my inspirations for what to write about from reading the blog posts I collected, using RSS, through Bloglines.
Too much! It turned a pleasure into a “should” and felt prison-like. Over a period of time I moved to one dominant blog, leaving behind a few orphans. I created a WordPress blog, because I could add niftly little widgets and make my blog both look attractive and work as a repository for much of my life on the web.
This setup was more comfortable, but when I got busy, I still neglected both my Bloglines and my blog.
I joined Facebook, because I read about it on blogs and in newspapers, and my daughter told me to;-> I found aspects of it interesting and handy, but wasn’t all that keen on some parts of it so I took (take) a conservative approach. However, through Facebook I discovered Twitter. And I’m hooked. I love eavesdropping on the partial conversations and I scavenge news and info through the links. If someone seems to be using Twitter without contributing, or is just boring, I stop following them. It’s easy, like sliding away from the bores at a large, noisy party. Then I followed the web metaphor, and I linked my Twitter stream onto my blog. And, copying something I’d seen on other blogs, added my del.icio.us saves to my blog.
The tipping point that I recognized this week was that, although I am continuing to semi-neglect my Bloglines and its inspirations, I now collect the stuff that intrigues and feeds me through Twitter. Then, using my online bookmarking tool, del.icio.us (and diigo, too) I share it. The items I save to del.icio.us now automatically create posts on my blog even when I don’t compose and write one up. I write less, but share as much, I think, but in a briefer, more discontinuous manner. I am, however, increasingly taking the (brief) time to annotate the links I save and share, to create more context.
Maybe my attention span has shortened, or maybe I’ve moved to the efficiencies (Twitter and automatic posting of saved items) that the web creates and encourages. Whatever the rationale I use, I have definitely tipped over into a new pattern of keeping up and sharing.
I think, (I’d appreciate feedback here) that my blog is still useful to others, at least to those who share some of my interests, because what I collect from Twitter (and from time-to-time from my Bloglines account) winds up on my blog through the del.icio.us posts.
I love the web, and all its communication possibilities. I believe the web is an constantly expanding platform that anyone (with access to an online computer) can work and play on. I title my blog WebTools For Learners because I believe the constant change on the web literally forces users to be learners, always finding new possibilities and variations. There’s text, hyperlinks, and aesthetically presented text. There are images, and web-based editing and sharing of images. There’s audio, and web-based creating, editing, and sharing of audio. There’s video, and webcams, and other infinite possibilities. That’s what I write about here – the infinite web!
But … even full time, I can’t keep up. Even those technically-expert people whom I watch on Twitter and on their blogs, can’t keep up. I was delighted and relieved to read someone (I think through Stephen Downes‘s OLDaily) who reported that he no longer worried about keeping up; he saw the web not as a reservoir, but as a river he could dip into and find what he needed when he needed it. (If anyone knows who used this metaphor, I’d appreciate knowing so I could credit him.)
I’ve been aware for a long time that I couldn’t learn EVERYTHING about the web, and even that it just wasn’t my lack. What I need, what we all need, is the skill to find what we need when we need it. Simple survival.
So that’s what I write about here, stuff that I need or think I might need, which is stuff (web applications and their uses) that you might need, too, and want to learn about.
When I first named my original blog, WebToolsForLearners, I was aiming to help educators find and experiment with various computer and web communication possibilities – as part of their teaching responsibilities. But I wanted to be more open than just writing for teachers. I have learned a lot from my students, especially about using the computer and the web. I wanted to write for anyone who was interested in this utterly new, amazing communication platform, the most significant communication development since the invention of the printing press, IMHO. So I used the generic term, “Learners” rather than the more limited possible title “WebToolsForTeachers”.
I’ve kept the title, with a couple of spaces added, for my new web space here – WebTools For Learners although my web address is different – https://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com I am grateful to have had a blog at Blogger.com, and especially grateful that I could move my past postings here to my new space. The web has many flexibilities, and that ability to transfer is very handy. You may be wondering why I bothered to move, and my reasons are straightforward, and a result of my ongoing learning on and from the web.
Bloggers I respect, especially edubloggers, keep writing on, and about, WordPress blogs. They often had more technical understanding than me, so I paid respectful attention to what they said and did.
I learned enough on Blogger to understand that I had enough web application knowhow to be able to work with WordPress.
On its homepage, WordPress uses the words, “aesthetics”, “usability” and “free”. What’s not to like?
For those thinking about starting their own blog, there’s lots to learn. And we can celebrate the fact that there are lots of ways to learn using the web. Start with Blogger if you want one of the easiest platforms to learn on. But if you want a more sophisticated and beautiful platform, consider WordPress, now or later. Or, when you’re ready to establish a blog in the future, dip into the river then, and find out what people are recommending that sounds like it would suit you.