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:
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

Social Bookmarking – Diigo

Social bookmarking is one of the most useful aspects of the web. You can use it to create your own online library, organized to your own interests by using tags. Although I’ve been using some form of social bookmarking for years, every so often I want to review what I can do with the social bookmarking tools I use.

Currently I use Diigo and

One of the useful aspects of webapps is that many give you notice when an upgrade is available, and then, when you install it, open a page explaining all the changes. Diigo has recently upgraded and among the items available in the upgrade page were these very informative videos:

I use two social bookmarking apps because I’m wary of any web app closing down, and having two makes it more likely that I’ll still have access to most of my saved bookmarks if one closes. But who wants to do that extra work you ask? It’s no extra work, because I can save to Diigo and have my new bookmark automatically added to my account.

Diigo to
Diigo to

The final step I’ve taken is to add a widget to my blog so readers can see what I’ve been saving.

My widget
My widget

If you don’t already use social bookmarking, you might want to give it a try.

Twitter Means Business

I’m ambivalent about my title because I use Twitter mainly for learning, communication, and entertainment. I recognize, however, that business is becoming increasingly a part of Twitter. I recently posted a picture on TwitPic …

Like a Liberty Print
Like a Liberty Print

and commented that it reminded me of a Liberty print.

(I have fond memories of a dress made from material I got at Liberty’s in London, and several scarves I treasure, including one my husband discovered in a second-hand store and bought for me. I haven’t shopped there for years because I haven’t been in London for years.)

What happened next was this –

Libertys of London Tweet
Libertys of London Tweet

plus an invitation to follow them. I looked at their site and saw that they had a number of people tweeting using the business name plus the (I assume) first name of the person posting the tweets, which strikes me as a good way to display a business and keep the personal touch so important a part of Twitter.


I didn’t chose to follow them, because I live a continent away and because my prime interest is people I know, web businesses that can have an impact on what I want to do, and people I can learn from. (I love the freedom of not following back without feeling rude. So different from invitations in symetrical social sites.)

I found it very interesting that my casual mention of their business brought them directly to me; they are obviously monitoring Twitter, which I didn’t expect from such an old and traditional company – which shows me I should be careful about stereotyping. ;->

Today, in a Google Group I am part of, Gloria Hildebrandt – – linked to this site –

Business & Twitter
Business & Twitter

It is clear to me that even businesses not directly connected to the web and social networking are seeing the business possibilities that Twitter offers.

So while I keep on enjoying the learning and entertainment that Twitter provides me, I also recognize that it has many uses beyond the purely personal.

Querulous Question #1

All the brouhaha about financial game playing and our perilous financial system has brought a question to my mind:  why do we talk about wages with percentages?


If someone, A, making $20,000. gets a 5% raise, that’s $1000.00 dollars and they now make


If someone, B, making $200,000. gets the same percentage, 5%, they get $10,000, and now make


Both get 5%, which sounds equal, but, in fact, A got 10% of what B got, and B got %1000 of what A received, or half of A’s salary.

In plain language,

B received $9000. more than A.

So a year later they each get a 5% raise again.

A started at $21,000. this time and got $1050. which gave A a total of


B started at $210,000. this time and got $10,500. which gave B


This time

B received $9,450. more than A,

that is, at the same percentage rate,

the actual difference in money increases by $450.

and each time they get another 5% raise, the difference will increase.

The rich get richer, faster.

Here’s my refined Querulous Question #1:

Why do we use percentages to talk about wage increases when that only increases the disparity every time? B gets increasingly more than A, so the difference between their wages keeps increasing. Why don’t we just say what the actual numbers are?

I’d really like to know if it’s just habit and convenience or if there’s an actual, communication-based reason for this.

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 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 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 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

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”.)


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.

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.

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. …

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. …

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.

Publishing Changes

The web is less than 20 years old, but I see some remarkable yet indirect changes in the other media which are occurring because of it. Newspapers, magazines, tv shows, publishing, and textbook publishing are all being affected.

About a year ago I noticed that the way the Toronto Star, numbered its sections had changed. I had grown up with the sections in most newspapers being alphabetical, which seemed natural in our print-based society. The change was to a system where the sections were labeled with the first letter of the section’s name. So the Sports section was “S”, the Living section was “L”, Ideas was “ID”, only the World section had the atypical label, “AA”. It looked to me like the web-created concept of tagging, where you label sites you bookmark with terms that indicate what makes them relevant for you, (an approach made workable by hypertext linking) had ousted the print-based alphabetical approach. The Toronto Star had a number of their journalists blogging by then, but to me that seemed like a less significant change. Writers write, and any medium will do. Labeling sections in a new way and expecting readers to ‘get’ it and seamlessly shift to it, was a subtler but more radical change, to my way of thinking.

When magazines started developing an online presence that seemed pretty sensible to me too. Nothing too radical, just information, text and visuals, also available online. There was a cultural and economic bump, though. The paper & print versions of magazines and newspapers charged money. Customers had to pay for their copies. The web culture is based on free access, a very different approach. There are some sites that demand payment, but the practice has largely shaken out to the current web business culture: something for free, and payment only for more advanced information or features. The money is made from advertising revenue.

I also watch TV news shows, and my two most watched, the CBC and the BBC, provide extensive online news, with the BBC even offering one minute world news available any time!

BBC Website
BBC Website

Book publishing, in my opinion, is going through the most radical change. The gatekeepers that made publishing difficult and limited which books were published are gone, along with the jobs (and skills) that used to be required. Typesetting is now done on the author’s computer, using software. Editing is also the author’s responsibility, whether done by the writer or hired out. The expense of a set number of books published in the hopes that they will all be sold is becoming a thing of the past, replaced by just-in-time printing. Self-publishing is now possible and growing.

Last year I tutored a 14 year old who wrote a very really good coming-of-age novel. Rather than seek out an agent and pitch the novel, we went to, worked through the set-up process, and ordered enough copies for her family. They are attractive books that make her, and her readers, proud. Another friend wrote a good, but atypical detective novel; he used Amazon self-publishing because his book would then be part of their catalogue. And I’m putting together a collection of family photos for a Christmas gift (for someone whom I hope doesn’t read this ;-> ) that I will self-publish.

What inspired me to write this blog post was a textbook publishing site I just stumbled upon, Flat World Knowledge Its study texts (read about their very different approaches) won’t be available till 2009, but it is a very interesting and web-culture concept.

So the web is bringing all kinds of changes to the media world, in fact, –

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Analyst Marcel Fenez has told the World Association of Newspapers readership conference that traditional media has 5 years left until the death clock kicks in. –

So what are business and education doing to prepare for this evolving new media environment?

Back-To-School – Mini Notebook is a Good Fit

For years the fountain pen, such a wonderful development from the straight pen, ruled the writing world. For years the typewriter gave our paper communications the professionally neat look, before the personal computer made it redundant. The laptop taught us that we could carry our composing/working tool around, maybe not as conveniently as a pen and some paper, but we could be mobile. However laptops are not small and are too expensive for many casual users of the computer basics: a little writing, a little calculating, a little web browsing. However a tool is emerging for younger students and those who want only the basics from a computer: the mini notebook.

From, with markings added
From, with markings added

Inexpensive, and in some cases, sort-of free – – the mini notebook could be the most important back-to-school purchase.

Cheaper, more portable, and easier-to-use than the over-functioned (for most people) laptops and mobiles, the mini notebook is a great tool.