Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do you go to the store with a list?

I've been reading through the 7 1/2 habits entries that have been posted so far, and I started taking some notes. They really are fascinating because everyone's approaching an analysis of the habits in different ways.

So far, we're sort of split down the middle (with Pam staking out that mid way point). On the one hand are the folks who need that goal in order to learn, as Jim says, "No goal = Nothing to seek." Marla thinks she's more productive when she has a goal, and Mary Jane (not surprisingly, because she's teaching this session) thinks it's critical to know where we want to end up when we set out. I wonder if these are the folks who make a list when they head out to the store. When we go to Costco, we have a list and a path, but strange things appear in our cart by the time we're done.

On the other hand, there's another group that likes to explore (who knows what we'll uncover?) Karen (in Cybersynapse, a great blog name!) says that she likes "seizing opportunities as they present themselves rather than looking for them" which I think is a wonderful way of describing life-long learning. Denise talks about plodding through (she'll be comfy here in the big muddy), and Alisa says, "I don't really care where it's going to take me. . . . If something is fun, then I try to think of ways I could actually use it for some goal. The goal comes at the end."

I think I'm most often in this last group. I like the serendipitous nature of not knowing what might happen when I put my particular spin on the tools I learn, and I'm willing to put in the time to learn without knowing whether it will lead anywhere at all.

Not surprisingly, we're also split on how comfortable we are with "play" as a kind of learning. When I think of play, I hear "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again." I wish I had a dime for every time I've had to do that -- I'd have a big jar of coins for sure. This summer, I find myself exploring more before reading the FAQ or the docs (if there are any). I'm trying to click on all the links to see what they do, and if I get confused, I just take a break and then approach it from a different direction. I'm trying really, really hard not to approach every "thing" with the question of how I could use it in my classes.

But then, I wonder how our students would react to the 7 1/2 habits.

Friday, May 25, 2007

You don't know Jack

I'm learning a lot these days about learning. Yesterday we added Jack to our household. He's a 9-week-old mix of yellow Labrador and Australian Shepherd (so they say). He's very cute, but I think this is really Learning-point-five, and it's unclear who's the learner and who's the teacher.
So some of this is kill-and-drill (pee in the yard, not in the house); some of it is curiosity (he sniffs everything and takes an exploratory chew of most, including lamp cords and shoes). There's a lot of trial-and-error learning here too; he's learning the difference between the part of the sliding door that is glass and the part that is open, and yesterday afternoon he tumbled into the pool, just not looking where he was going. Last night, he was (not very successfully) learning to go to sleep.
Jack is the back-up dog; the main dog, Browser, moved to her exalted status last year when the former main dog died. She's learning too, mainly that this small piece of energy is just a pain, and she heads off in the other direction whenever she can. If anything, she looks at this novice with annoyance, making her comfortable life much less secure and predictable. Where's the mentoring, I wonder? The big dog teaching the small dog the way through the dog door, the best places in the yard, which sounds mean fun and which mean food? Browser isn't being a responsible mentor. Maybe eventually she'll grow into it and become the big sister Jack needs in order to learn to be a member of this family.
Granted, Jack's a dog, and a very young one at that, but I can't help think that I learn through drill, curiosity, exploration, play, trial-and-error, observation and habit. All of those are effective learning strategies, and I know how wonderful it is to have mentors.
I'll just have to chew on these ideas a bit. That's allowed, isn't it?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Learning the lingo

I was reading a blog (on evolution) the other day, and I realized what it feels like to come across brand new words. I have a pretty large active vocabulary, so in my usual day-to-day reading, I generally don't have to haul out the dictionary very often, but in the space of two or three paragraphs, I tripped up on six words . . . not only didn't I know what they meant, I couldn't even hazard a guess. Talk about being out of your element!

So I have some real anxiety about how to introduce new words as we explore 2.0. Of course, some of them are "names" like Flickr, Twitter, Rollyo, Technorati, etc., and I can tell from their use (and thankfully, that they're capitalized) that they are companies or services. A quick google will find them (see, even though they're usually capitalized, they sometimes become verbs). But blog, wiki and mashup are generic (like kleenex has become), and I know I have trouble figuring out what they mean.

So in the Web 2.0 world, I wonder how to get my head around the new lingo. I went searching a bit to see if there were any web 2.0 tools, but I haven't found anything yet. I'll keep exploring, but it's probably too "old-world" to see this as a problem. Does it really matter if I don't [yet] understand what a mashup is?

Monday, May 21, 2007

More fun

I realized that we really ought to have something off-the-wall and fun to do this week, so if you stumble over here, why not modify your picture a bit? Here's a face transformer. My picture is in the mode of Modigliani, but I really like the Boticelli version and the Mucha one too. Or you can make yourself a baby or a teenager. This stuff is so much fun!

Playing around = learning 2.0

It struck me, as I was watching the "7 1/2 Habits" tutorial, how wonderfully Lori Reed had captured the fun of learning in her photos. I think I forget sometimes that "playing around" is a powerful way to learn because it [again] puts purpose way far away and makes the outcome or "product" a bit shadowy and indistinct. As I play around, I expect to find new ways of doing something, or snazzier ways of doing something I was doing in a clunky fashion before. When I set out to play around, I tell myself that whatever happens may not be perfect the first time (or may never be perfect ever), and that's okay. If I care about becoming better at a particular skill, I just have to play around some more or practice a little more often.

I had to laugh at the list of names, phone numbers and email addresses in the online contract pages. I spent two hours with a friend yesterday -- on the telephone and online -- trying to learn something new. I know more than I did yesterday morning, but I still have to play around a bit more. He and I agreed that being on the telephone at the same time we were both online was a great way to learn, much more efficient than having him write instructions and then having me follow them. And you're hearing this from a print person! If you do this telephone thingy often, buy yourself a headset so you can talk hands-free.

Much to my dismay, a lot of Web 2.0 tools don't have heavy print documentation, but I'm learning (dang, there it is again) to broaden my repertoire of learning strategies. There's a lot of audio or audio/video combos, so I'm making an effort to try those out before I go hunting for the docs. Having said that, I still feel wonderfully reassured when I can find a book. It's almost like a security blanket, even if they are a bit out of date. So if you'd like a great Web 2.0 security blanket, I recommend you toddle off to and buy Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms. Don't be put off by the secondary school emphasis; I learned a lot from his stories and examples. Richardson has an education blog too called Weblogg-ed that I follow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Anchors aweigh . . .

A launch is always exciting, but I'm a little nervous about this one because I'm wearing two hats. (Too many numbers -- 23 Things, two hats. I'm going to get confused, I am sure!) But this feels just a little scarier than the beginning of a new semester because I'm learning as I go along. That isn't usually the case in the classes I teach.

So I've already had a question I couldn't answer (about whether Web 2.0 activities are compatible with both IE 6 and IE 7), and rather than go research the answer, I said I don't know. I suspect I'll be saying that often over the next 10 weeks, so I might as well get comfortable with it.

I think one of the points of this kind of learning activity is that no one person has all the answers, and that good questions are almost as valuable. One of the things this question raises for me is whether I am going to try out Firefox, at least on one computer. (I am using IE 6 on one computer and IE 7 on another already.) Maybe people should share what browser(s) they are using so we can all test for incompatibilites and anomalies.

I'm not sure how labels work, but I think I'm going to add two to this entry: browsers and trouble. We'll experiment.