Bri Colorful

Archive for September 2010

I’ve been testing out lots of new social media sites for my digital civ course, and I decided to join my own peeps to the myriads of other voices all tweeting and twitering about their interests and activities online. If that was a little too cryptic for you, I’ve made a Twitter account. I must admit I was surprised at all that the site had to offer me. I started following organizations whose sites I’ve checked on for years: the National Association for the Deaf, that National Cued Speech Association, and Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, as well as following people who’s blogs interest me and topics that appeal to me like home schooling and editing.

It seems like a little much to me though (maybe it’s all just overwhelming at first) to have a facebook, a blog (and reader), email, social bookmarking, a twitter account and the myriads of other social media available to us. There’s no way I could keep up with it all. I guess you have to learn to pick and choose what works best for you. What do you prefer? What social media sites have worked best for you and why?

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How has your digital literacy assisted your self-directed learning in the subject areas of this course?

Thankfully, though I joined this course late, I felt somewhat digitally competent before I joined. I was already using some online tools before this class and have started using many others. My husband is auditing the course and we share notes via dropbox and then talk about the class over dinner. I started using dropbox at his suggestion at the beginning of the semester and now I’ve got a handle on it and use it to store a lot of my documents in the cloud. At Sarah Wills suggestion I started using quizlet.com to study the major concepts for the exam; I shared my flashcards for the computing concepts section on my twitter account. I’ve also used google blog search to research topics that will be discussed in the next class. That’s how I found material to prepare for today’s class on emerging markets.

How has your creation of blog posts and digital media impacted your learning?

Creating blog posts within the parameters of the class has really forced me to be creative in how I present what I’m learning. Because I kept a blog before, I am used to writing what I’m thinking with the aim of keeping my readers’ attention. The class requires me to stick within a subject (though it is a broad one) and to post more frequently. It has been a challenge to synthesize what I’m learning in a way that will be interesting to those I know keep up with my blog. One of the posts I believe did this especially well was about the shift from scrolls to books to online books. I’ve also started a Twitter account. I can share what I’m learning in mini form and send questions out hoping for feedback

How have you connected with other class members and with the general public in these areas?

I’ve enjoyed being able to see how other classmates are thinking about the class and adding my thoughts to theirs by commenting on their blogs and diigo bookmarks. My husband and I talk about the class all the time and often get into conversations with other’s about things we’ve talked about in class. Because he is more immersed in the digital world with his job, he has explained several of the computing concepts to me. In turn, I share my knowledge of the texts we read with him, since I’ve read some of them previously in literature classes.

Last Sunday we were invited to dinner and had a long discussion with friends about open software and Apple versus PC. It was an impassioned debate and fun to see how important the issues are that we’re learning about. I find this class creeping up often in my conversations with others and even on my facebook status.

I have somewhere a list I made sometime shortly after graduating high school. I find it slightly psychologically revealing and a little overwhelming. It is a list off all the things I knew I had to learn and do before I could marry. I was happily married before I even started on any of them.

The list included a modgepodge of goals: learn to sew, write a book, learn to budget, learn to draw, learn to cook, travel the world, get a major and minor college degree, learn to garden and preserve food, learn how to fix cars, eat super healthy food and exercise, learn to quilt, get 8 hours of sleep every night consistently, and it just keeps going. I thought I had to be an expert at so many different things before I would be ready to leave my parents and live like an adult.  I wanted to be a Jill-of-all-trades.

The way life turned out was very different. I have a basic knowledge of some of those things (or vague inclinations to do them at some point in my life) and a very specific knowledge of a few things. I specialize in getting very little sleep and remaining cheerful (well, most of the time), making quick, relatively healthy meals, conservatively trolling my rolling-backpack along as I fastwalk from class to class, and mainly my job and schoolwork.

My inclination is to be “well-rounded” but time permits me only to focus on a few talents. In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued that “the greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor. . .  seem to have been the effects of the division of labor.” That’s just what we have today, isn’t it? We’re choose majors to gain knowledge specific to the field we want to enter. We’re a nation of specialists.

“But is there still room for roundedness?” she asks hopefully . . .

Props to Kristina for her post about capitalism and open software. Kristina said:

“Open software is a competitive advantage in a capitalistic society. It allows people to become invested in the companies’ products and thus its value. And actually it engages people in the companies’ welfare. Plus, they are getting free publicity and ideas from their “investors.” These investors give the company a competitive advantage because they are invested in the company’s welfare and survival.”

It seems every time I bring up open software or open educational resources, people start talking about copyright issues in the entertainment industry. If software companies are doing better because of their openness, could musicians and filmmakers do the same? By posting free music and movies online, could you generate more business?

Chris Anderson at wired.com says yes: “Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero. The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. Virtually everything Google does is free to consumers, from Gmail to Picasa to GOOG-411.” The issue of free, ad-supported media on the web is one that’s quickly affecting every industry. What are your thoughts? Are you willing to post them for free? 🙂

I just woke up from a dream. I once promised myself I would never write anything that came from my dreams because that is how Stephanie Meyer came up with Twilight, and I feel a little ill when I think of following in her footsteps.  But my dream was such an assortment of things, and I want to remember certain parts before they slide (as dreams are notorious for doing) deftly off the slate of my consciousness like the waves of the ocean recede from the shore.  In my dream, I remembered something from what I think is linguistic theory, but I may have come up with it on my own (highly unlikely, I assure you); my head is such a jumble of incoming knowledge at the moment (and I have a slight head-cold) that I don’t know what came from which class, which semester, which school . . . but I digress.

In the dream, I learned that letters, words, and sentences are two-part. The first part, what we say, the actual sound, sight (i.e. sign language), or stroke of a pen is arbitrary. It is a symbol. But it represents a meaning (that’s the second part). This meaning is subjective; it can mean something different to every person, which I suppose is why we have literary critics, film critics, book clubs, different Christian denominations, political parties, and even lowly English majors like myself. The meaning and connotation of these symbols can vary so much from person to person that the result is about a million and a half interpretations, some of them as far flung as Pluto, which is not even a valid planet anymore, poor thing . . um, I think I’ve “lost the plot.”  I apologize.

Yesterday, Grant and I watched the most darling YouTube video in which Elmo is interviewed. One of the questions put to him was, “What is the meaning of life for Elmo?” The last two words (or symbols) of that question, “for Elmo,” are key. Here’s why.  We often ask for definitions by saying something like: “What does soporific mean?” When we ask, “What is the meaning of life?” we’re not asking for the meaning of the word l-i-f-e, as we would ask for the meaning of soporific. The word life has a definition; but that’s not what we’re asking for. We’re asking for the meaning of the meaning.

This morning, I have a suggestion: don’t ask what the meaning of the meaning is for someone else, with the intention of adopting it as your own. Figure out the answer of this question as it pertains to you and only you.

What is the meaning of life for you?

“The meaning of life for Elmo is respecting your elders by saying Mr. and Ms. and saying thank you, and also giving a lots of loves and kisses. That’s the meaning of life for Elmo.” — Elmo

Just watch through about 5:50; you’ll laugh and cry. 

Though we don’t often feel like we have much time to do it, Grant and I love to sit down with each other and share what we learned from our classes each day. Being able to share this not only strengthens our relationship because we are giving and taking, but it also builds our knowledge. The things I learn from the day are more firmly set in my mind when I share them with another who asks questions, shares insights, and expounds upon my set of knowledge from his own.

Another trick we’ve picked up is sharing our papers with eachother and family/ friends on google documents. It becomes a collborative effort when you have 3 or 4 editors taking a quick glance at your work, and we end up with far more insights and perspectives.

I think professors need to focus more time on what I have heard coined social learning. In many classes we do a lot of reading on our own, a lot of memorization, a lot of assimilating the great thoughts of others. But next semester most of that will be forgotten; why? Not because it doesn’t apply to my life, but because it wasn’t applied to my life; I did not expound on great ideas and add my own interpretation.

I love it when professors put us into groups and have us share and expound on each other’s learning, but it happens far too infrequently . . . and look at all the tools we have to do so! The internet is all about connections and collaboration. We can learn so much more from each other if we would share. How do you share your learning?

Season of mists and yellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

with fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run. . .

For literature class yesterday, instead of furiously writing down three different critical interpretations of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, our professor simply handed us each a single poem and sent us off to find a quiet spot outside to read it on our own. I had read John Keat’s To Autumn before, but yesterday, sitting in the warm grass with a cool breeze blowing my hair, in the midst of students rushing to and from their classes, it was different.

The poem is about the ripeness of life; the season of autumn. The first stanza describes the fruitfulness of autumn, the second personifies autumn visually, the last rids itself of all senses but that of sound.  Somehow, the last three weeks of trying to keep up with life at top speed were forgotten and all that mattered for that short hour was the warm sun on my back, the changing reds and yellows, the soft grass, the light flickering down through the leaves. I had to slow down to enjoy it and I didn’t want to leave.

So please, instead of listening to my ramblings for a moment longer, print this poem (follow the link), take it outside, find a peaceful haven and enjoy.


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