Monthly Archives: October 2013

The value of blogging

Task 4 requires I setup a relevant blogroll; at present mine just contains links to my other blogs, the course blog and Liz’s – so that needs some work! I’m unsure at present of good relevant blogs, but will include them as and when I find them.

Also, I’m wondering as the purpose of a blogroll – it’s an old model (indeed, the latest version of wordpress doesn’t include the facility to have one, I had to install an additional plugin to display links) and it’s purpose seems to be a collection of signposts for other reader, not the author.  I now have all my bookmarks stored on xmarks and so don’t refer to the blog for them, but perhaps I’ve missed the point here…

Right then, so on to the value of blogging. I actually have 3 blogs for different purposes:

  1. This one – it’s sole purpose is for me to reflect on the MSc TEL. I can store any sort of content, access it anywhere and search it later.
  2. My work one – I’ve recently set this up as part of a Jisc project to help disseminate the ACCESS: Technology websites further, but also use it as a platform to share ideas and thoughts on assistive technologies.
  3. My family one – this serves as method to journal memories and share pictures / moments with Grandparents etc.

In terms of my professional development, whilst it’s hard to have a grasp on the benefits at this very early stage on the course, it’s incredibly useful to write down and reflect on what I’ve been doing to clear my busy head, help organise my thoughts and be able to look back on previous experiences. Writing regularly has additional benefits in practicing academic skills (although, this style is very informal by comparison); indeed there’s a programme setup just to encourage people to regularly empty their heads and just write.

I find that here I write fairly regularly (twice a week..ish), although I only post about once a month on my other blogs for some reason; perhaps I’m treating this more as a diary and not really fussed who, if anyone, is reading this (hello?). On that note, I also use an excellent journal writing system Oh Life for my personal diary. Once an evening it emails me and asks ‘how did you day go?’ and includes a random post from the past. All I have to do is reply. I’ve been doing that for 3 years now and have written regularly in that time.

Now, I don’t (yet) use all the functions that blogging has to offer, in fact I find tags, categories, authors and archives cumbersome and irritating – it all seems to be aimed at prolific multiple content writers for large corporations rather than little old me sat at my laptop. However I do understand the benefits of organising content (I use tags and categories on Evernote to organise all my lecture notes, coding snippits and tons of other content) and as this blog gets more and more full over the 3 years, I’m sure I will be grateful for theses organisational functions.

Reading other blogs has enormous benefits for learning new skills. We do live in a wonderful age, a quick Google on installing an Apache webserver or how to bake pretzels and someone, somewhere has documented their experiences in a blog for me to learn from. This individual user created (and curated) content is invaluable and, whilst there is a ton of junk out there too, Google and other feedback informed engines cleverly sort out the popular (and therefore assumed high-quality) content from the dross.

I have used blogging with my students, as a technology supported method to keep work diaries – usually writing content over email (email is a very accessible method as it’s ubiquitous – everything supports it). Unfortunately, the excellent email-to-blog service Posterous sold themselves to Twitter last year, leaving only WordPress as a viable option. However, in the most recent versions WordPress has really stepped up their game and produced a very usable tool including post-to-email functions in wordpress.com or with the Jetpack plugin on self-hosted sites such as this. The learners I’ve tried blogging with seem to not really be motivated by blogging as they themselves see little value in it and as such the post frequency tends to dwindle and blogs remain unused.

The documentation for Task 4 also touches on wikis. I have to say, I absolutely love the concept of wikis – everyone creating and moderating content to inform a resource is an excellent idea. In Dan Pink’s book Drive, he talks about how this is also intrinsically motivating when comparing the success of volunteer-run Wikipedia to the failure of the highly funded Encarta.

I recently watched a TEDx talk on wiki collaboration which included this wonderful slide demonstrating the increased trust in the wiki style of working.

I’m looking at starting an assistive technology wiki to support the developments of my accessible website projects by hosting documentation and including examples of best practice. I will make it completely in the hope that it attracts additional collaboraters to currate the content adding much more value to the resource than it being a one-man-band, which i suppose is the essential difference between how a blog and wiki are written, along with the formatting differences, providing that the wiki is opened for public use.

 

 

…and we’re back!

First post for little while. The Raspberry Pi hosting my webserver died and has taken up considerable amounts of time trying to repair it.

However, it’s officially dead, so I’m now hosting everything on a repurposed laptop with a broken screen running Ubuntu Server. Having the Pi taught me so much about Linux and coding, but I’m actually a little glad it’s now gone – everything is SO much faster!

Unfortunately I lost this entire blog and with it being part of an assignment, that was a bit of a concern! Luckily Google’s webcache came to the rescue and had recently saved a copy so I could retrieve the content from there. I now have automated backup procedures in place…

I’ve had my feedback from my first assignment; lots of helpful comments steering me in the direction of better critical writing and supporting my statements with evidence. I’ve had a bash at making it better, but I’ve been so tired this week (many late nights wrestling with the Pi hasn’t helped) that I’m struggling to work effectively. The requirements of the course are a little beyond me at present (as to be expected! I doing it to learn something after all), but it can be a little demotivating when things are hard to achieve.

For now, I’ve not resubmitted as I think that with a little more energy it could be better, so it’s saved as a draft in Google Drive in the meantime.

My firefox/googledocs/zotero/xmarks workflow seems to be fairly effective. Google docs does have its limitations (inability to highlight for one), but for a free method that plays nicely on Mac, it’s suitable for my current needs. I may have to reevaluate as the assignments get progressively harder over the duration of the course, it has a lot of plus points that would be hard to replicate elsewhere (revisions, backups, portability, cross-platform etc.)

Skills

First assignment (mini-project 9) now submitted for formative feedback. I’m a little nervous as I have no idea if I’m headed in the right direction as I found this fairly hard to write; 500 words is nothing! Do I spend half the assignment attempting to critically analyse the given report, or instead write about my own context using the report to support my discussions? I’m unsure at this stage.

But luckily, the next task on my list is a blog post. I can do those.

This one is all about my skills. I’m unsure of the purpose of task; perhaps a reflective evaluation of where I’m at? But anyway, here goes:

I can code. Yup, the geeky command-line stuff, <tags>, $variables and the if…else statements. I really enjoy it. It’s logical,  eloquent and functional. Apart from the hours spent looking for the single semi-colon that has broken the entire project…

I make web resources to support learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. This, amongst other things, makes me an Assistive Technologist. I really love this job. Here I get to work 1:1 with people finding innovative ways to use technology to enhance their lives. I also get to make resources that impact hundreds of users (my ACCESS: YouTube website has been a particular success – students love YouTube!). I currently involved with 2 national Jisc funded projects and spend my working day assessing students for their individual IT access needs, developing resources, delivering sessions and working with some brilliant people.

I can teach. I have a PGCE, 5 years experience at specialist college and opportunities to  train and deliver workshops to other practitioners who are also interested in using technologies to support disabilities.

As a student, I enjoy studying and writing, but I feel the level of academic skill required by the MSc is a little beyond me at present. However, I am confident I can rise to the challenge and be successful in this endeavor.

I’m also an excellent sound engineer. In a previous life, before embarking on a career in education, I ran my own recording studio and contracted out as a live sound engineer for various venues. I did this following my BSc Creative Music and Sound Technology which gave me my technical background which also briefly led to a short stint working for an acoustic consultancy where I developed a good underpinning of applied mathematics.

Beyond this, my skills lay in playing the drums and DIY.