Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I Wish I Could...

...manage to download photos in a timely enough fashion to actually post them on my blog. I'm ever so impressed with the knitters' blogs I read that include tons of photos. It seems like nearly every post sparkles with a visual record of works in progress, completed projects and even the occasional UFO (UnFinished Object). I, on the other hand, seem to take photos only to keep them consigned to the depths of memory-card oblivion. I have photos of my machine-knitted blankets, completed the day before Christmas Eve and delivered Christmas Day to two very impressed and appreciative cousins; I have photos of another cousin wearing the lovely rose-quartz-and-amethyst necklace I made for her; I even have photos of the second of my three Shetland Lace scarves for friends. And where are all these photos, pray tell? Still in the camera, of course. *sigh* I'll get them up here eventually.

In the meantime, I'll just continue to play with my wonderful Christmas gifts: four fibery books (Folk Shawls, Knitting in the Old Way, A Gathering of Lace, and Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls), plus two -- count 'em, TWO -- Golding spindles: the small Tsunami I'd asked for and a larger Celtic 2 that DH picked out just because he thought I'd like another spindle (and, of course, I did *g*). So far, I'm completely entranced with Folk Shawls. There are so many I'd like to try it's hard to know where to start. However, I think I may actually wind up using the information in Knitting in the Old Way first as I attempt to modify a baby pattern sweater for my cousins' new son-to-be, who is due to be arriving from Korea in March at about 6 months of age. And, of course, I'll be scouring the other two lace books for ideas for my Pi shawl, which I'll be starting in January as part of the EZasPi knitalong.

Oh, and I'll be heading to the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange tomorrow; they got all the yarn from a local mill that closed down and they're selling it for 75 cents to 3 dollars a pound. Not to mention that they're selling the contents of an entire bead shop that went out of business for a nickel a bead.

Off to bed now...big day of pawing through bins of stuff ahead of me (yippee!)....

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Well, the presents are finished...at least, the ones needed for tomorrow are. We're back from my in-laws' house and relaxing a little before bed. I'm well-fed and sleepy and looking forward to tucking the last little goodies into the stockings and hitting the hay.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This year's Christmas tree, decorated with hand-crocheted snowflakes courtesy of my mom.

Christmas Prep

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Well, my audio post, above, was all about how I was going to spend the day finishing Christmas gifts. I did manage to make the felted soaps (go to Mielke's Farm to see how to do it) and they turned out fairly well, although my artistic design definitely needs improvement. I finished off the sachets...well, all but the stuffing and tying of the last one, but that takes just a couple of minutes, no biggie. I even found the pretty box I'll use for presentation, complete with red and green confetti inside for a "professional" look. I didn't block the scarves, though. Again, not a big deal -- I still have time before they're needed, and they're fairly quick to steam block with the iron anyway. My bigger concern: I've yet to do today's blanket strip (I know, I know, then WHY pray tell am I sitting here blogging when I should be knitting? I blame it on Castpost -- they were down all day today and I couldn't post my audio when I originally wanted to, so I'm forced to take time now to do it). Once I'm done here, I'm going to haul my butt upstairs and crank that puppy out.

I'm also not, I repeat NOT going to eat the last two chocolates in the candy dish. I'm saving them for DH.

*still thinking about chocolates*

Hmmm...maybe he wouldn't miss just one...?

Monday, December 19, 2005

One Scarf of Three

This is my second foray into Shetland Lace knitting, and I must admit, I'm much more pleased with it than with my first attempt (the purple scarf pictured in an earlier blog posting). I used only one pattern here -- Horseshoe -- but I did vary the background from garter stitch to stockinette (3 pattern repeats of garter to every pattern repeat of stockinette). Interestingly enough, when the scarf was blocked it was difficult to tell the difference between the two background stitches (something for me to remember for next time as the garter stitch background goes much more quickly than the stockinette). I gave this mint-green scarf to Karen for Christmas; I've made another in rose for Sue and one in peach for Jen. I still need to block those two, then photograph them for "posterity" LOL, and finally box and wrap.

I really don't mean to procrastinate but I just can't seem to get myself in gear to make that last blanket I need for Christmas. It's for my cousins, who I love dearly, so there's no lack of desire to create them a lovely gift by hand. I don't know what it is, really, except that just about every other project I have going seems infinitely more enticing than making the last 4 blanket strips on the knitting machine. Much as I swore I wouldn't start anything new until that blanket was finished, I blew my resolve and began weaving on my little Weave It handheld loom. Who knew little 4-inch squares could be so enjoyable to make? I've been using two colors -- a dusty yellow single that seems to be homespun and a yellow-and-orange variegated novelty yarn that I'm pretty sure is synthetic, both obtained in the mixed bag of yarn and roving I bought off ebay a couple of months ago -- and once I have a pair of squares woven, I sew them together on three sides, line them with cotton batting, fill them with homemade scent (crushed cinnamon, cloves and vanilla), and tie together at the top to form beautiful little sachets. I decided that since I haven't had time to make my aunt and uncle anything very substantial for Christmas, the least I can do is give them a few sachets to go along with the storebought wine they're getting as a gift. At least, that's how I justify sitting and playing with my little loom instead of working on that friggin' blanket. And it wouldn't be fair to give one set of cousins a handmade blanket but give the other -- what? A bagful of sachets?

No, the blanket will get made. Tonight once DH gets home, we'll have a quick dinner, put the baby to bed, and then I'm heading over to that knitting machine and not coming up for air until I have at least two of the four strips I need finished.

HOW many days do I have until Christmas??

Friday, December 16, 2005

Trade Day

Way back maybe eight or nine years ago, I heard about a barter group. Basically, you signed up and stated what it was you had to offer -- services mostly, or goods that you produced yourself -- and what you were looking for. The service then matched people up. You didn't have to make a direct trade with someone else; your goods or services, when selected by someone in the group, would generate credits for you to use for bartering for someone else's goods or services. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I tried to sign up. It seems that there is very little need for "ESL teaching" or "proofreading/editing" services, at least within that group.

I was therefore delighted to find that one of the fiber listservs I belong to holds a weekly "trade day." Every Friday, any member is welcome to post a TGIF trade. The items offered for trade can be pretty much anything related to fiber -- I've seen people post yarn, fibers, spindles, books, magazines, you name it. And after offering my back issues of Rug Hooking magazine from 2002, I'm happy to report that I've just sealed the deal on my very first online fiber trade. My trading partner will get 5 magazines, and I will get 4 ounces of dyed mohair locks, 4 ounces of border leceister roving, 4 ounces of mixed wool roving, and a booklet called "Socks: The Next Step." All in all a fair trade, I think. I get rid of some magazines that were taking up space in my fiber drawer and I get some interesting new fibers to play with plus instructions on, among other things, how to make two socks on one circular needle; my partner, who has recently taken up rug hooking, probably feels about the same way on her end.

What a nice little no-cost Christmas present!

And speaking of Christmas presents...yesterday I finished four, yes four, gift bracelets. Three were photo bracelets, one for each of my daughter's grandmas and one for her godmother. They're cute little things, each one holding six tiny photos. I also made a bracelet out of small stone and glass beads for DH's friend Gina, who is up visiting from DC. Simple but pretty. Now I just have to finish knitting one more lace scarf, block that scarf plus one more (both gifts for friends of mine) and then tackle the elephant in the corner -- a large machine-knitted blanket for my cousins. The blanket should knit up relatively quickly since I'm doing it on the machine, but it's just a matter of getting started.

Oh, and then there's the little matter of decorating the house...and finishing wrapping presents...and HOW many days are there left till Christmas??

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Interesting Turn of Events

So, today I got an email from the director of my MS program. If you recall, this is the program where the people I've studied with for a year are moving on to elective credit courses while I'm still stuck completing core requirements. When I spoke with the director about my schedule for next semester, she actually did give me the option to take the elective course that I was interested in and take the core course later on as an independent study. I turned it down, however, because I just couldn't stand the thought of taking the elective course with the scheduled instructor, someone I had had quite enough of already.

As it turns out, a different instructor has been assigned to teach the elective course, and the director just asked me if I'd like to take it instead of the core course.

Hmmm...very interesting.

Of course, I wonder why the originally-scheduled instructor, the one I didn't want, suddenly won't be teaching the course anymore. It certainly had nothing to do with the kvetching I did to the powers that be; my opinion as a non-paying student (courtesy of tuition remission) is just about as low on the totem pole as opinions can get. Maybe he found another job? Maybe he couldn't stand another semester of teaching us? The questions abound.

But, more to the point, I now have to decide whether to take that elective next semester or not. Truth be told, it sounds far more interesting that the core course I'm supposed to take. And I'd be joining my first-semester classmates again -- always a plus. I guess it all comes down to how much of a pain in the a$$ I think taking the core course as an independent study will be. Knowing the director of the program, it might very well be more of a pain than just taking the regular course.

Decisions, decisions.

If any of you from class are still reading, whatddaya think I should do?
Brave New Blog (sort of)

Well, now that the testing is done, I guess this is my first "official" audio blog entry. Who knew it would be so easy??

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Testing, Part Deux

OK, folks, here goes another audio test, this time using Castpost (www.castpost.com)...

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005


OK, I have just TOTALLY impressed the $hit out of myself!! Do you SEE that? That post, the one right below this one? The one with the audio file embedded in it? I did that! Me!! Woo-hoo!! *doing the happy dance around the room*

Now, you must be asking yourselves, why the commotion? It's only an audio file, after all. And Blogger does have its own, very easy-to-use, internal audio-file recorder. Just sign up, phone in (yes, that's right, with a telephone, not a computer), talk and voila -- audio blog.

But, to do that, I'd have to call California. My mama didn't raise no fool...I'm not about to pay long distance charges just to audio blog.

Besides, I'm actually going to all the trouble of figuring this out so I can use it with my students in the spring semester, and I'm not about to ask them to pay long distance charges to call California just to audio blog.

So, I did a little research. And downloaded Audacity. And then downloaded Lame for Audacity. And then signed up for both OurMedia and Internet Archive. And then I recorded a little test audio in Audacity, converted it to MP3 format with Lame, posted it to OurMedia (which requires an account with Internet Archive), got my URL and HOLY CRAP -- I POSTED AN AUDIO FILE!!!!

I honestly don't think I can top this feat. Ever.

At least not online. *g*
This is a test...this is only a test....

OK, here goes...testing

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Necklace for Amy

Rudraksha...the seed of the rudraksha tree, held as sacred in yogic philosophy. Two of them came into my possession earlier this year, when a local tai chi school closed down and held a tag sale of all their stuff. Among other items, I bought a big mason jar full of beads -- small wooden ones, mostly, but tucked in there were two large rudrakshas, about the size of gumballs. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were meant for Amy, DH & my yoga teacher and friend.

After our little dinner party on Sunday, Amy hung around to help clean up, and I gave her the seeds. I told her I wanted to make a necklace for her, but I wasn't sure if that was appropriate given the special status the rudraksha holds for her. We wound up designing the necklace together that night, and the finished product is shown above. The rudraksha are the large round beads on the left and right of the pendant. The pendant itself is one I wore regularly several years ago, when I first came back to the States from Asia. I can't remember where I got it, but Amy took a liking to it when she saw it in my beading stash, and I thought it made the perfect centerpiece to her necklace. The small, brown wooden beads are the other ones I got from the tai chi school. All in all, a fitting piece for Amy, and designed especially so she can wear it during yoga class without it falling up over her head the way her longer necklaces do.

Hmmm, my first jewelry collaboration. Not half bad, if I do say so myself! :)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holiday Happening

We usually do our big party of the year -- our ONLY party of the year --on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. It started years ago with half a dozen friends in my postage-stamp-sized backyard in Queens and has morphed into a hundred-guest bacchanal of food, drink, games, food, waterfights, food, and did I mention food? Let's just say when you put an Italian family together with a Chinese family, nobody walks away hungry.

This winter, though, the solstice has been calling me. Something about the promise of spring right around the corner, shorter nights and longer days, got me in the mood for a party. And so it was that a dozen of our nearest (to our home) and dearest (to our hearts) gathered last night for a pre-Solstice dinner party.

The highlight of the menu: Bobby Flay's Rosemary Bricked Grilled Chicken. If you thought for a moment that half a foot of snow on the deck was about to stop my husband from firing up the grill, you were wrong. Playing back-up were garlic roasted potatoes, whole-wheat couscous with mushrooms, grilled portobello mushrooms with tomato and mozzarella, and a boatload of desserts brought by our dear guests. We stuffed ourselves silly, had a grand old time, and I do believe DH and I have added a second party to our list of annual at-home events.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

About Last Night....

So, yesterday was our final day of class. I have to admit, it was a kind of bittersweet session for me. I'm glad the semester is over and I can relax these last couple of weeks before returning to work and the general craziness of teaching (and now administration on top of that -- but that's the topic of another blog post to come). I'm sad that the semester is over because I know this is somewhat the end of an era. The classmates I started this program with a year ago have mostly been taking two classes for every one I've taken; next semester, I'll be taking a core course they've already done while they'll be taking an elective to round out their credits. Sadly, I won't be sharing a learning space with the people I've grown so fond of over the past four semesters.

It's the same type of feeling I used to get when summer camp ended.

*sigh* I'll miss you guys.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

To Blog or Not to Blog

Well, here we are...the end of the semester, the end of the year, and I'm faced with the question of whether to maintain my blog or let it fade away into the ether. Years ago, I kept an Open Diary, back in the days when blogging wasn't the thing it is today and when OD hadn't fragmented into paid and free sections. I forget how I found out about OD, but I've kept diaries on and off as long as I've been able to write, and I thought an online diary that other people could read and comment on would be a novel twist.

I kept my OD active for maybe a year, right up until the paid/free split. It was really my first experience with an online community. There was a circle of friends -- all people I'd never met face to face -- who read my diary and whose diaries I read. We commiserated about broken relationships, rejoiced in happy events, laughed at the silly things that happened to us. I was sad to see my friends move over to the paid site or drop their diaries; I let mine slide until it was deactivated and my entries were gone like so much smoke. At least a hard copy diary doesn't disappear at an autocommand.

Blogging has been an interesting return to semi-familiar territory for me. Honestly, the thing I've enjoyed most about this blogging experience is reading the blogs of my classmates. I always enjoy collaborating with good people, and my classmates are some of the best. Whether I was reading about educational theory or someone's latest exercise program, I liked hearing their voices and getting a peek at their thoughts and lives.

As for writing a blog...well, the thing that interested me most was posting photos. Trouble is, I have to actually take the photos, then download them, then post them (not always an easy task). Who has the time? Yes, I suppose I could make the time, but then I would have to bump my blog several spaces up in my priority list, and I'm not at all sure I want to do that. I'd much rather be playing with my daughter...or knitting...or spinning...or, for my online fix, participating in my fiber listservs. I'd even rather be trolling ebay for a cheap loom or interesting bit of fiber.

The fact of the matter is, I like the idea of blogging better than the reality, the same way I like the idea of keeping a diary better than the day-to-day writing. After all, how much is there really to say?

When I lived in Japan, everything I did took on a strange, new importance simply because I was doing it on the other side of the world. I could jot a postcard -- "Went to a lovely onsen today; sat in the outdoor hot bath for hours watching the snow fall on the thatched roof of the rotenburo" -- and it sounded exotic and wonderful even though I'd only gone to the equivalent of my city's Brooklyn and spent an afternoon hanging out in its equivalent of a public bathhouse. I kept a diary then, and also when I traveled. Every day there was something to write: a new place explored, a strange custom observed, funny and scary and sexy things happening at every turn. This, I realize, is because everything was strange and new to me. What would I write about here at home? "Went to Cold Spring for lunch and window-shopping. Sat by the Hudson and watched the boats float by. Counted nearly a hundred boxcars pass along the train line by the river." It's not bad, really, just not exotic. Not something I'd make a priority of putting down on paper the way I bothered to record "Staying in a youth hostel that was a former Chinese bomb shelter. Last night saw a rat in the hallway. Glad we have lead-lined doors."

Having said all that, I must admit that I like blogs as an ESL tool. I'm trying to think of how I can work them into my classes this spring. I think they would give my students some much-needed writing practice in a low pressure/low stress environment, not to mention that all my students are internet denizens of one stripe or another and would probably get a kick out of blogging in English.

What does the future hold for my blog? I'm not sure. Maybe I'll keep it up, at least for awhile. Maybe I'll morph it into something I can use in my teaching. Maybe I'll get my ass in gear and take some more photos of my knitting to post as well.

If nothing else, this experience has gotten me past my ignorance-driven dislike of blogs. Thanks, Joanne.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Personal space investment (or, How Much Is That Bloggie In The Window?)

Alan of CogDogBlog wrote about how he feels that he needs to have a personal investment in a blog in order to go through the trouble of actually blogging. In his experience, it seems that the only blog he feels invested enough in to maintain is CogDogBlog; the other, multi-user blogs he's been asked to participate in, seem to fall by the wayside for him, simply because they're not "his" space. For him, it seems to come down to an issue of the personal vs. the communal; in his own words, "It's not my house and my heart is not there."

I'm not sure I'd exactly call my blog my house, but blogging here these past few months has been interesting. I've gotten all sorts of snippets of ideas for how to work blogs into my course designs, which tend to be "computer enhanced" f2f classes -- a step below hybrid, but still using real and viable online ed techniques to make things happen. I envision a project-based class keeping a blog about the project; a class full of students blogging about the book we're reading; even students keeping freeform, no-defined-topic blogs, writing simply to let the words flow in a foreign language, to get comfortable expressing themselves without worrying about how many red pen marks they'll rack up on the page.

And yet...what kind of personal investment would those students have in their blogs? If blogging is the new-millenium version of a diary, what personal investment would anyone have in blogging as an assignment? If the purpose of keeping a diary is to pour oneself onto the page, doesn't the pourer have to have the desire to pour? Can that desire be mandated by an outside force, in this case the instructor? Or does the mandate itself result in a sort of artificial blog, with each entry becoming a tick mark in a box and nothing more?

Years ago I taught a remedial writing class at our local community college. Many of my students did very little writing in their daily lives, so in an attempt to get them used to writing regularly but in a low-pressure situation, I required that they keep an online journal at OpenDiary. There were no assigned topics, they could write about anything, and I even told them that if they wanted to keep their entries private, I wouldn't read them. The only requirement was that they make a minimum of two entries per week, even if each entry was just one sentence long. To my utter amazement, there were students -- kids who came to class and did their homework -- who completely blew off the journal. They knew full well that it counted for 10% of their final grade; they also knew full well that simply racking up the requisite number of posts would get them an A in that portion of the grade assessment. And still there were some who didn't do it. For one or two, it even made the difference between getting a C and getting a D as a final grade.

No investment.

I think that's my biggest challenge as a course designer: how can I get my students invested -- in the class, in the module, in the assignment?

I know what all the theorists say: make it personal, make it relevant, make it applicable. And to a certain degree I think that's true. But, a blog is about as personal as it gets; our assigned topics, at least in this class, are certainly relevant. And yet, how many of us have done more than tick off boxes -- one assignment down, four to go...two down, three left. My own internal imperative has led me to blog about knitting, spinning...the mandated entries stand out loud and clear, and while they're all written by me, they're not necessarily my "house," and so my investment in them is small. In the end, I'm not sure what I've gained by blogging, except for a level of familiarity with an unfamiliar technology.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Little Late, But....

Just when I thought it was safe to focus solely on my final project, I found there's another blogging assignment due. I'm a day late (nine hours to be exact), but I hope it's better than never.

So, without further ado I'll be responding to a fellow blogger's post on online course development and design. The quote I'm responding to is taken from AP's blog and goes like this:

Strength in numbers? Blaise Pascal said that " We must learn our limits. We are all something, but none of us are everything". If I know something, and you know something else... will we know more when we work together?

It's the final question -- If I know something, and you know something else... will we know more when we work together? -- that I'm most interested in, both from an instructional design perspective and an educational philosophy perspective.

I deal with the world of adult ed -- not "adult ed" in the sense of basketweaving and underwater ballet, the classes people take when they finally have time (often after retirement) to learn all the fun stuff they missed while studying to get a degree or a certification, or while raising a family and working to earn a living -- but "education for adults" as distinguished from "K-12 ed ." K-12 education seems to focus to a greater or lesser extent on transmission of facts: What was the date of the Battle of Waterloo? Who was the first President of the United States? While in some areas there does seem to be a noble move towards educating children in thought processes -- critical thinking skills, argumentation, problem solving and so forth -- for the most part kids are still expected to show up at school on test day with their number 2 pencils well sharpened and fill in all the bubbles alone, without asking the kid in the next aisle what the square root of 25 is or who invented the internal combustion engine.

I think this emphasis on retaining knowledge in one's own head comes from our ancient roots in pre-written culture. Long before humanity developed written languages, we maintained oral traditions. Even well into the days when writing was a well-established "technology," people who memorized shockingly long tracts -- think the entire Bible, for starters -- were not all that uncommon. Yet in the relatively recent past, there has been a general shift away from straightforward memorization. I'm reminded of a scene in the film Quiz Show where the middle-class Federal agent from Brooklyn goes to dinner with the clearly highly-cultured, very well-educated family of one of the quiz show contestants. During dinner, the family plays what is obviously a very long-standing game: they take turns reciting lengthy passages from Shakespeare, correcting one another when a word is gotten wrong. The Brooklynite is suitably impressed; more than impressed, he's just about floored at the effortless way his hosts toss around quotes like colorful M&Ms.

Yet, what's so impressive about memorization? I still have rattling around in my brain the detrius of a childhood spent memorizing much poetry, partly for school recitations, partly because I liked to read and memorization came easily to me then. I can still toss off most of The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Wreck of the Hesperus, We Are Seven...the list goes on. So, what does that prove? The channels carved in the brain during childhood run deep? Maybe...after all, I can still dutifully recite the address and telephone number of the apartment I lived in until I was ten years old without batting an eyelash, while I still occasionally have to pause and think about what my current area code is. My point is, what does all that memorization get me? A few admiring glances at a party, I suppose, if I ever decide to pull out all the stops and wow the crowd with an impromptu recitation. But am I really using my brainpower wisely by memorizing?

Albert Einstein, it's said, didn't know his own telephone number. When asked why he never bothered to memorize it, he supposedly replied that there was no reason to when he could just look it up. The implication, I suppose, is that he used his brain to solve difficult, as-yet-unsolved problems and not as a repository for information that could be found easily elsewhere.

Besides, once we leave school, how often are we really asked to solve problems in isolation, without referring either to other people or outside resources? We talk our personal problems out with friends and family; we attack work issues with colleagues; we confer with teachers, advisors and counsellors when our kids get off track. We all seem to assume that we do know more together than separately, at least if our actions are anything to judge by; in the real world, isn't every test open-book?

And yet, there's the small, non-pc part of me that bristles every time I have to help the cashier at the supermarket make change when the all-knowing cash register flakes out and calmly asserts that I should receive nine-million nine-hundred and ninety-nine thousand dollars' change on a two-dollar purchase. Shouldn't a person who handles money eight hours a day five days a week know that if I hand over a penny along with my ten dollar bill on a tab ending with 56 cents that somewhere in there I should be getting back a quarter and two dimes (or some equivalent coinage) with my change?

I know that there's an up-and-coming learning theory (the name of which escapes me now...so much for memory!) that claims that knowledge is out there to be found, so it's the techniques of finding that should be taught, not the knowledge itself. There's a part of me that agrees wholeheartedly; after all, if my finding techniques were a bit more up to snuff, I would have been able to find the name of the learning theory I'm thinking of instead of hoping that someone reading this blog will pipe in with a comment supplying the missing information. Still, if I wanted to stretch myself, I'm sure I could find the information: phone a friend, email a professor, do a more thorough internet search.

But, the Luddite in me points out, what happens if all this technology goes to hell in a handbasket one day? Like the cashier who can't make change without an electronic assistant, would I be stuck with nothing to fall back on if I couldn't rely on my supports, whoever or whatever they may be, to help fill in the gaps where my memory has slacked off? Should we all carry around our backup systems in our brains, hardwired into our memory in case all the calculators, all the computers, all the internet connections and telephone lines and library books one day disappear? If we really do know more together than we do separately, what happens when we can't work together any more?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Well, after many attempts at posting a photo and several less-than-fruitful emails to the folks at Blogger, it seems that I can once again upload pics. The one to the left is a close-up of the scarf I entered in the EZasPi Shetland Lace Workshop contest. From the bottom, the patterns are Horseshoe and reverse New Shell, alternating in repeats of 3. The center back of the scarf is done in Candelight, which is an absolutely stunning pattern with just a few too many lines for me to memorize as easily as Horseshoe and New Shell. The two ends of the scarf were supposed to be mirror images of one another, but reversing the Horseshoe pattern didn't quite turn out the way I expected and I got more of a similar-but-different pattern on the scarf's other end. Still, I like the way it turned out, so I kept it. I call this my "Happy Accident" scarf.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Assignment: Online Collaboration

So here I am once again completing a blogging assignment for my hypermedia course. The topic: "As we move from group work to independent work, please create a blog post showing some thoughtful reflection on any topic related to 'online collaboration.'"

I've given collaboration in general a lot of thought, in large part because the courses I teach in English as a Second Language often rely heavily on collaboration. Personally, I feel that the proponents of collaboration often overlook one key problem with collaboration: it's so very easy for participants to not participate very much. Even when the instructor puts a mechanism in place to supposedly ensure that everyone does a fair share of the work, there's always the tendency for the participants themselves to play towards their strengths and not their weaknesses; everyone gets better at what they're already good at but no one really gains the new skills they need.

I see this in the groups I participate in. I'm a teacher, so I'm very comfortable with all the "teacher stuff" -- writing lesson plans, creating activities, stating objectives. I am not comfortable with exploring new technologies or creating *shudder* flow charts. Therefore, when I work in groups, I leave the flowcharting to others, even though I'm probably the one who should be completing every single flowchart myself just to get the practice I so desperately need.

In our hypermedia course, we've just completed a group project and have now been sent off to complete an individual project. On the one hand, I'm glad to be doing an individual project because I'll now be forced to face my demons and do the things I've been able to avoid doing as a member of a group. On the other hand, I harbor no illusions that I'll be able to complete this project alone without soliciting help from my now former group members.

In the classes I teach, I've moved towards assigning individual projects with group support as a way of dealing with these issues. For example, students in my writing class have to complete a paper and presentation for their final project. Everyone has to choose their own topic, write their own paper and make their own presentation. However, from the very beginning of the process they're assigned to a group. The group is there for support purposes; at various points in the process, group members review each other's topics, make suggestions, provide feedback and serve as a mock audience for presentation practice. The group members are there for one another as a resource; even though each student produces his or her own separate project, they have a "go-to" group that can help them out when they need a hand. It gives them independence, promotes collaborative learning, but also helps ensure that everyone does every part of their own project themselves, even those parts they would rather avoid.

I'm such a proponent of this independent-production-with-group-support method that even when we were de-grouped after our mid-term project, I asked my group members if we could stay in touch and support one another through the independent project process. My group members agreed, and I've already emailed them my first rough ideas for my final project. The feedback I received helped me revise my work before submitting it to my professor for final approval. I wrote not one but five flowcharts all by myself -- something I never would have done had I been participating in a group project -- but I checked them all with my group members, who are all much more skilled at flowcharting than I will ever be. As I see it, this allows me to have the best of both worlds -- I'm forced to do all the parts of a project, even those I'd otherwise avoid, but I have the support of a group to help me with the areas I'm weak in. It's an option I think should be explored further by advocates of collaborative learning.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Shetland Lace Workshop Contest

Well, I finally got around to blocking my entry for the Shetland Lace Workshop Content at EZasPi. It's my first foray into knitted lace, and I must say I'm quite proud of myself. I made it with my friend Caroline in mind; her favorite color is purple, so this will make a nice Christmas gift for her. I doubt it's good enough to win anything in the contest, but there's no harm trying...and the prizes are so good I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I qualify for something, even if it's only the booby prize! LOL

I've been trying to upload a photo but I keep getting an error message. *grrrrr* Will try again later....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sick, sick, sick

So, DH has done it to me once again. I have a sore throat, courtesy of my Dear Husband, who picked it up last weekend along with a nasty head cold. I can just feel the beginnings of stuffiness in my ears; my throat is raw and aching; and worst of all, I can't even soothe myself with glass after glass of OJ because of this damn South Beach diet.

At least my first-ever handknitted sock (made on size 1 Addi turbos with Knitpicks Simple Stripes in shades of green, orange and brown) is coming along nicely; about another inch and I'll be ready to begin turning the heel. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Somewhere back in -- oh, I don't know, junior high school, maybe -- I was told that saying "rabbits" on the first day of the month brought good luck. It was one of those kid things you did, like not stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk or holding your breath whenever a character on TV was trapped underwater to see if you'd survive in the same situation.

Well, today is the first, and here I am many long years from junior high school, still faithfully saying "rabbits" to bring good luck. It's a small bit of weirdness, one that I can indulge in quite unobtrusively, muttering a barely audible "rabbits" as I blow-dry my hair or -- if I've forgotten until later in the day -- as I sprint from the car to any of a number of errand-targets. DD isn't talking yet, but when she does, I wonder if I'll teach her to say "rabbits" along with me on the first of the month. It's a far better habit for me to teach her than some of my others (such as my habit of finishing off a box of cookies as soon as possible under the absolutely insane theory that if the cookies are no longer around I won't be tempted to eat them).

And speaking of cookies, my Haunted Halloween House was a rip-roaring success! (How do you like that for a segue?) Christened "The Nelsonville Horror" (Nelsonville being the town where the pumpkin-carving party was held), that little house drew compliments from everyone at the shindig. Of course, no one wanted to actually eat it, and despite the best efforts of the hostess and me (both of us breaking off bits of rooftop to get things started), I don't believe much more than a small slab of gingerbread was gone by the time we left. I was also shocked to find some of last-year's partygoers asking why I hadn't brought my prior contribution -- candy sushi -- yet again.

And after my candy binge on Saturday, I finally decided to take my doctor seriously and start the South Beach Diet. Yes, I still have baby weight to lose, and I wasn't exactly svelte even before I got pregnant. But I also have cholesterol to cut. Today is day 1.5 of Phase 1, which lasts 2 weeks, and so far I've been very good about resisting the orange juice in the fridge (no fruit AT ALL the first two weeks, and lucky me, I've managed to pick up a sore throat so all I want is OJ). Now I'm off to do some *shudder* exercise. What makes it tolerable is I've bought a recumbent exercise bike and set it up in front of the DVD player. Now I can exercise, watch a movie AND knit, all at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking...!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Haunted House

About 10 years or so ago, when I came back to the States after having spent several years abroad, I saw the movie "The Nightmare Before Christmas." At the time I thought it totally bizarre, and not in the hey-I-wish-I'd-thought-of-that way...more like the I-hope-whoever-came-up-with-this-is-being-kept-far-away-from-children-and-small-animals way. I've since reconsidered, and I truly appreciate the story of poor Jack Skellington whose fondest wish is to bring joy to children everywhere via some very ghoulish Christmas gifts.

I'm reminded of all this because tomorrow I face a somewhat daunting task: making a Halloween gingerbread house, replete with candy ghosts, jelly bats, and oodles of black icing.

Whoever thought of taking the traditional gingerbread house of Christmas and turning it into an edible bit of Halloween decor? That person must certainly have taken inspiration from Jack Skellington's crew.

Fortunately for me, the gingerbread comes pre-baked, meaning all I have to do is assemble the house and decorate it. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else at the pumpkin-carving party I'll be attending, house in hand), decorating is my weak suit.

Were this a knitted house of wool things might be different. As it is, I have no confidence in my ability to pipe icing windows and line up candy roofing tiles. The kit gives me three "spook-tacular" designs to choose from, and I'm certain I can reproduce none of them. My saving grace is that haunted houses are by design supposed to be crooked, awkward-looking structures; tilting windows and leaning fenceposts can be passed off as deliberate artistic interpretation.

I suppose that if our biggest problem of tomorrow is an imperfect gingerbread house we can call the party a success; will be sure to report on the outcome of mixing beer with carving knives in a later post.
Breakfast, anyone?

Bacon and eggs as you've never seen them before.
If you thought Chicken Viking Hat was weird....

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, along come penguin sweaters.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Spinning and Felting and Rhinebeck, oh my!

So, I finally made it to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival, and boy did I think I'd died and gone to fiber heaven! The fairgrounds were packed with fiber folk; as an added bonus, a gem and mineral fair was also being held, but the beader in me lost out to the knitter and I spent all my time getting lost among the fleece.

My first stop -- an alpaca booth with gorgeous shawls, ponchos and other items all made of soft, soft alpaca -- netted me a bag of treasures and rock-bottom prices: five old Spin-Offs at -- get this -- a quarter apiece; the Lee Raven Handspinning book; the Felted Knits book; and my best bang for the buck: a brand-new umbrella swift for all of five bucks! I passed on the Ashford hand cards and now regret it; at $30 they weren't the absolute steal that the swift was, but they were full-sized cards, brand-new and definitely cheaper than any other place I've seen them. Oh, well.

I also took home a pound of undyed superwash merino; at $15 for the pound I think I did pretty well. My second Rhinebeck regret is not having bought more of it when I had the chance; I went back later in the day and it was sold out. At least I got a business card and can order more by mail if I want.

But the BIG excitement was...(drumroll, please!) I bought a spinning wheel! That's right, I went for it. I pigenholed every spinner I saw and asked what wheels they used, why they liked (or disliked) them, what they would recommend, etc. I then found a wonderful booth where I could test out a variety of wheels...Louet, Majacraft, and Ashford, among others. I finally decided on a Louet S17 with three bobbins, already assembled but unfinished, plus an unfinished Ashford spinning chair. Susan, the owner, was wonderful about helping me decide and letting me test everything for as long as I wanted. I resisted the temptation to add a loom to my purchases at her booth, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep from adding weaving to my growing list of fiber addictions.

So far I've been very patient about not spinning too much on my Louet before it's finished. DH has put two coats of oil on it so far (after I spun about half a bobbin of beautiful orange Corriedale top...I just couldn't resist giving my wheel a whirl!), and one more coat should be enough to finish it off nicely. My mind is already racing towards what I'll make with my handspun....

And speaking of making stuff with my very own handspun, I took the plunge and made a felted handbag! I had about 50 yards of a super-bulky, olive green and yellow two-ply Corriedale that I wasn't sure what to do with. Paging through Felted Knits yesterday, I saw that the Small Felted Bag would take just about that much yarn, so I pulled out my number 13s and got to work. It took maybe an hour to knit up the entire purse -- a very basic 30-stitch tube sewn together along the cast-on edge. I even braided the remaining yarn and attached it as the purse's handle (MUCH easier than knitting I-cord and it felts to nearly the same look). Today I tossed it into the wash with a few pairs of jeans and three washes later I do believe it's well and truly felted.

Well, I HOPE it's well and truly felted. After wash #2 it was about 2/3 of the way there, so I put it back for one more cycle; let's hope that when it comes out it's a nicely felted shoulder bag and not an unrecognizable blob of wool! If this all works out, I might even add a nice little beaded fringe along the bottom....

Photos of all to follow!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Chicken Viking Hat

One must see to believe....

All it takes is one look in my closet to know where I stand.

There they are, all stacked neatly in a cabinet: the brown Riojas, the classic Arizonas, the wine-red Gizehs that took me all around Sweden, the black Ashbys that I wore every day throughout my pregnancy. Yes, I'm a Birkenstocks gal, dyed-in-the-wool. Even Dear Hubby's Wall Street wingtips have been discarded, replaced long ago, not with Birkis -- he, after all, is still in the corporate world -- but with shoes far less Gordon Gekko, far more Jim Anderson in style. Much to DH's feigned chagrin, my commitment to granola does not stop at the breakfast table.

Which is why it wasn't at all surprising to find myself mentally siding with the supporters of copyleft even before I finished reading this week's blog assignment article. The question of copyleft vs. open/open is a no-brainer to me: if something is created with the intention of being made available free of charge, it's inappropriate -- not to mention downright nervy -- to develop a variant of the original and start charging money for it. It puts me in mind of the people who get free stuff from freecycle and then turn around and sell it on ebay. Poor form, to say the least.

Although, I must admit, as I played Devil's Advocate with myself I couldn't help but compare the copyleft vs. open/open debate to the debate that's going on in the pharmaceutical industry these days. The essential question there is should big pharmaceutical companies be allowed to retain copyrights or patents on the medicines they develop. Retaining these rights means the companies can essentially charge whatever they want for their products...even if that means poor people -- even whole nations of them -- suffer and die for lack of money to purchase lifesaving drugs. The drug companies, of course, argue that without the ability to charge outrageous prices for their drugs, there would be no incentive for them to invest in R&D, and less research means fewer cures overall; opponents argue that it's unethical (to say the least) to develop cures that only the world's richest can afford, and that there must be some mechanism for getting the same medicines to the poor without waiting for the drug companies' licenses to expire.

However, there's a key difference between the two debates. Drug research requires funding -- huge amounts of cash to stock the labs and pay the scientists and run the triple-blind studies.... The days of a lone man scraping mold out of a spoiled petri dish and developing a miracle cure are gone. But coding, good coding...that can and is being done every day by everyone from professionals right on down to intrepid high-schoolers hanging out in their parents' basements. The number and virulence of computer worms and viruses -- many of which were developed by students -- seem to indicate that powerful programs can be developed without any corporate revenue supporting them.

The argument that open/open licensing is necessary in order to get vendors to invest in open-source educational software is a moot one. In reality, it doesn't matter much whether or not vendors get involved simply because their greatest resource -- ready access to cash -- is one that the open-source world can get by without. Would a steady influx of cash be nice? Probably. Is it worth sacrificing the "open" nature of open source? Probably not.

"For copyleft advocates, the issue boils down to trust." In a world where the President of the United States is unrepentant about deceiving the public in order to wage a personal war...where corporate malfeasance and the fleecing of the "little guy" have become the business of the day...where public confidence in officials of all stripes is at a record low, is it any wonder that trust is in short supply? The online community sans the vendor industry is talented enough that I for one would be willing to lose the possibility of corporate sponsorship in exchange for guaranteed free access to derivative programs. Let Corporate America invest their money in creating their own paid-licensing programs from scratch instead of building on the backs of free programs and then expecting to turn a profit.

Quintessential capitalist Ronald Reagan is famously quoted as saying "Trust but verify." How deliciously ironic that the arguably anti-capitalist copyleft advocates are following the late president's advice. What better verification can there be for maintaining the accessibility of free programs than copyleft? And when in history have we more surely needed that kind of verification than now?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I started writing a simple comment to a great blog entry:

Between the Pipes

I then realized that my comment was so long (long-winded??) that I should probably just post it on my own blog. Without further ado, here goes:

I completely agree that the instructor has always been the stitching that holds the small pieces of every course together, both in terms of content and delivery. As you noted in your post, in the f2f classroom, the instructor joins multiple media herself by switching from handouts to overhead slides to the textbook. This "multimedia" has been around for so long that we hardly consider it media at all any more; as such, it has -- perhaps for the best -- become transparent, leaving the instructor and the students to focus on the important part of the lesson, namely the content.

Online education, being such a relatively new field dealing with such relatively new media, has brought the media of instruction back to its opaque state. With online multimedia staring us so squarely in the face, it's easy for both instructors and students to get lost in the "how" at the expense of the "why." Of course, the "why" must always win out (although in reality it often doesn't). However, I don't think it's possible to leave the "how" completely up to the individual students in the online environment any more than an instructor would leave the "how" up to the students in the f2f classroom.

I think online media may offer a wider array of options than are available in the f2f classroom. After all, a f2f classroom could get pretty chaotic if an instructor told the class to read an assignment either from the textbook, from a photocopy she was passing around or from a slide she was showing. Out of necessity, the f2f instructor needs to choose one medium for that reading and ask everyone to use it, even though some students might prefer one form over the other if given the choice. No such confusion need occur in the online classroom. One group of students could choose to complete a project by communicating through wikis; another group could choose to use a blog; still another could choose to use a forum. However, the instructor still needs to give direction, especially when dealing with students who are less familiar with what technology is out there. The online instructor who tells a group to "complete this project" without providing any suggestions for which media to use may find that the group, when faced with boundless -- perhaps overwhelming -- options, chooses nothing at all. I think this will certainly become less and less of an issue as online media become more and more transparent; this will happen naturally over time as generations of children raised with this technology come of age. Just as the written word was once a revolutionary form of media that completely transformed the nature of knowledge transfer but has now become such a standard that we don't even give its use a second thought, today's "revolutionary" online multimedia will one day be second nature to everyone. In the meantime, though, too many options and too little direction may cause more problems than not (see here for an interesting example).

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The ring of truth to it....

So, I was reading through a recommended article on what can happen in an online course when too many variables and too much flexibility is introduced, and I was particularly struck by this short paragraph:

We need to find ways of rationalising the assessments, and minimising duplication. At present, it’s very bitsy, with lots of modules, and lots of assessment tasks. I think what we’ll end up with are a few carefully designed projects that cover all areas.

A few carefully designed projects that cover all areas....

Right now, I'm taking an online course...well, two to be exact, the one that requires this blog and another one. It's the other one that's really got my knickers in a twist, so to speak. And I think the problem is that it's very bitsy - full of minute assessment tasks that don't hang together as a whole. I feel like I'm doing busywork instead of developing some integrated understanding of the subject matter and how it applies to my real-world situation. How I wish we had a few carefully designed projects in that course!

But try telling the professor that....

Friday, September 30, 2005

More thoughts on Small Pieces, Loosely Joined

So, I spoke a lot about my personal and professional need to have a "joiner" for all the small pieces used in an online course. Now I've gotten to thinking about the pieces themselves. As a designer and instructor, what small pieces would I need to incorporate in any of my classes?

First, then, I need to answer the question of which class.

Interestingly, my boss was just called into a meeting about a potential client - a group of Chinese students who want online ESL classes. None of us knows any more than that, but I'm going to make a couple of assumptions. The students are definitely adults (that's all we teach), so they probably want ESL either for international business purposes or for overseas academic prep (say, attending grad school in the U.S.) purposes. Let's assume, then, that the desire is for academic prep: "We want our students to be able to arrive at their grad schools and be ready to take classes in their major subjects without having to "waste time" with ESL." (This "ESL as a waste of time" philosophy is quite common in our international students...until they realize that all the TOEFL prep they took back in their countries didn't at all prepare them for the reality of sitting in an American classroom with American students and American professors and functioning completely in English). Let's also assume that we would do what we normally do in the face-to-face setting and divide the skills into a reading/writing course and a listening/speaking course.

I'm mainly a reading/writing instructor. For a reading/writing course, the small pieces I would want are:

- a blog interface for students to keep an informal journal (Purpose: get them to write in English, with volume as the goal. Some of these students don't write anything in English except the assignments their teachers give them, and there's something to be said for "use it or lose it." The blog would be a space for them to write without worrying about being graded - kind of a space for writing without fear or intimidation, just to get comfortable with the habit of putting thoughts down on paper in English.)
- email (Purpose: communication. This could include teacher-student, student-teacher, student-student, admin-teacher-student, etc. This would allow private communication - as opposed to notices posted on forums or public message boards - as well as last-minute notifications...anything that needed to be sent and viewed asap. Students would be required to check their email accounts daily for messages. This would also allow students to submit their assignments to me in the absence of a Bb-style "digital drop box.")
- a space to host PowerPoint "lecture" materials (Purpose: give them writing/discourse guidelines, outlines, rubrics...all the stuff we would normally go over in class during f2f "lecture" sessions. I currently use these PowerPoint lectures as an adjunct to my f2f ESL writing classes, and I've gotten a very positive response from my students. Many of them feel it gives them something to hold onto - guidelines they can print out and refer back to when they're unsure of how to organize their writing or find the "real" meaning of what an English-speaking writer is saying in an essay.)
- a space to host links to readings and to post assignments, due dates, syllabus, etc. (Purpose: basic information exchange, basically one-way from teacher to student. I suppose all this could be transferred via email as well, so a separate interface wouldn't be necessary.)
- a threaded discussion space (Purpose: give them a space within which to collaborate on reading analysis/writing process assignments.)
- some sort of online, auto-grading quiz program (Purpose: grammar & editing review. Many of my students can take fill-in-the-blanks tests wonderfully, but ask them to apply the grammar rules they've memorized in order to correct simple sentence errors and they freeze. I want the students to polish their editing skills without getting caught in the "grammar bog" that some ESL writing classes can become. Auto-grading editing quizzes would provide a realistic scenario - here's some text with grammar errors, now edit it - for students to apply their theoretical knowledge to. Results would come back with feedback (and explanations for why a certain correction was necessary if a student got it wrong) and suggestions for independent study (see this book, this chapter) if a student found their skills lacking. Again, I do something similar through Bb with my f2f writing classes. Even though I see the quiz results and assign nominal grades, they're mostly for the students to see where their personal weaknesses are so they can study up.)
- and MAYBE some sort of real-time communication, either as text chat, VOIP or video conferencing (HERE's where I'm kind of unsure. Real-time communication with ESL students can be painful face-to-face. There are issues of comfort level, pronunciation, listening comp and much more. I can see VOIP being an absolute disaster if the students can't understand each other or me - and vice versa - without visual cues. However, video conferencing takes lots of bandwidth and might not be a realistic alternative at this stage. And I can see text chat collapsing under the weight of time and effort it would take for Chinese speakers to type out everything they wanted to say in real time in English. I would want a real-time communication option because the concepts I try to get across in a reading/writing class are really challenging ones. I'm not asking my students to memorize a list of vocabulary words or translate sentences...I'm asking them to re-order the way they think about the world. It's something most of them have never even considered in their own language, much less in a foreign one. So, I think being able to talk these concepts over and analyze how they appear in different texts is crucial, and I think real-time communication is vital for some students to really "get it." I just don't know how well it would work out with a learner group like this.)

So, there we have it...my list of small pieces. Of course, I feel like all these choices are based on the system I know and currently use, which is an LMS. I'd love to hear anyone who has a "well, have you considered this...?" option to give me. What's out there that I haven't even considered using but might add a valuable dimension to what I'm trying to accomplish? Comments, please!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Time Lag

Strange...I decided to check my Bloglines feeds after making the previous post to see if my Splindarella feed showed as updated. It didn't. I waited. No change.

I seem to recall reading that Bloglines checks for updates every 30 seconds. Could I be mistaken? Or could there be some other reason why my blog has been updated but my RSS aggregator doesn't seem to realize it?
Blogging Assignment 2: Metacognitive Exercise

I feel as though I’ve stepped through Alice’s looking glass this semester. Up till now, my MS classes in the VC have – comfortingly, if not always conveniently – been conducted within the restrictive confines of our own little LMS. I now find myself branching out – blogging here, forum-ing there, trying desperately to keep track of all the “small pieces” that my once-monolithic learning system suddenly seems to have fragmented into.

If, as Clark Aldrich claims, the “loose join” to all those small pieces is Humanity 3.0, I think I must be stuck somewhere back in evolution’s v1.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Mr. Aldrich’s attempt to humanize the fragmented, faceless world of small pieces loosely joined. I appreciate the commentators who echo the sentiment that it’s the people, not the technology, doing the joining. I just don’t buy it, at least not for me.

Maybe I’m a poor organizer at heart. Maybe I need better time-management skills. Maybe my diet is deficient in ginkgo biloba, or maybe I just need to tie more strings around my fingers. Maybe I need a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. All I know is that the one comment that made me heave a sigh of relief came from Harold Jarche, who noted that some small pieces (such as Moodle) are moving towards integration with other small pieces. These “integrated” small-piece systems would preserve the pick-and-choose nature of the loose join while (as I envision it) providing the common connection that we v1 Humans need.

Perhaps v3 Humans can be their own loose joins. Perhaps they can manage their time, their desktops, their resumes well enough to juggle all the connections effortlessly. My admiration for those skillful souls is boundless. I, however, need some help. I need a central source to go to in order to make my loose joins retain some sort of connection; without it, I feel constantly adrift, my small pieces floating ever farther apart in the internet universe.

As an online instructor, I would never be so bold as to assume my students could independently maintain the loose joins of many small pieces since I don’t feel confident doing it myself. I would want some centralized “organizer” to be available (even if students chose not to use it in favor of developing their own organizational and tracking systems) to bring together the disparate pick-and-choose elements. Maybe it would resemble a beefed-up RSS aggregator – capable of linking all the small pieces together, showing when a piece had been updated or changed, summarizing key content from each piece and providing a checklist of what-to-do-when in each piece. Even a simpler aggregator, capable of being a central “holding station” for all the small pieces even if it couldn’t draw content from them to form summaries and checklists, would be preferable to leaving students to fend completely for themselves.

Small pieces loosely joined may be the future – or, at least, one future – of online education. Making sure users have the ability (either self-generated or derived from external sources) to organize, access and keep track of those small pieces is the key to success in that future. Seeing to that might ensure that there will be room in the loosely-joined online learning environment for all versions of Humanity.

Friday, September 23, 2005

How could I not link to a blog titled Yarn Harlot? The fact that it's wry and witty and full of photos of to-die-for hand knits is simply icing on the cake. Check it out:

Yarn Harlot

Heather & Max's Dolls

I can't tell you how delighted I am with how these turned out. When my daughter was just shy of 2 months old, she received a doll like the one on the left as a gift. It had black hair and brown eyes, just like my little girl, and it was the perfect size and shape for her small arms to hug. I immediately decided that I needed to make a pair of the dolls to send one of my best friends, who had just given birth to twins.

The doll was easy enough to copy. Not much more than a simple knitted tube, I was surprised that when I added details - face, hair, bow - it came together in such an adorable way. I sent off Heather and Max's dolls when they were about 6 weeks old (they live with their parents in Sweden) and the babies have snuggled up with them ever since.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Splindarella's Scarf

Not too shabby, eh? Although I've recently become obsessed with knitting, my first love is crocheting. As soon as I saw the pattern for this crocheted cable scarf, I knew I had to make it. Crocheted lengthwise, it uses super-bulky yarn (machine wash/dry - woo-hoo!) and simple stitches to achieve what is, IMHO, a very impressive effect. Warm as heck, too, and believe it or not, a quick project. Watch out, family - you might all be getting one like this for Christmas!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Here goes...our first journal assignment and my first attempt at using Blog This (check out the link at the bottom of this entry for an interesting poem about dead blogs).

Blog Journal Activity #1

“Blogging + Video=Vlogging” reports on the latest twist on the “traditional” blog (if such a new medium can be called traditional): using video clips instead of written text to keep a blog. The author notes that the number of vlogs has increased dramatically during the past year alone, and she quotes several dedicated vloggers who seem to feel that vlogging has unlimited potential for equalizing the creation and distribution of media. “The potential for everyone to self-publish has the ability to revolutionize the world,” enthuses vlogger Clint Sharp.

Vlogging, no doubt, brings a 21st century flair to the age-old practice of diary-keeping. However, how will vlogging fare in the long term? Specifically, how long can self-published vlogs (as opposed to vlogs published by media organizations) hope to ride the wave of popularity as the initial enthusiasm wanes and the realities of technological time-suck take hold?

Keeping a diary, whether offline or on, takes time. Vlogging takes that time commitment to the next level. No longer is it enough to let words spill out onto the page; the vlogger must shoot video, upload, edit, score…. As vlogger Chuck Olsen noted, "I hardly ever spend less than two to three hours (on a video), even if it's something simple… I've definitely stayed up all night making like a three-minute video to post on my blog, which I don't recommend.” How long will individual vloggers, who receive no monetary compensation for their efforts, be willing to put in the time needed to maintain their vlogs?

A quick google search on “dead blog” turns up over 39,000,000 hits. Just as diarists throughout history have abandoned their writings over time, so too are bloggers abandoning their blogs by the hundreds. While blogging itself is far from dying, for every blog that is faithfully updated there seems to be at least one that has fallen by the wayside. Will vlogging follow the same path? Only time will tell.

The American Street � Blog Archive � On Dead Blog Sites
OK, so I don't do blogs...or, rather, I didn't do blogs. This is an assignment, but as long as I have to do it, I might as well have fun along the way.

Splindarella = Spin (my latest obsession - not the "on a bicycle that goes nowhere" kind, but the "turning fiber into yarn" kind) + Linda (yours truly) + a small nod to Salt-n-Pepa ("What a man, what a man, what a man, what a MIghty good man..." - great stuff, that) and their DJ Spinderella

Splindarella's Blog = a place for me to post my class assignments, play with blogging technology and just have fun

Welcome to the Blog!