Friday, December 19, 2008

Blog Audience Matters

Basically I've been blogging to an anonymous, possibly non-existent audience. I was pretty content with that. I'd be thinking of university friend searching around for me when I updated Reconnecting and I'd be thinking about my CCK08 friends when writing e-learning thoughts. And then some happened. And because something happened, the future is different.

What happened? My daughter's job allows a certain amount of internet time for personal use. Being an intelligent person, she didn't want to use the company computer for checking email, facebook or surfing the web - just too much disclosure. She's decided to relax with mom's blogs. Actually I should figure out how to market myself under that heading as Lisa Lane says she relaxes with my writing as well. My secret to a long marriage is that I'm like that old pair of shoes that has stretched itself in all the right places to be a perfect fit - not new, fashionable or exciting but dang comfortable.

When Paula left home for educational purposes, we used to watch Grey's Anatomy from our different locations and pretend we were together. It was a discussion starter for phone calls. I couldn't get hooked on the show because I lived in nurses' residence for 3 years when I was young and single and all the buildings were connected by a maze of tunnels and passages so it all felt less interesting than the real thing. But I did seek out and enjoyed the writers' blog which gave me something to contribute to our talks and provided an interesting hook for me
Her graduation marked the end of my Grey's watching.

This morning when I woke up my first thought was, "Did Paula have a snow day or not because if she's at work, I haven't created anything for her to read and maybe she'll be disappointed." Because my baby girl is reading my stuff and because I don't like disappointing her, blogging has moved from a pleasant, sometimes hard to justify diversion to this is serious mother/daughter high priority bonding time. Hopefully the process will result in my writing posts that don't disappoint you as well.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Response to Driven to Distraction
Driven to Distraction: Notes on Young Adults Living and Learning with New Media by Christopher Sessums challenges a commonly held belief that social media tools used in any way that deviates from the classroom agenda is being "distracted, off task, sidetracked or a waste of time". I agree with Sessums that "self-directed" learning is legitimate learning.
Everyone currently in school knows everything there is to know about attention deficit disorder and too much deviating from the agenda could very well result in being medicated. That's quite the threat to have hanging over one's head.
It all seems very odd to me. We didn't really have labels for kids although a 12 year old who was still in Grade 1 or a Grade 4 who painted his nose green instead of the flower stem was coming pretty close to being labeled slow.
My elementary school was divided into two rooms. In the Junior Room, we were in Gr. 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B. Girls tended to get through the 6 levels in 2 years and boys tended to take 4 years. The Senior Room contained Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. Do that math. If the teacher divided her time evenly, each grade got 12 minutes of every hour. For 12 minutes, you were expected to focus. For the other 48 minutes, what you did was pretty much your business as long as you weren't disruptive. I multitasked (an unknown term) - combining seatwork, daydreaming, doodling, passing messages and listening to what the other grades were learning.
Perhaps all this hubbub about kids using social media tools to alleviate boredom in the classroom is more natural/traditional than having helicopter teachers so intensely focused on each child.

TeachersShare - Links
One of the reasons, I didn't consider teaching is that I viewed teaching as a very lonely job - like being a mom alone with the kids all day with little positive adult acknowledgment. That and it requires the organizational skills of an obsessive compulsive to keep track of all the tiny bits of money that flow into and out of a typical elementary school classroom. Plus there's the whole parent/teacher interview thing which requires the tact of Pollyanna. And of course, the work is too important to be entrusted to someone whose performance is as variable as my own.

So imagine my surprise to discover just how highly connected teachers are. The web is packed with great things being published by teachers. They share their lesson plans and what they're reading and photos of where they are traveling and the best links to everything. So today I am providing a link to an amazing number of teacher's sites. My sidebar is growing a bit unwieldy. I have the information for putting it into a scroll bar but I'd like my daughter to be with me when I attempt it because two minds in this case would definitely be better than one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Twitter Tips

"TwiTip is edited by Darren Rowse from ProBlogger Blog Tips and is all about Twitter

What's frustrating about joining any social networking platform is publicly exposing that you don't have a clue what you are doing. Personally I appreciate someone showing me the ropes - telling me the best ways to connect.

Canadian Blog Awards

What does it say about Canada that the 2 best health blogs were both written by obesity doctors?
What's Ruth doing today? Checking out the blogs of Canadian Blog Awards winners.

Now I've been randomly reading a few, I'm wondering about the nomination process. There are several that have previously come through on my google reader that I eliminated fairly quickly. The problem was their focus was too specific - eg sources of food within one specific city. I have reasons to visit London, Ontario - my daughter lives there and the Diocese is administered from there - but why would a seek out a farmer's produce stand there when I live in rural Ontario?

I suppose Canada likes to reward the small, the specific, the generally overlooked. I don't choose a blog for that reason. I'm not nationalistic when it comes to my google reader list - it's purely about the relevance of the content to whatever is striking my fancy at the moment.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jurgen Wolff & Motivating Headlines

1. Introduction to Jurgen Wolff - (See sidebar for link) He's a script writer, script doctor, coach, workshop leader and his books include: "Focus: the power of targeted thinking" (Pearson 2008), "Your Writing Coach" (Nicholas Brealey, 2007) and "Do Something Different" (Virgin Business Books, 2005). I have two more coming out in 2009, "Marketing for Entrepreneurs" and "Creativity Now" (both from Pearson). Previous books also include "Successful Scriptwriting," "Successful Sitcom Writing," and "Top Secrets: Screenwriting" as well as an ebook "Time Management for Writers".

2. Idea from June Brainstorm Newletter - Jurgen suggests:
" Start your day with a headline
Here's a playful but effective way I've come up with to give direction and motivation to your day: before you start working, write a headline about what you intend to achieve. Here are three examples (the exclamation marks add to the fun):

Writer Finishes Chapter 3 of Her Novel!
Taxpayer Adds Up All Receipts for Tax Returns!
Free-lancer Catches Up With Back Filing!

Generally just the headline is enough, but if it helps you can add a paragraph that specifies how you'll achieve it: "Despite the need to prepare dinner for her family and to go shopping, this writer managed to take one hour out of her day to go to Starbucks and finish the second half of Chapter 3 of her novel." ....

3. Email Backlog I went into my gmail and searched for everything I have received from Jurgen's website since June. I've received 16 items which I quickly glanced at while busy with CCK08. My backlog of emails is astounding but rather than flitting from email to email, I'm going to batch them by sender and take my time making notes and actually absorbing what the writer is communicating. I decided to start with Jurgen because something clicks between his suggestions and finding a way around, over, through the block between a thought and an action.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stepping Stone Education

There have been many great changes in education since my days on campus. When I was 18, Ontario community colleges were a fairly new phenomenon. Even our guidance teachers weren't too clear about whether a community college diploma would mean anything. For sure we knew that no one would recognize a correspondence education or consider a privately managed college the equivalent of a college financed by the tax payers. When I worked in HR, the older the institution, the more substantial the weight of its name. Brock, Laurentian, Athabasca, York, Simon Fraser were babies offering degrees in weird things like women's studies or Canadian studies or any number of new concepts that seemed trendy - unmarketable, fly-by-night majors for the flower children of parents with too much money or too little practicality or so we thought. Young adults were used to being sorted out into categories - categories that kept you in your place. There were 2 year high school trades programs and 4 year programs that anticipated you'd settle in the area and 5 year university preparation courses with ways to flow down but with no options for late developers to flow upward.
Registered Nurses could get into a 3 year post RN degree program. There was a recognition that bright, poor girls from large families had the option of becoming RNs in order to finance the education that parents didn't want to invest in for a girl who'd probably stay home and raise a family anyway.
And with the arrival of community colleges, there were people like me who got a general B.A. in the arts or social sciences and then enrolled in community colleges for higher paying skills.
Today education is like a smorgasbord. With a little thought, a little research, asking a few right questions, creating a plan, it is possible to reap the advantages of choosing a bit of everything rather than being told if one wants steak and seafood, it is necessary to order the entire steak dinner and follow it up with the entire seafood dinner.
The institutions that are going to win are the ones that offer flexibility - have educational agreements with other institutions - know how to recognize what has already been learned and what is still required - have a plan for people to climb the steps to higher level certifications. The advantages also lie with those institutions which can quickly adapt themselves to the educational requirements for the 21st century - that offer those cutting edge courses which look like trends but are really the future. And the prestige will go to those who are recognizable names because employers can go to their open courses and see for themselves the quality of the lectures, the quality of the courses, the variety of delivery methods and learning tools imparted.
Let's not wax nostalgic about the past - the medieval model. It had a long, great run and I'm proud to have experienced it. Today is a whole new story - one with freshness, promise and choices we could never have even imagined.

What's with "I'm a Fan of"

I don't get the "I'm a fan of" sites on facebook. It reminds me of Cuban Gooding Jr boarding the bus and discovering that he's hijacked a busload of I Love Lucy fans. If the person is alive, why wouldn't I just contact them. If the person is dead, well why would I contact them - I find all those Elvis Impersonators a bit ghoulish.
There must be something I don't understand. Obviously thousands of people link together over Star Trek so maybe someone could tell me why it is so bonding to be a fan of Greys Anatomy or whatever. I do however get visiting the script writers' blog and reading about the creation process.
Speaking of icons,I read about this woman who decorated her apartment with pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Scarlett O'Hara. She reasoned that she'd be unforgetable to ex-lovers because she was so associated with those ubiquitous images.
And speaking of Scarlett, one of the southern belle sites said that northern women were foolish to sit in a room and weep over lost loves. According to southern wisdom, the thing to do is to buy a fabulous outfit, get a stunning hair style and go to the barbecue and charm the room so the guy who dumped you will realize what a foolish mistake he just made.

Famous Canadian Women

On my other blog, I've mentioned Canadian Prime Ministers' wives so I decided to search out their images on google images. Basically it had to do with an anonymous reply suggesting that new Liberal Leader's wife isn't stylish enough. My memory only goes back as far as Olive Diefenbaker but I don't remember Olive Diefenbaker or Maryon Pearson being particulary photogenic. It seems to me that before tv, our politicians wives were more apt model themselves after Eleanor Roosevelt than Cindy McCain and being a pioneering people that suited us just fine. In my searching around for images, I visited a website entited "Famous Canadian Women's Timeline". This cannot be right.
In 2006, seven famous Canadian women died and 4 living famous Canadian women's achievements were mentioned.
In 2007, four famous Canadian women died and Hayley Wickenheiser was named Canadian athlete of the year.
In 2008, two famous Canadian women died and no entries were made of any achievements.
This trend does not look promising.
When it comes to Canadian political wives, Margaret Trudeau, Maureen McTeer and Milia Mulroney were widely photographed and brutually criticized. Since them, I won't recognize Geills Turner, Sheila Martin or Laureen Harper if I ran into them in the supermarket. Aline Chretien seems to be the only one who was private enough to escape being pillaged by the press while public enough to be a widely recognized face.
Nobody ever died from being publicly criticized. Women of achievement please come out of the shadows and be mentors and role models.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Google Images

I can't believe I just discovered google images. It's been sitting there above my gmail all this time and I didn't notice it. When I went to google images, I didn't know what to put into the search box. I saw a suggestion about engravings which took me to an engraving of the widowed Queen Victoria. Don't you think I look remarkably like her? Now I'll have to hunt around for the rules about images of Royalty. Actually I'll have to hunt around for the rules regarding the use of any google image. I've been interested in looking at the Time Life photos but it's late and I'll have to leave that for another day. The thing I really like about google is that it never enters the time I actually post my blogs. I have no idea what time zone they use but it must be half way around the world. I'm thinking maybe Australian time. Usually I'm up until some scandalous hour and the draft is autosaved at the time I actually created it but when I hit publish, this perfectly respectable time appears. I wonder if it works in reverse. Does anyone here publish at a respectable time such as 8 p.m. and have an hour appear such as 11 a.m. when they've entered into the accounts that they were working on a billable project?

Adora Svitak

Visit and be impressed. She's a great communicator, a prolific writer, has travelled widely and is media savey.

Now I'm going to do my wicked fairy Sleeping Beauty thing even though I look like and have the sweet nature of Merryweather. Under all that brilliance is a little girl with normal developmental stages to pass through. Joyce prepare yourself for these 3 inevitable events.

1. All kids have a day when they yell, "You've ruined my life. You've made me different from my friends". It's normal. However you parent a child, it is inevitable that you will create a unique human being. Brace yourself for the stage when being unique won't feel like a gift for her or you. This too will pass. Unlike Sleeping Beauty's parents, our kingdom won't go to sleep for a hundred years and only awake when true love appears. Ordinary mortals are awake for the whole thing.

2. At 16, all kids want to leave home. In Adora's case that might not be a problem. She might be completing a Ph.D. program at Yale by then. For us ordinary mortals, when the kid says, "I'm living here but don't think I like it. As soon as I get the money together, I'm out of here", most of us know that we've got about 2 years before they can make good on that threat and that gives us time to get them through high school and into college. I think parenting must be a bit more complex when there isn't a long waiting period between the desire and the necessary cash.

3. The first thing that pops into my mind when I watch Adora is Olivia Newton John and John Travolta in Grease. Watch the movie. Go to the library and read "Stupid Boys Are Good to Relax With" by Susan Swan and don't be too surprised if opposites attract. Most princesses kiss a few frogs that don't turn into princes. As the educational gap broadens between girls and guys, statistically the odds are stacked against Adora's prince being a prodigy as well.

Maybe I'm all wrong. Maybe Adora will sail through all life's passages but hormones have been know to create the occasional storm. The best parenting days are the ones when it's hard and somehow you get it right in spite of yourself.

Food Police - Not Me

My previous post on Yoni may have given the impression that I'm the food police. Far from it. I flipped pancakes in the shape of the letter P when my son David was in kindergarten. He and his cohort of little buddies had no interest whatsoever in learning how to read. They looked like they were created to work on the docks or more probably to haul a moose out of the bush. When I asked what they liked about school, snack was #1 followed closely by recess or perhaps the other way around. What they really liked was wrestling to see who was the strongest. The one thing you could count on was no matter how much you fed them, they'd always be hungry. It took a whole community to keep their little bellies full. Their kindergarten teacher taught everything with food. It was the only thing that worked and even that didn't create any miracles. I just figured God made food in a multitude of colours for kids like them. Today is orange day so we'll wear orange clothes and eat orange food and play with orange toys and paint orange pictures and carve a pumpkin and if you don't know orange by the end of the day, we give up - knowing orange is probably highly over-rated anyway.
My point was that children come in different shapes but their little hearts are pretty similar. Nobody really knows why kids are getting heavier. My son and his friends were all muscle - strong like little bears. It had nothing to do with virtue or self-discipline or anyone monitoring calories or setting activity quotas. Don't look at the kids - look at what's changed in their environment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's the Shelf Life of an Academic?

A Professor Emeritus can be really ancient. Win a Nobel Prize and your courted well into your dotage. Gwyneth Paltrow in Prime suggests that it's never going to happen if you haven't developed your elegant mathematical theorum before 30. I'm not sure where John Nash and Stephen Hawkins fit - they are outside the box and in their own categories.
Does the brilliant brain stay nimble and is a nimble brain essential?
How physically demanding is thinking, reading, presenting? It was a real shock to me how much stamina it took just to audit CCK08 from my own home. It certainly ended any delusions that it was possible to pick up where you left off after raising a family.
What aspect of teaching finally does one in? I had a professor who said the key to teaching is enthusiasm. So maybe people reach a point where it just isn't exciting anymore. Perhaps it's when your style is no longer in vogue or your name is no longer a drawing card.
Here's a confession. When I'm paying tuition, I google the teacher's name. You'd be surprised how often nothing comes up. How can that even be possible? Even dead people have their obituaries online.


I have a fascination with words and word art. Wordles are very aesthetically appealing to me. So today I gave my husband my Christmas list. I want a head mike for my computer and I want coloured computer ink so I can start playing with wordles. If you've created any wordles, I'd love to look at them. I've visited the wordle blog and now know Jonathon Feinberg is the creator. Send me links to your creations. The ones that especially appeal to me are based on classical writers, musicians and artists. I had an aunt who taught Great books at Redford High School in Detroit who was my own Auntie Mame.

Monday, December 8, 2008

YouTube Orchestra
I found the best explanation of the proposed youtube orchestra on the youtube blog. I'm a huge fan of youtube. It's such a great repository. When I'm reading, there's usually something I need to check out and my two basic choices are whether or not to go to wikipedia or to youtube. If it involves music or dance, a film clip or a visual of how to do something, youtube is the site of choice. I love the movie Casablanca but life is short and the only way I can justify the time commitment required to watch the full version is if I put on the French subtitles and call it a language lesson. If I just want to watch it for sappy emotionalism, I go here:
It saves me a couple of hours and concentrates the romanticism.

Yoni Freedhoff & Childhood Obesity
Yoni Freedhoff is the most important person I can bring to your attention. He is an Obesity Doctor in Ottawa who is one of the few voices out there who attacks the sources of North American obesity rather than the kids. His blog is called Weighty Matters and he'll never run out of things to post. He photographs the food choices offered in hospital cafeterias, publishes video clips of junk food advertising embedded within tv shows, food advertised as healthy choices which aren't, etc.

I wish mankind were evolving into a kinder species but it only changes which group it discriminates against. Young children have only a limited arsonal of ways to self-medicate, to punish themselves, to protect themselves, to comfort themselves. They don't have the option of coming home from a rugged day and choosing from a variety of substances to make themselves feel better or quitting their job or divorcing their parents or firing any professional that just plain doesn't like them. No group faces more play ground discrimination, no group gets a clearer message that people would rather be dead than like them. It's even ok now for professionals to advise parents to not allow their children to be friends with a fat kid and maybe it's even a health risk to be a friend of a friend of a fat kid.

Rather than hurting a fat kid which is really easy to do, think carefully about how much money your school receives from companies that produce junk food and beverages, how many fundraisers involve selling high fat food, and assess what exactly are the food options available in your cafeteria with special emphasis on fat, sugar and salt content. If it comes out of can, the salt content is probably amazingly high and that includes soup. And forget trusting the healthy labels - the organizations that put healthy labels on food are just as dependent on the food industry for financial support as are our schools and the hospitals. Healthy food choices and organized, high quality activities cost money and are rarely available in the neighbourhoods that need them most.

When One Has Two Blogs

Creating the links to my FaceBook/CCK08 friends took a far bit of time. Because I'd like to invite people who live in more conservative countries, I decide to uninvite the young girl who now works in a bar and posts pictures that might offend. She won't notice because she has thousands of facebook friends. As an aside, she raised as much for the Cancer Society with her sexy Santa party as any charitable, labour-intensive event put on by a whole organization of seasoned adults in this community. When I think of the days of work that goes into putting on and cleaning up after a turkey supper, I am sooo tempted to call Amanda. But I can't because I can't for a million reasons that have to do with respect for another human being.
Anyway, back to the topic - I find that when I separated the educational part out of the original blog, the first blog is becoming more reflective, more about feelings - more about hopes and lessons learned by living.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Blogs of Facebook/CCK08 Friends

I've done my best at creating a blog list for Facebook/CCK08 friends. If your name is on the list and you would prefer being linked to a different blog, please let me know. If your name is not on the list, I either couldn't find your blog or there were no current postings. If you are not on the list and think you should be added, please mske a request. Alternatively, if you are on the list and would prefer not to be, I will remove your name if you request it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Blogspot Hyperlink Solution

Ronald Southern was great but had no concept of how little I know. Either I never noticed it before or he added the toolbar. For sure he gets credit for my knowing I have an editing toolbar. I read everything but was definitely only randomly getting it right. For some reason, a lightbulb turned on in my brain and I checked out youtube. After watching this video 5 times and writing a note to myself:
1. highlight and copy url in text you want to turn into a hyperlink
2. then hit green thing in toolbar (if you're over 50 and not wearing glasses, it looks like a crocodile (ok I've been comparing the old Peter Pan dvd to the more modern version - and I really like the old crocodile's eyes a lot so maybe that's why I'm seeing crocodile eyes instead of the whirl/globe/chain thing in the video)
3. A box appears on the top of the screen.
4. delete the http:// part of the template
5. paste in the url you want.
6. hit ok
7. hit publish
TaDa - I could consistently create a hyperlink.
Your reading this post because by tomorrow without the note, I'd be starting at square one again.
It's been a gas doing this. I got really thrown when in html the blog address appears twice (I kept deleting one of them and wondered why I was getting nothing where the hyperlink should have been in the post). Nonetheless, I liked the old way when the hyperlink just appeared like magic. I watch Disney. Magic works for me.

Hyper-link problem

Sorry about the hyperlink problem. As soon as it's fixed, all my facebook e-learning members will be listed under favourite blogs.
Ronald Southern of is the solver of blogspot problems. After reading how to manually correct the problem which I'll attempt on a braver day, I discovered what JAVA is for. This might actually be where the problem lies as I just updated my JAVA even though I didn't have a clue what it was or how it had been changed.
Once again it is obvious why I think I have a niche in the e-learning blogsphere. I really do begin the journey from the very beginning.

This links to a video by Andrew Zuckerman of famous people telling what they think wisdom is. Click on "the portraits" and you'll never be afraid of aging again. Time creates much more interesting faces than youth. If you're pressed for time go right to the end and click on the portrait of Andrew Wyeth. That's the most stunning face in the group.
We get so used to Hollywood surgically or digitally enhanced faces. We need expressive faces - faces that say something - faces that have lived.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finding Edubloggers
Best Resource Sharing Edublog is a wealth of examples for beginning bloggers. The site has the nominees and winners going back to 2004. So I'm beginning my journey into blogging about e-learning by visiting a nominated site each day and learning all I can from these committed, talented people. My family/friend blog has been my first awkward venture into blogging but I've been stumbling around with organization. It is good to have a site to recommend to friends who don't know where to begin.

Separate Education Blog

I have been posting everything at For this blog I just reduced the "ruth" part to "r". The great thing about acquiring an unusual last name is there's never a problem with availability.
Now the connectivism course has ended, I've decided to go back and spend more time on the readings and take a stab at the assignments just for the fun of it. I'm also following the blog/twitter/facebook/delicious postings of some key players in the course and see where they go from here. You'll also find some references to what's going on at SCoPE and anywhere else I take a fancy to.
One of my major observations is that the online learning crowd is very inclusive towards anyone who is committed to exploring what is possible and what can be improved. I've spent my adult life in very tall, hierarchial institutions with gatekeepers and a status quo carved in granite. There's only so many hours in the day and only so many days in a lifetime so why not walk through the open gate. I'm Alice in Wonderland sliding down the Rabbit Hole and enjoying the ride.