Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September reflection post

In order to make sure I address the issues required by this blog, I will divide up the blog appropriately into blocks.

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

As far as the ability to complete self-directed learning, not much has changed by learning the course material. I still search using Google and/or Wikipedia. However, being comfortable with these tools is a greatly beneficial skill. Google especially requires some skill to use - one has to know the appropriate keywords to use and also how to quickly skim through a number of excerpts of URLs and webpages.

In this class to this point, we haven't studied any topics which are difficult to distinguish or find (Google "Adam Smith", for instance, and you get the guy you're probably looking for), but even with this well-known name we also see a hit for a U.S. Congressman and a hit for a university professor with the same name.

I genuinely can't think of another way to describe the connection between my current digital literacy and my learning in this class. Essentially, the difference between this method of learning and a textbook is having the option of free and unlimited searching. I don't have to search through a book, or search for a book, but I have easy access to learning through searching. 

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

Creating digital media has been useful. I think learning how to use the new tools which are out there, and being alerted to them by discussions in class is great.

I struggle with the number of blogs for this class in two ways. First, people write them so frequently that I find it extraordinarily difficult to find an old post which I've commented on and follow up, and there are too many people for me to feel as though I can keep track of them. On my personal blog, I follow maybe 10 people, most of whom post less than once a month. This for me is comfortable. I feel a bit overwhelmed having to take in so many blogs at once for this class. I also feel guilty if I stop following a class blog.

Secondly, sometimes I don't feel that I have much to share on a particular topic, even if I personally found it intriguing. I'm pretty introverted, and I have lots of thoughts about things, but most things I think about in my head. Some of these things get expressed in in-person conversations with friends and family. I feel way less of an urge to write this stuff down.
I think dynamically - I change my opinions quite readily given feedback, and writing, even blogging, is way too permanent and way too one-sided of a conversation for me to feel like it helps much. I understand that this is an excellent way to communicate with people around the world, but honestly, if I had something I wanted everyone to hear, that I felt was really important, important enough to write, I would hash it out in my mind and with my friends and family for weeks beforehand. So this blogging twice weekly has been a struggle for me. I don't know if there's a way this could be changed, either the requirement or my natural inhibition toward publicly writing so much.

3. How have you connected with other class member and with the general public in these areas?

I really enjoy learning about the various new technologies and options out there. I think an interesting thing to consider, with all the different options out there, is how so many software programs out there which do similar things compete.

For example, I needed to do a presentation in my optics class. (We are asked to present twice during the semester on different historical physicists.) I used Prezi and asked my classmates for feedback (no one in the class had been aware of Prezi before). While there were oohs and ahhs over the new features of Prezi, and I had taught myself how to use the features in less than 20 minutes, when my professor asked the class if any of them would want to use Prezi in their future presentations, nine of the ten other students said they were sticking with PowerPoint. One student expressed that he felt dizzy during the presentation (which I totally understood, because that was how my first experience with Prezi felt as well), and the others just said that Prezi's features were not cool enough to spend the time learning when they already knew how to use PowerPoint effectively. I wonder how software companies take this psychological difficulty into account.

The one student who was excited about Prezi told me that he was planning on using the software at an upcoming research conference. He explained that the best student presentations win monetary prizes, and his secret to winning them (as he's won a few in the past) is to use innovative presentation techniques. He explained that he believed that it was neither his skill as a speaker nor the originality or complexity of his research that earned him the prize, but rather the originality of his presentation style which made his presentation memorable. I found this rather interesting as a possible appeal that software companies address, but this blog is already too long for me to elaborate.

Overall, I feel that I am learning in the class. My understanding of history has increased, and I enjoy drawing parallels between events in the past and how history is developing now. I also appreciate the basic explanation of computer science. (My experience with CS professors is that they typically assume you have a basic familiarity/working knowledge of certain concepts and terms which are brand new to me. So this breakdown is great.) I'm a little concerned about how things are being graded and the lack of direct feedback up to this point, but I think the midterm and the consequent interview tomorrow is a great idea and will help me understand some things about the course requirements. Thanks for the class and I will see you tomorrow!

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