Its all getting too much.

Friday was Web Design again.  The first assignment is fairly straightforward, but it’s just so much work.  There were just two Post-grads there today and while we support each other pretty well, I am feeling abit out on a limb.  I’m enjoying the learning and project, but it just feels like such a big mountain to climb to keep up with the technical elements of CSS and HTML, and I’ve not even started on Dreamweaver yet.

Friday afternoon I had big plans for doing lots of work, but I started doing the church pew sheets and then got a message from the vicar which meant I had to redesign the sheet in publisher and then spent the evening doing 150 copies of a 4 sided booklet on the poor little, slow copier at church.  I worked all day Saturday and was exhausted by the evening as we were really busy, which is a good sign really.  Lots of stress and worry at work too about the restructure.  At least I’m past that now as casual staff can’t apply for the jobs.

Today I got up and was out for a run by 8am.  Only 3 miles again, but at least my hip didn’t hurt.  Looks like I’ll have to avoid treadmills though, which is a pain in the winter.  Then Harvest Festival at church and I was  serving the tea and coffee to 70+ people.

This afternoon we went to see Paul’s sister.  She is training to be a dyslexic teacher and assessor and she wanted to test eldest son.  I took a load of work with me, but I was too tired to focus properly.  It turns out eldest is quite clearly dyslexic.  Non-verbal skills, off the scale, Verbal skills 20 points below average.  Not sure quite what this means as he’s already coping very well.  We just need to work out how best to support him going forward towards GCSE’s in a few years.  Really not sure how I feel about it all as he had a lot of problems in primary school and I feel guilty that I should have handled things better.

Feeling a bit tearful and overwhelmed all day really.

Web site woes

At least it’s stopped raining today so I got some washing dry, got to keep looking for the postives I have actually achieved each day!

Yesterday in Uni was another full on day of lectures.  More on Freedom of Information and Freedom of Expression in the morning, including a chance to discuss how much of a censor we felt we were in groups.  It was good to be able to debate and hear other points of view, although it seemed in our group we were all fairly liberal, but wanted some sort of protection for children and vunerable people, but we weren’t sure how to achieve that protection without causing scandal and thereby creating greater interest.

Information Futures was about social media, all of which I already use, but at least in the practical session I was able to update my LinkedIn page.  It seems I’m one of the minority of the group who are really pro social media.

Finally we had Search and Retrieval which is just hard work, trying to get my head around complex databases and search terms.  Trying to frame some Boolean search terms for the query ‘Emergency medicine for illegal immigrants’ was fun.

Train was on time and the right length tonight so got a seat and read a bit more of ‘The Library in the 21st Century’.  Blackberry network is down again for the 2nd day running so didn’t really have much choice!

Went for a run tonight in the gym while daughter was at Guides.  2.7 miles which I was pleased with, but it’s made my hip hurt again.  Wondering now if it will ever sort itself out for me to run at all, never mind do 26.2 miles.  Very fed up.

Today I’ve read some more of the ‘Web Standardistas’ Book.  Its very good, and I really think I’m getting my head around the concepts, but when I come to try them out practically it seems to take so long to get everything right. 

Worked at a branch library this afternoon, then off to take daughter to another school open evening.  Spoke to the librarian there and she’s happy for me to go in and talk to her about school libraries though.

On-line Learning

As part of our Designing On-line Learning module this week we didn’t have a lecture, but instead a number of tasks and information was made available on Moodle and we could complete the learning in our own time.  We’ve been asked to keep a blog or diary about our experiences.

Having the on-line material instead of a lecture was useful for me.  I could attend a meeting with a tutor which otherwise would have required me travelling into Manchester on an extra day, and I got home earlier which meant I got to eat dinner with my family!  I have accessed the work in a few chunks, instead of sitting down all at once.  I had an hour after work and before picking up the children one day when I managed to investigate a couple of websites and work through most of the tasks.  I started writing up my blog in university, in between lectures.  It has been useful to be able to access the information from different places as this has helped me be flexible.  It is harder to force myself to prioritise completing these tasks over the hundreds of other things on my ‘to do’ list. 

WISC
The WISC site looked really exciting and I eagerly jumped in.  The ‘Heat Distribution’ resource looked fantastic, but on reflection it had a lot of writing, and even someone like me who likes to read all the information, found myself skipping on to see what the animation did!  It will be interesting to show it to my 12 year old son as I’m sure he will just click the animations and ignore the text!  Will that hamper his learning and understanding, will he get just a basic overview, or will he fully understand from what he takes in?  Some of the other examples on the site were a bit disappointing and seemed to be just powerpoints with animation and I struggled to see how they were better than being talked through something.  Some of the interactive sorting games were useful, but when I disagreed with the objects sorting, there wasn’t a way to interact dynamically!

I registered with the site and hoped to be able to have a play with the ‘building games’ software, but you had to pay a subscription for that service, which I didn’t want to do.  All in all left the site a bit disappointed.

Wikis
While I was exploring WISC I was also registering with a wiki site which had been set up for use in another lecture.  I’ve never used Wikis before, but I was really impressed with how easy they were to use.  I can certainly see potential for using them in group learning situations.  It will really help people who need to collaborate on a project to connect with each other and plan and share information, even if the finished product is not the Wiki itself.  Obviously the finished project could be the Wiki though.

Blogs/Twitter/Facebook
I’ve used all of these social media before.  I’ve used Facebook for quite a long time, but I keep it pretty much just for social use, although I do have work colleagues on my Facebook, I consider them personal friends too. 

Twitter I use for gathering information and to help me connect to current developments and articles in a variety of areas, including news, library information, politics and Strictly Come Dancing!  I find it invaluable for widening my reading, knowledge and understanding of lots of current issues.

Blogging I’ve done for a while.  I kept a creative blog over the summer and now I’m trying to keep this more reflective learning log. 

RSS
This was an area I stuggled with.  I could subscribe to a feed, but found it hard to get my subscription into a feed reader and then I found the reader hard to access and it all seemed a little pointless.  I think this was where I found the on-line/distance element of the learning really hard as there wasn’t the immediate help that a teacher or fellow students could have given me.

So overall, how did I find the distance learning?  Well, here’s my confession, although I did a lot of the work on Tuesday and wrote up part of this blog on Wednesday, at least half of the writing up has been done in a rush and panic on Sunday night, and I still haven’t watched all the teaching videos.  Although I was glad to have the flexibility on Monday afternoon, I think I would have preferred to have the focus of the two hour lecture slot to work in, as I’ve struggled to find those two hours, plus the additional two hours extra study elsewhere.  As previously mentioned, I’ve missed the immediate help and support of a teacher or other students when I had a problem.  I know I could have e-mailed someone, but somehow that seemed too much effort, and I didn’t want to bother anyone. 

Would I use distance learning in my teaching?  Probably, as there are obviously situations when learners can’t be with a teacher for a variety of reasons (time, distance, health to name a few) but this exercise has made me consider some of the issues or isolation and time management that I would have to address when desiging learning and the support that goes with it.

Breaking resolutions.

Week one of my pre-marathon training and I’ve already missed a session.
Week two of my blog and I’ve already missed three entries.
Week three of my course and I’m already behind with my reading.

What does this say?  That I’ve been slacking off, or that I’ve taken on too much?  I suspect the latter, but if I keep telling myself it’s the former, I still feel I have some contol over working harder and getting it all done!

So what’s happened since my last blog?  Friday was Web Design day at Uni and we were set our coursework.  It seems like such a huge task, even when they break it down.  I think it’s comments like ‘Just learn Dreamweaver in your spare time…’ that freak me out – I don’t have any spare time!!  I’d wimped out of biking to the station because of wind and rain, and thankfully Paul was around to take me and pick me up. 

Over lunch we were discussing Paul using his Twitter feed to inspire students to wider reading.  We both got pretty fired up to research if it works, so I e-mailed my tutor and saw her on Monday to discuss setting up some data collection on how (or if) the twitter feed inspires the students and makes them think and read any more widely around the subject following twitter updates.  So that’s another job to do!

The weekend was pretty intense too football, youth orchestra and dance on Saturday and on Sunday Paul ran the Liverpool Marathon.  It was his first marathon and for the first time ever before a race he was nervous.  He went with friends and I drove the children over later so we could cheer him on.  We saw him first at about 14 miles and he was feeling really good and doing a really good time, which meant we were quite worried when he hadn’t got to the finish when we expected.  He did make it though, in a very good time of 4:22.  He was in so much pain though at the end.  Quite worried now as the next marathon in this family will be me at the VLM!

Monday came round too soon and I was back in work running Rhymetime.  Three new families this week which is really good news as our numbers were getting quite low.  A pretty tense day in work as the new re-structure document was published today. 

Into uni and saw Manchester at it’s best in the pouring rain, especially as we all got thrown out of the library when the fire alarm went off!  The fire alarm upset all my plans and I didn’t get half the stuff done I wanted to.  The Management lecture was changed to one about Marketing which was interesting, but mostly common sense.  Not sure how libraries can market themselves effectivly with no budget.  We discussed how libraries currently market themselves, but it was often only to people who already visit libraries.  How to reach non-users will take some creative thinking.  I’ll add it to my list.

Still no running done.

VLM training

I completed my 2nd training run for VLM today.  Went a bit further than I intended and ended up running 3.4 miles, but it felt good, even in the horizontal, torrential rain!  It was only showers though so didn’t get wet all the time.  No hip pain afterwards too, which is a big boost.  Just repeat x8 and I’ll have finished the marathon.  Paul is running his marathon on Sunday and I think he’s getting a bit nervous, he won’t admit it though.

A number of our assessed coursework pieces are going to be in the form of blogs.  I read something yesterday about ‘Digital Natives’ blogging before it was called blogging and then remembered that I kept an on-line diary of my training for my first ever 5km race back in 2002 and when eldest was little we had his ‘diary’ on my first website way back in 2000.

Steve Jobs, Apple founder and general technological, design and marketing genius died today.  His Stanford address http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html has been doing the rounds on twitter and facebook.  A truly life-affirming piece and helped eldest to realise that the taunting of others at school shouldn’t put him off being the person he wants to be.  Just hope he can hold onto that and the he doesn’t let the bastards get him down.

Not got as much study done today as planned, although I’ve been butterflying around various websites.  Spent quite a long time on W3C website trying to get my head around accessibility and design.  The coursework brief has gone up on line tonight and actually felt quite ill when I read it.  Every other assignment I’ve thought is approachable and I’ve known how to begin work on it, but this one….

Information is power

The first lecture today was mainly about censorship in its many forms and what justifications can be made for it and whether it is ever valid.  Good background for our essay and a lot of food for thought.  I’ve already done some reading around, but not sure what my final decision is, and not sure how to focus my essay as it’s only short – 1500 words, and it’s a huge subject!

After lunch we had Information Futures where I knew quite a bit about the current situation in public libraries from following Voices for the Libraries and www.publiclibrariesnews.com Facebook and Twitter updates.  The situation is changing so fast and cuts are being made so drastically that it is hard to keep up with developments. 

Finally we had Search and Retrieval which is a fascinating subject and one I’m very interested in, but as the 5th hour in a hot stuffy lecture room it was hard to keep fully focussed.  A nice overview of the way information retrieval systems have evolved.  We discussed some more whether Google is always best.  Again, I’m not sure of my decision, maybe I should just Google it….

Information Overload

In my quest to become an Information Professional and a guide for others through the mountains of information all around us, I am increasingly finding myself suffering from information overload.  I have so many books to read and every lecturer is bombarding us with interesting articles and websites.  In addition twitter keeps throwing up interesting links to follow.  Its increasingly difficult to not only scan all the documents to discern which are of value to me, but then having to record or make notes of the relevant bits so I can use them for my study. 

Spent the morning introducing myself to the world of on-line journal searching, with some success.  Found an interesting article in the http://www.indexoncensorship.org/ journal, but I’ve only just now clicked on their website which looks useful.  As an interesting aside I am finding I am being a real butterfly, flitting from one website and subject to another, and although I am harvesting lots of intesting stuff, I need to focus a bit more on going deeper into one subject at a time and getting through my current list of questions to pose and subjects to research.  I also found some good stuff about censorship of school libraries in America.

Web Design has eaten out large chunks of my day too with a link to the website of Craig Buckler

http://optimalworks.net/.  He’d given a free tutorial on a website, but stupidly I’ve not bookmarked it and can’t remember how I found it, grrrrrr.  Anyway, spent a while looking at the source code of his site and then the CSS page.  It was very complex, but think I’m beginning to get to grips with CSS being for design and HTML for structure.  I hope that’s right anyway!
 
Didn’t get as far as I wanted today as got an emergency call to a branch library to work this afternoon.  I took eldest swimming this morning and then did my first training run for VLM.  Only 2 miles and it was such hard work, but I’ve got to start somewhere!