Muddiest points, 10 August

A number of the "muddiest points" from the session(s) on August 10 I've answered previously, so I will direct you to answers that you'll find here on this blog:

In a separate post, I've answered the question "Why bother with technology?"

And finally, someone wanted to know how to find things on Google. I would argue that they didn't mean Google, they meant finding things on the Internet

Muddiest points, 6 April

Not surprisingly, as we had no Internet connection, and I couldn't show you what a blog is, "blogs" was the muddiest point for the session this morning. Always have a "Plan B", as I suggested!

Specifically, someone said "the way in which blogs can be useful in English teaching". In a previous post, I suggested some of the things that you can do with a blog

Do feel free to use the "comments" link that you will find below each of the posts on this blog, by the way!

In previous posts I've also explained how to set a blog up, both on Blogger.com and on Zoomblog.

Two others — which a 90-minute session really doesn't give us time to look at properly — were RSS and podcasting.

And finally, difficulties with the terminology, something lots of people find hard — but which shouldn't put you off using technology!

I don't know the first thing about technology

You don't know much about technology…? Nothing at all, in fact?

The bad news is that you need to learn — first of all because that's just the world is going and secondly because for things like lesson planning and creating materials it's a very useful skill.

The good news, however, is that learning to use technology is remarkably easy — things like Word and digital cameras and mobile phones and iPods would never have become so popular if that weren't the case.

And remember, you don't have to be an expert — you only need to become a competent user of whatever it is you are trying to use. I say "competent" — but I might just as well say "confident", because I think it's really a question of that: knowing enough to be able to do what you want to do efficiently and easily — and knowing that you know you can.

How do you go about it?
Some kind of formal training — a course on, say, Word, that is — will always help, but that's not always an option open to you. If it's not, there is plenty you can do to help yourself — and most technology is easy enough to teach yourself to a level of "confident competence", as I say.

Some suggestions, in approximate order of most to least helpful:

  • First and foremost, use the technology — it's like language learning, something many people will learn by doing
  • Secondly, use it with curiosity. Most people — even people who are confident, fairly "expert" users, use very few of options computer programs offer them. Be curious — examine the drop down menus, find out what those icons you never use are, for example. Someone else in the staffroom has a really neat handout? How did they do it?
  • Thirdly, find someone that knows. Sure, you can find things out for yourself but the fastest, simplest way to find out is to get someone to show you.
  • On the Internet, you've got tons of great stuff which will help. Try searching Google-is-Evil with the name of your program, the word "tutorial", and what you are trying to do [example] — and look for a result published by a US university (written with people like yourself in mind!)
  • On most programs, your F1 short cut key will bring up the "Help" section (or else use "Help", which you probably have as the last item on your menu bar).
  • Fairly low down towards the bottom of my list would be buying yourself a book. Many are written by people who may know lots about the technology, but would never have made good teachers!
  • Right at the bottom of my list would be buying a book in a series with yellow covers on it entitled "… for Dummies". It's a hugely successful series (I guess lots of people identify with the "Dummies" in the title!), but most of them are exceptionally badly written, in my experience.

In a previous post, you had links to sites that will help you with the technological terms.

And finally, enjoy using technology — whether it's your digital camera and pictures of your holiday or using the Internet with a class.

Once you start to enjoy it, that's when you start to feel confident…

Muddiest points, 17 March

The following were the "muddiest points" from our session on March 17th.

  • "What's the purpose of this blog?" someone asked, a great question, which I've answered in a separate post. (One of the things I like about the muddiest point technique is that it makes the teacher think!)
  • "How do you actually create a blog?" is a question the session doesn't allow time for, but which I've answered previously. You have separate tutorials for Blogger and for Zoomblog (two of the big providers of blogging services), and a comparison of the two, to help you determine which might be better
  • "Why is Firefox better than Internet Explorer?"
  • "Webquests" someone else said — for which you now have a series of useful links

New to technology?
Several people made comments along the lines of "I've almost no experience in information technology and I don't understand anything yet" and "it's all new to me and I need practice". You now have some suggestions on how to cope with that…

Basic tools

In our introductory session, the following things were all mentioned in your "Task 1". Click the links provided here to learn more.

Task 1
The following are things that you should know how to do:

  • Create and organise your Favourites (aka Bookmarks)
  • Run Windows Explorer (for exploring what's on your PC, not what's on the Internet, for which you need Internet Explorer, or another browser)
  • Find images on the Internet, store them on your PC, and then reuse them
  • Use the "paste special" function to paste text from the Internet into a text document
  • Use "view thumbnails" to see what images you have in a particular folder
  • Change the default start page on your browser
  • Use your keyboard shortcuts
  • Create a Word document using a Word template

The following are things that you might want to use: