Sunday, March 30, 2014

The power of play

30 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"Where did you learn all this?" My mom looks sideways at me with an incredulous smile. I've spent the past hour helping her set up a new blog for staff communication and providing a few mini-lessons to extend her general blogging skills.

We customized the design of her new blog and added essential widgets to the sidebar, including HTML Twitter widgets. Next, we reviewed labels/tagging, which I'd introduced her to when she started her blog last summer, but which she hadn't mastered independent use of yet. After practicing by adding some important labels to old posts, I knew I also had to reinforce why to use them.

"Do you remember why it's nice to use tags?"
"So, let's say someone wants to read all your posts about family, they can click on the 'family' tag..." I went to the public view of her blog and clicked on it, just as I do when teaching my students to tag on our class blog. "... and see, they can read all those posts with the 'family' label in one spot! Or professionally, they might want to read all your posts about PLCs..."
"Ohhh, yeah, I can see how that would be useful!"

Because I'd noticed her starting to include web images in her posts, I introduced her to PhotoPin. Like my students, she was amazed at the variety and quality of their photos. "I can't wait to tell my kids that I taught you to use PhotoPin! They'll get a big kick out of that!"

However, because PhotoPin gives you an HTML code for attribution, I knew we'd have to go into the HTML editing... and I knew that would be a big leap for her.

"Ok, so I'm going to write 'This is the caption' in the caption box so I can find it easily in the HTML. You're going to freak out when I click this button, but all we have to do is look for that note."

"OOOOH! What'd you do to my blog?!" As soon as I clicked "HTML", she shrieked melodramatically.

See where I wrote "This is the caption"?
"It's ok, we just have to look for our note. See? Here it is: 'This is the caption'. Now that I know where the caption is, we can just delete that note and paste the PhotoPin code in that spot. And then..." I clicked back on "Compose" to return to the normal WYSIWYG view... "Look how nice it looks! PhotoPin's code gave us these nice links in this nice format!"
For example:
photo credit: splorp via photopin cc
"Oooh, that does look professional... Wow... So you just pasted that code right where you wrote 'This is the caption'?"
I could hear the hesitance in her voice.
"Yeah, it's not so scary if you write yourself a note like that! ... I'll help you next time you want to do it, if you want."

"How did you learn how to do all this?!"
"Umm, I..." I paused. Where did I learn how to do "all this"? I had never really thought about it.
"I... I don't know..."  My lack of an answer shocked me. "Just playing around, I guess, and sometimes I read things online when I need to learn something new... But mostly, just playing, I guess."

I've always been glad that I learned a little bit of programming in high school and college, back when I thought I wanted to be an engineer. Even though I learned C++ and C (not HTML), simply having a little coding experience means that I can look at code and not be intimidated by it. When I look at code, I see language (even if it's one I don't really speak well), not gibberish. I can decipher meaning, instead of feeling overwhelmed. Far from being paralyzed, I'm willing to play.

And play holds the power of learning.


  1. Not your typical mother/daughter bonding time, sounds like you both loved it!!

  2. Nice to help your mom, Jennifer-learn by doing?

  3. You just taught me as well! See, I always learn something new on your blog!


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