Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blogger Pages Vanished!

I have had a slightly frustrating couple of days fighting Blogger's updated and classic interfaces. (Warning: make sure you are ready to switch to Blogger's updated interface before you do, because switching back can be a major hassle!!) I am preparing a workshop over Blogger for a Winter Term course. Since there is a push to the new interface, I wanted to be able to demonstrate the differences between the interfaces during the workshop. This way the students would not be caught off guard if Blogger switches permanently.

In retrospect, I should have known this would be more of a hassle than I first anticipated. I have a personal Google account as well as an Educational Google account, so I assumed having one account on Blogger's new interface and another on the classic would not be a problem. However, I recently linked my personal account with my Google+ profile. Of course I had previously decided that I would be using my personal account during the workshop, since I would be able to walk through the entire process with them (accepting the blog invite, the steps required for setting up a Blogger account). When I attempted to revert to the old interface on my personal account, I was informed that since my Google+ account was linked, reverting was impossible. Long story short, I reverted my Work Google account to the traditional look. However, when I went into the demo website's editing layout and attempted to add pages, it was unavailable. (Ensue major headaches and scrambling)

I knew that the issue had to be related to the Classic interface playing nicely with the New interface, so I finally decided to switch both accounts to the new interface to find the problem.

Here is what happens....

Once you switch to Blogger's updated interface, there is a drop-down menu associated with the post list icon on the dashboard.

1. I selected pages from this list.

2. Which redirected me to the pages options page...
3. Under Show pages as, Don't show is the default setting.

Once I switched to the old interface, these options remained saved for my blog. When I went to the design tab and attempted to add the pages gadget, Blogger informed me that the gadget had already been added. But my pages gadget was nowhere to be found!! (Gasp! Ensue more head scratching)

Word to the wise... to avoid loosing the ability to access the pages gadget, make sure to pick the correct Show pages as option in the new interface before switching back to the classic interface.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How I Write

At the beginning of my R519 course we were tasked with reflecting on our writing process and the habits that we maintain. Now that we have come to the end of the Fall 2011 R519 course, we are tasked once again with reflecting on our writing and how the course progressed our writing knowledge. I found it interesting to read my previous reflection while writing my final reflection. There may be some words of wisdom hidden in the depth of these two reflections, not that I claim to be wise (but everyone has their moments!).

Beginning of the Course Reflection
When I first considered reflecting on my writing technique, the project seemed daunting. I do not think I have ever really sat down and considered my writing process. I have always known that I function more effectively under time constraints. I think the time constraints allow me to focus, rather than distract myself with the multitude of tasks that seem incredibly interesting at the time. Needless to say, I am a bit of a procrastinator. I cannot say that being a procrastinator has aided me in any way. This is one habit that I should have changed a long time ago. I should consider setting mini deadlines or checkpoints along the way, so that I cannot procrastinate to the point of rushing through an assignment or paper. I attempted to reflect on how I prepared myself for writing this reflection, and classified my activities into different types of habits.

Habit 1: Procrastination
I originally viewed this writing assignment on Thursday afternoon. I opened up my Oncourse dashboard, clicked on the assignment tab and looked at the computer screen blankly for several minutes. I then proceeded to the course’s website and opened up the reading that goes along with this reflection. I skimmed over the reading twice without really reading two consecutive words. I then decided that the reflection would be easier to complete when I was at home on my laptop and promptly logged out of everything. I believe I checked Oncourse Friday and Saturday without any headway. Today, Sunday, I sat down to complete the reflection. I obviously could not procrastinate any longer, so I read the additional reading, which was extremely helpful, and began to type out my thoughts as I read.

Habit 2: Fidgeting
While this may go along with procrastination, I feel fidgeting is different in some ways. Situate, resituate, and settle on a completely different arrangement is my typical motto. I usually prep my surroundings by setting up my laptop close to the couch, turning the television on with the volume set close to mute, gathering all the materials, and logging onto Pandora with my headset on for some Jack Johnson mixed music. However, even though the setting is typically consistent, the process of arranging everything borders on hilarity. I will use today as an example. When I was getting ready to complete this first journal assignment I turned the television on low, sat in front of my laptop and... nope! I got back up and rearranged the pillows on the couch. I moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer, which was the procrastination sneaking back in. I then proceeded to have a slice of bologna and a glass of tea. After completing all of these important tasks I returned to my spot on the couch and... still not ready! I rearranged the pillows on my couch, hunted around for my headset, began playing music to drown out the chaos of my fiancĂ©’s music and the barking dogs and finally started writing.

Habit 3: Over-analyzing
I have a tendency to critique one sentence excessively, or I continually write and delete sentences. The previous sentence took five times to write without by fingers inching towards the backspace button. Rather than continuing with a thought, I will return to previous paragraphs to critique the verb tense agreement and the use of the word “I”. I believe I over-analyze the most when I hit a bump along the writing path. Once I motor over the bump I am usually productive for ten to twenty minutes. I am not sure how this habit was initially created. The habit does give me a chance to think about how I want the writing to progress without staring blankly at the laptop screen. I can usually get a sense of the feel of the information being provided and the direction I am attempting to go in by critiquing the previously written paragraphs.

I would benefit from being able to replace my habit of procrastinating with a more productive habit. I really like the idea of setting personal deadlines, rather than relying on assignment deadlines. I may find that I produce higher quality writing if I modify or replace my procrastination. The fidgeting is also a tiresome habit. I would love to gather my work area, sit down, and simply begin writing. My current routine takes about twenty minutes to complete before I actually begin writing. Lastly, I think that my tendency to over-analyze sentences and writing may be partially beneficial. It would be nice to learn a less irritating habit to replace the obsessive writing and deleting that I currently participate in. However, out of the three habits I immediately noticed over-analyzing is the least annoying. In the spirit of including beneficial habits with negative ones, I will say that I am very determined once I begin my writing! I also have the ability to focus well, despite the noisy or hectic surroundings I might find myself in. I suppose I have to give credit to my family for this skill, since I was one of six children. I think listening to music allows me to activate a creative section of my mind that I am unable to fully tap into in a quiet room. I do not have any evidence to back this up, so it is simply a feeling.

End of the Course Reflection
A fledgling Instructional Technologist
I have learned many things during this course, both about my own personal habits and techniques that may help improve my writing. The first writing that I tackled in this course was to identify the habits I currently hold in an effort to tackle them head-on. The three habits I identified when beginning this course were: procrastination, fidgeting, and over-analyzing. Procrastination and over-analyzing were my two main issues that I wanted to tackle. I believe my habit of fidgeting is a result of my love of procrastination. Through the techniques that I have learned and the assignments completed, I began to believe my habit of procrastination was rooted in unpreparedness.

Taking chances...
I viewed my writing skills as if they were a form of artistic expression. (Artists, read the rest before you pounce!) While this comparison is extremely valid, I should have realized that there was a truth hiding in my own comparison. Inspiration, while essential to any artistic expression, is only as beneficial as the time spent in preparation. A painter would not approach a canvas with Crayola crowns. Instead, they would spend time meticulously choosing colors and the media most appropriate for the expression they wanted. In my graphic design work, I would never simply open a picture in Photoshop and apply ever filter possible for a “cool look”. Nor would I take the picture and begin plopping items into InDesign or Illustrator at random. Instead I would carefully consider the composition of the document and the image that I wanted to portray as well as the information that needed to be delivered…

Making connections...
This class allowed something unique and amazing to happen, a connection! I was able to consider that the reason for my Procrastination was lack of preparation. The more I contemplated this, the validity became clear. Authors do not simply begin writing a novel without first establishing the context in which the story will be taking place, developing the characters, and possibly having an idea of the overall storyline. Why would I be able to approach any kind of writing without first having the same information? The concept made even more sense when I considered the functionality of my procrastination. My habits were set that I would begin writing as if a lightning bolt would strike me with all of the information needed for the assignment. I would eventually come to a point at the end of the assignment where I had a complete assignment that was exceptional work… I forgot the painful procrastination and fidgeting that went into this work. All of the procrastination and fidgeting was occurring when I reached a point that I was not prepared to tackle (insert fidgeting and procrastination or should I say reflection?). After learning writing techniques that are useful and functional (many that I was already using for Graphic Design and other work) my procrastination and fidgeting decreased dramatically.

Spreading her wings...
I still over-analyze while I am writing. In fact, I just deleted the preceding sentence and change the wording several times. This is my writing and thinking style. However, I have learned that while I am writing a rough draft, it is a ROUGH draft which means it is not meant to be perfect. The final draft will come after some reflection and feedback from my peers. Another thing that I have learned in this process is that feedback is exceptionally important when writing instructions. I have appreciated this information as well as my newfound respect for awareness of printable instructions! During this semester I had many new things occurring in my life. I was married on October 15, accepted a new position on October 24, and moved in November! I am now an Instructional Technologist at DePauw University and have been aiding in the creation and review of instructional materials as they make a move to a new website and create a Knowledge Base for the campus. I cannot stress enough how beneficial this course has been in developing my instructional writing skills, or how beneficial the feedback I have gotten has been for the growth of my personal writing.