Changes & Transitions

I am in the process of changing my hosting and will move my websites and eventually this blog to a new hosting service. I will finally have all of my projects in one environment, which I hope will give me more time to focus on writing and creating sites that are meaningful to those who want to learn web design as well as develop self-directed learning skills. I am also designing websites again, and will host some of my clients on the new hosting environment. It is an exciting transition for me as I continue to find more focus in retirement, although I am still teaching as an adjunct Professor.

Since my retirement and transition to adjunct teaching I am beginning to focus on work with faculties who are interested in developing digital literacies through training in a variety of social software tools and processes. I have taught a class for beginning web design students that was a similar approach, but I find that without good models of how software and networking can be effective and expansive for learning, these vital skills will not be easily available to the majority of students. So a transition to working with other teachers in a new type of professional development is slowly underway.

Once my new hosting and domain transfers take place, I will continue to post at this site until I can establish the new environment.

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Unique Ways to Learn…

Dan  Cederholm has been one of my favorite web designers to follow for a long time. There is something about the simplicity of his words – not simple words, but clear and concise when he describes a coding process, that I found in the first book of his that I read and used for my classes (Web Standards Solutions).

Reading his Simplebits website this morning, I read about his recent WordPress theme Pears. I have read the brief article before, but this time I went to the link for Pears [pear.rs] and discovered an amazing idea – to create a website to “collect, test, and experiment with interface pattern pairings of CSS and HTML”. The design is mainly for the user to create a collection of their own such patterns with the unique features of the theme’s structure. The left column is where you define a pattern you want to build and collect. When you select the pattern, the top half of the page becomes the pattern – a coded demonstration. The bottom half is a split window with the code used to create the pattern with the HTML on one side and the CSS on the other. What a great tool for learning and for storing snippets of code!

I highly recommend visiting pear.rs if you are just learning to code html and css, and to try the theme when you have your own hosting service as a tool for developing your own “patterns”. It is a great tool to add to my personal learning environment too!

Somehow, while on Simplebits my iPad jumped to Instagram.com/simplebits. Dan has collected a series of images to share – which probably are places and people where he lives. I have not bothered with Instagram before now, but I realized I have many images of my community that would be fun to share in this type of “biographical story”. Another project, but it looks like a fun way to share the community I am so attracted to and involved with.

New Theme, New Ideas

Sometimes its fun to simply select someone else’s theme and focus on writing. At this stage I am more interested in designing information, than designing the theme. I like the bold look of this theme, the ease of reading and the simple navigation of categories. This has been an overwhelming quarter and its good that it is about done. This is a new beginning – with time to write and share experiences.

This is my last week as a full-time instructor, and even though I will teach a few classes in the winter quarter, I mostly look forward to the challenges ahead, and the new things I want to accomplish. I may even build a few websites along the way, and perhaps even make a difference in my community….

Web design & development has grown in leaps and bounds since I began teaching back in 1997. And it is easy to see that there were more major additions and changes to the focus of our industry this past year, than any I can remember. The dot com crash of 2000 was mild compared to the dramatic changes that are occurring because of the rapid expansion of internet capable devices. The impact of responsive web design is almost overwhelming as there are so many frameworks and practices in place, yet some areas that simply are not working effectively yet. The new year will surely find better solutions for images, and perhaps even browser adjustments. It should be an exciting year and a great time to be a web design learner and professional.

What really is difficult in our business is design thinking, how do you solve the new types of problems clients will come to us with – that have never been tackled before? Who dreamed that over 50% of the computer use in this country would be on a 320×480 viewport? And the number will probably increase more rapidly than we can say responsive design. How about designing a clients e-commerce solution for a mobile phone? There are not yet established patterns for Responsive Web Design yet; flex layout and grid layout specifications are coming soon, not to mention more focus on scripting and developing personal frameworks to speed our coding effort. We have to have great tools for learning, just to keep up with the changes! But we still have the challenges of the impact of the web on our global village as the major challenge.

The real learning experience available to all of us, is through collaboration with colleagues who are working to solve the current issues with RWD. It is an important time to realize how social networking will be important to our forward progress, as changes will still be rapid and confusing at time. We need to stay connected to the larger design community to keep up with the changes. We really need to focus on design thinking at this stage, and get to the essence of what we are working to accomplish.

It’s been a good run with great people – I’ll be around teaching part-time for a while, but the ebb and flow of this life is changing – I will be doing the things that matter to me – trying to make a difference….

How I manage information

I manage digital information differently according to what I am doing and the context of the process. I generally browse from my Netvibes RSS listings, or from more detailed subscriptions from NetNewsWire which is a high-end Mac content aggregator that automatically synchronizes with Google Reader. (I like the security of having my desktop aggregator duplicated with a cloud based system). NetVibes contains the frequently accessed subscribed sites, while NetNewsWire is a more extensive collection of subscriptions.

I typically browse RSS feeds beginning in Netvibes. I quickly tag anything I want to capture with a bookmarklet icon that takes me directly to delicious.com. In Delicious tag with a generic tag (css), a more specific tag (css3_tutorial), and sometimes added specificity (css3_queries_tutorial). When I am short on time I create a “READ” tag, which takes me back to articles I want to read in the very near future.

I also carry a Moleskine pocket notebook to Collect other types of information. It goes everywhere I go, and collects anything I want to collect. I also have a Moleskine for books/authors/publisher data in which I keep a lengthy list of new books that I think are important.

If I am going to post several articles, I use Marsedit, a Mac app that is a great outside editor which can add images, links, etc. and then automatically post to whatever blog I wanted to post to. I have multiple blogs so this is a handy and quick tool for getting a lot of posting done. It is also easy to create drafts, then go back and add to them and edit.

I am not a friendly FaceBook user, but do check it occasionally and get more links reminding me to than I choose to pay attention to. I also use Linkedin, with about the same amount of enthusiasm! I prefer searching subscribed resources and constantly updating my storage of articles and files that I can then find instantly.

More to come. Your process and any interesting tools you use to learn with, would be welcome comments.

Managing information

George Siemens stated that “The most critical skill that individuals need to master today is how to manage information.” Skills such as critical thinking, detecting information that is not accurate, creating personal learning networks, and similar 21st century skills are all based on how we manage information. This is the focus of our Fundamentals Of IMD course, that involves experiencing social networking tools that can become an extension of how we learn in a digital world. Hopefully, you continue to build your personal learning environment that began in Fundamentals.

It is important to learn the topics of our domains of study such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PhP, Flash, image manipulation, and planning processes. But these languages and tools are constantly changing as are the types of problems potential clients will ask us to solve.

We will only be as successful as the way we manage the overwhelming maze of information that is available to us. We are only as “smart” as the way we choose to manage the information that is the basis of our domains.

How do you manage information? What tools and processes have you developed and customized to support your design creativity? What networks or communities have your found that support your domain of learning?

If you only do your assignments, you may not develop the real skills necessary to become a successful designer. If you only create what teachers ask you to create in classes, you may never find out how to solve real problems that will confront you when you graduate.

I will add another article here about how I manage information, and I encourage you to share your methods and practices as a comment to this blog, or in discussions with your peers and instructors.