Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Google+ Thoughts

If you have a Gmail account, you're
either on board or about to be invited. Like it or not. There is no thumb up or down button.

After spending some time exploring the tool, here are some random thoughts in no particular order of importance.

-Overnight you may find that you have a platform that allows you to think out loud instantly.
Plus: No signing in, no evaluating the tool, no time lost comparing it to others, no time convincing your friends to join. You do not need a YouTube account or UStream or Flickr or Ning (remember Ning?). Forget upgrades (Picasa offers unlimited storage if you have a G+ account associated, did you know?). Who needs diverse sources?
Minus: Just one company designing the kind of experiences you'll have. By the same token, never attempt to learn a foreign language that is not spoken by most of the world population. Disambiguation Note: I feverishly subscribe to diversity of content and means for learning.

-You tweet it; they plurk it.
Plus: Your audience is not trapped into 140 characters. They will decide whether your post deserves a near real time response as in Plurk, just a longer tweet, a forum-like troubleshooting thread, a thoughtful post (the one I wanted to link to has limited visibility- ouch) or merely a lazy +1.
Minus: You know how much time you spend posting. When do you end responding a circle?

-You could start blogging (by which I mean, reading, connecting, reflecting and getting comments while learning throughout the process) without knowing anything about blog engines or html. No need to ask people to identify themselves in a comment form, URL, email, captcha for each contribution. All done.
Plus: Fluency. Less stumbling blocks. More participants. Exciting. Short-term.
Minus: Many people rent before buying a home. It's better to have some home. Endurance. Long-term.

-You choose all: What to publish and who will view it. Taking for granted that old fashioned privacy is offline, near privacy is probably a G+ circle.
Plus: Control. At least you control sender direction. Wait for RSS-ing G+ tags. Or am I imagining too much?
Minus: Serendipity escapes control.

-Hanging out with people has never been simpler. No need to integrate video, usernames (Does everybody have an account? That's an old problem). Instant web conferencing platform? Maybe. Publish one. Search for one.
Plus: Anybody could be there.
Minus: Anybody could be there.

Shall we learn in G+?
Of course.
Think of the memoristic education we had and the blogs we write today. How has that been possible? Call me optimistic, but I believe learning rules.

Will it better or worse than (you name it)?
Just different. I don't feel any G+ hype yet, but I'm open to be surprised.

I'm there. Teach me.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Learning Italian and a poem

I'm attending Italian lessons again after so many years. Back then, I only studied with books. Now I'm surrounded by connectivy and possibilities I have explored for my own students of English, yet not so much for my own informal learning support outside the class.

So I've done my little online research and collected my resources on a wiki. Today I felt the need to go more social about it. I came across a couple of groups in Facebook that surprised me for their content, participation and creativity. Yeah, it seems Facebook can do good!

The group Impariamo Italiano gives you a variety of prompts to practice. From pictures of Italy where you must guess and post answers (in Italian of course) to questions (using a Facebook app) to choose the right grammar of a sentence. They even answer you in a personal way in the comments. A very interesting model of how to use Facebook for staying in touch with the language in an environment where everybody is real and a learner.

This prompt caught my attention, translated into English, it says,

Write a brief story including these five words: Night, do, tomorrow, kiss and sea.

It caught my eye because I remember having to do exercises of the kind in English exams. As a student, I disliked being forced to use exactly those set words. But now something changed. Out of the +21,000 fans of the page, a few folks got inspired and wrote stories.

Here's my favourite by Antonio Buffon,

"Era NOTTE alta e DOMANI poteva essere l'ultimo giorno. Non avevamo nulla da FARE, se non aspettare il momento migliore per attaccare. Uno sguardo al MARE e un BACIO alla lettera dell'amata..."

It was high night and tomorrow could be the last day. We didn't have anything to do, except wait for the best moment to attack. A look at the sea and a kiss to the letter for his beloved...

Wow. Isn't that beautiful enough for a quick post on Facebook?

I always wonder what it is that makes people participate guided by prompts that grow communities around them. I don't know. I do know what gets me inspired and writing. People like this being engaged and sharing openly without expectation of an answer. I like that.

I joined the group. Now it's my turn to try. Only my take is a
poem, not a short story. My first poem in Italian. Who would have thought it possible at level one? Hope the grammar is acceptable.

La notte è arrivata.
Niente da fare; allora il pensiero
diventa un mare
che mi fa ricordare
un'immagine di due pescatori.
Lascio un bacio al cielo
e dico il tuo nome.
Seguo a caminare.
Un giorno qualsiasi ti rincontrerò.
Per questo domani è la parola più bella.


Night is here.
Nothing to do, then my thoughts
Become the sea
That brings to mind an image
Of two fishermen.
I blow a kiss to heaven
While I say your name.
I walk on.
One day -any day- I'll find you.
That's why tomorrow is the most beautiful word.

The image in my poem is a memory of my brother and father fishing in a pier in Mar del Plata on a cloudy day. I woke up much later that day and decided to do a long walk by the sea to go and meet them. I arrived in the afternoon. The colours and the stones in Gennaroeaz' photo, though taken in Italy, come quite close to my recall of those holidays.

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