Just spent some time creating the header image for this wordpress template. I chose the picture of the wolf that my husband snapped along the Bow Parkway in Banff National Park last summer. We had a wonderful trip, which I documented on Google Maps.
Now, I’m working on maps of England and Wales for a trip I’m going to take this fall with my parents. I know I ask this every time I plan a trip, but how DID we plan trips before the web? And, now that Google has added collaboration to its maps, I was able to share it with my parents so they could add their places and see what I had in mind. I haven’t investigated to see what kind of Internet access there is to see how easy it will be to upload photos and even edit the map.
I would have gotten further on the Wales map this morning, but the database I was using crashed and has yet to come back up. It is Sunday and Easter at that so I guess it’s not a surprise. But, it is a reminder that, while the information is generally available at your finger tips, we must be careful about taking it for granted. Networks still go down, as Oprah learned in a very public way recently.
That being said, I’m still excited about the possibilities of Google Maps for organizing learning in almost every content area class. Over at the VSTE Ning site, Mike Scott, an ITRT from Botetourt County, commented that he thought it should be illegal to teach geography with using Google Earth. I agree…and ditto for lots of other content. My content area is English, and I have had a blast plotting my literary and historical tour of England. I have only just started assigning different markers to different themes. For now, the yellow markers are sites related to Llywelyn the Great, a great Welsh warlord who brought Wales as close as it had ever been to independence from England. He was married to King James’ illegitimate daughter, Joan, and their lives are fictionalized in Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Kay Penman. I prefer learning history from historical fiction. Penman’s work is generally accurate and she generally provides notes about can be documented and what she embellished. And, through the story, I learn more than just names and dates. I get a real sense of what it was like to live in Wales in the 13th century.
I can also learn Welsh online from the BBC. I was tagged as rank beginner when I took the placement quiz and was directed to Colin and Cumberland, a pretty impressive interactive website. I particularly like the speech bubbles you can add to the video in either English or Welsh. Here’s what I’ve learned so far: Bore da is “good morning,” and hwyl is “goodbye.” And, hwyl is pronounced hoyle. Who would have guessed?
I also discovered that the BBC runs a Welsh-language radio station that can be streamed over the web. It’s a testament to universal web design that I was able to pick out the play box and open up the BBC player that offers the various program choices.
As I poked around the web collecting Welsh related resources and toyed with the idea of actually learning Welsh, I was reminded of a classmate I had in an adult learning course I took in the fall of 2006. (I used this blog to reflect on my course experiences.) As part of the course, each student developed a learning contract that outlined what they would be learning over the course of the semester. After much wrestling, this particular classmate went from an academic topic to learning French for a trip she was going to take. She basically immersed herself in French from words on the refrigerator to email exchanges with a French colleague, learning about both the language and the culture. She made a commitment to herself to learn it, and she did.
But, even as I think about doing the same for learning Welsh, I hesitate. I’m busy with my dissertation and other projects. Could I really commit to this? Write a personal learning contract? One of the things we discussed in the course was the difficulty of making time for our own learning. And, in this case, I would not even have the pressure of a class. Just me and a desire to at least understand Welsh. For now, I’m going to tinker with the BBC website. I’d be happy just to be able to accurately pronounce Welsh words even if I don’t know what they mean. That’s a feat in itself I think.
I’ll close before I start waxing too rhapsodically about the wonderfulness of the web to support learning. Well, how about just one more chorus before I go to bed. I’m reading “The Living” by Annie Dillard, which is set in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. Dillard lived in the area for 5 years and the novel is historically accurate, even painstakingly so, according to this interview with her. As I’ve confessed before, I love to read; I also love the way the web allows me to explore behind the scenes, to understand both the author and her content in deeper ways.