Monthly Archives: October 2023

Learning Communities

I spent two hours in back-to-back Zoom meetings this morning and feel refreshed and inspired. Yes, you read that correctly. Refreshed and inspired.

Online communities have been forming even before the Internet as we know it existed, with their roots in the early bulletin board systems. This fall, I have joined two groups with two very different purposes that represent my current professional and personal interests. They both met this morning so I moved from a task force discussing AI with colleagues at my university to a meeting of the Handmade Book Club.

The AI group is blended with attendees both face to face and online. I appreciate the online option being offered as I otherwise would not make the hour-long drive to the city to participate. The monthly group is loosely led by one of the faculty development staff, but three people signed up to talk about what they have been doing with and learning about AI. I am on for December and plan to talk about my experiments with my students as well as finding ways that it can support my assessment and evaluation course. For now, I am spending time with MagicSchool. We also have access to a ChatGPT clone with a small balance so I’ve been exploring that as well. Report to come.

The Handmade Book Club is fully virtual as there are attendees from all over the world including two women today from Ireland and the UK. They meet every Friday morning to discuss various topics. The last meeting of the month is where members share the books they made for that month’s challenge. This month was Pamphlet Palooza, and we made books with long “pamphlet” stitches that could then be used for weaving. The books they shared were reflections of their lives and interests with many including handmade paper and fabric. My own is fairly simple although I did include pages from a coloring book as a personal touch.

https://flickr.com/65535/53261401610_cc17650ab0_c.jpg

One question that was often asked was what they planned to do with the book. Some had an answer: one woman had started a common place journal while another planned to use it as a daily art journal to keep track of her work. But most really didn’t have an answer: the joy for them was in the making. I know how they feel as my own pile of handmade books continues to grow. I can’t wait to find out what the November book is going to be!

DIY: Homemade Washi Tape

If you are not a crafter, you may not be familiar with washi tape. It is a decorative tape used for a variety of crafting purposes. I used purchased Washi Tape to create Ali Manning’s Washi Tape Journal.

There are a variety of tutorials for creating your own tape. This one from Randomona at Instructables starts with masking tape, which has a similar texture to real washi tape, and offers ideas for decorating the tape with various media from watercolor to colored pencils.

My idea was to recycle magazine pages for the tape, using double-sided tape as the base. I was able to try it out today, and the experiment was semi-successful. Washi tape is able to be moved around a bit before adhering completely. Double-sided tape is completely unforgiving: it sticks the minute it touches the background material.

I decided to add a challenge to the journal cover by taking one image and slicing it into washi tape wedges, spacing them out across the cover. It mostly worked although, as you can see from the pictures below, one of the pieces of the bridge doesn’t quite line up. I was so worried about the tape that I forgot about the alignment. I experimented on the back by putting down wider pieces of the background but it really didn’t work. The strips of the picture aren’t evenly spaced.

Here’s my bigger picture thought about this in terms of learning: part of me was disappointed as there are issues with the cover. But, I *learned* a lot and am already planning to try again tomorrow, applying a bit more precision to the widths of the background pieces. This is the process that should undergird performance based assessment: generating an idea, trying it out, reflecting, tinkering, trying again, reflecting, rinse and repeat as much as possible. It is messy, not easy to assess, but a process that opens a whole host of learning opportunities.

Critiques aside, I am actually happy with how it turned out. I put in an order for removable double-sided tape and am heading to my craft staff to see if I have any masking tape. I seem to be able to picture a box. Wish me luck.

As I dig around, you can check out the cover pictures below. I’ll make a single signature and sew it together later.

Homemade Washi Tape

The Best $26 I Have Ever Spent

I enjoy playing computer games. I recently reinstalled Township on my iPad. And it wasn’t long before I was reminded why I had deleted it the last time. At some point, in order to really advance in the game, the player is encouraged to spend some money. Maybe just a dollar or two or three or maybe more. It can happen quickly and sometimes too easily. I have found that, eventually, the game gets a little repetitive as, despite perks as you move through the levels, you are mostly asked to complete similar kinds of tasks required by the game.

This time, as I went to press the pay button a little too quickly, I was reminded that I could be building and harvesting and exploring almost for free in Minecraft. Since I don’t play on my iPad, Minecraft seems like more of a commitment, requiring a laptop and even a mouse. But even that is good as it makes game playing more intentional, not just something else to do because it’s easy and available.

I paid for Minecraft many years ago at a time when most education-focused websites and software was free. So, twenty six dollars seemed like a lot of money, particularly if you weren’t sure you would stick with it. I play about four times a year and have easily played for ten years: that’s less than a dollar a game. And, I can start and restart to my heart’s content so when I get tired of a particular simulation, I can start a new one, or move from game to game, maybe building something grand in creative mode or battling creepers in survival mode. And, ultimately, it remains interesting as I am the decision maker. There are rules to follow but they don’t dictate what I have to do as much as what I should or could do within the context of the game.

As I type this, I am downloading the iPad version and plan to try it out this evening. If I am going to “waste time” playing a game, at least I can do it mostly for free.

Happy Belated Thingaversary to Me!

I knew my anniversary of joining LibraryThing was coming up, but I thought it was later this week. Turns is, my Thingaversary was last Friday. I joined the site on October 13, 2005! Eighteen years of recording my books and connecting with other book lovers and readers. One of my retirement goals was to be more connected: I check in more often and post on other people’s threads, and I write at least short reviews of every book I read, something I didn’t always take time to do before.

LT was an early vision of what the Web could be in terms of both utility and community. I am pleased to have been part of it almost since its inception in August 2005. It is old school and has stayed much the same, adding features and updates but not messing with its original design and purpose.

Cheers to LT and here’s to another 18 years!

Muddling Through Monday

When my father retired, I gave him a hard time as he still got up every Monday morning but instead of going to his office, he went to the church where he helped out with tracking attendance data from the day before. I told him that when I retired, I would most definitely not do anything resembling work at least until noon on Monday.

I have mostly stuck by that vow, puttering around in my pajamas, enjoying a second latte, doing some general weekly planning. Some Monday mornings, I even take that second latte back to bed with my current read. It feels deliciously decadent after decades of having to face the outside world much too early on Mondays. I apologize to those of you with real jobs who even now are looking forward to lunch time for triggering any envy or sadness. Your time will come. Meanwhile, feel free to live vicariously through me.

In my former life, Mondays were WORK days as I figured the more I got done that day, the easier the rest of the week would be. I still have that philosophy and right now am facing a pretty brutal grading deadline for one of my seven-week courses. My workload, however, is such that I can wait until the afternoon to get started. Truth be told, I was curious to see the projects from my class and have already graded two of the early postings. It didn’t really feel like work.

I made another book this weekend. It’s a pamphlet stitch journal that incorporates weaving into the long stitches that make up the binding. It is the October book project for Ali Manning’s Handmade Book Club. I attended the new member welcome meeting last week, and we were strongly encouraged to share our books no matter how inexperienced we were. So…I did. I am a bit out of my comfort zone in terms of both sharing the pictures with other more advanced bookmakers but also just generally getting involved in an online community. It seems like a safe place, however, and I have already learned a lot and created more than I have for a very long time.

I wanted to use materials I had around the house to complete the book. The back and front covers are made from some handmade paper I bought. I used coloring book pages for some of the signature covers. The ribbon and buttons were part of my stash. There is an option to add some kind of closure, but I think I like this the way it is.

Woven Pamphlet Stitch Book