February 18, 2004
Some more face-to-face learning experiences

More personal recollections, in a way that reinforces this theme (which I also bounced over to Transport Blog), namely why face-to-face contact makes learning things so much easier, and hence why travelling is still such a worthwhile activity, despite all this new gadgetry we now have, much of it of the sort which you might think would make travelling superfluous.

patrick.jpgThis evening I managed to entice Transport Blog supremo Patrick Crozier over to visit me, to explain about how to embed thumbnail pictures in postings. I hope very soon to be concocting a posting for Transport Blog, with lots of thumbnail pictures, which will make use of this knowledge.

Patrick had threatened to email me with the instructions for doing this, but I am extremely glad that instead he was able to call round in person.

There were about half a dozen different button pushings and data inputtings, all of which had to be got right, and only by him watching me do it and heckling me could I be sure that I was getting it all right. Any one of these half dozen things could have gone wrong if I'd done all this for real without Patrick's preparatory tutorial, and if something had gone wrong it would have taken an age to sort it all out.

So far so very helpful, but then in the pub afterwards with Patrick I learned something even more helpful, this time concerning how I could make better use of my Canon A70 digital camera. Crucial to this story is that Patrick also has a Canon A70 digital camera. And what is more he had his with him. And what is even more, I had mine with me. In the pub.

I can't remember why I got talking about my camera. I think I was boasting about some indoor photos I took and stuck up at my Culture Blog, using a tripod to keep the camera still. Ah, said Patrick, there's another thing you can do to deal with that. If you switch the nob on the top from AUTO to P, and then press FUNC, and then press the MF button (which is the lowest one of the four … you know, other buttons that are in a diamond, if you get my drift which you probably don't which is my whole point here) until you get to the bit that says "ISO Speed" and then take it up from 50 to 400, and then take your indoor photos, they'll come out far better.

I didn't have a Flash Card in my camera. If I had, I would have been able to satisfy myself of this truth immediately. As it was, I was able to make the necessary adjustments in the pub but was only able to take some photos after Patrick had gone. Which I did, and very good they looked too.

When people talk about how you ought to "get out more", they're not just talking about you getting drunk more often and propositioning more barmaids and vomitting over more strangers. They are talking about you learning more.

This sort of dialogue can happen in long distance chit chat, over the phone for example. But it is far more likely to happen in face-to-face contact, because when you are face-to-face you talk about all kinds of stuff, and signal all manner of ignorance and invite all kinds of educational comment.

And the other vital thing is that we both had the identical piece of kit. This meant that Patrick could show me then and there what I had to do. Push this, twiddle that, etc. Because here's another Key Point. I have only the dimmest idea of what all that nob-twiddling actually achieved. Had I had to understand the abstract principle being deployed here, which I would have done if I had wanted to get the same principle working on a different digital camera, I doubt if any of this would have worked.

The key point is that I didn't ask Patrick a deliberately targetted question. I was merely rambling, and he then volunteered the information. I didn't know there even was a question.

But of course, now that I have been out (and more to the point, now that Patrick has) I have an actual question to ask Now, distance learning can swing into action, because now I am aware much more precisely of my ignorance. How is it that, whereas before, when I took indoor photos in artificial light, the slightest wobble blurred the picture hopelessly, but now, with my camera's "ISO Speed" set at "400" instead of 50, I was able to take a bunch of amazingly well focussed self portraits simply by holding the camera out and pointing it back at myself, and clicking, with all manner of wobbling going on? I'm guessing that 400 means that the camera opened and shut, so to spea, much more quickly, and hence the wobbling, which was still going on, actually did far less blur damage. Yes? But if that's so, how come the picture still came out properly balanced, instead of nearly pitch black?

And here's another question which I can now ask, this time because I can be reasonably hopeful of understanding the answer. Suppose that, instead of having a thumbnail picture in this text that showed the whole photo of Patrick (only in miniature), I had wanted to have a thumbnail which merely showed Patrick's face, and then when you clicked on it you'd only then get the whole photo. How can that be contrived? I've seen it done. But how is it done?

Answers in the comments section to either of those two questions would be most welcome.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:11 AM
Category: Brian's educationLearning by doing