Intriguing Stuff In Abkhasia: Words Begin With ‘A’

Wikipedia image: Apsua Holding Apsny Flag, by Apsuwara - CC-Licensed BY-SA

I love languages and and here I want to talk a bit about how huge and weird can be the world of languages, also in the sense that it has produced really strange stuff.

I stumbled into the Abkhasian language (spoken in Abkhasia, a small semi-independent state within Georgia (the Asian country) when reading a short wonderful article. Well, this language has got just two vocals (three if you consider combinations of sounds) but fifty-eight mighty consonants. 58 consonants. (See Wikipedia’s article).

In the original and super interesting Karlos Zurutuza’s Jot Down Magazine article Donde Cersei es Stalin (Where Cersei is Stalin, El Pais, Feb. 2018), some intriguing data is offered that fascinated me:

Por si fuera poco, casi el 90?% de su vocabulario comienza por la letra «a»: los abjasios se llaman apsua a sí mismos —«el pueblo de las almas»—; Apsny, a su patria, apsuara, a su código ético tradicional; atsa y ash, al pan y el queso, y se despiden con un sonoro abziaraz. Ni siquiera los préstamos se libran: arespublika, arestorant,akafe… Si alguna vez cae en sus manos un diccionario abjasio podrán pensar que no es más que el primer tomo de un inmenso glosario; el correspondiente a la «a».

As if that were not enough, almost 90% of their vocabulary begins with the letter “a”: the Abkhazians call themselves apsua – “the people of souls” -; Apsny, their homeland, apsuara, their traditional code of ethics; atsa and ash, bread and cheese, and say goodbye with a loud abziaraz. Not even loans are waged: arespublika, arestorant, akafe … If ever an Abkhazian dictionary falls into your hands you may think that it is only the first volume of an immense glossary; the one corresponding to «a». [my bold]

But this extraordinary and ancient people has another intriguing aspect of their Abkhasian culture, as Zurutuza reports:

Los abjasios son cristianos en un 80%, musulmanes en un 20%, y cien por cien paganos», asegura Stanislav Lakoba […]

Abkhasians are 80% Christian, 20% Muslim, and 100% pagans, reports…

Wikipedia states: Abkhazia is a de facto sovereign state whose status is disputed. It considers itself to be an independent state, but this is recognised by only a few other countries. The Georgian government and most of the world’s other states consider Abkhazia de jure a part of Georgia’s territory.

Wonderful discoveries.

[Featured image from Wikipedia: Apsua Holding Apsny Flag, by Apsuwara – CC-Licensed BY-SA]

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#createopenweb: Or, co-creating and co-owning the online spacez

Flickr Photo: Create, by duncan c CC-Licensed BY-NC.

#createopenweb is not a simple slogan. In the aftermath of the Facebook scandal it is all the more important to emphasize that “platforms” like Facebook take out of people the wish to create works that live on the Web. Instead, such work gets to live only within the platform silo. So, this is just a post with a reminder of the latest things that people said on this, starting with the Howard Rheingold statement about creating on the open Web instead of deleting one’s FB account. I love this approach.

Then Bryan Alexander asked –and promptly Alan Levine answered– about the ways for people to create on/for the open Web (please, note I capitalize the Web, always):

Note Alan uses Wikipedia editing as an example. So, work out ways students can create content and publish it on an available open Web platform. Even if they’re not as open as one’d like.

I can’t really resist adding here a little of what was published on the mass of data such companies have on us:

Please, stop!

You can help the web be better in 2018: just ditch Facebook and use your browser instead

You can help the web be better in 2018: just ditch Facebook and use your browser instead

Well perhaps you don’t have to ditch FB: I happen to use it very little, essentially to communicate/share with some few friends I wouldn’t else connect with. But, you should definitely **use your browser**, and Firefox is better at privacy and speed. And it is from a non-profit organization which we love, Mozilla.

Still, FB practices of tracking users even when off Facebook is certainly a reason why it should not be used in education.

But all the above is not my main reason to ditch FB and other silos containers-platforms in favor of the open Web. Here is why: an article from Cole Camplese enlightens right on this idea of #createopenweb in the context of teaching.

In the blog post My Internet: One Course At A Time, Camplese says (and I quote–the bold is mine):

1. Facebook is a main menu on the web. It is a filtered gateway that seems to have sucked the joy out of creating new and interesting open content online. 

2. Why I always insist on using a course blog as the hub of the teaching and learning experience. I think I know why based on that reflection tonight — for the duration of the semester I get to create the Internet I love.

3. [And that is…] An online space that we co-own, co-create, and co-engage in.


[Featured Image–Flickr Photo: Create, by duncan c. CC-Licensed BY-NC.]

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Our class meeting: Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The class started at six in the afternoon as usual. Jorge and I had had an intense couple of weeks. We can imagine that Yoselyn too, since she has recently moved to the United States and we all know that moving can be a hassle. We talked about our week with the professor, who is always interested  in knowing if we are doing well and understanding what has been established for the course.

One of the agreements we reached in our previous class was to use an application called Hypothesis. It’s an open and free app that gets downloaded into your browser tool bar so that you can annotate and have conversations with anyone in Blogs, web pages and PDF documents. I thought it was a very handy tool. We put it to use when reading Cole Clamplese’s article, My Internet. One Course at a Time and made some comments throughout it.  The professor highlighted some of the most important aspects of the article and mainly focused his attention on the following two points: closed vs. open software architecture with facebook as the main example of a clearly closed and controled virtual enviroment, and secondly the possibilities offered by an enviroment for users to produce meaningful content.

We tooked our time talking about facebook. Its obviuosly under a lot of controversy due to the most recent news about the leaking of personal data used for coorporate and political means.  This discussion really interested me. I went home afterwards, searched for more info about this; couldn’t believe the magnitude of the problem. This whole thing made me think about the importance of creating safe learning enviroments for students and faculty. I asked myself, can learning enviroments be free from the media manipulation and data filtering to which we are subjected as Web users? To what extent can we control and keep out of our learning enviroments  every dangerous aspect of the Web? Should we control our learning enviroments even more? I think we should provide tools to make students, astute Web users. Data filtering and profile manipulation is an ethical dilema that needs to be considered by Web users and educational institutions. The professor said, “the privacy of the students, that’s the price you pay when having a google account, for example, in your institution”. That’s definetly something to think about.

Click to view slideshow.

Another interesting discussion we had was about informal learning enviroments where learning experiences occur that could also be used in formal learning settings. Jorge mentioned a game called Eveonline, a spatial simulation game and the professor talked about World of Warcraft as another example of this. With World of Warcraft we have another massively multiplayer online role-playing type of game that allows thousands of players to enter a virtual world simultaneously through the internet and interact with each other. Players control an avatar within a world exploring the enviroment, fighting against various monsters and players, completing missions and interacting with non-player characters or other players. Completing missions will help players to level up and in this way, they can get equipment that will help them later to fight the different creatures that appear in their path.

Click to view slideshow.

These games have many followers, amongs them people of all ages, which means that the motivational element is really working for them. The immersion aspect has a big influence as well in terms of captivating the player, I think,  and the fact that they offer diverse enviroments within the game in itself, and so many possiblities in terms of what the players can choose to do. About this, we could emphasize the fact that these games have certain characteristics we could put to use in our learning enviroments. We want motivated and delighted learners in our courses and institutions; learners that feel they can work in unison to achieve established goals, that feel the drive to do more. Well crafted games have that ability, they make people feel that way. Plus, with these type of games such as World of Warcraft, you could easily exemplify what a state of government is, what constitutes a society, you could teach the basics of economics, and many other things teachers could bring into their classrooms.

Next, we jumped right into discussing the first draft of our final class proyect. We were supposed to begin working collaboratively on a chart in which we show what are the criteria and the must-do’s of a design of a learning enviroment according to the different learning theories. We worked on this: Primera tabla trabajo final.docx . Jorge and I read everything to the professor and explained every criteria of design chosen for each of the theories. The professor told us we needed more specific examples of the types of learning enviroments you must design in order to accomplish each theories fundamentals. For example, if you’re working with a constructivist approach, you must-do a Lab type of design or even a workshop stations type of design. That’s why we are adding another column to the chart. We must add the learning enviroment example column and provide space in the chart to distinguish between virtual spaces and physical learning spaces.

Based on all this, Jorge and I will make a tour of the university and visit different physical learning enviroments. The aim will be to reach some conclusions about the learning enviroments that exist in campus. We will make observations and document our rounds for the study with photos and videos. Yoselyn could make the corresponding inquiries about the virtual enviroments of the university.

The three of us should have a second draft of the chart with the new data collected from the physical and virtual campus by April 3, 2018. We’ll have the week of the 9th to revise and finish everything. We no longer have to summit a paper, but instead we’ll have the chart already prepared with a summary of the most important aspects of it all and with our final remarks. This will be due Thursday, April 19, 2018; the day of our final class.

The next thing to see will be our documentation on learning enviroments in the university. Do not miss it because it intends to be didactic and entertaining.


The abyss and the abyss invoked by the abyss

Flickr photo: Abyss, by lucyroo.

Sometimes (often, really) we find little gems of text within an already great work of literature. I stumbled in this terrific segment by Writer Gianfranco Garofiglio:


Le cose non esistono se non abbiamo le parole per chiamarle.

Things do not exist if we have no words to call them.

Which can’t but remind of this blog’s lemma,

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” –Flannery O’Connor

Indeed, day in and out I am reminded that thoughts are not just abstract entities wandering in the mind, but objects that materialize in a concrete shape only when written down.

In Garofiglio’s novel Le perfezioni provvisorie (Temporary Perfections in English; Las perfecciones provisionales in Spanish), there is this wonderful quote that literally left me breathless:

«Chi è costei che sorge come l’aurora,
bella come la luna, fulgida come il sole,
terribile come schiere a vessilli spiegati?».
–Cantico dei Cantici 6, 10

Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
–Song of Solomon 6:10 (Canticle of Canticles)

¿Quién es ésta que se muestra como el alba,
Hermosa como la luna,
Esclarecida como el sol,
Imponente como ejércitos en orden?
–Cantar de los Cantares de Salomón

So, I discovered that the same verses were quoted in Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose.

Ma chi era costei, che sorgeva davanta a me come l’aurora, bella come la luna, fulgida come il sole, terribile come un esercito schierato in battaglia.
Temevo di essere preda del demonio, il quale sa bene come afferrarti l’anima e illudere il corpo. E poi, capii l’abisso e l’abisso invocato dall’abisso. Mi resi conto che avevo peccato.

(Google Translate does a nice job): I was afraid of being prey to the devil, who knows how to grab your soul and delude your body. And then, I understood the abyss and the abyss invoked by the abyss. I realized that I had sinned.

I understood the abyss and the abyss invoked by the abyss. Wow, the use of metatext.

Flickr photo: Abyss, by lucyroo.

[Featured and above image: Flickr photo – Abyss, by lucyroo. CC-Licensed, BY-NC]

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PR Connection Podcast: Episode Four

Puerto Rico Connection, Image by Alan Levine

Now that Alan and friends (see bottom of post…) are very busy in Guadalajara doing murals and tacos and working breathlessly with the faculty at UdG, I think I can really take the chance to publish our latest (fourth) episode of the Puerto Rico Connection podcast before he does!!

{Elaboration from the poster of the film “Twenty Feet From Stardom”}

Of course it was a pleasure to spend half an hour with him talking about the stuff we like to talk about and then to set up a TapeWrite episode. As always with TapeWrite you have to edit a series of cards that are attached to single moments of time of the recorded audio. Then you search for media, tweets, photos etc. to complement the audio. It’s some work but a lot of fun also. So Alan set up the recording: he included in fact the usual starting and ending music for our podcast and then I uploaded it onto TapeWrite and then did the work that you can see embedded here and hear through the platform.

I’m not going to repeat here the fun things we discussed in the episode. But, like immediately apparent from the episode poster, some thing must be said on the self-imposed 20-minute limit we are trying to stick to. It’s difficult, and at the same time hopefully will allow for some little more control on the episodes.

Alan and I discussed the opportunity to continue doing the podcast with a simpler work schedule. I mean, using TapeWrite is certainly a great thing in that you complement the audio with open Web media; still this editing may add delays in the publishing time. Also in order to be enjoyed, a TapeWrite podcast needs be listened to as well as watched, thus limiting access to it. I mean, I couldn’t view it while driving, could I.

I would like personally to explore the audio-only media affordances, and I think Alan agrees to play along, so we may end up using simply Soundcloud or other tools to publish our future episodes. Like Anchor, which I just came to notice, a nice tool to record episodes directly from a smartphone and push them straight to the distributing channels like Soundcloud or iTunes.

One way or the other I love the idea of periodically get together over the air with Alan and talk about things we enjoy and I’m really thankful for the opportunity to explore the podcast medium with him!

I am closing this by pointing already to our fifth episode which we recorded from Guadalajara itself (a spirited conversation with Alan, Brian Lamb and Grant Potter), and which will be published soon.

[Featured Image: Puerto Rico Connection, by Alan Levine]

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