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The Sheer Ecstasy of Feedback From Afar

Yesterday I was listening to a Electronic Portfolios Virtual Community of Practice chat session that swam around on the issues of “Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants” and motivators for students to engage in eport activity. On reflection, I think the group under estimates the sheer power of having a personal publishing platform, especially if there is a viable feedback mechamism.

The power is having a voice and the feedback is reinforcement that your voice has been heard. And the reinforcement grows when the feedback comes from unexpected places, or the far nether reaches of the Internet.

This is of course, my own unscientific pontification… but it is also my experience. Just tonight I felt the sheer ecstasy of feedback from afar.

I’ve mentioned Writing HTML tutorial (“The Volcano Lessons”) which is still generating feedback to us, and has been doing so since it was forst hung in August 1994. It’s old, and is in dire need of a complete re-write, to cover modern Web Standards and CSS… but still, I get from 1-5 messages per day from someone somewhere hitting lesson 12 where we show how to write hypertext links that generate email messages.

I had the complete luck to provide a test link in that lesson so people could see how it works, and that one luck decision has resulted in more than 3500 messages of appreciation, suggestions, a few “you suck” messages– I’ve been archiving them and they are pulled 10 at random via our “kudos” link.

A few messages stand out. The blind woman from Texas. The 10 year old from the U.K that “:outsmarted my mum”. People from internet domains I have to look up.

Tonight came another one, all the way from New Guinea:

I have been teaching IT classes for the last 20 years, and last year I decided I needed to learn how to create WEB pages.  I did a search and found your tutorial site, downloaded the whole schmeer, then forgot about it.  A week ago I thought, “I need to learn how to write HTML stuff.”  I remembered that somewhere I had downloaded a tutorial.  I searched the computer and there it was.

Unlike many other tutorials where there is a lot of reading, but not any doing, yours has made it exciting to “get back to it” each time I have a few minutes.

Thanks,

Leonard X Xxxxxxxxx (EdD)
Papua New Guinea

P.S.  I am 70 years old.

It is fulfilling to get feedback from experienced teachers, but to know our little tutorial has helped Leonard over in New Guinea, at age 70, to make an effort to learn something new…. well the heck with MasterCard, it is priceless.

I am not writing to toot our horns, but to make a case that giving learners a voice, a platform, a world audience is extremely empowering…. if our learning activities, technology systems do not connect with these personal hooks, we are missing out. It’s not to say that every technology used for learning needs these characteristics, but we should look for them. expect them, where appropriate.

We ought to be keenly aware of what truly motivates people on a personal level. It’s why digital storytelling engages. It’s why simulations and games are important.

Thanks :Leonard, more than you will ever know. We shall most likely never meet, but we have connected.

Update Sept 10, 2004. Just got another gem today:

Kudos: I am taking your html course and not only enjoying it immensely especially your wit,

I am also learning which is just great for me.

I happen to be dyslexic and a bit autistic so a structure works for me like Forest Gump.

Your course what can I say; wow, fantastic and fun!

Thanks for your time and efforts on this as it has benefited my life so much!

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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