More virtual training for virtual teachers, subtitle edition

My God

I’m watching a Zoom training video, which suffers from the usual problem of the trainer rapidly and efficiently clicking tiny little icons and then moving on before I can spot which tiny little icon she clicked and where it was on the screen.

Have we learned nothing about video training in the decades we’ve been subjecting people to video trainings?

But even worse, this particular training video also has a very large subtitle at the bottom of the screen obscuring the icons being clicked.

OK, problem solved. “Closed captions” was set to “On” for some reason.

So after spending a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how not to have subtitles in a language I don’t speak obscuring the bottom of my screen, I will now spend another 10 minutes re-watching “Meeting Controls.”

Good thing I speak English. If I needed subtitles to learn Zoom, I’d be in trouble.

Also: good thing I’ve been using Zoom for book club and union meetings. I’m thinking about all the adjuncts whose first hands-on experience of Zoom is going to be the first day they use it to live stream their socially-distanced classrooms two weeks from now.

Zoom on

Virtual training for virtual teachers

A couple of weeks from now, I will be hybrid-teaching college composition to a group of entering freshmen.

I will be masked; four or five students will be present, also masked; the rest of my students will be on laptops somewhere else scrolling their phones while I attempt to live stream the proceedings.

(Pretty sure there’s no way to confiscate cell phones remotely.)

It’s that last part, the live streaming part, that’s stressing me today. I have no idea how to live stream myself using my college’s technology, which has always been glitchy and opaque, and I shudder at the thought of trying to learn the ropes while also teaching the handful of students allowed to attend in person.

I’ve been sending emails to my department chair & program head asking for training … which they’re not in charge of because … that’s just the way things are. They are the people most intimately familiar with what I’ll be trying to achieve in a hybrid learning set up, but they won’t be the ones walking me through the technology I’ll have to use to pull it off.

Someone else is in charge of training, and it’s all virtual. All of it.

Virtual training on how to use Blackboard or Zoom is only marginally superior to self-training via YouTube videos and PDF files, but I’ll survive. I can practice both before we go quote-unquote live.

But virtual training on actual hardware I’ll have to use in real time inside a real classroom … as they say on Twitter, that’s a hard no. One moment’s lapse of attention, and I’ll be lost.

Speaking of attention lapses, I wonder if I can record the training?

Sounds like a job for a cell phone.

And see:
Cell phone agonistes

Block editor no fun

WordPress’s new block editor is the pits.

I used to be able to easily change the color of a font, now I can’t.

Used to be able easily to change font size by inserting html code, now I can, but it’s super-hard to do inside a blockquote.

Plus I don’t really grok what a block is anyway, so it’s not like I’m thrilled to finally have blocks.


I’ve just successfully changed the light grey default color of a blockquote to black (below). Let’s see if I have any idea how I did it when I want to do it again.

test: a blockquote in black, not grey

UPDATE 6:04: I may have just found the Classic editor. Time to stop obsessing over this & go make some more union calls.

How to write an introduction

Tour de force

One exciting thing about being alive at this pivotal moment in history is that I’m constantly learning about strong opinions I didn’t previously know I had. Before mid-March 2020, if you’d asked me how I felt about videoconferencing, I’d have shrugged. It’s fine? Now I would have to amend that opinion slightly. It’s not fine. It’s horrible, a form of psychic torture, and I hate it so deeply that my hatred feels physical, like an allergic reaction.

Remote Learning is a Bad Joke by Emily Gould

She’s fabulous on the subject of her 5-year old son, Raffi:

To say that virtual pre-K didn’t go well would be an understatement. On day one Raffi cried, screamed, hit his parents, hit his brother, broke things, and spat a cup of juice all over my laptop. The next day, my husband and I tried it again, and things went about the same way.


Raffi had unrealistic expectations too: He was used to being able to talk to his classmates directly, to hug them and hold hands with them and fight with them. “X stepped on my hand on the playground on purpose,” he told us repeatedly that spring, not angrily but in the bemused tone of someone nurturing a grudge into full flower. This eventually became a tone of nostalgia: If only X would step on his hand again! He was used to being able to sing and speak in a chorus. He had no prior experience of muting himself. Arguably, this was a good time for him to learn that valuable skill. He would argue that it was not.

I want a Raffi substack to subscribe to.

Teachers are Heroes, too

After all the op-eds back and forth re: teachers refusing to teach in the classroom this fall, NYDOE results are in: only 15% of New York City teachers requested accommodations.


In one school I know, the number asking to teach remotely was 10%.

And what do you want to bet those 10 to 15% are teachers who really should have accommodations, given age and health issues?

One lesson I’m trying to learn, speaking as a person who follows politics, is not to take negotiating positions “seriously.” Unions (and Washington politicians) tend to take maximalist positions, but those aren’t the positions they’re going to end up in and everyone knows it except the people writing op eds and panicking.

(At least, I think unions take maximalist positions … I’m still learning the ropes in my own new union, which has asked that adjuncts be given the choice to teach remotely. Not sure whether asking for choice qualifies as maximalist. It may.)

Anyway, that 15% figure warms my heart. Of course I understand why teachers would be nervous about returning to the classroom, but when you think about the uncomplaining sacrifices made by essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants and delivery trucks…

It’s good to know teachers are made of the same stuff.

We’re now live at ResearchEd2020!

This year’s conference is online, and our talk, Using intuitive “information-integration” learning to teach language to autistic and L2 students online has just gone live.

Catherine teaches us about the two learning systems (implicit vs. rule-based learning), with a fascinating discussion of the Iowa Gambling Task. Turning to my SentenceWeaver program, we then talk about how the two learning systems relate to the syntax and pragmatics of questions and pronouns.  We also show some videos of the program in action, including of the brand-new animated Pronouns Module, and of Catherine’s non-verbal son acing his way through the Questions Module.

The video should be available indefinitely.

The Philadelphia Inquirer no longer publishes letters on line

…so I’ll have to do that myself:


And, while I’m at it, I might as well re-post it in a searchable format with live links:

To the Editor,
Your recent Op-Ed, Americans with Disabilities Act should cover autism, too, was accompanied by a highly misleading photograph. It shows a boy pointing to letters on a board that is held up by another person. The same photograph has appeared elsewhere as an illustration of Rapid Prompting, also known as Spelling to Communicate. Rapid Prompting is a form of what’s known as “facilitated communication.” Based on a redefinition of autism as a sensory-motor disorder, Rapid Prompting lacks a solid evidence base. Particularly worrying are questions about whether those undergoing Rapid Prompting are actually doing the communicating. A large body of research indicates that the facilitators subconsciously direct the typing—for example, by shifting the board and deciding when a letter has been selected. In using this photograph as your illustration of autism, you unintentionally communicate that the methodology it depicts is generally accepted and supported.