One of the things I dislike most about being me is running into concepts that are beyond my understanding. The crushing impact occurs, usually, after I´ve promised loads of good people that "sure, I can do this, it´s a good idea, innit? Just give me a couple of weeks!"
Such is the Online Hospitalero Training Program. I waded into this deep water in the fall, when (via www.pilgrimage-to-santiago.com) I learned a couple of dozen South Africans and another scattering of Aussies and Kiwis and Alaskans want to be trained, but have no access to "live" Spanish hospitalero trainers. Hmmm, I thought... I have the time, the technology, and the will. And in a few months´ time I wheedled the needed permissions, and got certified (via Canada) to train former Santiago pilgrims how to be volunteer hosts at pilgrim hostels, using the time-honored "live" methods.
From there I could start innovating. Ivar, a tech-savvy Norwegian in Santiago, volunteered bandwidth and some advice for the new effort. Last week I sat down with every manual and teaching material I could find and tucked in to master the supposedly easy-peasy world-beater moodle.org teaching software package. From there I could just load up the program with the hospitalero-making material, and mount it all on the server.
Except I can´t.
Hours I have spent, midnight hours, toiling over this, and I cannot make it work. I cannot clearly divvy up the source material into useable chunks. I don´t understand the programming instructions. I cannot figure out how to set up a quiz, make enough space for an essay answer, or create an open forum where two or more students may gather and talk. I am faced, at the end of the day, with instructions like this:
"...The default jump in an "End of Branch" page is the preceding branch table page as an absolute jump. After a classic branch has been created, the teacher will see 3 new relative jump options: "Unseen question within a branch", "Random question within a branch" and "Random branch page". The classic branch with its "end of branch" navigation page is similar to a cluster."
Random branch page. Relative jump options...JFC. I went to bed in a blue funk, utterly frustrated and very down on myself. Here is something I can´t do. "Can´t" is not a word I say too often. I do not handle failure well. The snow tumbled down.
But in the morning I rose up refreshed, knowing there were two real, live pilgrims in the house who might want eggs for their breakfasts. That is something real, immediate, and do-able. These are the things I am sticking with today. Easy stuff.
Feeding chickens. Frying eggs. Putting soil into old ice trays, and putting little lavender seeds into the soil, and sticking them inside my spankin´ new and truly ugly mini-greenhouse. (Never mind that the websites say you just DON´T start lavender bushes from seed unless you are God.)
Editing the new CSJ guide to the Portuguese camino. Yeah. That I can do.
And bringing tea and toast upstairs to the Norwegian who´s spending her day in bed, after having spent her night in the bathroom talking to the big ear. Did I tell you the flu is epidemic in the regions east and north of us? Stasi and Pilar next door have it too. Influenza and snow. And for the pilgrims, exhaustion. Ragnhild´s been sleeping now for 15 hours.
I will cast about for help with the big project, but I wonder if maybe the Spanish nay-sayers were right. Their reasons for not liking the idea were different, but the outcome may be the same: Imposible. Conmigo imposible. You South Africans: Just HOW badly do you want to spend your holidays in Spain looking after pilgrims? Wouldn´t you prefer a nice one-on-one session with a live teacher? Stop over when you´re around, we´ll fix you right up!
Even the wise heads at Moodle tell me "it is best to add advanced features after the basic question and branch tables pages have been created. Checking the Lesson's behavior in a student role is another best practice with highly adaptive lesson formats."
In other words: "το s με οποιοδήποτε προηγμένο χαρακτηριστικό γνώρισμα, αυτό είναι καλύτερο να το προσθέσει αφότου έχουν δημιουργηθεί οι βασικές επιτραπέζιες σελίδες ερώτησης και κλάδων. Έλεγχος του Lesson' η συμπεριφορά του s σε έναν ρόλο σπουδαστών είναι μια άλλη καλύτερη πρακτική με τα ιδιαίτερα προσαρμοστικά σχήματα μαθήματος."