Tag Archives: learning

I Keep Coming Back to Teaching

For eleven years, I was an English teacher in Japan. It still feels strange to say that I’m no longer teaching and no longer living in Japan. Part of me feels like I should still be there teaching. You know the feeling? You know things have changed, but part of you doesn’t want to accept it.

I missed the teaching. And then I started working at a science centre. Every day that I work, I’m teaching people (usually children) about the planets, physics, and occasionally bird feathers. I’m finding that I’m loving seeing kids enjoying learning about science. Science was my first love. Teaching English was an incredible experience, but now I’m helping to teach science to people, although not as a teacher. Today, I spent forty minutes talking to a woman (half in the planetarium, half in the gallery) about astronomy, science centres, and life experiences. It’s that kind of interaction I love. I enjoy talking to people about science and helping them learn something new.

That brings me to what I’m going to be doing very soon. And that is starting a science channel on YouTube. Science education and science literacy are very important to me. I want to help people understand that science can be interesting and fun. But I also want them to understand that without science literacy, society can’t advance. It’ll stagnate or even regress. I want to combat scientific illiteracy, pseudoscience, and misinformation. There’s too much of that going around these days.

I’m hoping that through the science channel, I’ll be able to help people learn science and enjoy it. While I’ll be doing the videos on my own, I’m hoping people will share the videos and help spread the word about my channel. I want to reach as wide an audience as possible. While I may be only one person, I hope I can change some minds about the importance of science.

I still have some work to do to prepare my new channel. I still need a name, and I’d like to work on a schedule for it. I plan on doing two videos a week. One talking about weekly science news stories, one doing specific topics to help educate people about science. I’ll focus mostly on astronomy, physics, biology, geology, and palaeontology.

So, who’s with me on this?

Authors Answer 100 – Taught By an Author

One hundred! This is the one hundredth Authors Answer. One hundred weeks of questions and answers! Some of us have been doing this for all one hundred weeks, and some of us are newer. But this is a big number to achieve. I had no idea it would go this long. So, for this week’s question, we thought about who can teach us to write better. Which author would we love to be our teacher?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 100 – If you could take a writing class taught by any author, who would it be?

Cyrus Keith

Louis L’Amour. His descriptions were so brilliant, and he was so prolific a writer, if I could bottle just a little of what he had, I’d be better off.

C E Aylett

Probably Tracy Chevalier. Or Stephen Donaldson. But for vastly different techniques and styles. Mmm, if it came to a toss up..? Can we not have a made-up perfect mutant author instead? Pretty please?

Beth Aman

Can they be a dead author?  Then definitely C.S. Lewis.  I think he would be delightful and funny and down-to-earth.  I love the voice in his writing, so I’d love to get to meet him.  If it can’t be a dead author, then maybe Ally Carter, because I’ve met her and she’s wonderful.  Also she’s funny and writes hilarious but also amazing books.

Linda G. Hill

Stephen King!!! Without a doubt. He’s my sempai.

H. Anthe Davis

I would attend a class by Robin Hobb, just to learn more about how she makes normal day-to-day events in characters’ lives so engaging.  I know it’s not something everyone likes, but I always find myself fascinated by the simple details of characters’ work and personal interactions before the main story kicks in.  I’m very much an action-oriented writer, though I have done a bit of ‘rural downtime’, I suppose you could call it.  I just feel like I could do it better, and I think it would be valuable to learn from her.

Jean Davis

If George RR Martin had the time, which is a hilarious thought with all he has going on, I would love to hear what he has to say about writing fiction.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question because, even though there are authors I love and admire, they all also have quirks and traits that I wouldn’t want to learn. Do you know what I mean? For instance, I love George R.R. Martin, but his penchant for telling every moment of a character’s backstory only to kill them off…yeah, I don’t want any of that.

If I had to choose one, I suppose I’d probably choose Stephen King, simply because he comes up with some grotesque stories, and I love that kind of thing.

Gregory S. Close

Tad Williams.

Eric Wood

I would want to take one by Markus Zusak. I love his writing style. Also, Sheree Fitch has become one of my favorite children’s authors over the last year. If you haven’t read “Monkeys in My Kitchen” I highly recommend it!

Elizabeth Rhodes

I would love a writing class taught by Asimov. I’ve always been a fan of his style but don’t have the language to describe it properly. Bonus points if it includes a lesson on writing robots.

D. T. Nova

Cassandra Clare. Her writing includes excellent examples of many of the things that I most want to improve at, and she writes for roughly the same demographic I hope to reach.

Paul B. Spence

Kipling.

Jay Dee Archer

As someone who loves worldbuilding, I’d want an author who has done some amazing worldbuilding to teach me. I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson, so I can’t say him yet. However, I’d love to hear about how Steven Erikson co-created Malazan. With his detailed world, he also includes many different cultures and a long history. I’d enjoy learning how he created them.

How about you?

If you could choose any author to be your writing teacher, who would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

Thirteen Days Until School

It’s soon! Today, we got two letters from the school district about my daughter’s school. One of the letters was about her bus. Unfortunately, they have the time wrong, so we need to correct that before September 8th. The other was a letter saying when my daughter’s first day of school is, and it’s September 1st! She’ll only go that day, then again on the 8th.

You see, during the first week of school, they’re slowly introducing the kids to kindergarten. They don’t want to overwhelm the kids, so only a few at a time go. Parents are supposed to go on the first day and stay for about half an hour, then the rest of the time is just the kids with the teacher. On September 8th, the bus service begins, and my daughter will take the bus to and from school.

Today, we got her new shoes, both outdoor and indoor shoes. We’re ordering her school supplies, as well. And we’ll have to pay for her registration fees and bus pass.

Hard to believe school starts so soon for her. This will be an interesting time. Over the next two weeks, I’m working with her on writing, the alphabet, and numbers. You know, just to prepare her, and get her a little head start.

My main concern is that she’ll cry when it’s time to go home. Both times she’s gone to the school, she cried when it was time to go home. Hopefully, she won’t do it every day.

She’s growing up.

My Daughter’s First Day at School, Sort of

Tonight, we’re going to my daughter’s school. While she’s visited it when we registered her for kindergarten, this will be her first time seeing her classroom and meeting her classmates and teacher. While we don’t know which teacher she’ll have, and we don’t know which classmates will be hers, she can spend some time at the school that she didn’t want to leave before.

When we visited it the first time, my daughter cried when we left. She didn’t want to leave at all. She saw kids having fun, and she wanted to start right at that moment. Tonight, I wonder if she’ll cry when we leave.

When she starts school in September, I think she’ll be okay. She’s been in the situation where she’s been picked up by a driver and dropped off at a place full of kids. And she had no problem coming home, either. She’s used to this. She’ll be able to socialise with other kids, and hopefully, she won’t behave selfishly like she often does with toys. She’s more cooperative than she used to be, but I wonder if she’ll listen to her teacher.

Another thing is that she’s only four years old. She’s starting kindergarten earlier than most of the other kids. She can handle being in the class with other kids and a teacher, but can she handle doing what she learns? Her English isn’t the best. However, the teachers are experienced with kids whose first languages aren’t English. While she’s only four, there is a choice we must make at the end of the year. Another year of kindergarten, or is she ready for grade one at five years old? Only time will tell.

Anyone else have young children starting school or recently started? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below.

Studying the British Empire

As you may know, I have an interest in history. Understanding history often helps with writing both science fiction and fantasy, as they deal with different times and societies, while also having rich and well-developed histories of their own.

I’m getting back into using FutureLearn, and this week, the course called Empire has begun. It’s about the British Empire. I’m from a country that was part of the British Empire, so I’m expecting something about Canada in this course. But the British Empire was the largest empire in the world at one time. There’s a lot to learn. Below, you can see how much of the world was part of the empire (click to see a larger version).

The_British_Empire_AnachronousThat’s a lot of countries. You can see a strip through Africa, much of south Asia, parts of the Middle East, and plenty of Pacific islands, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Thirteen Colonies.

Do you know any interesting facts about the British Empire? Share them in the comments below.

Excited for Upcoming Duolingo Languages

I’ve been getting back into studying at Duolingo again, and there are some languages that are coming soon.

First up is Vietnamese. It’s coming tomorrow! I’m really interested in seeing what that’s like. It’s the first southeast Asian language that’ll be available.

Next is one I’m quite interested in, and that’s Greek. It’ll be available in Beta next month! I want to learn that language.

Also coming soon is Hungarian, and soon after that should be Hebrew and Swahili in summer. Hindi will be coming, as well. But then there’s Klingon. It’s been very quiet for a while, but recently started back up again, and they think it’ll be ready this summer.

Korean was added to the incubator, which means it’s in development. But upcoming are some south Asian languages, like Bengali and Tamil. Those will be interesting. However, many people want Finnish, Japanese, Latin, and Arabic. And there’s news that some native American languages will start this year. I wonder what they’ll be.

What are you looking forward to?

English Language Development of My Japanese-Canadian Daughter

A brief update on how my daughter is doing with English. After a week in Canada, she’s still speaking mostly Japanese, but she’s been using more English. She speaks a lot of Japanese with other kids, and they just don’t understand her.

Her first time at the nearby playground, the kids mostly just ignored her. She couldn’t get them to listen to her because she kept speaking Japanese. But because of some time alone with my mom and sister, she’s been forced to use English, or at least try.

Today, we went to the playground again, and she actually managed to start playing with three other little girls her age. While she still used Japanese with them, she did attempt some English. They also didn’t mind her not speaking much English.

Although it’s not much yet, she does seem to be trying to use English. She’s said some surprising things, like “Speaking English daisuki (I love speaking English)” and “I can’t see it.” She’s finally figured out “me” and “you” and uses them correctly.

So, how long do you think it’ll be until she speaks English fluently? Remember that she understands English. Let me know in the comments below.

Should You Write What You Know?

Writers are often told to “write what you know.” If you have knowledge about a subject, then write about it. Experts write about their field of expertise, so if you happen to be a great collector of bottle caps, then write a book about it. But when it comes to fiction, this becomes a bit of an issue.

Let’s assume I will write what I know. In university, I majored in physics and astronomy, which includes fields such as relativity, quantum mechanics, fluid dynamics, radio astronomy, electronics, radiation, lasers, optics, planetary science, thermodynamics, cosmology, and all the really basic physics from Newton, Copernicus, and Galileo. I did not study string theory, as it was still very much in its infancy when I was in university. I also took courses in chemistry, geology, atmospheric sciences, and programming. So, through these, I know how reactions work, how to make batteries, how to make rudimentary explosives, what causes weather phenomena, how volcanoes work, what happens during an earthquake, how plate tectonics happens, the fossil record, and how to make a paint program (although I’ve completely forgotten). I have also taken online courses where I learned things like plant communication and archaeology. I have used many of these when working on Ariadne, as well as worldbuilding.

For Ariadne, I have used geology, numerous aspects of astronomy, atmospheric sciences, and the knowledge I have about evolution and biology through high school, one of my geology courses, and my own personal interest. For the future series about the dying man whose final wish is to explore the solar system, I use my knowledge of the planets, as well as physics involved in spacecraft propulsion, orbital mechanics, and so on. So yes, I am writing what I know.

But you see, that’s not enough. There are many gaps in my knowledge that I need to fill to make my stories more believable and realistic. For Ariadne, I need to research more about spacecraft propulsion systems (though I have a good idea about these anyway), DNA (especially mutations and recessive/dominant genes), urban planning and land use, and religion. To do these, I read a lot. I’ll read books when I can, I’ll search on the internet for scientific papers, and I’ll even use Wikipedia.

Reading books is great. I love doing it. If there are books about DNA, I think they’ll help me with my research on hereditary traits, recessive and dominant genes, and so on. The library is great for this. You don’t have to read the entire book, just the relevant parts. Encyclopedias are good, too.

Searching on the internet for scientific papers is very useful. I only go through official channels for these, so I’m not seeing opinions of the scientifically illiterate. I’m going straight to the legitimate source, the actual scientists that did the research. This can take some time, unfortunately, due to the nature of many papers. They can be utterly dull to search through to find what you want to know. But it has to be done.

However, Wikipedia is often a quick way to do this. I know many people say that Wikipedia is a poor source, but it is actually a very, very good source. The information on it isn’t made up. It’s taken from official sources, verified, double-checked, and scrutinized closely. Everything must be referenced. There must be legitimate sources. Don’t believe Wikipedia? Then follow the references to the original publications. You’ll get your information there.

Writing fiction isn’t all about what you know. You need to expand your horizons. Write about what you don’t know. Learn about it. You’ll become a better writer, and be able to cover many more situations in a believable manner.

What’s your opinion? Do you think we should just write what we know? Or should we research extensively to improve our knowledge and write about many different things? Let me know in the comments below.

Can We Reach a Memory Limit in Our Brain?

Thinking about studying languages, I’ve wondered how many words we can actually remember. The average person these days seems to know about ten thousand words, which is apparently less than in the past. But for those of us who are studying more than one language, can we reach a limit?

There are polyglots who can speak many languages fluently. So, I have to imagine that we can remember a large number of words. And we are always developing new memories, though old ones tend to fade. Is that just new memories replacing old ones? Or just a degradation of memory due to the lack of use? But then, there are people who remember details from when they were very young that no one else can remember. And those who can remember detailed maps and navigate using that built in mental Google Maps (me!).

Well, it turns out that we know the limit. The memory capacity of the human brain is at least one petabyte, but easily more. How much is that? World of Warcraft uses 1.3 petabytes to maintain itself. It would require 2000 years to listen to 1 petabyte of mp3 files.

So, I guess we should have no problem learning several hundred languages. The only problem is time.