Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning from our Mistakes

I frequently tell my clay students that mistakes are good. If they aren't making mistakes, I am concerned that they aren't trying hard enough. If each of their attempts at making a bowl succeeds, they probably are making thick, wobbly little "kiln bombs." (A kiln bomb is a piece of clay that is thick and therefore likely to explode in the kiln during firing, taking out its neighbors and the damaging the kiln wall in the process.)

a "kiln bomb" might also be a hollow space inside the clay with no way for the air to escape (well, no way except an explosion)
It is easy to tell students that mistakes are good. I have been there. I've made many mistakes and had to recycle the work and start over again. But as a professional potter I probably make fewer mistakes than a beginning student. I've wondered, as I've gotten older and more experienced, whether teachers have a hard time remembering what it is like to be a student, failing and making lots of mistakes in an attempt to learn a new technique or process. We were there, we remember failing, but can we really remember what it felt like to make the mistake at that time?

Today I was given the opportunity to fail in a painful and frustrating and disappointing way. And to add that extra level of annoyance to the experience, I was being foolish when I failed. I made a mistake. It was a combination of not knowing and not doing what I should have known well enough to do.

I lost a page on this blog. Click over to Quick Links for Art Appreciation to see the results of the mistake and my attempt to repair the most immediately problematic damage. I was adding some "important" content to the blog, but to admit the embarrassing truth, I was messing with the blog right then to avoid grading. I hit something wrong, the entire content disappeared. I tried to "undo" but I forgot or misread the button on the blogger interface or had a brain malfunction and instead clicked "revert to saved." Which, apparently, saved my "new content" as a draft and permanently erased all the actual content that I had accidentally and somewhat mysteriously managed to delete.

I may have sworn at the computer. I do not recall.

I pieced together the content students need to know this week and put up the disclaimer at the top of the screen telling them where the missing content had gone (I don't know). I probably should have started grading at this point, but by now I was so wholly engrossed in the mistake and the missing information and the problem and finding a solution that didn't involve me piecing together hours of work done over the course of a year.

But, remember, I tell the students that mistakes are good. You learn from mistakes. And, I wasn't lying to the students. You do learn from mistakes. Even frustrating, maddening, annoyingly-timed mistakes. See, I know that one should back-up one's blog, I just never knew how. I have tried to back-up my blog according to directions I have found online and even directions offered by fellow Blogger bloggers. I was unable to follow these directions. I never did determine if the fault lay with me, Apple, this old Mac, the directions or what. I have been backing up my blog by automatically having Blogger send my posts to my e-mail. However, this method does not work for pages. (Uh, I don't think it does.)

Given that I do not back up, I knew I was not able to just recover the page content, but I thought perhaps I could see the page in the cache from my browser. I thought I could select "work offline" and look in my browser history. Surprise, Safari doesn't have "work offline." (I wonder when I last actually saw "work offline" as an option.) But I happened to have my laptop with me, so I was able to use the browser without internet access enabled. Surprise, Safari doesn't just remember pages it once visited.

Next, I tried the Wayback Machine (this is supposed to let you access webpages that are no longer "there" but are still archived in the magic tubes of the inter web). Surprise, the Wayback Machine only lets you access pages that have actually been archived it it, somehow. But as of today the Wayback Machine has archived my empty "Quick Links for Art Appreciation" page.

Finally, I looked up how to "work offline" in Safari and ended up, eventually, at an answer that told me how to use .webarchive files. Yipee! Finally, a solution! Safari can save .webarchive files that have all the information about the webpage on them. You can access these offline. I looked in my history. I searched my computer files. I stumbled, I failed. need to actually save the page as a .webarchive first.

The end result is that I do, in fact, have to recreate and relocate all the lost content from the page I mistakenly deleted today. However, I now know how to back it up (or at least, I know a way to save a .webarchive version). And as of this afternoon, I have saved a .webarchive file of my Quick Links for Clay Classes page.

Somehow, though, I never did get back to the grading.

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