Hi. Uncle Dale here.
It’s been a while since I gave you a skill development tool. This one requires supplies, but it’s worth it.
Listen to the text below:
My class thought so (apparently, I am “mean” even though I let them play with toys… wait for it, I’ll explain).
I will admit the point was to shake them up a little… but in a good way, a kind and loving boot to the brain, tap you lightly with a sledge-hammer kind of way.
Before you decide that you really just don’t like me, let me tell you a secret.
If you understand one term, just one single key word, in this text, you can use that as the anchor to simplify the whole meaning, by seeing how all the pieces attach to that key concept and fit together physically. If you start from that key term, then in your head you can work through the meaning of rest of the text.
In other words, by using space properly and according to its linguistic function in ASL you can, on the fly, connect things you don’t understand to things you do understand and voila! You understand it all.
If! And only if, you understand the key term.
For the text above the term is: “Fields.”
If you understand what the term “Fields” means in the context of this computer program then you can visualize everything that proceeds from the core concept of “Fields.” If you can visualize it, and then put it in its proper space, its meaning will become clear to you as you use the space in the linguistically appropraite manner for ASL.
Let me say that again.
If you use space in the correct way it will help you analyze the meaning of the information you are processing even if it sound too complex to comprehend.
In the case of the text above you just have to see in your head how software programs like this work, as if they existed in and occupied space in the real world. The easiest way to teach yourself to do that involves Arts and Crafts.
And it all starts with the key to understanding your starting place; “Fields.”
“NO, WAIT,” you cry, “I ABSOLUTELY DON’T ‘GOT IT!'”
Ok, calm down. let me back up.
First, relax. I know that showing up at an appointment where they say, “ok, were going to train you on the new accounting software today…” makes you want to yell, “I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ACCOUNTING OR ACCOUNTING PROGRAMS! I SMELL TOAST!” and collapse to the floor.
But before you abandon all hope let me give you some persective.
They did not say, “today we are going to discuss accounting programs,” They said, “today we’re training on the new program.”
That means there is an old program.
That means there is a strong possibility that your Client is already familiar with computerized accounting programs generally because they used the “old program.” At least more familiar than you are. Never underestimate the benefit of a client who knows more about the topic than you do. It covers a multitude of sins.
Second, you know what accounting means so you have the bare minimum of a schema, and that is all you need here.
So let’s get back to “Fields.”
In computer programs “Fields” are places where you put variable values of information in order to complete a sequence.
In other words they are the blank places you type stuff into in order to tell the computer to do something with the words or numbers you typed.
Think of a Google search.
The place on the Google search page you type the words “Does this look infected to you” before you push the “search” button? That is a “Field.”
Once you have typed, “what’s a good place to eat on a second date” or “what is Uncle Dale smoking” into the “Field” and pushed “search” (or I’m Feeling Lucky if you’re a reckless adventurer) the information you typed into the “Field” tells Google to do something; go out to the web and fetch things with words that match this stuff I just typed in this box.
So, how does that possibly help you analyze for meaning?
Although software programs are just ones and zeros, if you, the interpreter, can see the software’s functions in your mind as physical locations, occupying a three-dimensional landscape (think of the movie TRON if that helps), then you can organize all that seemingly complex jumble of data points into usable locations within your own interpreting space.
Once you’ve done that then it’s just a matter of referring to the objects that you have appropriately placed within your signing space to establish what Carol Patrie calls, “relationships” (logical, temporal, and physical).
Relationships show the order of, or connections between, the landmarks you established within the three-dimensional “computer program space” you created. You got this!
You will eventually want to do this in your head. But it is easier to start out by doing in real space.
Ok. So here is a little exercise help you take it out of your head, put it in real space, so you can put it back in your head.
In order to play along at home you will need the following:
A good sized long table;
Two wire framed office baskets;
Three different colors of string, yarn or tape:
A set of large post-notes;
A set of small post-it notes (at least three different colors); and,
Here is how you play:
Before there was Direct or Private messaging there was text and before that e-mail and before that faxes and before that intra-office mail and before that pneumatic tubes.
Pneumatic tubes? Think of the drive-up window at a bank, or an old movie. You put the stuff in the tube and seal it (papers, money, pens… that kind of thing). Each tube in this case goes not only to a different room in the office, but to the desks of specific people. One set of tubes connects to every desk, another only to select persons.
We could use text or email for the visual but pneumatic tunes are easier to visualize and, let’s be honest, sort of steam punk and fun.
So, pneumatic tubes.
Imagine a room in an office building with the where the pneumatic tubes start.
At one end of the table in front of you place the wire “in/out” baskets, side by side. Using the 3×5 cards and a sharpie (marker) label both baskets “Payroll Fields” and label one Flat Rate and the other Calculated Rate.
At various places on the table place 3×5 with Employee 1, Employee 2, Employee 3… up-to at most Employee 6. It’s easiest if you tape them down.
Now take the different colors of string or tape. Using one color of tape or string for each in/out basket connect each in/out basket to All Employees and using different colors of tape or string connect each in/out basket to Some Employees.
These are the pneumatic tubes. Some things put in the in/out basket will be sent to all the employees and somethings will only be sent to select individual employees.
These baskets are “Fields.” Some of the things you put in the “Fields” will be attached to all employees and some of the things you put in the basket will connect to only some employees.
Using tape make a square on the table around both in/out baskets. Label that square “employee defaults window.”
Ok ready, replay the audio above (For some reason when I imbedded this the captions don’t work-hearing interpreters and CDI’s should do this exercise together until I can post a transcript) and see if what you have on the table helps you follow the narrative more clearly.
Now every detail you need is not here yet. But I have given you the start. For example:
You will eventually need two 3×5 card labeled “maintain employees and sales reps” at the place where all the “pneumatic tube” hook to the in/out baskets.
When you get to the payroll taxes you will need two 3×5 cards, one labeled State Tax and one labeled Federal Tax. Where do these formulae live? In the wire in/out basket market Calculated Rate.
Oh oh we have a problem. What if we subscribe to the Peachtree Tax Update Service? Where does that live? Take a 3×5 card and write Peachtree Tax Update Service and place it… somewhere else. It does not live in the software program-you get it from the Peachtree server. Set the 3×5 card somewhere and then, using your tape or string connect it to the Calculated Rate basket on the opposite side from the “pneumatic tubes” to remind yourself that this is coming in from the outside.
If you get really ambitious you can write Peach-tree Maintained on the tape or make a label for the string coming into the back of the Calculated Rate in/out basket.
Now the text above. Anything you put in the in/out baskets travels along the string or tape (pneumatic tubes) to impact the paychecks of the employees at the other end–some will impact all employees and some will only be sent out to select employees.
If this all seems confusing or too much, that is because you are reading this Note and not actually doing the arts and crafts project.
Do the project.
It will freak you out just a little how much more you understand if you see this all existing in actual physical space.
The use of physical space is a component of ASL grammar, but correctly applied it is also a functional analysis tool.
I make students draw pictures, play with dolls and Fisher-Price Little Town sets and a whole host of other physical exercises so they can visualize Physical, Temporal and Logical Relationships.
If you are just starting out or if you have 25 years under your belt, try coupling your practice with an arts and crafts project like this.
You will be amazed at how much it helps you understand if you are willing to take a minute on playing with dolls or just good old fashioned arts and crafts.