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Tutor profile: Caleb W.

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Caleb W.
Virtual Librarian/Freelancer & Volunteer Teacher
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Questions

Subject: Library and Information Science

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Question:

What is a library?

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Caleb W.
Answer:

This question is not as clear cut as it once was. In previous decades, libraries were buildings that were available to a community of some kind that typically housed books or serial publication. During the development of information theory, computation methods were leveraged using electronic circuits to process data bits into information in a very efficient manner, i.e. computers became mainstream. Not long after this technological leap forward, networks of contextual data were developed and made available to the public. This was the beginning of the Internet Age. In previous years, libraries collected books, organized and cataloged their holdings, and tried to make them as accessible as possible to as many as possible. A reference librarian served as the main contact that the user of information had with both the specialized and the mundane collections in the library building. What is a library today? Software developers create libraries of code and many people get their books on mobile devices. Are these libraries? What about social networks? Or archives? Digital repositories of code or research data? Are these structures libraries? Apart from the use of the term outside of the traditional context, the existence and the operation of the "library" is still very much the same. The terms and the settings may have changed, but there are still professionals who connect real people to real resources in physical structure of some kind. However, the library was founded as an organization born out of humanistic concerns, and it still is that. Human people need relevant information, and with the complexity of information available in many different formats, it is important for each human information user to have a compassionate human friend - a librarian, someone with a diverse set of titles or none at all, who will help the human user to navigate and evaluate information in a rapidly changing world. These humans may or may not be sitting in a building. What is a library? Is its essence defined by a building before that building is even constructed? It seems that today, the user and the librarian get to decide. Everyone involved makes the library what it is or isn't.

Subject: HTML Programming

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Question:

Is HTML a "coding language" or a "programming language"?

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Caleb W.
Answer:

HTML is neither a programming language nor a coding language. In fact, those two phrases are nearly equivalent today. One of the biggest errors when approaching HTML is to designate it as a programming language, rather than what it actually is - a "markup language". Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). Computer programs are instructions written in a programming language like Python, Java, or C++ and are either interpreted at runtime or compiled before the instructions can be carried out. They may run on a browser like HTML does or not. HTML is different in that it does not hand out instructions to a computer that need to be repeated and executed over and over in the form of a program. HTML is a set of guidelines that the web designer will give to a browser in the form of a text file that specifies how they would like a web page to appear in terms of structure. HTML markup is less of "what to do" and more "where do things go" or "where would I like them to go." HTML is very tricky and nothing is "set in stone". It can be challenging but rewarding for the designer to see markup display correctly, i.e. how the designer intended and/or imagined the web page to be. It may require a guide - someone who writes both algorithms (computer programs, code, etc.) and markup, and knows how to begin properly and the underlying data structures involved.

Subject: English as a Second Language

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Question:

English is considered to be a very difficult language to learn but very fun to use in everyday speech or in professional communication. However, many busy students at my nonprofit have difficulty with various rote learning methods and inaccessible materials. There are intense concerns among those who teach ESL on a day-to-day basis in nonprofits all over the United States related to learning method and time. Due to cuts in funding, our limited resources as educators must be used wisely. Many feel that second language acquisition theory is a largely settled matter and that tutors or teachers need not bother with advancements in the field or overly technical debates. Since the 1970s, what has interest you most in the research discussions over how humans learn and use first and second languages, and how may these insights be applied outside of the Academy?

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Caleb W.
Answer:

There seem to be interesting advancements in the research on language acquisition, and those that have the time and preparation should "read outside" of their standard tutor training. Two important areas of language learning that are not settled at my nonprofit are motivation and relevancy. Learners are immigrants or refugees, have jobs, and have families. Group learning sessions are not as frequent as may be necessary and the home study options may not be relevant to these new English speakers and are often considered boring by the students. This seems to be due to cultural distance and sociolinguistic factors, among other issues related to economics and curriculum materials. Perhaps the questions of second language acquisition theory (or sla) are best approached when placed in the context of the individual - her motivation(s) for learning and the complexities of her new society. Theory is necessary and often overlooked; however, new advancements may come from the field - ESL tutors contributing qualitatively to the more academic discussions and researches. Learners must be connected to the community that uses their new language in more than one way. If the learners are having fun and becoming functional in their new language at the same time, this may be an area to investigate in terms of theory. Cooperation between literacy specialists and ESL teachers should be emphasized.

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