Thursday, April 25, 2024

LICW Comments

In order to brush up on copying long form QSO, I resumed taking part in the Long Island CW class.

It's a different style of class than those offered by CW-Ops.  In LICW, the classes run all week so it's possible to hop-scotch through two or three classes at the same level during the week for more reinforcement.  No sign ups, just join the Zoom.

One of the questions that was asked during class got me thinking.

The question was (paraphrased) "Is there any scientific study in literature that this method works?" -- The "this" was referring to the method taught by LICW.  For those who haven't done Long Island CW Club classes the method for the most part (at least in the intermediate classes) is based on:

  • Copying long form QSO.   Find a novel, and send the first paragraph.  That sort.
  • Show a picture of a animal in a comical pose and then send (on the fly) some brief sentence about what you see.
  • Listen to recognizable phrases and try to copy (and anticipate) the words that come next.

What made me consider this is my own experience.   What I've come to realize is that there is almost a 1:1 correspondence between an amateur radio operator learning CW and a method that is ideal for him or her.  One size does not fit all.

Seldom do I hear students across the board indicate that the method works uniformly across the class.

My response to the question went along these lines:

For those who like to divide the world in threes, there are three types of copy to deal with.

  1. Contest copy (Call sign, signal report or exchange).  Rapid.  Just call signs, exchange and TU
  2. Abridged QSO (DX'ing or casual CQ'ing for just the basics -- antenna, rig, power, QTH, FB, etc.. nearly all of the 'words' being abbreviated or coded slang.  Goal is simply to get the station in the log and not much else -- except maybe some niceties.
  3. Long form QSO without any urgency to finish the QSO -- long words, full sentences,  the rest.

Whichever style the student gravitates towards, I've noticed that the common element is something that isn't taught but acquired -- confidence.   Confidence to just try -- confidence to work simple contests (K1USN SST) or state QSO parties can lead to confidence to calling CQ and that can lead to confidence to doing long-form QSO -- but there is no road map.  No one has to do contesting, or CQ'ing or long-form QSO.  You end up where you're comfortable.    Whichever way you do go, just doing it -- even with the mistakes -- is really valuable because it builds confidence.   Being on the air, using the CW mode is the point -- that's the goal.   If you'll never be motivated for contesting, then don't contest.  Just call CQ and work the stations as you like.

In my experience, nothing beats just doing it.  Whatever it is.    I do contesting so I can practice Running and copying callsigns for DX.  If I wanted to have rag-chew long form QSO in CW, I would.  But I don't because it doesn't go to my objectives of running DX pile ups.   Contesting is a trial by fire approach -- learning to copy call signs and timing responses to CQ in contests isn't necessarily going to make you better at rag-chew long-form.     

Nevertheless, doing anything with CW is going to make it easier to do it the next time and so on.   And, if QSO's is your thing, then just call CQ and muddle through.  Or if rag-chew long-form QSO is your thing, then drop your call and get into it.

Unless it's a contest situation where people are just trying to keep up rate, no one is really going to care much if you make mistakes.  In all the time I worked CW, I found that every QSO over CW was greeted with kindness.  "They" want to work you.

I don't know if scholarly papers have been written about methods to teach CW.   My guess is whatever those papers say, they'll likely be with a conclusion of "this is the right way to learn CW because we say so."    Fair enough.  But, no matter what the method is -- gaining confidence is not a lesson plan -- confidence comes from within you.   If you want to learn CW, you will.  

As Tom Berson, ND2T said "Aspiration without allocation is folly."  -- the gist of what is saying is: put the time into leaning and practice those elements that you are weak on.  Practice to your weaknesses.   

Good luck.

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