ds106- Terrible to Terrific

If I am being completely honest, I don’t see myself as a very creative person. I’m not sure if it’s the thought of flat out failing at creativity that has always bothered me or something else, but I’ve always shied away from expressing a creative side. So, when I first read this week’s assignment sheet, I felt as though I had been hit in the chest and lost my breath. A daily challenge and website with creative assignments? I have to be creative every day and share it with the class? How was this going to happen? I was frightened, to be frank.

So, I put it off until tonight. After dinner, I opened my computer, put on my happy music (One Direction, in case you were wondering), and got on the ds106 website. My first thought? What in the world am I looking at?! Being myself, I naturally got stressed out. This feeling persisted until I actually began poking through the website and seeing what it was all about and all that it included.

After a lot of research (and a ton of help from the About page), I feel as though I have somewhat of a grasp on what ds106 is, and it is fantastic. This site is all about harnessing a person’s creativity and digital storytelling techniques to enhance them. Digital Storytelling, or ds106 for short, is an open course that is offered online. Since its start at the University of Mary Washington, ds106 has literally taken off. The course is described as “part storytelling workshop, part technology training” and “part critical interrogation of the digital landscape” that is constantly evolving and changing around is. Now, it is a course that anyone can start at any time and end at any time. Need to take an extra week on the photography module because it’s just not quite your thing? That’s great! More time to learn. This class has no teacher. Pure craziness, I know. Students enrolled in it are asked to complete a set of modules and post creative assignments using different forms of technology on their blog, Twitter, and various other Internet sources. Students are asked to explore different areas of digital storytelling during the course, such as photography and audio storytelling. It has other components, such as the G+ Community and an assignment bank, that are awesome resources to look through. I loved peeking through the community and seeing what others had done as Daily Creates.

This brings us to the point of the website that was the source of my initial terror: creativity. I realize that I’m going to be a teacher and, therefore, creativity is expected of me. I’m not saying that I’m never creative; I’m just saying that it happens very seldom. However, I think that this challenge will be awesome for me to start. Basically, every day, a challenge is posted that participants respond to. Today, the challenge was to Print Out a YouTube Video. Yesterday, the challenge was to write a story to correspond with a picture of an octopus literally grabbing a man (the possibilities are endless, let’s be honest). As I looked through the archives and saw some posts from the people that participated today, I felt almost excited. I could do this!

The opportunities to use this in my classroom are endless. I do think that creativity is important; in fact, I love to see other people being creative! In my eyes, creativity can often spark passion, or vice versa. I’d love to use some of the Daily Create writing prompts some day in my classroom. There are drawing creates, tech-y creates, GIF creates, and video creates among others. The bottom line of The Daily Create is to try to infuse more creativity into our lives; although this may be scary, why not give it a shot?

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(Photo CC: Flickr.com)

So, here’s to a new adventure! Time to let my creative side come through. It’s time to create. 🙂

Best,

-Regan

ILP: Library Lovin’

Do you remember the first time you came home from college? Walking into your home probably felt comforting and, for lack of a better word, right. It just felt good to be back in a familiar place full of memories and your own personal support system. I’m sure that the second you opened the door and walked across the threshold relief poured through you. You felt happy.

I had that feeling this week when I walked into my old high school’s library.

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I can sense the wheels screeching to a halt in your brain right now; you felt this feeling walking into a library? How is that even possible? Although it’s strange, it is completely true. To really understand, you might have to read the whole story. Hang with me, people.

This week, I began my journey of passion-based learning. I finally decided that I wanted to spend my 4 hours a week doing something that I truly loved and could learn from. So, naturally, I decided that I was going to read. I learn something new every single time I open a book. I learn empathy, respect, and creativity. I learn about new places and take exciting journeys. I feel immense joy through the characters. I feel immense loss through them as well. Basically, books are just amazing.

To begin, I looked through my TBR (to be read) list and found the books that I really wanted to read. This list acts as a guide within my reading life, and I’m more than excited to cross some off of the list as well as add onto it. Goodreads serves as the home of my TBR list. This allows me to keep an electronic list that I can access on any device. I added to my list and got a sense of what I wanted to dive into for this project.

My next step was to beg my dad to give me permission to get books out of the school library. Due to my work schedule, making it to the public library was really difficult for me this week. After I got the go ahead, I headed to my old high school around 8 p.m. one night to try to find some books quickly and head home. I thought that I could be in and out quickly because of the many hours I spent working in it as well as just utilizing it in my high school days. I was tired, stressed, and ready for bed.

However, I was wrong. How could I have possibly thought that I would be in and out quickly? I walked in and was immediately comforted. I felt the peace that comes with walking into a space that holds so many memories for you. I walked through the stacks of books and immediately began pulling out numerous, different titles that caught my eye. Some books were on my TBR list while others were just wonderful surprises. Soon, I had stacks of books waiting for me.

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I spent over 2 hours in the library. 2 hours of pure relaxation, searching, and reading. I sat in the mushroom chairs and read. I laid on the floor. I took my shoes off. I sat criss cross applesauce on the carpet. I walked around with a book in my hand. I spent those 2 hours lost in the bookshelves that I used to care for when I worked as a TA in the library. I spent those hours devouring books in a place that has always been a refuge for me. Finally, around 10:30 pm, I forced myself to go home. I felt rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of my week.

My remaining time (plus more) was spent voraciously reading at home. I finished The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith and began reading The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow. (Be sure to check out my Goodreads reviews!) My time spent in the library this week cleared my mind and excited me. I felt nostalgia and it comforted me. The library is truly my happy place. I can only hope that my upcoming weeks will be just as great as this one.

I found my happy place- the library. ☺️📚

A post shared by Regan Garey (@regan_garey) on

 

Best,

Regan

 

 

Giving Your PLN Its Broccoli

I don’t know about all of you, but when I was little, my parents, grandparents, and every adult I came in contact with would tell me that eating vegetables would help me grow. “You’d better eat your broccoli if you want to grow up big and strong!” was a mantra that was said with repetition in our household. Putting the “good” stuff in would allow me to get the best results even if they were far off down the road. By eating vegetables, I was putting myself in a position to grow up big and strong.

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(Photo CC: flickr.com)

This analogy can also be true for cultivating and feeding a growing PLN. In order to truly have a functioning PLN, we have to feed it the “good” stuff. We have to put forth effort to make it function in the way that we need it to. Just like broccoli is fuel to a growing child’s body, time and effort fuel a person’s PLN. If well cared for, a PLN can act as a wonderful tool for an educator.

If you read my previous post, you now understand what a PLN is and (hopefully!) have one that you’ve started. Here comes the big question: what now? What can you do to fully utilize and take advantage of your PLN? These questions are all normal and completely relevant; just because you follow people on Twitter does not mean that your task is done. Your PLN isn’t functioning until you truly use it to gain knowledge and understanding. But how is this done?

Chuck Frey’s post on cultivating a personal learning network was really helpful to me in my journey. Frey lists 8 steps that are crucial to creating a useful network of professionals and co-learners right at your fingertips. A few thoughts of his really stood out to me. In order to get the most out of your PLN, you must continue fine tuning, feeding, engaging, and inquiring.

  1. You must fine tune your PLN to make it exactly what you need. Does someone you follow not share the resources that you thought they would? Do they not contribute to your learning? Consider dropping them. The entire point of a PLN is to be able to gain resources, feedback, and motivation from the people within it. If they aren’t contributing to your learning, maybe they aren’t worth reading.
  2. The second step is feeding. Just like I was fed broccoli, you must feed your PLN. Sometimes, this means tweeting out a quote or thought that you have that might pique the interest of another. Other times this might mean tweeting out an awesome article that really resonated with you. This, Frey says, creates the back scratch movement. You know, the “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” thought? Be bold. Be open with your resources. You never know what information you’ll get back.
  3. Engaging is crucial. I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love reading comments on my blog and on my Twitter. Knowing that people read my thoughts and find them useful is one of the best feelings out there. Thank people for what they have given you. Did you just read an awesome article shared by someone? Tell them that you loved it! They will be just as excited to hear from you as you were to absorb the information that they shared.
  4. Be sure to always inquire the people in your numerous feeds. Asking questions allows you to get answers to things on your mind. Be sure that they are engaging questions, because Frey states that if we “give value” we will “receive value” in return. Questions make the other person involved feel engaged and valued. Also, always remember to be polite and kind; the internet has a bad reputation for being a place full of bullying and teasing. Let’s prove that that is not always the case.

These tasks require effort and time from an individual, but they will be so worth it. PLNs are so incredibly valuable to educators and professionals all over the globe. Focus on creating your best possible PLN and your students will thank you someday. Start showing your PLN some TLC and effort; has it had its broccoli today?

Best,

Regan

 

 

The Importance of a PLN

Have you ever caught yourself in a situation that you felt completely lost in? Have you ever had a question that was seriously bugging you, but you felt as if you had no one to ask? Maybe you felt as if it was something that your friends couldn’t help you with. Maybe it was related to your career or profession. Did you feel completely puzzled?

I think these feelings are common, especially for an educator. From time to time, I catch myself having questions on things that only certain people would really understand and be able to help me on (flashback to Grammar and Linguistics anyone?). During those times, I felt confused, angry, and flustered. How could I get answers to my questions quickly and painlessly? Now, looking back, the answer to that question seems glaringly obvious: a PLN.

Yes, a PLN, or personal learning network. This week for class, we were asked to research what exactly a PLN is and why we should create one. Edutopia defines a PLN in their post titled How Do I Get a PLN? by stating that it “is a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate, and create with connected colleagues anywhere at any time.” A PLN is a network of professionals or co-learners within a subject or topic area that are willing to answer questions and provide resources to help you out. According to TeachHub, personal learning networks can be found in real-life relationships (special thanks to you G&L folks who helped keep me sane) as well as online. We have the ability to tap into a plethora of resources at any given time. From blogs to Twitter chats, the knowledge is vast. But why would future educators need this?

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After my research, the answer to the question of ‘why’ is obvious. Teachers need to have a PLN. PLNs keep us connected with other professionals and provide motivational and inspirational thoughts. A teacher can personalize their PLN to exactly what they want it to be, whether that is integrating technology or organizing a classroom. This allows for the experience to be incredibly personal, meaning you aren’t just getting online to read a bunch of stuff you don’t care about. These things matter to you. PLNs allow users the ability to broaden their skill set and knowledge about numerous things from the comfort their our classroom (or maybe even couch). Personally, I built my PLN around the topic of education with some emphasis in YA literature/books. I did this because I know that when I begin teaching, I’m going to have questions regarding what in the world I’m doing as well as how I can get my students reading. I know that I’m going to need all of the resources I can get. Why wouldn’t you want to join a network of professionals working towards the same goal of being the best teacher possible?

I truly believe that a connected teacher will be the best teacher. An educator that is willing to dive into resources and ask questions is one that is trying their hardest to have the best learning environment possible. PLNs allow teachers the ability to ask questions in an environment that supports learning and education in general. Teaching students is hard enough; why not have a community behind you while you do it?

Best,

Regan

Lighting the Fire-Cultivating Passionate Students

 

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.- W.B. Yeats

Passion. Just the word itself gives me goose bumps. Passion is uniquely individual, and that is what makes it such a great tool. Everyone has a passion within himself or herself. For some, a passion might be skateboarding or rock climbing (this is definitely not me; the thought of doing either of these things gives me anxiety). Others may prefer gardening or indulging in a spectacular novel (or series… all at once). Regardless of what you are passionate about, the same thing remains true: you love doing it, learning about it, and growing from your experiences with it. So, if that is true, why don’t we see more passion in our schools?

As a future educator, I see the issue. Many schools lie on a traditional sense of learning, meaning that deviating from the path most normally walked by those before you is a big no-no. I found George Couros blog post, School vs. Learning, to be incredibly insightful in this area. The entire post is dedicated to the differences found between school and learning. Most people will think that these two things go together perfectly: students go to school to learn. Piece of cake… Right?

Not so fast, says Couros, and I see his point. Although students can (and do) learn a lot in school, it’s not exactly the learning that we’re talking about. School gives the questions for students to look up and answer whereas learning asks students to start with questions. Students are asked to consume knowledge presented by teachers in school; learning is more centered on creating from within. School is a place where you are given information to learn in a certain order. Learning allows students to follow their own line of thinking and make their own connections. My favorite point made by Couros is this: “School is standardized. Learning is personal.” Information is presented in schools most often to get students past standardized testing. I can’t even count the number of times I heard the phrase “Remember this. It’s going to be on the test” while I was in school. Learning, on the other hand, is personal and can happen any time. We learn from mistakes. We learn from failures and successes. The list can go on and on. The point is that true learning goes beneath the surface and past the superficial layers of facts; true learning is developed by passions.

So, this left me questioning. How do I, a girl from a traditional, rural SW Nebraska background that plans to return to that area, change a classroom and the hearts within it? How can I incite passion into my students, because if they are passionate, they are more likely to really learn? I received some tips from the article titled Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning by Tina Barseghian. One of the biggest points made was that passion is infectious. Isn’t this true? I tend to find myself feeling exuberant during and directly after I spend time with people who are truly passionate about something. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to others talk about their passions and aspirations; it honestly leaves me feeling uplifted and wanting to pursue my own passions. Barseghian says that “a passion-driven teacher is a model for her students.” I aspire to be that model. I want to build those connections with my students. I want them to know that I believe in their passions; in my eyes, they matter.

Being transparent with students and building relationships with them beyond the classroom can help drive learning- students work harder with people who matter to them. -Tina Barseghian

Saga Briggs also shared insight in her article 25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom. Briggs lists many ways to incite passion within our students. Of course, one of those ways is to share my own passions, but another way is to let them share theirs “in the absence of feedback or judgment.” Let’s let students really go after their passions with vigor and excitement. Introduce them to resources that will help them along the way and give value to every passion that they have. It’s important, as Briggs mentions, to let them take control of their learning. This allows them to “value it twice as much as they would otherwise.”

Passion-based learning. What a remarkable, brilliant idea. Just thinking of the possibilities makes me excited. Passions are driving forces within us; why not let our students light their own fire?

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(Photo CC: Flickr.com)

Best,

Regan

Confessions of an Ungrateful Heart

Today, I had an ungrateful heart.

I woke up late and rushed through my morning routine in order to make it to work on time. Once I got to work, I sat at my desk and began to feel the temperature steadily rise in our office throughout the day; the AC had gone out today of all days, the day that campus was closed with no one there to fix it. I was ungrateful.

Over my lunch break, I decided to drive downtown to get a drink to take back to the office. I sat on my hot leather seats that stung my legs and tried to use an air conditioner that wouldn’t run fast enough to keep up with the heat outside. I mutered under my breath as sweat poured down my face and my hair curled due to the humidity. I could taste that my pop had become watered down due to the intense heat melting the mound of ice I had just put in it minutes before. I cursed my car and its old age. I cursed my increasingly bad day. I was ungrateful. See the pattern forming?

Ungratefulness rots a person’s heart. I know it certainly hurt mine today, and I am not proud to admit it. Instead of looking at the numerous upsides to my day, I chose to look at the negatives simply because they were staring me in the face. By choosing to focus on the negative, I chose to be unhappy. I chose to let myself become irritable and complain about petty things.

To me, it’s obvious that there is a correlation between being grateful and being happy. David Steindl-Rast agrees. In his TED Talk titled “Want to be happy? Be grateful,” Steindl-Rast suggests that gratitude gives way to happiness. If we truly look around us and view our circumstances with a grateful heart, we will feel happiness. According to Steindl-Rast, we must view every moment as a gift with opportunity attached to it. Each of us has the power to make or break a situation; we can chose to look at the positives, or we can chose to dwell on the negatives. “The master key to happiness,” says Steindl-Rast, “is in our own hands.” YOU are truly the master of your fate. You can control how you feel.

But how do we harness this? How can we truly live a grateful life? Steindl-Rast puts it simply: we must stop, look, and go. We must truly stop and assess our situation before deciding if it’s “bad,” because how often do you actually stop and process something before complaining? I know that I tend to not wait very long before launching into a series of complaints (especially today). We tend to miss out on opportunities because we don’t stop and realize them. Steindl-Rast suggests putting up both mental and physical stop signs within our lives to put our head and heart back into focus. Once we stop, we must truly look and try to see the upside to each situation. By forcing ourselves to look deeper into any given situation, we are able to find that maybe we don’t have it so bad after all. Finally, we must go, and act upon those positive vibes. Most times, the “go” portion will leave you feeling grateful and allow happiness to spring up within you. This cycle is important to us; we must put up stop signs, both physically and mentally, to force ourselves to really look at a situation for more than what it appears. After all, a faucet is just a faucet until you realize how privileged you are to have one. Children all around the world will go thirsty today while you become increasingly impatient waiting for the water streaming out of your faucet to get cold enough for your preference. Perspective is huge. Remember that.

When I first watched this TED Talk, I felt myself recoiling a bit. I am a grateful person, I thought. I always say thank you and try to let others know how much I appreciate their help and generosity. But, after watching, I realize that gratefulness is so much more than a simple thank you or hug. Gratefulness is looking at both seemingly bad and good situations and seeing the bright lights and opportunities within them.

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(Image CC By: Pexels.com)

Sure, it was hot and humid in my office today. But, I was in that hot, humid office because I was graciously offered a job that allows me to work 40 hours a week throughout the entire summer. This is something that most college students only dream of. This job allows me to return to school in August feeling confident that I can pay my rent, utilities, and semester bills to the college for the next year without having to take out a loan. This job allows me to have peace of mind and financial stability. For that, I am grateful.

Yes, my leather seats were scorching hot today and the air conditioner in my car is old enough that it didn’t kick in on my drive. Yes, I got a little sweaty and the ice in my Dr. Pepper melted by the time I got back to work. But, I have a car that I can safely drive around in without having to worry about getting stranded somewhere. That car has allowed me to drive thousands of miles to go see friends and family all over the state. That car has transported me on snowy, icy roads home to see my family and has allowed me to make it to countless basketball games that my little brother played in. Many kids my age don’t have the luxury of having their own car, yet I do. For that, I am grateful.

For all of this and so much more, I am grateful. I choose to be grateful. I choose to be happy. I choose to live life with an attitude of gratitude. Today and always.

 

Best,

Regan

 

 

Pursuing My Passions

As a young person, I can truly say that I am led by my passions. My heart sometimes takes over my mind and I follow it too much. Passion leads me to do a lot of things; in fact, passion led me into the career path that I am chasing after right now. An individual’s passion can ignite a spark within them that is hard to dim or ignore. That being said, I believe passion has a great place in education and learning.

If you had the freedom to learn anything in the world, what would you choose? This is the question being posed to me this week, and, to be honest, I’m not sure what the answer to it is. My biggest issue is that I am passionate about too many things to make a decision on this. My biggest passions include loving Jesus, family, friends, reading (a lot!), teaching the future generations, and learning continuously (just to name a few). I love to try new things and attempt to be adventurous from time to time. Lately, I’m trying to be passionate about being physically active and taking care of myself. (This one is a little trickier. Insanity is killing me right now.) My friends and family truly lead me to follow and pursue my passions. They are always encouraging and loving (even when my ideas are stupid). I’m passionate about a lot of things; how can I possibly pick one to focus on?

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At this stage in life, my identity is important to me. I understand how cliché this is: a 20-year-old talking about finding herself. However, it’s something that I certainly believe in. It doesn’t have to be corny; it just means that I want to be myself at all times without worrying what others think of me. I believe that I can do this by following what I’m passionate about. I want to find my passions so that I can use them to further my learning. This, in turn, will help me become a better teacher. My experiences will help me lead a classroom full of bright eyed, passionate students some day. I want to find my passions so that someday I can help others do the same. That is why I’m excited about this project; I want to delve further into my true passions so I can find a way to help others with their own.

So, what will I choose to truly pursue these next few weeks? As I’m writing this blog post, I can honestly say that I’m not 100% sure what I’ll be doing. Should I dive further into my reading and explore new and different genres that will act as both a mirror inwards and a window outwards? Would I rather try to do something with my physical activity (because, let’s face it: if it’s for a grade, I’ll really try)? Or, should I push deeper into my relationship with God, focusing on expanding my prayer life? As I’m typing, I can feel my brain starting to churn; I’m starting to get excited because these are all things that I truly enjoy. I think that any of these choices will help me grow as a person, a learner, and a future educator. As for what I pick, stay tuned…

 

Best,

Regan

Hacking: Becoming the Garcia of Education

I don’t know about you, but I love Criminal Minds. Personally, I think it’s the best show out there. For those of you lost right now, Criminal Minds is a crime show that airs on CBS Wednesday nights. The show centers around the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) which is a team within the FBI. They specialize at analyzing an unsub’s (unidentified subject) behavior through his or her crimes in order to identify the person (or people) that are committing the crimes. (Honestly, it’s absolutely amazing, and if you haven’t seen it I feel bad for you. Go watch an episode right now.)

This team has what every good crime fighting team has: a leader (Hotch), a smart person (Reid), and the muscle-y tough guy that all the girls swoon over (Derek). Me though? I prefer Penelope Garcia. Garcia is the teams’ resident hacker. She has the power (and brains) to get into nearly any system and figure out anything that she wants or needs to. She is a flamboyant and energetic individual with a never say die attitude. Even if one pathway doesn’t work, Penelope is automatically trying something new to reach her goal. Garcia has saved the team more times than I could possibly count through her hacking skills. Not only does she figure out the pertinent information incredibly fast, but she also finds ways to keep the team safe and helps close cases each week; she’s pretty much amazing if we’re being honest.

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(Image: Flickr.com)

Haking. What a simple (and misunderstood) term. Many people hear the word hacker and immediately think it’s something awful and, often, illegal. I, however, choose to think of the term from the Criminal Minds’ standpoint. Garcia helps the team during life and death situations. She finds the best shortcuts through the system and uses them to benefit not only her but the entire team. Garcia catches the bad guys through her hacking skills. She saves lives.

I understand that this correlation is a bit of a stretch, but hacking is hacking regardless of the situation. A hacker is a person who is trying to challenge and change a system to make it more efficient for its users. Hackers want to make progress in an area. They want to innovate to make a system work better.

Hackers are innovators. Hackers are people who challenge and change the systems to make them work differently. To make them work better.- Logan LaPlante

This week, I watched Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk titled “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy,” and let me tell you what, I was blown away. I was amazed that someone so young could be so wise. LaPlante discussed hacking and all of it’s benefits, including those within the education system. He also claims that we should make happiness, healthiness, and creativity a major point in our school systems. According to LaPlante, “everything is up for being hacked… Even education.” But how do we do this?

If I’m going to be honest, I’m not really sure how to do this. I think that hacking the education system will look different to each individual. In my eyes, to truly hack education, we must work hard and constantly be willing to try something new. Educators must think like a hacker. They must look for ways to challenge the current education system in order to benefit the students; because that’s what it’s all about, right? We need to think about how we can tweak the system to focus on what our students need instead of what adults think they need. LaPlante discussed the fact that when adults ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, they often expect the answer to be a career path that will allow the child to make money. What happened to happiness and healthiness? This was a point that LaPlante made that I really enjoyed; adults don’t want the child to answer their question by simply stating that they want to be happy. But why not? Shouldn’t we want our students to grow up to be happy individuals? I think this is one change we must make; by encouraging our students to be creative and follow their passions, we will spark happiness within them and allow them to learn.

Learning happens when we hack things, too, because we must understand what our situation is, and how we can fiddle with it, in order to improve it. -Bud Hunt

After watching LaPlante’s TED Talk, I found myself desiring to become a hacker. Maybe not quite on the level that Garcia is at, but my own type of hacker. I want to hack my classroom. I want to make it a space of innovation and learning for all students. I want them to feel comfortable sharing their passions and truly chasing after them. I want to add creativity and spark back into the classroom. I want to (and believe in) hacking education. The way to get there? I’m not truly sure on that. Maybe it’s just slowly tweaking it until we reach the place that we need to be at. Whatever it is, it’s important that we continue to strive for it.

 

Best,

Regan

Digital Literacy: What is it?

Today’s world is becoming more technologically advanced every minute. New apps are created and new software is developed with each passing day. Every day, according to DMR, over 100 million people are active on Twitter, tweeting anything from what they’re eating to how awesome the latest episode of The Bachelorette is. It’s hard to think back to the days of cassette tapes in the iPhone and iPod-less world. In fact, it’s difficult to even remember a time when these apps and devices didn’t exist. Students in the classroom today are more exposed to technology than ever, but is that necessarily a bad thing? We hear a lot about the term “digital literacy,” but what exactly is that? Should educators be afraid of the growth of resources available, or should we embrace it? All of these are questions that float through society today and should be explored.

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(Image CC: Flickr.com)

What is Digital Literacy?

I’ll never forget the day that I taught my dad how to use his iPhone. It was a hilarious, trying experience for both of us. Some of the functions on the phone that seemed to be the easiest for me were roadblocks for him, such as the camera. However, after some anger (from him) and tears (from me laughing so hard), we finally accomplished our goal- my dad could successfully and confidently use every app on his iPhone. He was literate in the area of his Apple iPhone.

US Digital Literacy uses the University of Illinois’s definition of digital literacy, stating that it is “the ability to use digital technology communication tools, or networks to locate, evaluate, use, and create information.” Digital literacy also looks into a person’s ability “to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment” and using technology’s tools, such as iPads and SmartBoards or Twitter and blogs. Being digitally literate means that you understand and are able to use different types of technology and programs within it. Digitally literate people are able to use technology as a tool; they can use it to add creativity and effectiveness to a particular situation or presentation. Instead of spending hours on a poster, a student can create a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation in a fraction of the time. Technology allows students to be more creative due to the excess of resources and apps available to them. In order to power these, students must be digitally literate. Digital literacy is important to not only students and educators, but also to people everywhere.

Digitally literate people are those who ‘can use technology strategically to find and evaluate information, connect and collaborate with others, produce and share original content, and use the Internet and technology tools to achieve many academic, professional, and personal goals (New York Department of Education).’

“What Digital Literacy Looks Like in a Classroom”-Brianna Crowley

Digital Literacy in a Classroom

Students today are completely immersed in technology- there’s no question about it. I work at the middle school here in town, and I see more students fiddling around on their electronics than I see playing basketball or tag during recess. These kids are on Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other sites, navigating their way online. Due to this, many people question the effectiveness of schools informing students about digital literacy. As I researched, I found many people asking this question: if the kids already have a phone glued to their hand every hour of the day, should we even take the time to teach them about it or technology like it?

The answer to that question is absolutely. Yes, we should teach them about digital literacy. The article What Digital Literacy Looks Like in a Classroom by Brianna Crowley touched on this topic. Just because students are immersed in a culture full of technology does not mean that they naturally literate in using it. Crowley discusses how students are labeled as “digital natives’ while older generations are ‘digital immigrants,” meaning that students are assumed to have the knowledge to work technology while older generations are thought to need the most instruction. However, Crowley goes on to say that this is not necessarily true. It should not be assumed that students are more literate in the field of technology than other generations. Instead, digital literacy should be taught through “guidance, instruction, and practice.” If students receive this, they will be able to function more efficiently in a world full of fast paced technology long after they leave the halls of their school.

Digital Literacy-What I Want to Learn

To me, digital literacy is incredibly important. As a future educator, I want to be able to keep up with my digitally literate students as well as help those that might need some extra help with technology. In order to make that happen, it’s important that I become comfortable using technology in numerous ways. Through different technological platforms, such as this blog and Twitter, I hope to become comfortable communicating ideas and sharing resources with others. The more comfortable I am, the more able I will be to help others and teach them how to use technology both effectively and ethically. Although I have  social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, I’ve come to realize that these are not the only types of things that advance us. Blogging, podcasts, and programs such as Keynote and Excel on the computer are all beneficial to students today. I hope to gain a better understanding of digital literacy and how it affects the users of technology and the Internet through this course. I want to walk away with new ideas to use in my classroom and new ways to involve my students on many digital platforms. I want to become fluent in technology. After all, technology is everywhere; why not jump aboard?

 

Best,

Regan

Living to Learn: 5 Stories of Learning

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice” –Brian Herbert

I love to learn. I’ve loved it ever since I headed to Kindergarten with my green pencil box and stuffed bear. Call me strange or weird if you want to, but I love the feeling of acquiring new and exciting knowledge on something. I love trying to stretch my brain and diving headfirst into something new. I also love to share my learning with others. This is, of course, why I chose the profession that I did. Looking back on my learning life, I realize that I have had so many different points in life that have led me to where I am today. From past teachers to life changing experiences, I have many different events that built me as a learner. Picking just five stories was hard, but here are five experiences that helped me develop as a learner in both academics and life.

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If you know me at all, you know that I’m a reader. I have always loved picking up a good book and getting lost in it for hours. This love and passion started back when I was in first grade. I’ll never forget the pure joy I had when my mom suggested that I read a Junie B. Jones book titled Junie B. Jones Is a Party Animal. Chapter books were new and uncharted territory for me; I was afraid that I would fail and not be able to read it. However, I did read it and felt so accomplished. I went to school once I had finished and told my teacher that I wanted to take the AR test for my book. Then, something happened that I will never forget: my teacher didn’t believe that I had actually read the book because it was more advanced than my grade level. I couldn’t believe it- my hard work was going to go unnoticed. I finally convinced her to let me take the AR test under one condition: if I didn’t do well on it, I wouldn’t be able to check out any more chapter books. After taking and passing the test (with flying colors, I might add), my teacher apologized and encouraged me to read more Junie B. Jones books. This memory is etched into my brain because it was the first time a teacher told me I wasn’t able to do something. Looking back, I realize how young I was and understand where she was coming from. I was a 5-year-old reading chapter books in an incredibly short amount of time. However, I was truly reading them and finding them challenging. Since then, I have always lived by the mantra that anything is possible; I’m not going to let anyone tell me that I can’t do something because it’s too advanced for me. I also read and enjoyed every Junie B. Jones book in publication, so that’s a win for me as well. 😉

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(Picture: Flickr.com)

Perfection is something that I have always chased after, especially in school. Whether it was naming and spelling all 50 states and capitals correctly in fourth grade or memorizing the different organs in Advanced Biology, I have always felt the drive to get the top grade in every class that I’ve been in. Although having this drive isn’t a bad thing, I sometimes tend to take it too far. I distinctly remember the first time I didn’t get a 100% on a vocab quiz. I was in 6th grade, and I freaked out. What did this mean? Was I not good enough? What if my grade dropped? Looking back, I realize how silly and insignificant it was to freak out about one grade. That day, my teacher told me something that has really stuck with me throughout all of these years. She said, “Regan, sometimes school isn’t all about the grades. It’s about the lessons you learn-both in homework and life.” (She also said that I was going to develop ulcers if I kept worrying. That seems to be less motivational though.) As I left school that day, I remember thinking what in the world is she talking about? School is about the grades! However, now I completely understand what she was trying to relay on to me. Sometimes, school is about the learning process and not the outcome. It’s about the effort that you put into it and the times that you try your hardest. Will I always get 100% on every single assignment? Absolutely not (trust me… it doesn’t happen). But, I will always learn something from what I do and the time I spend in school, even if it doesn’t result in perfection.

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(Picture:  picserver.com)

As I got older, I found myself running into new and different challenges that affected me. From friend troubles to self-confidence issues that every junior high girl faces, I constantly felt tugged in different ways. The one thing that truly helped me get through those rough times was reading YA literature. Whenever I had a particularly rough or stressful day, I would go home and read for hours on end. I would read to escape and live for a few hours in someone else’s shoes. Books were windows into the life of someone else, and I was able to travel to places that I might never actually get a chance to go to. I got to experience life in Hogwarts and rainy Forks, WA (mandatory Twilight reference). Vicarious living truly helped me to survive those awkward years of growing up that we all have to face. I read books that served as windows as well as mirrors, looking further into myself and learning more. I learned how to show compassion and love to others as well as myself. I learned that the grass is not always greener on the other side; sometimes the situation we are in is not as bad as it could be. Books taught me so much and truly helped me to become who I am today. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s completely true. I still retreat to literature when I need to. I owe a lot to the books that I have read and the characters’ eyes that I have seen through. I became a more understanding person through literature, and for that, I am forever grateful.

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(Picture: Pexels.com)

I attended an incredibly small high school, and when I say small, I mean small. We had less than 200 kids total K-12. I graduated in a class of 15 kids, including me. I am forever grateful for the schooling opportunities that I had in Curtis, NE. I knew all of my teachers and they all knew me by name. My classmates and I were able to develop close, personal relationships with our coaches and teachers that have been special for us. One of those relationships that I built was with my Ag Ed instructor, Mrs. Mortensen. Mrs. Mortensen is one of those teachers that is passionate about not only the subject matter but also about her students. I walked into her classroom every day excited to learn and talk with her. She was more than just my FFA advisor and teacher; she became a mentor for me. I knew that I could go to her with any and every issue that I ever ran across. From friends to FFA and from Marvel debates (Captain America all the way) to public speaking practices, Mrs. Mortensen was always willing to go the extra mile. In fact, I still make a point to go sit in her classroom any time I head home and find myself texting her for advice from time to time. I learned from her how to encourage students and be the mentor that they need. She was always encouraging, funny, and caring. I learned more than just the subject matter from her. Mrs. Mortensen truly left a lasting impact on my life of learning. I’m thankful to be able to call her a teacher and, now, a friend.

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When I was in school, I kept busy. From FCCLA and quiz bowl to sports and National Honor Society, I was always on the go. I kept busy, and as a senior I was at my busiest point. However, all of this came to a halt one December night when I found myself sitting on a gym floor holding a basketball, unable to walk without crashing to the ground. My genetics had finally caught up with me, and I had torn both my ACL and MCL just like my sibling, parents, and numerous family members before me. I knew right when it happened that I was done with sports for good. As my doctor confirmed the news a few days later, I found myself panicking. What would I do now? My busy life would have to be put on hold for surgery and rehab that would take the majority of the second semester of my senior year. I rang in the New Year hooked up to an ice machine post surgery and then spent hours upon hours driving to North Platte (a town about 45 minutes away from my hometown) for physical therapy once school started back up. Recovery was awful, but I learned some great life lessons from it. I learned the importance of perseverance and a good attitude in all situations. I became aware of just how hard a person has to work in order to achieve their goals. Sometimes, it’s the lessons that life teaches us that are the most important. I had to choose to be positive, and sometimes I didn’t make that choice. Those days were the worst ones, and they were the ones that I learned the most from. Who knew that a torn ligament or two could be such a great thing in the end? 😉

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Well, there it is. My twisted and strange path that led me to where I am in my learning life today. I’ve learned life lessons from big events, such as a knee injury, to small events, such as a simple sentence spoken by a teacher. I try to learn something new and exciting whenever I can. Sometimes, I learn a lesson just by walking out the front door in the winter running late (lesson: always start your car early), and other times the lesson develops over time. I think that the most important thing is that we always try to continue learning, both academically and personally. This is how we, as future educators, will be able to teach our students.
Best,

Regan