Learning is a Road Trip

Okay, here it is: my metaphor video!

I’m not going to lie, I was really nervous about making this video. My metaphor popped into my mind Sunday night as I was trying to sleep, but I just wasn’t sure how to piece together my video. Honestly, I was afraid of failing and not doing well. But, just like a road trip, I pushed forward even after some mishaps and worrying occurred and finally finished this at 2 a.m. this morning. I’m pretty proud of it, and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think. 🙂

My video was made using iMovie on my laptop. Most of the photos are free stock photos found on Flickr and Pixabay, but some are photos of actual road trips that I have taken. These hold so many memories for me; I couldn’t wait to share them.

Enjoy!

 

Thanks for such a fantastic summer session! I really enjoyed this class. 🙂

Until next time,

-Regan

More than a Classroom: Innovation and Unlearning

“Oh. You’re going to be a Language Arts educator. So, you’ll be reading the classics and handing out grammar worksheets every week?”

“We do things this way because that’s how they’ve always been done. This is how it works best.”

The quotes above are so real they hurt to read (and yes, people have said these things to me. Many times). Yes, I am majoring in Language Arts Education. Yes, I plan on reading in my classroom. Maybe systems before have worked. However, where is the innovation? Where is the spark of passion in either of those statements? If you were a student in a classroom, would you just want to be told that you are working hard at a monotonous routine that everyone does? Does it make excited about your education?

I can answer those questions for myself: no. No, it doesn’t make me excited. I had classes like this in high school that ran strictly on routine and never deviated. We did a worksheet every day and played a game on Friday. What kind of learning experience is that?

I want to create a classroom that is more than a classroom; I want my room to be a space for learning and growth. I want to create an area for innovation and knowledge. I want it to be a safe place for students to share ideas and grow while being passionate in their pursuits. This class has shown me that it isn’t impossible, despite what many have told me. I refuse to give up hope that something like this can happen, and that’s all because of the thoughts and ideas I have learned in these past 8 weeks.

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(Image CC: Flickr.com)

These past 2 months have been blowing my mind and packing it full of innovative ideas and practices to incorporate in my classroom. Gone are the thoughts of traditional education; in their place now sit the many faces of the new age. From podcasts to digital storytelling and from Twitter communities to passion-based learning projects, my thought process has changed and evolved. In today’s age, school no longer has to just be a worksheet each day. We no longer have to be cut off from technology. We need to embrace change. We need to view our students as individuals and prize that. We need to learn from them as much (if not more) than they learn from us. We must shed the old process and embrace the new.

In order to shed this old process, we must be open to innovation and unlearning. Innovation will help educators be the best they can be. George Couros’s article “The Mindset of an Innovator” shows educators precisely what innovation looks like in a classroom setting. An innovator never accepts “good enough”; they strive for great. An innovator is always looking for a better solution to a problem. They are constantly trying to make their classroom the best learning space possible. An innovator utilizes tools they already have while searching for new things to make the learning environment even better. An innovator models leadership because that is exactly what they expect from others. Be awesome, get awesome back. Innovators are constantly reflecting to see what can be done better. Bottom line: innovators never stop learning and growing for their students. I think we can all use some of this mindset in our lives.

I am an innovative educator and will continue to ask “what is best for learners.” With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.

Unlearning, to me, is the process of rethinking what a “normal” classroom should look like. Most people look at the function of a classroom as this: a teacher teaches, students learn, teacher stands at the front of the classroom and lectures while students sit at desks, teacher assigns homework, students work quietly. Is that how a classroom “should” function? Many would argue yes, but equipped with the knowledge of how important it is to unlearn, future educators should firmly disagree with this logic. The article The Steep “Unlearning Curve” provides us with this insight. Educators must understand that a classroom is a space for learning, not simply a space for lecturing. Our students are brilliant; let’s give them a chance to share their ideas and knowledge. We do not always know better than they do. I also love the point that not every student learns at the same pace. If that’s true, why do we try to teach everyone the same thing at the same time? Unlearning our education system allows us to be more open to innovation and different ways of teaching practices. If it’s truly all about the kids, why don’t we actually make it this way?

As I move forward in my journey to be an educator, I will keep much of what I’ve learned stored away to use both now and at a later date. I still have so much to learn about technology in our classrooms and how to incorporate it, but this class opened the door to that area and pushed me through (even when I was a little hesitant). I’m more comfortable performing tasks online now than I ever have been. I was surprised at the resources available other than just a plain old worksheet full of questions. I never knew the plethora of apps and websites that were open to students. My eyes have been opened to a whole other world of learning; instead of a worksheet, let’s assign a student with a digital story presentation. Let’s listen to a podcast. Let’s get outside the “normal” classroom functions.

I want to innovate. I want to be an “unlearned” teacher. From here, I plan to continue learning and growing. I plan to reflect back in order to make the future better. I will now look a classroom differently. I will look at my role differently. My future classroom will be more than just reading a book and answering questions about it; it will be more than a worksheet a day. It will be more than school. The following line in Couros’s article really stood out to me and has become my new motto:

I build upon what I already know, but I do not limit myself to myself. I’m open to and willing to embrace new learning, while continuously asking questions to move forward.

I will constantly strive to be a better version of myself as a leader, educator of minds, and innovator.

Best,

Regan

 

Daily Creates: 18-20

I finished up my Daily Create Challenge this week! I had SO much fun doing this project. I’m definitely using this in my classroom someday!

The Internet: Delightfully Distracting

As I peek back over my Attention Log journal for the week, one word comes to mind: distracting. The Internet and all of its wonderful offerings can really be a distraction, can’t they? Going back through my journal provides me with that insight. For example, what was meant to be a quick clearing of my email inbox turned into an online shopping spree that never should have happened (darn you, Vera Bradley sales). It’s true that the Internet can be a vacuum that sucks up all of its users’ time, but is that necessarily always a bad thing?

Reflecting back, I can see that I undoubtedly spend a lot of time on the Internet. I work at the Welcome Center of the college in my hometown and spend a lot of time with Admissions/Recruiting and Registration and Records. I have my own desktop and even bring my laptop with me to work. I use my computer at work to log information about students and do office duties. After work, I come home and log onto Sakai and my social media sites periodically throughout the evening. If it’s a designated homework night, I spend even more time shut in my room with just my computer and me. I also am habitually on my phone right before bed. So, I’m behind a screen all day long; this is something I already knew. However, what I didn’t know was how distracted my use of the Internet is.

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(Image CC: Pixabay.com)

A great example of distraction happened one night when I was working on homework. I’m not going to lie; I sometimes have an issue forcing myself to get all of my work done in a timely manner, and Thursday night was no exception. As I worked on my homework, I continually found myself doing something that wasn’t actually homework. From Snapchats popping up during my TED Talk to blaring my Spotify radio and singing at the top of my lungs, I was never really 100% focused. Instead of focusing on finishing the homework I had laid out for me, I chose to belt out a little Adele (not very prettily, I might add). This caused my homework to take me way longer to complete than it should, which then caused me to become frustrated. I kept wondering why it was taking me so long to complete the assignments. What finally worked for me was turning off my music and turning my phone on silent facedown on my bed. In retrospect, I just really needed to unplug and focus completely on my schoolwork. Easier said than done in this day in age, am I right?

However, I also found myself using my time online wisely this week as well. One day at work, I had to proofread a magazine publication that was to be released about the college. It took me hours and a lot of close reading, but I never strayed further on the Internet. Since I was so busy working on that, I avoided my phone (for hours) and all forms of social media. It was absolutely empowering in a weird way. I spent this weekend with my grandparents, and I found myself only using Twitter or Facebook when it was appropriate. I love to scroll through my Twitter feed, but by watching my time spent on it, I was able to spend more time with the people I love. Most of this time spent scrolling was at night before bed.

It’s obvious that not all of my time was spent wisely online, but that doesn’t mean that some of it wasn’t. Through social media and the Internet this week, I was able to wish my best friend who is currently in Italy a happy 20th birthday and find out that someone I know is engaged. I was able to get some pretty huge projects done at work and feel productive. I got to celebrate One Directions’ 6th Anniversary with lots of music and Twitter scrolling. I was also able to Netflix, and we all know how important that is. The Internet opened these doors for me.

Although the Internet is distracting at times, I think it’s also wonderful. Finding a balance between too much and too little exposure is important, and this journal helped me with that. I saw bad habits and am trying to correct them or figure out solutions to them (I’m currently not doing anything other than writing this blog. Progress, my friends.). Someday we might have the perfect formula figured out. Until then, I’ll just be trying to act mindfully and will be deleting any and all emails from Vera Bradley because my bank account can’t handle it.

Best,

Regan

ILP Canva Wrap-Up: The Magic of Reading

To create a visual about my ILP project, I chose to use Canva. I chose Canva because I had heard about this tool before and wanted to give it a try. I love finding new things that are (fairly) easy to work with and fun to use, so this tool was definitely right for me. Canva allows its users to have a lot of free reign when using the site. Users are able to take advantage of numerous different layouts and options within them. I tried out a few different layouts before I found one that worked for me and even then I found myself tweaking it to make it work more. Users are able to change the text and layout of each layout (craziness, I know), and I love that about Canva. It really allows each user to make their piece creatively their own with a lot of ease.

Of course, any new tech tool doesn’t come free from issues. Canva, although amazing, does have a few downsides. One major downside is the fact that users are asked to pay for a lot of the photos already on the site. I was able to get around this by uploading images of my own, so it didn’t bother me as much. If you plan on using Canva, I would recommend that you have some pictures to upload to make the process run more smoothly. Canva took out a lot of the challenging aspects of the site by giving new users a quick and easy tutorial to watch. This helped me to understand and learn more about the site.

I love being able to use a different medium to express what I’ve learned. Being an English major, I write a lot; however, it’s nice to be able to express my feelings and learning experiences within a photo. I could see myself using this tool in my classroom for sure. I think that students get more excited when they are able to create something uniquely individual to them, and Canva provides this opportunity. Even if students were to choose the same layout, their finished product would probably look nothing alike. I can see myself implementing this tool during reports or projects where students have to share their work with the class.

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If my ILP taught me anything, it was the value of a story. Readers are able to step into another person’s shoes and live life completely different from their own. Books teach compassion; when students learn about what other people go though, they will develop empathy and understanding. Books teach so many more lessons than I, as a teacher, ever could. They serve as an escape and a window into someone else’s life.

My Canva creation is filled with books because, well, that’s what I did during my project. I read. A lot. And I loved it. My 4+ hours of reading each week allowed me to travel to places that I might never see in real life. I read about numerous different kids’ backgrounds and home lives. I saw happiness and love as well as heartbreak and disappointment. As sad as I am to see this ILP come to a close, I’m happy as well. I feel like I’ve learned a lot from the books that I chose to read. My passion has only been ignited more; for that, I am thankful.

Best,

Regan

Living Unplugged: Life in Real Time

My lunch break today seemed just like any old ordinary day. My dad arrived home from school, and we had our normal lunch time catch up with each other. We exchanged “how’s your day going” questions, and he asked what I was working on in the office. Eventually, the conversation teetered out; I was on Twitter, and wasn’t really answering his questions. Instead, I was catching up on what my friends were doing and obsessively following the latest emotional heartbreak for me: Liam is going solo. (One Direction fans… Feel my pain) The news had just broke an hour earlier, and I was desperate to learn more. As I searched through the hashtag to find more news, I missed out on precious one-on-one time I could’ve spent with my dad.

I was not truly in the present. I was living life plugged in.

Naturally, I didn’t notice at the time why what I was doing was wrong. I see my dad every single day; surely one lunch break wouldn’t make a difference. However, if you know my dad, you know how wrong I am. My dad, loving as he is, doesn’t really keep up with me when I’m at school. He’s busy here at home and doesn’t have a ton of time to talk; we’ve gone longer than a month without exchanging even a text message before. So, instead of taking away alone time with him, I should have put my phone down and lived in the present, fully knowing that the Internet would continue to update me later on.

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(Image CC: Flickr.com)

Living life tethered to our devices is a slippery slope. I think that we often do this because we feel connected through our correspondence online; however, what are we missing out on by staring at a screen instead of taking in what’s happening around us? We might miss out on a really awesome conversation or sight because our eyes are glued to our lit up screens. Mind Shift’s article What Happens When Teens Try to Disconnect From Tech For Three Days describes many teens’ obsession with their phones as a “habitual dependency.” It’s one that we do out of habit. Bored? Swipe right and open Instagram. Headed to bed? Scroll through your Facebook feed one last time. I think this dependency is one that we can all relate to, even if we don’t want to admit it. Thomas Namara, a senior involved in the challenge to disconnect for three days, said that disconnecting was ” a wakeup call for how dependent we are on technology.” Can you imagine completely unplugging from technology for even one day? Or are you a habitual user of social media and the internet?

I am (obviously) guilty of being a habitual user from time to time. I find myself paying more attention to my screen than to my friends or family. I honestly do have a hard time unplugging, even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t ever be “that person.” The one that is on their phone instead of laughing along with their friends. Two years ago when I got my first iPhone (I joined the smart phone world later in life), I told myself that I wouldn’t be that person. I had spent all of high school having it happen to me, and I vowed that I wouldn’t let myself get sucked into my phone. However, time and dependency has altered that a bit. But what can we truly do in a tech savvy world to unplug?

It’s important to set limits, and I normally do. My phone is always put away at the dinner table and if I’m having a talk with family or friends. I try to limit my time on it during the workday and allot myself time to look at things later that night. Unplugging brings peace to my day. I spend that time reading or hanging out with my little brother and family. Unplugging allows us to really take a breath and truly live life instead of just participating in it online.

I think it’s good for people to take a step back and just try to look at learning and friendships and socializing culture through a different lens- Thomas Namara

The most important takeaway from this week has been the fact that the Internet is amazing and valuable, but there is certainly a time and a place for it. We are able to connect with those far away by using our devices, but it’s also important to feel the freedom that unplugging brings. Stop Snapchatting and take a walk instead. Read a book. Really have a conversation with someone, not just a talk. Spend time with you and only you. Be mindful.

The Internet will always be there; this moment won’t.

Best,

Regan

Daily Creates: 10-17

Here is a round-up of this week’s Daily Creates! 🙂

ILP: A Window

I think the most important thing we can do is learn from something. A mistake, a joyous occasion, and even a book. We can learn from all of these things without even realizing it; sometimes it’s a conscious decision, and sometimes it is not. Every day is a new opportunity to learn, and I love that. I love that something, like a book, can be such a great opportunity to learn lessons without even thinking about it.

As we move towards the end of our Independent Learning Projects, I was reminded of this thought during the week. Books that are familiar are wonderful, and I think that we all have those books. You know, the ones that we can fall back on and binge read at any point? (Twilight or the Divergent Series… Just sayin’.) Those books are great. Really. I will guiltily dig into my old, trusty reads any day of the week. But new books that push us to think harder and learn new things? Those are spectacular windows that we must look through.

Books can serve as windows into other worlds or lives that we’ve never lived. Naturally, fantasy novels come to mind when thinking of this type of a book. But, what about books that are realistic, just maybe not necessarily for you? This week I read Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. It was something that I had never read before. This novel follows Gabi, a senior in high school balancing a full plate of life’s messy hurdles. From a drug addict father who is MIA most of the time to boy issues and college planning, Gabi’s senior year is one to remember. Toss in two best friends with challenges of their own and Gabi finds herself in a turning point in life. Readers can follow her through her journal entries to see what it’s truly like to walk a year in Gabi’s shoes.

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(Image: Goodreads.com)

This book was a window for me. I did not grow up in California, and I was not raised in a traditional Mexican-American household. Speaking Spanish is not something that I do on a regular basis (although that would be awesome). I did not struggle to fit into my neighborhood due to my skin tone. My father is not addicted to drugs and my best friends and I did not go through the same issues that Gabi faced. What I’m trying to get at here is that my senior year of high school looked completely different than Gabi’s did. But you know what? I learned so much from reading her story. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes changes your perspective. It makes you feel their pain along with their joy. I laughed with Gabi. I smiled when she got accepted into her dream school. Tears welled up in my eyes as she shared her personal life stories through her poetry. I related on a certain scale, because I was a senior in high school once and it truly did feel like the world was on my shoulders. Someday, I want my students to understand that just because someone else’s life seems completely different than yours doesn’t mean that you can’t relate or learn from them.

Books push us. We can learn from them. This is one of my favorite parts about reading; I always find something new. Maybe someday I’ll have a student that I feel needs to read Gabi’s story. It’s comforting to know that I’ll be able to share this with them. Getting out of your comfort zone is important. Finding your identity (and loving it) is important. Therefore, this book is important.

 

Best,

Regan

Be the Change

Growing up, I never thought anything was different about my little brother. Kellan, my brother, has always loved me, annoyed me, and, of course, hurt me (that twerp was a biter when he was little). He has made me laugh to the point of tears and I’ve chased him around the house with salad tongs. His hugs and smiles are energizing, and I love to hear him through the phone when I’m away at college.

To me, Kellan is just Kellan: an amazing, annoying, almost 17-year-old that has stuck by my side through thick and thin and has become one of my best friends over the years. However, to others, this is not all they see.

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Kellan has Down syndrome. Down syndrome, or Trisomy 21, occurs when a child has an extra copy of his or her 21st chromosome. Where there would normally be a pair, there is an extra, third chromosome. (If you want to learn more, I encourage you to check out this website.) The results of this chromosomal disorder can vary, but most people born with Downs will have physical characteristics different from those around them and will experience cognitive delays that vary from case to case.

Despite all of this, Kellan has always just been Kellan to me. This wasn’t the case for everyone, though. As I continued to grow up, I noticed that some people treated Kellan differently. They looked at him curiously. Some kids were mean to him. Some people asked questions about why he did the things he did. Some made fun of his G-tube. Some were just genuinely curious and would ask me questions.

Some turned to language, using the R-word to make their point.

When I was in high school, my peers used the word “retarded” to describe anything and everything. From a homework assignment to a person, the word was thrown around as often as a football during an August practice. It really started to bother me: why did these people that knew my family use this hurtful word? Did they really just not understand? This is when I took action, and decided that enough was enough.

Digital activism. Two simple words that can make a huge impact. When I finally got fed up with what was happening, I had a couple of options. I could lose my cool and scream at everyone to stop being stupid, or I could form a logical and precise way to get my point across and (hopefully) change some people’s minds. I chose the latter, and began to start a project with my two best friends to end the use of the R-word in our school. This project included hosting events and sharing information with others, both through face-to-face contact and the heavy use of social media. This project is one that I will remember and carry with me forever.

After this week’s module, I believe even more in the area of digital activism than I ever have before. Using Twitter, Facebook, Tublr, or whatever form of social media that you want to use makes spreading the word about your cause as easy as clicking your mouse. Within a matter of minutes your thoughts and ideas can be reached by millions of people all over the globe. These posts can shape (and change) public opinion on a topic; these posts can make someone’s life better. How cool is it that anyone has the power to make that happen?

Gone are the days of physical protests and one person holding a sign at a street corner. No, I’m not implying that these things no longer happen, because they certainly do. However, I’m saying that maybe they’re not the most effective anymore. According to an article titled The 6 Activist Functions of Technology, social media allows people to create a “collective identity” through “the means of information transmission.” Now, people have the ability to reach others around the state, nation, and even globe instead of just those that drive by. People can unite online and make plans. They can plan a rally of thousands instead of just one or two. They can raise awareness through their words instead of solely through actions. People can make a difference by joining with others and actually doing something. There is truly power in numbers.

I think a key thing to remember is movements can start with just one person; let your passions fuel you to find whatever it is that you can be an advocate for. Activists today are getting younger and younger. A 15-year-old teen living in the U.S. started a campaign called The Why To Stay Strong campaign that reminds teens how much God loves them and cares for them despite their struggles. Its motivational and uplifting message inspires others to keep going. This teen has over 5,200 followers on Twitter and is a finalist for the 6th Annual Shorty Awards. What were you doing when you were 15?

Shaping public opinion, planning an action, protecting activists, sharing a call to action, take action digitally, shape public opinion again: digital technology helps activists throughout the change process from the first spark of consciousness that the status quo is unacceptable to the international ripple effects of a dramatic action.

Digital activism allows us to unite with other like-minded thinkers. It allows us to truly be the change. By the end of my project, I saw changes everywhere. The Facebook page we created had followers from different towns offering to help bake a cake for our basketball game event or just thanking us for sharing our resources. Looking back, I wish we would have used more social media, but since then, I have definitely posted on my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts discussing the R-word and its affects on families like mine as well as posting about Downs in general. Knowing that something I say might change a person’s habits or thoughts makes me feel empowered; I want to be that change.

I leave you with this thought, said by Maryam, a Bahraini activist discussed in an article for Teen Vogue: “Every night before you go to sleep, ask yourself, ‘What did I do today to try and make this world a better place?’”

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Send that tweet. Post that status. Be the change.

Best,

Regan

 

Peace Within the Craziness: ILP

 

Can we all just take a minute to agree that life is an insane, bumpy, crazy mess?

Whew. What a week! It’s been crazy around here. From traveling for the 4th last weekend and going back to work without an air conditioner in the office to traveling again this weekend and having my car blow a belt on the road, it’s been a whirlwind week full of, uhm, adventures to say the least. Honestly, I’m feeling pretty frazzled as I sit here writing this post. I just got home after driving 2 hours with a car on the fritz. This week has not been relaxing in the least.

But do you know what has been relaxing this week? My reading project.

I know, I know. I talk about reading like it is my source of happiness each week. But, maybe it is just that.

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(Photo: Goodreads.com)

I spent the afternoon of the 4th starting (and nearly finishing) a book titled Emmy and Oliver. This book is amazing; I implore you all to go out, grab a copy, and devour it just like I did. It’s a love story about, you guessed it, two teens named Emmy and Oliver from California. Oliver has been missing for years, but has just been miraculously found. Will he and Emmy be able to regain their friendship? Can they find their way back to each other? I laughed and felt pangs in my heart as I followed their story. Definitely a YA love novel, but hey, is there anything better?

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(Photo: Goodreads.com)

Since then, I have started Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. Although I haven’t finished it yet (crazy week, remember?), I definitely love this book. It’s different from one that I would normally pick, but stepping outside of your comfort zone as a reader is important I think. Readers experience Gabi trying to make her way in the world as a Latina girl with an overprotective mother and deadbeat dad. As she struggles through life’s hurdles, readers can appreciate her never-die attitude and strength; I know that she’s going through problems that I never did, but it’s still important to read about them. Some books serve as windows to enlighten readers and show them something different; this book is doing that for me, and I can’t wait to give you a full run down of it next week.

So, my car has been deposited at the shop and, after I take a long shower and grab an ice cold Diet Dr. Pepper from the garage, I’m going to unwind from my stressful weekend (never thought I’d say that) with Gabi. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this thankful for my stress reliever. If you need me, just know that you’ll find me in my PJ’s with a book. You’ve been warned.

 

Happy Reading!

Regan

P.S.- As always, be sure to look for full reviews on my Goodreads page! This week’s books may not be added until I have recovered from my week, so plan on them being up tomorrow evening. 🙂 I have also added the widget to my blog, so hopefully that’s a bit easier.