Friday, July 29, 2016

Remember You Are the Creator

The painful process of remembering the artist buried within

Before the painful experience of failure or negative feedback sours a young child we are all artists and writers and storytellers. There is nothing we fear, nothing we cannot attempt. But those experiences of failure shape how we come to identify ourselves as adults.

Are you an artist? Or have you packed away your colored pencils because you hit a wall in perspective and felt your drawings weren't "good enough". Do you have notebooks full of wonderful adventures and characters you have created but who have not made it to a final draft; did you put away your story because it was too painful to have someone critic your brain child or did you get a couple of rejection letters first?

Have you put enough space and distance between that young novice and your current self that you feel safe examining what happened?

Somewhere buried deep within me is this identity of being a writer, a storyteller who puts their thoughts into words on the page. I moved from a small Colorado prairie community of 500 people to Los Angeles when I was 18 because I wanted to write for the movies. I lived there for four years, shelving books and slinging coffee at the Borders Books and Music store in Valencia.

And then I had to move back "home".

That was one failure, followed by another, and then another. My identity as a writer became so distorted that I eventually felt ashamed to even admit I had once daydreamed of winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Dozens of stories were culled.

But then, well, the library once again saved me.

I went to my local library and asked if I could shoot footage of their sorting machine to make this video. And discovered that somewhere in the process of this class I started to feel like a storyteller again.

Not without its own birthing pains.

Even this post has been a frustration of techie issues. Tried a new program (Storify) and spent long hours trying to upload pictures (first you make the pictures then discover you can't figure out how to upload them, then you try posting them to facebook or twitter) only to discover that for whatever reason it's not saving your progress. (Even now the tab is still open and it appears to be stuck reconnecting) So more time spent copying and pasting over to Blogger, and still even then you lose things like Twitter comments (screenshots of Storify into Powerpoint, crop, save as JPG, upload - doubtless there are faster, smarter ways but I don't know them) because now you can't find them again on your twitter feed.

When do you give up?

Well, that's the thing I've discovered about goal setting. All those wonderful books at the library. The ones about Flow and intrinsic motivation. Setting a goal is more than just declaring it (although you may recall from my earlier posting that declaring your goal and getting a "good for you" can actually prevent you from reaching your goal). New Year's Resolutions often fail because there is no plan of attack, there are just these things like "get out of debt" or "be kind" or "lose 50 pounds". But mostly goals fail because we aren't prepared to overcome setbacks.

My theme for this course was goal setting but as I worked on my assignments I found I needed to remember those aspects of goal setting that help a person keep working even when they experience failure or set backs. The key to really being successful with your goals of course is the level of reflection you do when you have reach a milestone. The end of this course is only a milestone, it is not a finish line. The things I was able to start in these last eight weeks with continue to grow over the years as I continue to evaluate and set new goals. But first, let's talk about what went right, what got better and where it is all taking me from here.

Art For Words - Using Fewer than 140 Characters to Tell a Story

This is where I started, and even though I still use PowerPoint to do my PhotOshopping I feel I can see the progress made. As a writing teacher I know how important it is to have activities in which students actually write but visual messages are amazing (Art is a Univeral Language that Does Not need to be Translated).

And it felt safer for me to explore these themes then straight up writing assignments (more on that in a bit). My identity as a storyteller grew in terms of using Photoshop, and I was most proud of the final few projects.

I don't play it safe when I try something. I always try for something that requires a bit of risk taking on my part, even if that risk is just to expose a little bit more of myself than I might feel comfortable with. The interesting thing with looking back over these projects is to remember how nervous and overwhelming they felt at first. Like at any moment I was going to be found out and discovered as an impostor or fake. I guess that says alot about how I don't feel like I belong but that's probably a discussion for therapy and not necessarily for my final reflection.

I remember seeing this daily create and going through my books to see if inspiration would strike. And it did! I knew the moment I picked up the Patchwork Girl and saw that simple doll on the cover what it would be if it was printed today. The over sexualized messages young women recieve today completely blows me away. Getting the materials together to recreate this cover didn't take very long but teaching myself to use new tools in PowerPoint sure did. I had never removed a background before and it was still too tricky to remove the original image from the cover (her hands can still be seen on the C and K) but I was so very pleased with the final product just the same.

By the time I got to these next few assignments removing a background and flipping images had become more "natural" for me. I was especially proud of the proportions for the FAIRY HARD movie poster and how close my "This is Not a Coffee" resembled Rene Magritte's "This is not a Pipe". Would I say I had become a PhotoShopping Master? No. But I was a PowerPoint PhotoShopping Novice with enough confidence to feel they could take on any project and do well.
My final Photoshop project for this class involved so many elements that I truly felt like a creator and not just a manipulator. Plus who doesn't love a caped Bold B!

Sounds About Right - Auditory Elements are My Achilles Heel

Adding soundtracks to my video project on YouTube proved very frustrating but I'm glad I've discovered SoundCloud. (And Incredibox even though I didn't find time to play on it). I honestly don't know what to do with it but I hope to introduce some students to it and see what they create there. I have a hard time with phoentic awareness activities because of an inner ear issue that makes distenguishing those subtle difference a struggle. A reason I struggle with pronounciation and singing and spelling. And I avoided working on those things because of the deficit which then in turn means those skills weren't developed.

But I love listening to music and again I am willing to look at an assignment and say to hell with it let me try it. So even though I didn't do a lot of Auditory assignments for this class the ones I did do I am extreemly proud of. I don't have plans to change careers anytime soon but I am looking forward to discovering more ways to develop these skills slowly and thoughtfully in the future.

And honestly, students who are gifted in their area should be the ones who are encouraged to meld writing with sound and see what they create. I'm not the writing teacher that gets hung up on spelling and grammer. I teach that those things are increadible important, but we learn them by reading great writing more than with skill and drill activities.

(Sadly, because of my poor techie skills, screenshots have been my method of trying to capture some of our conversations from this class and this one is just really poor quality).

Reading and Writing - My Bread and Butter

Totally excited to have discovered hypothesis. This is a great way to read and discuss material. I don't have enough technology in the classroom to really support using it but maybe for some assignments I can pull in the laptop cart and get kids on it.

The DS 106 Assignment Bank was another rich resource of writing assignments and ideas. The Choose Your Own Adventure stories were a big hit with some of my relunctent readers and I dsicovered Inklewriter which allows students to create their own Choose Your Own Adventure stories (my brain has been brewing how we as a class could all create a story together using this program so I'll let you know how that works out).

As I mentioned my identity as a writer has been damaged by some pretty serious setbacks and failures. And as we humans know it is always easier to remember the failures than the successes. One of the goal setting strategies for reflection requires that you make a list of those things that went right so that you have evidence of all the things that did go right. But it's like getting back on a bike when you have fallen, the pain paralyzes you and you have to learn to trust yourself again.

You may recall my talking about this book earlier. But I think it bares repeating that we are discovering so much about how the brain works because we literally have only been able to observe it working since the 1970s (MRi machines and such). Before that you had those guys with the lab rats and dogs being trained to respond to bells and whisles but I digress. The point is that trauma effects different people differently. Our brains are amazing machines but they can also be fairly simplistic too, the brain doesn't actually know the difference between a real threat and a vivid memory (or imagining) of a threatening situation. It's part of the reason why simulations help train people for the real emergency, but it's also part of the reason why PTSD is such a huge issue. My own, non-life threatening experiences as a failed writer made it harder to try writing again because it carries with it the weight of all those experiences and you think as you write that you will fail before you even begin. Resilience is needed then to come back from failures.

And reflecting on what went right helps replace those feelings of doubt when they do come up. So, in addition to using the DS 106 Assignment Bank with students, I can also use it to build up my confidence again as a writer too. Fun, short activities like the Daily Creates can help struggling writers with short prompts that have them writing before they know what hit them.

 And labeling the assignment "Design" for example can also produce a lot of writing and connection too, while sidestepping emotions connected to writing. I was pleasently surprised to go over my posts and tweets and discover some really good writing gems.

This summer I have also had time to reflect on my journal writing, which is something I use in class to try to inspire students to make writing more personal. This summer I completed my 14th journal and reflected on how that process has really started to take shape. I've been working on them since 2007 but in this last year they have really started to come together. Examples of how longevity and resilience are key ingredients in creating your dreams. Plus, it was nice to get some feedback from total strangers on how they look.

Students learn from doing. They also need modeling to see things done correctly which is one of the things I think I will be stronger doing for them going forward. I've modeled writing for them before but I'm feeling more confident now, and with the different assignments from DS 106 and the other teaching resources online (which I also feel more confident exploring) I think we will have lots to experiement with in the future.

Not to mention the various ways we can incorporate fanfiction into writing assignments too!

So Where Do We Go From Here

There are of course fun "bucket list" goals that once they are completed we move on from but developing those life long learning habits and skills needed to pursue bigger goals can be harder. One of the reasons is because struggle feels so uncomfortable and we'd rather avoid it. But a little willingness to not only Learn, but also Unlearn and Relearn can open up discoveries never dreamed of before. Never before has a class really pushed me to live this.

I also found it interesting to look at some of the statistics that my blogging created. Of course I'm not sure how someone in France even found my blog (or for that matter how to find Mauritius on a map) but this is an example of how the World Wide Web really does connect the world together. A very poient experience of this class was the reading of the Riverbend blog. Our course readings had referenced it as being this powerful connection to the war in Iraq but of course this was over a decade ago so I looked to see if she was still blogging. One post, three years ago, was a stark contrast to the positive message in our course readings. And yet, there too is the power of archieving messages like blogs. Libraries have to make room on their shelves for current materials although there are warehouses for books that are sometimes needed for reference, but for the most part older books are weeded from collections. The internet as far as I've been lead to believe does not have issues with storage so if you never delete it in theory it is available forever. Although I'm not sure how all of this will look and feel to me in the future, it's there perculating in my mind. The thing is that in some fashion affinity spaces will make their way into the classroom. The Global Classroom will become more common, and hopefully in the process we can increase empathy and awareness on a larger scale.

My more immidiate goals and uses for affinity spaces in the classroom will probably focus around fanfiction, blogging and self-publishing but because of this class I will have more direction to offer students who are more adventerous or advanced than myself.

I was also inspired by affinity spaces to try out Donors Choose, and happy to say my first project was fully funded! I'm slowly starting to see how one could use all these different social media sites to connect with strangers who are looking to connect. There is a wealth of sites I have not tapped into because I find this whole Internet thing overwhelming but just like with my Photoshopping, once I actually started setting expectations (goals) for myself I slowly started to feel more comfortable.
I'm still going to move at the speed of a turtle because I'm old enough to understand that fast isn't always better - Haste really does make Waste - but also because as a teacher the one student I have really gotten to know is myself. I may have cried at times during this class, may even have broken down yesterday afternoon in frustration, but I trusted myself to be gentle yet firm. I had a goal. Finish this class. Setbacks and frustrations were going to happen, some of them you could perdict but the ones that really get you are the ones that blindside you. And I've been fortunate enough to have gained the experience of evaluating what has worked, and what hasn't worked, and what to do when the Internet crashes and you find yourself trying to meet a deadline.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Cornelius Selfie Slideshow

This could very well be the last assignment I have to do for class (I'm keeping in mind that maybe I will have to do a little extra work if maybe the professor says so but otherwise this is looking good). And I totally tried out a new program and trouble shot tons of connection issues (hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire one does not have WiFi or cellphone coverage all the time) but here it is and it's pretty good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Week 7 Reading Response

My second video, better and much faster than the first :)

Still room for improvement (a bit choppy) ;)

Getting into the final weeks of this course and what do I want to share in this space I have been creating? I am reminded of a lot of things as I prepare to reflect and present some final ideas. For me goals have played a powerful role in my life. Accidently I stumbled on goals in my life but I've had the good fortune to discover teachers and books that have helped me develop this value skill.

I was recently flipping through my notes on this book and came across the story of Jess Goodell and these wonderful quotes on resilence. One of "those books" that caught my eye.

"I found my salvation in education." She read about war, natue, society. She began to see herself in the larger context of society and history. She began to look outward, for ways to help others. And in taking that positive action, directed at a goal, she could feel a change within herself. A key component in her ability to rebuild was her commitment to deeply pursue education. "Learning is its own reard as far as the brain is concerned. It deeply activates the dopamine reward pathways."

Gonzales does a excellent job of weaving together personal stories with explinations of brain science that make understanding their relationships very easy. For example Pamksepp's "assertive aggression" involves any activity that arises from what he refers to as "a dopamine-fueled" motivation. You might find yourself seeking advancement in your job. You might be in pursuit of a partner in marriage. You might be remodeling your home. All those acts of assertive aggression involve having a plan and carrying it out. Random chaotic neuromuscular storms produced by rage pathway cannot take place while we are making a careful plan and folling it step by step.

When you first learn a skill such as knitting or surgery (or violin or golf) it begins as a volunary, deliberate action that requires conscious thought. It begins in the frontal lobes as an idea. When learning a new skill, you have to think about it consciously. You have to make deliberate use of your body, step by step. It won't be smooth. But as you practice, control migrates out of the frontal lones into the lower parts of the brain and the activity becomes automatic. The basal ganglia become involved and your movements begin to flow. Your cerebellum and parietal lobe (the Where Pathway) begin to monitor what you're doing and correct errors automatically. You know longer have to think about it.
 Stress and cortisol also prevent chemicals such as dopamine from making you feel good. By engaging the seeking pathway with a task that you can achieve, most people can break the cycle of fear, rage, exhaustion, and depression. It also connects with the reward system in the brain. When the basal ganglia can broker a successful action through this pathway, dopamine is released, so the very act of correctly completing a stitch or row of stiches activates the reward and pleasure pathways of the brain. Learning by itself promotes dopamine.

A structure within the basal ganglia is activated during feelings of safety, reward, and simpley feeling great. It's called the striatum and learning a new habit or skill and the performance of organized, patterned activites, perhaps even knitting. Acknowledge fear, rage, sadness, but then use those emotions to move into seeking mode. To achieve that, we need to think, analyze and plan.

I worked at the library from 2008 to 2012 and was fortunate to really find a lot of inspirational books. To me the research and the scientific method being used to understand human development and needs is facinating. But by far the most powerful aspect of these books are the personal stories. The ones that say ordinary people have done this, so can you. I find more inspiration in the story of Jess Goodell then I do in the explination of how the brain works, but both are connected and if I can understand that I can try on my own to repeat that experiment. Not having gone to school created in me a void, some of my siblings filled theirs with relationships or their own pursuit of knowledge (in wonderfully different ways), I filled my with trying to be better today than I was yesterday. I have had a number of setbacks, I have had a number of failures. Getting laid off at the library in 2012 was one of the hardest things because I loved working for the library. I loved holding books and taking them home, I loved passing them around, I loved discovering new ones and old classics. But when I told people where I worked I often heard in response that the last book "they" had read was required reading in school. Heart breaking. It is not a lack of good books but rather an education that has killed the joy of reading with comprehension questions. I decided when I got laid off at the library that this was going to be the chapter in my life that the fates intervened and forced me in the direction of my future. I would take all these things I had been learning and I would apply them to becoming a teacher. I would try to inspire 50 students a year to find their own joy of reading and let their curiosity take over from there.

In my reading wanderings I discovered this little gem. When we look back at the Reading Response for week 6 there is a link to Heather Wolpert-Gawron 's blog about the goals for public education. What I found interesting about her list is that a lot of what we hope education will do is not something a standardized test can tell us, but they are the types of things that Paul Tough is talking about here. Recently I noticed Tough had a new article in the Atlantic. "When teachers are able to create an environment that fosters competence, autonomy, and relatedness, Deci and Ryan say, students are much more likely to feel motivated to do that hard work." Students who feel safe in an environment where they can make mistakes and try things that are outside their normal activities will be more likely to develop those character traits we want a good education to inspire.
Of course the thing that stands in our way is: 
The problem is that when disadvantaged children run into trouble in school, either academically or behaviorally, most schools respond by imposing more control on them, not less. This diminishes their fragile sense of autonomy. As these students fall behind their peers academically, they feel less and less competent. And if their relationships with their teachers are wary or even contentious, they are less likely to experience the kind of relatedness that Deci and Ryan describe as being so powerfully motivating for young people in the classroom.  
A teacher's interventions in the classroom should be intended to help children learn a different set of skills; controlling their impulses, staying focused on the task at hand, avoiding distractions and mental traps, managing their emotions, organizing their thoughts. Naturally teaching chidlren how to follow rules and regulate impulse. An inclination to persist at a boring and often unrewarding task; the ability to delay gratification; the tendency to follow through on a plan. Which as we discussed earlier can actually make a person feel better. Caregivers who are able to form close, nurtering relationships with their children can foster resilience in them that protects them from many of the worst effects of a harsh early environment.

One of the things I think all this has to do with the other is that if we teach ourselves how to learn from each failure, how to stare at our failures with unblinking honesty, and confront exactly why we messed up, I believe we would do it better the next time. 

Want a little more Paul Tough, listen to this interview "They Don't Teach That" ;)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Week 6 Reading Response

The remarkable thing about experience is that you rarely realize it at the moment what you will carry with you for life. I had no idea when I first saw Fredrick Douglass that he would be a driving force in my education, that his words (which I wouldn't study or read in their entirety until college) would build the foundation of my ideas about education. I had no idea at the time my mother, in her attempts to homeschool her children about slavery, would give me the gift of his words that would later become my feelings about the value of an education.

My parents reasons for homeschooling their 10 children had very little to do with a belief in their abilities to teach or provide a better education for their children and more to do with avoiding having to deal with the demands of others. My older sister struggles with an unseen disability that required greater effort to reach long term memory, it was a problem in a small farming community in the mid-1980s where teachers didn't understand that she literal could not remember what was just said to her. The school wanted to put her in a "special" program. My parents often refer to this as the catalyst for why they pulled their kids out of school but as an adult I came to find it also came from the fact that by the mid-1980s my mother, pregnant with her seventh baby, was depressed. The school asked my parents to come to a meeting in which the issues of neglect were brought up. My older siblings were coming to school in the same clothes day after day, homework wasn't being finished, our hair wasn't brushed and we had lice and other issues. My mom felt completely overwhelmed and my dad's solution was to homeschool us so that we wouldn't have to worry about teachers or other people from the school judging their parenting.

I mention this because it's hard to explain the feeling of affinity I had with Fredrick Douglass and others who didn't get to go to school either. It's hard in today's society where generations have been unimpressed with public schools to explain my burning passion to support and improve this institution. It is by going back to the words of educators like Mary Jane McLeod that I start to find the words I would like to use to illustrate why we need public schools and what they are for.

I bring up this foundation and belief of mine because this week's readings again illustrate the areas in which education is falling behind, "current approaches to teaching and learning are out of sync with what is needed to prepare populations for their future lives." Lankshear and Knobel (2011) In a climate that is increasingly exhorting charter school success and condemning public schools for their failures I know I am not the only one demanding that if something is successful than that is what we should be doing in our public schools. Winning the lottery so you can go to a better charter school is bullshit. Sure people with more money should be able to buy a better education but the point of a public education is in fact to secure for the masses and poor and "undeserving" the best possible education. And we already know that doesn't mean rote memorization or passing a standardized test.

Lankshear and Knobel again stated, "Keeping up with institutional change was an important catalyst for the related ideals of lifelong learning, learning how to learn, and transferring knowledge and training." The struggle in education is how do you quantify if a school is being successful, how do you hold educators accountable for creating environments that are safe for students to learn in, how to you meet the individual needs of hundreds or thousands of developing people in an artificial environment like a public school?

Heather Wolpert-Gawron Has a wonderful conversation with another teacher on exactly this topic. What is the point of a public education today. What are the things we are hoping to impart to our modern day students. 

What is the purpose of public education?
1. Teach the skills for passionate advocacy
2. Prep the students for their future participation in our democratic process
3. Educate them with the skills to function in the future world
4. Grant equal opportunity and access to the same high-level of learning
5. Develop the skills to have options in life
6. Teach the love of exploration
7. Teach the awareness and maturity of self to be one’s own advocate later in life
8. Create a civilized population
9. Prepare students to contribute to an ever-evolving society
10. Fill a student with a sense of service and belonging
11. Foster personal responsibility
12. Create critical thinkers
13. Develop the ability and confidence to question
14. Nurture the skills necessary to participate in the exchange of ideas
15. Develop students who function autonomously
16. Teach social skills
17. Give students the skills to compete globally
18. Create lifelong learners
19. Teach students what it takes to achieve their professional goals
20. Teach them reading, writing, and math. 
Angie Peifer, National Connection Consultant for the School Boards Association also asked this question and came up with a very interesting response to the question of what public education was intended for.
Finally Lanshear and Kobel state that, "knowledge is always an outcome of sociocultural practices in which people use mental and material tools, acquire and employ skills, and draw on forms of existing understanding and knowledge and belief, to undertake tasks and pursue particular purposes and goals – including knowledge-specific purposes and goals. The goals and tools they use, and the beliefs, understandings and extant knowledge they draw upon are not individual, private possessions but, rather, are social." 
Individual schools have been successful. Amazing teachers have inspired their students and all these wonderful things we know and understand about human development can and need to be used in our public schools. We need to stop bad mouthing the system because all it does it convince people public schools are not necessary. It sends a message that teachers are ignorate of how to teach, that school is meaningless to our lives, and that we should only be self reliant in educating ourselves. I did teach myself a lot on my own, I was able to follow my curiousity and discover things all on my own outside of the school system. And I still value a good teacher. I still understand that there were things I could not teach myself. And I am dedicating my life to creating those schools that will be these amazing institutions that meet the changing needs of society and create opportunities for every child to learn in.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Choose your own adventure

I've just discovered this really cool website that helps you create your own Choose Your Own Adventure stories!!!

It'll be interesting to see how I can get my students online to share this resource with them but I'll be back. Just playing around I wrote this little story as a starting point and practice tutorial for myself.

This opens up a lot of options for me as a writer and as a teacher. (Just brainstorming some ideas, I could have each link be written by a different student and we could write the whole story as a class and read it aloud later when it's finished...)

Not to mention there are tons of interesting stories on this website and this cool looking "game" I don't even know how you would play but I'll be playing around here for awhile.

Monday, July 11, 2016

This is not what you think

My in-laws have a state of the art, fancy coffee machine that grinds the beans and makes frothy, foamy little espressos. This is not coffee. To me. I've got a Mr. Coffee that makes a post of some Fogers type coffee for me every morning. Now, that's coffee.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fantastic Shadow Art

 The daily create today was to document your shadow, so if you should ever become seperated you could identify it. (Hey, ask that guy Peter Pan how often that can happen to a fella...)

Week 5 Reading Response

Communities of Readers, Clusters of Practices by Henry Jenkins

The Afterword provided by Jenkins speaks very highly of creating an environment in education more in line with the participatory culture students are encountering online. One of the main issues public education is dealing with is the Transmission model of pedagogy that has stagnated our educational system. With Transmission the teacher is the keeper of all knowledge and "transmits" that knowledge to the students. Generative pedagogy allows for students to be more engaged in their education but ideally we should aim for a Transformative model of education that allows for students not only to generate their own understanding of the material but actually transform it into something meaningful to them and their lives. Creating knowledge that will inspire life long learning not just retaining information long enough to pace a test or exam.

Allowing for students to become teachers in the classroom requires them to "spell out their core assumptions" as they "pass along what they've learned to newcomers." This can be especially helpful to students who haven't spent a lot of time reflecting on how they have developed their craft by making them think of the sequencing and vocabulary needed to pass this knowledge along. Have you ever asked someone to show you how to do something only to have them take over because they have to do it themselves? They lack the communication necessary to explain the steps to you.

This article also points out the way in which schools are failing to provide this type of environment to their students, "everyone is expected to do (and be good at) the same things" but also, and possibly most important, that dispite the shift in mechanisms "the hierarchical and pre-structered relationship between teachers and learners" remains the same as before. In order to create a participatory environment teachers and administrators must be willing to give up control and their role as the guardians of knowledge.

A New Generation of Goals for Technology Education by John M. Ritz

"Goals provide direction so content can be delivered for long-term impact to students who study the subject" Ritz lays out a wonderful set of objectives for goals we need to keep in consideration as we start to intergrate technology into school curriculums. Tracing the aims and goals of education back to 1918 Ritz takes us step by step through the changing beliefs that have shaped our current educational system and calls for a consideration of what we want technology to teach and be used for as we plan what and how we want students to develop this 21st century skill.

One of the things I found striking between the two articles was that Ritz points to how we are consumers of education and Jenkins brilliantly makes a point there is a real danger is "seeing students as consumers rather than participants within the educational process. I particulary like this quote because often the problem educators see in using more technology in class is that it is a distraction or entertainment, and in fact American attitudes towards social media and the Internet is as a consumer. When we change the focus from being able to watch movies or play games to creating movies and games we are encouraging some of those self-reliance and self-expression ideals that are so important to our culture.

We don't want students to have a seperate identity from school and their future roles as citizens. We want them to be able to practice now those skills of discovery and curiousity that will help them beyond school as they continue to make discoveries and practice life long learning.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Block Buster Hit

The Assignment: Take a dramatic closeup of anyone's face - an actor's, a friend's, your own - and superimpose a landscape or scene over the face. Since this is a mashup, get crazy with it. Take two completely unrelated images and put them together, then try to make a story out of it!

John McClane (from Die Hard) gets a little help from the Tooth Fairy (played by the Rock). In what is possible the first Action Movie Cross Over to be Kid Friendly, this summer's block buster is predicted to be FAIRY HARD. In theaters everywhere July 6th.

Still like those Carrots

I'm really pleased with getting the shadow of the tree in the background. There are a lot of clever recreations on the website. Ze Frank's Project. Opening up twenty tabs so I can look more into it later.

Gravity Falls Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Everything Connects, Everything Matters

Exhibit A: Fried Green Tomatoes is released in theaters in 1991 (I am 10 years old). I will eventually own a VHS of this movie and fall in love with Idgie Threadgoode. It will be a while before I finally read the book at the library, originally published in 1987, and my world is forever altered with the realization that these women are Lesbians. (In fact I will learn this word by loving the movie and book so much I read it literally cover to cover, including the title page, which will introduce me to this word. Using the CARD CATALOGUE! I will look up this word and other related titles. Finally coming to the realization that this word describes the way I feel.)

Exhibit B: Matthew Shepard is beaten and left for dead 284 miles from where I live. I am 16. And all I can think is "that's what happens to gays." His attackers would use "gay panic" as their defense, because who wouldn't believe two good old boys were just totally freaked out and justified in killing someone for coming on to them. I would spend a period of years trying to ignore or correct my orientation before discovering other "options".

Exhibit C: From "Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier, which I will read around the same time Shepard is killed. Around page 200 Janza will taunt Jerry by calling him a fairy, "the worst thing in the world - to be called queer."

Exhibit D: The library saves lives. It's true for me. I was really in a dark place, struggling with these feelings and this lens of looking at the world (did I mention I was homeschooled, that I was Mormon, that we lived 7 miles outside of town). But I kept going back to that card catalogue, and I kept looking at the four or five books I could find in a small town library, the vague references that would lead further along a path I was hoping would lead me to happiness, or understanding, or at least some advice to deal with this issue. I would eventually find this documentary narrated by Tom Hanks but by then I would have discovered many of these same movie gems from my searches at the library.

Exhibit E: It's funny how an idea for a blog will morph into something different. I was having a conversation with a friend about how it's easier to see gay subtext in Batman and Robin than in Superman but you can do it. In fact, there was a time when they only way gays were able to connect with others like themselves was through subtext, because actually talking about it or mentioning it would get you banned or censored. Or arrested. (Remember: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from its official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973.)

Exhibit F: Sometimes I wish I had a cool story to tell about a librarian who helped me find new role models and opposing points of view but the truth is I was always too shy to talk to my librarians. Instead I find resources in the appendix or 'further readings' sections of books. I'd follow one bit of information and examine it until I had a next step to take. Not always very fluid, sometimes having to back up a few steps and try a different avenue. I've always loved movies, and I was finding that in the 80s and 90s people were coming out loud and proud. Torch Song Trilogy and Desert Hearts being some great examples of positive, but low budget, projects that came out and if you were resourceful enough, you could get your hands on to watch. (I did want to point out the difference in these covers however because even though artists are making more direct and poignant statements about gay and lesbian lifestyles, the marketing of these stories could still leave you confused. I mean seriously, who is this dude?)

Exhibit G: The Children's Hour. 1961.  
This is one of those movies that had to deal with the Hays Code in Hollywood that made it impossible to talk about issues like homosexuality. It's one of those stories in which the one woman gets married and the other commits suicide. There is actually a reason suicide rates are so high in the gay community and it has to do with the fact that most stories about a gay character end with them committing suicide. This is the movie that Vanessa Redgrave and her partner Marian Seldes go to see in the opening segment of If These Walls Could Talk 2

Exhibit H: Compare that to the history of The Price of Salt (first published in 1952) which they just turned into the movie Carol. Again the setting of this book was before the APA had changed homosexuality from a mental illness. There are butch women at the time that have to count the articles of clothing they are wearing before leaving home to make sure they have purchased the corrected amount of "women's" clothes to not get busted for cross dressing, which is illegal. Police harassment of the Gay Communities that have established themselves in larger cities is epic, and getting arrested in a raid is on everybody's mind. The beauty of this current movie is that is retains those historic roots. "Look for the meaningful looks," an older lesbian friend advised me before seeing this movie. And it's true, how would you have found each other when to admit it was criminal?

Exhibit I: But slowly people do start to come out, and change is made and before you know it you've got characters like Matt Fielding on Melrose Place (an openly gay character!) and Rickie Vasquez on My So Called Life. These are not easy to pull off, anyone familiar with the history of The Golden Girls will know that in the original plan for the show, and in fact the original pilot episode shot, there is supposed to be a main gay character but he gets cut before the show is picked up and the original pilot reshot to take out many of his scenes. These characters are a great start but are still treated like bombs about to go off, Matt Fielding doesn't date the entire series and the one kiss he seems to get, the camera pans away from before contact.

Exhibit J: Because, let's face it, we had no idea how accessible and easy to store and share movies, books, music and images would be today, I spent the late 90s and early 2000s "collecting" news, movies and books about gays and lesbians myself. I had a large collection of movies, including films I didn't watch or feel were very good, but I had them because there was so very little to have and pass around as it was. When this article came out I was floored. Here was a MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT petitioning his school to let him take his boyfriend to a school dance. I could not image the clarity and love a person like him must feel to be so confident at that age to just declare himself like that. This article came out in 2009, I was 27 at the time. And just starting to feel comfortable coming out to co-workers and people outside my friends and family.

Exhibit K: I have watched the issue of marriage equality build momentum, receive a devastating blow (Prop 8) and eventually be addressed by the Supreme Court. Now believe me, the fight is not over. There were over 200 restrictions and laws proposed to congress this last year to limit or take away equal rights of gays, there are still plenty of people who don't support my marriage and are fighting to get it nulled. I have seen Don't Ask Don't Tell end, and in 2013 when the Supreme Court handed down its decision I got married and started the process of helping my Canadian wife become a citizen.

Exhibit L & M: In what feels like a very short time I have seen gay characters in books and movies and television go from being something that was maybe hinted at or completely hidden in subtext, or two dimensional, or the butt of jokes (anyone remember that on Three's Company John Ritter's character had to pretend to be gay so the landlord would let him live with those two single women). Pretty Little Liars, Modern Family, Glee, all have gay characters who are rounded out characters with real relationships.

Exhibit N: In fact the dirty secret so many actors and artists were worried would get out is now so blasé  that people casual come out in interviews or act like declaring themselves is silly or pointless. There's even this new term "queer bating" for shows like Hannibal that play with gay subtext to draw in the gay viewers with promises and innuendos. Frozen 2 and the newest Star Wars characters Finn and Poe have also gained a lot of attention with their "first Disney princess" or "first Star Wars" gay character hype.

But then you have Exhibit O: A reminder that at the moment of a devastating rampage that will make you feel unsafe and the target of violence as part of an entire community, there will be those who will side with the hate. You will also have insensitive people try to intimidate and shame you further. It's still too raw to talk about Orlando, let's remember Exhibit B, Matthew Shepard, and how that made me feel. I'm still not safe, there are still lots of people who have no issue with condemning me to hell or wishing my death.

Exhibit P: This young man was my friend's nephew. He committed suicide last week. He was a teenaged gay man from Bountiful, UT who just couldn't put up with the bullying anymore and didn't see any happiness waiting for him in life. Again those thoughts and feelings from when Matthew was murder come up in me, again those thoughts that this is what happens to gays. And I wonder if he felt as scared by strangers' reactions to Orlando as I did. And I wonder if there was a librarian or teacher or book or movie or kind word that could have made a difference.

Exhibit Q: I don't like the term Queer. I'm a lesbian but my community word is gay. That's just me. But UC-Denver (and other places) used Queer Studies as their term and apparently that is how I'm supposed to identify or at least be okay with. So fine. Okay. Whatever. I'm just as happy to be here.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week 4 Reading Response

I've got this, I've got this, I don't got this.

This has been a hard week for me, and I think it started last week with the whole iMovie busted bubble. I do want to use more tools from the computer and Internet. I don't want to be that blacksmith who never learns another trade and is put out of business because he doesn't challenge his knowledge about how the world works.

I am a self-educated woman.

And this class is hard for me because I've skirted around computers and learning how to use them my whole life.


I'm the fourth kid in a large family and I never got a turn on the Nintendo.

I got a Samsung Galaxy 5 two/three years ago and that was the first time I had a "smart phone".

And look, what I've taught myself is pretty impressive. Marjorie came to me today to connect her FitBit to her phone (Sync!). But we have a problem all the time with people who are dismissive to us because they've had this technology longer. Oh, it's so easy to work. Oh, it's so amazing.

*Rah, rah rah*

But, next time you step out of the bubble of people you have created around you, into a public space. Think about the 4th person from you - they don't have Internet. Period. And we aren't talking about people who have given up internet just to use their cell phone. We are talking about no connection to it at all.

Maybe they go to the library. I mean, could you go anywhere else for free Internet? What if you didn't have a computer you could connect to the Internet with? (Save the libraries!)

Twice in this class I've felt misunderstood. And like last night I was up thinking about it. And I have to say first that I have really struggled with the Twitter network. I just don't understand how I can look at the full conversation with someone so I understand what I'm responding to. Hyphasis is a bit better for me, and I like that you just plug in any web address and you can make comments.

I feel that's a pretty cool program. And balance that with how I can't navigate Twitter. I'm sure if I had someone give me lessons I'd be a wiz at it. But I'm already learning and processing so much as it is, that again I'm throwing that back into the unimportant pile. I just don't care.

But wait. learning it means participating in this course, and because this is a class it's actually urgent.

But who do I delegate that to? Wait?

Does that mean it is Important, but I don't feel it's urgent. (Being a wife and a teacher are the Urgent and Important things, and graduating with a Mater's is a slim part of being a teacher. But Twitter is not as interesting to me as SoundCloud or alternatives to iMovie).

Meaning I will give a set time everyday for this, but it will take time. Discipline.

And that's how I'm trying to teach.

How do you write a lesson plan for that? Which standards did you cover?

I am so busy trying to pour out of my head onto the page what I want this class to look like, sound like, be like. Speak up. Declare my intentions.

That's the real reason to learn writing. To better process your own thoughts and feelings. And share them.

And it takes me longer to express my ideas here in computerland because I have to interrupt flow to go google how to take  screenshot of the Twitter convo so I can share it here as an example - but my phone keeps shutting off when I try to press and hold the down volume and power button at the same time... (*after 20 minutes I gave up trying)

Plus it's been an hour and a half and the "video" is still loading. (*And it never loaded, but then like magic I tried something different and we have that cute dog at the top of the post *remember that's how I'm feeling this week, if you need to go smile and lighten the mood a little)

What I really want to be doing is organizing for my Return to Teaching (dramatic theme music).

Second year, so many mistakes, so many new ideas. And I am passionate about what I do because I'm passionate about understanding the distance between the have and the have nots...

*Here is a spot where I went off trying to find this picture and when I came back my train of thought was much derailed* I'm leaving in all these editing notes because despite what I say I can't help but go back over and reread and tinker with the writing. I want to share meaning. And I need more than 140 characters.*

It took twenty minutes to upload the (17) photos (which is actually pretty good time). I think this is what happened the first time I had a misunderstanding on Hypothis, I tend to bounce around a lot in my thoughts. And it's hard in cyberspace to see the space a conversation takes place in. It's hard to keep track of your conversations and misunderstandings happen.

But that's why I named my blog Unfiltered Learning. I don't have time to edit this. I don't have the time because this class is asking me to do what we are trying to teach students to do, figure it out for themselves. And I see the beauty in this because I see through this lens, is how I learned.

Unable to go to school. 12 years old and illiterate.

A goal that changed my life.

Read one book, every four days, and it has to be at least 100 pages.

It was huge, because when I finally did get to walk into my first class room at Otero Junior College I had already develop some of those skills we as educators/behavior scientiest/developmental experts/ humanitarians are saying we need to help students with.




Are these all the same thing? What makes them different? Do using them together create a stronger meaning?

And how is the experience I am having right now challenge all of those strengths I have?

Oh let me count the ways.

But no more fancy pictures.

This class is so jarring in how it doesn't fit in with the UTCE 5010 class or the Urban Community Teachers program that I started my Master's in. And I don't know if it was suppose to fit in. The list of options presented to my cohort didn't present this class in the same way I am precieving it now. And I think again that Twitter is not a good medium for me to communicate in. My comments yeserday seemed to cause a few misunderstandings and then I struggled to navigate the conversation.

But alas my screenshot didn't work. (Remember I was working on that earlier).

So let me now share with you an observation. This was our Daily Create for class yesterday. And it was pretty straight forward and people really expressed their different creative elements. Mine's rather plan because I've been working on this other Design thing for class that is taking up a lot of time, as all computer work does with me right?

But then I notice something, What3Words talks about it's product.
Here is an ad for What3Words - notice the clever placement of
Fiction, Unless, Pave
Mind you, our assignment has nothing to do with What3Words, our assignment is to find "our"three words, Google search those words and use those images to make our JPEG. And it's a good assignment that runs you through the process and you get some hands on experience PhotoShopping and it lets you be creative.

So really the fact that I get so upset by this...

In everyone’s language
We have rolled out our 3 word address system in 9 languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, Russian, German, Turkish & Swedish. We are adding to those every month and are currently working on Italian, Greek, Arabic and more.
The 3 word address in one language is not a translation of the 3 words used in a different language version and you can use the language you are most comfortable with.
You can choose the 3 word language that we display 3 word addresses to you in, but you never have to tell us what language you are inputting the 3 word addresses in: we will recognise the language automatically.
Doesn't mean anything to our class, and really I just wanted to know if anyone dig into the cite we were all using for the project.

Because I've been having trouble with our course required readings this week too. You see, when I got back from San Francisco this week I was all jumbled up. There's this blog post I've been working on since Orlando about being gay that I just don't feel is ready to share. But it's important to me and on the 25th I found out a friend's nephew killed himself. He was a teen, gay from Bountiful, UT.

And then I got tripped up some more and again because of this required reading:

"The similarities with more conventional journal writing are reasonably clear, but yet, to write a blog is a little like displaying a personal journal in a shop window, for friends and passers-by to read at their leisure." Davies and Merchant (2007) 
"The presentation of self in a particular way, as showcased through our own blogs, has been a focus of our recent academic work." Davies and Merchant (2007) 
And again I was working on this blog. Now see I know myself pretty well by now, remember why I named the blog Unfiltered Learning. Because I was suppose to take the filter off.  I am suppose to just go with the gut and say to hell with it...

But now I had two posts I was juggling when I lost my motivation to keep going.

Willpower is a finite resource. This
amazing book has really helped me
better prioritize what is important. 
*Now remember children are not this reflective. Reflection must be practiced, it is a skill to learn. One I've practiced a lot with my journals. But I imagine that the way I'm feeling is the same as a sixteen year olds. Other stuff is happening. I struggle with this already.*

Willpower helped me understand that when I used all my energy on things I didn't want to be doing (no matter how "important" they are) I have less energy for the things that really matter to me. This cycle starts to get out of control when to reward yourself for all the things you "have to do" (relaxing with a beer, watching television, playing Call of Duty, etc) leaves you no time for the things you "want to do".

Alot of the books I've been reading and studying try to explain how you can balance the time and prioritize better (my chart above has really helped me). Remember how I said learning how to better use Twitter better became Important (because of school) but not Urgent (to me the student) so I needed to schedule blocks of time for it. You also find out that the 45 minutes of DEXTER aren't as important as actually get your steps in (although I found a way to do both, thank you treadmill).

"Looking from the Inside Out: Academic Blogging as New Literacy" by Julia Davies and Guy Merchant was published in 2007. Which means when they refer to Riverbend's blog in the present tense it has really been 9 years. Did anyone look up her blog?

I did.

And that's when I got tripped up for the third time and by that time I was doing the What3Words assignment. And I did ask if anyone was looking behind the curtains.

Riverbend and The Survival of Riverbend

When young adults start to see differences in the world and the way they've been told about it, it can cause some resistence. And that's where I'm at. I don't care about using the Internet better if it just produces apathy. Busy work. Cool stuff but no real master, no real craftmanship. I Twitted several articles that kind of spoke to my frustrations.

I don't have anything figured out. I have more and more questions. But that's what I need to get back to the classroom. I need to get back to work with my students.

And I need to learn to just say it and move on.

(*now to read everything through one more time)