Writing to Honor my Favorite Superhero…

I started this week’s portion of the individual learning project by doing a little research on blogs from other authors, poking around to see if anything stuck out to me. It was helpful, and interesting. I read a blog post on how to make a complex antagonist. After that, I felt like I had the motivation to sit down and write; I was already thinking about how I could make my own antagonist deeper as I continued working on my book.

But then things changed.

A tragedy occurred in my family halfway through this week. I finally found the time to work on my project again and thought I was fully prepared to go to work on my villain. But as I sat down to write, I realized I was in no way, shape, or form ready to write. My heart and mind were not in the right place. Not for writing about the bad guy. However, I was able to write one scene that I had been dreading doing for awhile, and that scene was the loss of one of my characters.

It’s very heavy and sad stuff, I know. But for the way my heart and the hearts of my family are feeling right now, it helped to just write. It wasn’t easy; the loss of a character can’t ever really portray what it is like to really lose a loved one, but just letting my mind go as I typed let me sift through my thoughts and emotions. I know that, at some level, my characters are displaying real emotions because it is what I am seeing on the faces of the people I love right now. Creating something relatable for my readers is important to me as a writer. My hope is that, when my readers read this scene, it will help them understand that grieving is okay; that it is natural and needed to find healing. I also hope it helps my readers with lost loved ones know how important it is to remember those who are gone, no matter how much it hurts sometimes.

It was nice to just be able to tell the story I’ve been telling for so long and do what I enjoy doing after a few months break from it. It was relaxing. Writing is always a process that takes some thinking and work (at least for me), but it is something I love doing. As of right now, doing something like that is the best way to get away from reality, at least just for a moment, and by doing so I felt that, in my own way, I was able to honor a very special person who is in the hearts of many.

In dedication to and loving memory of C.H., our very own superhero. 

Photo CC-By: Steve Baker

Link to Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode

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Personal Learning Networks and the ‘Open Door’ Policy

This summer, my Dad got his first job as a principal. I don’t know who was more excited, him or me. I knew how hard he worked, and I knew how awesome he was going to be at it. As the school year crept closer, he and I got to totally geek out talking about education stuff all the time (to which Mom whose in business could never understand). One night during one of our nerdy conversations we got to talking about how he was going to set the tone for the school year for the teachers. He was going to have a scavenger hunt for the teachers during their first in-service day, to not only get them to have fun together, but also realize that they need to have an ‘open door’ policy. To have a really awesome school, the teachers have to keep their ‘doors open’, which allows other teachers throughout the school to come in to share ideas or get inspiration from them. It is meant to inspire collaboration and teamwork so that the teachers are the best they can be for the students. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes an entire school to help a student succeed.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how my Dad’s ‘open-door policy’ relates to personal learning networks. Well, the purpose of a personal learning network for educators is to give them opportunity to learn from each other. It is basically the same thing as my Dad’s idea of ‘open-doors’, except it is not just school wide, but world-wide. You can get inspiration from other educators from anywhere. For example, you could have a student that is struggling in your class, and everything you’ve tried to help them learn isn’t working. Someone in your personal learning network could have tried and shared different method’s that do work for your student. Sometimes we have this mentality that we have to have all the answers ourselves. In reality, we are not always going to have the answer, and that’s okay. But by having a PLN, we could find someone that does have the answer. Teamwork among teachers is key to help our students succeed.

In my own PLN, I want to follow secondary history teachers, history professors at universities, principals, and writers. I hope to follow these professionals on social media sites including twitter, blogs, and even Pinterest. These different networks will act as my ‘open door’, to find inspiration for my future classroom and help me become the best teacher I can be for my students.

Some wise words on PLNs:

Featured Image Photo CC-By: hagit_ (Flickr)

Link to Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

“No Wilderness: No Revelations”

I had never really considered my power as an introvert before I viewed Susan Cain’s TED Talk “The Power of Introverts”. I had always known that I had potential, but I had not thought about how my introversion affects and influences it. Cain is absolutely right, we as a society have never valued introversion as it is; instead of embracing it we have tried to change it. We value group interaction so much that we forget to let introverts have the space they need to be who they are as thinkers in order to let creativity flow and be leaders. Her quote, “When it comes to leadership and creativity we need introverts doing what they do best,” truly hits the nail on the head. Introverts can’t be the best they can be unless they are in the right ‘zones’, specifically seclusion, to do what they do. The same goes for extroverts, except for the ‘zone’ where they do their best thinking looks different than the introvert’s. People think and look at the world in different ways, and as a society we have to start accepting these different views. There has to be a balance in our world, no view should be more important than the other.

This article also proposed very important ideas for teachers to consider. This balanced view; or accepting the differences between extroverts and introverts, is so important. She mentioned that each of us has our own ‘suitcase’; they all look very different and it is a necessity to understand what is in your suitcase and why they are there. We as teachers have to help kids understand their ‘suitcases’. It is what makes them different and unique. These differences are going to very be apparent in our classrooms, and thus we must also allow our introverts to learn in ways that work for them, and do the same with our extroverts.

Another important argument was Cain’s call to action to stop constant group work in our classrooms. She is right, there is so much focus on group work in schools; I remember how much I hated all the work in groups we had to do. I typically preferred to work solo. There should be a balance of group and solo work, not too much of either. Furthermore, when we do assign group assignments in the classroom, we should use Susan’s idea of first allowing students going separate ways to be alone for a little while, or ‘go to the wilderness’ as she would say, to come up with their ideas to bring back to the group. Finally, we should give students some autonomy in how they do group work. If students are comfortable and feel as though they got a say in how they learning, it is going to become a much more positive and fruitful experience with them.

Now, if you excuse me, I am going to go into the wilderness.

Featured Image Photo CC-By: Steve Dunleavy. Link to Creative Commons License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode

An Aspiring Writer and Two Hours to Work on A Creative Learning Project…

Okay, let’s face it. I have never been a very creative person. Like, at all. When it comes to being creative, I am fresh out of ideas and knowledge. I’ve always been able to tell you anything you want to know about World War II, but come up with something original? Ha-ha.

But then I got this urge when I was about 16 years old during an American Literature class studying “The Hunger Games”. This little thought popped into my head and started to evolve the more I thought about it. Before I knew it I had created a fictional nation and a set of characters. That’s when I knew I had to share what I had unintentionally created.

I had to write a book.

Fast-forward a little over two years and a few major plot changes later and here I sit about halfway (ish) done with my story. It turns out that I am, in fact, creative. I am creative in the fact that I can come up with these wild stories. Now, I’m not saying it’s a good story (time and literary agents will only tell), but it’s my story. I love to read and write, and that’s what makes the headaches of writer’s block and not thinking I’m good enough at it worth it. Surprisingly enough, writing has shown me that I am creative at many other things too. I might have to sit down and brain-map it or something, but hey, eventually that creative thought comes out. Furthermore, being creative is an integral part of becoming a teacher; you have to be able to come up with creative ways to help kids learn in a way that fits them. So in a round-about way, becoming a writer has also helped me find out who I am as a future teacher, and that is a teacher who might have to work at her creativity, but also one who is willing to do whatever it takes to have her ideas take shape.

Additionally, one thing that I definitely want to get out of this project is learning how to become a better writer. Even though I’ve been writing a couple years, I still have so much to learn. I eventually want to become a published author, and becoming a great writer is a necessity to have that goal accomplished. Sometimes only just sitting down and writing away will help you gain experience, other times you have to go out and seek advice from authors via blogs and other social media.

Finally, as a teacher- in- training, one major thing I have learned is that self-reflection is so important. Looking into the advice and knowledge of others has really helped me be self-reflective and evolve as a storyteller, and I hope that evolution keeps taking place.

Digital Literacy vs. Digital Fluency and their Importance to Educators

Prior to beginning a class titled Literacy in the Digital Age, I had never heard the term digital literacy, or perhaps I had and it just never stuck. As it turns out, digital literacy has been a pivotal part of my learning experience and I just hadn’t known it. The definition of digital literacy, as according to US Digital literacy, is one, being able to find information, evaluate it, and/or if needed create information using digital technology. As a digital learner, you must search for the information needed and be able to evaluate the information’s usefulness to you. College has made me much more apt when it comes to evaluating the usefulness and integrity of information. The second part of the definition of digital literacy is using information from many different places in the digital world and being able to understand it. For nearly every writing assignment I have been assigned throughout high school and college I have been required to go out and find sources of information to use in my writing. I have had to search different websites of news stations, online libraries, as well as online journals. The third and final aspect of digital literacy is being able to do these tasks in the digital world effectively. This part of the definition is definitely key; if you don’t understand how to go out and find useful information, data, media, and so on and so forth in an effective manner, the point of digital literacy is completely lost.

In my research to find out the meaning of digital literacy, I found something very interesting in the definition of digital fluency. Digital literacy is being able to do things in the digital world, but might not always mean you reach you full intentions. Digital fluency on the other hand is always meeting your intentions or perhaps even going beyond your intentions when working digitally. In analogical terms, digital literacy is to digital fluency as proficient is to advanced. In essence, to be a leader as a digital learner you must have digital fluency. Personally speaking, I am not digitally fluent yet, I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to the aspect of digital literacy in creating things digitally. I hope that I can become digitally fluent as a learner before I become a teacher so that I can help my students become digitally fluent in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.

Here is a link to the United States Digital Literacy website.

This is a source that better explains the difference between digital literacy and digital fluency.

Photo CC-By: Michael Coghlan Slide Credit: Ruth Geer
Photo CC-By: Michael Coghlan
Slide Credit: Ruth Geer