Passion Project

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Throughout the past few weeks while listening to various groups present, one question kept popping up for me. That question was, how can we let students explore these different learning styles to use the one that best works for each individual, and do it in a way that each student will be able to enjoy it? This in turn made me think of something my Dad, who is a principal, came up with to implement for his school. This idea was to let each student ‘find their passion’, and then spend the year exploring and researching that passion. Thus, our group decided to explore the idea of allowing students to follow their passions at a deeper level. We decided to call it the “Passion Project”, something to implement at a K-12 level. The project allows for kids to pick something they love, or if they can’t pick one pick a few, to research, make things based on it, practice it, solve problems in the field of their passion, or anything else that allows them to explore it (while still being school appropriate of course) for one hour each week. One of the first things we did after we came up with the idea of the Passion Project was a discussion of the outcomes we wanted for the students, and the most important thing to us was making sure that the Passion Project was something that would get students excited about school and something for them to enjoy; we didn’t want it to be one of those school projects that they dreaded. We also wanted to make sure that kids understood that their passion didn’t have to fit into a neat little box or be something that everyone else likes, and in the process of creating materials for our Passion Project we stressed to how important it is to remember that everyone’s passion is different and will evolve differently.

Finally, one big take-away item that we learned from this assignment is that implementing something like a Passion Project has to be a school wide endeavor. It can’t just be one teacher or administrator trying to put it together; it has to be a team effort. My Dad was, unfortunately, the only one who was really working towards putting something like this into his school. Then, when he got busy with all of the things he had to do as a principal, the passions got pushed to the back burner. Thus, we believe that by giving each staff member a little part of the Passion Project puzzle, it can ensure that it can become an integral part of the student learning experience.

We can’t wait to share what we created with you guys, and hope that you will join us in the journey to let all kids explore their passions!

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Done and Done!

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

220 pages and 64,334 words later and I can happily say that I am finally done with my first draft. It took me around 3 years to finish it, but I finally did it! Now I’m sitting here thinking about starting the editing process, and I know I have a huge task ahead of me. I think I am going to start out by printing off a paper copy of the draft to edit. I’ve always found that editing paper copies of your drafts for any paper is so much more beneficial than editing on a computer; it is easier to catch grammatical errors and hand writing notes always helps me process what I read better. After I get through editing the entire story and making all the changes I want, I think I am going to let a couple friends read the draft to see what they think and hopefully get some good feedback. I’ll add in their suggestions and (after some serious pep-talk) send off my final copy to literary agents. I have been researching different literary agents the past few months and I have two that I would really like to go through. They are Nelson Literary Agency and KT Literary, both based out of Colorado. If by some miracle a literary agent does want to take on my work, I thought it would be much easier for me if they were located in my home state of Colorado. If neither of these agencies want to take me on, I will have to continue my research to find other agencies that I am interested in.

The second consideration I have to make is when I want to start the sequel (trust me, I know I am getting way ahead of myself). I am not sure if I should wait until I am completely finished editing the first portion, or just write as I find inspiration and motivation. The dreamer side of me thinks that, again, if by some miracle, a literary agent takes me on and helps me get published then I’ll only have so much time to finish the sequel. It takes me forever to write and I am a busy college student, so that crazy and unlikely possibility is just a concern I have.

One last thing I started thinking about this weekend is the fact that I am going to have to be prepared to receive criticism on my work. This story is like my baby, and that is one of the reasons that, for a long time, I never told anyone I was writing. I have a while to prepare myself for it, but it is still a nerve-wracking thought.

Anyways, I hope everyone else’s projects are going well! Good luck and happy learning!

Almost there…

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I am in the home stretch of my novel. I can’t even begin to explain how happy that makes me. I know I talked about this last week, but I am even closer this week, and it makes me giddy with happiness. Of course, I know it’s only the first draft, but part of me still thought I would never reach this point. You kind of have to celebrate every little milestone you reach as a writer; it keeps the excitement of your story going and keeps you motivated to finish.

I had an epiphany this week; I realized how much you can get done when you sit down and really focus on doing something. I think I’ve gotten the best work done on my novel in the past six weeks or so we’ve been assigned to work on our Individual Learning Projects. I can’t wait until December to look back and see what I did.

I tend to think a lot when I write; writing lets me process through my thoughts and relaxes me, which in turn lets my mind wander. While I was working today, it hit me that I’m almost done with the first book, which means I’m going to have to start thinking about eventually starting the second one. I know that will be a few long months away from now. I also know that just because I write something doesn’t mean it’s good and that the likelihood of a literary agent taking a chance on a first-time author isn’t high. But I am closer than I ever have been to being able to do that, and even though there are many what-ifs and obstacles in the way before that ever happens, I can at least see it.

I’ve also noticed a pattern recently. On my twitter bio I included that I was an aspiring author, and a lot of my tweets have revolved around my individual learning project. Holy moly, writing and publishing twitter accounts find you. None of them are actually literary agents (although I followed the ones I’m looking into sending a submission to), but it is still interesting to see how the world of writers kind of binds together through social media. I am interested in doing a little more research on these accounts to find out if they are worth following.

Anyways, good luck to all as you continue to work on your Individual Learning Projects. We’re halfway there!

The Holocaust Still Matters

I am so pumped!

I hit the ¾ mark in my novel. I have been working towards this for a long time, and for a while I felt like I would never reach it. I am so close to finishing the first draft, and it makes me so excited. Then the editing process will begin, which is a whole other adventure in and of itself. But it’s one step closer to making a dream a reality.

However, this weekend I also saw some comments that set a nerve with me. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson made the claim that if the Jewish people in Europe had access to guns, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. I support the right to own guns, but Carson’s comments are poorly considered. I study Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in depth for many reasons. One, I try to find out why something so awful and so horrible for happened, I know I will never find answers for such evil acts like that, but I keep looking anyways. Second, I study it because I don’t anyone to ever forget the tragedies that happened. The 11 million people that died in those horrors deserve to be remembered and honored.

Thus, Carson’s comments are completely insensitive. For one, the moment Hitler came to power, everyone in that country lost every single right they had. Furthermore, oppression was enforced by groups like the Gestapo and SS, ensuring that anyone who wouldn’t go down without a fight would be eliminated. When Hitler gained power, an awful fate was sealed. Ben Carson is right; had people had access to guns maybe it could have been stopped. But that is not logical, nor possible, for the type of power Nazi Germany enforced. Everything was done systematically to carry out their goals. Nothing could stop the horrors, and making claims that something could have just to gain the popularity among supporters of guns is an absolute disgrace to the victims that lost their lives. Bringing up what-ifs or so-called solutions is not what the world needs regarding the Holocaust, what we do need to do is make sure that we never forget what happened, and mean it when we say ‘never again.’

That is why I write what I write, to preserve the memory of those lost. It’s not pretty; it reveals the true horror of human nature. But nothing about the Holocaust is ‘pretty’ 11 million people were systematically murdered for supposed “racial hygiene.” I refuse to let people forget that, or just say ‘okay’ when someone makes unjust claims of why it happened.

The victims deserve so much more than that.

Geography, Dirndls, and a Make-up Hating Dictator

This week for my individual project I was in the researching mood. I know they say that you should do all your research before you start the writing process, but my brain doesn’t always work that way. When I feel the need to write, I write. When I feel the need to research, I research. I never want to lose a good flow of ideas, so I roll with my gut to see what I can do.

Anyways, I spent a little over an hour researching Nazi Germany culture, as my own work is about a dystopian Nazi society. My fictional nation does not completely mirror Nazi Germany, however there are pivotal aspects of it that I include. One thing I specifically focused on for research this week was geography. Everything in Nazi Germany was systematic or planned to carry out oppression and other unspeakable acts, geography included. What I found while researching is that ghettos and extermination camps in the Third Reich were all kept in the east, one because that is where the targeted victims were, but two because they also wanted to keep it away from the German people. It worked as an “out of sight, out of mind” setup. It is something important to consider for my fictional world. It made me ask questions like how does physical, cultural, and political geography effect my fictional world? I think the answers are going to be pivotal in making the nation what it is.

I also spent some time researching another aspect of Nazi culture: fashion. Fashion was another piece of the puzzle the government tried to influence. According to Nazi ideals, German women needed to be some of the most fashionable in the world. They stressed how important it was that women wear dirndls, or skirts/dresses cinched at the waist and then loosened as they flowed out. Tyrolean, or wool, jackets, were also very popular. Hitler apparently despised makeup, so he encouraged women to wear minimal make-up, if any.

The past week I had also jotted down some notes and ideas to add in to my work once I finish my first draft. I try not to go back and edit much, I would like to finish my book completely before I start the editing process (though it’s still a habit I’m trying to break), so I always try to keep track of the ideas I have before I forget them. These notes of course include some of the information I dug up while researching.

It’s been a very informative and thought provoking week, and I can’t wait to get writing again.

dirndl

An example of a dirndl, although it is from a later time period (1960s).

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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. 

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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:

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“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.

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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