PLN: Trial and Error

I found this article really helpful. When I was looking for different people I was having a really hard finding people that I wanted to follow.  I couldn’t tell if I was being to picky or if it was just that I wasn’t looking in the right places.  This article gave me a little more perspective about what to look for.  I stopped being so picky about the people I was following and started to give more people a chance. I learned a lot of things from the people that I followed.  I didn’t always feel like what was being tweeted actually benefited me, however. I stopped following a few people and started using those whose posts I liked to find new people with interesting posts. I think it worked out really well.

I like what was said about making sure you add to the conversation.  When I first looked at making my PLN I wasn’t really sure what I had that could help me add to the conversation. Some of the people I was following had their doctorates or were fairly established in their careers.  So far I have been content to sit and watch the conversations that are being had, but I realize now that I need to contribute to these conversations in some way.  Even though I don’t feel equipped to enter these conversations I am starting to realize that I can still add to them in some way. I have my own thoughts and opinions that I can share that are just as important. One thing that I finally clicked while reading this is that a PLN is a community.  In order for a community to work well everyone needs to be willing to contribute, especially the one creating the community. If I am going to initiate a PLN with these people I need to be willing to contribute as well.

I am interested to see where things go in the future and see how this all works out. I’ve found a lot of great people who have resources about English Education, writing, and reading. So far I’ve been inundated with good ideas and thought provoking posts. I hope this continues and that I am able to continue to build my PLN with more people and groups that can add to my learning. I also hope that I can start to add to the conversation and express my own thoughts and opinions with others.


Fighting Misconceptions

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week is that this quote couldn’t be more true.  American Sign Language is one of the most complex languages I’ve studied.  I came into this with a few misconceptions.  The first was that sign language is just signs.  I thought that the main focus would be just on the gestures.  I started out with some of the most basic signs.  I learned hello, good bye, and welcome. I figured these were easy signs to learn, and I was right they weren’t too bad.  Then I started in on a course to learn one hundred of the most basic signs. This included family, places, time, temperature, and food just to name a few.  This is when the frustration really set in.  You have to be able to get your hands to move in different ways, your fingers have to be positioned just right, and the location of your hands on your body can change the meaning of the sign.  Also, a lot of the signs require the use of more than just your hands.  Different signs require the use of your face, arms, chest, and stomach.  Its important that the sign occur exactly where it is supposed to. For example the sign for deaf could easily be mistaken for a question about your ears if you start the sign to close to your ear.

Once you start trying to make signs into phrases you encounter a new challenge, facial expressions.  The sign isn’t the only thing that is being read. The expression on your face can make a big difference in how what you are trying to say is interpreted.  In fact some questions and statements can only be differentiated by looking at one’s facial expression.  The second misconception I had was that sign language is just like English.  When in all actuality it really couldn’t be farther from the truth. It reminds me a lot of conjugating verbs in Spanish. You may have a sign that means one thing, but that sign has multiple variations depending on how you are using it.

This week I didn’t really learn how to say a lot of things. I learned some signs, yes, but it was more an exploration of the complexity of the language.  I’m looking forward to seeing how things go now that many of my misconceptions have been laid to rest, and I actually know what I am getting myself into.  I’m still excited to see how much I can learn, and hopefully by next week I will be a lot more confidant in what I am doing. For now its a lot of trial and error, but I am definitely up for the challenge.

PLN Stands for What?

Photo CC-By Tiger Pixel

Photo CC-By Tiger Pixel

Acronyms are a huge part of my life. Without them I probably would have a really hard time remembering things, like the colors in the rainbow.  When I first saw PLN I was at a total loss, but this week has changed that for me. I now have one more acronym that helps me to be a better learner and gain more from this class.   This week when we started focusing on Personal Learning Networks I wasn’t really sure what they were, or how they could be helpful for my career.  I started digging around online and found multiple articles that explained they basics of a PLN and how it was helpful in the classroom, but it didn’t really click for me.  That was until I found an article from Heads Up English.  This article didn’t just generalize everything, but broke it down into pieces with lots of detail.  That’s when it finally clicked.  A PLN is just like an online community.  In a community everyone works together to learn and make sure everyone succeeds.  When you develop a PLN you are doing the same thing for yourself.  By creating a PLN you are creating a your own community of people that you can learn from, and connect with.

One really good point the article had was that technology is always changing. There is always new ways to teach, and we are always trying to learn new things. It can be hard to keep up with all the new ideas and changes.  You also won’t always be able to find all the different blogs, journal articles, and tweets pertaining to what you are teaching or studying.  Having a PLN helps with this.  Someone may find an article that you never would have come across if you hadn’t been following them.  Also, following multiple people means that you have access to multiple different ideas and thoughts.  It gives you a chance to see how other people are doing things.  One nice thing about a PLN is that you don’t have to stay quiet.  It opens the door for you to connect and share, as well as learn. You can ask questions of other people, and find out more about their ideas. You can also share your own ideas. When you develop a PLN its not just about learning, its about sharing your thoughts as well.  It’s about starting conversations with other people that may not have happened without the development of your online community.  Its important to remember that when you are a part of a community you want to find the best people to work with. Don’t just follow someone for the fun of it. Do some research about them. Make sure that this is someone who can add to your community and be an active member.

Reigniting Passion

Photo CC- By Jay Isuk

Photo CC- By Jay Isuk

George Couros’ article got me thinking right off the bat.  We often think of school as being the home of learning, but is it actually.  One of the statements that he made was that learning can occur anywhere.  Learning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just happen at school.  I started to ask myself questions about importance of encouraging learning outside of school. I started to wonder how we as teachers could encourage students to look for learning experiences outside of the classroom. My answer to that question came while reading the article “Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning,” by Tina Barseghian.  In the article she discusses the importance of making connections between what students are learning in school and how that applies to their lives.  A big part of encouraging student learning is showing students how what they are learning applies to their lives outside of school, and how their lives outside of school apply to their learning.

When I think of reasons why passion-based learning doesn’t always work I normally think of standardized testing, but never anything else.  This article gave me a few more ideas of how we can work to make passion-based learning better. One of these things was being a passionate teacher.  In high school I can remember more than one time that my teacher didn’t seem to really care about what they were teaching us. They weren’t passionate about the subject, and almost seemed to act as though they could care less.  I think that really put us, as students, off because we had no one to get us interested in the subject.  It seems that everywhere I turn I hear a lot about collaboration between peers.  It seems that this is definitely key no matter what type of learning you are doing.  Collaboration gives you the chance to hear different opinions, and get new views on ideas.  It also allows you a chance to connect with those you work with.

I really liked Nigel Coutts’ article about passion-based learning projects.  I haven’t really heard a lot about passion-based learning or learning projects so this article was really interesting to read.  I was impressed by the several different projects many of the students had chosen.  While some students choose things that they were good at, others decided to push themselves.  This gave student’s the opportunity to attempt something they may never have tried.  I enjoyed the idea of giving students free reign to try something new, and push themselves to accomplish something.

Let’s Talk About Failure

I choose this TED talk for multiple reasons. When I was looking at all of the different TED talks I simply started out by reading the descriptions, and using that to decide if it was a topic I was interested in.  I actually clicked on this talk by accident, but as soon as I started watching I was hooked. Failure has always been a sore subject for me. I am on of those people that hates being wrong, and can’t stand to fail at something.  My interest was piqued by the idea that someone would actually do a talk about failing, not how to get success from one’s failures. I was also struck by the bravery of these two girls.  These two girls failed at starting a nonprofit organization.  Who wants to go out in front of people and admit that they failed at helping those who are in need?  These girls go out and admit everything to the detail.

They had a really good point about how important it is to talk to people about your failures.  Often we want to hide our failures for fear that people will judge us. When we talk to people about our failures it opens up many opportunities. One thing it does is give you the opportunity to get feedback about your failure. When these two girls shared their story they were able to get suggestions and ideas about what went wrong and how they could do things differently in the future.  They also gained a lot of respect from people.  It opened up a lot of doors for them to try again and actually succeed.

I think that this really applies to the classroom.  Failure is a big part of life. We often hear about turning our successes into failures, but how often do we actually do that.  Instead of discussing our failures we hide them.  In the classroom failure is a big part of  learning, and its important to be able to discuss it.  When you discuss failures in the classroom you can get lots of really good feedback.  This applies to student and colleagues.  If you have something that isn’t working in the classroom you should be able to take it to your colleagues. They can give you feedback and ideas about how you could change the idea so that it works.  Also, you can use discussion with your students.  Having students work together in groups to solve problems gives them the opportunity to discuss their failures and come up with ideas on how to succeed next time.


Photo CC- By Krissy Venosdale

The Silent Language

Photo CC-By Ted Drake

Photo CC-By Ted Drake

When I was in kindergarten my school was very big on language learning.  When we learned the alphabet, we didn’t just learn it in English.  We learned the Spanish alphabet, and we also learned how to sign the alphabet in American Sign Language (ASL).  As we got older we continued to focus on learning the basics of Spanish, but ASL soon became a distant memory.  Once we learned the alphabet we moved on and didn’t look back.  Even as a kindergartener I was enraptured by the idea of being able to talk with your hands.  It was something completely new.  I knew that you could vocally speak different languages, but the idea of speaking a different language with your hands was hard to wrap my mind around.  Throughout the rest of my elementary and high school career I picked up a few new signs here and there.  When I moved one of the kids that I became friends with had a nephew who was deaf.  As I got closer to the family it soon became important for me to be able to communicate with him.  I learned a lot of the basic signs, but never enough to be able to sit down and have a conversation with him.

For my learning project I would like to focus on learning ASL.  I’ve had many different experiences with those who are deaf, or those who have cochlear implants.  It helps to be able to connect with them in their own language.  We often don’t think of sign language as being a different language. We still think of it as a part of the English language, but in all actuality it really isn’t. Yes each sign represents a word, but its just like any other language.  In Spanish “Hola” means “Hello,” just like in ASL there is a gesture that means the same thing. I think learning ASL helps to broaden my abilities, and allows me to connect with more people.  I also have always enjoyed learning new things, especially new languages.  Spanish was a challenge, but I loved ever minute of it. It pushed me beyond my comfort zone, and helped me to get an insight into a new culture. Every language has a culture behind it. By immersing yourself in learning the language you also immerse yourself in the culture.  Sign language is no different, and I can’t wait to learn more about the language and the people behind it.

Turning Negative into a Positive


Photo CC-By Marcie Casas

The word hacking has such a bad connotation in our world today.  Mention the word and our minds are filled with thoughts of people hacking websites, stealing our information, and causing lots of trouble.  I had never thought about hacking as being something positive. Logan had a very good point about hackers pushing the limits.  When someone hacks a website it helps to show weaknesses in the security of the website. It pushes the websites limits and shows the creators where they need to make adjustments. It also shows them how to make the security better.  Today we hear a lot about “life hacks,” which I feel are similar to education hacks.  These hacks show us easier and simpler ways to do things in everyday life. I liked how Logan combined the idea of hacks with education.  Knowing different ways to learn things and incorporate education into everyday life is very important.

I don’t know how many times in my own life that I have heard someone ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  It was a question you heard so much in elementary school that you perfected the answer by the time you were in second grade.  Once you reached high school the demand to know was even stronger.  I have know idea how many times I was asked what I was going to study in high school.  Logan makes a good point when says that we often leave happiness out of the equation.  We focus on getting a good schooling, a job, a family, and maybe if you get all those things you will be happy.  Why can’t we combine happiness with our learning? There are so many different ways to combine things we love with lessons.

I was really interested in the way that Logan did his lessons.  It was interesting to see how the classes he took corresponded with the eight points of happiness he started out with.  It was cool to see how he was learning so much doing things that he loved.  He was spending time in a classroom and learning traditional lessons in nontraditional ways.  He used his love for skiing to come up with the idea of hackschooling. It seems that his way of learning has added to creating new and innovative ideas. It has also helped him to develop an appreciation for nature as well as things that are completely new.  I also thought it was really interesting that part of his schooling included getting an internship.  This helps to teach him good work ethic, and workplace behavior. Its crazy how many different things we can learn when we step out of our comfort zones.

Learning about Digital Literacy

Anymore almost everyone has access to the internet.  The world has never seemed smaller because of this. With the creation of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Skype we can communicate with others in just a few seconds. With all these advances and technology and access to the internet new issues have begun to emerge.  Being online is a different world.  There are different rules, different ways to do things, and new ways to find information.  In order to be able to navigate this different world you need knowledge about what you are navigating. This knowledge comes through digital literacy.  Having digital literacy means knowing how to properly navigate the internet and follow its rules.

There are many different parts to digital literacy.  One important part is being able to recognize and follow copyright rules. A lot of the time it is easy to see something on the internet and simply just copy and paste it into your own document.  Unfortunately this doesn’t always work.  Copying and pasting things from the internet is just like writing down someone’s paper word for word.  A lot of people don’t realize this.  Copyright issues are something that I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on.  In schools its becoming a big concern. With the access students have to several websites there is more of a concern about whether or not students are stealing work off the internet. I think its important for teachers to have good digital literacy for this reason.  Teachers need to be able to teach their students how to use the internet properly.

Digital literacy is important because a lot more school are becoming reliant on technology.  Things like textbooks and homework assignments are now all online.  Many schools have gone to a 1 to 1 program where each student has either an I pad or a computer.  Students then have more access to computers than they often do at home.  It is important that students know how to correctly use this technology to supplement their learning.  It is also important for teachers to stay on top of the sites that their students are accessing, and know about different apps that students may be using. While schools can block certain websites it is very difficult to control what sites and places students are allowed to visit on their laptops. Because of this teachers should have a working knowledge about sites and technology in order to properly check computers and make sure their students are staying safe online.

One thing I hadn’t thought about with digital literacy was making sure to stay safe while online.  We often don’t think about what we post on Facebook or Twitter.  While exploring different sites about digital literacy I came across one that I really felt helped a lot.  It was published by Cornell University.  It not only focused on the obvious parts of digital literacy, but on the things we really don’t think about.  It also had an area for questions and finding out more information about different things pertaining to digital literacy.  If you get a chance check it out.

Leaving the Comfort Zone

Country School

Photo CC-By Rob North

There have been so many people, events, and things that have made me the learner that I am today. I guess its best to start where my learning career started. From Kindergarten to Sixth grade I attended a small country school known as District 14 or Richland Elementary School.  Going to a country school made a huge impact on my learning over the years.  While I attended District 14 there were never more than twenty kids enrolled at the school, and my class consisted of two other students and myself. Going to country school benefited my learning in two very important ways.  Firstly having only three students in your class allows you to have more one on one time with your teacher. Even though there was only one teacher in the school, we still were able to have a lot of one on one time with our teacher.  It was easy to ask questions and get extra help if you needed it. There was also a very open and welcoming atmosphere.  The school had definitely created a safe learning environment for all the students.  if a student understand something, and the teacher was busy you can be sure another older student would be there to help.  There was a lot of mentoring and tutoring between the students. The second thing that really contributed to my learning was the fact that it was a one room school house. This meant that at all times of the day different classes were going on not very far away from you.  As a third grader you could listen to sixth grade lessons and start to develop complex understanding of not only your lessons but future lessons as well.


Photo CC-By Robert S. Donovan

The second contributing factor to the learner I am today was a woman by the name of Pat Mitchell, or Mrs. Mitchell as she was called in the classroom. She was my kindergarten teacher, a teacher’s aide, the school librarian, cook, and so much more. It was Mrs. Mitchel who instilled in me many important values. As my kindergarten teacher she had a huge impact on my views of learning.  The one learning area she really impacted was reading.  I am so thankful that she took the time to sit down and teach me how to read.  She taught me that reading can be fun. She also showed me how reading can open up many new worlds and cultivate knowledge and the imagination. Mrs. Mitchell also continued to encourage me in my learning long after I left her kindergarten classroom. she made conscious efforts to help me in any way she could.  She also pushed me to go outside my comfort zone and try things that were uncomfortable to me.

 16823568940_3649a8e2f8_mPhoto CC-By Sharon and Nikki McCutcheon

Everyone has that one teacher that they absolutely hated in high school.  For me that teacher was Mrs. Owen, my Junior High English teacher.  Mrs. Owen was very strict and it was a startling change from the laid back atmosphere of country school. Right from the start she pushed us way out of our comfort zones. She jumped into topics that many of us new very little about, and seemed to have no mercy when it came to grading our papers.  It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I realized just how much I appreciated everything Mrs. Owen had taught me. In fact it was partially because of Mrs. Owen that I decided to teach English.  Being in her class pushed me to try harder.  She never let us give up, even when we were convinced that there was no way we could complete the assignment. She showed me that sometimes having someone who shows no mercy is exactly what you need in your learning life.  Having teachers and mentors who won’t let you take the easy way out, won’t let you give anything less than your best, and pushes your learning limits can be the greatest blessing.  It is these people who give you the drive to keep going.


Photo CC- By Tulane Public Relations

One week before my junior year we moved across Nebraska to a tiny little town I had never heard of before.  I’ll just start off by saying that moving so close to the beginning of your Junior year of high school really sucks, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  Before moving things had been a little rough at my old high school.  Here I was welcomed with open arms. I soon made several friends and joined the volleyball team.  I’ve never been a very outgoing person.  I was the kid that sat at the back of the class, did their homework, and went home.  All that changed when I was asked to start tutoring one of the students in my class.  Soon I was involved in the classroom. I was adding to the classroom conversation, working with groups, and helping out my fellow peers. Moving helped me to become a more involved student, and more open to discussion within the classroom.


Photo CC-By Sean MacEntee

Its amazing how many people affected my learning.  My senior year I had a math teacher by the name of Mr. Sharp.  Math has always been a  subject that I struggled with.  If I could find an easy way out of it I would take it.  By the time I was a senior I could barely do math without a calculator.  All that changed when I walked into Mr. Sharp’s class.  He was a firm believer in working out a problem and making sure each one of us knew how to do it.  I remember the first time he asked me to multiply fractions without a calculator.  I had no idea what to do. I probably sat there and gave him a blank stare for five minutes.  It was then that he made it his mission to make sure that I understood math.  He took extra time to explain assignments, and different problems.  He also encouraged me to never give up.  He pushed me to do something he was sure I could do.  Math is still a struggle for me, but I understand it so much more than I did before. He showed me how determination can make a difference in how and what you learn.