Book A Week: Week 1 And What I’ve Learned

As I posted before, my independent learning project was to motivate myself to read a book a week and at the end of that week write a blog post about said book. It’s my goal to give an honest view of each book I read as well as insight on how my project is going. That being said, I will also try to avoid spoilers. One of my favorite things to do before reading a book is to read reviews by people who have already read it. I love to hear the different perspectives people offer up as well as their opinions and personal recommendations. While plot is not everything in a book, I really try to avoid spoilers when reading reviews because to me, part of the journey is seeing how the story unfolds and how the author does so. With that being said…

Week 1’s book was “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins. I was immediately drawn into the story and concept when I saw that it was being made into a movie this upcoming Fall. I loved how the movie trailer was done. It was confusing and edgy, which in hindsight I think really suits the book. Since I’m a reader first and movie-watcher second, I decided I should hop on the bandwagon and read the book before the movie came out.

The unique thing about “The Girl on the Train” is the path of the storyline and how it is narrated. The main character, Rachel Watson, is the most active voice in the storytelling process and also the character which most of the action revolves around. The other two narrators are Anna Watson and Megan Hipwell. To avoid giving things away, I will just say that these three women were chosen to be the narrators of the story for a reason, and have connected storylines. I like how it switches between the three of them, as well as jumps around on the timeline a bit. It made me do a couple of double-takes and re-centering regarding where I was in the story. I liked that because as a reader it kept me on my toes.

While the characters are what add to the story and gave it much more depth, they are also what I didn’t like about “The Girl on the Train.” Maybe it’s a sign of talent on Paula Hawkins’ part, but I couldn’t find a single character that I liked. All of them are flawed in their own way, which I suppose is what is most poignant about the story. That being said, I finished the book with a resolved yet empty feeling. I didn’t come away from the story satisfied and content, but rather I closed the book with a sentiment along the lines of, “Wow, what a bunch of psychos.”

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. I was still impressed, but wasn’t a huge fan of the hollow feeling I was left with. That, paired with the fact that I figured out the “mystery” with still about 100 pages to go, left me feeling almost satisfied with the novel. It was good, but there was something lacking in order to push it to great. 

That being said, I’m very happy that I chose to read “The Girl on the Train” as my first book for this project. It was fast and easy reading that made me think while also keeping me interested. Paula Hawkins is still an up-and-coming writer, so I’m very excited to see what she has in store as far as future novels.

Book Rating: 7/10

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Tackling My Personal Learning Network

Honestly, I would never really categorize myself as someone who is wary of technology. I am a part of a generation that grew up with technology as a part of my education, and I embrace technology every day. Despite that, certain “buzzwords” always intimidate me slightly and seem to catch me off guard. This is why, when given the task of creating my own Personal Learning Network (PLN for short, don’t ya know), a tiny, internal part of me rolled my eyes and rejected the idea. To me, talking about your “Personal Learning Network” was akin to how people sound when they talk about the importance of “networking” and fibbing to beef up your resume. Maybe that was just because all of those ideas are a bit foreign to me. However, the fact of the matter is that what I was expecting vs. what I actually came away with were completely different, and I couldn’t be happier for that.

The first step I took was googling, verbatim, “good people to follow on twitter for education.” No, not my most eloquent search. I was pleasantly surprised to find a full page of promising articles at my disposal, though. Not only were these articles (or listicles, rather) very helpful, but they were also good sources themselves. I found that most of the webpages I visited had their own Twitter accounts. After visiting their Twitter accounts, I was often recommended people to follow based on who I have already followed. There are two important things I have learned from this:

  1. The internet and social media platforms are built to help you and can be a great source for a purpose like this. Having similar recommendations and such to help you along with your search is extremely useful and cuts down on time.
  2. On Twitter, a good bio will definitely help you convey who you are and what you’re using the platform for. It will most likely also help you gain followers with similar interests. I followed a good number of people by merely hovering over their bio to see if we had similar interests. As someone who hasn’t updated their bio yet, it’s definitely something to keep in mind!

Overall, my entire view of what a Personal Learning Network is has changed immensely just by going out and exploring what there is to learn. I think collaboration is one of the most important parts of learning, and what better what to do so than through social media? I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity to see PLNs in a different light, and I’m very excited to continue to grow mine with the help of like-minded people!

 

 

PCC: Jurgen Appelo

Passion, Learning, and School. How Do They All Fit?

Reading George Couros’ blog post “School vs. Learning” really set a clear message: learning is all about your mindset and how you approach it. For up and coming teachers especially, I think it’s important for us to be conscious of how we are viewing learning and how we can help others see it as a fluid and individualized process. I especially loved how he contrasted different attitudes and examples in order to give meaning behind his words. Anyone can say we need more passion in schools, as it’s not a terribly edgy idea, but I really enjoyed his post and how it picked up on specific examples. For instance, his idea that “School is about consuming. Learning is about creating,” really made an impact on me. While there are always exceptions, (which Couros acknowledges), I thought that was a very simple, yet effective example. We can all think of times at school where we felt sort of like machines: in goes the information, out goes the tests, projects, quizzes, etc.

I think having passion for teaching and learning is a great way to combat the battle of School vs. Learning. To me, they don’t have to be antonyms, but should instead work together. Jordan Catapano’s “5 Ways to Share Your Passion for Learning” the main idea is to show the students how much you care. In turn, they will see that being passionate about something is actually a cool thing to do. Catapano writes in particular:

  1. Regularly apply your passion, and tell your students. Be an example. If you were thinking about something, working on a project, or just walking along and found something interest that relates to class, tell you students about the experience. What you and your students talk about doesn’t have to be isolated to your classroom. Let them see how what you’re teaching applies to the world beyond the classroom.

Something so simple like that breaks the “barrier” that a lot of students have between the “classroom world” and the real world. I remember a couple of classes in subjects that didn’t necessarily hold my interest (lookin’ at you, math!) where the teacher was so passionate about their topic, that it seemed to leak out into everything else. That included me as well.

Another useful article I found was “Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning” by Tina Barseghian. I really liked this one and found it helpful because it seemed to be down to Earth and a bit more realistic. It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic fantasy of being so enthusiastic and passionate that every student, regardless of every other factor, naturally excels and thrives under your direction. However, when reality inevitably hits, I think articles such as this will definitely come in handy. Of the articles I had read, I chose this one because it was one of the few to address a real issue: how will we be the ideal teacher under less-than-ideal circumstances? How will we spark creativity and passion in a system that is increasingly dependent on test scores? I liked that it had helpful, not subversive, ideas such as getting in touch with students and enriching their education with social media and other digital formats. Sound familiar?

Overall, I thought the TED talk and both articles all seemed to propose great ideas. While school is most certainly not the enemy here, it is important to know that passion is behind everything, and if we want our students to excel, it is up to us to lead as such.

 

PCC: Tianna Jensen

RE: “Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model.”

Okay. I have to be very upfront and say that when I first read the title of this TED talk, I was kind of put off. A model telling me looks aren’t everything? Is that a joke? However, I found this short and sweet TED talk to touch on many more topics than I had expected, as well as make a lot of very relevant and well put points.

Cameron Russell, the speaker in “Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model,” definitely proved me wrong and made me think twice about my preconceived notions. I loved how she started off by changing her image right on stage, in order to prove a very good point: perception is fleeting, it is easily affected, and it is not always right. By merely changing her outfit, Russell made the audience (myself included) do a double-take and open up to actually listening to her as a person instead of a successful, attractive model.

It was also interesting to hear about privilege from someone who admitted a place of privilege. I loved how she stepped outside of what was immediately relevant to her and acknowledged that there are plenty of people who do not receive the same benefits that she does. I think everything was brought together really well when she started listing the specific statistics regarding those who are not as privileged. By contrasting how appearance benefits her to how it may disadvantage others, Russell really drove home the point that perception is a double edged sword. It’s also something that we can work to improve on and change, as made clear by her final statements.

As a future teacher, I think this is also really important. We are all trained by society to take in how we perceive someone and then treat them as such. In a position such as that of a teacher, it can be detrimental to the child’s education as well as your own personal growth to approach things in such a manner. Instead, we need to remember that appearance is not everything. It sounds really simple, and I guess it is, but we all lose track of that sometimes. We may treat someone more favorably just as easily as we may treat someone poorly based purely on how we perceive them. I think just being more conscious of how we think and how we treat people can be a great step in the right direction towards combatting our own misperceptions.

 

 

PCC: TEDxMidAtlantic

Book a Week (Hopefully)

As my independent project, I’m hoping to spend it doing something I love very very much but get the chance to do very very seldom: read for fun. Four hours a week is actually a decently long time, so I’m deciding to do a book a week, if I can! The following blog posts will include an update on my progress, as well as mini-reviews (no spoilers!) of each book at the end of the week. At the end of the semester, I’m hoping to rate all of the books I’ve read, just in case anyone’s interested.

I think something like this will be really beneficial for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, it will be genuinely enjoyable, and an excuse for me to sit down and read for a few hours a week. I usually intend to do so, but between work and everything else, reading often goes to the bottom of my list. Also, I think it’s a good idea for everyone to have a couple of books they’ve read under their belt. It usually helps with understanding weird references, literary conversation, and a better understanding of the world around them. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if the book you’re reading is a “well-respected” classic, or a book you picked up last-minute for some easy reading. Even if it’s an audio book, I really think that reading (or listening) to books provides a unique experience you can’t get anywhere else.

Since I’m a college-student working a not-so-well-paying job, I also have to think about how to get each book for the best price, while still getting the product that I want. So with each week’s post, I’ll write about where I got the book, how pricey it was, my experience, etc. Depending on what you read, books can seriously add up. Whether you’re a college student, or just trying to keep an eye on your budget, it’s always great to know where the less expensive options are.

Overall, I’m really excited to share my experience and do something that will definitely be great for me! I’ll probably have trouble thinking of a new book for every week, so if anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear them!

 

Photo CC: Stewart Butterfield

 

Hackschooling and Camera Lenses. What Else?

After watching “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” and reading Bud Hunt’s blog post on “Essential Lenses,” it was honestly very refreshing to see these alternative views on learning and education. What initially struck me was how right Logan LaPlante was when he pointed out how the happiness and personal well-being of the student is often not the first priority. Instead, most learning models focus on preparing a student for every other aspect of his or her life, but not for the most important one: are they happy and personally fulfilled? While most public schools are not really set up to enhance the personal growth of each student, that was LaPlante’s whole point: sometimes the alternative route is the best one for you. As he mentioned in his talk, many others doubted that homeschooling would be the right path for him. Clearly, they were wrong. A point I think is important to distinguish, however, is that while “hackschooling” worked very well for Logan, that doesn’t mean that more traditional routes aren’t the right choice for other students. Often in topics such as this, divisions grow over what is right and wrong. With something so personalized like Education, it’s really up to the individual to decide what is right for the.

Hunt’s blog post on “Essential Lenses,” to me, was an old concept spun into a fresh and interesting idea. I really liked the post because it wasn’t focusing on formal education, but instead focused on bettering yourself for the sake of being better. This way, it’s applicable to more than just the student and classroom. I’m sure many of us have heard the common idea that we all have different learning styles (visual, auditory, sensory, etc). For me, this was the slightly more “grown-up” version of that, which also applied to everyday things like your outlook and how you approach things in general. I also loved how this wasn’t as restrictive as the “learning styles” idea. While very useful in understanding different learning approaches, I feel like I’ve heard many people say “Well, I’m more of a ____ learner, so that won’t really help me very much,” or “I only understand things when they’re put in ____ format.” While this is understandable and to an extent true, sometimes we get into a limited mindset regarding what we can do or how we can learn, and I feel like that’s a dangerous area. Instead, I definitely appreciated how Hunt provided all of the “lenses” as equal options, and gave great examples as to how to use them in everyday learning.

PCC by: paradox 56