What ds this?

When I first opened up ds106 I was excited because all of the tweets I had read so far were filled with education-related excitement. After spending about fifteen minutes exploring te website, I was utterly confused. What was the purpose of this site? I thought I was already taking enough summer classes? Why is everyone excited to have a class without teachers? We are all studying to BECOME teachers. (This is still gets me if we’re being honest.) Since it was the beginning of the week I decided to just close the tab and come back to it later with a clearer mind.

The next evening I found my way back to the land of hyped-up confusion. If you click on this link, you’ll see it’s actually the ‘About’ page. Still mind-boggled, I read almost every page, from ‘Home’ to multiple blogs posted to the site. At this point my conservative mind set was beginning to understand the concepts of ds106, but refusing to see how the lessons were beneficial. After even more searching I grew frustrated again, this time mostly with myself, I stumbled upon pages and pages of Daily Creates. I like the idea of doing something creative everyday because I am a firm believer in the fine arts and their positive impacts on academics. Our requirements to use five mediums throughout our twenty days of creates reinforces the foundations of the arts. I gave up again after studying ds106.

As we all learned from Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” This morning I sat down with a plate of eggs and a glass of juice, determined to understand ds106 and tried, I really did. In accordance to Yoda’s phrase though, I guess I failed. I am still not sure if I understand all the uses and purposes of ds106, but I do not plan on giving up.

Sidenote: I understand that ds is short for ‘digital storytelling’, but could someone clarify the significance of 106? Even if it is blatantly obvious, if someone could let me know, that would rock my socks off. Happy learning everyone!



A ‘peak’ at what they see

This week I decided to climb Harney Peak which I have never done before. This peak is the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. At the base of the peak is Sylvan Lake, in Custer State Park. We (my younger sister, our dog, Sheridan, and I) passed a picnic area where we would later eat lunch on our way to the bottom of the peak from the parking lot.

At the beginning of the hike is a bench with an inspirational quote about journeys, probably mean to inspire hikers to reach the top. The path up is gravel surrounded by a meadow at first. Soon the meadow turns into a tree-invested forest, the picture-perfect place for a moose according to my mother. We took a break after that space near a rocky area where the top of the peak is visible. we continued along a ridge into another forest which is , surprisingly, down hill. This part lasted for awhile. we crossed a creek using the small walk bridge (and our puppy gulped up some of the rushing rapids). Next was this huge rock my family dubbed “The Warped Wall”due to its shape and our obsession with the television show ‘America Ninja Warrior’. Most other people probably just refer to this as a boulder, but, hey, we all have our quirks.

Anyway, after you pass through the forest there is a drastic change as the path becomes surrounded by dead trees and fallen branches. There are stone steps to guide you around the bends and turns as you continue to the top. Soon there is an opt-out for the weak, aka a path back to the lake. But my sister and I carried on up to the top where there is a lookout. The lookout has multiple levels with ladders to get to the highest level to take in the varieties of scenery. The entire platform and tower are constructed out of stones, just like the steps from before. The way down, as you could probably guess, was pretty much the same thing in reverse, except the bottom included lunch. Stale chips and dry PB&Js never tasted so good.

As I was taking in all these new sights, I realized every vacationer and tacky tourist see the entire Black Hills this way and I can’t wait to see some more!

Networks of Knowledge

The most important thing I learned from this article is how helpful Personal Learning Networks (PLN) can be. Chuck Frey explains PLNs in eight simple steps; explore, search, follow, tune, feed, engage, inquire, and respond. These are presented in his article, “How to cultivate a personal learning network: Tips from Howard Rheingold”.

I chose to form my PLN are education and literature because they are a couple of my favorite topics to learn about. I am also studying to teach English someday so planting my roots in this network now will benefit me later on as well. So far I have followed Twitter accounts and blogs by literary journals, education organizations and authors. Like any other garden, a PLN may have some weeds. In this case, the weeds will be accounts that fill  newsfeeds with irreverent or repetitive information. They can be easily exterminated by just clicking or tapping ‘Unfollow’.

One concept I hadn’t thought about before was reciprocating materials or contributing to the network and not just following along. In the beginning, I may just stick to watching and learning about my chosen topics. As I become more acquainted with PLNs and begin my career, I will feel more comfortable commenting it the world of PLNs. A couple of professionals have already followed me on Twitter and, I’m not gonna lie, it makes me pretty excited to be getting my name out there! So for right now I’ll stick to just following and favoriting.

To find these accounts, I searched terms like “English education”, “literature in education” and various academic societies. I was able to find many accounts I think will be very useful. The biggest challenge I see in the future is remembering/recording all the information I will learn from my PLN. Favoriting tweets won’t make me remember them. Even thought one of the highlights of a PLN is it’s technological capabilities, I will probably end up writing down my favorites in a notebook because some habits just can’t be stopped.


Props to PLNs

Personal Learning Network. PLN. Network of personal learning. No matter how you say it, if you do not know the definition, it sounds high tech and frightening. After reading a few articles and watching a video or two about PLNs, I am here to tell you they are nothing to be scared of. A PLN is a hand-picked network of people who have similar interests as you who you choose to follow on any form of social media. This video helped explain the concept of a PLN in a way I could understand.

I think one of the best parts of us learning about PLNs now is we have now, the time before we even begin teaching, all the way through retirement to create, build and learn from our PLN. Who knows? Maybe somewhere in our teaching career PLNs will seem low tech and old school in comparison to what the future holds.

I like to believe PLN s always have existed in some form. Before the world wide web, teachers could still collaborate ideas with each other at conferences and in the teacher’s lounge. When there were schoolhouses instructed by just one teacher, there was still a schoolboard member by once a term the teacher could prod for advice. These networks differed from ours because they were not as larger, or personal, but they were still learning networks.

“Practice what you preach.” Modern educational research is pushing group work now more than ever before. This is yet another reason educators need to come together –  we know all the benefits of teamwork, so why not use it for ourselves? Just like our students, we can learn from each other and keep each other in check. Unlike a group assignment, PLNs are completely personal. We get to pick the tools we use, who is in it, how much we participate and what topics circulate through.

As I begin to build my PLN, I am going to look for both well known names and everyday teachers just trying their best for their students. I want to network with people of all ages to gain as many points of view as I can. I plan on using Twitter and Feedly as my main tools. I am so glad we are beginning this process now and not two or three years into teaching!


Let’s Go on an Adventure!

Like a lot of us, I thought long and hard about what to do for my ILP. I have a hard time focusing for long periods of time so I knew anything that required sitting still way out of the question.  Plus, it’s summer and I wanna go on adventures! I grew up in Rapid City, SD and ever since I was sixteen I have had a job involving tourists. Anyone who is on vacation likes to talk about and ask questions about where to go next. Despite living here all my life, there are many places I have never been or visited so long ago I can’t remember what they were like. I decided to take this opportunity to play a tourist in my own home.

I am excited to learn more about the places I usually just drive by, explore the things I have only seen pictures of and immerse myself more into the culture of the Hills. As of right now my list includes:

The Badlands ( last visited on a middle school field trip), Wall Drug (went there when I was little, that’s all I know)

Independence Hall (new attraction, excited to see)

Ride the trolley through Rapid City  and listen to facts of town (this looks like fun in general)

Find the map marking all the presidents’ locations downtown and find them all

Visit Storybook Island (this one is a little lenient cause I went there about once a week growing up and remember it quite well but this time I will go in with the mindset of a tourist seeing it for the first time.)

Walk the trail dedicated to the 1972 flood and learn more about the event that took the town by storm

I plan on spending my four hours a week adventuring and recording it all with cheesy selfies and poses featuring me and my siblings.  I am excited to learn about all the secrets the place I have always called home is keeping from me!

Pint-sized Passion

As future teachers we all know kids are different in their own ways, but there is one thing that unites them all: passion. I have never met a child who doesn’t love life. On the other hand, the number of kids I have met that dislike school is dismaying. School is supposed to be a place for learning and expanding their natural passions, not to toss in a box to please society. I read the articles The Science of Passion Based Learning and Passion-Based Learning for the 21st Century, they helped me gain a better understanding of what passion-based learning is and its capabilities.

One quote that really got me thinking from the latter article was from a real classroom experience where the teacher instructed the students to “find the partner you need”. As students, when we are allowed to pick partners, we often look for our best friend or someone we know will get us a good grade. Instead, this teacher continued on by saying, “Some of you are picture-smart or word-smart or number-smart. Help each other.” This statement is incredibly effective. First, it uplifts students to know they DO have a strength and can be helpful to someone. On the flipside, it also identifies their weaknesses, allowing them to discover in what areas they may need to work a bit harder in. Lastly, instructions like this let the class know your need the whole box of crayons to color and you cannot use just one or tow colors all your life.


CC by nathanmac87

The only thing I am still questioning about passion-based learning is exactly how to use it. Is there a way to learn passion-based teaching? Or are they one in the same? I know I am there for the students, to be their learning guide, but will my passions affect the outcome? **As I typed that last sentence my brain just got after me, reminding me my passion is teaching.** In the end, I answered my own questions in a round about way; be passionate about teaching and creative in your methods and the students will learn how to embrace their passions. We have to remember our brain is all one vessel holding both emotions and knowledge. Expecting to teach or learn in a way that separates them seems silly and unrealistic.

Social and Personal, Not Standardized

Think of all the things you know. This is a strange request, I know, but think about it anyways. You know not to touch a hot stove, how to use a phone book, that here in America we drive on the right side of the road and so many other things. Now think about where you learned all these things. Was it in school or in life? For most of us, a large portion of what we know was learned in life – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but it’s time to start learning life in school.

The George Couros article we read was filled with ideas comparing and contrasting school and learning. There were two lines that stuck out the most to me; “School often isolates. Learning is often social.” and “School is standardized. Learning is personal.” Stopping to think about the first concept here, I realized I usually dreaded any sort of group assignment I had ever been assigned. In school my goals have always been associated with grades and often the thought of depending on classmates for a grade frustrated me. Rarely did I learn anything in a group project (other than who to trust). Now I realize if I had focused less on getting the highest score possible and more on learning from my classmates, I would have probably enjoyed tasks likes these a bit more. My train of thought on the next topic stops at all the same stations. We have put so much pressure on kids’ grades that they forget to learn along the way. In school, we expect everyone to learn the same information. In life, not every needs to know, or should, learn the same information. I’m glad my mechanic learned all about car parts and how to repair them, but, personally, I would find this topic boring and complicated. I know he personally enjoys what he does and that’s what truly matters; being able to take your personal learning and use it to help others.

I still believe there are somethings everyone needs to learn in school. Now teachers need to help students take these basics and use them to learn everywhere in life.

Now it’s time to take the ‘versus’ out of school vs. learning and replace it with an ‘and’.

Lead with love; no excuses

“Miss? Miss? Why are you calling this a school? This is not a school.”

These are the words Linda Cliatt-Wayman heard from a student her very first day as a principle.She was the speaker of the TedTalk I chose to watch ( and you can here! ) titled ‘How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard’. Ms. Cliatt-Wayman attended school in Northern Philadelphia where poverty, struggle, poor behavior and lack of academic standards are the norm. After graduating, she could have left her roots behind, but instead chose to go back to where lockers don’t have locks and desks don’t always have chairs to replant those roots in soil rich with leadership, love and understanding.

One of the first times the camera shows the audience in attendance at this talk, there are dismayed looks of sympathy, as expected, as Ms. Cliatt-Wayman elaborates on her “not a school”. I noticed there are also a couple of members of the crowd crying. They are crying because their education also was not stellar. They are crying for the students who hate school, cuss in the halls and fail classes they don’t attend becuase they have no idea what a school truly is. These were experienced educators moved by a peer of their own. I’ll admit by the end I shed a tear or two, and I don’t even cry during ‘The Notebook’. But, this does not mean school and love are two different entities, in fact, Ms. Cliatt-Wayman proves how they are.

What I loved about this video was her intense passion from start to applause. If I were to meet her in person, I would probably be a little intimidated, but these traits do not some off as grueling or demanding. These traits emphasize her passion for her students. Multiple times she repeated how important it is for en educator to love their students. Think about this. Think of the people you love. You would do anything in your power to get the best for them, right? That is exactly why you need to love your students. THey say love is blind so block out the snappy attitude and redundant questioning and look inside your students.

“If you’re gonna lead, lead.”

“So what? Now what?”

“If no one told you they love you today, remember that I do.”

These are the three slogans Ms. Cliatt-Wayman recited repeatedly throughout her talk. Each has a lesson and purpose behind it. With the help of these slogans, a “not a school” in the slums worked its way up in the world to better its students. Ms. Cliatt-Wayman lead this change and my new view on leadership combined with love.

Hackschooling: Lettuce-less burgers?

When I first hit ‘Play’ to begin watching “Hackschooling Makes me Happy”, the first thought that went through my mind was, “Wow, this guy is little. There is no way I could give a TedTalk now, let alone seven years ago.” As he went on explaining his research and why he is so passionate about a more creative approach to education, something happened I am ashamed to admit. Suddenly, in the middle of this thirteen year old’s speech on becoming more open-minded, his flowchart – which should’ve prompted me to appreciate his ideas even more – made me physically flinch. “What happened to the basics? How are you suppose to learn any solid curriculum if there isn’t one?” I could not believe how he went on and on about “hacking” his education; how Logan himself seemed to have complete control over his education; how any traditional ideas had been tossed aside like that limp lettuce leaf restaurants give you with a cheeseburger and fries. I knew my trains of thought were headed for stations founded on the ideas of a conservative education. That is when I realized exactly what made me so uncomfortable with his whole approach: it is different.

I have never really liked change. I mean if something works, why change it, right? No, I never put that strangely bright green piece of lettuce on my burger (there are very few who order a burger and a basket of fries and want lettuce), but I will defiantly feel slight discomfort without it. Even though it terrifies me, Logan is right. The standard education system in America is the lettuce and our futures are the burger. There are not many who need it this way so lets change it. In fact, let’s make education a build-your-own-burger. Did pathetically faking it through physics my senior year help me in my journey to become an English teacher? Not a whole lot. Will Logan’s internship help him kick butt in ‘the real world’ when he is our age? You bet it will. By taking the initiative to hack his education, Logan has found the shortcuts to help him get where he wants to be in life, but without missing out on any essential life lessons.

Does the thought of non-traditional education still make me queasy? Yeah, it does. But now I understand why and that is the first step to changing my ways. Who knows, maybe if I had hacked my education I wouldn’t be terrified at the thought of giving a hypothetical TedTalk. Anyway, see you all at the burger buffet. 🙂

P.S. I don’t know how this whole post became a burger  metaphor, but I would be lying if I said I was disappointed about it.


What is digital literacy?

Digital literacy is the concept and practice of everyday human behaviors, such as thoughts and actions, broadcasted over social mediums using technological devices. There is a plethora of medias available to showcase digital literacy waiting for us to embrace both in and out of the classroom.

“Digital literacy is not a new literacy.” This quote comes from the article ‘Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy” by Zac Chase and Diana Laufenberg. (You can read this article through the King Library database here!) I agree with it completely. Often we forget ‘technology’ does not strictly apply to just our generation. There was a point in time when the scroll was the most up-to-date form of the written word. Later the invention of the printing press introduced the world to mass exposure of literature, news and other printed information. To the people who lived in that time, this was their mode of digital literacy. Today iPads, Kindles and phones are our forms of digital literacy. Because the capabilities of digital literacy have always been available, they have been as fluid as our culture changes. The fact that I found this article while sitting on my couch in my PJs, with the help of Chadron State’s online library resources, is proof of that.

When it comes to talents in the field of digital literacy, I am probably best at reading and comprehending the available information. Having always enjoyed reading, I learned how find new reading materials years ago. My digital literacy weakness is probably researching useful/informative materials for others, as a teacher should. I haven’t really had to yet, but I probably will also struggle with presenting the information, at first anyway. Computers have never really been my strong suite – I usually prefer a pencil and paper – so I am grateful for the classes we have over using technology in the classroom.

When it comes to the best way of learning and teaching methods involving digital literacy, I think we all just need to embrace it with an open mind. In order to effectively use digital literacy to its full potential, we need to be willing to reach into all of its corners. All of the components of digital literacy work together to complement each other. Yes, an individual TedTalk video will have a positive impact when watched in class, but an even larger impact can be made when paired with teacher-placed pauses accompanied with analytical questions that help the students develop their own thoughts on the topic.