Posts Tagged ‘learning’

“Unlearning.” That word by itself kinda hurts my brain. Isn’t that the opposite of what we want? Don’t we want to grow? Isn’t the way to grow to expand, to intake, to gain? Well, yeah, of course, buuuuuut…

A lot of people, educators and learners alike, live by the doctrine of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s a problem.

Bindaas Madhavi Photo CC-by Bindaas Madhavi


Will Richardson’s article about “unlearning” mostly deals with throwing out old misconceptions or outdated methods of thinking, particularly in classroom settings. Verbatim, Richardson claims “it’s simply learning to see things differently or to at least be open to it.” I’m going to kick this section off with the last of Richardson’s claims, and say that the most important thing that needs “unlearned” is that real change can happen just by thinking it into practice. This is not a thing. Action needs to happen for change to happen.

Unlearning simply means re-evaluating old concepts, and being open to new ones. In education, this is probably the most vital piece of advice that can be given. Too many times I was at the mercy of teachers who utilized tired-out techniques they learned in school, and were unwilling to budge in any way, shape, or form. Each person learns differently. Each person has different passions. In order to harness all of this potential, flexibility needs to be a key factor.

This semester, I’ve unlearned quite a few things. I’ve unlearned that no one is making a charge to reform education. I’ve unlearned that social media is useless for anything besides cat videos. I’ve unlearned that blog posts are useless, because there are people somewhere out there paying attention. I still have a ways to go, though. I need to unlearn that most authority figures are pompous assholes who have no intelligence or empathy. I need to unlearn some of my cynicism and be a little more willing to believe in the good in humanity. I’ll get back to you when this happens.

Don’t hold your breath.

Thomas Hawk Photo CC-by Thomas Hawk


In George Couros’s look into the mind of an innovator, he writes himself a mission statement:
“I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.”

As an educator, Couros wants to focus on new ideas. He wants to focus on open-mindedness, much like Richardson, and above all else, he wants to focus on what’s best for learners. For educators, this involves quite a bit of humility and searching.

It means acknowledging that even if you are an expert in your field, you don’t know everything there is to know. It means acknowledging students as people and accepting the fact that they have things to teach you as well. It means figuring out how to work with each individual learning style, and doing your best to realize that teaching a group en-mass using the same technique is a busted-ass idea from the get-go. Couros understands that these things mean going out on a limb, upsetting an established status quo and taking risks for a reward that involves maximizing learning output for students.

Couros also heavily endorses technology as a medium for learning. He claims innovators can do their best by connecting to others globally, gathering , comparing, and discussing ideas from all perspectives. That being said, Couros also claims we no longer need to throw the title of “digital” on everything: literacy, storytelling, learning, etc. It’s now all implied. Learning is changing. It all ties back together in the fact that we need to “unlearn” the traditions of old in favor of innovating. As I said, learning is changing.

I’m not sure I’ve done much in the way of innovation this semester. If anything, I’ve played it close to the chest and stuck with what I know. Same routines, same attitudes, same techniques.. because they work. And because I’m afraid of change. Soon I won’t have the crutch of academia as an excuse anymore, and we’ll see what kind of innovator I really am.




In a true “better late than never” fashion, it’s that time of year. Forget Hellweek, this is


Keeping up with tradition dictates that I put off gobs of assignments until the last possible moment, and even then, I stumble or limp to the finish line in my attempts to get them done. For our Week 14 assignments in DigiLit class, we were asked to put together a digital story entailing a metaphor about learning: how we learn, what we think about learning, how we teach, something along those lines. I thought about this one for awhile (obviously). How do I learn? What do I think of it? This isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about. What defines me as a learner? How have I made it to where I’ve made it?

Then it clicked. Without discipline, routine, and determination, I wouldn’t be the learner I am. These components sound strikingly similar to another facet of life that I take almost no part in. The irony of my metaphor is palpable, but I felt it was the best one that fit. Rather than go the Powerpoint or YouTube route with my digital story, I decided to roll with something I’m a bit more fond of: the Podcast format.

For the lazy or time-constrained among you, here’s the story transcribed into text:


Learning is a workout routine.

Not literally, mind you. If I know anything, it’s that exercise and I get along together about as well as fire and kerosine.

No, no, learning is a mental exercise. And not in that “” kind of way. Your avenue, whether it be a classroom, books, or the internet, is your gym. Learning, much like physical activity, is a process that requires strict discipline, definitive goals, and oddly enough, variety.

I have friends who are weight lifters (the protein shake and Facebook memes kind), and they have a very methodical process. Each day consists of a warm-up, a workout of a different particular group of muscles, a cool down, and the maintaining of a strict diet designed around whatever their particular goals might be. Need bulk? Protein all day, everyday: chicken breasts, eggs, steaks, etcetera. Most will give themselves one rest day a week so their bodies don’t completely rebel and shut off completely from the immense stress.

Learning, I’ve found, is almost exactly the same. Learning will not just come to you out of the blue. You need to dedicate yourself to the process. Randomly surfing through Wikipedia articles doesn’t count, either. If you want to learn about something, you must discipline yourself to do so.

When I was in middle and high school in Alliance, Nebraska, marching band was an extremely popular activity. It reached across the boundaries of “cliques,” uniting the jocks, geeks, and stoner kids alike under a common banner. As you can probably imagine, trying to teach 100 pre-teens / angry teenagers how to march in time, let alone play an instrument, was nigh impossible. For band director of 33 years Dick Rischling, however, anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Dick Rischling was a man who would go for a 2 mile run and smoke a cigarette every step of the way. The man provided us with gems such as, “I love conflict! I win them all!” and “I hate cymbals, they sound horrible.” Every morning at 7:30 AM, a half hour before classes started, all 100 of us would show up, line up on a practice field in the rain or snow, and march with Dick Rischling barking commands from a megaphone. The man taught us to stand up straight, carry ourselves with some dignity, and above all: discipline. This discipline is something I’ve carried with me throughout my schooling career. Without it, I doubt I would have reached any level of success. In order to do well, you have to want to do well. You have to want to improve to improve.

Once discipline is instilled in a learner, different learners will find that they have a different “core group” of muscles that are already strengthened: some people are naturals at maths and sciences, but awful at humanities. Along this same vein, different people have different primary methods of learning. Some are auditory learners, preferring to listen to lectures or podcasts, while others are strictly visual, favoring note-taking and reading. Others still are “hands on” learners, better at learning through a “do as I do” method of teaching. While it’s natural to want to focus on your best attribute in terms of subject material, just because exercise is routine doesn’t mean you should forego adding variety to your workout. At some point, you will plateau. You will reach a ceiling that will seem impossible to break out of, and the best way to continue is to try something different before returning to that plateau. This is why weight-lifters rotate the muscle groups being worked on each day: an immensely powerful upper body is useless without the leg day to support it.

By identifying which style of learner a person is, they can also best figure out how to approach these different subjects. With the internet, there is no shortage of resources for learners of all strengths and weaknesses. If weight lifting isn’t your strong suit, maybe cardio is more your thing. Maybe yoga or some type of martial art is your best avenue. Take whatever learning style is best for you, and apply it to all subjects. See what works and what doesn’t. Identify and improve upon your weaknesses, even if only minutely.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that the principle of “use it or lose it” applies just as much with learning as it does with physical exercise. Your brain, the supercomputer that it is, is going to deem skills or knowledge left unused unessential. The way to avoid this is to stay in practice. Remember to review the concepts you already have a firm grasp on, while continuing to strive for new improvements.

While you won’t be seeing me in a gym anytime soon, it is undeniable that the same dedication and persistence found in a good workout regiment can be used just as effectively when building the most important quote muscle unquote of all:

your brain!



Well, it’s that time of year again. I want to pull my hair out and mash my face into a wall until it resembles little more than poorly-prepared hamburger.

Yes, folks, it’s the week before finals week, or what we here at CSC have dubbed HELLWEEK.

Andreas Levers Photo CC-by Andreas Levers, cue AC/DC track here

Blood from a Stone

I’ve learned a lot of things about myself during the duration of my independent learning project this year: namely, I’m shitty at self-motivation. Terrible. Awful. Etcetera, etcetera. I had an open field to walk through, my own path to choose, I could choose literally anything that I wanted, and I still couldn’t motivate my damn self to get the job done. I’m not proud of myself, especially with Ms. Fish absolutely schooling every challenge I’ve thrown her way and making leaps and bounds in her own project.

Why was this so difficult for me? I suppose I could have chosen “wrong.” I can only wonder how it would have went differently depending on what else I had chosen. Some have hypothesized that the reasoning for my terrible time-management and procrastination issues has been that, at the end of the day, regardless of the freedom been given to me, the independent project was still a project. Still an assignment. Desperately as I’ve tried to stave off “senioritis” and continue waking up each day with gusto and a “go-get-’em” attitude, I haven’t. I have what I deem the “fuckits” really bad. Every assignment coming my way right now isn’t, to me, a learning opportunity. It’s a hoop to jump through. I’ve done this continuously for nearly 16 years. I know the in’s and out’s, and I’m fed up. Suggestions for grad schools are pouring in like water from every angle, and my answer (at least for the time being) is a resounding go to hell.

Peter P Photo CC by Peter P


You’d think that with the aforementioned “senioritis” I’d be excited for the next chapter in my life. I’m not. I’m as bitter and cynical as ever. I’m about to graduate after 4 years of hard work, get a piece of paper legitimizing said hard work, and… what? Then what? I work the same minimum wage job I would have without that piece of paper? I have some fancy titles to put on a resume for an entry-level position in a job where I’ll be expected to eat shit consistently for years until I progress into something even remotely worth my time and effort? I pay back the federal government for helping me pay for an education that largely consisted of re-hashed high school courses? Some people get nervous pre-graduation. I’ve become lethargic. Dangerously so. My band isn’t playing, stories aren’t selling, and I’m in a pretty bad state of mind if you couldn’t tell from the bulk of this post.

The best, and worst parts of my independent learning project have come from my lovely teacher, Ms. Fish. I say best because I get to see the exuberance and passion she feels for the subject. I get to hear tails of shenanigans in China, dreams of going back, and the interesting change in perspective another culture provides. I say worst, because I have by no means made it worth her time. I haven’t dedicated the energy, shared the passion, or made the improvements I should have with such a capable teacher. She wouldn’t ever say so, she probably wouldn’t even think so, but I’ve let her down. Here I sit with a broken understanding of a language, due 100% to my own shortcomings. For these things, I’m sorry.

The longer I wallow in this pool of doubt and cynicism, the more I realize that these are things under my control. I can choose how to react to poor book sales and gigs un-booked. I can choose how to respond to impeding deadlines and being a first-gen graduate in my family. I’ve chosen poorly.

How do I make up for these things? How do I pull myself up out of this? This isn’t how I usually am. That much I know is certain. I suppose this is the proper time for an abstract image with some inspirational text on top.


Much better.


As a general rule of them, I don’t hop onto Facebook app bandwagons, or many Internet ones for that matter. As much as I hate to admit it, I think I’m a hipster at heart. I will not accept your CandyCrush or Clash of Clans invite, I’m not gonna play online poker with you, and I’m sure as hell not going to make BitStrips of myself doing my Independent Learning Project.



1. The master and the student at work.
2. Tones aren’t Jeff’s strong suit.
3. Jeff studies.
4. and isn’t ready to graduate. 

Okay, so I’ve been wrong before. As part of this week’s Digital Literacy class, we were asked to take a look at several possible online tools for visual art making (comic strips, infographs, etc.) and after some digging, I found the most user-friendly and one of the most customizable to be *heavy sigh* BitStrips. I’m sure you’ve seen them on people’s Facebook walls. Usually I’m pretty annoyed with them. The art style is a bit too cartoony for my taste, and often they’re just nonsensical statuses about lunch or what was on American Horror Story last night with little point.

Though, as I’ve said before, technology = tool, tool = up to the user, and after a few classmates made blog posts illustrating their Independent Learning journeys via BitStrips, I thought I would give it a whirl. Ashamedly I admit, I actually had some fun tinkering with this tool. The settings / props / facial expressions are all customizable, limbs are movable, it’s actually really intuitive. What I suspected would be just a selection of pre-constructed images actually has a lot of different options. Characters have actually a lot of options as far as customization goes, with the exception of outfits (I don’t think I even own a blue shirt).

So now the question is, does this have applications outside of mindless meandering / time killing online?

Creative Control

The answer is, yes! Students are going to dick around on FB and the like. This is a proven fact of life in 2015. The fact is that comic generators, infograph makers, etc. flex students’ creative muscles while requiring them to think somewhat situationally. Someone making an infograph needs to have research and statistics done to put anything down in a coherent manner. Comics require (albeit very little) semblance of plot as well as dialogue; essentially, storytelling skills. Tools like this could be used as a fun alternative for traditional research projects or narrative exercises.

On top of the creative building going on, tools like this also teach general tech skills. Unsure how to use a tool properly? A Google or YouTube search can easily yield tutorials. These tools require a general knowledge of how to use either smartphone or computer technology, something that not entirely everyone has. If students can bolster creative thinking on top of learning how to use technology that will be most likely required in higher education as well as a workplace, I count that as a win-win.



Posted: March 23, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , ,

A lot of time spent in college, depending on the college, is time wasted. General Studies programs are the laughing stocks of people who went to pursue higher education fresh out of high school. You’re literally paying to take the same classes you took last year: basic Algebra, Biology, English, even P.E. (at least at my school) for Christ’s sake. What part of you thinks any part of me wants to re-experience P.E.? Yeesh.

Luckily, there are certain classes where your brain actually has to stretch a bit, you need to utilize (and harness) a set of skills, and you can walk away feeling like your time wasn’t wasted.

If you haven’t gathered, I’m reflecting on my Digital Literacy class, taught by Dr. Elisabeth Ellington.

Sacha Chua

Photo CC-by Sacha Chua, and pretty accurate to boot!

To be honest, going into this class, I was completely unsure of what to expect. The catalog description simply said “learning how to utilize technology in a way combined with literacy” or something really vague and over-generalized, as college catalogs tend to be. I expected to have to be tweeting and blogging (mostly because I knew the professor and her preferred methods, not because I knew anything about the class), and so far, that has obviously rang extremely true.

Considering that I had no expectations, they couldn’t exactly be defied – I was going in blind, but curious to see where I’d wind up. To say I’m surprised would be an understatement. This class has been multi-faceted in a way I wouldn’t have ever thought of. We’ve covered what it means to be technologically savvy, the best way to utilize technology in classrooms, ways to use technology to network properly and build a career path, as well as the infinite different ways technology can be put to use as a creative outlet. All without stepping on anyone’s toes, doing anything that can get us sued, or stepping out of the comfort of our homes and / or preferred coffee shops.

Denise Krebs

Photo CC-by Denise Krebs

This class hasn’t only helped me learn the ropes of a lot of facets of the web I wouldn’t have thought to use prior (including blogging and Tweeting, as well as searching for photos and videos that won’t have copyright lawyers banging on my door), but has also taught me a few things about myself. 1) I procrastinate, real bad. I always figured I sort of did, but trying to stuff 2 blog posts, 20 tweets, and more in one Sunday night is something I need to stop fucking doing jesus why do I do this to myself

I’ve also discovered that I very much enjoy trying to farm all sides of perspectives and arguments. When TEDTalks were introduced to the curriculum, I wound up gravitating toward anti-TEDTalk TEDTalks. So meta. So edgy. So hipster. When proposed initiatives or radical renovations to old-school teaching are offered, I’m the first one in line for both the pros / possibilities as well as the cons / harsh realities and obstacles. I’m not trying to be a contrarian because I feel cool – I genuinely feel like perspective gained is worthless if it isn’t all-encompassing. Stacking the deck in favor of your opinions or beliefs doesn’t help anyone, and it makes you look like a nimrod.

For future reference in this class, I’d very much like to connect with or see some people who have put these alternative forms of education and learning into practice. Granted, we did watch a TEDTalk and read a fistful of blog posts with examples, but I mean on a larger scale. Someone out there has to be doing something to better our busted-ass educational system, and the idea has to be gaining steam. At least, the (tiny) idealist in me hopes so. I also wouldn’t mind maybe some more collaboration / actual back-and-forth between classmates. Responding to tweets / blog comments is fine and dandy, but I’d be lying if I said that it felt like most of us were doing it for the sake of the assignment quota, and less out of a general interest. Regardless of how cool an online class is, I do value the all-important face-to-face components.

Paul HocksenarPhoto CC-by Paul Hocksenar

Overall, I am enjoying this class immensely, and I’m excited to see what else we cover before the semester is up. I’m also excited, if not a little leery, to begin my Daily Create project. I feel like it’ll force me to have to flex my creative muscles a bit more than I have been, and hey, I’m not going to complain about that.


By reading this short sentence, you are recognizing a series of pictures, attaching meaning to each of them, and then combining them to mean something totally different than what they mean individually.

Crazy, huh?

Alja Photo CC-by Alja, and also RELEVANT

This week, Ms. Fish and I decided to take a lighter version of a lesson considering that the week was jam-packed with responsibilities, including unplanned ones like a work shift to be covered and a trip up a mountain and subsequently back down again on two pieces of wood (skiing, we went skiing, okay?! and jeez, guys, I’m so bad at it. I hurt.)

With a fogged-over car window as an improvised whiteboard, we’re off!

I’m beginning to be able to recognize and say certain characters. With that, I’m also discovering that certain characters can have multiple meanings. The word for “both,” dou, is also the word for “all.” Simultaneously. Not contextually, nor tonally, but simultaneously. Both, and all. This is a concept that’s kinda funky for me to wrap my brain around. Apparently, as the teach tells me, the idea that we have two different words for these would be strange to Chinese students.

I’m not fantastic, but I am at a point where I can recognize some super-basic sentences. I can also recognize Tristen’s name in Chinese, but only because she writes nice things about me with it. I presume. I guess she could theoretically be writing naughty things, but I’ll choose the optimistic outlook. 😛

Stefan Photo CC-by Stefan, a language long ago in a galaxy far, far away

Same Page, Different Book

In a similar vein to the “both / all” fiasco, there are also different ways to say something with the same meaning. I’m not talking about synonyms, I mean contextually. The word for “very” in Chinese is dependent on if an adverb or an adjective is being described by said “very”.

Wait, it gets better. The Chinese have only (relatively) recently incorporated a question mark at the end of sentences to signify a question. Traditionally, there’s a word specifically to denotate that a question has been asked.. and it goes at the end of a sentence. Roughly, if I were to translate asking how someone was in Chinese, the English would be something along the lines of “You good question.” What. The hell.

The foreshadowing of the lessons to come sparks a fire in my curious brain and brutally strangles the part of my brain that expects everything to fit in my little, comfort-zone based box. Hm? What’s that? Oh.. wait, are you serious?

I am now being told that there are different words for things depending on pluralities, as well as differences in words written vs. words spoken orally, such as for the form of currency. The word “tiao” is apparently a measurement form for things like pairs of pants… or fish. “Long-ish things,” the teach tells me is how she remembers it. That’s planned for the future.

My head hurts.


Disclaimer: I’m aware it’s “tone deaf.” It’s a pun, okay? 

Confession time:

I’ve spent two weeks on the same 17 vocab words. When I’m looking at them, I get all scatterbrained. Do I learn pronunciation first? Translation? How to draw the characters? Where do I start? I’m trying to learn another language like I study for a test, and while that’s functional for learning what the words mean in English, it does me little good in pronunciation or application of them. And what about grammar, for that matter?


jonathan kos-read Photo CC-by Jonathan Kos-Read, also, I have no idea what this says

Focus is Key

My biggest problem with this learning project so far is that I’ve been trying to spread myself too thin, bouncing around between things I need to learn. I don’t remember learning English, it’s just something that comes naturally. My teacher has done some lessons in this language before, but it’s been while. I find myself asking more questions than I can answer at once – I’m already constructing basic sentences out of words I’ve picked up and my very (very very) loose grasp on the grammar, but I’m trying to do long division before I even know how to add.

That, and I’m busy, man. Seriously. I know this project is something we chose, I know it’s something I want to dedicate time to, but when my options are “do my Chinese homework” and “start this take-home test due Tuesday, then practice for my lesson on Thursday so it’s not a total shitshow” my priorities re-arrange themselves a bit.

I guess that’s something else I’m learning besides Chinese: how to juggle responsibilities. I’m a bit jealous, really – I give my student a writing prompt and the first draft is finished that same day. I highlight it, give my criticisms, and the edited “final” version is done that same day. And I’ve yet to memorize my first 17 vocab words. Damn.

Theen Moy Photo CC-by Theen Moy, and I can’t read this either.

At the end of the day, I don’t have excuses. I need to carve out time for this. When I sit down to do it, I’m always fascinated. I’m never bored. There’s an immense hurdle for me to jump, and I don’t back from a challenge. The trouble is, there are too many directions for me to go. Because I’m an egotist and a bit of an attention whore, it does my heart good to see my pupil excited about writing and eager to continue learning new things.

I wonder if she’ll let me borrow some of her enthusiasm. This is my last semester for my Bachelor’s Degree, and it’s beginning to feel like it.