CEP810: PLN Reflection

This week involved a number of new experiences. The one I am most excited about is Twitter. I have been very reluctant to sign-up because I viewed it as just another thing to have to check. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of ways I am connected to other people. I am a far more private person than many people. I have Facebook , but do not broadcast the personal details of my live very often. I am more like to post what I am working on, pass on interesting articles, and solicit advice. I do enjoy that it connects me to family and friends more than I could otherwise. However, Twitter has some advantages over Facebook I was unaware of until I joined this week. I like that I can follow the designers and design firms I am inspired by. It seems to put me so much closer to them and their thoughts than any other medium I have found to date. That is perhaps the biggest benefit I can see. I stand a better chance to connect with them directly than I could any other way. It also seems to be a great way to view work and articles that intrigue me. The other items we tested out this week were great, but none seemed to have as much potential as Twitter to expand my personal learning network as Twitter does.

After completing the Popplet of my personal learning network, I believe I do a pretty good job of seeking out avenues for learning and growth. I have always actively pursued learning, whether a required situation or just personal interest. I read extensively from articles about pop culture to fiction to academic writing. I always try to seek out more information about things I am interested in whether from the Internet, people I know, classes, or any other method that gets me access to information. While some people are reluctant to branch out, I try to keep pushing myself to try and do new things even when they scare me. It is often uncomfortable and sometimes involves making a fool of myself, but I feel far more energized from these pursuits than anything else.

Starting this degree program represents an effort to increase my knowledge on this subject and to push myself further in an area I already was gaining some knowledge in.  I find I am already inspired by the first few weeks of this course. It has challenged me to branch out and connected me with people I might not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with in everyday life. I am already pushing myself to change up activities in my online class to better engage students. I used pinterest and an online word mapping program to have them actually do the research process for graphic design this week instead of just write about it. I feel the classes in this program will help me strength this area of my personal learning network as well as grow as a person and an educator.


Learning to Play the Guitar: Week 1

This first week of learning has been enlightening. There were a number of things I didn’t even think about needing to know. I’m using a variety of videos from YouTube’s Howcast channel to begin my learning process. I found a series of 19 videos that seem to cover the basics. The first video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdbRXlku0EE. I may need to add additional sources as I go.

So far, I’ve learned the parts of a guitar, how to hold the guitar, how to hold a pick, how to tune the guitar, the basic chords, and began to work on scales. My biggest surprise was I was wrong about how to hold the guitar. I was holding it backwards. It felt more natural that way and seemed logical to use my dominant hand for the trickier part of pressing down the strings.  It may prove more difficult than I thought to do this.


Image from www.stepbystep.com

I also have decided on the song I would like to learn. I plan to learn “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White Tees. The song is guitar heavy so I think it makes a good choice. It also has personal significance to me. I have located several videos demonstrating how to play it. However, I need to master the basics first.

I have had a number of expected challenges and a number I did not plan for. I need to figure out how to work past these in order to be successful at this project.

Expected Challenges

  • I was told the guitar needed tuning. However, I neglected to realize what a challenge this would be. I watched a video on how to do it, but it relied on my ability to distinguish between sounds. Unfortunately, this is a major problem for me as one consequence of my hearing loss tends to be the ability to distinguish between sounds. I know this may pose a problem, but didn’t expect it to come so quickly. I was about ready to violate the rules and ask the guitar teacher at the college to tune it. I finally located a program I could download called Pitch Perfect. All I have to do is strum the chord and the computer records the sound to tell me how far off I am. I continue you adjusting the string until I get to the right place. I have had several color-blind students before and often wondered why they chose a field where that could prove to be a major impediment to success. I can now see how they could find a way with the technology we have today to overcome it.
  • My dexterity is a little limited due to some issues with arthritis starting so my ability to grip can be compromised at times. I also have trouble holding on to things tightly as I will need to do. Along with this, my hands seem to be a little small and stubby to grasp the guitar. I’m working on it.
  • I have challenges with hand eye coordination that I have never successfully overcome. I’m hoping this might help with the processing.

Unexpected Challenges

  • I didn’t think through the fact that I tend to have free time at the hours when normal people are sleeping. This fact cuts down on practice time as I live in an apartment and prefer not to annoy my neighbors.
  • It hurts my fingers to push on the strings. For some reason, I did not foresee this problem.
  • My dog is terrified of the guitar. The below photo is her trying to hide from me. I know my playing is not good, but even the sight of me touching the guitar has her running for cover.


CEP 810:PLN Popplet

This week we were asked to create a Popplet of our personal learning network (PLN). Here is mine. (Popplet was as easy to use as advertised.) I think I do a pretty good job building a network. Whenever I’m interested in something new, I start by finding someone I know who has knowledge or, if that doesn’t work, I search the web. From there, I continue to build new connections. My latest interest has been letterpress printing. I always liked it from reading about it, but the movie Typeface really got me motivated to find out more. I went to the museum listed in the movie and from there have started taking classes, joining online communities, and even bought my own proof press.


CEP 810: Learning to Play an Acoustic Guitar

This project proved more difficult than I thought. I went through a divorce a few years ago and in the wake of it, I went on a spree of doing and learning things I had always wanted to as a kind of therapy. Subsequently, I’m left with little I still want to learn beyond a foreign language. YouTube and help forums did not strike me as an ideal way to learn a language.  I also eliminated anything where someone I knew was an expert because I knew I would be too tempted to ask him or her if I got frustrated. So, I posted on Facebook to get suggestions as nothing sprung to mind.  I counted on friends and family members to offer helpful suggestions. Many were not. I finally narrowed down my options to juggling and playing the guitar. Both seemed challenging enough and engaging enough to keep me interested. Plus, both seemed like they may provide for excellent future stories. As a friend offered to let me borrow her guitar, I decided that learning to play an acoustic guitar was the winner. It seems like it will provide a sufficient challenge. I have the added challenge that I am deaf in one ear so sound dependent activities like playing an instrument can be difficult. My goal is to learn the basic chords and hopefully a song. I have no idea what song at the moment, but a relatively simple one is the most attainable goal. This should be interesting or at least very entertaining to watch.

The guitar I was loaned to use for this project.

The guitar I was loaned to use for this project.

CEP 810 Week 1: Learning, Understanding and Conceptual Change Essay

The start of each semester brings the challenge of evaluating a new group of students to determine what they already know, what challenges they may have, and what they want from the course. The students come to the course with a range of reading, writing, and technology skills. While I have a plan in place, it needs to be flexible to adjust for each group of students. As the authors of How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School note, “teachers must draw out and work with the preexisting understandings that their students bring with them (p. 19).” This is especially important when dealing with adult learners who bring such a wide range of skills, education, and experience to the classroom. The process of learning can be fraught with deeply held beliefs about how things are and the students’ own abilities or shortcomings. The challenge lies in finding ways to connect with each student and draw upon their existing knowledge to make meaningful connections to the new material.

Until the latter half of the twentieth century, education was predominately limited to essential skills like reading, writing, and math (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 4). However, education has evolved to focus more on problem solving and applying the basic skills to other situations. Students no longer just add numbers. Instead, students take those basic skills and apply them to budgeting and price comparisons. With this change, learning becomes a more active process where the students do not just passively listen to lectures. Students now take an active role in the learning process.

Technology often assists instructors in enriching the student experience. Many publishers offer interactive tools for instructors to use in their classrooms that allow students to interpret the information in new ways and offer simulations students may not otherwise have access to. These new tools can lead to great success with students, as noted by the authors of How People Learn. They cite a study where the use of an interactive computer physics tool with sixth graders leads them to perform better than eleventh and twelfth graders taught through traditional methods (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 21). The use of technology in the classroom shows potential to help make connections and assist students in transferring knowledge to new situations successfully while also offering the benefit of a more active learning experience.

Moreover, a teacher must consider the difference in the students gaining “useable knowledge” versus just memorizing a set of facts to pass an exam (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 9). Too often students and teachers focus more on the ability to pass an exam rather gaining the knowledge at a level that demonstrates understanding. Instead, a better goal might be to focus on the why of learning. For students to truly understand the material, they need to connect with what application the material has in their everyday lives. For example, Algebra seems like an overwhelming and daunting task when using abstract concepts and letters. However, when you frame the same material in more practical form like budgeting to see what one may afford, a student is more likely to see the value of that material and work to learn it.

Perhaps the most significant lesson from the reading, especially when considering the use of technology in the classroom, stems from the need to account for cultural differences, whether from race, class, or gender. The authors’ cite a number of instances where cultural differences between African-Americans and Caucasians can impact the perception of the learner and how the learner approaches information (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 73). While technology dominates all aspects of modern life, there are clear differences in the level of access to and experience with technology that can be tied to the environments in which students grow up. In my experience, the ability to use and successfully understand technology is directly tied to a student’s economic standing. Poorer students tend to struggle more than wealthier students due less access to technology. Teachers who do not realize these differences may run into the same issue the authors mentioned relating to race, namely perceiving students’ abilities as lesser because of this deficit. The lack of access to or inability to understand the use of technology could also pose the problem of preventing students from successfully completing assignments. This can, in turn, increase the students’ frustration with the experience and subsequently reduce their enthusiasm and motivation, essential parts of effective learning. A balance between the benefits of this technology and the hurdles faced by using technology must be found to employ it effectively in the learning process.

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368