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[A to Z] Week 2 Thoughts

13 Apr

This week, I had a lot of posts that were not novels, which is a departure from what I usually post. I really appreciate library school classes forcing me to read and evaluate resources outside of my comfort zone.

Growing up, I read nonfiction and magazines and things, but I didn’t consider it reading unless I was engrossed deep in the pages of a novel. It felt more like how I read when I read online these days. I can see how different kinds of resources (like websites, DVDs, and databases) can be helpful in different contexts though, so I’m glad I was forced to seek them and review them for my classes.

For those of you who are participating, I hope you’re having a great A to Z so far! We’re halfway through~ :D

[A to Z] Week 1 Thoughts

6 Apr

Whew. Week one of the A to Z challenge was an eventful week, even after scheduling my posts in advance. The last week in March was pretty busy, so I didn’t even start scheduling my posts until 1 am on April 1st. Then, at around 1 am on the 2nd, I realized that I had scheduled my posts for 12 pm, not 12 am, so I had to go back and change subsequent posts. I was also reminded that on a blog, people like to click on things, so I had to go back and add links to my first week of pre-scheduled posts, as well.

But, I also hit a few blog milestones. I passed my 100th post and now have over 60 followers! Thanks to everyone who has made this possible! ♥♥♥

I also picked up enough books from the library to round out the rest of the alphabet, so now I just have to read and review them. (Easier said than done, but that’s why I picked up some picture books :D )

Anyway, I hope you’re all having fun with the challenge this year, and I hope you’ll stick around! Every year I resolve to post more on this blog, but I have a good feeling about this year! (I still have a ton of reviews to post from my class…)

Quote

[Quote] Laurence Yep

12 Dec

…In science fiction and fantasy, children leave the everyday world and go to a strange place where they have to learn a new language and new customs. Science fiction and fantasy were about adapting, and that was something I did every day…

Laurence Yep, in an interview with Scholastic students

In the same interview, he also talks about how he’s an anime fan (scroll down to the bottom to see this part). :D I wonder how long ago the interview was published…?

[A to Z] Reflections Post

6 May

I know it’s a bit early, but I’m in the middle of finishing up my final paper for one class and a final project for another, so I know I”ll forget about adding it to the linky list if I don’t do it now…

I had a great time with A to Z, and I will definitely be returning next year. I was able to schedule all of my posts for all of them, so I finished a few days early towards the end. It was my first time using scheduled posts, but I think I will definitely be using them again in the future. I liked choosing the time they would be published (you can’t tell from the posts themselves, but I scheduled it so that on April 1, it posted at 12:01, April 2 at 12:02 and so on).

I tried really hard to visit at least five blogs every day towards the beginning of the challenge, but I had a hard time finding five blogs to comment on every day. About halfway through, though, school kicked in, and I started running out of buffer, so I switched my focus to writing the posts instead of visiting blogs. I was happy that there were daily visitors to my blog, since I had just started it in January and didn’t have a chance to post many entries yet. My main goal for doing this challenge was to get a good number of reviews up on the site so that I could fill out some of the links for my booklists (which I will be doing as I finish up finals).

Next year, since I’ll have more advanced notice, I hope to schedule all my posts ahead of time so I can focus on visiting blogs throughout the month. I haven’t decided what to blog on yet, but it will definitely be something book-related. Thanks for a great April, A to Z!

Guadalupe Garcia McCall

3 Feb

Guadalupe Garcia McCall just got tons of recognition for Under the Mesquite, her novel about the Mexican American experience told through verse. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but something she said in an interview really struck me:

Being a teacher colors my writing in a way that I can’t deny. As a teacher, I feel an enormous responsibility to my students. I see my students as my most important audience members, and so I have to produce work that I can share with them, work that enriches their lives, work that mirrors their world and helps them find themselves in life.

I noticed a lot of the same sentiments as I was doing Nanowrimo last year, which encourages me to keep writing even through my busy schedule now. Now that I’m getting my MLIS, I have even more things to think about while writing. I don’t think I’ll ever find the “perfect” thing to write about, but all I can do is write what I have.

I would love to have a cover as beautiful as the one for Under the Mesquite someday, though:

Education in the 21st Century

22 Jan

The New York Times had a couple of interesting articles recently about the changing needs of students in education and how education has been changing (or not) in recent years in response to those changes.

When I graduated college, I had absolutely no desire to go back to school. Now that I’ve been out of school for a while, though, I have a different attitude towards my own education and education in general. I agree with much of what Lawrence Summers says in “What You (Really) Need to Know,” and it has had an effect on my own educational choices. I also appreciated his reference to The Canterbury Tales, since as a freshman English major, I had to memorize the first 18 lines in Middle English. It was one of the more interesting (and surprisingly useful) parts of my undergraduate education, but other parts were closer to what is described in “Blogs vs. Term Papers.”

I think the reasoning behind making students write term papers is valid, but I was one of those students who hated writing papers all through college, and I chose my classes based on how many pages I would be required to write. I didn’t enjoy the in-class tests much either, although at least I could get those over with faster.

I didn’t realize until much later that while I enjoyed (and still enjoy) learning, I had a hard time seeing the point in much of what I was expected to do in college. I don’t think any of my time was wasted in college, but I think it would have been less painful had I understood how what I was doing was going to help me in the long run.

When I was in Japan, I had no trouble studying eight hours a day for the JLPT because I had a specific goal in mind–to pass the test, and more importantly, to be able to communicate with the people around me. Even now, starting my MLIS degree, I am a lot more motivated to do the work because I can see the real-life applications of my assignments. I care much more about education that is, as Dr. Summers put it, “more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it.”

Now that I’m on the teaching side, I get frustrated when my students turn in organized, formulaic essays that look polished, but don’t show much thought. I can tell that they don’t enjoy writing them, and I don’t like having to read and grade them, either. I want to show them that writing is not a chore, and I don’t want them to have to wait until after graduating from college to figure that out (like I did).

They have been taught to start and end paragraphs a certain way, and the smart ones quickly figure out the most painless way to write one. Most are more concerned about how many sentences they have to have in each paragraph than about what they are actually trying to say. Their teachers at school rarely encourage them to think deeper than that; instead, the teachers praise them for being able to follow directions, so these students end up thinking that writing is about following formulas.

While I think that it is important for students to know how to write a 5-paragraph essay, I think it’s also important for them to be able to express themselves in an engaging and interesting way. As a long-time participant of Nanowrimo, I have over the years collected different ways to foster free-form writing, and I can see how writing blogs would be beneficial for students in helping them to enjoy the process of writing.

At the same time, I see how many students who have a poor grasp of basic writing skills have an even harder time writing effectively in non-traditional writing situations. For those students, having a structure to follow helps them write longer and more coherent paragraphs and essays. I believe it is the job of the teacher to provide the structure for good writing and then encourage the students to make the writing their own.

When I was in high school, I had a hard time with the SAT Writing test, so my parents sent me to the Princeton Review to help improve my writing score. I learned how to write an essay in 20 minutes that was basically all organization with very little content. Their formula did help me improve my score, and I think this kind of organization helps especially with standardized writing tests where there is a time limit. However, looking back, I think that I would have been able to get a higher score on my essay had I been encouraged to do more than just write to their formula.

I have been a long-time believer that nothing can replace reading when it comes to building vocabulary, but recently, I have come to see how reading can encourage students to write better, too. Had I realized this connection earlier, I may have had more confidence in my own writing and not depended so much on the formula that Princeton Review taught me. Reading not only expands the imagination, but it also exposes students to new words and sentence structures that they would not otherwise even think about using.

One of the best writers in my class has a hard time with grammar, but she can write vivid descriptions with varied sentence structures (two things that the CST graders value highly when scoring writing tests). My students who don’t read as much might have better grammar and spelling, but they tend to produce cookie-cutter sentences that are not nearly as interesting to read. These students would get points for organization, but may lose points for not being engaging (like I suspect happened with my own writing test).

When I was growing up, I always loved reading, but I was always content to let others struggle through the process of actually doing the writing. The idea of writing a 20-page term paper is still daunting to me, but I enjoy writing a lot more now than I ever thought I would.

Teamwork

9 Jan

I may be in the minority here, but I have always enjoyed teamwork. I like having people cover for my weaknesses, and it’s always nice to have people to bounce ideas off of. I feel like working with other people to complete a project lets me focus on my strengths, and encourages others to do the same, resulting in a better product than if I were to do the whole thing on my own.

The problem with teamwork in an online environment is that you don’t know the people you’re working with. When I have been involved in team projects in the past, even if my team members were not my friends, I have usually had a good idea of their strengths and weakness. I know who will do their part without being asked and who will need some extra reminders to finish their work on time. For me, this comes naturally from observing people in the classroom, and I’ve gotten to practice it even more as a teacher watching my students interact with the material and each other.

But with an online team, there is no real opportunity to see how a person acts outside of the team setting or outside of a particular class unless you create it. I actually purposefully did not sign up for LIBR 202 because I saw from looking at the course information that I would be required to work in teams, and I wanted a chance to get used to online learning before having to do teamwork online as well. After listening to some lectures specifically about teamwork, though, it doesn’t seem so intimidating anymore.

Dr. Ken Haycock of SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science says that the key to a successful team is having a group goal with individual accountability. This means that there has to be a consensus within the team about what it hopes to achieve with a system of accountability like a peer assessment at the end to make sure everyone does their part. I have participated in goal setting and performance evaluation meetings in the past, and while I think they are definitely helpful in improving the final result, I think that it is also very important to get to know your team members in order to facilitate planning and the decision-making process when coming up with the goal and the accountability system.

In an online context, this means that I read as much of the discussions and posts in a forum or on the class website as I can, even if I’m not directly involved in the conversation. I try to participate in discussions and contribute to the online communities I am a part of. Sometimes trying to balance an online and a “real” social life can get a little overwhelming, but I’ve been recharging and gathering new material for about a year now, so I’m ready to get back into it!

Life Beyond Cyberspace

8 Jan

Did you know?

William Gibson invented the term cyberspace — and this definition for it — in his book Neuromancer, the original cyberpunk novel.

–from the endnotes for Netiquette by Virginia Shea

I think I had heard this somewhere before, but I saw it again in one of my readings for class today, which happened to come from this book.

I have spent about half my life using the internet actively in some form or another, starting with an AOL free trial that I coerced my parents into signing up for before starting high school so that I could email my friends. I learned how to type and use a computer even earlier than that, playing Mavis Beacon and typing up my science fair projects in elementary school on Lotus.

So when I see questions like “Are you comfortable using a mouse?” on the Online Learning Readiness Assessment that I was linked to in my first class for my MLIS degree, I do a double take. Then I think about people like my mom, for whom it is a great accomplishment just to send an email.

The thing is, I don’t even use a mouse anymore. My primary computer has been a laptop for the past ten years. And ever since Apple introduced gestures with multi-touch technology into their products, I’ve been using my trackpad for so much more than just pointing and clicking.

So yes, of course I am comfortable using a mouse. Yes, I use word processing software all the time.

I know the site is just making sure that we have the minimum skills needed to access and complete online courses, but some of the answers made me wish for more… accuracy. Yes, I have my own email account. In fact, I have more than one. I have lots. Yes, I browse the web all the time. I have an iPhone with unlimited data.

The technology around me has become so invisible that I don’t even notice that I’m using it.

I felt like it had been so long since I’d learned new technology that I worried about the information overload I anticipated from learning the different technologies associated with this degree. Just getting this WordPress blog to look the way I wanted it to made me wish for the simpler days before Web 2.0. And then I viewed my blog on my phone, and none of the edits I made mattered anymore.

We’re already moving beyond Web 2.0. Technology is constantly changing, and (especially for Mac users like me), it’s getting more and more intuitive. I’m learning new and more efficient ways to interact with the world around me using technology every day, but most of the time, I don’t realize that I’ve learned something new until I think about it in retrospect.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my phone. I tell my smart journal Path that I’m awake, and then I check my email and whatever “virtual life” game(s) I am currently playing. My current one is Kawaii Pet Megu, based on the Tamagotchi virtual pets that were popular when I was in middle school. The process reverses at night when I get ready for bed, as I check everything one last time and then tell Path that I’m going to sleep.

Life was definitely not always like this, but I can’t really remember when it became “this.” Was it when I installed Path on my iPhone? When I first got an iPhone? When I first got a computer?

But since I’m already so integrated into cyberspace, it’s not that hard for me to add “check class updates” to my morning (and evening, and basically all day) routine. I usually have multiple browser windows with multiple tabs open on my computer, sometimes on more than one computer. And since a lot of the content for my classes is optimized for mobile browsers, I can do my reading and check the discussion posts whenever I have downtime (waiting in line, etc.) or when I first wake up in the morning and don’t want to put on my glasses to look at the computer…

I still can’t create Word documents and upload them from my phone, though, so I have to actually sit down and do the assignments on my laptop. It takes a little more discipline, but so far, I’ve found that it’s very similar to when I am freelancing. I’m responsible for my own schedule, but I have a deadline when I need to get the product (in this case, the assignment) uploaded or emailed to the client. This is especially true because the majority of my freelance work is done online, and I rarely meet my clients in person.

What is interesting to me is how my attitude toward school has changed from when I was an undergraduate. When I was at Yale, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, and I was just doing what I had to do to get my degree. I chose classes that I thought would be interesting, but in the end, it felt like I was just choosing the lesser of (multiple) evils. I had a great experience in college, but I feel like my attitude toward the academic part of it was not as focused as it could have been.

It’s different now that I have a goal I’m working towards. There are still a lot of uncertainties with where I’ll end up, but I feel like there are so many interesting and exciting possibilities that are available to me once I earn my degree. (I keep staring at the internships page wondering when I’ll get my turn to try a few.) I am pleasantly surprised to find that many of the assignments themselves are encouraging me to really think deeper about why we’re doing all this and how everything connects to the real world. Instead of just completing assignments to get them done, I really have a sense of ownership over everything that I’m producing.

This is only my first week taking online classes, though, and so far, the material has been very interesting and not too challenging. I hope I can remain this positive about my classes when I have to write that paper at the end of the semester…

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