This semester has been a very interesting foray into the realm of innovation. There are a few different ways in which I have been innovative throughout this class. The first way I have been innovative is in the way that I have been asked to broaden my creative repertoire. Daily creates have required me to expand my skill set beyond what it used to be and has encouraged me to continue to do so throughout the rest of my life. There is more than one way to look at, represent, and appreciate the world, and daily creates have ensured that I recognize this as a tangible fact rather than an abstract concept. Continuing along that vein, I have been introduced to new and exciting forms of technology, both hardware and software, through this class and its assignments. The combination of daily creates, personal learning networks, and professional connections through social media have ensured that I have a pool of resources to draw from that is both wide and deep.
To my mind, innovation has many forms within the realm of learning. It can take the form of a student finding new ways to understand information such as a new piece of technology or a new pattern of thinking. Innovation could be a student taking the initiative to make change in their communities or their lives. In my opinion, an innovation does not have to be large at all to be meaningful. For instance, it can be as much as a student trying out flashcards to aid in their learning when they had never done so before, or it can be as much as spearheading an effort to create a sustainable community garden. With that being said, I have to keep in mind this quote from Couros, “I will focus on what is possible today and where I can push to lead towards tomorrow.”
I do not really know if there is anything I have “unlearned” this semester as per the definition established in this blog post. However, that is not to say that there are still things left for me to unlearn. To be fair, if I really had to pick something that I have unlearned this semester, or had help unlearning through the things I have learned this semester, it would be the dynamics of classroom management. While there are numerous different theories about how to best handle a class, the only true takeaway is that you have to find what works for each class each day. It is one thing to have a good routine, but it is completely another to have a good routine that is flexible and adaptive as necessary.
In regards to the social media and tech tools that I will use in the future with my class, I like the thought of my students using WordPress to keep a classroom blog. I want my students to be able to keep a blog about their thoughts and opinions as we go through the classwork and the lessons and I want the students to be able to interact with each other. This will also serve as a record of their progress as they improve upon their writing and their thinking.
As I continue to strive towards my goal of becoming an educator, there are still many things for me to learn and unlearn along the way. Therefore, I must be prepared to be innovative at every step and embrace all opportunities for creativity in thought and action.
This week was interesting. I would definitely have to say that it is not a very accurate representation of my internet usage and habits when I have better access to wi-fi and my schedule is not so messed up. What my journal told me this week was that my schedule has been not been conducive at all to staying on top of homework and keeping up with assignments. The combination of heat and storms made it so that the internet signal was spotty at best and completely non-existent at worst. I had to restart my phone multiple times this week so that it would resynchronize, or whatever, with the available cellphone service so that I could have some sort of connectivity rather than none.
Even with such efforts being made, I still did not get as much done as I wanted to when I wanted to because I had to spend most of my time this week in my grandparents’ garden picking produce and pulling grass. Due to their conditions, they are unable to take care of the garden as it needs to be taken care of, especially when the rainfall is managing to stay far enough away that absolutely none hits the garden, but it still stays close enough to mess with the cell service and wi-fi connectivity. It has been even more important this week because the fair is on Monday. Every year my grandfather chooses the best produce from his garden to compete with and oftentimes wins numerous blue ribbons. It is a nice hobby for him to have, but it is difficult for him to maintain because his chemotherapy and radiation sap his energy and make him unable to be out in the heat and the sunlight for any extended period of time. He tried to do so last week and got a sunburn that looked like a massive bruise spanning the entirety of his arms.
When I have better connectivity and availability, I tend to stay more up-to-date with current events, I schedule my homework times better and able to stay more focused as I have the freedom to take short breaks and return to my assignments as I need to. Even though the data rolled over while I am staying with my mother, she gets antsy when I use it for any length of time longer than fifteen minutes because the amount is not enough for trying to keep up with a college class. When I get back to Chadron, part of my goal for this upcoming school year is to have a budget that allows me to have internet at my apartment rather than being limited to the internet on campus and at the local library. If that happens, I will definitely need to be mindful of my usage and make sure that I am being moderate and conscientious.
This week we focused on digital mindfulness within this module, and at first I thought it was about thinking before speaking… you know, to align with the previous modules of digital citizenship and digital activism. However, it turned out to be more of how we think and feel about technology and while we use technology.
One of the prompts suggested in the assignment sheet was whether or not I feel that I use technology mindfully. For the most part, I do feel that I use technology mindfully. I always try to stick to sites that I know are safe and secure, and I always make sure that my antivirus software is up-to-date and functioning correctly. I always password protect my accounts and make sure that they all have enough complexity to avoid being hacked or spoofed. On the other hand, I oftentimes stay up much later than I should while using technology which is rather unhealthy. As a result, I end up losing sleep because it becomes difficult to fall asleep even after I have stopped using the technology.
The second prompt is to discuss when we feel that we need to be more attentive. Personally, I have a really bad habit of becoming distracted by technology when I should be focusing on homework. The most common occurrence is that I am trying to look something up but become distracted by news and other current events. The next thing I know is that I am trying to learn exactly why giraffes have those nubbins on the tops of their heads. Other than that, I would like to think that I am pretty attentive. I think this comes from a childhood and adolescence spent without the luxury of internet service, so I have never really felt it to be an overwhelming presence in my life.
Stemming from that train of thought, there are times when technology impacts the relative attentiveness of the people that use it. For instance, I spent a semester sitting next to a classmate that would trawl the internet rather than pay attention in class and did poorly on tests and assignments as a result of it. I have also seen parents and caregivers be inattentive around young children which can be incredibly dangerous and result in injury or even loss of life. To this end, I personally know a parent who almost let their baby choke because they were too busy watching television to pay attention to their young child. As it stands, we need to stop multitasking when it becomes a detriment to the wellbeing of ourselves and others. We lose the ability to be fully aware of the important things when we allow ourselves to be too sucked in by technology in favor of reality.
Conclusively, the articles, Simplify the Internet and What Happens When Teens Try to Disconnect from the Internet for Three Days, and the TED talk (embedded below) this week taught me that we need moderation. I do not necessarily agree with the argument that we are entrenched by our technology to the point of really missing anything. The only time we miss anything is when we do not care enough to catch it. Technology has allowed us to immortalize moments that would have otherwise been restricted to faulty memory. It has allowed us to save more lives through improved medicine and medical technology. Social media has allowed us to connect with people and places that would have never before been possible without technology. Frankly, to my mind it has done far more harm than good and is so rooted through our society and our lives that rather than trying to cut it out completely as some sort of “challenge”, the best thing is to learn and practice moderation and self-control. I understand that these articles and the Ted Talk were really only referring to the Internet, but far too many people in my life have tried to take the argument against Internet and extend it to an argument against all technology. I get to hear things like “I should have been born in a different time” and the “What happened to being self-sufficient” arguments far too much, but I would not be alive if it was not for technology. Additionally, such arguments are all fun and games until reality kicks in with the diseases and the hardships and the drawbacks that technology has circumvented.
For this particular assignment I chose to explore the digital tool “Piktochart”. There was no particular reason why I chose to use this one rather than the canvas tool other than it was the first one I typed into the web address bar. As I quickly came to realize, using Piktochart is a lot more difficult than the tech review in this week’s readings would have you think. At first I was excited because there were so many online templates to choose from which simplifies the learning and usage process immensely when you are unfamiliar with a tool, but then I discovered that ninety percent (arbitrary number) of the templates were only available if you had shelled out money for the “pro membership”. Luckily, there was a filter that allowed me to look only at the free templates which narrowed my choices to around eight options.
Since the website suggested that I use one of their templates to practice with and turn into my first graphic, that is what I did. My first attempt was a rough mock-up of a poster for a club event. Since I am a member of the Social Science Club at Chadron State, I used our annual Back-to-School Bash as the inspiration. I chose a template and then began to play around with the capabilities. The site seemed to function much like Adobe InDesign where you arrange pieces with it rather than trying to create them using it. Therefore, for anyone who decides to stick with Piktochart I would recommend using Photoshop, or something similar, to fix up and compress any images you decide to use before uploading them into the software for arrangement.
Once I was done, I went to save the project and download it to my laptop. The matter of saving the project was easy as Piktochart allows you to sign up with a free account. However, unless you have the aforementioned pro membership, you are only able to download your projects as a PNG or a JPEG. You are not allowed to save it as a PDF.
After that, I utilized the software to create the graphic for my independent learning project included here.
I think this software, and others like it, are very beneficial to the classrooms of today. One great use would be to make classroom posters and infographics to match what you are doing and what your students are interested rather than settling for something that only kind of fits. Another great use would be to have the students make the infographics either for class, a club, or because they are passionate about something. Not only are the students presenting great information, but they are connecting with other students and community members that share their interests, learning new skills, and being creative. Additionally, in today’s world where everything is saturated with a combination of information and advertisement, infographics best meet the visual needs of the people. The information is made to be clear and concise while the images are carefully chosen to accurately represent and emphasize that text (and vice versa).
How are teens using social media in their activism?
Teens are using social media because it is what they know and what, to some extent, belongs to them. During the Revolutionary War, people used newspapers and brochures to further their cause, but that has become an outdated format. Then people used radio to spread information during World War I and World War II in order to galvanize the people against injustice. With the advent of television, that too has become a method of movement. However, newspaper, radio, and television have now become controlled by large corporations who want to not only control what you say but also how you say it.
Corporations historically have built their success on the backs of the oppressed and the disenfranchised, but now the Internet is giving those people a voice. I know many of you have watched Fox News and have, hopefully, been disgusted by how they speak about women, immigrants, LGBTQIA+, and other groups. Those groups then went out and fought back through the Internet. How many of you would have known that Trump’s campaign manager had assaulted a female reporter without the Internet? How many of you would have then known that CNN went and hired that same man after he was fired from Trump’s inner circle?
Teens are using the Internet because it is a vast resource that allows them to connect with people from all walks of life who want to support the cause in any way they can. GoFundMe was a major resource for Kesha during her battle with Sony and Dr. Luke because loyal fans, sympathizers, and strangers alike sent money and kind messages to help her with the legal costs. Without teens and digital activism, none of that would have been possible.
How Effective is that Activism?
While I have heard many people speak derisively about “Tumblrinas” and how pointless Internet activism is, many of those same people mindlessly consume information from the major media corporations about the same issues. However, they fail to realize that the major media corporations spin the stories, ignore opposing viewpoints and conflicting information, and even outright lie at times because of their special interests. Major media corporations have become too concerned with what will up their ratings, what will keep their bosses in power, and what is the most “attention-grabbing” to be the unbiased fact-checkers they should be. Therefore, most of the time the naysayers are just regurgitating the negative things they have heard from the same people who would see their special interests harmed if Internet activism was respected as the effective tool that it is.
Have I Participated as a Digital Activist?
I have begun to build my repertoire as a digital activist within the past few years. I personally donated to the Kesha fund, do intense amounts of research about important issues to make sure that I know enough to speak knowledgeably about multiple topics, and try to keep up-to-date on current events and trending petitions on the Internet.
Key Issues to Consider
While the Internet is a great resource, it is important that you know how to use it correctly. Remember back in high school when your teachers taught you about reliable versus unreliable digital sources? Those skills come in handy when determining the relative validity of Internet information. Also, it is important to find out who is running the information you are looking at and whether or not the facts have been doctored to meet any special interests. Always look at the opposing viewpoint and cross-reference everything.
At this point in my independent learning project, I have, for the most part, completed what looks to be like the first row of my blanket. I have tried really hard to keep up with the project and the class, but I am going to be completely honest. This summer has been incredibly difficult. Everything that could have gone wrong this summer has, and I do not feel as though I have done as well as I could with the project and with the class as a whole. Therefore, I apologize for not being as engaged with the class and everyone involved with it as I should have been.
Regardless, I have managed to complete most of a row, or most of, most of a row if I want it to be bigger, of the blanket and am trying to decide if I want the small gaps in the design to remain open or if I want to fill them with additional squares. If I do fill them with additional squares, I was thinking something along the lines of white, blue, or more red. Since the blanket is for my mother, I asked for her opinion. She said that she liked the idea of the red, but that the blue would also be really good since it would be reminiscent of KU’s colors. For those of you who do not know, KU stands for “Kansas University” which is the major college really close to where I am from. Their mascot is the Jayhawk and their colors are red and blue. My mother is rather a fan of them and even attended the college for a semester right out of high school.
As such, at some point I am going to have to go out and purchase blue yarn to complete the project, but that is probably going to have to wait for a while. At this point, it looks like my mother and my younger brother might have to move in with me, but that it is a relative uncertainty as to when that will happen. It is clear that it will happen, but the question now is when. Right now, I am having to take some of my mother’s more treasured possessions back with me when I go back to Chadron. As it stands, I am going to have to take my mother’s vanity, a couple of nightstands, books, and miscellaneous objects that she wants to keep in good condition and put them in my spare bedroom. This is because not only is the house’s basement infested with brown recluse spiders, but it also leaks, has mold, and is home to multiple vermin.