Breath of Life

Breath of Life

Why must we see fault and lay blame on anything and everything EXCEPT what is truly at fault and deserves the blame? It’s not the guns, it’s not the stated belief system, it’s not where you or I or the shooter came from or our ancestry! It’s the spirit of fear, hatred, anger, spite and difference and the violence that spirit incites in the hearts and minds of men. I may never understand hatred and violence, but I do understand this simple fact: very few of us actually, truly “love our neighbors as ourselves”!

I wrote the statement above a year ago today as a way to process the senseless deaths of 49 beautiful souls; 49 children of God. I didn’t know a single one of them and yet my world was and is diminished by their loss. In the year since, more souls from Syrian refugees and Coptic Christians to Nice and Westminster, from Manchester to London, from Somalia to the Philippines, from one end of America to the other have been lost to senseless fear, hatred and violence. Again, I haven’t personally known a single soul lost to this violence and yet my world is diminished.

We grow up understanding that the opposite of love is hate, that hate is the feeling, force or spirit we need to fight and protect ourselves against. Perhaps, but in the timeless words of that great philosopher, Yoda: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” Fear. Fear is far more dangerous, far more deadly. Fear leads us to flee, to do stupid things, to anger and hatred, to travel the path of the Dark Side. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is the spirit we need to fight and protect ourselves from. I don’t mean fear as we feel in the fear of heights or spiders, although those fears can lead us to do stupid things that could get us hurt or killed. I don’t even mean the fear of the unknown. We can handle those fears and work through them. What of the fear of what we think we know? What of the fears we are taught and believe even when evidence proves otherwise? What of the fear of ourselves? These are the fears we need to fight. This is the spirit that is the antithesis of love.

Fear is common, ordinary, vulgar, reactionary. Love, true unabashed unconditional love, is uncommon, extraordinary, refined, revolutionary. Love is the rainbow in the sky after a deluge. Love is the beauty of a clear blue sky. Love is the purring of a cat on your lap or the wag of the dog’s tail as you walk in the door after a long day at work. Love is a heart open to the light and beauty held in the darkest of fears. Love is a man born for the sole purpose of granting us grace for the sins borne of our fears. Love is faith in that grace sight unseen. Love is the breath of life.

Journey

A great teacher once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

 

My journey begins

The mazes of my mind pulling at me with the fingers of memory,

Calling to me with the voices of ages past.

My feet search in the darkness for the first step

Of the spiral staircase loretto-chapel-stairs

Leading downward away from, nay, TOWARD

A deeper knowledge!

 

I find the railing

Gently tracing the turning of the wood with my fingertips

As I step down

Searching, seeking the next step

From the darkness of the mind’s maze

Into the light!

 

The light whispers to me

The still, small voice

Of Love.

I strain to hear

Forced to travel on

Deeper down, into the depths

Searching, seeking the next step.

 

Deeper still I travel.

The whisper now a gentle hum surrounding,

Wait, WITHIN me!

My heart beats in time with the hum.

 

I turn down the spiral

Into the beating of my heart.

I reach the last step.

Darkness pushed back by light.

The labyrinth of my soul spread out before me

Encircled and encircling in LOVE!70fae49478696bc3ed50f944c55d0063

Love

1 Corinthians 13

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I am a creature of love. I was created in love, sustained by love, given to God through love, born to joy, and raised by love. I give love. I speak in love. I am love. Or at the very least I try. Real, unabashed, unconditional love.

I have known for many years that I pick up on the emotions of others or just out of the air quite easily-good, bad or indifferent. To say that this is taxing is an understatement. However, it is a large part of who I am, of how I react and interact with my world, of what I learn and how I learn it. It makes me me and is informed by my faith, hope and love. Yet, I do have my limits. Recently I have been struggling to work with what is coming at me at an almost constant pace. I am constantly annoyed, I snap at the drop of a hat over the simplest of things, I sense a dark cloud following me around…and I don’t like it! It’s not me! I’m not my happy, centered self and I aim to change it!

I know that the world is on the brink, that the way of this current world is hatred, anger and divisiveness. I know that there are forces working to eradicate all that has been created, produced and done in love. I know that many feel the only road to take to fix this trend is to use the same tactics being used against them. As President Trump stated the US needed to do earlier this week, many are fighting fire with fire, fear with fear, hatred with hatred, anger with anger, and divisiveness with divisiveness. We are no longer working for a common goal, toward the common good, with the better angels of our nature. We find it easier to work for ourselves, toward what is good for “me”, and against our better angels. We are envious, boastful, proud, dishonorable and dishonoring, self-seeking and self-serving, easily angered, and oh boy do we ever keep records of wrongs! I can no longer participate in this faithless, hopeless, loveless vision of the world. I must return to the arms of love!

Mahatma Gandhi, one of my favorite peacemakers, once said “be the change you want to see in the world.” This is my intention-One person, one moment, one act of love at a time in my little corner of the world. How is this going to help a world in crisis? How is this going to fix the great big problems we face? LOVE! Love grows mustard seeds in the worst of conditions, love moves mountains, and love conquers all! Simple acts of love-openly receiving unsolicited hugs from students who may only see love at school, saying “thank you” to waitresses and store clerks who rarely hear it, giving of myself and my time FOR the benefit of something or someone rather than against, paying and praying it forward. It will not be a quick or easy way to change the world, but it will be my way for “love is patient, love is kind.”

Shared knowledge

I have learned so much from my colleagues over the course of this class and reading through the blogs each week. We all come from different backgrounds and have different goals, which creates a vibrant community of thinkers about technology and its use in the classroom. This has just been amplified by the course content and other assignments. The blog assignments have been a very eye-opening and interesting learning experience. I have found so many new and interesting technologies and thoughts about how to use technology in education that choosing three was difficult. The three I have chosen come from a variety of ideas about and uses for technology.

First, I was intrigued by an application mentioned by Angela Brockman on January 18th (http://angelalovesschool.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/new-applications-for-the-esl-classroom/) called World Lens. With World Lens, ESL students are able to translate the words on street signs or other signs by taking pictures from their cell phones, tablets or iPods. I find this to be a very excellent and useful learning tool to both engage and interest students in their own learning, creating self-directed/directing learners. As Angela mentioned in her post, students become excited and engaged when they are able to learn and grow independently and then show that skill off. World Lens allows them to do this. Also, as Angela mentioned, this application lends itself to class activities such as scavenger hunts. Not only does it lend itself to scavenger hunts where ESL students translate signs and then do what they say (Brockman, 2013) it also lends itself to a history class by combining the translation aspect with studying history. This is how I would use it in my class. As I mentioned in my comment to her, I would use World Lens to create a scavenger hunt activity looking at historical landmarks and markers both to engage students in the history of the area and to help students understand what the markers are saying. By using cellphones and tablets, World Lens makes learning mobile, fun and collaborative. Another way I would use this application is to allow students to find signs that confuse them and then bring in the pictures and translations for discussion. By discussing the signs and the translations we will be able to work as a group to clear any idiomatic misunderstandings. This is important because it is idiomatic language that most confuses ESL students.

Second, I was intrigued by Dennie Coombs-Norman’s discussion of Interactive Whiteboards from January 19th (http://educator1966.blogspot.com/2013/01/emerging-rechnmologies-blogweek-2.html). Interactive Whiteboards open learning by making it collaborative and creative. They offer the ability to work on a particular problem/concept while looking up web-based information regarding that problem/concept. They also allow both students and teachers the ability to be as creative as possible in order to open learning by lowering technological barriers (Richardson, 2010). Technology can either create or remove barriers and the collaboration and creativity of whiteboards will help to remove barriers. With the use of whiteboards in my classroom I can create interactive and creative activities that both build on and challenge my students’ skills and understanding of concepts-activities such as collaborative crosswords to learn vocabulary or video presentations. Whiteboards also allow me to build on and challenge my skills and understanding through creating multisensory activities and learning modules. Although whiteboards are relatively simple to use and create content for, there is still a learning curve for both myself and my students as there is for many technologies. By lowering technological barriers through creativity and collaboration, whiteboards engage learners in the endeavor and make learning fun.

Third, I was intrigued by Flat World Knowledge (http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/) as mentioned by Valerie Richards on February 16th (http://vrichards1980.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/educ-6177-educational-technologies-blog-open-and-distance-education-technologies/). Flat World Knowledge is an open license virtual textbook site that allows students to purchase cheap print copies of textbooks (as low as $30) or access free copies online and instructors the option to change and update textbook content in order to suit the course and how they teach. I was impressed with this site as a student because I remember paying huge sums just for used textbooks during my undergraduate days. As an educator, I am struck by the ability to update and customize textbook content to suit my course needs. Learning and a student’s engagement in it can be complicated by outside frustrations like the price of textbooks this site eliminates that frustration. As I went through the site I was impressed by the fact that there are instructors at my own college currently using the site and saving students and their respective departments thousands of dollars in textbook costs. This is highly important right now as my school is like so many working through the economic downturn and still trying to provide a high quality education to our students. Flat World Knowledge will allow me to customize the textbook to fit my course content rather than fitting my course content around a textbook I might not entirely like or am forced to use. It will also save my students money by letting them access the free online copy or pay for relatively cheap print copies. This type of technology is a great resource for low income communities or schools with limited budgets.

References

www.eschoolnews.com

http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Teich, Anne (200(. Interactive Whiteboards Enhance Classroom Instruction and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.neamb.com.

Digital citizenship and netiquette in our online world

Mike Ribble defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use” (2013). Just like community, national and global citizenship, digital citizenship requires a sense of responsibility and care for yourself and for others in your digital community. These are not necessarily skills we are born with. They are often skills that must be taught and continually reinforced over time. This is what happens as parents and others involved in a child’s life instill morals and ethics in that child. When new technologies come up we often have to teach ourselves or help each other learn the ropes and how to navigate this new landscape. Are the rules and guidelines the same as when we step out of the digital world? Is there a new set of morals that need to be followed? There are any number of websites and online tutorials available to answer these questions. One of those websites is the digital citizenship page of www.nisd.net.

The nisd page follows Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship grouped into three groups similar to his REPs model. The groups are: School environment and Student Behavior (digital rights and responsibilities, digital communication, digital access, digital etiquette, digital security), Student Learning and Academic Performance (digital literacy, digital law), and Student Life Outside the School Environment (digital health and wellness, digital commerce). While this site is primarily made for K-12 educators, there are lesson plans, activities and ideas that can certainly be modified for use with adult learners. They will also be able to take many of these activities and videos back to their families and show them to their children thereby paying their learning forward.  Whether my students are in my class or out in public taking care of their daily business they will have to learn how to handle their digital lives just as they do their offline lives so incorporating the nisd lesson plans into our everyday technological learning will help to make it a seamless transition and give us all the skills necessary to take that learning back to our families.

Just as we have rules of etiquette that we follow as responsible and polite individuals in the offline world, we must also follow rules of etiquette online. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines netiquette as “etiquette governing communication on the Internet”. In most cases this includes following an online version of the Golden Rule: Do unto others online as you would have done unto you. Following good netiquette will help you become a good digital citizen and like digital citizenship there are any number of websites that give a student somewhere to start.  The following websites are good places to start: http://learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4, http://www.networketiquette.net/netiquette.htm and http://suite101.com/article/netiquette-guidelines-a26615. Each of these sites offers something different to the educator and the learner and takes the netiquette discussion in a different direction. Yet each is an excellent source of information. The Colorado State University page borrows the core rules from Virginia Shea’s 1994 book entitled Netiquette. Looking at these 10 rules learners will be reminded that everything starts with remembering there is another human being at the other end of any online communication. That is one of the most important things that can be taught about following good netiquette as good digital citizens. The rules listed on the Colorado State page are similar to those found on the suite101.com website, yet the suite101.com list makes learning the information fun and entertaining and reminds the learner that it is important to use emoticons in order to convey emotions that are otherwise difficult to recognize in written communication. The network etiquette page employs the most entertainment value in order to get the necessity for good netiquette across to those viewing the website. It also defines netiquette by domain making it easy for the learner to understand what is most important in that domain. It even includes an online education definition that is very helpful for those of us who are looking to teach online. What makes this website even more interesting and fun is the netiquette videos that are included. All of these websites are places I would go to share netiquette information with my students and the videos on the network etiquette page will help break the ice and make it a fun topic to discuss. Each page will also create a space where dialogue and learning can take place regarding what is different between one area and another and how culture and domain might change the rules.

http://learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4

http://www.networketiquette.net/netiquette.htm

http://www.nisd.net/digitalcitizen/

http://suite101.com/article/netiquette-guidelines-a26615

Netiquette. (n.d.).  In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/netiquette

Ribble, M. (2013). Nine elements: Nine themes of digital citizenship. Retrieved from http://www.digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html

Open Education Technologies and Resources

Open education is definitely the wave of the educational future. It opens learning to groups of learners that would otherwise be left by the educational wayside. As Charles Vest discusses, “openness in Higher Education is the true spirit of education, democratization, and empowerment” (2010).  This idea, this spirit of democracy and empowerment, was one of the driving forces behind MIT’s 2001 decision to place the content of all 2000 of its courses online for free access and use. As the internet expands and more and more people worldwide have meaningful access to the technology necessary to make open education an option for them  more and more reliable resources are becoming available for use. Whether you are seeking online course content or an online textbook there is a site for that and there very well may be an app for that as well.

MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), based out of California State University, is an online resource library of peer-reviewed higher education teaching and learning materials. Its goal is “to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning by increasing the quantity and quality of peer reviewed online learning materials that can be easily incorporated into faculty designed courses”. Not only is it a place for students to go to grow and learn through excellent resources posted by educators from all over the world it is also a place for educators to come together and learn from each other thereby improving the quality of the material being taught and shared as well as the pedagogy of the educators sharing the material. It carries materials from a number of different areas from academic support and workforce development to the arts and humanities and tools from animations and simulations to drill and practice and online courses. Each of the separate discipline communities include links tips to improve teaching both with and through technology as well as the people involved in the community, learning materials that have been uploaded and reviewed, resources and professional journals and organizations outside of MERLOT and a “showcase” link that highlights favorite sites or winning learning materials or online content. This would be an excellent site both for myself and my students. I could send my students there to look up materials to supplement their learning. I would also be able to bring materials from the site into my teaching thereby expanding everyone’s knowledgebase with fresh information and research while knowing that the material has been vetted and peer reviewed before I ever saw it. It would also be a great resource for me as a first time teacher to gain tips and tricks and build up my pedagogical knowledge by learning from many different colleagues from around the world.

Project Gutenberg is a free eBook site that currently carries 42,000 different books. I have been following Project Gutenberg off and on since the 1990s when the goal was to digitize as many books as possible in order to make them more easily available to the masses and preserve old and fragile volumes for posterity. The historical meaning behind calling it Project Gutenberg was not and never has been lost to me. This project was the first of its kind just as the Gutenberg Bible was the first of its kind. They started out in the simplest of ASCII text formats and have moved up as the internet and technology has improved to HTML, PDF and other formats that make it possible to download the book of your choice to your eReader of choice. This is a wonderful site and a wonderful project that allows books and reading to be brought to the masses with little to no cost. As an educator this is an excellent resource to send students to for free versions of great literature. This would be especially useful to me as an English Literature teacher by giving my students a place to get the books for free rather than paying exorbitant prices at the bookstore for a hard copy that many may never open. As the history teacher I would like to be this would be a great place to send students for eBooks that supplement their understanding of the time period we are studying. There is much that can be gleaned and understood about a society and its leadership and thought patterns through the writings of its authors.

References

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

http://www.merlot.org/merlot/index.htm

MIT TeenTV (Producer). (2010). Open education for an open world [Video file]. Retrieved from http://video.mit.edu/watch/open-education-for-an-open-world-5788/

Video games as learning tools

Games are an amazing way to learn without really knowing it is happening. Games are fun. Games make learning fun. Games allow students to choose how they engage the content and material. With games learners are taken out of the traditional model of learning by rote, having the information shoved into our heads in order to be spewed out later for the test and placed in a world where we are in control of what and how we learn. As adult learners we are well aware that excellent learning, learning that sticks with us and keeps us engaged does not follow a cookie cutter model of rote memorization and doing the same thing in the same way. If we understand this and follow the self-directed model of learning we have been learning about throughout this program we discover that games are indeed one of the best places to learn many things like problem-solving, critical thinking and negotiation skills as well as the desire to continue learning. Game-based learning is often like the Montessori system as discussed by Squire (2011). Many games grow organically based on the natural choices of the gamer just as many Montessori students learn organically based on their natural interests and choices. This makes both gaming and learning “normal” in that they occur naturally rather than “normed” in that they follow a set standard or pattern. Learning in that organic, natural state is like breathing, we don’t realize we are doing it until we stop.

I dream of teaching history at some point in my life and there are many games I would use to help my students engage in a subject that has been poorly taught for many years. These are games I play myself simply for the experience and pleasure they bring me. Many I played in their board game format in high school classes with teachers who were very forward thinking. Many are games I have picked up over the years because of the content and, honestly, the ability to mash up the history even just a little. Two of these games are Diplomacy and Civilization. Diplomacy is a game where you are placed in historical Europe (usually during the Napoleonic era) and your goal is to conquer all of Europe. I played the board game version of Diplomacy in my high school world history class as a supplement to the course material we were learning. The teacher broke us up into teams (countries) and we had to decide what we were going to do each turn as far as protecting our region and gaining control of other regions. We had to learn how to problem-solve and negotiate with each other and other teams as we worked out treaties or terms of surrender. I have had the PC version of the game for years and found that it was not quite as exciting or engaging sitting alone playing against a computer. However, I have recently stumbled upon the online version of the game which brings back the need for those problem-solving and negotiation skills because you have to be able to work with people from around the world in order to make the game work. What I envision for my class is similar to what happened in my high school class. I would break the class up into teams that would be specific countries within the game and then set up a game on the website for them to sign into and start playing.  Since this can be a very prolonged turn-based game it would be an ongoing game over the period of the course. At two week intervals I would ask the groups to report back to me about how the game is going and about any obstacles they had to overcome or problems that needed to be solved in order to keep the game going. I would also ask them to relate their game experience to the historical experience in Europe and how the use or misuse of diplomacy and diplomatic skills can help or hurt alliances and national cohesion.

Civilization is a simulation game like SimCity where you can play against the computer or other people. In the game you are given a map and
you start building your own civilization based on one of the most recognized human civilizations of your choosing. Generally you start off in the Stone Age and build up from there over the next 2000 years; however, you can set up your own personal scenarios and map layouts depending on how long you want to play or what you are trying to accomplish. The interesting thing about Civilization, and one of the reasons I personally enjoy playing it, is that you are not stuck with following the history as we know it. This is mentioned in chapter six of the Squire book where he discusses using the game in a high school social studies class (2011). You are able to simulate any scenario you wish from the Chinese discovering Europe to the Native Americans discovering Africa. The game offers many wonderful learning nuggets for a history course like the connections between geography, history, economics, politics, religion and military skill. Understanding these connections is vital in taking the study of social studies and history beyond the typical list of people, dates and battles and showing how one area connects to another. This is why I would incorporate Civilization into my classroom.  Placing students in charge of their own civilizations requires them to learn how to manage all of those connections and the resources that come with them. They are forced to critically think and problem-solve in order to succeed. They are also allowed to don new personas and experiment with ideas and rules in a way they are not allowed to do by simply going through the textbook. This critical reflection engages students in what they are learning and builds an understanding of why something worked or did not work throughout history and in some ways creates better citizens out of my students.

References

Normal (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Retrieve from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/normal

Squire, K. (2011). Video games and learning: Teaching and participatory culture in the digital age. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

http://www.civilization.com/

http://www.playdiplomacy.com/