Am I Worldly Now?

The end of the semester has come, as does the official end of my learning project. I’ve been working on learning the countries of the world and their capitals, and I can’t say I got exactly where I wanted to, but I have much improved in this area.

In case you missed it, here was my first post before I started doing this project.

At the beginning, I took a 15 minute quiz on the countries of the world – you have 15 minutes to name as many as you know. The first time I took it I knew 68 out of 196 countries – and not necessarily where they were, but I knew they existed somewhere beyond the horizon. Today I took the same 15 minute quiz and achieved 196/196 with 1:49 minutes left! AND I used the map below to look at a country and name it rather than just spouting out random country names.

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The capitals have proved to be difficult. I think this is because countries are more well-known and talked about, where the majority of the capitals in the world I have never even heard of, therefore they are difficult to remember and place. I took a quiz on the same site, but instead you have 12 minutes to complete it, with the names of the countries below. When I completed it at the beginning, I achieved a measly 11/196. This was quite depressing. However, now I took the same quiz and have upped my score to 104/196 – and know where all 104 of them are. I think this is quite an improvement.

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In my original post, I mentioned I wanted to do this because I knew it would go beyond this semester, and that I could use it for the rest of my life. And I know that is true. I want to continue learning this over the next couple weeks/months until I can successfully spout out any country or capital on command. That sounds kind of like a dog doing tricks, but it is something that has made me increasingly globally aware over the last couple months and I really feel more connected to the rest of the world. I really appreciated this assignment and the push to learn a new skill – I think it’s something we all need to do. Maybe when I’m done this I’ll pick up something else to learn. There’s no time limit on learning! I’m excited to continue with this project and the next one (I’m thinking maybe sign language?). I’ll let you faithful followers know how I’m doing!

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KAGOY

KAGOY – Kids Are Getting Older Younger

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Image source

I know I’ve seen picture like this often and give a little nod in mutual understanding, but this essentially makes light of a much larger issue. The acronym above is from the documentary ‘Sext up Kids’ by the Doc Zone that I watched earlier this week. I also watched, for a second time, ‘Sextortion of Amanda Todd‘ by the fifth estate. We only had to watch one of them for our ecmp355 class, but after the first I needed to continue to understand what was happening. And I’m a sucker for documentaries.

Both documentaries really make a person look around and open their eyes in a way to the world. Kids are being bombarded daily by social media, toys, clothes, and books pushing sexualization. One of the scariest things from that first documentary was that advertisers have found ways to advertise straight to kids rather than through parents. Whether that’s online, through tv, or toys kids are wanting to look and be older when they should be outside, using their imaginations, or playing with their friends.

Because, I think when we look at the sextortion of Amanda Todd, this is just one result of this sexualization. Boys have expectations of girls and can find them online, and girls have ingrained in them what they think boys want. This sexualization at a young age is becoming ingrained in kids when they are at such a crucial point in their development. Before they have time to figure out who they are and who they want to be we have everything telling them what they should be. I would compare it to the picture of a frog in water, if you throw him in a pot of boiling water, he will obviously jump right out. But if you put him in and slowly turn the heat up, he doesn’t even realize he’s boiling to death. I think society as a whole has been increasing the sexualization of EVERYTHING, and now all of a sudden it’s at a point that is impossible to control.

With technology becoming so widespread and common (it’s now rare if someone doesn’t have access to the internet 24/7), if kids want to go online they will. We can put all kinds of filters and restrictions up, but at the end of the day kids are sneaky. Now part of our job is teaching these kids how to be kids. Giving them real, authentic experiences and expectations. Giving them the freedom to be kids, and to figure out for themselves who they are and who they want to be. However, this is difficult. So let me ask, what are some things you think we can do to change this generation of sext up kids?

 

You Are Too Kind

Not you. Well, maybe you. I may not even know you so you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I’ve been continuing on with my learning project of learning the countries and their capitals (yes, all 200).

So far I’ve nailed all the countries and their spelling (98% of the time). The capitals are proving to be a bit of another story. For one, they are not talked about or as familiar as the countries. Most of us can recognize the names of countries and even probably tell you what continent they are on, but the capitals – most of them I’ve never even heard of. Which is crazy! Well, maybe not crazy but I do feel more educated the more I learn.

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So here’s how I’m doing – from this quiz – I’ve got the countries down, and the capitals…I have a ways to go. I find that when the capital is given to me, I can usually figure out what country it belongs to. It’s when i look at a country and try and figure out what the name of the capital is that I struggle.

So back to the title. I was working through the capitals of Oceania in the library while studying (or not studying) for a test with a friend. As I was complaining about how difficult it was, she plainly asked why I would even try to do this. Which was good for me to look back and remember why I started this process. I want to have an increased global awareness and to be able to relate even on a small level with the news that constantly bombards us on twitter, facebook and tv and even to people as Canada has such a diverse place. I help out with a conversational english program, and we have people who come from China, South Korea, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uganda, Spain, Uruguay, and India to name a few. I love that I actually know where these places are. Maybe it’s selfish to just be happy that I know things – but I think it’s more than that and it’s increasing my awareness and also desire to learn more about global culture.

So I told my friend that in not so many words, and she said how incredible it was that I could memorize all of them and she would never try. She was too kind. But the fact is there are many things I cannot do. That’s the point of this learning project – we are stretching ourselves and trying new things, and developing new skills. Whether it’s building on a previous one or starting from nothing.

 

What’s Your Role in Changing the World?

I think one of the best uses for technology has been when it is used for positive change. What a better platform to spread your cause than the world?

As I was sifting through my feedly account this week, I came across an article called Changing a Changing World : Teaching Social Media for Social Activism. What a great connection to what we’ve been learning about in our ECMP355 class. I wanted to share the most powerful line from the article with you because it’s too good to just keep for myself.

“Facebook and Twitter will never replace voting or marching, but it’s a tool to organize; a way to convince your friends to register to vote or be aware of a cause.”

Though technology does not replace certain rights and ways of supporting a cause, it can provide awareness and empowerment to others who are passionate about the same cause as yourself. One organization that has embodied this is called World Camp and I had the opportunity to be a part of it in the summer of 2014. This organization was founded by a group of college student in 2000. They saw a need for improved access to quality health services, education, and resources through community-driven initiatives in Malawi, Africa. I found out about this organization through technology and the university.

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Above is one of my classes that I had the privilege of providing education too with the assistance of my translator, Chimwemwe. This organization has been able to expand and grow to include not only an education program, but a healthcare program as well. It has grown through the use of blogs, twitter, instagram, facebook and email. This organization was started with a group of college students who wanted to do something to better the world, and then acted on it. I encourage you all to check out their website. They are doing incredible things in Malawi and working to bring about local leaders of change! With international women’s day happening yesterday, I wanted to share another photo with you. We were able to spend time with all the women in the school for an hour each day we were in the villages to give them encouragement, answer questions, and empower them.

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What incredible women!

Now a word of empowerment to you kind folks. I’d ask you read and consider another article, What Role Were You Born to Play in Social Change? Yes, technology is able to spread awareness about the social issues we are passionate about, and we can encourage our student to get involved and to become socially aware. And then they can act on it! Through technology we also have countless opportunities to choose from. Start your own organization, your own campaign, your own world-trending hashtag, or your own blog simply raising awareness. The article I just mentioned has the different roles in social change – the advocate, the helper, the organizer, and the rebel – and how they can be used positively or negatively. So which role will you play?

I can't get enough of these smiling faces!
I can’t get enough of these faces!

Too Much Information? You Decide.

It takes about 142.18 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie pop.

Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.

A normal raindrop falls at about 7 miles an hour.

In a world where we can google almost anything, and with limitless information at our fingertips, how do we decipher what is important and what isn’t? The facts I shared above are interesting and weird, yet also completely useless. I mean, who cares if “stewardesses” is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand? Or if catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers?

I’ve been thinking about these things as a result of my learning project (which is going great by the way). I’ve learned the names, locations, and spelling of all the countries of the world, and am pretty well done the same with the capitals of all 200 of those countries. Then I thought to myself, what should I learn next? The flags? Other important cities? The currency used? The main language? Maybe I should learn a language. Or sign language. Or brail. Or maybe I should learn morse code. That could come in handy one day.

I’m currently taking a history class as my elective on Ancient Rome. Why do I need to know anything about ancient Rome? Will it help me in my life to know that Appius Claudius Caecus created the manipular army formation that won them the Third Samnite war in 290 BC? Probably not.

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If you’d like, here is a whole site with 77 ways to learn faster so you can pack as much knowledge (useful or not) into your brain as you want. But don’t be fooled. There are also articles dedicated to the opposite, such as this one called “Know Your Limits, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much.”

So how do we pick out useful information and discern what is worth our time learning? Or what is worth remembering? I’ve asked a lot of questions in this blog that I don’t have the answers to. I’m simply pondering and sharing those thoughtful insights with the world at large. I would, however, love to hear (or read?) your thoughts!

What Does Your Commitment to Reconciliation Look Like?

Last Wednesday evening, I tuned in to a live stream of a lecture given by The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair who is the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The following bio was taken from the TRC website.

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He was such a powerful speaker and said a lot of things I think every educator and resident of Canada needs to hear. He talked about the impact of residential schools, and he described them not as educational institutions, but rather welfare systems. The more I think about what I already know, the more sense this makes. They (we?) didn’t want to educate these kids to their full potential, they wanted to get rid of the “problem”. Every child was abused in some way. I’m going to say that again so it sinks in. Every CHILD was abused in some way.

Justice Sinclair also talked about the hiding of aboriginal identity from others, as well as themselves. I don’t think anybody can argue that identity is unimportant. If you have to hide your identity, what does that leave you? I’m not going to answer that but I would invite you to think on it.

I don’t feel like I can do justice to this talk. It was powerful, inspiring and an eye-opener. However, I will briefly touch on his call for us. He mentioned we need to understand each other and that this is not a one-sided conversation. Yet we also need to be realistic and that we can’t carry around this anger forever, but we must never forget, which I think is the essence of the TRC and what Justice Sinclair was speaking too. He declared that we have a lot of work to do (which I don’t think anybody can deny), and that we need to make a commitment to reconciliation. I would encourage you to take a look at the TRC, and to make your own commitment to reconciliation. I would also ask though, what does your commitment to reconciliation look like?

 

Finland is Inland

Well if you haven’t been keeping up to date with me over the last month or so, I’ve been learning world geography – more specifically all the countries in the world as well as their capitals. I’ve pretty much got all the countries down – which comes in handy a lot more than I would have thought.

I love the fact that when I watch the news, read an article, or hear someone talk I know what/where they are talking about. Even though it’s a small thing to know where on this Earth someone is talking about, I feel more educated and globally aware anyway. In turn, it makes me want to know more. It makes me want to get more involved, to become more educated, to know what the issues in different places are, to know how to get involved.

Recently, outside of my ECMP class and university in general, I’ve taken a real interest in the Middle East/Northern Africa region. I’m finding myself passionate about the people there, the culture, and the land. I’ve been reading a book lately – The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers by Dale Hanson Bourke. Because of my learning project, I feel like I can visualize what areas are talked about in the book, and understand a little more what/where things are happening.

That feeling of being more educated and feeling more connected to the world just by knowing the names and locations of the countries may not make any sense to you. But it has really changed some things for me and I’m excited to continue. And I’m excited because I don’t think this is a skill that just goes away. It’s something I will continue to use over and over again.

Here’s some practical things I am doing to learn my world geography – I make up little things in my head – like the title. For some reason I could not remember the order or Sweden, Norway, and Finland. So of course now that I will never ever forget that Finland is inland, and is not on the large western coast of Europe. I try to make as many personal connections to different countries as I can – I have friends in Austria, Germany, El Salvador, India, New Zealand, etc. so I like to know those places because I know people from there! I also learned my heritage – German, Dutch, and a little Russian. I know where all those places are and am learning more about them.

It’s also exciting. I’m looking forward to all the places I’m going to visit. Places others are visiting/living. I can’t wait for the list of all the places I’ve been and lived and visited. I hope that it’s a very long list! If you had to pick one country to visit, where would you go?!

Is There Such a Thing as an Honest Digital Identity?

Over the last month or so since I have began posting on my blog again, I have been thinking about my digital identity. What is a digital identity? There is an awesome blog post called Digital Identities and Digital Security that describes digital identity simply – it is who we are online. This begs the questions:

Can we be the same person online and in the “real” world?

The online world allows us to control how we want to be perceived by others and by the public. This basically allows us to portray certain aspects of ourselves, while maybe “hiding” other things we don’t want others to know. This makes me ask another question of myself:

What and how do we choose what we want others to see about ourselves?

I was asked to read an article this week on how the resume is slowly fading out, and how creating digital portfolios and digital footprints are beginning to become more prevalent. There was a quote in there that relates to my last question – “social media gives [us] a chance to show “what you want the world to know about you.””

So again I ask, what do I want the world to know about me? What is important to me? Some of the things I have decided that are the most important about me follows:

– I am a Christian – this is my identity, in every area of my life

– I love travel – there is nothing better to me than exploring new places, meeting new people and learning about myself

– I love children – all children, whether in my future classroom or otherwise, they have such a genuine love for life and a hunger to learn

– I love my family – my family lives on an acreage outside of Melfort, SK; they are the most incredible people and I am thankful for all the opportunities they have provided for me

These are only some of the more general things that I think are an important part of my digital identity. These are the things that shape my choices and the kinds of things I share and am passionate about.

Another article called Teachers, Take Care of Your Digital Footprint makes an honest and real statement, “If you aren’t controlling who you are online, someone else will.” I don’t want anyone else creating my digital identity. It’s my identity to create. I intend to make it an honest identity. I’d like to believe that it’s possible to be transparent online in a positive way and give others a window into what makes you tick, what you’re passionate about, and who are you are.

That is not to say that anyone, especially those in professional careers that deal with the public, such as teaching, should post every detail about themselves online. There is such a thing as oversharing and being insensitive and careless in posting online. I aim to avoid that and to think before I post. I am not really a writer, and I pride myself in thinking before I speak. So blogging I find that I combine the two. I take my time in my writing. Thinking before I post I guess you could say. In the last article I mentioned, they break down managing your digital identity into 4 easy steps:

– Google yourself (here’s what what happened when I googled myself – I also had to add “Regina” at the end as my name is rather common)

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My “about me” page and my twitter handle came up – good news! Since there are a ton of Ashley Arndt’s on facebook my profile did not come up. The only thing missing now is by blog. But overall, I’m pleased with it at the moment.

– Establish a brand

– Get a space of your own

– Stay on top of things

After all my ramblings, I’d like to ask the question in the title of this post again: is there such a thing as an honest digital identity? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

63 Things I Should Probably Know In A Digital World…But Don’t

Yes, 63 is a very large number. I came across a blog post by TeachThought for the first time on my Feedly account, and then again on Twitter a couple days later. So I thought I should maybe check it out in case it continued to pop up over and over again and haunt me for the rest of my life. That may be a bit dramatic, but I don’t like to take those kinds of chances.

This blog post talks about how even though our fundamental human needs have not changed in the last hundreds of years, but that our world is changing and there are things that are vital for students to know. As I was reading, I also realized how many things I myself should know that I don’t. How can I teach my students how to be effective and respected digital citizens if I myself am not? Here are a couple things from the blog post that I personally think are SO vital for students to begin to know:

  1. Distinguish fact from opinion, and know the importance of each
  2. How to think critically—and carefully–about information
  3. Knowing the difference between who’s listening, who’s responding, who’s lurking, who cares, who doesn’t care, etc.
  4. The difference between someone knowledgeable, someone experienced, and someone adept
  5. A 140 character comment may not fully capture the nuance of a person’s stance or understanding of a topic. Don’t assume

Those were only 5 out of 63 things students should know! I would encourage you to head over and take a look through them as there are some things that I would never had thought of before. For example:

  1. What to share with one person, one group, one community, and one planet. (And the difference in permanence and scale between a social message, email, threaded conversation, and text.)
  2. How to effectively use technology in ways that might contradict their original purpose or design
  3. When it is socially-acceptable to check messages, update statuses, check scores, and so on. (Just because everyone at the table is doing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have significant consequences.)
  4. Structure–essay level, blog post level, paragraph level, sentence level, world level, and acronym and initialism level–changes depending on where you publish

It’s not even that I have never thought of these things, but I have never thought of these in a classroom setting. I know these are all important things for myself, as a 4th year university student, but also what the implications are for students in the classroom with technology playing such a huge role in everyone’s lives. I’ve only scratched the surface of what this article has to offer, and I would love if you would head over and read it and let me know what things you think are most important, or what you hadn’t even thought important until now!

The Elusive 12

As I continue my learning project of learning the names and locations of all 196 countries in the world, I find there are a common 12 I have trouble with. I took the Countries of the World quiz again, the same quiz in which I started with. Here are the 12 countries I was missing:

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Each black dot represents a country I did not name in the 15 minutes provided. I found this frustrating for two reasons – for one, my spelling has to be dead on. For a couple of these, I knew what they were (how to say them) but I could not for the life of my figure out how to spell them. So spelling is something to work on. The other was that many of the ones I missed in Europe/western Asia are extremely small on the map, so small in fact that I can’t see that I’m missing them. I find that I can consistently get 195/196 countries on my World Map app – that is when it says, “Find …. (insert country here)”. When I don’t have to spell the country, I can usually find in no problem.

So I have a little work to do in this area still, but I am already noticing that as I hear the names of different countries in conversation and the news, I find myself quite content that I know where in the world that is, and I feel a little more informed about the world around me. More than once I’ve had conversations about this learning project with friends, and they say what a useful thing knowing world geography would be – and it is! I am particularly pleased with the fact that this will be a lifelong skill and that it will come in handy in all kinds of situations.

Phase two of learning world geography is going to be learning all of the capitals of every country. The spelling is proving to be quite difficult in this sense, and I have taken to using a flashcard app where I can create flashcards with the names of all the countries on one side, and the name of the capital on the other. This way I can visually see the spelling and what I really like is that you can also turn on pronunciation help, that demonstrates how to say the name of the country and/or capital so that I don’t sound daft when I go around spouting my world geography knowledge. I challenge you to take the Countries of the World quiz here or the Capitals of the World quiz here and see where you stand!