My New Normal!

My new normal has become riding a double decker bus 45 minutes to work every morning and an hour home every evening. I no longer stock up on groceries for a week or two, but rather two or three days (due to the impressively small nature of the refrigerators and freezers here). When planning to leave the house I now rely on bus routes, train lines/stations and traffic rather than hopping in my car with the “be there in 5” mentality. None of these are negative things, but rather big adjustments to daily living that I’ve grown accustomed to rather quickly and that no longer faze me. In the last couple weeks I have started to feel like I actually live here in London, and now that I am a couple weeks into my new job and have settled into a routine it all feels so “normal” – whatever that is.

I’ve done a lot over the last couple weeks, but I feel as though I haven’t even made a dent in everything I want to do while I’m here. A couple weeks ago I took a day trip to the White Cliffs of Dover – somewhere I wanted to go ever since I knew I was going to England. And they were just as impressive as they are in pictures. There’s something about standing on the edge of a plummeting cliff looking out over the sea to the cliffs of France in the distance that makes a person feel small and insignificant, yet whole and peaceful at the same time. It was probably the best first Saturday excursion I could have taken.

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Another weekend I spent the day in Windsor, touring around Windsor castle and the little town itself. As some may know, it’s been on my bucket list for years to see the queen. The current queen. Yes, the one that is 90 years old. I don’t feel as though I’m one to be starstruck by people, but I think seeing the queen would make me a wreck. So let’s just say being in one of her many residences made me more excited than the average person. Either way, it was of course beautiful and I would not have complained if I was born a royal. We ended the day with a little walk down to the shore of the Thames river with the castle towering above the little town.

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I guess a main part of my year in London is my new job! My school is fantastic and the pupils are the cutest little 5 year olds I have ever seen. I realized shortly after beginning that I have much to learn. I always knew that the first year teaching was going to be busy and time consuming, but knowing something and experiencing something are completely different. I came into the year with so many things I wanted to do and try and am finding myself not having the time to develop or implement them how I’d like. Granted, it’s only been a month since the beginning of the year and I have loads of time. I truly love it though, and have a great support system at the school happy to guide me through. I think I’ll elaborate on the England school experience in another post – way too much writing for today. But here are some pictures of my school and classroom (at the beginning of the year – it has changed much already for the better!)

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As some of you also know, I had the privilege of having my sister here in London with me for a week before she headed off to school up north of Manchester. It was definitely different waiting to pick someone up from the airport rather than being the one picked up, but I quite enjoyed it. After a week of 5:30am mornings and late nights, I can say I was absolutely exhausted but wouldn’t trade that week for anything. We started the week off by trying to fight her jet lag and went sightseeing in Central London. Over the course of the week we hit up St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, London Tower, saw the view of the London skyline from Primrose Hill, and went to The Lion King at Lyceum Theatre – which was phenomenal. We also went to a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – and had box seats (not as great as you may think – but still cool). It was a modern play but in Shakespearean language. Not gonna lie, didn’t follow a lot of it but being part of the production in the open theatre was an experience I’m glad we had.

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I know that I am not the greatest at giving everyone updates of my life or sharing pictures – but hopefully this has been a sign of good faith that I will stay on track with my blogging and keep you all filled in. I appreciate you all!

Cheers

Hey, I Moved

Hello again everyone! It’s been awhile since I was required to write a blog post – welcome to my first one that I chose to do without it being for an assignment. I think this means it has sunk in that I’m no longer a student.

As most of you know, I have recently relocated across the pond to London, England. I’ve been in the UK for 11 days now, and can say I’m finally starting to find myself getting settled. There have been many twists and turns from the first day I arrived, drenched in sweat, an obvious foreigner dragging more luggage than she can handle, to today, drinking coffee in my new home (I have yet to accept an offer of tea – I’m not ready to give up my coffee yet). When I arrived, my first priority was to find a home so that when my week was up at the hostel I wouldn’t be homeless. Within 2 days of searching, I confirmed a place and was set to move in that week!

With that taken care of, I set out to do all the boring stuff associated with moving. I got myself a fancy new UK number (which I cannot for the life of me memorize), and bought an umbrella of course. I now carry it with my 24/7 in my purse. This is also where I ran into some small roadblocks with technical issues regarding my visa, which are still being worked out, but everyone here has been very helpful and I’m optimistic. Of course I had to get some sightseeing in and so I hit up the British Museum.

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Once I was all moved in, I could start settling and explore my new neighbourhood, which is on the very edge of West London – Uxbridge. I spent some time (too much) shopping for the essentials (and ended up with a couple bags of non-essentials – oops), and finding my favourite coffee spot. This past Saturday the agency I’m with, Engage Education, held an induction event at the University of Westminster. It was so good to see and reconnect with familiar faces from the iday event I attended back in April, and to meet new teachers in the same kind of situation as myself. A celebratory supper and evening was in order as we explored just a small part of central London.

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I will finally get into my classroom on Wednesday this week and am so ready to start working! This week I’m hoping to do a bit more exploring and a bit more settled so that I’m ready for my career to start next week!

Before I close off, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts over the last 11 days:

  1. Nothing is more humbling than squinting at coins trying to figure out how much they are all worth. I’ve resorted to only paying with bills, sorry – with notes, and now my wallet weighs about 10 pounds just from coins
  2. One of my favourite discoveries – Poundland; the equivalent of the Dollar Tree
  3. With all the different cultures and travellers here, I don’t even know what a real British accent sounds like anymore
  4. I thought “cheers” meant “goodbye” for the first while, and it was only after numerous weird interactions I finally figured out it meant “thanks”

Until next time!

My Contribution to the Learning of Others

What a catchy title hey? Not one of my best, but it is the most accurate.

Over the last 3 months or so I have learned so much about technology and the benefits of having an online community. I will come right out and say that I am not the most involved or the most prominent person online – it’s not who I am. Not online, and not even in real life. I am more than willing to help others when they need it and I have the answer (not super often – sorry google plus community), but I am much more comfortable showing encouragement in the form of a retweet or share than a comment. Maybe that will change and I just need some more time than one semester, so I’m going to keep at it. But for now, I am happy with how much I have grown since the class first started.

That being said, I did my best. I made an effort to read and comment on other blogs, as you can see in some of screenshots on this google doc. I really appreciated when we all had the same prompt, so that I could see all the different perspectives of everyone in the class. We all wrote about virtually the same things, but sometimes had drastically different takes on it. Even if I didn’t necessarily comment, that did not mean I didn’t enjoy reading! Sometimes as well, as I am a slow processor, I needed some time before immediately writing as I like to think things through first. I have no better excuse than I simply forgot to back afterwards.

Sometimes, it was a simple encouragement saying I loved what they did, or else a question to further my ponderings. Regardless, I pushed myself this course to at least try and make an effort to engage with my fellow colleagues.

Twitter has SO MANY things! I have to say, I really enjoyed my first twitter chat, #starschat, for #BellLetsTalk. I thought it would be stressful and confusing, but turns out its fast paced with so many wise and thoughtful words. I really appreciated that opportunity to join. And now I have a bookmarked Ed Chat Calendar so I know when all chats are happening!

I’ve become a pro at retweeting. However, I’m slowly learning to add my own thoughts and opinions when I retweet. But I’m getting out there, and I love to share other people’s ideas and posts when I see the value in them. I took to twitter rather than google plus when I needed assistance as it seemed an easier way for me to keep connected.

Now, when you compare my contribution to the learning of others, you may think that I am not overly involved – however that’s just not me. At the start of the course I wanted to create a positive and true digital identity for myself online, and I think I am just beginning to accomplish that. I have much more work to do but compared with the beginning of the semester, I am content with my growth and contributions. I am also excited to continue the journey – it definitely won’t end here. Now that I’ve seen all the support and resources out there, I want to share my own as well as contribute to anything other’s need that I can help with. I’m excited to grow my network! Again, check out my google doc with some of my contributions over the semester!

Also, check out my summary of learning below!

 

Surprise! I Like Coding!

Last week I had never even heard of coding in the classroom, and now it turns out I actually don’t mind doing it all. Whenever I thought of coding, I always imagined some hacker in a dark room typing really fast creating “codes” without exactly knowing what they were. Turns out, they are just instructions for what they want the computer to do.

I began exploring the Hour of Code and found it so intriguing I had to do a second one. I did a quick little screencast (my first one I might add) of the first couple steps of the Frozen hour of code to give you all a little taste of what it’s like. Check it out through the link below.

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I think I like coding because it’s so technical and logical. That’s the way my brain works. I like math and science – things that have a right answer, and that you can use formula’s so figure things out. I think coding follows that pattern and you have to logically think things out.

I think that’s why it’s so beneficial in school. It allows kids to critically think about the things in the world around them – including computers which are such a huge part of our everyday lives. We can’t take those things for granted without trying to investigate how those things work. It’s important to have a critical mind that is always learning – this is just another opportunity to do that in a fun and engaging way. I encourage you all to check out coding and see you how do!

 

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!

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!

 

The Making of a Splendiferous, Transcendent and Funkadelic Blogger

In case you were wondering, yes – those are all indeed real words. That is the goal here; to become an awesome blogger. The word “awesome” in my humble opinion is close to dead so I am increasing my vocabulary. To continue this process of becoming a kryptonian blogger – from here on out, assume any words you’ve never seen/heard of refer to awesome – I have created by first Feedly account. I have began following a number of sites and blogs, each to compliment a different part of my life. For example, I chose to follow TED Education for the vast degree of diversity among videos. You can learn everything from why human bodies are asymmetrical to why bread is fluffy, vinegar is sour, and Swiss cheese is holey. I should mention at this point that I am kind of a nerd and LOVE all random facts, history, and the science behind simple things.

Here is a glimpse of what my feedly looks like at the moment:

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I obviously want to increase this feed to include all my interest and things I am passionate about, but at the moment I am still learning how to use all of these fancy things.

I also am interested in the world around me. As some of you may know, I am jetting off to teach internationally next year and am passionate about culture and people from all over the world. I think it is important to know what is happening outside of our North American bubble, sometimes even our Canadian bubble. So another feed I decided to follow was BBC News specifically. There are a huge number of news outlets and feeds, but this one I like because it covers world news, and is a news site I regularly check anyway.

And finally, a blog called ILearn Technology. It has everything from professional development to classroom management to teacher resources. Oh, and it has this video on how to make your year more awesome. Or stupendous, righteous, or resplendent if you would rather. Enjoy and let me know if there are any other feeds I should be following! I’m not a funkadelic blogger yet, but I’m trying to be.

 

Swaziland, Kyrgystan, Tuvalu, and Other Weird Places

As part of my last semester, I am taking a class on using computers and technology effectively in the classroom. One of our assignments is to do a learning project – we have to learn something over the next couple months.

I have chosen to learn about the world we live in! I’m going to learn the names AND locations of all 196 countries of the world, and their capitals. Depending on how effective I am, I would love to learn even more about these countries, but I will play that by ear. I have chosen to do world geography for a couple reasons:

  • When I meet someone from a new country, I want to know WHERE that country is instead of vaguely knowing it is in Asia for instance.
  • I want to be more aware of the world I live in. When I watch the news and they are talking about an event in a country (for example, the tragic shooting in Burkina Faso this past week), I want to know where that is, what it is normally like there, etc.
  • This is something I will not just use this semester, but for the rest of my life. Being more culturally and globally aware is something that will benefit me way past when this class ends

When I started this project last week, I wanted to know how much I already knew. I took a countries of the world quiz in which all you have to do is type in as many countries as you can think of in 15 minutes. You do not even have to know WHERE these countries are, you just have to name them. I could name 68 countries out of 196. Pretty pathetic.The green in the picture below are the countries I could name, and the red are the ones that I did not name.

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My knowledge of capitals of these countries of the world was even worse. I could name 11 out of 196. ELEVEN!! I obviously have much to learn.

I have downloaded an app on my phone called World Maps in which you can pick a continent and it asks you to find a certain country. You can start with the top couple countries, and then increase the amount as you master them. I’m hoping to master all the countries in the world in the next week or so (good enough that someone could point to a country on a map and I would be able name it) and then move on to the capitals!

Has anyone else studied world geography or have any good ideas/apps/sites in which could help? Let me know in the comments!

The Light is at the End of the Tunnel

Well, after a not-so-brief hiatus I am back to blogging! A little update for those of you who read my blog a while ago and are still here – I am in my 4th year in my final semester of the Bachelor of Education program. After finishing my internship in McLean, SK last semester, I cannot say I’m overjoyed to be back doing university classes after having a taste of what being in the classroom is like. But the light is at the end of the tunnel and in just a couple months I will have the opportunity to take all of the skills I have been developing and to begin my career. For now, I will concentrate on developing these skills further, and building my network.

My last post a year and a half ago (yikes!) stated I was headed to Malawi, Africa for a month. I have to say it was the most challenging and fantastic time of my life. Teaching children of a completely different culture and language than myself, I learned how to communicate with not only my words but my actions and the kinds of activities we did. It was stretching for me to be in a place so different than our typical North American classrooms. Some had no desks, some had goats wandering in and out, some had no doors, and some even took place outside under a tree. However, despite all of these things I have never seen children so eager to learn and to demonstrate their learning than these kids. These experiences have all impacted me and helped me realize what I’m passionate about.

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My class, translator and I after planting a tree to do our part in stopping deforestation.

I am passionate about travel, children of all cultures, and Jesus. I plan to teach internationally when I graduate, and therefore I think technology will play a huge part in my future career. Not only in my personal life to keep in contact back home, learning about the new culture I have immersed myself in, and researching the people, but also in the classroom. The world is huge and technology has so much to offer. I love the feeling of being connected to people from all cultures and places all around the world. Stick with me over the next couple months and help me learn how to incorporate technology effectively into the classroom. What are your favourite classroom experiences with technology?