Makey Makey…

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Some say, you can never go back. Well, today, I tried to prove them, whomever they arewrong. I tried my hand at making something technical, not creative.

In a previous post, I cited Mitch Resnick’s kindergarten learning philosophy, and mentioned that I never went to kindergarten and perhaps missed an opportunity for a stimulating and very immersion, hands-on learning experience. I suppose I still turned out alright 🙂

It’s never too late I reminded myself so today I went to a Maker Space which Dr. Brennan hosted complete with Makey Makey (yes, that’s the company’s name), a craft table, Circuits in Seconds, and more. I was not sure if I could even work with any of the materials. Anything related to engineering and or mechanics is just not something I can wrap my head around. I considered it a triumph when I changed all the hardware on my cabinets and doors (including locks!) in my home. I’m no Bob Villa, so I will take what I can get.

So I dove into the Makey Makey circuit “toy” and read the instructions, complete with pictures for those of us technically changed. Think the IKEA instruction booklet but better.

 

A Makey Makey Circuit Kit

A Makey Makey Circuit Kit

The premise what to connect one input of a USB cable to a computer and other to a the circuit board. Then an alligator clamp to a circuit marked “space.” While holding the other end of the alligator clamp, electricity was conducted from me which traveled through to the circuit so that each time I touched the “space” tab on the circuit, the cursor on my screen would move one space, in effect like hitting the space bar on the keyboard.

The exercises continued in level of complexity, and I use that term loosely. Adding more alligator clamps to different circuits and finding other sources of electrical conduction, a scissor for example, or a carrot. Yes, a carrot, which contains water, a weak electrolyte and conductor of electricity. Now touching the carrot would prompt the command and elicit a computer response to move the cursor a space.

Finally, the end product, playing the bongo on the compute using two carrot sticks. Check out the video below to see my bass skills in action.

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I was surprised to find a video from Hackidemia and TEDxYouth with some amazing students creating a house of sounds, complete with rooms and objects that you play as instruments, in an “interactive play space.” They did NOT have this when I was a kid!

 

I Walk This Lonely Road…

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My path

I have found that I have been asked to “reflect” quite a bit in my HGSE classes, to the point where some of my classmates, who shall remain nameless, have come up some colorful retorts to the idea. I like to think of reflection from both outer and inner realms. I am using these class reflections as reminders to take a step back and reflect on the path I have set out to create during my time in Cambridge.

One of the songs to which I can relate is Green Day’s 2004 hit and Grammy winner “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”This song captured the essence of taking the road less traveled and the antagonistic role that loneliness than play in one’s life. I related to it as I was changing career paths, against the advice of practically everyone I knew.

 

Green Day Single Cover (Wiki)

Green Day Single Cover (Wiki)

For those not familiar with the song, here a few bars:

I walk this lonely road

The only one that I have ever known

Don’t where goes

But it’s home to me

and I walk alone

I used this song as a source of strength and took pride in my willingness to walk the path alone, as I have done on many occasions, much to the chagrin of family, friends, and classmates.

I listened to this song play as I drove miles in Houston traffic from one college to another, sometimes admittedly as a pity party to myself, but overall, I found it cathartic, thriving on a sense of independence and solace.  Slowly I am beginning to appreciate collaboration and the need to be gregarious at times. Maybe I won’t be walking a lonely street soon enough…

 

In Pursuit of the Ideal…

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Since my family was kind enough to help me move to Boston (Cambridge), I thought the least I could do was show them around town. First stop, the Shops at Prudential Center (of course!) and Copley Square…site of the Boston Public Library. How fitting that this is one of the first things I see when I arrive in Boston.

The photo below is a close-up of the library. At the top of the building is a phrase that truly resonated with me: “Library of the City of Boston Built by the People and Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning. Free to All”

BPL

Boston Public Library from Copley Square

 

How can one not be inspired in this town?

The phrase engraved atop of the BPL is truly what  the foundations of education should be but what are still aspiring to achieve well into the 21 century: advancement of learning that is accessible to everyone. #leavenoonebehind #equality

I am looking forward to finding ways of making quality education available to everyone, in some small way. It is my hope that others will do the same so that this basic human right is afforded to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, race, or place of residence.

Boston Bound

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I am still in disbelief that I am in Cambridge, even weeks after classes have begun. So far, the experience has surpassed my expectations. I still remain apprehensive about how I will fare in the long term, but remain cautiously optimistic.

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Teaching to Learn or Learning to Teach?

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Learning to Zip It and Listen, and Occasionally Share…

I do have a more thoughtful and existential side, which others rarely see by design, because I have chosen very consciously not to share it. I have learned, however, that being pragmatic and introverted may be the safe choice, but we rarely stumble into greatness without venturing into uncharted territory.

So I’m learning to share and reflect and sometimes, frankly, it’s exhausting. But I trek on…

Essentially, I want to learn “how to learn from others” through interaction and hands-on experience.  I have always been an independent thinker and learner, which works well for multiple choice exams and essays, which is how I was able to get by without a problem for so long. Then I entered the realm of education. I would like to finally explore a side to my learning which I truly don’t know exists because I have seldom used it. I need to learn to converse, which in an interloger system, means not only speaking, but listening as well. As a lecturer, this is going to be tough. However, if I am to learn from others, I need to curb my chatter, and open my ears.

What Brought Me Here…Cambridge Calling

Forgoing a lucrative career in the pharmaceutical industry 10 years a go, where my path was guaranteed but miserable, I traded my BMW for a Toyota (don’t judge me for being a bit shallow—cars are my weakness) and began schlepping it from one college campus to another to earn a living as instructor in higher ed in Houston. Funny enough, those years were some of most liberating and enjoyable times of my life. I loved the craft of teaching and the interaction with students so much that I committed myself wholly to my work and the perseverance paid off. I secured a full time faculty position and was soon on way…research projects, grants, committees and so on. Then things began to plateau…

I had a particular interest in distance education, hybrid platforms, and blended learning environments. I read articles, tinkered with various programs and Learning Management Systems (LMS) to get myself up to speed on buzzwords such as “flipped classroom,” “lecture-capture,” and “MOOC.” It didn’t seem like it was enough to really take my understanding and application of these technologies, or my career to the next level. I was full of ideas with little power to implement them, so after 5 years of full time teaching, I took advantage of being eligible for a sabbatical and took matters into my own hands. Yes…just when things were settling down, and I had traded the Toyota in for a new toy, I decided to uproot myself to Cambridge, to live in a 1 bedroom apartment and study/work 7 days a week and take a (major) pay cut! And I could not be happier with my decision.

I feel that learning is essential to teaching, and we can learn from anyone, at anytime, in any place–we just have to be open to it–so don’t judge! Some of my most inspired ideas have come when and where I least expect them. Media/art/film, travel, and the roller coaster that is life are my muses and my motivation is my work.

Teaching is a noble and indispensable profession, yet it remains under-appreciated. But that is the true virtue of those who teach, not because they “can’t” as the adage goes, but because they choose the direction of a less worn path…sometimes patchy, bumpy, and in much in need of attention with no promises of rest or reward at the end, but simply a never-ending journey.

So I now share my journey with the blogosphere (Note: “blogosphere” is actually recognized now an actual word) in a way that I feel is very open and honest, which cuts against my grain, but when I choose to do something, for better or worse, I go all out.

Thank you for reading and sharing in my journey work towards creating meaningful change. It’s a work in progress…

Teacher, Learner, Daydream Believer (and never a homecoming queen)

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An Introduction…

Feeling a bit like Julie Andrews, I suppose we should “start from the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

I have always been an academic, placing little importance on social aspects of education, or life for that matter. Perhaps it was my upbringing, an only child for the first seven years of my life, born to two scientists in one country, and raised in two others, with a sprinkling of world travel in between for good measure. It was quite intriguing for a child, who did not understand her surroundings, but only reveled in the mercurial nature of such an itinerant lifestyle, one full of museum visits, cultural experiences, and lots and lots of books. Really, there were a lot. My parents stressed the importance of education from a very early age, and I suppose the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

While I excelled in school, I seldom enjoyed it. I had to study. And work.  No television. No football games. No prom. Nada.

Sure, I took piano, art, ballet, tennis, and karate lessons as a child/adolescent, all of which my parents remind me were in vain.

Not until I completed my doctoral studies (yes, it took that long), did I begin to appreciate art, music, film, and the importance of social interaction and engagement. Maybe it was just the relief from the stress of trying to be the best at something or finishing something for that matter.  And there were other factors at play such as is life.

These realizations were all as essential to my learning, if not more, than solving equations and memorizing text. However, I needed time to develop these skills, breaking habits a decade in the making. I had to gain an appreciation for sharing learning experiences, which was difficult not only because I was out of practice, but rather, because I placed little value in them. This was not an epiphany. It is something I realized during my years in teaching.

Teaching has given my life purpose and taught me an important lesson: strive for perfection, but realize that it doesn’t exist. The journey, however, does.

A Chance for Redemption…

I now find myself at Harvard (what?!) with a some of the most amazing people, all of which I have been grateful and humbled to meet. Not only is this community of faculty, staff, and students brilliant, as I expected, but they are supportive,  collaborative, and full of humility. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity at a second chance to be part of a learning community that is so generous in sharing insights and experiences with one another. They call this place HGSE, pronounced “hugsie” among some, which could not be more indicative of the types of people I have encountered. This is very different than my previous experiences, and I will be honest, can be unnerving at times. Luckily, it seems I am not the only one with reservations.

Loss, pain, joy, and change all help one evolve. I have experienced my fair share of them…and that has made all the difference. It has provided a new perspective which I have brought with me to Harvard. I am different now, and I like this person a lot more. I am still learning to walk the walk and realize I will stumble and fall. I will learn to forgive myself, get back up, and keep on going.

I’ve come too far to turn back now, literally and figuratively, so let’s do this!

 

 

Hello world!

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Hello World!

Welcome to my learning and teaching blog! I hope to share ideas, insights, and experiences here that have shaped me as a learner, educator, and person. My goal is to chronicle my adventures in learning whether they are reflective of my past experiences, or new ones I create at Harvard and beyond.

You can learn more about me here!

 

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