Cultivating My PLN

After reading the article “How to Cultivate a Personal Learning Network: Tips from Howard Rheingold,” I have gathered a better understanding of what all is capable and helpful about a PLN.  My initial thought of a personal learning network was that a person reads the articles he or she wants to read and shares what they enjoy.  After reading this article, I realize that I must learn to reciprocate. I need to post and comment and interact with these people, instead of just reading their side of the story.  Also, after reading the article, I realized that it is okay to “unfollow” the accounts that you don’t care for reading.  There is no sense in cluttering up your “newsfeed” with things you have no interest in reading.

Creating a personal learning network is great way to interact and gather information about the subject you are interested.  If we keep tweaking the content that we see, we will create a positive and informative network for ourselves.  We can personally create what we want to see and benefit from the information we indulge in!

I must be honest, I struggle with sharing my opinion.  I love to read all of these articles and see what more experienced people have to say, but I rarely remember to state my opinions!  I desperately need to remember to share my stories and share what I think.  I often find articles that I enjoy and have a healthy opinion that I am sure somebody would enjoy to read.  I know now that if I enjoy reading or viewing a post, I need to respond accordingly in order to allow my PLN to grow.

I have chosen the importance of music education as the basis for my PLN.  I am learning to find some different accounts made by experts that frequently share articles that are helpful.  I can “retweet” or share these articles and hope that other people that are interested in this subject stumble upon them.  There are also certain “hashtags” that you can attach to a post to allow people searching for that specific hashtag to find easily.  This is such an easy and efficient way to share and find ideas.  I am learning that my PLN experts have some wonderful things to say and I enjoy and look forward to reading what some of them have to say.


A Work in Progress: My Independent Learning Project

Photo CC By Alan Levine

Here we are again.  As an independent learning project, I chose to learn how to play guitar.  I have owned a guitar for many years, I just have never been able to teach myself how to play.  I have picked up this project and am running full speed ahead.  I am excited to be learning something new and I hope that everything goes as planned.

One night, I sat down to try to find an app that might assist me on my Kindle.  So far, I’ve found two apps that are extremely helpful! (And free!) The first app that I found is called “Guitar Beginner’s Notes”.  It is an informative app.  It has several different categories of notes and articles you can read to help you learn about the guitar before you learn to play it.  Some of the things that it teaches you are: learning the parts of the guitar, changing your own strings, tuning your guitar, basic music theory, how to properly hold the guitar, learning the notes, the basic chords, and the list goes on.  Wow! It is a lot of information and I am quickly learning that I am going to benefit from reading ABOUT the guitar before learning to PLAY the guitar.  The other app that I found is called “GuitarTuna” and it is a helpful tuner.  It demonstrates the different strings and is extremely accurate.  This app also sounds out the different musical chords and demonstrates how to play them.  Both of these applications are helping me tremendously.  I think that it is important to be able to learn the basics and work your way up.  Many times, people (I am guilty!) jump in feet first and go full force ahead. This can be great, but it is also important to learn the underlying basic components of the task at hand.

I have been working on learning the different strings and memorizing simple chords. So far, things are going pretty well. I’ve been working on it as much as I can and I am starting to get the basics down. This project is going to help me in the long run in many different ways.  I am so excited, as an aspiring music teacher, that I will soon be able to play guitar. (If everything goes as planned!)  Especially in elementary music, being able to play the guitar is a huge help.  Many schools require it as music majors, and I am glad that I am learning now.  It is better late than never, and I know I will feel accomplished if I succeed!

My PLN: A Security Blanket in the Making!

To be honest, I had no idea what a PLN was before I read some of the readings that were suggested. I did some research, I read until my eyes hurt, and I discovered that a PLN is a security blanket.  Or a safety net.  Whatever you want to call it, it is a wonderful thing to indulge in. A personal learning network is a place that you can share and read about the things that connect to you.  It is a safe place that allows you to find the people that share the same passions as you.  I have found myself checking my Twitter to see what has been newly posted by the “experts” that I have found in order to create my personal learning network.  I chose to adjust my PLN to match my passion in teaching music.  I have found so many different music education experts that are already helping shape my teaching style.

Photo taken from Flickr.  CC- By catspyjamasnz
Photo taken from Flickr. CC- By catspyjamasnz

@GiveANote, @NAfME, @ATLmusicproject, @centerforartsed,@NMEAnebraska, and countless other accounts about both music education, and education in general have been so helpful for me to refer to.  The wonderful thing about a PLN is that you can read and read all day long and find so many helpful tips and encouragements.  I can easily take some of the information that these music/fine arts pages demonstrate and incorporate them into what I am learning on the education pages.

As I got to thinking, I realized that these “big name” accounts do not have to be the only way I find help, encouragement, and ideas.  I did some research and realized that some of my past music professors and music mentors have professional accounts and it has been helpful for me to be able to find a safe nook, not only filled with these strangers, but also mentors that have been able to help me.  I generally do not indulge in organized groups like this because I’ve always liked to keep my opinions to myself.  Twitter has allowed me to share my ideas, read others’ ideas, and repost what I will be able to use later on.  Also, looking into the future, I realized that I can be one of these “experts”.  If you learn from the best, you are apt to be successful.

A Reflection on Passion-Based Learning

One of the articles that I read was My Journey Teaching Through Passion-Based Learning.  This article got my brain working.  There was so much about this article that I agreed with but never knew how to put into words.  The author, Ainissa Ramirez, speaks partway through the article about two ways to get a child passionate about something.  Her first way was “Find out what each child is innately passionate about.”   And her second was “Be an instructor that exudes passion for the topic, and infect your students with that excitement.”  The latter of the two I am very passionate about.  Excitement is contagious.  Children learn passion at a young age and bringing passion into the classroom is an easy way to keep students involved.  If a student is enjoying what he or she is learning, they are more likely to retain what they are learning.

Photo CC- By Katie Phillips
Photo CC- By Katie Phillips

My Journey Teaching Through Passion-Based Learning

Now, let me reflect properly on the article “School Vs. Learning” by George Couros.  I understand the concept of Mr. Couros’ ideas.  I understand that in ways, school is restricting, and also tends to strip the true meaning of learning.  Schools often times can put students into a pattern, not allowing them to be trained in the idea of “anything can happen at any given time.”  But I can also say that to some students, patterns and order are a necessity.  To some children, we need order and schedules.  This can be argued in several different directions, because just as many students that need patterns, need freedom to learn. George Couros made some very valid points in his article, but I also could strike up a lot of arguments when it came to his article.  All due respect or course, I don’t believe that school is as bad as he argues.  Yes, there are many things that we should learn from this article and incorporate into our classrooms, especially when it comes to allowing students to explore and learn on their own.  Often times we guide too much.  Allow enough room for them to do their own work, but stay within arm’s reach of them.  There ARE many learning habits that should trump the “school habits.”  But there are also a lot of good habits that come with school.  I think that this article was a great read and in many ways, it made me have an open mind.

“School Vs. Learning”

Independent Learning: Oh, the Possibilities!

I confess. I am an absolute learning nerd.  I have learning cravings.  The idea of an “independent learning project” is like a big slab of cake.  Yum!  I have spent all week sifting through ideas of things I have always wanted to learn.  Most of the times, if I pick up on something that I want to learn, I learn it.  Whether I teach myself or take a class.  In some instances, I’ve had family teach me.  However, there is one thing that I have always wanted (and needed) to learn.  As a musician, and having taken two years of college for music education, I have learned many musical instruments.  When I was taking music education classes, it was a requirement to learn all common wind and brass instruments, as well as learning percussion and piano.  To break it down for you, we learned the following instruments:  flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, baritone, french horn, trombone, drums, chimes, and of course piano.  When I started taking my elementary courses I realized that if I so choose to be a music teacher for elementary, I have to learn guitar.  Yikes.  I played violin as a kid, and I can pick up most instruments with ease, but I’ve had a guitar sitting in my bedroom for four years and I still haven’t learned how to play yet.  (Not for lack of trying!)

Photo CC By-Jill Petersen
Photo CC By-Jill Petersen

I thought long and hard about this project, and debated between things such as expanding my knowledge of foreign languages, having my fiance teach me to weld, and the possibilities went on.  But then I realized that this is an opportunity to learn guitar, and be held accountable for it!  The picture above is a shot I took of my dusty guitar.  It looks beautiful and I’m sure it works just as well, but it only makes out-of-tune squeals for me.  For somebody that was graded on learning several instruments for school, not being able to learn guitar on my free time is incredibly frustrating me.  I don’t know what it is about this daunting guitar.  This project has prompted me to learn what has seemed impossible to me in the past.

Before I make it sound like this is a chore, let me express my excitement.  I will be spending the next several weeks, several hours a week, learning something new.  Although I have failed to successfully learn this task before (I even bought a beginner’s book, although the seal has never been broken!) I am elated to be able to try my hand at it again.  In the future, as an elementary music teacher, being able to learn guitar will not only be helpful, but it is necessary.  Many schools require guitar lessons before graduating with a degree.  At my previous college, this was not a requirement.  I always saw it as dodging a bullet but I look back now and realize that I wasn’t dodging a bullet, I was postponing the inevitable.

So here I am, starting a new adventure with my guitar (as soon as I rid it of dust).  Wish me luck, please, and expect positive (I hope) and exciting updates on my progress.

Breaking Down the Unknown

Photo CC By- Alan Levine
Photo CC By- Alan Levine

Angela Zhang has a brilliant mind.  As I sat here viewing her video it dawned on me how brilliant her methods were.  Not only does she have a brilliant, scientific mind, but she also made some magnificent points on the subject of breaking down the unknown.  Far too often, we block out what we don’t understand.  The idea of facing something so complex is frightening.  But the truth is, that everything that is complex is also simple.  Every complex idea has multiple simple ideas building it into something complex.  If we can train ourselves to break down these complex ideas into smaller ideas that we understand, we can learn anything.  Granted, everybody is different, and everybody learns at different levels and paces, but if we try until we succeed, we can all accomplish the unknown.

In the classroom I believe that this can be an epidemic. If we can train our students to simplify what they don’t understand, they will be able to break situations down both in and out of school.  Not only does this benefit children by increasing their knowledge and learning habits, but it will also help them to become independent thinkers.  They will be able to solve problems on their own.  If we expect a lot of success from our students (with the understanding that some may succeed at all and others may succeed at very little) they will be driven to succeed.  If we expect our students to be able to learn and utilize problem solving skills, they will be able to take that skill and that attitude with them throughout their life.  And I know that many of us adults can honestly say that we would have wished we learned that at a young age.

The ability to break concepts down into a simpler and more understandable concept is something that not only benefits children.  As adults, many of us were probably never taught this (Speaking from personal experience of course). We are frequently terrified when thinking of a hard-to-understand concept and so we don’t continually learn new information.  If we could all learn to break down the unknown like Angela, we will expand our knowledge and be able to take that knowledge and teach others.

Truth be told, much of the human race takes their brains for granted.  Our brains need fed just like our bodies, and I believe that we should all adapt this “breaking down the unknown” method to help us learn.

Breaking Down the Unknown-

Eight Staples of a Child’s Education: A Reflection on “Hackschooling”

Exercise, diet and nutrition, time in nature, contribution in service to others, relationships, recreation, relaxation and stress management, and religious and spiritual involvement.  Logan LaPlante was able to break down the essentials in life into eight simple points, and I believe in every one of them.

Exercise.  Such an important factor in every human’s life.  Many people do not get the exercise that they need, and in fact, many people do not have any interest in participating in any physical activities.

Diet and nutrition can closely tie into exercise.  We all need nutrition in our lives.  Both physical nutrition and mental nutrition.  Without proper nutrition, we cannot learn to our greatest ability.  Lack of nutrition can cause lethargy, lack of concentration, moodiness, hormone imbalance and many other distractions.

Having your time in nature is an aspect in life that has in some ways fallen through the cracks.  Being engulfed in nature is a moment that cannot be explained.  It cannot be replaced with anything indoors, and it cannot  be substituted.  A person’s spirit and ability to connect with nature is important in learning, as it allows a person to stay grounded, focus only on what needs focus, and heighten one’s concentration.

Photo CC-By Jill Petersen
Photo CC-By Jill Petersen

Contribution to the service of others is  largely important in children’s learning habits.  Teaching a child to WANT to help others will allow them to learn cooperation, understanding, empathy, and patience.

Teaching a child healthy relationship qualities is crucial in their early stages.  To teach a young child respect, cooperation, and the joy of having relationships with people will teach them to better connect with people.

Saving time for recreation in life is often overlooked.  Many people today are often in a rush. The idea of “play” is often frowned upon and pushed to the back burner, so to speak.  Teaching a child recreation in moderation will allow them to learn balance and priorities.

My personal favorite is relaxation and stress management.  As a whole, the human population has tendencies to stress easily.  We have tendencies to become tightly wound and then struggle to relax.  If we can teach children the art of relaxation and the importance of learning stress management, the generations to come can help our population relax.

And finally, spiritual and religious involvement.  I agree with these both being important staples in a child’s education.  Although you cannot force a religion or religious involvement on a student, we can encourage them to find involvement in some form.  Whether it be spiritual within themselves, religion in a church, or other forms of involvement, encouraging children to be involved in something spiritually teaches them to stay grounded and learn the act of being involved.

As a future educator, I plan to involve these eight staples into my students’ educations.  This TED Talk was simple and yet very honest.  I have taken away from this video many different aspects to a child’s education that I plan to incorporate into the classroom.


Reflecting Digital Literacy

Digital Literacy is changing and expanding every day.  Digital literacy is using technology and technological tools to both create information and research information.  It can be tremendously helpful, yet also intimidating.  I believe that a person should sit down frequently to learn the different types of digital literacy that applies to them.  It is not required of everybody to know how to comfortably run technology, but I believe that sometime in the near future, it is going to be a given that a person knows how to run technology.  There are several people who see no benefits in having the ability to run technology.  The website that is linked directly below is a website that is full of tutorials on how to navigate through some common forms of digital literacy.

Digital Literacy

Some of the important elements of digital literacy include the ability to run a computer.  It is important for a person to be able to access the internet in order to learn to be proficient in digital literacy. Another important element of digital literacy is the ability to fully understand the  different formats of a computer.

When it comes to digital literacy, I excel in writing essays, using the several different forms of Microsoft Word.  I also know fairly well how to do research.  I have been taught the difference between reliable sources online, and unreliable sources.

One thing I would like to learn in the form of digital literacy is exactly what I am working on right now.  I want to learn how to blog, post articles, and explore these types of websites.  I am glad that these blogs are requirements or this class because it is not only fascinating, but also will benefit me later on in life.

One thing we need to do to be able to successfully become digital learners is to keep an open mind.  Many of us are stubborn and have a hard time opening up to the “unknown”.  It becomes difficult and frustrating to not understand how to run a program that we are unfamiliar with.  To successfully become digital leaders, we must learn patience.  Not every person learns technology at the same speed, and for some people, it takes extensive amounts of time to adequately learn the ins and outs of a technology program.  As leaders and teachers of these digital literacy programs and tools, we must learn to patiently teach people the ability to perform their tasks.  We must remember that these tasks often come frustrating and frightening to people that are not technologically advanced.

Behind the Scenes: A Memoir of a Girl

As a young child, I was always driven to learn. For as long as I can remember, I have striven to learn.  As I started school, I quickly found my knack.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what I liked, didn’t like, what I excelled at, and what I struggled with.  The number one thing I struggled with was the ability to present.  The ability to show off the work I completed, and the ability to share my opinions.  I was painfully shy as a young kid, and my self confidence was non-existent. There were times in my early education that I struggled.  As an education major now, I look back and realize that all along, it wasn’t that I was unintelligent, it was that I was holding myself back.  Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of struggles with certain subjects, classes, and assignments, but I believe that I was selling myself short.  I was holding myself back.  Let me be a living example of how important it is for children to learn to express themselves. Let me take you back to the beginning.

In August of 1996, I was clad with my favorite denim dress.  My Winnie the Pooh backpack was all the rage. Arm in arm walking with my cousin, my mother and aunt sent us off to preschool.  I remember thinking that that day would NEVER come.  I remember the unsettling feeling of fear.  But then I looked to my right and realized, I wasn’t alone.  My cousin and I are two months apart in age.  She was more like a sister to my older sister and I, than she was a cousin.  My cousin has always been more outgoing than I.  She was always the leader, and I would happily follow.  We continued our school years being in the same class, all the way up until we graduated high school.  I learned that I both benefited and struggled with having somebody doing the same work as me.  I benefited from it because my cousin is very intelligent.  She always had good marks in school, and it made me want to do as well as her.  However, on the other hand, I struggled with having her there, because it was a form of competition that at times was distracting from learning.  I look back today, and am grateful and thankful that I was able to learn side by side with my cousin.  She helped me find a bit of self-confidence in my work and helped me become a more confident learner.

Photo CC-By Jennifer (SweetOnVeg)
Photo CC-By Jennifer (SweetOnVeg)

Here we are again, and now it is my fifth grade year.  Now I have graduated from my Winnie the Pooh backpack, and am now carrying a three quarter sized violin. The excitement that filled me from my head to my toes.  I finally got to start learning a new instrument.

Photo by: Jill Petersen
Photo CC- By: Jill Petersen

At this time, I had been learning piano for five years and I was falling more in love with music every day. By this age, I had learned that I was musically inclined and creative.  The following year, in sixth grade, I begun middle school band.  I chose the saxophone because it was what my sister played and I quickly picked it up.  In eighth grade I joined our school’s jazz band.  My teacher that taught both this class and concert band really encouraged me.  In everything music related.  She continually tried convincing me to try out for the solos, but at the time, I was terrified and I always turned down the offers.  My life as a musician changed when I was a freshman in high school.  We had a small band that year and had only four saxophone players.  My director made all four of us try out for the solo of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.  I was naturally frustrated that I was being forced to try out, and equally as nervous.  It was my turn to play, and as I finished the solo, the varsity band director come out of his office and instructed my director to select me. She didn’t hesitate.  She turned back around and pointed to me.  From this moment on, I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.  They believed in me, they saw me as talented.  They were skilled musicians, so I thought in the back of my mind “playing in front of a bunch of parents will be nothing. If my talented directors say I’m good enough, you can buck up and play for a crowd that probably isn’t even listening.” So I did, and from that moment on, I realized that as a musician, you will have times that you play horribly.  That is part of being an artist. Music has taught me to express myself.  This also has taught me that you must take chances in order to learn to your highest ability.  Which brings me to my next point…

From the day I was born until now, twenty three years later, I have struggled with accepting failure.  In school and out of school.  Failing as an athlete, a musician, a student, a daughter, a friend, a teammate, a sister, and as an employee. I have struggled with not only failing other people but failing for myself.  Now I know… I’ve been taught that you must fail to succeed.  I am learning that still a little bit every day.  Feeling as though I’ve failed when it comes to school has taught me that I must keep working at what I am struggling on and attempt and reattempt until I am satisfied with my work.  This aspect of my being has made me into a dedicated learner.  It may seem like a burden, or it may seem as though it may weigh me down, but in truth, it has made me into a dedicated, hard working, loyal learner.

Photo CC-By Jill Petersen

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved books.  Any kind of books.  Reading quickly became a passion of mine and at a young age I had many teachers tell my mother that I was becoming a good writer.  Now fast forward to my sophomore year in high school.  With English and literature being my favorite core classes, I was excited to see that I was having a new teacher.  When we filed in the room to our designated seats, I noticed that my teacher was sitting on top of a desk, quietly watching us until she had each and every one of our eyes.  Alas, she burst into loud chanting.  She was reciting a poem that now has escaped my mind, but I can remember feeling confused, embarrassed, and slightly frightened of her. We had our introductions like any typical first day of class, but something about this mysterious new teacher made me curious.  Much of this class revolved around three things; writing in our journals, reading books on our own time, and writing book reports and other essays.  Now as I stated earlier, I am a bit on the shy side. I am reserved and rarely express how I feel to anyone.  The idea of having a teacher that wore both her heart and her emotions on her sleeve was unsettling.  But I learned to love this class, as I excelled, and quite frankly, who doesn’t love being good at something?

Photo CC By:  Takashi Hososhima
Photo CC- By: Takashi Hososhima

One day I was asked to stay after class.  I sat through class with my nose in my work wondering what I did wrong.  After class, my teacher sat down and slowed herself down to a quiet boil.  She talked with me about casual things such as school, how softball was going, and things like such.  Then she told me she was proud of me.  Talk about the floor falling out from under me.  I politely said “thank you” and asked why she was proud.  She raved on and on about how she was learning that there was another side to me.  She first saw a quiet and reserved young girl.  She told me that through my writing, I was a whole different person.  She encouraged me to stick with it.  She gave me a list of topics to journal about on my own time and gave me a list of books to read. Every couple of weeks I would go in after school and receive a new book title and I would briskly walk to the library to find said book. This teacher inspired me to express myself through writing.  Much like music, when a person is writing, they cannot please everyone.  A person must learn to write for themselves and the audience that wants to hear their words will find them.  This taught me to find my voice and accept it.  I  also learned from my sophomore English teacher that my mind is an ever-growing sponge and that I need to learn.  I realized that year that I not only WANT to learn, but I NEED to learn.  Wanting and needing to learn, striving to expand my knowledge has made me love to learn.

My family has always been very close.  The morals that my family has instilled on me from day one have shaped me to being the type of learner that I am today.  I grew up with my older sister and my mother and father.  However, my father’s side of the family lives in the same town as me.  Literally, every person in that side of my family lives in a town of 24,000 people.  It is needless to say that we see each other on a daily or weekly basis.  I would never have it any other way.  My family, immediate and extended, teach me new things every single day.  I have so many role models in my family that have encouraged me to be the person I am today.  On the other hand, there are so many young cousins in my family that I strive to be my best to be a positive role model for the little ones.  The young and old alike have taught me that it is important to learn from your own and your loved ones’ mistakes.

As human beings, we evolve into our own beings as we get older  From day one, we are learning. Every day, every instance, and every teacher help shape us into who we are and how we learn.  I learned that expressing myself through music and writing allowed me to find my voice.  I have also learned that we are all learners. Everyday we are learning.  Embrace it and learn your hardest.

Photo CC By: Matthew WIllmott
Photo CC- By: Matthew WIllmott