This week’s readings and videos on The Open Education Movement were fascinating and
intriguing for me. I value creativity personally and professionally. I believe strongly in collaboration for teachers and students; that two heads are better than one; that true synergy is powerful and transformative.
We have the ability to connect, collaborate and create more than ever before in history. However, the resistance of government and big business are drastically slowing and preventing the possibilities that exist.
The video that stood out the most for me was The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Aaron Swartz and I found his story to be both inspiring and heartbreaking. Aaron was an amazing individual. His own obsession with knowledge, his belief that the world’s collective knowledge should be free and available to the world and his desire to fight for social justice resulted in tragedy. This was a tragedy not just for Aaron’s family but for the world, as we lost this bright star who may have made unimaginable breakthroughs in our world, had he been able to see his visions become reality.
The resistance to open access from the government and big business is terrifying. Aaron apparently was trying to make electronic documents about American law free and available to the public. As a result he became a threat. This should cause average citizens to wonder “what are they hiding?”. Shouldn’t the law be transparent? What would be the reason for a government to make it difficult for the public to gain knowledge that could help them gain justice for themselves? I’m sure you will come to your own conclusions.
This topic infuriates and scares me. I don’t believe in settling for the status quo. I believe we should participate in democracy and continually be ensuring that our world is fair and just for all. However, standing up for any cause has potential, sometimes catastrophic consequences, as exemplified by the story of Aaron Swartz. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on the side of what is right. It causes me to question how far I should go in standing up for what is right?
Even something as simple as speaking out for progressive education or advocating for students can have social and professional repercussions.
I am glad that there are individuals fighting for open access and that the Creative Commons exists. However, we still have a long way to go.
This week’s readings and videos reminded me of some readings from previous weeks. I was reminded of The Theory of Multiples as explained in Clive Thomson’s Article Why Even the Worst Bloggers are Making us Smarter. Clive states, “When you can resolve multiples and connect people with similar obsessions, ideas flourish and multiply”. Why would we want to prevent this?
I was also reminded of Attention and the 21st Century, especially, the idea of “crap detection”. Aaron Swartz was very good at crap detection. Unfortunately, it got him into a lot of trouble and cost him his life. I hope we can all detect crap when we see it (and it is everywhere, isn’t it?). What do we about it when we see it? That is the critical question. I struggle with it daily. What I do about the crap I detect varies, depending on my energy and courage at the time. It ranges from simple reflection to speaking up or informing students and my children. I have not taken any further action, although I am passionate about many social causes. As educators, I think we feel obligated to represent the values of the school system, even though they may not always be congruent with our personal beliefs. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about “crap detection” and action for a open education and other causes.
This week I’m excited to tell you about some of the progress I have made in finding ways to fit my yoga practice into my life, my success in researching online sources for Yoga and how I have learned to accept my current ability level as a yogi.
Previously I had sampled some yoga videos from Sattvayoga and YogaGlo. I tried both of their free trials for two weeks.(SattvaYoga costs $10/month and YogaGlo costs $18/month). In both these sources there was a lot of choice and the instructors of the videos I watched seemed very good. I’m sure these sites would be beneficial for anyone wanting to practice yoga. However, after consideration I decided it is unnecessary to spend money in order to practice yoga. There are plenty of sources for free on the internet.
The instructor, Adriene Mishler, created a series of 30 days of yoga vidoes. Adriene’s focus is to help us Find What Feels Good. This is the name and focus of her paid site for all things yoga. Adriene is quirky, in a great way, fun and easy to follow. I really appreciate her laid-back, positive, individualized approach to teaching yoga.
Each of the sessions in the 30 Day Yoga Camp series have a specific focus such as “I create”, “I embrace” or “I accept”. I really like this aspect as well. It is helping me to be more mindful.
During the first few weeks of my yoga project and practice I was attempting an exercise regime that I would have practiced a few years ago, when I was in better fitness than I am now. It was familiar and I wanted to “push myself”. However, in the spirit of yoga, I have realized that it is important to accept myself as I am: including my current level of fitness and stamina. I may be able to gradually work back to where I used to be. But I need to focus on where I am, here and now. And that’s ok.
As a result, Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Camp is just what I needed! It is gentle with an appropriate amount of challenge. She provides tips for different levels. Most importantly she takes the time to remind us to move into poses in our own time, in our own way. She reminds us to take a minute to feel the pose, wiggle or ease left and right, forward and back and pay attention to how it feels and what our body is trying to tell us. The videos tend to be about forty minutes long, which is perfect for my lifestyle.
This week I started the Yoga camp while at the University gym, as you can read in my previous post. On two other occasions, I practiced the yoga camp in my home. I have not been able to practice these lessons on successive days, but I am ok with that, for now. This is the first week that I was able to complete three sessions of yoga. So this is already progress!
On one of the days I practiced with my daughter. I really enjoyed doing yoga with her. It was great to have a partner and I’m happy to involve her in the beneficial practice of yoga also.
My favourite place to practice is in my home. However, I am glad that I have the option of practicing at the University gym while my daughter is at her synchro practice. The idea is to fit yoga into my life in whatever way I can.
I have also been able to spend about 15-20 minutes doing some light walking on my treadmill or in the gym.
I have been dabbling in yoga for about sixteen years. I have gone through times when I have had a regular yoga practice. However, my life has gotten busier over the years as I have added in children and graduate work. It feels good to have made positive progress towards renewing a regular practice. I feel like I will be able to sustain this exercise on a weekly basis. I am confident this will in turn increase my energy and help me in dealing with life as usual in positive ways. You can also see my self-evaluation here.
If you have any tips or advice on fitting yoga into your busy lifestyle I would love to hear from you!
This week one recommended viewing assignment stood out to me more than the others: The PBS 2014 Frontline Documentary: Generation Like. I would like to tell you about my experience, thoughts, and the questions that arose while watching the video alone and then with my children.
I was immediately interested in this documentary because it attempted to answer two questions that I have been wondering about for a while. The first question it posed was What are technologies doing to our kids that we need to make them aware of?
The second question that I had been wondering about was how exactly is our participation on social media connected to making money. I was interested in this documentary both as a teacher and a parent.
PBS Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff expertly describes how social media is affecting teens and culture today according to his research. He compares his current findings to those of his 2001 documentary The Merchants of Cool: The Persuaders. There is a sharp contrast to the world of 2001 and the world only thirteen years later.
The recurring theme in this video is that of master manipulation. Throughout the presentation a comparison is made between the big business of getting kids to like products and the book and movie series The Hunger Games. It is as if teens must get others to like them in order to survive. There is also a powerful reference to the destructive social condition described by George Orwell. “Serendipity by design, it’s almost Orwellian. But maybe it was inevitable. Afterall this generation has grown up in the arena of likes.” Again, there is the comparison to The Hunger Games as well.
Douglas Rushkoff also demonstrates how likes turn into cash. He provides two examples of digital marketing agencies whose purpose is to orchestrate exactly that: The Audience and TVG LA. The purpose of these companies is to assist celebrities and hopefuls to develop a greater audience on every possible platform. Their fame is orchestrated by using data from their social media as well as advertising principles to increase their likeability. They are also connected to their followers favourite products. This is, of course, where the money comes in. More about this here. This did, in fact, help me to better understand how this all works.
“The more views I get, the more comments I get, the more money I get.”
After watching the documentary initially, I decided it would be beneficial to watch it with my children and talk to them about their reaction to it. Both my children are on social media in different ways and for different reasons. My twelve year old daughter uses Instagram and Snapchat to connect with friends. My nine year old son uses both these apps for the same reason. In addition, he Youtubes about Minecraft and is very focused on developing a followership. They both play Minecraft and connect with others through Minecraft servers and chat. So how did my children react to the documentary? See the highlights of our informal interview below. I interviewed them both together after watching the video. It was nearing bedtime so I was admittedly rushing them somewhat.
Nine year old boy: C
Twelve year old girl: K
What did you learn from this video?
Both: None of it was really new to me. What are the good things about social media for you and what skills have you gained from it?
K: I’m being exposed to a lot of different things through social media, both good and bad, it has made me more knowledgeable, I can google anything I want to know. I would not have read as many books as i have if not for technology (eBooks). I think with Selfies you can show your identity. What do you like about social media?
C: I really want to show my face on YouTube to get more likes. (His father and I have not allowed him to do so yet). It’s a good feeling (when someone watches a video you have created). My goal is to get over 20 subscribers (by his tenth bday). Most of (my followers) are my classmates. You feel more confident. The best youtubers seem to forget that they’re recording and just have fun. So their followers have fun too. Do you think you will keep YouTubing? Yes, I think I will be still YouTubing in a year or more. I don’t think I will do it as an adult but it will give me a boost. How will these skills help you in your future?
As an adult I want to be an engineer/architect/scientist/entrepreneur. What are the good things about social media for you? What skills have you gained from it?
You get acting skills (vlogs, skits,), editing skills, confidence.
It takes a lot of time to get followers. You have to be really likable or already have a lot of friends. Do you think Youtubers who make money from promoting brands are “selling out”? (I had to explain what selling out meant).
Both: I think you should make money doing what you love, it’s ok to promote brands if you like them but don’t lie. What are the dangers and risks of social media?
K: I’m careful not to let creepy people follow me. I keep all my social media private.
I was somewhat surprised that they felt they hadn’t learned anything new from this video. I wish that I had had more time to ask further questions. I will likely pursue it again in a day or two to see if they can tell me some more of their thoughts.
Some of their views on developing a following of strangers on social media worry me a little. Of course, I realize I have a desire to do the same on this very blog. And I remember wanting to be as famous as Madonna when I was a child. Is it different in this day and age? Are the risks and dangers greater? I wonder.
“Young people want validation and attention. That’s not new. it’s just that the platform is larger now. And there are more people competing for attention so it’s also harder now”
My daughter is also a huge fan of The Hunger Games so I would like to ask her more about her thoughts about the theme of manipulation for entertainment, consumerism and control.
I know my children are young and they are still developing deeper understandings about these complex issues. So we need to keep talking.
Also, I realize that Douglas Rushkoff has his own biases that inevitably come out in this documentary. Any reflective researcher or journalist is aware of their own biases. And I have learned to look at the biases of what is being said in any situation; to look for the questions that are not being asked, the perspectives that are not being considered. So, I wonder, is this documentary slanted to Mr. Rushkoff’s perspective? Is is overdramatized? Are teens being used in a similar manner as depicted in the Hunger Games? Is it really so terrible to have the ability to announce to the world that you like this brand or that one? Are teenagers really selling out or being used by big business? Or are they smart enough to see beyond the manipulation tactics? Are these companies involved in making money from Likes actually as open and transparent as they claim, or is Mr. Rushkoff correct in comparing them to the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind the curtain, trying to fool us with their magic and slight of hand?
Of course, I will continue to talk to my children about all these questions. I believe, as a parent, I have the greatest potential to shape the minds of my children, if I choose to, even in their future teenage years. This is the world we live in. So I don’t feel as though I have a choice but to educate them, help them question the world around them, and trust them to follow the positive values I hope I have instilled in them.
I have been meaning to post about being a vegetarian for a while. So here it is.
People often ask why I made the choice to be a vegetarian. There are five reasons.
First, I have never really liked the taste of meat very much anyway. I remember my parents having to force me to eat it as a kid.
Secondly, the decision happened as a result of my daughter. She was six when she learned where meat comes from. She was very upset and said she would not eat meat anymore. My husband and I decided not to make too big a deal of it and we let her stop eating meat. We thought she would change her mind and go back to eating meat in a couple weeks. We should have known what a determined young person she is. She has not had a bite of meat since. At the time, we did some research about vegetarianism and learned about other sources of protein. I learned how to feed her and soon realized that this was something I wanted to do also.
The third reason is that I am an animal lover. I do not feel right about killing animals or having someone else do it for my food. Honestly, I do not judge anyone who eats meat, just as I hope they will not judge me. It is a personal decision.
Lastly, I have found that I feel better when I don’t eat meat. I have read that your body uses a great deal of energy to digest meat and it is actually quite hard on your body (especially red meat).
As I was considering whether or not to become a vegetarian, I watched the video Earthlings. That cinched it for me. It is a very difficult video to watch. However, it is extremely informative.
Vegetarianism also fits with the Yoga Lifestyle I have referred to in previous posts.
I believe that being a vegetarian is much easier now than it would have been twenty years ago. There are so many options. Most restaurants have vegetarian menu choices and vegetarian items can be easily found in grocery stores.
The main protein sources in my diet are beans, quinoa, nuts, seeds and green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. I really do not like the taste of soy so I avoid it. I have found many delicious recipes on Pinterest. There is always an alternate way to make anything so I never have to miss my favourite foods. For example, I used to love ginger chicken. So I found a recipe to make it using cauliflour. You might think it sounds crazy – but it is delicious!
I would recommend a vegetarian lifestyle to anyone. The next step for me is veganism!
Finally I had a great yoga session! There were two reasons my practice was a success; my instructor and the venue.
I found a series of videos by Yoga with Adriene. She has a blog, website and YouTube channel. I started her 30 Day Challenge. Adriene’s focus is on paying attention to your own body and making your yoga practice work for you. I love that! There are many options because every day and every person is different. Sometimes your body is tight in one area and then the next day your tightness is in a totally different place. I really enjoyed day one of the challenge. It’s great for beginners but also good for more advanced yogis. I highly recommend it!
However, I did feel a bit like a weirdo…. My daughter has synchronized swimming at the University on Mondays and Fridays. I live in the north end so it’s not worth it to drive home and back again. So I decided to use the open gym time tonight to do my yoga practice. (Actually I really wanted to use the dance studio space, but there was a class in there.) So I built up my courage, grabbed my mat and my phone and went into the gym. There were a few people that came in to shoot hoops. I felt a bit embarrassed but kept going anyway. I walked a few laps around the gym afterwards too. I felt great! Maybe it should be more normal to see people doing yoga at the gym or park or wherever anyway – just as normal as seeing people shoot hoops. No one gave me any funny looks or seemed bothered in any way. So I will get over feeling weird about this! I was able to focus on me and my yoga practice, with no distractions. I will try it again.
Shout -out to Vanessa who I saw there before I started my yoga. A little spontaneous moral moral support never hurts!
In Felicity Duncan’s article Why Many Kids are Leaving Social Networks she claims that young people today are switching from broadcast social media like Facebook to narrow-cast social media such as Snapchat. Amanda Lenhart’s article Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015 conflicts with Duncan’s data, showing that in fact, Facebook is the most popular social media network among teens (71% use Facebook while 41% use Snapchat). Lenhart’s article was written only a few weeks ago on February 4, 2016, while Duncan’s article was written nearly a year ago. It could very well be that social media use has changed that much in a very short time.
In any case, let’s consider what they are saying about young people, their use of social media and how it affects our ever-changing connected world.
Duncan expressed that there have been “alarms sounding” because teens are leaving Facebook. My question is “So what?!” Who am I concerned for here? Marc Zuckerberg? Advertising agencies? CEOs of major brands? I don’t think so. I think they will be just fine. Am I concerned for young people today because they are leaving Facebook? No. Let me explain.
It seems to me that social media will continue to be an ever-changing landscape, at least in our lifetime. Advertisers will evolve and find new ways to advertise each time there is a new popular platform. Mark Zuckerberg and other CEOs will continue to retire with pockets full of money. I’m pretty sure they will be okay.
So what about young people today? Are they becoming more narcissistic? And if so, could it be due to social media use and too many selfies? I did some research online to learn more. Dr. Peter Gray concluded that there is in fact, a rise in narcissism. However, he attributes this increase to a decline of children’s free social play. Read more about this interesting topic at Dr. Gray’s blog. Dr. Lisa Firestone found that narcissism is on the rise but is due to changes in parenting styles and not to social networks. Lynne Malcolm also found that the rise in narcissism is due to a change in parenting style.
Finally, Brooke Lea Foster takes issue with much of the research out there and states that every generation of young people is more narcissistic than its elders.
I strongly agree with Brooke Lea Foster. I believe that human beings are, generally, more self involved when we are young and become more empathetic and service-focused with age. There have always been self-involved people. There has always been cruelty. These are not new concepts. At the same time there has always been kindness, love and generosity. These are not new ideas either. Parents can pass down cruel ways or kind ways. And young people can choose to be kind even when they have been mistreated or oppressed. People make choices. It has always been and will always be. I choose to have hope and be optimistic. I choose to believe in the goodness of young people and that through our interactions as educators we can encourage all young people to make healthy choices that have a positive impact on the world around them.
I remember when I was in grade seven my teacher read our class a letter written to a newspaper editor. The writer of the letter complained about young people these days and how they have no respect and are completely self-involved. The letter was written in the 1800s. I appreciated my teacher sharing this with us and, obviously it has stuck with me. I tried to find this letter to the editor. I don’t think I found the same source. However there are many like it out there, such as this collection at Mentalfloss and this one at Proto-knowledge. I find these quite humorous as well as poignant.
As for Facebook, perhaps it will fade out in time. Or perhaps young people will grow into it and increase their use of it as they get married, stop partying, have children and want to connect in a different way. I will miss Facebook if it disappears one day. However, I will adapt and connect on whatever new platform is available at that time
Already I have begun to use Snapchat. Previously, my husband and I had not allowed our twelve year old daughter to be on Snapchat. After this week’s reading I allowed her to get a Snapchat account. I got one along with her to see if I could keep up with the times. (I don’t think I can by the way! I can barely keep up with my current accounts! But I will give it a try!) I have also started following The Insatiable Traveler who is also a grown woman attempting to use Snapchat. I will also be closely following Sarah Wandy’s journey on Snapchat.
Felicity Duncan also raised a possible concern that with young people moving to narrower platform their views may become more partisan. I take issue with this concern as I wonder what could possibly be more partisan than television over the past seventy years? Really?
Most of what we see on television are forty year old white, rich men and the sexy women and products that are meant to satisfy them! Partisan views are certainly not a new problem. (Sorry forty-something, white men. I do not mean to offend or generalize. I realize there are an abundance of wonderful, kind forty-something white men out there. In fact I am married to one. However,you just have to Google white privilege to get the research to support the claim that forty year old white men are far over-represented and generally, the most privileged group around. It just is what it is.) Regardless, young people who are connected to positive role models can still manage to learn about other ways of thinking and being.
I do believe that technology is changing the way we interact and think. You can read more about this at Mashable, The Age or Psychology Today. As educators, I believe this is what we need to focus on. I am fascinated by brain research. Truly, that is our business; understanding how the brain works and helping young people use it to the best of their ability to do good things in the world; a world that is connected through technology. Thanks to Vanessa Braun for sharing this diagram. This is basically what teaching using technology is all about.
We can have an impact on young people. We can use their interests, including Snapchat, Minecraft and other forms of social media, to pique their curiosity, get them creating and solving problems and help them become positive citizens who can make a difference in the world. We do not need to worry about the future of our world being in their hands (yes they can hold their devices and hold the world up too!). We just need to give them tools to learn and some loving guidance as they go!
Over the past two weeks I have had a difficult time fitting yoga into my life as it has been a bit of a roller coaster.
After getting sick I found I didn’t have much energy and so chose to do Restorative/Yin Yoga. I found this was very relaxing and helped me to recover.
On Thursday, February 11 my family and I went away to Phoenix. We had a wonderful vacation. The weather cooperated so we were able to swim in the pool at our resort, go shopping and go to the zoo. We also celebrated both my daughter and my husband’s birthdays during our vacation. We were getting a great deal of exercise swimming and walking, I felt fantastic and I was focused on family time. As a result I only attempted yoga on one occasion and, even that attempt was interrupted. Although I was able get some rest and relaxation, there were also the plane rides and hotel beds to consider. These are not so conducive to proper body alignment! It was difficult to evaluate my yoga progress due to these factors.
While we were away my generous parents were looking after our cat. Upon returning home from our blissful trip we learned that my poor mother had broken her leg that morning. The fault was my cat’s, who had escaped out the door when my mother opened it to get the mail. My mother chased after her and slipped on the sidewalk. (Freezing rain in February in Regina is rare and dangerous, isn’t it?). I have spent most of the day at the hospital and my dear mother is in surgery as I write this. During our visits today, as usual, my mother was more focused on how all of us were doing. I’m sure she wished she had some food to offer us! She is strong, healthy and spirited. I’m sure she will be up and about in no time. However, it will be a long time before I will forgive my thoughtless cat!
Needless to say, my energy, my focus and my stress level have been a bit of a roller coaster over the past two weeks. It was difficult to self-evaluate such a variation, especially when very little of it is due to yoga. However, I always do my best to practice a yoga lifestyle. For me, this means kindness to myself and all those around me as well as looking for peace, calm and joy in everyday life. Vegetarianism and healthy eating are also part of my yoga lifestyle. While on vacation for seven days I felt it was easier to practice these values.
I will keep you posted on my mother’s progress as well. All prayers and happy thoughts are appreciated!
UPDATE ON MOM:
It is Saturday morning. My mother is an inspiration! She got out of recovery at 2:30 in the morning. By 9:07 this morning my dad texted me that she was up in a chair having her breakfast and was ready to bear weight! I’m sure she is ready to get back to looking after everyone else! Her mother (my grandmother) lived to 93. At 75, I’m sure my mother plans to have another 20 years or more to look after us all! So she knows she has to look after herself. She exercises three times each week, eats healthy and always on the go!
Grandma always said “things are never so bad that they couldn’t be worse!” I guess another way to look at this is that there is always something to be thankful for. Perhaps this is the answer to a long, happy life. Today I’m thankful for my determined, amazing mom!
I love history and am fascinated by the story of Yoga. Historians are not exactly sure when yoga began. It dates back to between 5 000 and 10 000 years ago, possibly beginning in the Indus-Sarasvati (or Indus Valley) civilization,
(near what is now Islamabad, Pakistan) in Northern India. The Indus Valley is one of the oldest known civilizations and is considered by some as one of the “Cradles of civilization”. Yoga was first mentioned in the Rigveda and the Upanishads, early sacred Hindu texts, used by spiritual Hindu leaders of that time.
Yoga is thought to have developed over a period of six historical eras: pre-vedic India, the Vedic Period, the Pre-Classical era, the Classical era, the Middle Ages, and Modern History.
I’m always amazed at how one thing leads to another – in life in general, and certainly in a Google Search or any research! Since I began to learn about the history of yoga, one thing has indeed led to another. During my research I also discovered 30 different types of yoga. Additionally, I was intrigued by the fact that yoga is more than exercise, but can and should be considered a lifestyle. This wasn’t new information, but simply confirmed for me how important it is to remember this. I will continue my research and share what I have learned in the future. Until then, Namaste, my friends.
Clive describes one particular example of a blogger affecting the world, and politics in her home land. He tells the story of Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan born law student who began blogging about the political scene in Kenya while attending Law School in the United States. For seven years Ory blogged about the injustices in her home country and developed devoted followers. In 2007, after a controversial Kenyan election violence broke out. Ory wished there was a tool for the people of Kenya to share the violent events immediately, rather than waiting for her to post them. She mentioned her ideas to some of her online friends and began collaborating to create a tool for this purpose. Within a few days, a map-based tool was created. This tool, called Ushahidi, has since been used by governments and non-profit organizations to provide assistance to areas of the world in crisis. This is one example of how technology and public thinking can have a powerful effect on the world at large.
For those who are passionate about social justice in education this is important. The implications for using blogging as a way for students to become better writers and to become more socially aware are tremendous. Young adults and even young children are often motivated when learning about injustices around the world. They can also be quite creative in thinking of ways that they can do something about a cause that is important to them. I strongly believe in social justice education. As I continue to think of ways to assist with social justice teaching around my school, I will add blogging as another strategy, thanks to Clive Thomson.