Why do I want to teach?

When I tell friends and family that I am studying teaching at NYU, for the most part I do not get much support.  NYU is an expensive school and at the end of the day I will be making the same salary as my coworkers who perhaps went to the inexpensive CUNY schools.  I would love to tell people that I will eventually teach at a college level or get into education policy, but the fact of the matter is that I have no desire to do either of these.  Why am I set on teaching high school students?

My goal is to make my students appreciative of history as a whole.  Students are heavily influenced of course, by their family life.  If their parents loved President Regan, than they would feel like they should too because this president had to have reflected the interests of their family throughout his years in office.  on whether or not I want to teach United States history in particular, or maybe world history.  All that I know is that I want my students to respect figures in history.  My students need to realize that hard work, dedication and an immeasurable amount of time has been donated to each and everything that surrounds us today.  My goal is not to turn my students into nationalists.  I actually will not have this power as a future educator.  If my students grow to have an appreciation of the United States (like I would love them to), this cannot make them proud to be an American citizen if the current state.

Technology and Autism (a make up post)

Since I missed the class about the Smart Board, I’m doing a make-up post about something close to my heart: Autism. I have been an ABA therapist for 6 years now and have seen children from all aspects of the spectrum. What’s an ABA therapist? ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis and what we do is behavioral therapy: we change and shape behavior by using positive reinforcement. Since Autism is a spectrum disorder, it means each person with Autism is different. So each child I work with is different and has an individual plan and individual targets that we teach them through different methods, prompts, materials and reinforcements. It can be very complicated and not everything is black and white, but I love what I do and the kids that I work with (past and present). To give you a glimpse into Autism, I found this really great video on youtube about Carly Fleischmann who is a girl with Autism. She is non-verbal, meaning she cannot form words to speak. Her parents struggled to communicate with her until she was 13 and out of the blue one day typed “help” on a keyboard before throwing up. It was then, that her parents discovered a way to communicate with her and have been able to ever since.

Since we have been focusing on technology, there are major developments in the way people with Autism have been able to communicate with technology. There used to be what we called PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) in which a person with Autism would have a book of pictures and they would exchange the picture of the item they wanted and they would get it. They also had sentence strips and would have to complete the sentence in order to receive the item they are asking for. This is what it looks like:



I personally wasn’t that big of a fan of PECS because the child would basically have to drag this book of pictures everywhere. And since the actual pictures are small, they are easy to lose. Plus, there is not a guarantee that this is exactly what the child wants. I have worked with a few children who have actually been using the iPad to communicate. There is a system called proloquo2go that works like PECS does, except it’s digital. The child can choose from a variety of items and activities and it ‘speaks’ for them. Here is a video that shows an example:

I think this is amazing for people with Autism because it gives them a voice and a way to communicate. And they can do it across systems like the iPad, iPod and iPhone. Also, they can take pictures of pictures, their favorite toys and upload them to the system. I feel like technology has a way of making our society more anti-social, but it also does amazing things for people who may not have the skills to communicate. There are other systems out there and other devices, but at the end of the day, technology is becoming a major factor in the way people with Autism communicate.

I’m also student teaching in a school that is part of the NEST program (a classroom for children with high -functioning Autism and general education students mixed together) and I found this AMAZING Tumbler called TechforNest that has great ideas about technology in the classroom. If you want to check it out, click here

African and Caribean Dance

I often get ask, “You dance, what type of dance?” My usual response is African/ Caribbean. However, people that are not familiar with these type of dances are un aware that African and Caribbean dance are such are very broad categories. Under African dance alone, there is traditional (which in itself has lots of categories), West African dance, afro-beat dances, and plenty more. The types of dances I just mention are usually the categories under African dance that I dance under. Under Caribbean dance there are also plenty of categories such as dancehall, soca, and more. I mostly do dancehall and soca dances. These types of dances are very fast pace, active, requires quick movement.
Growing up in an African family and having many Caribbean friends, I have also been expose and danced to African and Caribbean music. It is truly one of my passions. Anytime, I am at a party it is usually guaranteed that I can steal the shine when an African or Caribbean song comes on. I have been performing at school and private events since I was young. I just love to dance and always have fun when I’m dancing. Currently, I am Dance Captain of ASU (African Student’s Union) dance team. Below was suppose to be a clip of a performance that I and another dance member did for an event at NYU. However, it was too big to uplaod :(The whole dance team will be performing on April 26th, so if interested in seeing us perform, let me know and I will provide more information.

Rosetta Stone: A memoir.

I have been working with Rosetta Stone for a few years now for different languages for different reasons. Chinese, Italian, French, Spanish, German, Icelandic, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Romanian– I’ve played around with a nice variety (they are all available for free online, if you know where to look…). Right now, I am using Rosetta Stone (Swedish)  as a part of my  NYU capstone project in which I am creating a language-learning diary. The software is attempting to create an immersion scenario for the learner and it does do a decent job in some sectors. The biggest fault I find is the lack of assessment to gauge the learner’s level. The biggest frustration is seeing the same word over and over again at the beginning of the lesson. It would be cool if it knew the learner was catching on and provided a faster pace naturally. It is essentially a long flashcard game at times in which the learner is clicking on the picture to match the spoken (and written) phrase. Sometimes the words are gone and it is only audio, other times the learner types in the word, and other times the learner speaks the words in the microphone and the program analyzes the pitch and judges the learner’s pronunciation. It does a great job in deciphering spoken audio (I said words wrong on purpose and it didn’t allow them) though it becomes a game when it doesn’t accept your pronunciation. It is easy to get sucked into repeating the same word 20 times just to feel accomplished in having the program accept your sample. In the end, it consists of lots of pictures of people doing random shit, and lots of clicking on words. 



The answer is the bottom left box. By having completed this question , Rosetta Stone assumes that you learn that “flicka” is ‘girl’, “flickan” is ‘THE girl’, and “läser” is ‘reads’. It relies on the learner figuring things out and applying it to the next questions/units. This sample is from Swedish level 1 unit 1 about halfway trough the unit. I have ventured into Level 3 and it is the same concept except with longer sentences and more complex vocab.

Basically, I find Rosetta Stone to be a great tool in a technology-enhanced language-learning adventure. I think it can be a major issue if used incorrectly as it can easily ruin the average person’s motivation to learn a new language. The best aspect of it is the fact that the recordings are of native speakers and everything is available with both male and female voices. This is very important in foreign language learning online as men and women do sometimes say things very differently (slightly different tone or cadence in some instances) so when trying to master a specific sound it is helpful to hear two examples that don’t sound exactly the same. I couldn’t imagine trying to use Rosetta Stone exclusively– it would be a major feat of patience. The lessons are a great ice breaker and are wonderful to remove initial intimidation with a foreign language, but past a certain level it is an out-of-context matching game. If I were to use this in my classroom, it would be with students who are ahead and need something to do for 15-20 minutes. I think having a specific lesson number for a student to do on a class computer while waiting for others to catch up would be a great use of time. Other than that, the best way to learn a language is to connect with real human beings and authentic, cultural items ( like music!).

Using Games to Teach

In first grade, we would be taken to the computer lab for a bit of practice on the computer. It was part of a huge thing on computer literacy. I don’t remember much of it besides those really clunky and colorful Mac computers of the late 1990s, but I do remember the use of games in this room. There was a simple game where you were in a rocket ship and you had to type the letters to win or something to that effect. It was simple. But I began to type quicker.

In Playing to learn: Panelists at Stanford discussion say using games as an educational tool provides opportunities for deeper learning, researchers posit that games are critical in the development of non-cognitive skills such as patience and discipline. The panelists at Stanford also “zeroed in on freedom and choice as crucial factors in explaining why and how children learn.” Gaming is also important because it allows students to become a part of a collective whole and learn from a community of other learners.

I have a personal dream of learning to code for the purposes of creating games for use in the English classroom. One idea of many: What if I could build a game called Frost meant to teach Robert Frost? The student’s character starts in a really, really hot world. As the student progresses in the game, analyzing the different aspects of Robert Frost’s poetry and interacting with each poem’s imagery in-game, the student’s character gains the ability to use ice as a tool and weapon (maybe there will be a combat aspect, too). The stronger the student becomes in working with Frost’s poetry, the stronger their in-game character becomes, eventually allowing them to beat the game.

Like I said—just an idea, a dream. But I strongly believe in the power that games have in affecting student learning—a good bit of it is anecdotal, too. How many words did I learn by playing Pokemon Yellow when I was a kid? Are there a ton of first graders who encounter the word “ember?” Did managing Pokeballs and potions and money not contribute to some skills relating to resource management?

A screenshot from Pokemon

I don’t talk about it often, but I’m a huge fan of Magic: the Gathering. It’s a 20 year-old card game and, if you strip away the fantasy elements of the cards, it’s a game of numbers and analysis and strategy and resource management. Here are two cards printed.

Ophidian–of or relating to a snake.


Sophic and Ophidian—those are some great SAT vocabulary words. I gain two life for each card in my hand? That sounds like a multiplication problem to me. Utterly basic in college (the real fun comes in the complexity of the game), but very useful when I started playing in 5th Grade.

At the end of the day, the definition of a game is an activity defined by rules with a way to win on some basis of skill. It sounds a lot like the definition of “test” to me.

Grey’s Anatomy is so good

Since we’re all in college, we’re all procrastinating…correct? Well, if you need a new show to start, you should DEFINITELY start with Grey’s Anatomy! Even by looking at the website, you can tell this show is the best mix of medical drama with soap opera appeal!! Here, let’s look at this clip from the show of one of the character’s best moments:

That character is Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh. The other main actors on the show are Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Justin Chambers, Sara Ramirez, and others. The characters change from season to season, and since there are 10 seasons, who’s who changes a lot. Some big names that used to be leads but have recently left the show are Katherine Heigel, T.R. Knight, and Chyler Leigh. One of the things Grey’s Anatomy is most known for is their good looking cast. The proof are in the photos.

images-3 images-2


If you want to know whether you like Grey’s or not, think about the other shows you watch. Do you want it to enhance your intellectually? Then you probably don’t want to watch it. HOWEVER, you will be well-versed on the basic idea of many surgeries! I actually had a conversation with a pre-med girl the other day using my Grey’s knowledge! But some shows that remind me of Grey’s in nature are: Scandal (made by the same creator), Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, and Gossip Girl. Yes, brain rotting, but we all have our vices.

Another good thing to know about Grey’s Anatomy is that the 3rd season is the BEST. It’s so addicting that I became very anti-social during the early seasons. It’s the best show to binge-watch, because you get so invested with the character’s lives. That’s the type of shows that I like to watch, since I think it’s more fun when you can get emotionally involved with a show or movie.

And don’t worry, all seasons are on Netflix!


Box of tricks

This is really a great resource.  It is both overwhelming and exciting how many tools are available for us out there. Here are two apps I found interesting:

Go!Animate – is a web application to make animated videos. Simple to use and the result is a real animated movie. You select the background, the characters, the motions for the characters ( pre-programmed), you can record the voices, or type text. However, to really learn it you need to spend some time playing around with it. I see it used for middle school students. I would first teach the students how to use it – this is done in collaboration with the art teacher or in partnership with the after school program.  Once the students know to use it I will ask students to use it to present a concept, or a topic, or a situation. Let’s say you want to teach students how to write a blog. You can actually have the students create an anime about this. If the anime makes sense you know that the students learned the material you wanted them to learn.
Instapaper helps you save web pages such as on-line articles, blogs, etc to read later or to save it in an organized way. It is really easy to use. If you ask the students to research a topic and in two weeks to write an essay about it, for example ” the velvet revolution”, they can find websites where there is relevant info about the topic, save the addresses in an organized way, ( give it a title, and summarize the content) and access it when they are ready to write the essay. . The link and the information will be there for them to work on during the whole time.

Slacktivism: Musings on what that might mean for our generation…..

This is the post Sava had requested in lieu of my absence on 2/21.

Sava had asked me to write a little post about civic/ political engagement and social media, mostly focusing on slacktivism. Slacktivism, for those who are not familiar with this term, is this idea that minimal effort promotion of social justice causes is in fact activism. This is a term often frequented when describing when people on Facebook decide to all change their photos to the red equality symbol in favor of marriage equality. Or a yet familiar act of slacktivism is signing a petition on Change.org. You can read more about the initiative introduced by the Human Rights Campaign here.

There has been a lot of discussion of what slacktivism really does mean. The Huffington Post had an article posted last winter about slacktivism. It pointed out the obvious, decreased “real” acts of activism, as well as the less apparent underlying behaviors that are produced via slacktivism. Some scholars have studied the use of technology as political participation (See an example here).

I have always wondered about these little actions that are usually well-intended. Personally, I think it has gotten somewhat a bad rap, even though as a person who has been involved in marriage equality rallies, marches and joined in Equality Rides as acts of social justice and civic participation, I still find that in exposing individuals to various view points, gaging and mobilizing support for a particular issue that technology, and especially social media, has been so powerful. Just think about the viral video from the 2008 election. I do not think that doing these smaller acts are enough to create drastic social reform, but it definitely is a real way to, now intuitive way, to try to attempt to spread the word about particular issues and challenge preconceived notions. More than likely it will provide a way to ignite curiosity. Think about how many times you have ready or seen something on Twitter or Reddit and were not sure exactly what it was or about. You probably went right away to google (or your preferred search engine) to get a brief summary from Wikipedia, right? You automatically used technology to learn.

Another editorial aside, I have a few ideas about why such slacktivism has occurred and why this particular generation has been increasingly berated for it. Strapped for time and cash, the average college graduate comes out of college with ~ $26,000 of debt according to a an article by the Guardian last August. That is huge! And completely sobering to think about. It’s no wonder why this generation has a) little to no cash to spare for political campaign and charitable contribution and b) no time to be completely involved and activists. It takes a sincere dedication to fight for a cause. And honestly I think that we do live in a generation that does want to do more, but are fighting to find ways to make things happen because the conventional means and opportunities are simply not currently available. I worked 4 jobs in undergrad to pay my way through school and am still in severe debt. We are not like the generation before us who only came out with school debt that amounted to maybe a few thousand dollars at most that they could pay off in their first year of work. That just is not quite true for the majority these days. So if I can click a button on the computer that will help me a) educate myself about issues and b) express my support in some manner for an issue for the time being until I can donate my time and money, I surely will do that.

Sorry for the bit of a rant….  I have been deeply involved in a number of ways trying to understand how social media has transformed, for better and for worse, the face of activism, especially for the up and coming generation that we find ourselves included. For more thoughts on the weird relationship of our generation and technology, I highly recommend reading Generation on a Tightrope.