Search

From Moment to Memory

“Writing is a process, a journey into memory and the soul.”- Isabel Allende

Understanding the Feedback Process

The Life of Pinya

imgres-2

For the past weekish, Kat and I have been working on a paper in response to the “Creativity Crisis” for our AP Lang Collab-Course. I’m not going to go into depth on the content of the paper itself tonight– that will come later with the paper itself– but what I have found quite interesting is how we have been approaching this paper differently than how we might have approached a paper for a “typical class”.

Our prompt actually came straight from an old AP Lang exam question; however, we tweaked it a tad because we want to take our paper a step further, so rather than just writing an argument piece, we actually plan on sharing this piece with online publications to get our thoughts/writing out to a wider audience. Hopefully we spark some interesting conversations, and as they are looking now, I think we will!

While writing this piece I…

View original post 705 more words

Advertisements

New Adventures

The Life of Pinya

CPxIjdvUsAACPDB

Gar oo chugar. There was and there was not.

I haven’t gotten around to blogging the past few nights because it has been show nights and I didn’t get home until very late. The shows all went fantastic!!! And I’m proud to say that I think we moved quite a few people which is really what theater is all about, so I feel successful!

However, our season opener is now over, and as of today our next show has officially begun; there was and there was not.

Speaking of “there was”, Friday’s excitement was not just due to it being closing night. Friday morning was also full of adventures!

To start off ID got a fantastic opportunity to go to a Creative Mornings talk in Atlanta on the topic of empathy. Aarron Walter gave a great talk on empathy, and I loved how he talked about the need to actually…

View original post 215 more words

A Rotting Trash Can on the Rise

6546400_orig

While working on my Creativity Crisis paper that we are doing for AP Lang, I came across an interesting article that mentions a concept called Fermi problems. The idea behind these problems is that they aren’t really answerable, however, you can go about answering them by making a series of assumptions and estimations until you arrive at an answer.

I really like this concept because the focus is on the process and not the exact facts, though your estimations are still somewhat based on the facts you already know and typically observations. Since our weekly AP Lang blog posts are more about getting us constantly writing rather than the actual facts, I’d like to talk about why the world needs to find a sustainable substitution for styrofoam, through the lens of a Fermi problem. (So just keep in mind that these probably aren’t exact facts since they are just estimations, but they are based on observations and prior knowledge.)

To start, let’s consider, “How much styrofoam does a school use?”

At MVPS, for the upper school, we have two sizes of styrofoam plates and one bowl that we could potentially use at lunch time. The average person using our cafeteria uses about 6 big plates, 2 little plates, and 2 bowls per week. If every 2 little plates or bowls is equal to the amount of styrofoam used to create one big plate, then every person uses 8 styrofoam units (su) a week.

If there are approximately 60 staff members, 65 seniors, 85 Juniors, 80 sophomores, and 75 freshman, then that is about 365 people in the high school using styrofoam. Add that to the approximately 85 eight graders, 70 seventh graders, and 15 7th/8th grade teachers, and that is a total of 535 Glen Campus styrofoam consumers.

535 people times 8 su per person equals 4,280 su used per week.

To take into account that not everyone eats at the Upper School every day of the week we can reasonably subtract about 64 su (if 40 people don’t eat from the cafeteria once a week, that means for every 5 people there is a weeks worth of styrofoam not used). This still leaves us with 4,216 su used per week at the MVPS Upper School alone. We are in school for about 33 weeks, so this number times 33 equals 139,128 su used per school year.

Then you could still add about 3 weeks worth for the 75 total faculty members who are there at least that much over the summer which is another 1800 su.

This brings our total to 140,928 su used per year in the Upper School alone!

Now I don’t want to further estimate numbers for the Lower School, because I believe my calculations will get even more off since I have limited knowledge of that environment.

However, I do know that it is commonly accepted knowledge that it takes styrofoam at least a million years to decompose. This means, that for 999,999 years we will just be adding styrofoam waste onto the Earth and at the least, in 999,999 years, we will have used 140,927,859,100 styrofoam units without anything we’ve previously used decomposing.

The diameter of a styrofoam plate is about 9in. Therefore, if you were to take 140,927,859,100 su and lay them out on the ground, that would cover 1,268,350,732,000 square inches of space which is the equivalent of 105,695,894,300 square ft.

To put this number in perspective, Rhode Island is approximately 29,132,928,000 feet (I did look this one up).

So before any of our styrofoam decomposes, we would be able to cover nearly 4 Rhode Islands with just the amount of styrofoam used at one High School of less than 550 people (and this is without taking into account that the school would likely grow in number of people over the years)!

If one small school could create this much waste, imagine this number multiplied by the millions of schools in America alone! Small numbers add up, and we don’t want to live in a world full of non-decomposing trash to the point where the movie Wall-e stops being fiction. It’s crucial that the people of our world stop using styrofoam, and soon, so that the Earth, our home, doesn’t become a rotting trash can.

Jumping Hurdles!

4997153

Amongst all of the chaos of today with quizzes, meetings, and lines, something absolutely fantastic happened: OUR AP LANG SYLLABUS WAS APPROVED BY THE COLLEGE BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of our hard work over the summer payed off, and now we are officially an AP class!!!!!! I found out during the end of a Latin quiz actually, and I almost jumped out of my chair I was so happy! (Instead I just wailed my arms and bounced in my chair a little with a huge grin on my face!)

I must say, I was a little shocked for some reason. I knew we had covered all of the standards and had a bunch of people look it over, but part of me still thought the syllabus would to have to be edited more to get credit just because it’s so different from most AP class structures to my knowledge. Plus, since we’ve never done this before, I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that even the College Board is behind our ideas, and this is a huge hurdle that we’ve just made it over! It’s also just super encouraging to think that a couple of students were actually able to pull something like this off! I mean think about all of the possibilities of what students can do with the right mindset and help from great mentors!!!

Also in AP Lang today, we had an interview Q&A session with some faculty members which went really well! The big things we talked about were what we are  doing, why we are doing, and how we think it will impact our future, and I think it went over nicely. We also recorded it, because the hope is that we will use parts of this footage for a video we will be making soon about our Collab Course, so that we have another medium to share our story with!

All the while we are also currently working on papers about the Creativity Crisisand our first draft of those will be due Monday, and our goal is that, after some editing, we will submit these papers to online publications, and hopefully our work will actually get to a bigger audience than just school.

Today was just a super day for AP Lang, and I can’t wait to see what hurdle we jump next!!!

The Life of Pinya

4997153

Amongst all of the chaos of today with quizzes, meetings, and lines, something absolutely fantastic happened: OUR AP LANG SYLLABUS WAS APPROVED BY THE COLLEGE BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of our hard work over the summer payed off, and now we are officially an AP class!!!!!! I found out during the end of a Latin quiz actually, and I almost jumped out of my chair I was so happy! (Instead I just wailed my arms and bounced in my chair a little with a huge grin on my face!)

I must say, I was a little shocked for some reason. I knew we had covered all of the standards and had a bunch of people look it over, but part of me still thought the syllabus would to have to be edited more to get credit just because it’s so different from most AP class structures to my knowledge. Plus, since we’ve never…

View original post 236 more words

Empathize to Enjoy

Teenage student in middle of classroom reading.

A constant struggle in the world of school English classes is the topic of getting students to enjoy reading. A question that Kat and I are pondering is, “How might we enjoy the reading we do for school just as much as the reading we do on our own?” To think about this question, I’d like to spend a minute to reflect on some of the past 5 books I’ve read that I’ve really enjoyed:

Hamlet:

Of all of the pieces on this list, Hamlet is the one I read the longest time ago, in fact we read the play during my freshman year English class. However, last year we did a 15 Minute version of the show for a one act play competition that refreshed my memory and rekindled my love for this great show. Shakespeare can often be confusing to read, and I’ll admit that there were time when it was quite confusing, but I think I actually enjoyed this piece more because we read it in class, which goes against most opinions on school reading. By reading the show in class, we were able to better go through what it meant, and we even had some fun with it by acting out the occasional scene. It is also because of this show that I was introduced to wordpress because we wrote blog entries for different scenes to help us connect even more with the show, so this show will always be important to me as being my first blogging experience.

Mort:

Mort was a fantastic fantasy book written by Terry Pratchet about the character Death who takes on an apprentice named Mort who accidentally messes up the fabric of space and time when he tries to save a princess from dying when she was suppose to. The book was hilarious and super engaging to read! I honestly couldn’t put it down and finished the entire book in about 3 days over summer vacation two summers ago. The cool part was that this book was then our fall show in drama that year (actually that’s why I read it in the first place), so I got to later explore these characters even more once we got into the production. If you’re at all curious, I played the princess, Kelli.

Moonwalking with Einstein:

This past summer I finally finished a fascinating book called Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. This book was a narrative in which Foer told the story of how he went from just a journalist that struggled remembering where his car keys were, to becoming the USA national memory champion. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it made me think and ponder really deeply while still giving a genuinely interesting story that also made me frequently laugh. The book made me really curious about the art of memory and actually inspired me to do more research on memory and mental athletes.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was actually a piece that I read for summer reading for school, but I really enjoyed it. This science fiction book took complex math and science theories and lots of imagination and created an arguably confusing, yet still entertaining, book about a man named Arthur Trent who gets rapped into a crazy adventure in space. During our summer reading book discussion once we got back to school, many students said they didn’t get the book at all and it was just too random for them; however, the randomness of the book is actually what kept me engaged to keep reading. I think the randomness was meant to get the reader to empathize with the main character who had absolutely no idea what was going on and had to keep struggling to put together the bits and pieces of information that he got as he traveled across the galaxy. While I didn’t feel motivated enough to read the sequels to the book, mainly because the first book just didn’t leave me on a cliff hanger wanting to read more, I would still strongly suggest this book especially to people interested in complex ideas and philosophy.

Beast on the Moon:

Currently at school I’m working on a play called Beast on the Moon by Richard Kalinoski. I typically enjoy all of the shows that I’m in, but this one in particular was written extremely well. The show takes place in Milwaukee a few years after the Armenian genocide and follows the story of Aram and Seta Tomasian on their journey to creating a new life and family for themselves in America. It is a powerful piece that beautifully captures the characters grief, pain, and hope. Every line is very purposeful with no meaningless filler which makes the piece stand out so much to me, and I can’t wait to preform it in a few weeks.

What I find interesting about this list is that 3 of the pieces are all plays, and only one of them actually has no relation to school, and yet I would still say overall I don’t as often enjoy my school required books. The truth is that I have just read many more books in the past few years due to school reading rather than pleasure reading, but the pleasure books I have read were all fantastic while I couldn’t say the same about my school reading.

I think when I’m reading a script, it is easier for me to relate with characters and visualize stories which makes them really engaging and interesting to me. Putting on a show also makes it really memorable compared to just some book you read for a class. I think I have so many plays on this list because I’m currently stressing/excited for my show in 2 weeks, and once I thought of one, the others all started popping into my memory as well. Thus I didn’t even get to talk about other phenomenal books I read like the Falconer by Grant Lichtman.

I also notice the common threads of humor in several of these pieces which helped me enjoy a book, as well as books that made me really think and ponder deep ideas. Reflecting on ideas further often helps me gain appreciation for a book as well, which makes sense as to why these pieces were all chosen since I blogged at least once about each of these books in the past.

These realizations make me wonder if the best way to help students enjoy school reading is to do more activities to get students to relate to characters and ponder the choices that the characters have to make. With plays this is easier because students could just act out scenes or try to modernize and turn a new twist on a timeless tale. For other books I wonder if students could do activities from the perspective of a specific character, or take a character and try to place them in a different story and think about how that would effect the situation.

It’s funny because I had a moment of realization of how I’m thinking like a designer currently, because all I can think of is how empathy is the key to making strong connections. If this is true for life and designing, it seems to make sense that if you empathize with characters in a book, you will learn to enjoy the full story more as well.

Styles of Reading

images

At some point in time I think everyone has read something they didn’t like. The question is though, “Do we need to like everything we read?” In short, I think not, but with a few caveats which I will get to later.

I think an important part to any question you answer is to understand the question being asked. In this case it is important to note that there are different kinds of reading that we do: reading for entertainment, research, communication, and just reading to grow as a reader and writer. I think for every type of reading, there is a different way to answer this big question of if we need to like what we read. By “like” referring to enjoying the style and language that an author uses, which means that you could potentially “like” something that you don’t agree with opinion wise.

If you are reading solely for entertainment, then it seems somewhat obvious that you need to enjoy what you’re reading. If you are just reading for fun, and you don’t enjoy the reading, then you probably aren’t having fun, so why are you reading it at all? If I find a book that I think I will enjoy, but then I read a little and think it is boring, then I often just stop a book right then and there. There is no reason to waste time by being bored and maybe even annoyed with what you are doing if you don’t have to do it.

If you are reading for research, then you also on some level need to enjoy the style and language of what you are reading even if you don’t agree with the opinions and ideas stated in the text. When you don’t enjoy the style of writing, then it is easy to get bored or distracted while reading, and thus you won’t really be getting the most out of the information that you are reading. The point of research is to gain knowledge on a topic, and this doesn’t have to be a disgruntling task.

Reading for communication, however, such as emails, texts, or other online messaging systems, you don’t have to like. This kind of reading is more work related and just has to be done, so no matter how bad the writing is, you will have to read it to get the information. On the bright side, typically when you read for communication purposes, you are reading shorter pieces of writing, so it isn’t as hard to read things you don’t like.

Finally, you could be reading just to grow as a reader and/or writer. In this case, it is okay and sometimes necessary to read things you don’t particularly like. It can even be helpful to occasionally read pieces you don’t like so that you can examine why you don’t like them. By analyzing what you think of different pieces of writing you can learn more about yourself while also learning techniques for better writing so you can potentially reach wider audiences.

While you definitely pay better attention and probably learn more from reading things you like, there will often be times in your life when you have to read things that you do not like. Pleasure reading and research reading are styles of reading that would be better if you enjoy what you are reading, but communications and reading to improve your own craft will often require you to read things you do not enjoy. So, “Do you have to like everything you read?,” well no, because since there are times where you won’t enjoy it then that means overall you don’t always have to like what you read. Reading is just another part of life; you won’t always enjoy it, but you have to push past the bad to get to the great.

100-Hours of Purpose

Thomas Both believes he has had a great idea, and he wants to persuade other avid learners about why his concept is worth believing in and maybe even trying out for yourself. It’s called  The 100-Hour Knack, and his claim is that with a 100 hours of investment into a new skill or practice, you can hit a tipping point, where you start getting more out of the practice than what you put in.” 

To convince his audience, Both uses examples that everyone can understand and relate to like riding a bike, public speaking, or playing a musical instrument to illustrate skills that could be obtained at a level of proficiency after spending 100 hours practicing them. He also uses personal experiences to go into more detail on how, after enough time spent practicing, “I unexpectedly found myself sketching for other things: my friend’s baby shower, my class syllabus, and more.”  Sketching became a natural, reflexive part of Both’s life and he believes that others can have this same experience if they spend 100 hours practicing a skill. By talking about personal experiences, the reader is able to empathize with the author at a deeper level which effectively helps a reader understand the point he is trying to make about The 100-Hour Knack concept.

A key element to persuading an audience is to gain a readers’ trust, because a successful argument needs supporters. Both gains trust from his readers by using an honest voice in his writing. He demonstrates honesty while talking about the struggle before gaining a knack: “You will, in fact, put in more time, effort, and struggle in the beginning than the initial results would seem to justify.”  The reader at this point knows the challenges involved with becoming capable at a skill, but they also know that the challenges are able to be overcome. Both likes to look at these challenges as simply the learning process; simple, because people are learning everyday, so these challenges are synonymous to the everyday challenges of life. The simplicity at which Both describes the challenges make the challenges seem well worth the gain in the long run.

What may be most advantageous to Both’s argument is the reference to psychological research by Anders Ericsson. In Ericsson’s research he eradicates the myth that after 10,000 hours someone can achieve a mastery level at a given skill. The core of the argument being that research has proven that only about 12% of mastery and subsequent success is achieved from pure practice, and other factors such as age, intelligence, and talent play a larger role in achieving “mastery level”. With this in mind, if you were to think of that 12% as being the “knack” part of achieving mastery, then Both’s argument makes sense of spending 100 hours to reach the tipping point at which something becomes a kin to muscle memory.

To be honest, (like Both), I don’t really know how to end this blog post. It was interesting to examine Both’s writing technique further after already talking about the meaning of the article during ID, and I would definitely recommend the 100-Hour Knack to others because it was a great read!

Past to Future: Storytelling, Where Will it Go Next?

imgres

For most people, at some point in high school you learned about The Hero’s Journey. This journey is the typical pattern seen in most books and movies, and in general most stories.

Joseph Campbell, a great philosopher on storytelling,  created this concept after recognizing these patterns in the early 1900s, and now it’s regarded as the “secret sauce” to creating a great story. The process describes the path a hero must take as he/she faces challenges and meets new people along the way to their final destination.

However, storytelling as a whole has been evolving over the years. In the early years of human history, storytelling was always done orally. People would share stories on where to hunt for food, or stories of religion, or memories being passed down from old to young.

It wasn’t long though before pictures started to be incorporated into storytelling. Scientist have found cave paintings in Indonesia dating back 40,000 years! Even back then, humans were discovering new ways to pass down information. This combination of art and oral story telling is present even in our distant past, so it isn’t surprising that as humans evolved, storytelling evolved to make more elaborate stories by use of more elaborate art pieces.

Though little is known of the origin of theater productions, it is believed that they began due to myths, rituals, and ceremonies. After stories became practiced/rehearsed frequently during rituals and ceremonies, eventually it paved the way for theater. Joseph Campbell believes that these rituals were preformed for 3 primary reasons: pleasure, power, and duty. Often times these rituals had spiritual meaning to them, and super natural powers would be represented with masks.

This then evolved into our more modern plays that debatably first started appearing in ancient Egypt around 2800 BCE. Then the Egyptians took storytelling to new levels when they devised their writing system that then allowed them to record stories rather than needing to memorize them.

However, even with writing systems being created, many people could not yet read or write, thus oral story telling was still the primary way of passing down information or entertaining audiences. Great orators would be praised for their ability to memorize large pieces of text and then recite them verbatim in a variety of different towns. During this time, being able to tell stories was considered one of the most respectable jobs because it showed that you were well educated and talented.

Then the printing press came about and slowly more people learned to read and write. This caused a huge evolution in storytelling because now people could read about stories to themselves and storytelling didn’t require any sound at all.

However, storytelling’s great evolution didn’t stop here. Then came the industrial revolution and the rise of new technology. Radio and digital media could now broadcast stories to a much larger audience then ever before.

Even with all of this new technology though, storytelling is still at the heart and soul of these industries. John Lasseter, one of the founders of Pixar, wrote an interesting article all about his personal experience with storytelling in the movie industry as he was innovating the industry with the use of computer animation.

First, him and his partners started by getting a really strong understanding of the existing technology available to them, because in order to create a new innovation, Lasseter stresses the importance of learning every in and out to what you will be working with. When you know what you’re working with then you can make sure to use the right technology to tell the right story.

Technology and story telling have to be used as one. If you want to make a big change, you have to make sure you’re telling the right story with the right kind of medium to best enhance it.  Animation, or even video as a whole, is not always the best form of storytelling, and good producers understand this and have to be careful about every choice they make if they wish to be successful.

The other cool thing was that even though Pixar created Toy Story as the first completely computer generated film, they actually wanted to avoid looking at Toy Story as just “the first CG film” instead they wanted people to see it as a great story without focusing on just how it was made. The technology was secondary to the story! Good storytelling has remained as the primary focus even in the technological day and age.

But what do all of these types of storytelling have in common? What truly creates a good story? Well I think a good story is about how it makes you feel afterwards. A good story captivates the audience by making them laugh, maybe cry, and everything in between. The ups and downs in The Hero’s Journey have always been involved in the art of storytelling even before Joseph Campbell conjured up his paper describing these patterns. This is because these ups and downs that a character embarks on resemble our own lives which are also filled with ups and downs. When an audience can relate to a character the story automatically becomes more engaging because there is then an empathetic connection between the observer and the performer that is nearly impossible to destroy.

Storytelling has gone on it’s own journey as it has evolved through out the ages. From tradition to entertainment, the art of storytelling has always been deeply routed in human history as a way to connect people together. We admire the people that make us feel. So if you too want to be admired and inspire others, then connect with them and make them feel through the power of storytelling.

Innovating the very foundations of school – who creates the courses!

What if “students” created the courses – at least some of the courses – offered at school? What if those courses were the kind that many people would describe as “the most rigorous” a school offers? This is innovation.

Two members of the Innovation Diploma at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (and Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation) launched their own AP (Advanced Placement) Language course. Together they collaboratively built the learning targets, educational paths, academic arcs, and assessment strategies for exploring certain wonders and complexities of the English language.

They are both juniors in high school. I don’t think either of them actually drives a car on her own yet.

This is a story I highly recommend that you follow. Here are some posts Pinya and Kat have published to get you started:

it's about learning

What if “students” created the courses – at least some of the courses – offered at school? What if those courses were the kind that many people would describe as “the most rigorous” a school offers? This is innovation.

Two members of the Innovation Diploma at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School (and Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation) launched their own AP (Advanced Placement) Language course. Together they collaboratively built the learning targets, educational paths, academic arcs, and assessment strategies for exploring certain wonders and complexities of the English language.

They are both juniors in high school. I don’t think either of them actually drives a car on her own yet.

This is a story I highly recommend that you follow. Here are some posts Pinya and Kat have published to get you started:

View original post 39 more words

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑