Thursday, August 7, 2014

melissa is crushing it

Imagine for a moment that you're a stereotypical, frustrated/frustrating high school teacher who is stuck in a classroom full of stereotypical, frustrated/frustrating high school students.  You're watching them suffer through another standardized test on [whatever] while they stick pens up their noses and watch the clock.

The air is stifling and you yourself could swear the clock is actually starting to tick slower.  So you open an Internet browser in the hope of discovering something, anything, that will help your mind forget where your body will be incarcerated for the next hour.  You enter search terms that won't offend the school's digital guardians: "Amazing English Student."  If you're using a search engine like duckduckgo that doesn't base results on your search history and therefore gives you more than cute pictures of cats or links to products you don't need, you might just be lucky enough to enter a parallel learning universe that looks like this:
Studies have suggested it takes approximately one-tenth of a second to make a first impression.  Here are some first impressions based on a glance at Melissa's blog:
  • A happy (just look at that smile :) writer ("Wordsmith") and traveler ("Itinerant")
  • Who is open-minded, independent, well-read (the Thoreau quote is a winner), not afraid to take risks ("Thrill-Seeker"),
  • And who stays up late to do the best job possible (she posted a LOT of notes on The Poisonwood Bible at 1:38 A.M.)
This may give that frustrated high school teacher hope, or it may seem like science fiction that requires too much suspension of disbelief.  It doesn't matter.  This is the New Normal.  As Melissa and the rest of you develop your thinking in plain view of the culture you're going to join after graduation, you are beginning even now to create competitive advantages through differentiation.  There was a time, just a few decades ago, when high school and college athletes didn't have videos or websites; can you imagine today's college and pro recruiters relying on newspaper clippings, letters, and hearsay?  Soon there will come a day when people will shake their heads in disbelief that we had the public Internet (and net neutrality) for so long and yet more  : "Can you believe that up until the early 21st century all American high school students graduated with was an academic transcript and a few letters of recommendation?"  For now, you are ahead of the curve.  Go confidently go in the directions of your dreams (more Thoreau) by inviting scholarship and admission committees to see your talents and personalities for themselves.  A link, a click, and a first impression can create a lifetime of opportunity.

The formative element of this process is improving through feedback (Note: in traditional, hierarchical models of education, formative assessment was the sole responsibility of the teacher; in Open Source Learning networks we crowd-source this function).  Sharing your blog with others will naturally attract communities of interest ("Hey, I love that book too!") and critique ("You forgot an apostrophe" or "Did you consider that the author might have meant the exact opposite when she wrote...")  Since your blogs are for public consumption I will usually not comment with critique, because I want your readers to see you as an independent thinker/author & not a child being led around with one of those backpacks that has a leash.  I will give you individual feedback in class and post observations on general tendencies here.  For example: Melissa's notes are extensive and contain a lot of detail.  This is great, because the act of writing/typing helps you think more deeply about the texts and remember them more effectively.  However, for easy reference (like when you're cramming or glancing at them during an open-note essay exam), it would probably help to organize them in outline form with big or colorful headers that point to characters, plot points, or chapters.  Online you can also include links to source material you find credible and helpful.  Also, when you have as much information in a post as Melissa does, consider a jump break (on Blogger it's the broken page icon between "insert video" and "alignment" in the Compose toolbar) so that you can fit more posts on a page.  This is the tool I used to generate the "read more" link you clicked to get this far.

Here is my favorite part: Thank you, Melissa.  I didn't wake up this morning intending to write this post.  Your blog inspired me to think differently, to share ideas with the rest of our community, and to LEARN. 

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