Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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Digital dependence: Is it a good thing?

November 22, 2010

Everything in our lives today revolves around technology. We’re lost without our cell phones. We check email countless times a day. Our iPods are constantly playing, our Blackberries always surfing the web, our GPS continually spewing directions. These things are so ingrained in our daily lives that we hardly even notice them when they work correctly.

It’s when our connections are disrupted that we get in a tizzy. Undoubtedly, you have been at work when the Internet goes down. Frustrated, you refresh your browser and email repeatedly feeling lost without your link to the digital world. How did we let ourselves become so attached to our gadgets?

In October, CNET ran a piece about the symptoms experienced by a group of first-year college students after a day not being plugged in. They had a very difficult time without technology and experienced withdrawal (much like someone beginning a drug rehabilitation program). And this was after just one day!

Growing up with all of these tech advances is changing the living and working habits of the current youth generation. The NYTimes explained how the ease and accessibility of online videos, games, phones/texting/etc. has directly influenced the ability of young people to focus on a single task. Some colleges are now trying to incorporate handheld devices into courses and lesson plans in an effort to connect to their otherwise disengaged students.

Even though we had a Commodore 64 when I was younger, my family didn’t get its first, real PC until I was in seventh grade (Christmas ’96). Today’s college freshman were mostly born in 1992. They’ve grown up with PCs (do they even know what dial-up is?), probably bypassed Walkmans for Discmans, and never knew a world without video games. My sister got our first Gameboy about 2 years after these freshmen were born when she was 13 (her son, my nephew, just got a Nintendo DS… for his fifth birthday).

It’s astounding how dramatically life has changed for us is such a short span of time. I really do love technology, for many reasons. I mean, I wouldn’t have a job otherwise, so right there is a huge thank you to the tech gods. But I do worry that all of these gadgets and gizmos, along with our need to be in constant contact and our general lack of attention span, could be causing a general dumbing down of our society as a whole.

Maybe we should all try a day or two without our devices, just to remember simpler times. We could read books, play board games, look through photo albums, talk with old friends…

Or we could just fire up our laptops and do all of those things at the same time from the comfort of our couches. Ah, progress!

What’s your take on all of this?

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Dressed for success, or for a nap?

September 5, 2010

Last week, classes began here at the university and schools nationwide should all be opening their doors this coming week (if they haven’t already). My mother also works at a university, and this weekend we were sharing our thoughts on the college student dress code we’ve noticed over the last few years.

I am floored at the number of students who deem it acceptable to attend class in their pajamas. From flannel pants to bootie shorts, torn T-shirts to spaghetti strap tanks, these young adults appear to be rolling out of their beds and into their classrooms.

This attire has always concerned me. I never went to class in pjs, and rarely left my dorm if I wasn’t showered. Sadly, I was in the minority. Everyday I saw people drag themselves to their desks (regardless of the class time or day) in various states of sleep and stank. Now working at the college, I am often disgusted by what I see (and smell) from some students.

Perhaps the students feel that by paying (or having their parents/guardians pay) for an education, they are entitled to dress however they please. Maybe they think that what they wear is irrelevant to the academic process.

These are not the only possible scenarios, but I would really love to know what makes students think that they should walk into class in their jammies.

I’ve always thought how a person dresses can be viewed as an extension of who they are as a person. By exhibiting a touch of your personality, your clothing can indicate to potential employers how seriously you take yourself and your work ethic while also giving a small insight into your character. Of course, this doesn’t tell everything about someone. I would be disheartened to hear someone founded their opinion of me only on how I dress. However, I am realistic enough to know how vain we all are and to accept that we all judge one another to some extent based on what we see.

At an academic institution, you never know who is visiting. You may pass the CEO of the company you hope to intern with as you cross the quad. The person beside you at the library could be the human resources representative for your dream job. A guest lecturer in your class might be looking for people to sign on for their new start-up. Your big break could be waiting for you at any moment.

Just as people should be aware that the material they post online might be viewed by potential employers (so no drunken party photos or obscene gestures, please), they must also realize that they are walking billboards for their future.

I’m not saying college students should always dress in suits, ties and skirts. Trust me, I don’t dress like a business professional either at work or on days off. But maybe people should consider their level of embarrassment if they were introduced to a very important person while wearing their favorite duck pajama pants.

If not out of respect for your education or your educators, take some time to wear decent clothes out of respect for yourself. Don’t misrepresent yourself and possibly miss out on a great opportunity simply because you were too tired to find your pants.

And take a shower, too. That one’s for the benefit of us all.

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Angry and disgusted

July 20, 2010

Every so often, I read a story about someone that really makes me question humanity as a whole. Yesterday, one such story angered me so much that I need to share it.

While poking around AOL News, I found a story on a special-education teacher in Pennsylvania who claimed to have brain cancer. She missed plenty of work, saying she had to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Folks around her were extremely supportive and generous towards what they thought was an ill coworker. When more than a decade of this passed and the teacher had yet to exhibit symptoms, an investigation uncovered a trail of lies.

Friends, family, and loyal readers know of my deep connection to this disease. I find it difficult to fully express my disdain for this woman as she used such a horrific illness as a cover for her deceit. I would love to visit her jail cell and explain to her the deeper severity of what she’s done. Did her family watch her suffer through surgeries, treatments and their side effects? Did she have to endure the pain, anguish and frustration that real cancer patients deal with daily?

What kind of person wakes up one morning and decides to feign a devastating sickness for their own personal gain? She played on people’s sympathies and emotions, receiving acts of kindness and generosity that should have benefitted someone who actually needed them. What’s perhaps more disturbing is that she was a special-education teacher, in charge of children with varying situations that require patience, understanding and compassion. My heart goes out to the children in her classes, as they were under the care of a mentally sick individual with no regard for others.

Jail time would not be enough for this woman. She should have to work without pay in cancer treatment centers, witnessing the struggles and the extreme courage of the people who are really fighting this disease. Maybe then she could begin to understand what a terrible person she is for making those claims.

Have you heard about this woman? Are you aware of other people who have made similar claims? How do you feel after reading something like this?

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More than one Number 1??

June 30, 2010

In a NYTimes article the other day, the reporter covered a recent trend in education nationwide. Some high schools have decided that selecting one student as valedictorian is unfair to the other A-plus students. Instead, they support multiple or group valedictorians to spread around the honor.

Before I get into this discussion, I must confess a personal bias. In 2002, I had the extreme honor of being my high school‘s valedictorian. There was definitely drama associated with this accomplishment, but when the smoke cleared I was one of three student speakers at our graduation – valedictorian, salutatorian and pro deo et schola (a student chosen as much for their academic excellence as for their overall character).

My school was small, as was my graduating class (approximately 85 students), but that did not lessen the pride I felt as I spoke to my classmates, our families and all members of our high school community. Throughout my academic career, I worked very hard for my grades. I studied for hours and spent long nights writing papers to get me to that point. The acknowledgement of my years of hard work is something I will carry with me wherever I go. It continued to push me in my schoolwork during college, and is still a driving force in my graduate work and in all aspects of my life.

The trend towards multiple valedictorians is near to my heart, and I see value to both sides of this argument.

By honoring just one of the many hard-working, deserving students, the others might feel a sense of disappointment at a lack of acknowledgement. They may feel slighted and angry, possibly even distraught. Scholarly success should be praised regardless of class rank. Why should fractions of a grade point place one person on a pedestal while countless more are left out of the spotlight?

On the other hand, we are a competitive society. We teach our children to pursue athletics and to be the best at their sport. There’s only one winning team in a baseball game, only one winner in a track event. There are debate clubs, chess clubs, scholarship competitions and other academic challenges in which there are clearly defined winners. Students are taught to seek excellence in every aspect of their lives. Why shouldn’t we publicly honor someone who meets that academic challenge throughout their high school career?

It’s a tough debate, one in which I hope you will participate. Do you think it’s unfair to single out one valedictorian rather than celebrating all of the above average students? Or should the highest overall G.P.A. win out?

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Creating Your Own T-shirt Bag

June 25, 2010

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This entry was originally posted on my graduate school blog, but I thought you might like to read it as well. Enjoy!

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I love creating things with my hands. There is something so fulfilling about conceiving an idea, putting your fingers to work and coming out with a creation uniquely yours. Recently, I got an idea for a project that reclaims a T-shirt to make an awesome bag.

While at a fantastic outdoor flea market last weekend, my husband found a super cool Beatles shirt for $5. It was too small for me to wear, but I was inspired to take its already fun and funky design and use it to create an equally fantastic bag.

 

Step 1 - Find a shirt to make into a bag.

Step 1 - Find a shirt to make into a bag.

 

Cut the sleeves and collar off the shirt, leaving what would become the main body of the bag.

 

Step 2 - Cut sleeves and collar off shirt.

Step 2 - Cut sleeves and collar off shirt.

 

If you’re using a long sleeve shirt like this one, separate the short sleeve cuffs from the longer, fake undershirt sleeves. These pieces will be important later on.

 

Step 3 - Separate Short cuffs from long sleeves.

Step 3 - Separate Short cuffs from long sleeves.

 

I purchased fabric that complimented the shirt to use for the bag’s lining. Try to get cotton that can be washed & dried – this will make your whole bag machine washable!

 

Step 4 - Find a fun lining fabric that goes with the shirt design.

Step 4 - Find a fun lining fabric that goes with the shirt design.

 

Using the body of the shirt created earlier, cut the same shapes in this new fabric. Align the lining with the shirt body, which should now be flipped inside out.

 

Step 5 - Cut lining to approximately the same size as the bag body.

Step 5 - Cut lining to approximately the same size as the bag body.

 

Pin the bottoms of all four pieces together to make sure they line up correctly.

 

Step 6 - Pin lining to bag to make sewing easier and more even.

Step 6 - Pin lining to bag to make sewing easier and more even.

 

Sew them all together to form the bottom of the bag.

 

Step 7 - Sew bottom of bag just below where you pinned.

Step 7 - Sew bottom of bag just below where you pinned.

 

Take the small cuffs you separated earlier. These will become pockets inside the bag. Trim the cuffs into pocket sizes. Sew one near the center of each side of the bag lining. I think it’s easier to do this when the lining is still loose rather than after the sides of the bag have been sewn.

 

Step 8 - Use the short sleeves to create inside pockets.

Step 8 - Use the short sleeves to create inside pockets.

 

Sew the sides of the bag. Trim excess fabric from sides if needed.

 

Step 9 - Sew the sides of the bag, trimming off excess fabric once done.

Step 9 - Sew the sides of the bag, trimming off excess fabric once done.

 

Grab the longer sleeves you set aside earlier. These will become the bag’s strap. **NOTE: If using a short sleeve shirt, you can create a strap out of the lining fabric.**

Sew the cuffs of the sleeves together securely.

 

Step 10 - Sew the two long sleeves together at the cuff to form a strap.

Step 10 - Sew the two long sleeves together at the cuff to form a strap.

 

Fold the cut edge of one side of the strap and pin inside the bag body. Repeat for other side.

 

Step 11 - Pin strap to lining fabric about a half inch from the top.

Step 11 - Pin strap to lining fabric about a half inch from the top.

 

Sew the straps into the bag, using a box design for added security.

 

Step 12 - Secure strap by sewing a box shape.

Step 12 - Secure strap by sewing a box shape.

 

Finish sewing the top of the bag. Flip back right side out and admire your handiwork. How does it look?

 

Step 13 - After sewing the remainder of the top, admire your completed bag!

Step 13 - After sewing the remainder of the top, admire your completed bag!

 

Was this tutorial helpful? If you create your own T-shirt bag, please let me know! I’d be happy to post photos of your designs.

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Two new reasons to love Legos

June 15, 2010

If you weren’t already aware of the awesomeness of Legos, I’ve just read two stories that could prove it to you.

Lego Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Polizia, courtesy of Wired.com

Lego Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Polizia, courtesy of Wired.com

First up, there’s the scale model of a Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Polizia, the crazy cool racer used by Italian State Police. Much snazzier than the Fords I’m used to. They catch criminals in style!

Monster Chess (Credit: TeamHassenplug.org) - Courtesy CNET (news.cnet.com)

Monster Chess (Credit: TeamHassenplug.org) - Courtesy CNET (news.cnet.com)

Then there’s Monster Chess, a huge, robotic chess set that uses sensors built into the 156-square-foot floor to move the pieces via computers. Makes me wish I knew how to play!

And since I’m already showing some Lego love, I’ll share some pics from my personal collection.

Here’s a huge Lego Nessie (Loch Ness Monster) living in the water outside the Lego Imagination Center in Downtown Disney. Isn’t she beautiful? I wonder if the real Nessie posed for this artist’s rendering…

Lego Nessie, photo taken by me 8-22-08

Lego Nessie, photo taken by me 8-22-08

Speaking of artists, have you ever heard of an artist whose work is all done with these little plastic bricks? This is a piece titled “Gray” by the amazing Lego artist Nathan Sawaya. I took this photo during an exhibit of his work at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center.

Nathan Sawaya's "Gray" - photo taken by me 4-11-08

Nathan Sawaya's "Gray" - photo taken by me 4-11-08

Incredible, right? Check out the other stuff on his site to truly be amazed. Works like all of those above are a refreshing reminder that Legos aren’t just for kids and we should never harness our imagination.

Have you seen other incredible Lego art? Or perhaps art created by other childhood toys? Share them in the comments below!

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Laziness, with a twist

June 7, 2010

Before I officially begin this post, I would like to send a huge congratulations to two fabulous people who were married yesterday. Lisa and Brandon, I wish you many years of love and friendship! You are wonderful both separately and together. I am so happy to have been there to share in your gorgeous ceremony and reception. Also, a huge shoutout to Lisa’s lovely mother Debbie, who is a loyal blog reader. You looked fabulous, cut quite a rug and have an incredible family. Hooray for a great day!

Alrighty then. On to my post!

My mind is racing with possibilities, and the rest of me can’t seem to keep up. I have so many things I want to do but for some reason I don’t know how to see them all through. Here’s a snippet of my to-do/wish list, in no particular order: redesign our website, finish designing & build my ribbon roses site, get serious about creating supplemental income, write articles (journalism) again, resume cartooning, beef up my portfolio (video, web, writing, copyediting, animation), learn After Effects, speed up the path to my master’s degree, publish a book… the list continues, with some items more plausible than others.

Am I trying to do too much? Possibly. But these are all things I want to do, things that make me happy and will give me feelings of self-accomplishment. It’s strange to feel so much drive and passion on one hand, and on the other to be a bit lazy. I may be overwhelming myself with all of these ideas, causing mental overload that results in me sitting on my couch for hours without productivity.

I know it won’t be easy working full-time, taking a graduate class, becoming my own boss and still having time for a social life. Maybe I just need to prioritize my list and make it more realistic. I’ll set goals and deadlines for myself in the hopes of forcing motivation. Think I can do it?

Of course, I will keep you updated as things progress. In the meantime, feel free to check out my graduate school blog and my Twitter feed (I had to make it for class, and am genuinely trying to find it’s value), and always check in here to see my many ups and downs.

Do you have a to-do list that’s getting the best of you? Do you have any tips for me on how I can better accomplish my goals?