Friday, December 9, 2016

A 21st Century Journey

21st Century Literacy is a dual credit course combining English and business but that’s a boring way to look at it. Let’s follow my personal journey through the course.

Weekly Theme: Leadership

Leadership is a vital skill in school and beyond. Everybody needs it, not just those in charge. Why is that? Leadership is much more than just telling people what to do. It’s also listening to what people have to say and knowing when to let someone else lead.

I’ve had experiences with leadership before, though in the “you’re the loudest so you should lead” sense. I’ve listened for others’ ideas but struggled with accepting them if I didn’t agree. I also didn’t develop much of a sense of when to lead and when to follow, aside from situations where only one was possible. That being said, I was quite strong in some areas of leadership. For example, I was quite good at getting people involved, even if they weren’t originally enthusiastic.

I was able to develop my leadership skills through a variety of means during this course. In the second week, the class went on a trip to Red Pine Camp. While there, we participated in a variety of activities to develop our leadership skills. During that time, I was able to work on my skills but also deepen my understanding of leadership itself. I’ve since continued with furthering my leadership throughout the course, such as in group work and discussions.

Click this to read an essay that goes deeper into what a leader is and why I am one.

Unit: Presentation Skills

I’m a loud person a lot of the time. However, this didn’t translate to presentations very well. Whenever I got up in front of a group, I would get a lot quieter than usual. I also didn’t usually memorize presentations, instead bringing in notes, which made it hard to make eye contact with the audience.

I worked on my presentation skills in a couple ways this semester. I made better notes. They were briefer and easier to glance at so that I could have better eye contact with the audience. This is important because it keeps the audience engaged and makes me appear more confident with the material.

The main way I improved, however, was by practicing my presentations beforehand. Practicing it ahead of time lets me get more familiar with what I’m saying so I can speak more confidently. Being familiar with it also helps with eye contact as I don’t need to look at my notes as often. By taking the time to practice and write better notes, I’ve been able to give much better presentations.

Weekly Theme: Individualize

In this course, students have been encouraged to individualize projects so their work is unique to them. This is something I’ve had to push myself into. In fact, I haven’t done it much at all. Most of the assignments have already fit rather well into how I wanted to do them. That being said, looking back I could have made them better if I did them in a more personalized way.

For this project, I decided I ought to really individualize it as it’s my last project for the course. The only requirement was to have full sentences. I wanted to make a sketchnote at the beginning but that requirement had me stuck. Then the idea hit me. I could still do the sketchnote if I had text accompanying it. I originally experimented with rollover text but that wasn’t obvious enough. I finally came to the finalized idea with the ripped paper. I was so close to completing it but ended up running out of time. I wasn’t able to do it. It was disappointing but I just couldn’t finish it in time.

As you can see, individualization isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of thinking to develop a good idea that suits you. You also have to be careful to make sure you’re still meeting requirements. Sometimes, you’ll figure out a good idea but other things will get in the way and it’s better to just stick with what’s given. Individualization is fantastic and makes everything more interesting but sometimes it’s better to stick with what you started with to make sure you get things done.

Unit: Poetry

Poetry is an interesting medium. It’s different than most writing as it’s free and doesn’t need to follow conventions. This allows for it to be much more expressive. Poetry is a good medium for evoking empathy in the reader and helping them understand the experiences of someone else.

I’ve never really paid much attention to poetry in the past. It was hard for me to get into the mindset to understand or write it. It was out of my comfort zone because I was used to solid grammar.

During this course, I’ve had to try very hard to keep up with the poetry. We studied the lyrics of Tragically Hip songs which was helpful. It was in my comfort zone subject-wise, with a lot of songs being about history. There was lots of information existing to help understand the poems. I was able to use this to guide me through analyzing the poems.

The hardest part of the unit was writing a poem. Aside from acrostic poems when I was in elementary school, I’d never really done this. It was hard to break my usual grammatical habits and to make it have a good rhythm when read aloud. I tried to stick pretty closely to how Gord Downie, the lyricist of the Tragically Hip, writes. I also went through and edited the poem many times. Through this process, I was able to write a poem that I’m proud of.

Click this to see the poem I wrote.

Weekly Theme: Organization

Organization is something I’ve struggled with. It takes a lot of effort to set up a system which was never a hill I bothered to get over. I would keep everything in my head which meant I would forget things or making lists on scrap paper which I quickly lost.
A picture of my organized Google Drive

This semester, I had to do a lot more task management. All my tasks were given to me and I had to find a way to get my work done in the time provided. This meant I had a lot more to keep track of meaning I couldn’t just remember it all. I started using a calendar and checklists a lot more. The calendar had all the due dates on it so I could easily see how much longer I had until I needed to hand anything in. The checklist, along with deleting items off the calendar, helped me keep track of what I had and hadn’t done a lot more effectively. I also began more carefully organizing my documents so I didn’t waste time having to search through to find something. I kept most things online and had a hierarchy of folders so I could find things by their subject. Being organized has helped me keep track of everything ad be able to focus more on the tasks at hand.

Weekly Theme: Design

Good design is crucial to doing anything effectively but is often difficult to achieve. A well designed presentation is more enjoyable for both the presenter and the audience. This is because the design can be tuned to fit the information being presented, helping get a point across more effectively. It also keeps the audience more engaged.

One type of design is visual. I consider this to be one of my strongest skills. I’ve worked very hard to develop it because I find it enjoyable to work on. I can also transfer skills I learned through practicing art. I’ve learned how to tune something to fit the subject, such as using grayscale for a presentation with a darker tone. Another thing I’ve learned are what colours and shapes work well together so that something isn’t garish or jarring to look at.

Another type of design is functional, making plans to do or make something. I’ve had a little more trouble with this. I’ve always been an idea person and struggle with planning things and working out details. Though I missed a lot of it, the Design Sprint was very helpful for this. The Design Sprint was a method of creating a design in a very short period of time using various strategies. It gave me strategies for helping develop designs. For example, thinking of the exact purpose of the design is something that is very helpful because it makes sure the design does what it’s supposed to do and has something to do.

Click this to see some visual design work I'm really proud of.

Weekly Theme: Adaptation

Adaptation is tricky, both for texts being changed to different mediums and people going into different situations. For each, you can’t just take something and shove it into something else. For example, we watched Charly, the film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon, which was a weak adaptation. For the most part, they just put things from the book into the movie. This didn’t work because the story needed to be from Charlie’s point of view to work. It was tied to its medium and needed to be changed to work in a different one.

This is the same for people. You can’t just go into a new situation treating it like one you were in before. You have to adapt. This was very important for me. Cedar Ridge is very different to my old high school. In 21st Century Literacy especially, there are many work periods which are important to getting projects done. You can’t just throw away the work periods like I used to at my old school. They’re necessary for success. I had to adapt to a new situation or I wouldn’t have been able to succeed. It was really hard at first, as adapting usually is, but I managed to do it.

Click this to read some more of my writing about the film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon.

Weekly Theme: Responsibility

Similar to how I had to adapt to the new environment and not let myself act as I used to, it is important to be responsible. With lots of work periods, I had to make sure I didn’t let myself get distracted. I had to be responsible and keep on task. Being responsible is to show respect for one’s peers, educators, and self. This can include not interfering with others trying to work, upholding academic honesty, and not procrastinating.

While I haven’t struggled much with academic honesty or bothering others while they’re working, procrastination is something I’ve had a lot of trouble with in the past. There’s always the temptation to leave it to the last second. Instead, I’ve started planning out my time and making sure to use it wisely. If I was struggling to focus, I’d switch tasks or switch into a different gear by taking a break that was still useful, such as typing practice. That way, I could refresh my brain and maximize my time.

Sometimes I had to do work at home too in order to finish my work on time. I had to make sure I knew when to start and not leaving it to the last minute. This can be very hard with other responsibilities taking time and energy as well. I had to make sure to leave more time than I thought I’d need in case something came up.

Unit: Flowers for Algernon

One text we studied this course was the novel Flowers for Algernon. The text itself wasn’t particularly challenging. This allowed me to focus on going deeper with it. There would be discussions every so often while people were reading the book. These were really interesting and helped me further my understanding by getting the points of view of others and how they may have interpreted things differently.

One of the most interesting themes in the book was the ethics of the surgery. Charlie was arguably much happier before the surgery as he had friends and a job. After the surgery, he realises more problems in the world and loses everything that he had before. The effect of the surgery itself was also very taxing as his perception of the world was constantly changing and he had to deal with far more stimuli. However, he did get to see a lot more of the world and was far more able. It could be said that he got an opportunity to live more than he ever would have otherwise. The questions is whether that was worth all of the consequences.

Another interesting part of the text was the connection to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It talks about someone leaving a cave and gaining more experience of the world, despite thinking they had seen everything before. This is similar to Charlie’s journey as he gains intelligence and gets to see far more of the world than he knew existed. This is similar to the cave as the intelligence barrier acted as a sort of cave. When he left the cave, he was blinded by the light as he struggled to keep up with all that was going on around him.

Click this to see me talk more about Flowers for Algernon.

Unit: King Lear

Another text we studied was King Lear. As most people know, Shakespearean language is quite different from what most people are familiar with today. It also is meant to be performed, not just read. This makes it quite hard to study.

I used a variety of resources to help understand the play. Before, I read the text, I would read through a summary comic by Good Tickle Brain. It was helpful because it gave me an idea of what was coming in the act ahead. After that I would read the act, usually while watching a performance of it. That let me get an idea of the action as it can be hard to tell just from dialogue. Finally, I would sometimes watch a final summary that went into the meaning and significance of certain quotes by NerdStudy.

By using those resources, I was able to ensure my understanding of the text so I could focus on understanding deeper parts of the text, such as themes. I don’t have to focus on trying to figure out what’s going on because I already know and I can get a richer understanding of the text.

One of the themes I was able to focus on was blindness. It was more than just physical blindness. Both Lear and Gloucester were blind to which of their children were loyal or not until the very end. Lear didn’t realise that only Cordelia, who he banished, was loyal to him until he went mad which usually inhibits people’s perception. More interestingly, Gloucester didn’t see how Edmund had manipulated him until he was blinded by Cornwall.