Snow Woes

It’s the second week of classes, and we’re experiencing yet another snow storm. I can definitely say the novelty has worn off for me after having had to dig out our car last week, only to wake up this morning and see it completely buried in snow again.

As a kid, snow seems really fun and magical. It totally is. Until it gets brown, slushy, and gross. Or when you have to shovel it out of the way. I was originally open to working anywhere after HGSE, but now I’m definitely looking at living somewhere warmer, preferably closer to home.

Most of my classes last week were focused on getting to know each other and forming project teams. I’m really excited to see how our work develops over the semester. Today we had a virtual class meeting for T561 (so thankful I didn’t have to trek in the snow to class) and started diving into some of the course topics. I’m really intrigued by the prospects of virtual and augmented reality in education. We still haven’t found out what our project team assignments are, but I’m really hoping I get my first choice of working with EcoMobile and augmented reality.

In other news, I’ve joined the Team Fitness Challenge with some other HGSE students. It starts next week, and it’s basically a competition to see which team accrues the most workout minutes. I’ve been doing a pretty good job of consistently going to the gym these last couple of weeks. I’m hoping being part of a team will keep me motivated throughout the cold weather and busy grad school projects.

Statistics and Fighting Against the Odds

I suppose you could consider this an expansion of my previous post about where I come from, and the experiences that led me to HGSE.

My experiences have shaped who I am and drive a lot of the work I do. They are what propel me to continue moving toward the future.

It really hits home when I read or hear about the low college completion rates for minorities. According to a report by Excelencia in Education, only 20% of Latino adults in the US have attained an Associate’s degree or higher in 2011-2012. Furthermore, in most states, there is a huge gap between the number of Latinos who have a degree compared to the rest of the population. Below is a screenshot but I highly recommend you check out the report to interact with the map to learn about specific states.

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In my home state, California, only 16% of Latinos had an Associate’s degree or higher, compared to 38% of all adults.

This really gets to me because I could have very easily fallen into the percentage of those Latinos who didn’t attain a degree at all. It’s very easy for statistics to make certain behaviors or actions acceptable. Not everyone does this, and I don’t mean to generalize, but I know from experience that some people don’t have as high expectations from minorities. We lower the bar for our minority students because we don’t always believe they can be academically successful. There was a recent article about this in the Huffington Post about a study that suggested teachers expect less from Black and Latino students.

A quote from the article:

Teachers thought a college degree was 47 percent less likely for African-American students than for white peers, and 53 percent less likely for low-income students than for students from more affluent families. Teachers thought Hispanic students were 42 percent less likely than white students to graduate from college, the study found.

This may not be deliberate. On some level, perhaps the statistics have painted a certain picture, and it’s just become a norm.
That’s the challenge, I feel. As a minority, the world perceives you differently. The odds are against you. I can see why so many students may feel that college or academic success is not an attainable goal for them. If no one believes in you, why should you believe in yourself?

What can make a difference? Challenging the statistics. When I think back to my schooling experience, I realize that the best teachers I had were those who had high expectations for all students, regardless of race or background. The teachers who pushed their students even when they failed, and told students they could do better even if they were doing okay.

On the other hand, if you have a teacher who easily gives up on you or lowers their expectations when you are struggling, you start lowering expectations of yourself. You stop trying as much. You become a victim to stereotype threat, something we read about in Whistling Vivaldi this summer.
The other set of statistics that shocks me are those that surround victims of childhood sexual abuse. I don’t think I mentioned this in my previous post because I wasn’t sure if that was too much information to share. The more I think about it, though, is that if I’m not talking about these things, then I’m contributing to the problem because these are things that need to be discussed.
Trigger warning: the rest of this post contains information that may be sensitive to others.

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HGSE Hackathon

Today was the first full day of the HGSE Hackathon. Yesterday was about ideation (coming up with different ideas) and today was about iteration – testing out those ideas, revising them, and repeating the process until we came up with something we liked.

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I’m in a group of 7 and we gathered around the idea of creating some type of multimedia storytelling platform to connect different communities together.

We are addressing the challenge HGSE presented at the kickoff yesterday:

  • Addresses the re-segregation of public schools
  • Presents the need for positive and productive encounters across race, socioeconomic class, language background, political affiliation, disability
  • Poses the challenge of fostering positive and productive connections between schools

It has been incredibly invigorating to work with such an extremely diverse group of people. We all have incredibly unique backgrounds and skills, and we have been able to find a way to utilize our experiences to come up with a solution for that challenge.

It was really great to practice pitching our idea to the various Google and edX mentors floating around and getting concrete feedback, which we would then use to revise our pitch.

Tomorrow we are going to present our ideas in front of a panel. This is the rubric our idea is being assessed on:

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This entire experience so far is really giving me an idea of the types of things to keep in mind when coming up with ed tech solutions. I feel like I have a much better grounding on the guiding principles for all my other projects.

I also feel I am getting a much better idea of the type of environment and industry I would love to work in after HGSE. I really enjoy this process of working with other people and coming up with solutions together. From what I have learned in my other courses, it can take years to have a fully functional product. However, leading up to that, there are many iteration cycles where ideas are constantly being tested and revised. I am really interested in doing this type of work, and I hope that over the course of this year I will be able to identify some possible employers.

A Little History

Prior to beginning my studies at Harvard, I was an elementary school teacher for three years. I had taught kindergarten, fourth, and fifth grade in the SF Bay Area.

Before becoming a teacher, I was pursuing journalism. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism at USC. I thought I would be some kind of multimedia journalist, but by the end of my senior year, I discovered I wasn’t as passionate about that field anymore. Luckily, I had been part of the Honors in Multimedia Scholarship at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (now called Media Arts and Practice), where I was exposed to new ways of thinking about media and its consumption. I ended up double minoring in Digital Studies and Interactive Media and the Culture of New Technologies. I was trying to think of a way I could combine this background and find my dream career. That’s when I was presented with an opportunity to facilitate multimedia workshops for high school students. I loved it, and decided to pursue teaching through Teach for America.

I started as a highly idealistic teacher. In my mind, I envisioned a classroom where students were highly engaged with technology and creating new things. In actuality, I struggled. I didn’t have the practical teaching experience or the resources to do that. Most of my first year was spent just trying to survive and teach what I could with what I had. As the years went on, I gained more experience and was bumped to various schools within the district. Then, I finally had access to technology and the opportunity to integrate it into the classroom. It was both exhilarating and frustrating.

On one hand, I was finally able to create authentic and engaging learning experiences for my students. On the other, it took a while to really figure out how to create those experiences while still assessing student learning, and conforming to the myriad of testing standards. Additionally, there was so much bureaucracy to deal with in terms of getting technology approved in time.

It was these experiences that led me to the Harvard Graduate School of Education

I want to deepen my impact. As someone who grew up in a low-income household, I can empathize with a large percentage of public school students. I really believe all students should be digitally literate and have access to technology. It is the 21st century, yet there are so many that do not have access to the basics. Even then, schools that do have access don’t always have the resources to adequately prepare their teachers to use it effectively. When I found out about the Technology, Innovation, and Education program, I knew I had to take a chance and apply. When I found out I was accepted, there was no question – I had to go.

So, my fiance and I took a cross country road trip with two dogs and one cat, and here we are in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I know this is going to be incredibly hard work. I know this will be intense. I know this will probably be one of the most challenging tasks I’ve ever undertaken.

I’m ready for you, Harvard. Bring it.