Spring Updates

It feels like it’s been forever since I wrote here, and I apologize to any readers who follow this blog.

Truth be told, the semester was off to a very slow start due to the snow days, and I felt there was not much to share.

I’m happy to report that we haven’t had a major snowstorm in a few weeks, and things are starting to pick up. I’m currently on spring break, and it seems a little insane to me that I’m basically at the halfway point in the semester. Time is passing so quickly!

Here’s what I’ve been working on:

T560: I’m working in a team of three to further develop the UpTell project I had worked on in the HGSE Hackathon. It is a perfect project for the Universal Design for Learning framework. We’re still in the very early prototyping stages, but it’s exciting nonetheless to be going from a Keynote prototype to building out a website. My particular role in the project is media, which means I will be working on marketing materials that encompass our overall brand and mission.

T561: I’m working on the EcoMOBILE research team. My particular project is building out games in ARIS, an open-source platform for creating mobile learning games and experiences. I’m working with Nick again (I believe this is our 4th or 5th project together) to translate their current games into the new platform. We’ve ran into some tech issues here and there, but overall it’s been a fun learning experience.

T565: In this class, I’m working with someone from my cohort on a business plan for a digital K-3 math curriculum that generates content personally geared toward student interests. We are currently in the market sizing and research phase. I’m excited to see how it turns out!

T581: I’ve learned so much in this class, from furthering my HTML and CSS skills and learning jQuery. I’m working in a team of 5 to develop a social media site that connects teachers and technologists in order to improve the quality of educational content. We had originally started out as a social media site connecting STEAM educators, but felt that was too limiting. We’re in the wireframing stage, and will soon be building out our site.

In addition to class projects, I’m also doing an internship as a curriculum designer for the U.S. Department of State’s Resilient, Entrepreneurial, And Dynamic Youth (READY) Initiative. I’m working in an interdisciplinary team to co-design ten gender-progressive, professional development and global citizenship modules. We’ve only recently had our first meeting, but I’m eager to see how our work develops.

I really can’t believe classes are over on April 30th. That’s a little over a month away!

It’s only week 2?!

Time seems to be flying by so quickly. It’s only my second week of classes and I already feel like I’m entrenched so deeply into various projects.

The first exciting piece of news is that I got the internship I wanted! I’m going to be a Learning Resources Developer for the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab! I will be developing and designing online resources and tutorials for Scratch. I am insanely excited about this! The other great thing is that in addition to getting school credit, I will also be getting paid!

On Monday I went to my data science class, which I absolutely loved! Data visualization is an area I had always been intrigued by but had never really ventured in. I am starting to get a better idea of what this field is, and how it can be applied to various disciplines, education included. The class was very hands-on, and we used Tableau to visualize some data. It’s this learning analytic software that will take your existing spreadsheets, and then you can use various tools to visualize it – graphs, maps, bubbles etc. It was so awesome. It really has me thinking about data/information in new ways. I’m really excited about that class.

Every week is truly an adventure here. I cannot stress enough how much I absolutely LOVE my classes. I feel appropriately challenged and engaged. I also love the general HGSE community. I feel like we are a huge family that takes care of each other. On one occasion I mentioned my worry that I didn’t pack a snack to hold me over, and one of my classmates handed me two granola bars. When I mentioned I had a headache, another had Advil available. It’s just an amazing feeling to be part of such a caring cohort.

I’m doing my best to take advantage of the time I have here. When I first applied to this program, I was like, “Wow, it’s only a year – that’s awesome!” Now, I feel myself wishing I could be here longer. But who knows, I might feel differently during the winter or as projects pile on.

I just feel so incredibly happy to be here right now.



I’ve Survived my First Week!

One thing I have heard from many alums is how fast this year will go by. I see what they mean. I can’t believe I’ve finished my first week here, and already so much work is underway.

The only class I haven’t been to is my Data Science class, since it was Labor Day that day. I’m looking forward to it!

The classes I have been to so far are amazing. I know it’s only week 1, but I’ve got a pretty good feeling about them. The course readings are very interesting, and it’s great that we’re actually discussing them in class. It’s very engaging, and I’m enjoying getting to meet so many awesome people. In my Innovation by Design course, I’m in a team and we’re already getting the foundation of our project ready.

One thing that I have found interesting about my classes here is the completely different atmosphere from those in my undergrad career. This is probably due to the difference in majors. In my journalism courses, the emphasis was on striving to get things right the first time. There was an intense pressure to be the best at everything, and to be perfect in everything. It was extremely stressful because you knew if you made a mistake somewhere, your grades would suffer.

I know it will probably get stressful at times here, but, I feel much more reassured here. There is much more of a collaborative spirit than a competitive one. I think it’s partly because as educators, we recognize we will be able to better solve problems by working together. 

Additionally, every professor has emphasized how much they care about the process rather than the end product/projects. They’ve talked about how too often they see students “play it safe” and hold back from taking risks because they are worried about their grades. One of my professors said something along the lines of that she would rather see us take a huge intellectual risk and flame out rather than do something we already know how to do. Many of my professors have also remarked how they find many Harvard students are uncomfortable with the idea of failure because they’ve never failed at anything, and how it can be jarring to take these courses where failure is a part of the learning process. They’ve also made the point about how if we’re too scared to take risks, how are we going to be innovators? If we’re paying all this money just to take courses and choose projects we already know a lot about, what’s the point? Aren’t we here to learn new things?

This is very refreshing and authentic to me. I’m also thankful that I taught before coming to grad school. I had always been afraid to fail, and teaching was the first time I failed – a lot. I could spend hours trying to create the perfect lesson plan, only to have it thrown off by a fire drill or a student having a bad day. I tried new approaches, and they didn’t always work. There was a lot of struggle before I saw any signs of achievement or growth in my students. I feel this experience was the perfect preparation for what I’m about to do this year – try new things that may not turn out exactly as planned, but in the end, I will be a better person from the experience

In other news, I’ve had two internship interviews, and I think they went fairly well. I heard back from the first and was offered the internship, but I am waiting to hear back from the other as that one is more aligned to my interests.

I also bought a membership at the gym, and have actually been going. In the past, I’ve made up excuses about not having time and being really busy – but now I’m actually scheduling it in, and am falling into a routine. I’m also walking to and from school everyday, which adds up to about to a little over 2 miles.

One thing that I’ve found to help keep track of all these things is my planner. I also make sure to start on assignments right away, rather than waiting until the last minute. I set realistic goals about how many tasks I can complete per day, so I don’t get overwhelmed. I will set aside specific time on the weekends to get work done, but try to spend most of that time relaxing and rejuvenating. I wonder how/if this will change as my work load changes, but overall I’m feeling positive about managing it all.

So Many Possibilities

Many times while here I’ve heard the analogy that being at Harvard is a lot like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant. There are so many things to do and so many opportunities to choose from, and there is no way you can do everything. You just can’t. 

There are so many courses I would like to take, yet I can only fit 4, maybe 5, into my schedule each semester. Some of those courses overlap, so I will have to decide which ones I would like to take the most. One thing that has been extremely helpful is course shopping, something that seems to be unique to HGSE. During orientation week, professors will have a 45 minute session where you can preview their course, ask questions, and get a feel for their teaching style. I find these so valuable because it gives you a clearer picture of what you can expect. I know in my undergrad career I have taken some courses ended up being completely different from what was presented in the course catalog. 

The other great thing about being here is that you can also cross register at other schools within Harvard, as well as schools like MIT. The downside is that not all the other schools have a shopping schedule. Still, it’s great that we have that opportunity to explore interests and courses outside of our programs. 

The other area I’m having a hard time with is internships. There are so many opportunities here – each day I am getting new emails or being told by professors that they need help with their projects, and everything is amazing. I know that I would like to find an internship in an area outside of what I’ve already done (teaching) so that I can expand my growth and learn new skills. Then the question I run into is what do I decide to do? Educational media? Educational game design? Consulting and research? Start ups? Non-profits? There are literally a million different opportunities, and I really hope that tomorrow at the internship expo I can narrow it down.

I also found out that since I have work study, I can actually get paid for internships, which is awesome! It also seems that many internships here offer course credit in addition to some sort of financial compensation. 

Honestly, I’m overwhelmed in a sense. I’m not used to saying no to great opportunities, and here I have an abundance! I have to remind myself that I am only here for one year, and I can only do so much.