Category Archives: adult learning

Muddling Through Monday

When my father retired, I gave him a hard time as he still got up every Monday morning but instead of going to his office, he went to the church where he helped out with tracking attendance data from the day before. I told him that when I retired, I would most definitely not do anything resembling work at least until noon on Monday.

I have mostly stuck by that vow, puttering around in my pajamas, enjoying a second latte, doing some general weekly planning. Some Monday mornings, I even take that second latte back to bed with my current read. It feels deliciously decadent after decades of having to face the outside world much too early on Mondays. I apologize to those of you with real jobs who even now are looking forward to lunch time for triggering any envy or sadness. Your time will come. Meanwhile, feel free to live vicariously through me.

In my former life, Mondays were WORK days as I figured the more I got done that day, the easier the rest of the week would be. I still have that philosophy and right now am facing a pretty brutal grading deadline for one of my seven-week courses. My workload, however, is such that I can wait until the afternoon to get started. Truth be told, I was curious to see the projects from my class and have already graded two of the early postings. It didn’t really feel like work.

I made another book this weekend. It’s a pamphlet stitch journal that incorporates weaving into the long stitches that make up the binding. It is the October book project for Ali Manning’s Handmade Book Club. I attended the new member welcome meeting last week, and we were strongly encouraged to share our books no matter how inexperienced we were. So…I did. I am a bit out of my comfort zone in terms of both sharing the pictures with other more advanced bookmakers but also just generally getting involved in an online community. It seems like a safe place, however, and I have already learned a lot and created more than I have for a very long time.

I wanted to use materials I had around the house to complete the book. The back and front covers are made from some handmade paper I bought. I used coloring book pages for some of the signature covers. The ribbon and buttons were part of my stash. There is an option to add some kind of closure, but I think I like this the way it is.

Woven Pamphlet Stitch Book

Once a Teacher

A poster called Choose Your Own Adventure in Technology Land with four items: Making and Makerspaces, Hour of Code, Augmented, Virtual and Virtual Worlds, and Edutainment.
Choose Your Own Adventure in Technology Land poster

My twitter feed is filled with pictures of my K-12 teaching friends as they begin the year, eager to connect with their students. I am excited for them and, even after decades of being out of the middle school classroom, I always have a pang of regret that I took a different path in 2001.

That unconventional path has provided me with a variety of opportunities to work with educators across the country. But, I don’t necessarily think of that as teaching. I was engaging in professional development, which to my mind has a different quality than teaching. I have continued to teach, however, working with students in a formal setting where we have time to develop relationships, explore curriculum and create knowledge together.

This fall, I am teaching two courses, one for Old Dominion University and one for University of Richmond. Both are graduate courses related to instructional technology for a mostly K-12 educators. The two courses represent the ends of the spectrum in terms of how teaching and learning is done in higher education.

The Old Dominion course is designed for career switchers, people with degrees in other fields who wish to become teachers. It is always a wonderfully diverse mix of individuals as they come, in some cases, from all over the world. The course is completely online and asynchronous. But, we still create community using tools like Flip and Padlet to share and explore. I don’t have a lot of leeway with the content as the course is taught by multiple professors, but I am able to bring my own personality and practices to teaching online. But, it is a still a very different relationship than my face to face course.

At University of Richmond, I have taught School Technology each fall to students in the graduate education program for many years and it is most definitely MY course. Pre-COVID it was fully face to face with perhaps one virtual meeting to give them a flavor for learning online. I revisit the content and curriculum each year as well as the way I deliver the course. We have been almost completely online for the past years. This year, I am experimenting with a hybrid format that allows for us to connect as a whole group and then give students time for their own exploration and work.

Basically, I have front loaded the content into September. We work together on campus until fall break. Last year, I began using a textbook: the small but impactful volume, Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for the K-12 Classroom. I am continuing with that this year as the authors cover the big picture with the lens of equity that helps connect various topics in a useful way. They also provide a framework for students to consider their own problems of practice that lead to their final, individual projects, which they work on in November.

In between, October is given over to the students to explore on their own. I created a Choose Your Own Adventure activity that focuses on four different areas of ed tech that I don’t have time to cover in any depth. They learn a little about each one and then choose one to explore in more depth, with the goal considering how they might roll it out in their schools. A secondary objective is for them to think about how they use technology to research, reflect and report. What tools do they for curation? Collaboration? Communication?

We meet tonight for the first time and I am a little nervous, as always.


NOTE: This post was drafted in early April, about a month ago. I have been waiting for the spring blossoms to show themselves as I laid down bucket after bucket of mulch. Now I have pictures to share along with the words. If you like, feel free to skip the words.

Gardening is a passion of mine, and this time of year can be overwhelming as well as exciting. I was up and out early today, weeding and mulching. The roadside garden on the farm has been, as they say, years in the making. It started as a small perennial bed near the driveway with the usual daylilies, irises and hostas. But it quickly grew, expanding along the road to the opposite edge of the property. Now, after close to five years of work, it is mostly complete except for the wildflower bed I have planned, and the seeds for that are just waiting until the evening temperatures get above 50 degrees. That means the ground will be warm enough for them to germinate.*

A bad hip kept me from finishing the full garden over the past three years. I tinkered around the edges and even tried paying people. But no one was willing to get on hands and knees and dig up wire grass for what I was willing to pay, and I just couldn’t do what needed to be done. Last spring, I did better but was still recuperating.

This spring I am back and better than ever. I get into the garden beds for some time every day and for hours on the weekends. Seeing them come together in ways I could only imagine have made all the work worth it. And, the lovely finishing layer of mulch reveals the garden design, highlighting the plants that, for now, are just getting started.

This year, I took a before video on March 21 when I was just getting started.

And then again on May 14, 2021, which just happened to be my birthday.

It wasn’t just my health that kept the garden from completion. I lacked the finances to simple buy a garden at the home center in one fell swoop. I paid for or was gifted a few unusual (read expensive) plants, worked with my husband to raise things from seed (his particular gardening super power), divided plants, swapped plants, and plundered bags of perennials at the local dollar store. (They are cheap but tend to have a low success rate.)

Here are pics from early spring through yesterday:

The Gardens on My Birthday and Beyond

I was fortunate to grow up in a family, really a community, of gardeners. Small, neat kitchen gardens were common. I have a family photo that features my maternal grandmother’s peach tree in her urban garden in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  When my paternal grandmother died, we discovered dusty jars of canned vegetables and fruits on the basement shelves, enough to last several lifetimes. My father always had a vegetable garden in the communal garden at the high school and continues to cultivate roses and orchids even into his 80s. My mother canned and froze the produce from the garden and even now takes advantage of living in central Pennsylvania to buy locally grown vegetables to preserve. She also makes her own ketchup when the tomatoes are cheap and sweet.

There is something satisfying about engaging with living things from people to animals to plants. Plants bring the bonus of digging in the dirt, an activity that I suspect many of us enjoyed as kids. Even if you don’t have an outdoor space or want to make time for a large garden, container gardening is a possibility whether it’s radishes and greens on the patio or herbs on the windowsill.

I am also a fan of the odds and ends garden. You can put those bits of potatoes with their eyes sprouting into dirt, and you will get more potatoes. They like sun and a deep pot where you can mound dirt as they grow to get more potatoes. You aren’t going to feed the world, but you will get enough for a meal or two and they will taste wonderful of dirt and sunshine and rain. You can experiment with celery ends, onions and garlic, too.

* I planted these seeds on Monday, May 10, and am happy to say they are sprouting!

Turkey Update

Earlier this year, I wrote about the problem of our wandering turkeys. They were attracted across the street to scavenge from our neighbor’s bird feeder. Part of it was our fault: we had stopped regular feedings as they seemed to find enough in their wandering so their explorations got farther and farther afield. They found leftover greens in the overgrown vegetable garden and then discovered the feeder.

I am happy to say that the turkeys have been successfully “trained” to stay near the house and the barn yard rather than wandering down front. They get fed twice a day, once in a penned area and once at their very own turkey-level bird feeder and sometimes a third time just to make sure they are close by and come when they are called. They are, by no means, pets, and one of them, in particular, is aggressive so I carry a big stick as we walk along to wherever I am going to spread the food.

For those of you who are having trouble imagining these birds, here they are at their sunflower seed feeder. The tapping is loud so it is hard to hear the happy sort of chirp they make.

Toolkit for Meditation Practice

I have known about and flirted with meditation for a very long time. In fact, my high school research paper–the one where I learned the 3X5 card research technique–was on transcendental meditation. I have no idea where I even heard about it or how I managed to get a copy of the book or enough print-based resources to write the paper. Certainly it was not widely practiced in the 1970s in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heart of Amish country, where I grew up. But, that was my topic. I don’t remember much about my conclusions, and it did not immediately convince me to meditate every day.

Over time, I have dabbled with the usual fits and starts but connecting with Dan Harris and 10% Happier was the impetus for this current journey. His books tell his personal story of discovering meditation, how that discovery changed his mind and his life, and how he traveled the country to get the word out. The app is an inclusive introduction to meditation with courses taught by well-known teachers like Sharon Salzberg and Sebene Selassie. They teach the basics as well as different types of meditation. Salzberg’s main focus, for instance, is lovingkindness.

The challenge that is on right now highlights different courses and teachers each day to give a good sense of the full range of the offerings.

The only drawback is that the app has only limited offerings for free. A subscription is $99/year. In a world of free, that may seem like a lot but it is another encouragement to actually open it up and explore. But, if you want to explore meditation for free first, consider Sharon Salzberg’s #RealHappiness challenge that takes place in February.