Addressing the Elephants

Reading the article “9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should ‘Unsettle’ Us” brought to light many of the issues present in our classrooms and in the education system as a whole. It discusses everything from the obsession with grades to forgetting content after tests. These are the two elephants that stood out to me and I would like to discuss them further.

Elephant 1: We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school.

This elephant in the room holds so much truth to it. Students are forgetting what they are learning soon after they learn it. Students are jam-packed with information and do not feel they have the capacity to retain it all. That is where the issue comes in. Students are not learning and retaining the information, they are looking over and memorizing what they need for a particular test or activity. We should be teaching students to retain what they learn not simply memorize it for the sake of a test. As a future adult, parent, learner, and teacher, I think it is important to make time to review what is learned consistently. That would be in a perfect world, but the truth is we forget what we don’t use.

Elephant 5: We know that grades, not learning, are the outcomes that students and parents are most interested in

This particular elephant is one that caught my attention because I know personally how obsessed students and parents are with grades. If you read my previous blog post this week you know my sister is one of those students who are obsessed with the grade. These students only care about getting a good grade and do not necessarily care about if they are actually learning. This is because we have led them to believe that grades are the most defining thing in your life and your future. And they are…to an extent. What good is a grade if you don’t have the knowledge to go with it? This is what those students do not realize and we must fix change.

There is also a clear connection between these two elephants. Students are doing just enough to pass the test and get the grade. I believe student learning should be more important than the grade. Students learn better when they are interested and engaged, but they are not interested or engaged when they are obsessing over grades or passing a test. Our education system has to change.


The articles we were assigned this week were packed full of information and very interesting to read. As I was reading, I was also thinking how I relate to the things being stated in the article and why they appealed so well to me.

“My Generation Essay: Redefining Education” is my absolute favorite article we read this week.  It discusses how newer generations are beginning to be more and more obsessed with their grades because we have been given the ability to always have on grades on hard. I find this to be remarkable true! I have a sister in high school who is always obsessing about her grades and what she has to do to improve them. However, I do not believe she is getting the most out of her education and is actually learning what is being taught.  What appealed to me personally was Emily Mitchum’s discussion of AP classes. It is absolutely true that AP classes are much more focused on getting you that high score than about the material being taught. I took an AP Spanish Language class in High School and it was weeks after weeks of practice tests. I did not enjoy it.

Children Educate Themselves IV: Lessons from Sudbury Valley” is another article I found particularly interesting. I had never heard of the Sud Valley model and it was interesting to read about a school where students are in complete control of their education. This shows that freedom is a very important part of education and learning. The students at the Sudbury Valley school are free to do as they wish throughout their school day and entire education really. This speaks volumes because we are giving full trust and control to these students and they continue to learn and excel with minimum adult intervention. The article discusses highly how we could see this model a lot more in the next 50 years and I completely agree. It is a great model to show what students are truly capable of when it comes to self-learning.

As a future teacher, parents, and continual learner, I would love to see a school like Sudbury Valley in action. I would love to see what motives students, how they interact with one another and how they use their available resources. I would also love to see if students use each other as resources and how the school makes sure they are really learning. I would absolutely love to see a Sudbury Valley school in action.



Wrapping it Up – Final ILP

Embarking on an independent learning project was both difficult and rewarding. I was able to learn a topic that interests me and about myself and how I learn.  As I’m sure you know, the topic of my ILP was American Sign Language something I hope will be useful to me and my future students. It was not easy to get a hang of and I am nowhere near done learning ASL but I feel I made a great amount of progress while learning about it and my learning style.

One of the greatest outcomes of this project is the self-realization that I rely on good structure in order to guide my learning. When we began this project I would just practice on a random day, write my post and move on. I realized this was not working for me because I was not retaining any of the previous signs,  so I devised a plan to help me retain the knowledge and help me learn better. That plan can be found in this blog post.

There were times when it was incredibly hard to get motivated to do my ILP for the week, but I introduced my cousin to some signs. She quickly became interested in learning and we would practice together. This helped motivate me because I was practicing with someone else and was able to see how someone else might sign different from my signing or the videos. It also helped not being alone because for some reason when I was practicing alone I felt out of place. Having someone else present helped my motivation.

My favorite part of the ILP was learning more about the history of ASL. I am a history guy and I enjoy learning about why things are the way they are and how we got to this point. Yes, I watch documentaries for fun and even finished the “America: The Story of Us” series we never finished at school. The history of ASL is not something that is often talked about or explained very much. While doing the free lessons I get a little bit of history, but I decided to dedicate a whole blog post to a brief history lesson on ASL.

As a future English teacher, I would love to develop a way to integrate independent learning into my classroom. I am thinking something similar to what we did in this class. Give the students a choice of teaching themselves something and have them keep a journal or blog to log their progress.

Creating Visuals

Visuals are a great way to make things interesting and attract a persons attention. Often when we speak in a public setting or present anything we use visuals to enhance our presentation and keep it interesting. Creating a visual for my independent learning project was tough because I did not know what I wanted to showcase or how I wanted to showcase it. Finally, I decided to make a poster showing the basics of American Sign Language, such as the alphabet and numbers 1-10. I also included a little history of ASL because it is not something that is often discussed but I find it really interesting.

To create this poster I used the graphic design software website named Canva. Canva is very easy to use and has many different types of visuals you can create. Anything from a presentation to a business card can be created of Canva. I decided to use Canva because it is a creation tool I have come across before and used very briefly. This activity allowed to explore the site further and see what other features are available. I used it previously to create a thank you card, this time around, I created a poster. While there was an opportunity for crazy colors, I like neutrals and stuck with the neutral theme.

Here is the poster I created:

ASL Poster - Angel Vazquez.jpg

Like I stated above I decided to include the basics in my poster along with some history of ASL. In spoken language, one of the first things we learn is the alphabet. I believe that is also true for American Sign Language. In the sites I have explored, one of the first things you are introduced to is the alphabet and the numbers 1-10. This is why I decided to include “the basics” in my poster. I also included a little history because it is not something that is often discussed. Many of us are eager to learn ASL but do not know the history behind it.

Canva would be a great tool to use in the classroom because of the many templates and creative layouts it provides. It is easy to use and there are many free options in addition to paid options. Students would be able to create various different types of visuals using this online creation tool. Whether it be a poster to go along with their book report or a postcard to help describe the setting of a book, there are many possibilities with Canva.


Let’s Get Digital

Podcasts are a great source of information and are easily accessible. They range from topics such as education and health all the way to pop culture and entertainment.  I have always been a fan of podcasts, but have only ever listened to podcasts about pop culture. I had never even imaged using a podcast in the classroom but now that I have read about it I can’t wait to see how I can use it in my own classroom. This also goes for digital storytelling. I have experience with digital storytelling myself and it is something I quite enjoyed.


The idea of using podcasts in the classroom is explained in great detail in an article posted by Linda Flanagan titled “What teens are Learning From ‘Serial’ and other Podcast.” The article discusses how a teacher uses the podcast ‘Serial’ to satisfy multiple requirements in common core while simultaneously keeping students interested and intrigued. The murder-mystery podcasts are something students can relate to because it takes place in high school, a time they are experiencing themselves. The use of podcasts proves to be a great method of keeping students interested and motivated to learn. The article discusses how students who do not typically do their homework are intrigued enough to continue listening at home. This, to me, speaks volumes. Anytime you can get students excited about doing homework is great and podcasts are a way to do that. The stories are more relatable and allow students to listen above their reading levels.

Digital Storytelling

Before reading “Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling” by Leah Levy I did not realize I have actually done digital storytelling for myself. As a senior in high school, I created a book trailer for “Kill Me If You Can” by James Patterson, book trailers are something that is expressed in the article as a form of digital storytelling. I also rewrote a modern version of Macbeth, in particular, the scene where Lady Macbeth is attempting to wash her bloodstained hands. This was recorded and uploaded to Youtube as part of my final grade. Both are forms of digital storytelling I have done and enjoyed. Unfortunately, the videos were deleted when I graduated and I am unable to find them and share. Digital storytelling allows students to explore their creative sides to a whole new level. They are writing, producing, directing and editing all their stories. These are great and powerful skills to have.

Podcasts and digital storytelling are great ways to get students excited about learning. They motivate interest students to a new level making them not only educations but also enjoyable. The only potential disadvantage I see is students who refuse to be creative. There are students who do not like the sound of their voice or who do not think they are creative. There are also those who do not like to partake in the class discussion. It is important to let these students know their ideas are valuable and we are all creative. My biggest takeaway is that students may enjoy podcasts more then reading books, especially if they can relate to them.


Practice makes Perfect – ILP 7

Weekly Check-In

This week, I continued to practice ASl throughout the week and on my free time. I am starting to get better but I am not completely satisfied with where I am just yet. I still have lots of room for practice and improvement. One of my biggest issues now is flow and comfort. I have learned many signs, but I feel like when I am signing I do it incorrectly and begin to feel uncomfortable. I am also not yet comfortable enough to sign in front of others, especially if they are deaf. I have a couple death customers who come in and I still have yet to work up the courage to sign to them. This is something I want to improve on.

Another of one of my issues is that I lack a steady flow. When I am attempting to sign I stop to think and that interrupts the flow of my sign. I know this is to be expected as a beginning signer but if it can get frustrating for me I can only imagine how it may frustrate and advanced signer. This is another thing I am working to improve, but I also believe this is something that will naturally improve as I get better. I want to continue practicing and getting better so I can one day sign to one of my deaf customers. As practice, I have been signing to my cousin and she has been picking up on some ASL herself. I also found additional resources while doing research this week. ASL University by Dr. Bill has many great tools and videos for learning ASL.



American Sign Language has accents? I had no idea until I stumbled upon a video showcasing how each person signs different and has their own accent.

This video showcases how each person signs differently:

This video is from an Australian media company but proves to be true for all sign language. People from different areas sign differently. As well as, new signers may sign differently than experienced signers. I love his example of how the same story can look very different.

This video explains accents in a deeper sense:

This video goes into greater detail of how accents are shown in sign language. Everything from a New Yorkers fast signing to a “foreign accent” is shown in this video.

I think its extremely interesting to see how different people sign depending on where they’re from or when they learned sign language. Watching these makes me feel a bit better when my signs don’t look exactly how some of the videos show. Now to keep on practicing and improving.

Digital Mindfulness

The issue of technology taking over our lives has been a topic of debate for as long as I can remember. I am only 20 but I still remember the times of dial-up internet and how I would spend countless hours on AOL Instant Messanger or instant messaging with complete strangers on IMVU. That was all before moving on to Myspace, spending hours creating the perfect profile and selecting who was going to be on my “top friends” list that week. It was the new fun pass time. Now, we are bombarded with numerous social media sites, email sites, online retailers, game sites, and possibly anything you can think of. The internet is all around us and only continues to grow.

Personal Internet Use

When it comes to using the internet I am guilty of using the internet as one of my greatest “pass time” activities. If I am watching T.V., I am probably also scrolling through Twitter or Facebook. If I find myself in a waiting room of any kind I am more than likely scrolling through one of my social media accounts or playing a mobile game. I downloaded the mobile app Moment to track my screen time as I was completing this assignment. The app was mentioned in this article “Bored..and Brilliant“. That means, do all my reading, watching  Paul Miller’s TED talk, and write this blog post. As of this moment, I have picked up my phone 4 times and spent 2 minutes looking at the screen.


Honestly, I was consciously thinking that this app is on my phone and I actually went on Facebook while watching the TED Talk, knowing the app was tracking my screen time, I scrolled through Facebook quickly before setting my phone down again…sad. Isn’t it? I want to keep using this app throughout the week and possibly check in on Twitter at the end of the week.

In the Moment

I truly believe that the internet does take away from our ability to be present in the moment. We have our phones at the dinner table, in our cars, with our friends, and especially during conversations. We should be courteous and enjoy these moments without being constantly connected. The internet will still be there when the conversation is over or dinner is done. These are moments in which we should be truly present and attentive, especially when it’s with people you do not always see. This way we do not give up the internet completely but continue to have that divide between being n the moment and online.

From this weeks reading and TED talk, I learned that technology and the internet is both a blessing and a curse. It is a great resource when used correctly, but misusing it can be one of your greatest flaws. You should strive to spend less time on the internet and more time living in the moment. The internet will continue to be there, do not waste too much time on it. I personally want to follow the steps outlined in the article to “Simplify the Internet“.


A Brief History Lesson – ILP 6

This week for my independent learning project I decided to venture back into the past and learn a little more about the history of American Sign Language. As I’ve been practicing the last couple of weeks, I realized I knew very little about the history of ASL and how it began. I decided that this week I would do some research and learn more about this fantastic resources. Now, I want to give you a brief history lesson and share what I found with you.

The Beginning of ASL

ASL truly began in 1814 when deaf education was introduced to the U.S. Thomas Gallaudet, a hearing man from America wanted to teach death kids, but America did not have a system to do so. He journeyed on to England where deaf education was already strong, he was pushed away as the English did not want to share the system with him. He continued his journey to France where he met Laurent Clerc. Laurent Clerc, a deaf man from France, was a teacher. Gallaudet convinced Clerc to move to America where they established the American School for the Deaf located in Hartford, Connecticut. This is where ASL began to become more of an established language rather than just a couple signs to communicate.

This is why American Sign Language is more closely related to French Sign Language rather than British Sign Language. French and American Sign Language use one hand for the alphabet, while British Sign Langauge uses both. I found this interesting because English is the spoken language of both America and Britain, but our sign language system is based on the French. I decided I wanted to see some of the differences so I turned to Youtube and found some comparison videos.

Heres a video comparing ASL to BSL using a Bruno Mars song:

It is interesting to see the differences and similarities in the signs. There are some signs I noticed that use the same motion but have different hand placement. There are also signs that require one hand in ASL while they require two hands in BSL.

Heres a video comparing ASL to FSL:

You can see the similarities between the two forms of sign language and how FSL had an impact on the ASL. You can especially see it in the alphabet! Many of the letters are very similar, if not the same.


ASL was once discouraged and even punishable? That is because men like Alexander Graham Bell believed strongly in oral education and favored speech training. They convinced many schools to stop teaching ASL and spend their time speech training. However, ASL lived on and shortly after, people began to see the value in ASL once again.

Now that I have learned more about the history of ASL its time to continue practicing. I am still having a hard time retaining the signs, but practice is key! I hope you enjoyed reading this brief history lesson on ASL.

Digital Activism

There is so much that goes into digital activism that I am finding it difficult to find a place to start. The internet can be both a wonderful and a terrible place. There are many people who use it for good but there are those who use it as a way to get to others in a harmful way. It is a complex space and it is only expanding.

Political Teachers

I want to begin by addressing the fact that teachers should be political. That is what I gathered from this article I read.  Not in the sense of sharing their political views with everyone, but being outspoken about things that affect them as teachers and humans. What the law tells us to do is what we are required to do, and for teachers that includes common core and state testing. These are things that affect us and our jobs. Lawmakers do not know what is going on and it is our job to use our voice and be vocal about it. We have to be able to express the changes we want to be made and why these changes should be made. We always should keep in mind what is best for students because ultimately they are the most affected. We are not politicians, we are teachers, but if politics is ruining the education system, we have to be able to speak up about it.

Digital Activism

There are multiple teens who have taken social media as a way to be an activist against bullying, sexual assault, and politics itself. We are in the digital age and much of what we do is on the internet. Eduardo, a bullied teen, started his Twitter page as a way to connect with others who are being bullied. By doing this he was able to connect and help many others. He is just one example of a digital activist.

Digital Activism is very effective because it has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people. Important people. People who can help make a difference. Celebrities are often outspoken about issues such as bullying, mental health, and sexual assault. That gives exposure to this issues and pressure on society to fix them. I have only participated in digital activism when DACA was repealed affecting the lives of thousands of illegal immigrants. Digital Activism is a great thing when used properly to promote love and a better world, but this is the internet after all.

I found this module interesting because I never considered digital activism a thing until I read about it. I just thought of it as people showing support not supporting something happening in the news. I did not know there were entire pages created for this specific purpose. However, now that I am aware I would love to explore more digital activist pages and I love to idea of creating a cause-driven classroom blog.