Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 Time Reflections

1. Overall personal experience:
I wince as I say this, but you know I blew off the project (at least my initial project) around the middle of the year, so my experience with the project is a little skewed. That said, I think it's a fantastic idea, and the only problem with it is the student's (me) willingness and motivation to stick to it.

2. Adjustments for next year:
Nothing original comes to mind, just ideas mentioned by other students. I like the idea of giving students a bit longer to develop and choose their project, although I think there's a significant chance this will just give them an excuse to put off the project longer.
I definitely support the idea of blog posts every 2 weeks, with a longer post requirement. It would relocate the focus back to the actual project, and less to the blog posts. This may just be a "me" thing, but I think it would help make it feel less like a chore and more rewarding to mark your progress. For many people, next to nothing would happen in certain weeks, and it made the blog posts a bit redundant and unnecessary.

3. Aspects to keep for next year (the good stuff):
I'm not really sure what to say here. Anything I don't mention above ought to stay the same, though I'm having a hard time thinking WHAT those things are that shouldn't change. Overall, I really like the project and I'm hesitant to change much of anything.

4. Doing 20 Time more?
I absolutely think this should be a widely-used idea. I don't think it's for everyone, but honors classes at GP South would definitely gain a lot from a sort of "independent study"  time, or whatever they want to make of it. The open idea of 20 Time is the reason I say this. Students looking to learn something or study a particular field have the opportunity, but it can also be used to DO something, like Lauren's marathon or Lindsay's sign language class.

5. Advice to future students:
   a. Don't do what I did. I started to lose interest, then gave up because I didn't feel like spending the necessary time outside of school. This seems like it would go without saying, but I was super psyched at the beginning of the year, telling myself I would stick to the project, and I didn't. And now I'm honestly pretty bummed to have wasted such a great opportunity.
   b. Another one that sounds kinda obvious: DON'T OVERTHINK YOUR PROJECT!!!
Don't think "this one seems too hard" or "it won't work." Especially with the whole "failure is an option" thing in mind, it can be easy to say "this'll be crazy and cool but it probably won't work." Instead, try and keep along an idea of "this is totally crazy and I'm going for it anyway."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Second post of the new project

I'm upset to say I haven't gotten much in the way of ideas since last time. As I write this, I'm sort of considering something about ADD/ADHD, but I feel like it'd be too out-of-the-way of my original plan to learn Japanese

The connection is this: over the course of this,the majority of the stress and the reason I'd been overwhelmed was an ongoing argument with my parents about school. This is going to sound like the weakest argument ever, but this is what happened. After I ended last year with lower grades than my parents were happy with, they wanted to try something different. And so, starting at the beginning of this year, I was not allowed to do anything recreational except for go running and read books during the school week. I wasn't happy, but i figured that would make sense, and I gave it a try. For almost a month I worked hard,handed in every assignment, and studied hard. After that, I burned out. My theory is I was working too hard without a break, and I couldn't focus after all that. My grades dropped pretty fast. I was sick of the work, of having nothing else to do with my time. Friends I don't see at school were drifting away because i never got to talk to them, or do anything with them. 

This is a huge deal for me. Most of the people I consider my real friends are people I've never met, people who live halfway across the country that I've met online. I realize that sounds terrible to a lot of people, and my dad absolutely hates it. That's not to say I don't have good friends here, but when they go to different schools or are homeschooled, the online interaction was my primary connection to them. 

(Maybe I could do something about online communities and relationships. It'd be an even bigger stretch than the ADD thing though)

Point being, I started dreading homework, ignoring it, making excuses and putting it off as much as I could. This lead to more stress, because I would inevitably fight with my parents about the low grades, and they assumed the issue was that I had too much distraction, as I'd been spending most of my time working at the library. So I was confined to the house during the week, forced to do homework in the dining room so my mother could look over my shoulder and make sure I was on track. 
I'm not a person who functions well if someone keeps checking up on me. I don't mean to say I shied away from human contact, I didn't dislike talking to people, but I'd gotten used to spending a great deal of my time online, more or less in my own bubble on Skype or something. I did my work alone, at my desk or in the corner of the library. I had no problem being around people, i was just more comfortable in my own space. 

This is turning into more of an all-about-me kinda thing, but I think it's going somewhere worthwhile. I hope. 

So being forced to work in the central room of the house, with people moving past me, behind me, all the time was more than a little frustrating. At this point, I got even less done. I had a near panic attack after a day or two, trying to work at the kitchen table. Little things were getting to me, the fact that the desk was at the wrong height, the chair made my neck and back sore, even the fact that my headphone wire wasn't where it usually was. This sounds silly, but when my computer and desk are a huge source of mental stability for me, not having that familiar place to work really screws with me. In addition, the fact that people were constantly moving around me was something I didn't have to deal with at my desk in the basement. It's not like I'm usually sealed away, but it's somewhat secluded, at least enough that I can tune out distractions and things.

On that note, the central issue was this: My parents were convinced that any form of distraction would render me incapable of focusing on work, and I would put it off and play video games or something of the sort. My belief (which you probably won't believe) was that I couldn't function well without some kind of small, enjoyable distraction. It's impossible to completely remove distractions from an environment, even if I just wind up day-dreaming. But what has always helped me focus was having something else to occupy the parts of my mind that aren't being used. That's not quite correct, but I don't know how else to explain it. I used to bring a piece of wire or string or clay to classes to play with while I would listen to the teacher or work. Some teachers thought it was distracting me, or providing a disruption to the class, and take away my little distraction. Others would notice that it helped me focus, and leave me be. Another side of this issue is that I often take frequent breaks. Some days, I won't work for more than a half hour at a time before I go and check my email, look around on a forum for a few minutes or something. But only when I need to, to keep from getting burned out on work. Other days, I don't feel that need, and I can work for hours at a time with no difficulty.

The classic advice with writer's block is to just pretend you're not stuck, and try and try and try to push through it. In my case, at least what I believe, is that pushing through too much will completely overwhelm me, and the best thing I can do, if I'm completely stuck for more than a couple minutes, is to step away and go do something else. Chat on skype, or play a quick game online. Something to refresh me, to re-direct my thoughts. And then, more often than not I can easily jump back into what I was doing.

I'm starting to put together an idea of where I want to go with this. Something about ADD, how everyone's solution to problems is different. Many people can use the same methods, simply working hard and removing distraction, and succeed easily. But some people, myself included, need a different approach. I'm not saying the best thing for me is to succumb to the distraction all the time, but going for 100% work completely screws me over after a while.

Okay, it's time for me to wrap this up. I've been rambling long enough, and I could probably write another couple paragraphs, but I need to make a plan for the end of 20 time. I'm feeling really good about the idea above, putting together something about differently structured learning, and individuality in school/learning stuff. I'm having a hard time finding the right words for this, but it's something I'm very passionate about, particularly after this year having been terrible for me, as far as grades.

I think this is something I can really get into. Here's hoping I take it somewhere worthwhile.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Post 1 (Yes, I really mean 1) and some stuff


This is the point where I need to change something. I've realized I've been putting off my project for weeks, and I kept telling myself I'd get back to it when my life got less crazy and hectic. But that hasn't happened, and it's not going to anytime soon. I told myself that once the robotics build season was over, I'd have more time to devote to this. But now it's competition season, and my entire weekends are devoted to competitions. And once that's over, I'll want to get a job, and then there will be something else. Sounds like a lot of flimsy excuses, right?  That's more or less my point here.

I think I'm too far behind to catch up on Japanese by May. And I appreciate the whole "it's not about succeeding" point, but I can't be happy with that when I know I didn't try enough. I could just try and jump back into it, but I don't think I'd be able to. The problem is largely me having convinced myself I can't do it, but having realized that doesn't help me. 

I've been tossing around ideas for how to salvage this, to make SOMETHING of 20 Time for myself. My first idea was to try and pull some kind of lesson from this, make my presentation about what I've learned, or maybe the cool people I met through this. The problem there is that I wouldn't have anything meaningful to do with the remaining time. 

Something that just occurred to me was to switch over to researching language theory in general, as the one thing that caught my interest more than anything with this project was the difference in thinking between the English language and Japanese, as well as the comparisons to Latin, which I am taking right now as a third-year. This gives me something to research, something I can dedicate time to, that I'm genuinely interested in. It will be easy to stick to because I already read up on this sort of thing when I'm bored. It wouldn't feel like a project, it would feel like something I'm doing because i want to learn. But this doesn't have the impact I want it to. I want to make something a little more powerful than "Languages are cool!" 

At this point, I'm stuck. By Friday I'm going to force myself to decide what to do. I've got vague ideas put together for a theme, something based on stress or pressure, depression or procrastination, but nothing solid that I can work with yet.


And Some Stuff
As fore the questions sent out over text, I figure I ought to address them directly as well.

What have I liked most about 20 Time this year?
Overall, this was a fantastic idea. The opportunity to basically take on an independent study (if that's your project) was an amazing opportunity, and for the people who did more original projects, while I can't speak for them, I was fascinated to see the directions they were taking it. I learned a lot from reading other blogs, particularly Will's "living the bible" thing. Although I'm not religious, it was interesting to get a perspective on the teachings of the bible, etc. I was really impressed with the suicide awareness project as well.

What didn't I like?
I honestly can't think of anything to complain about that wasn't my own fault. I think an encouragement of 2-person groups would be a good idea, to keep each other on track, but I don't know how practical that would be. And that's purely stemming from my inability to stay focused on my own project.

What would I do differently?
If you're asking what should be changed with the project, I liked it as is, save for the 2-person groups I mentioned. I really have nothing else worth saying.

If you're asking what I, personally, would do differently, I think I've pretty much covered that.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Getting back on track

My new workbook is here, and I'm saddened to discover it's not much more helpful than the last one. Even though the reason is entirely different this time. The book teaches Japanese as if you're in a rush to learn the language because you're being carted off to Japan against your will in a month. It teaches basic phrases and ideas like how to count money, the names of occupations, and basic greetings. It doesn't give any analysis on HOW the language is structured, what the underlying ideas are, or the significance of the grammar. In any Romance or Germanic language, that would be fine. The structure of Spanish, German, French, or almost any European language is similar enough to English that an English speaker can pick them up fairly easily, because the concepts behind the language are similar. Japanese is built on an entirely different philosophy, a different outlook on the entire concept of language. The sentence structure is different, but more importantly, the USE of verbs is entirely changed. Some sentences don't even have or require verbs, the verb often being contained or simply IMPLIED by the subject. And some sentences don't have a subject, but it is implied  by the verb. I found a guide that I think will be more helpful learning the core elements of the language. 

My goal is not to be able to converse with a native speaker by the end of the year, but to have an understanding of the language, so I can really get comfortable with it eventually. I want to feel like I have a grasp on the language, as opposed to knowing a few useful phrases and being able to not get lost in Japan. I've always had a hard time learning languages, and the essence of the language is what interests me, far more than the simple vocabulary or stringing words together.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I didn't get as much time in as I'd have liked this week. my new workbook is coming in the mail (I'm really getting sick of Amazon) and should be here in a couple days. I've been working on learning more of the katakana, and I'm starting to get to a point where I can read some very basic words phonetically. The problem, of course, is that doesn't give me any idea of their meaning, until I either know the kanji, or learn it verbally. I barely touched on the audio lessons this week, because I've been a bit overloaded with end-of-semester homework, and largely forgot about my Japanese. I'll try to squeeze in a bit later today, but I've still a lot of work to do.

I know this is a really bad post, but I honestly don't have anything more to say.

Edit: This was supposed to go up hours ago. I did get a little more time in on the Japanese, but nothing terribly exciting. A bit of vocab work with the audio program. Learned a few new words.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Attempting to Learn Japanese, Post 8

I've come to the conclusion that I'm an idiot. I now need to order another workbook for this project, because the one I currently have is next to impossible to use without already knowing basic kana. It would be possible for me to use online resources to learn them, which I started to do, but it's not practical. I simply don't have enough time to sink into learning that, on top of the rest of the lessons. It is an entirely different process to go through to master even the basic kana, than it is t learn the vocabulary to speak the language like I intend. I could theoretically use the workbooks side-by-side, to learn to read/write and speak Japanese at the same time, but it would be slower than doing either of those individually. My primary goal, at least for now, is just learning the spoken language, so I'm putting the kana on the backburner for the time being.

On the bright side, I did pick up a bit more of the oddities of Japanese Grammar, in attempting to work using the kana. There are actually apparently something like 5 different types of kana, but they aren't used except for emphasis, or to look dramatic. Much the same way that we might use a bold or archaic-looking font with English letters. Another use would be more as symbols than "letters." Hentaigana, for instance, is almost only used on signs of noodle shops, or other generic, recognizable symbols. I'm not describing this as well as I'd like, but I'm having difficulty making comparisons to English. It's simply a different way of approaching the concept of language altogether.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Post 7

In regards to the workbook I was concerned about, Jonathan said that I DID order the right one, and he told me to try my best to learn the kana. Apparently they are simple enough, and from what I can tell, they build off of each other. Similar sounds have similar characters, which makes this far easier than I had expected. For instance, ろ is "ro" while "ru" is る. "No," one of the few I know off the top of my head, is の. These are all "katakana," and I still don't understand the difference between that and "hiragana." My book tells me hiragana they'd to be used for words from other languages, while kana are ore often used for phonetic spelling of Japanese words. A quick google search tells me the exact opposite. They are often used together, which tells me there is no set-in-stone way to use them, but I do know that I have seen hiragana used to spell out names far more often than katakana. 

As for learning the kana, I think I will just use free online resources, and do my best to study them out of my book and memorize. I'm seeing a lot of flash cards in these next couple weeks...