Totally Thankful

It is Thanksgiving eve and I'm about to put my laptop to sleep and enjoy the rest of the evening into tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

Today, I graded papers, spent time outside with Jedi and my neighborhood BFF - Laura (and her dog, Carra) - watched Lil O and her BFF create-laugh-play, made homemade chai (it was SO good), and prepped for our rebellious Thanksgiving dinner where we don't make a single traditional dish.

I am so thankful this holiday season for so many people, places, and experiences.  To you and yours.....


Shaxi iPad Case Review & Giveaway


Ready for a review and a giveaway?!  Woot!  Did someone say give-a-way?!  It's been a while since we've done both on Upcycled Education.

First, meet my new friend.  The Shaxi iPad Case from Looptworks (retail $85).  I. love. this. case.  (I think that sums up my review).  But, seriously, look. at. it.

The Shaxi is made from all upcycled leather!  Yes, you heard me.  That leather was on its way to the dump - it was tossed out scrap leather - and now, it is our family's coveted iPad case - taking the place of our old, blue, roll-up case I paid $50 for at the Apple store (or was that Target) - you know, the $50 case that is falling apart.  Piece of junk - that old case.

But, the Shaxi?  Come on....Look at those lines....Look at the color blocking......

Look at how at how sturdy she is built.....Lil O can drag that Shaxi and iPad around the house and it is totally protected.  

And my very favorite part is this.....the Shaxi can stand up on its own and adjust to numerous angles. Sure most iPad cases can do that, but from my experience most of the other cases aren't as sturdy when they do - the other cases slip, slide, and come apart.  But, our Shaxi champions standing.

I was afraid the gorgeous leather would get stained, torn, or scratched.  Alas, it has been close to a month and it looks like the day it arrived.  The only downfall we can tell is it slightly hard to adjust the volume on our iPad while it is nestled in its Shaxi.  But, one strike against it doesn't sadden me.


Today, we start the giveaway:  one Shaxi iPad case of your color choosing!  You can keep it for your lovely self or gift it to a friend for the holidays.  Enter by commenting below sharing which color Shaxi you'd choose.  One entry per person, duplicates will be nixed.  For an additional entry, however, browse the Looptworks website and pick one other product you think is amazing - again, one additional entry per person.  Enter by December 1st - midnight EST.  The winner will be announced on Upcycled Education's Facebook page on Monday, December 2nd.  VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Yay for cool iPad cases and upcycled products!


PS - Big thanks to Looptworks and all their Upcycled Education love & support and sharing a Shaxi with me!


Life Updated: Blue Hair Edition

I think we know who is stealing my heart lately.  Just look at the images above.  One lil, adorable, lovely, creative, talented soul is dominating the images, yes?

Lil O.  That kids brings so much joy to my life.

As does....
  • Blue hair from the Color Run.
  • Running nonstop with Lil O in her 4th (or 5th) 5K.
  • I am so bad at making time for friends.  Thankfully, Prof. KP, is better than me and we got our families together for a night of ice skating and chili.
  • Jedi is so lean.  When we go on fall runs, he runs at least 4-5 times further than me as he antelopes through the forest.  One of my fabulous students, KO, did a speech on the benefits of dog ownership.  Listen people, you need a dog!
  • Have you made homemade poptarts?  This recipe can't be any easier and Lil O and friends adore them.  So far, we've made lemon curd (that product is from Trader Joe's), strawberry preserves, and cookie dough.  We like them in that order.
  • I am equally as awful at making time for my nieces and sister as I am for friends.  Perhaps, that is my next life coaching topic to tackle.  You can see my sweet nieces above with Lil O.
  • When I get a chance to write up the blog post, one of YOU will get to win that upcycled leather Shaxi iPad case Lil O is sporting from Looptworks.  It rocks.
  • Yes, that is a swaddled 8-year old and a rubber chicken above. Ha!  College students, the rubber chicken is coming your way soon!
Happy late fall, ya'll.

Love from Memphis - this weekend,


Western Governors University....Explained

With so many new online universities and colleges, I thought it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty.  Though I can't speak to all online universities and colleges, I keep being impressed with this one..... Western Governors University - a totally online four-year university.

To help make sense of WGU, as it is called, I interviewed a former student who recently graduated there.

Welcome, Carrie and congratulations on your recent graduation!

Why did you choose WGU?
When I was looking at 4-year schools to attend after finishing classes at the community college, I was looking for two main things: flexible class hours and price per semester.  When I looked into the local "brick and mortar" schools the times of the classes would have made it difficult to be home to get my daughter off the bus and since I was going to school full time and working part time I didn't have the money for childcare.  I became very discouraged until I started researching online schools.  The more I read about WGU the more I thought it was the school for me.  I could work on my school work when I had time and the classes per semester was soooo affordable, I was able to take as many credits a semester for one price which also included e-books.

How did it satisfy your needs or not?
WGU was the best choice I could have made.  I was able to work on my school work during the day when my daughter was at school.  My entire time in the program I never had to work on tasks in the evening or on the weekend because I set a routine of completing them during the day when my daughter was in school.  The great thing was that I was still able to be an active school parent and volunteered at her school at least once a week.

What was applying to WGU like?
The application process for WGU was very simple.  I applied online (paying a small application fee) and an admissions counselor called me and asked a few questions over the phone.  I had to submit my transcripts to see which credits they would accept, which wasn't as many as I would have liked. Since WGU is not an in state college they did not have to accept as many of my previous credits which was one of the only disappointing experiences with the college.

What did you like best about taking WGU courses?
I am a very organized and self motivated person so having the ability to pick and choose when to complete work was perfect for me and one of my favorite things about WGU.  I also loved that the classes are competency based, meaning that if the classes required a test to complete it instead of tasks I could take a pretest and if I did well on that I could take the test.  This gave me the ability to start and finish a class in one to two days!  Another bonus was that each student is assigned a student mentor. My mentor would call me once a week in the beginning and check in to see how I was doing etc.  It was nice to have that connection and I always made sure to write down any questions, comments, concerns that I had so I could ask my mentor when I spoke to her.  During my last two semesters my mentor would call every other week but if I had questions during the in between week I would email her and she would get right back to me.

What did you like least?
As I mentioned before I was not happy that WGU did not accept as many credits as I thought they should, and I did push to have two more classes transfer and after researching they added them to my transfer list.  

What advice would you share with others like yourself?
In order to be successful in online learning you need to be self motivated and organized.  I am not the type of person that needs teacher reminders to complete assignments so online education is perfect for me.   You also need to know that WGU is more labor/time intensive than a regular "brick and mortar" college.  The amount of tasks (assignments) that I had to complete was much more than a typical college class.  You will complete these tasks on an online task system called Taskstream.  In this system they have graders who will use a rubric to grade your task, and they will let you know if your task is complete of if you need to make corrections.  You need to be able to follow a rubric and you also need to be able to take constructive feedback in order to make corrections.  The nice thing is that you have several, sometimes unlimited, opportunities to make corrections to complete the task.

Carrie graduates!  Yay!
Is it true you pay a flat price and can take as many courses a semester as you like at WGU?
This is very true and pretty amazing.  One semester I took 40 credits, for one very low price!!! WGU is also year round meaning you can finish your degree faster and you can start at the beginning of any month, you don't need to wait till fall or spring.  Click here for my tuition information (I just checked - it is under $3,000 for six months of classes!)

What about textbooks - is it true you only pay a one time textbook fee for all e-books?
The courses offer many options for reading assignments, from magazine articles, to online sources to e-books and all of these materials are include in the online program for one price that you pay at the beginning of the semester.

What kind of technology or Internet connection do you need to have to be successful at WGU?
During my first few semesters at WGU, I had a regular desktop PC and an external hard drive.  It was important that I had the external hard drive because I didn't want to loose my work or worry about keeping track of flash drives.  During my second half of the program I purchased a Mac laptop and it was the best purchase.  This gave me the opportunity to work on my tasks anywhere, especially times when I was sitting waiting for my daughter at swim team practice and dance class.  I have a regular Internet connection and my hubby who is an IT guy picked the best service for our needs.

Since you want to be a teacher, how was student teaching at WGU seeing how it is an online university?
The student teaching was a little tricky because WGU is not a local college.  The nice thing was that my local school district has had a few students from WGU complete student teaching and the person who supervised me had worked with several WGU students and was familiar with the program.  It did take me longer to find out my student teaching placement than it would have if I went to a local college because the local colleges have a relationship with the county.  In the end I got two amazing student teaching placements with amazing mentor teachers so the rocky start was worth the end result.

Was finding a job difficult or easy after graduation?  Did WGU help with this?
It was difficult to find a job after graduation but I don't think that had anything to do with the fact that I went through an online program.  The county is very slow at hiring new teachers who are not already working in the county.  I went to a lot of job interviews and ended up with a wonderful teaching position in special education at an elementary school. WGU does have an employment service but I am not very familiar with it, it was not something that I used.  Congratulations to Carrie, again.  She recently emailed me to say her state teaching certification was complete, as well!

Any other thoughts about WGU?
I loved my experience at WGU so much that my family and I flew to Salt Lake City in July so I could graduate on the big stage!  I am also going to continue my education at WGU in October when I start the graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction.  If you are looking for a way to complete your degree in a flexible and affordable college than WGU may be the school for you.

Well, what do you think?  Might WGU be an option for you?  With the quality teaching, full accreditation, low cost per semester, the almost zero textbook costs, and the flexibility of learning anywhere, anytime, WOW!  Pretty neat university.

Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your thoughts with us.  


PS - I also want to mention that Carrie is a fantastic student in person.  So, if you are considering a totally online university like WGU, please make sure you can manage your time well, have the right tools and technology, and don't necessarily "need" to see your teachers/mentors/classmates in person.

Implicit Association Tests {for Tech Tuesday}

Today's guest blogger is a longtime friend of Upcycled Education.  Please welcome back, Dr. I.  You'll remember her first post here.

Are you truly aware of your unconscious thoughts, attitudes, preferences, and stereotypes?   Do you have a preference for thin people (versus overweight), abled persons (versus disabled), men in the field science (versus women), or young people (versus old)?  More than likely, you answered no to all of these questions.  Few of us would admit a preference for one group over another; but our unconscious minds may tell us something different.

The Implicit Association Test (IAT) was originally developed in 1998 by three professors (from Harvard University, University of Washington, and University of Virginia) to explore the “unconscious roots of thinking and feeling”.  The test grew from research in the area of implicit social cognition, a term used to describe the cognitive processes that occur outside of our conscious control or awareness (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995).  

The IAT is designed to measure our instinctive associations between concepts like skin color or religion and attributes like good/bad or male/female.   After choosing a test to take, you will be presented with a set of images or words that you need to quickly categorize into groups (e.g. abled/disabled, good/bad).  The test is timed to elicit your first instinct, without thinking too much.  For example you will press a button with your left-hand to categorize something as “Black” or “good” and a button with your right-hand to categorize something as “White” or “bad”.  Then, the categories switch.  Your answers, as well as the length of time it takes for you to categorize, contribute to your result (e.g. “little to no automatic preference between Black persons and White persons”).

You may be surprised by your results!  The good news is that your results include an explanation, research support, and a table like this showing the results of everyone who has taken the test:

I encourage you to take the time to complete one or more of the Implicit Association Tests.  It might just change your mind!

Thank you, Dr. I, for sharing this blog post.  I just took my first implicit test and the results were a bit surprising.

Oh my,

Greenwa ld, A. G., & Banaji , M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102(1), 4–27.