Category Archives: Learning

A Year’s End Reflection

After tomorrow, I will no longer officially be an Online School for Girls student.

That’s both strange and, to be honest, a little relieving.  I say “strange” because I’ve really loved taking these classes, and I’ll miss learning about different countries and governments.  However, it will definitely be relieving, as these two courses have been a lot of work!

From AP US and Comparative Government, I’ve learned that while the world is a large and daunting place, all countries are somehow tied to one another, whether through a shared history, government, ethnicity, and so on.  I’ve learned that the United States’ government is based on one essential principle: “liberty and justice for all.”  Even if we don’t always succeed in carrying out this principle, I admire that we continue to challenge, push, and change laws in order to measure up to this statement.

However, I think the most important thing I’ve learned from this course is that we are all interconnected, whether we are citizens of a city, country, or even global citizens.  These APs have helped me learn that the differences that divide us can be overcome, and that bridges can and should be built, rather than burned.  I certainly didn’t expect to get this much out of a high school course, and I’m eternally grateful that I’ve had this opportunity.

I’m looking forward to taking more courses like this when I depart for college in September, and I know that I’ll be ready and prepared to face the challenges that come with learning about history, thanks to OSG.  I couldn’t have asked for more.



Junior year in my English class a term paper is due at the end of the year. This term paper involves reading multiple books (or plays) by the same English author. I, to put it simply, am not an avid reader. It is not that I do not like reading, it is just that it is hard for me to find a book that captures my interest.

A week ago my class went to the library to learn about the authors we could choose. The librarian explained that I could choose an author who focused on the theme of romance, family, dystopian societies, rebirth, adulthood etc. After the visit to the library, I still had no idea which author I was going to pick.

My English teacher scheduled meetings with everyone in our class to discuss the term paper. I was not looking forward to informing him that I had absolutely no idea which author interested me. It was a long, painful walk over to his desk as I contemplated how I should break the news, because most English teachers do not enjoy hearing that one of their students is not a “fan” of reading. I told my English teacher of my distaste for books and my lack of opinion on the British authors. My teacher explained to me that he would help me choose a book, but, because he did not know me very well he was not sure which books I would enjoy the most. I sat in silence while he sat in thought, considering each author. When he looked up at me he seemed to be glowing with anticipation. My English teacher looked at me and said “if there is a little bit of nut in the Walnut, which I am positive there is, then you should read Equus and Amadeus!”

*Note: Some of my friends call me Walnut, which my English teacher found very amusing and now calls me that as well.

I was concerned, not about the plays. The plays actually sounded interesting in a creepy and disturbing sort of way. No, I did not have anything against the plays he chose for me, but I could not help wondering what he thought of me after that conversation. He could have selected any of the approximately 50 books/plays, but he thought that the author I would enjoy most was the one who wrote about a man with an abnormal obsession with horses. The only thing I could really think of asking my English teacher after he told me I would enjoy Equus and Amadeus was “ok, so what do you think of me exactly?”

I never asked my English teacher for his opinion of me or why he believed I would enjoy the books he had chosen. I am going to start reading the plays soon and I am just hoping that he was right when he said that “there was some nut in the Walnut.”

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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Learning


A Novel Concept

We’ve all heard it before, seen it in movies, read about it in books… that world where the “parlor families” of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 meet and laugh and eat together, that world of Pixar’s WALL-E, with slug-like people in their floating chairs, playing virtual golf, wearing virtual clothes.

That world in Minority Report, where mall-advertisements know you and your preferences with a simple scan of your iris. Not to mention our old favorite, that world in The Matrix. And if you’re looking for an even MORE outlandish version, check out The Social Network and Zuckerberg’s crazy online world, that one where human beings supposedly can meet and interact with other human beings… virtually? What a novel concept!

…Oh, wait.

JK. LAWLZ. ROFL.   (note my clever integration of online lingo… oh, the irony…)


Or rather, worlds.

The idea of a life lived totally and utterly fused with technology is nothing new to us. For many, it has become pure reality… and as hackneyed or heretical as it may sound, I truly believe that this brave new electric frontier may well one day (today?) morph into some ugly universal curse, rather than the shining progressive blessing we’ve venerated.

As for me, that day arrived a year ago, when I first was introduced to online education during my year in China. I took a mere 3 classes via the web, and ultimately, those classes consumed my life. Literally. To give you an idea, I spent more time on the computer during the day than I actually spent teaching English, which was one of my main reasons of going in the first place. I found myself unable to devote myself to my Chinese family and to their world because I constantly was drawn back to the nagging, hypnotic, blue glow of the world inside my screen. It was a tragedy… there I was, living in a country full of intrigue and adventure and challenge, breathing its air, eating its food, befriending its people… and I stared at an 8-by-11 inch space of pixellated unreality for a good third of the day. (That said… I should probably be thankful for the fact that I had a computer to use in the first place; without one, without the online classes, my year in Beijing never would have been possible, so… I guess that makes my argument slightly less plausible…)

Nonetheless, my deep and burning bitterness towards technology remains… (dramatic music cue) …and believe it or not, as thankful as I am to OSG, this same bitterness has rekindled during these last few weeks of classes.

The Haiku interface and all the supplements (Twitter, Voicethread, GoogleDocs, GoogleReader, Vimeo, WordPress… am I missing any?) is engrossing, engaging, useful… it “connects” me with people I never would have otherwise interacted with, it allows me to study and discuss on my own time… it has successfully managed to plug me into a myriad of various networks with which I can more easily connect with my fellow human beings.

This is exactly why I dislike it so intensely.

First of all, I’ll just say, as a kind of disclaimer, the class itself is brilliant. I love the questions we’re asked, I’ve been forced to think deeply about my country, I’ve become more aware of my responsibilities as a citizen. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my classmates and my teacher (even if, to put it bluntly, they will remain nothing more to me than a pixellated face for the entirety of our acquaintance). I genuinely and truly can say that I like AP Government (even if the workload occasionally is a little… ah, shall we say… strenuous? Challenging? I’m-dying-of-court-case-report-syndrome-please-call-an-ambulence?)

But learning online is tough. I like people. I like knowing their stories, seeing their faces, engaging. The classes I perform best in are the classes in which I am most engaged on a personal level.

Let’s face it… I know nothing more about all of you than your academic writing style, your inferred political opinions, and the few personal facts you imparted to me over a slightly fuzzy computer-camera film (loaded and posted to Vimeo). For all that I’ve been able to know via Haiku, Mr. G could actually be an ax-murderer (NO OFFENCE, MR. G!) with an astonishingly convenient amount of knowledge about U.S. and World government. I can’t hear him or my classmates laugh or shout… I can’t see them just be human.

And in a very sad (but true) sense, I can never truly be friends with my fellow OSG classmates… when you boil it down, friendship is action, not a few pixels that form a face or a word, even if it is a kind face or a kind word. I still don’t know you, and you don’t know me.

An online education is convenient. It’s fast. It’s full of facts and figures and thoughts. It’s impressive. It’s progressive. (or so they tell me…)

But when all is said and done, what do we want education to be about? The speed and ease with which we can post or repost thoughts and ideas? The amount of ways we can express ourselves virtually?

Or… do we want it to be about encouraging us to take action in the world… the real, physical, people-are-getting-shot-at-and-what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it world?

Maybe we can talk about that choice sometime, as a class, in a real room somewhere… a room where “chat” is more than the pixels and sound waves of a “chat room.” Discuss and comment face to face… where faces aren’t compiled into some kind of “face book,” or crunched into some kind of “face time.”

Real people talking to, learning with, real people.

What a novel concept.


Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Learning


what about college?

Since I have been doing this for quite some times, I am going to discuss this with everyone in this class since we are facing it right now.

Every afternoon, the juniors in my school are required to attend junior seminar, which mainly helps juniors to have a better understandings of what they need to do to actually get into a college. Well, after reading all the material my instructor passed out and all the people from different colleges, I conclude that the better is better. They are saying the same thing over and over again, better grades, good SAT scores, challenging courses, and tons of extra school activities are essential.

Simple enough, yet the questions were filled in my mind. Why would I take honors? Why would I take APs? Is it just because those are what the colleges want? I haven’t figured my answer yet, but I will be really sad if the answer is a yes. Just like I take this AP US government class…I know nothing about US government before, seriously. Democratic, republicans, tea party, ect, are the nouns I am hearing all the time, yet I never thought I will ever spend time to study them.

I am a new student in my school this year as a junior, and I am totally upset. They don’t provide honors, and I could not take APUSH because it is in the same period as my Japanese class, and I could not take American Literature also because of the schedule. All the hopes of a fresh start are crushed, and the online course of AP US government seemed to be the last hope for me to prove myself.

It is an amusing subject, after a few days of studies I figured that out. As I was stressing out for writing a thoughtful post for this class, all the memories of last year’s in class essay came back, what a nice way to keep me on task since I don’t have history class this term. It is definitely helpful, not only for a better understanding of US government and its belief, but also a prep for US history next term. I am glad I made the decision to take this class, although I know nothing in the beginning. I am excited to see how much I can push myself.

So what about college? I am not doing this for the college; I am doing this for my own interests. Adding this course on what I have in school now is very tiring, but I am totally happy and fine with it. I hope I can have this moment of life that I will never regret for.



Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Learning


Raising My Hand Online

Throughout all my years as a student, participation has always been my strongest suit. I am constantly raising my hand in class, even when most of my answers prove to be wrong. It’s difficult for me to understand concepts and think of ideas without thinking out loud to someone else. For this reason, I’m better at class discussions than in-class essays, and teachers’ comments are rarely “speak up more”.

From the start, I knew an online class would be different. Without a traditional classroom setting in which students and teacher are in one space, I knew it would be much less often that I would see other people face to face. But it was hard to really understand the dynamics of an online class until I started it, and I soon found out that it was even more unfamiliar to my previous learning experiences than I had imagined.

The first class “discussion” was incredibly nerve-wracking. Even though my hand is often the first to be raised in my offline classes, I was reluctant to post anything to this discussion until I saw several others do so. I spent a long time reading and rereading my post to make sure it didn’t sound stupid, or crazy, or wrong. I delayed participating as long as I could, and when I finally submitted I felt more anxiety, instead of relief.

I think I enjoy in-person learning and discussions more because I am able to see others’ reactions. In an offline class, the conversation adapts to everyone’s ideas and flows naturally. I can respond to my classmates’ ideas and see how they react to mine. In an online setting, I felt isolated and cut off, unsure of myself. I was less of an active learner, and more of a passive watcher.

But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve learned the value of an online education. I’ve had to significantly step out of my comfort zone and embrace a new type of participation. My learning style has changed, and I think for the better. Online discussions force me to think before I “speak”, and my contributions are more valuable for it. The ability to only share once in our discussions makes me more thoughtful and more conscious of what I’m saying. My in-school learning has been impacted as well, as I’ve learned to say less but share more valuable insights in class discussions. I’ve also discovered that stepping back can be a blessing, as now I am more attentive to everyone else’s insights and ideas, which further enhances my learning.

Even in these few weeks I have been in an online class, I have grown as a student, and I have learned so much about how I can learn more effectively. Despite the initial discomfort and anxiety, stepping out of my comfort zone and into a new learning environment has helped me in a positive way. I can’t wait to see how much I’ve changed by the end of the year.


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Learning, Technology


An Adventure in the Closet

As everyone could tell, there are mainly two components of my title for this blog: the “adventure” and the “closet”. I believe these two nouns most accurately represent my first three weeks of the AP US Government in the Online School for Girls.

I would love to start with the first component: the intellectual adventure. As reluctant as I am to admit, the materials introduced in AP US Government are quite new to me. Grew up in China, I have very limited knowledge even of the Chinese government. So when I was asked to propose an amendment for a homework assignment, you could probably imagine me sitting in front of my desk, staring blankly into a Word document for an hour straight. By the time I actually finished the proposal, as flawed as it is, I did feel the excitement as if I had written a real Constitution of my own. Not that I am anywhere as intelligent as the Framers are- it’s simply the joy of creating something out of nothing, of starting from scratch.

      The intellectual adventure does not include knowledge alone. It is a process of gaining studying skills and time management skills. The first week in session, I did not start my homework until the weekend that it was due, partly because I didn’t have time on the week days, partly because I simply didn’t realize the amount of the workload. It turned out to be quite a disaster. I could not take detailed notes, and I had very little time to think carefully through my assignments, the content of which are very challenging to the least.

I learned from the mistakes. Starting from the second week, I tried to use more free periods and lunch time to do a little bit of the assignment every single day. Sometimes I simply have to prioritize one over the other. I truly believe that prioritizing is the key to success: schoolwork or online-schoolwork? It’s a question. I believe that in addition to the knowledge, it’s time management skills that really benefitted me.

Then there is the second part of my title: “the closet”. Believe it or not, it is incredibly hard to record a video

without disturbing others or being disturbed. This is especially true if you go to a boarding school where you share room with another person. I first learned this when I was recording for the “Response to Reading Constitution Out Loud”. Considering the fact that my roommate is in the room most of the time, it’s simply awkward to record while other people are around. I also have to be cautious not to disturb her from doing homework. Therefore, I tried to figure out some solutions by either going into the hallway or the common room, both of which did not work because too many people are hanging out in these areas. Going to library is a valid solution, but due to the 10 minutes’ walking distance, this option also becomes less than ideal.

The ultimate solution I came up involves the personal closet in my room. I find it to be perfect, because there is enough light, and it’s a closed space so I don’t have to worry about outside distractions. If you have checked the Gibbons v. Odgen case I recorded and noticed the white wall behind me as well as the relatively dark surrounding, yes, that’s my closet.

Even though I have to admit it has not been easy and smooth in the past three weeks, I can’t really express how excited I am. The ideas that we learned are gradually coming together through the case studies, such as the one we did with Katrina. It made the abstract concepts a lot more easier to understand. Once combined with facts, the concepts are becoming more vivid. They are not mere concepts anymore. And the shift in between the “ideas” and the “actions” is what really fascinates me. With this curiosity and perseverance, I am ready for a year of adventures!


Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Learning


Procrastination Problem

I have always been a procrastinator. I put my homework off until the last possible minute but somehow I always end up completing it.  During soccer season practice ends at 5:30 and I “promptly” start my homework at eight ‘o’clock. Procrastination is a problem that I have always been able to manage until this year.

            When I decided that I wanted to take an online class I had to go see the head of the upper school to discuss my schedule. Mrs. Hill told me that taking this class would be challenging and recommended that I drop a few classes so that during soccer season I would have a study hall. I took her advice and dropped World Religions, and instead of taking AP Chemistry I dropped down to Physics. I assumed that my new schedule would be easier to manage and would give me plenty of time to complete the work for my online class.

When orientation for OSG began they said to spend five to seven hours on your class each week. I thought the work would be easy to manage because I only needed to put aside an hour a day to complete it. My train of thought seemed reasonable, and I was hopeful that my work would be turned by Saturday night. I forgot one thing; I procrastinate.

The first week of class began and I was prepared to follow the one hour a day schedule. On Monday I had a study hall but I forgot to bring my Wilson book to school. I couldn’t do the Government work at home because after soccer I focused on school work and studying for upcoming tests and quizzes. Then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I continued to forget the government book.

Friday night I stayed home and began the assigned reading. The first thing I decided was that I was going to take notes on the readings while I read. After five pages took me over thirty minutes to read and to take notes on, I decided that my efforts had been in vain. We were assigned about fifty pages of reading; I could not spend approximately five hours on the reading assignment alone. I tore up my notes and brought out my highlighter instead. Chapter Two took me a long time to read but I pushed through and finished it on Friday night. On Saturday, I went out with friends and didn’t return home until 11:30, but I was determined to read part of the next chapter. I stayed up till 1’o’clock reading the third chapter and thankfully finished. After completing the reading assignments I was very proud of myself, believing that I had turned over a new leaf and would never procrastinate again.

Sunday morning came at around elven ’o’clock.  I woke up exhausted and the idea of work made me feel nauseated. Instead of working right away I watched some T.V. Noon came and went and I knew that I needed  to get down to work. I finished the OSG assignments at around 5:30. I was intimidated when I saw that my paper was the shortest and was afraid that I would look like the slacker of the group, but I ignored those thoughts and posted my paper anyway. I finally thought I was done, but then I saw that there was one assignment I overlooked. The assignment took me another hour to complete and again I had the shortest paper.

With my OSG work finally finished at seven ‘o’clock I was ready to take a break and watch “How I Met Your Mother”, but the realization that I still had homework from all my other classes pulled me away from the TV. The night was long and felt even longer when I learned that I had my first test in APUSH. I finished all my homework late and never got to watch “How I Met Your Mother”.

I used to be able to manage my procrastination but after the first week of OSG I learned that I would need to learn to manage my time. I can say with all honesty that I am a long way away from being able to manage my time wisely, but I and hopeful that OSG will make me learn valuable time management skills. I read an article that tells of how bad procrastination it during college (here is the link). I am hoping my procrastination problem will be fixed before college.


Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Learning