Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Final Thoughts: My Journey with ASL

The last two months of this ECMP 355 (learning with tech) class have flown by! I’m not sure I have ever learned so much in such a short amount of time. On top of all the new tech tools and resources I have been exposed to, I was handed the challenge of learning any task I wanted in two months using mostly online and tech-related tools.

With my late obsession of the Netflix series “Switched at Birth”, I decided to choose American sign language (ASL).

Here is a growth timeline of my journey with ASL:

Week One: Exploring ASL

I was inspired to learn sign language for three main reasons:

  • Previous interactions with individuals who are deaf that reflected my own naive and closed minded perception of deafness
  • My trip to Costa Rica in 2015 where I worked in an all-deaf school. I struggled to communicate with others and I struggled with empathy and understanding as to why those who could speak refused to.
  • As previously mentioned, I have recently become obsessed with a TV series called, “Switched at Birth”, that has shed some new light on my perception of the deaf community and peaked my curiosity in deaf culture.

This is where I began to hunt for my online resources. My first attempt was searching Pinterest where I found my most used resource (Rochelle Barlow’s Learn ASL in 31 Days) throughout my overall journey:

Week Two: ASL Alphabet

I started my journey with what is considered as the basics of ASL language: the alphabet. By learning the alphabet first, I could practice finger spelling words. While sign language has single signs for many different words and phrases, it helps as a beginner to fingerspell certain things you are trying to say. For example, I may know quite a few words in sign language but if I get stumped I can finger spell what I am trying to say.

I found the alphabet easy to catch onto because I am a visual learner with a visual memory for everything.

The order I learned sign language in follows very closely to Rochelle’s program. Much of my journey began following her 31-day program on Youtube closely while combining other resources I found along the way. I also connected with my first ASL social group through Rochelle’s practice group on Facebook.

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Week Three: Over the moon with ASL

Like previously mentioned, I relied heavily on Rochelle Barlow’s program and all her resources. Her program was just SO good that I wanted to satisfy my habitual self with sticking to one tool for learning. I kept it going for a little while… she had challenge groups, practice groups, an entire unit to keep track of signing, and youtube tutorials! What more could you ask for? Must I search any further for more help with ASL?! Katia’s voice in my head says: “Yes… Alexus your learning journey cannot just rely on ONE resource!”

So… I went digging.. but not too hard just yet. I found two resources that were useful but not as groundbreaking as the program I was already using.

  • Spread the Sign- An ASL translator in the palm of your hand that not only has translations for ASL but for other sign languages as well such as Spanish Sign Language (yes, there is a difference)
  • ASL Dictionary- a text resource that is available to purchase on Amazon. From what I heard, finding an accurate sign language dictionary can be hard to come by.

At this point in my journey, I was practicing signs for request and questions and learning short phrases.

Week Three Part 2: Connecting to the Community

This week I wanted to make more connections with those in the Deaf and learning ASL community so I reached out to Google+ and searched for a place I could join. I decided to join the ASL Buddies community hoping things would work out well for me. It turned out to be a flop.. Although it was a public learning group.. I was not approved into the community for whatever reason and was back to the drawing board.

Week Four: Digging Deeper

If at first you don’t succeed… try try again they say! After several days of not being approved into the first Google + community I found.. I decided to go hunting for some other communities. I had to utilize my skills in trying different word searches and also looking up someone I knew from University who was very involved with the deaf community. By doing this I unlocked a whole new gamma of pages and people to connect with for learning ASL.

Some groups I joined:

  • Rochelle Barlow’s challenge group: this was already on the list but in this week I took initiative and posted my first challenge video (Introducing myself). I fell in love with this group right away because I knew immediately by the comments and likes that I had become part of a supportive community. Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 9.07.04 PM.png
  • Google+ The Sign Language Community- I figured since the previous group didn’t work out.. I wouldn’t give up on Google+ but rather search for another group to join. I was finally approved for a new group! I was able to find many individuals to connect with by commenting on their posts, but it was not until recently someone commented on my post about practicing with me. I’m hoping even after this class is over I can connect with this person to practice ASL.

Week Five & Six : I can “speak!”

A few blogs later after much practice and using multiple resources to aid my learning, I could begin to put sentences together!

This was one of my favorite blogs. It wasn’t long by any means but I got to reflect on my growth at the midpoint of my learning journey. I was beginning to understand the important pieces to sign language (such as grammar) and speak to them with my audience.

This was also a pivotal point in my journey as I pushed harder to engage with my online learning community. Katia talked to us in class about how to get more followers on Twitter: follow people, like tweets, retweet, comment, and share resources. I took this idea and applied it to my challenge group. I felt like my first challenge video got minimal feedback so I had to do something. I commented on many people’s videos and got my name out. By my second challenge video, I was overwhelmed with the difference in comments.

Week Seven: The Final Stretch

As my documented journey was coming to a close.. I was feeling busy, unmotivated, and captivated by summer fever. I needed some more online tools that would make it easy for me to access from my phone and get in some practice every day (even if it was only 15 minutes).  I was able to explore and use three different apps:

Having these apps on hand pushed me to keep going even when I felt like quitting. They were quick solutions to keeping me on top of my signing and a bridge into using more diverse resources rather than just a few.

Week 8: Farewells and Signing

In our final week of class, we were to have our summary of learning ready for the class to view. Some people did videos with their own songs, raps, or dance moves. I was totally envious of how amazing these ideas were! However, I have to give myself credit for my own creativity as well. As part of my learning summary, I wanted to incorporate my sign language skills I have acquired so far.

I am not advanced enough that I could have done the whole video in sign language, but I wanted to attempt a few snippets. You could say I am a “two birds one stone”, kind of gal. I used a few of my apps to help me figure out what to sign and how to sign it for the video. Because English and ASL are so different in structure, I had to guess to the best of my ability which signs would make the most sense. Take a peek to see how I did:

Reflecting on Learning Online

When I first began this journey I couldn’t stop worrying about which task I wanted to learn. Not because I didn’t know which task I wanted to do most… but because I was more worried about how many resources I could find online relating to the task I chose. I was more caught up in successfully meeting assignment criteria rather than prioritizing a task I would LOVE to do.

What I have found is that no matter what learning task you choose.. there is always somewhere online that can help you out… if you dig deep enough and know how to search for what you need.

 

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Photo Credit: perzonseowebbyra Flickr via Compfight cc

 

When resources for learning a task online does not come easy… you need to try harder. In the beginning, it was hard for me to find tech tools and communities to join related to learning ASL. I would blame this mostly on my denial of how much potential the online world has and my lack of ability to search for the right words or phrases. It took me a few tries of failure to find the sweet spot of ASL tech tools.

I started with Pinterest, then Google. Through Pinterest and Google I gained access to apps and more online communities. Each stage flowed together and built off the previous one as I realized that there, in fact, was a strategy for finding what you wanted online. If one word doesn’t work..try another. If one web page doesn’t bring anything up… try a new one. If a community denies you access to their page…find a new community! It may sound so simple but it honestly did not feel that simple at the time. Whether I was over thinking it in the beginning or creating mental road blocks… I was able to move past it once I realized how much access I really have in the tech world.

Final thoughts

This has been one of my favorite classes in University yet. In particular because of this learning project. Why? Oh, so many reasons…

  • I am now capable of persevering through technology until I fully understand how to navigate it to my advantage.
  • I am motivated to learn something new outside of a task given by my teacher, using the support of tech.
  • I am motivated to continue learning ASL and consistently trying new resources as a way to progress and grow in new ways with the language and deaf community.

Author:

Lifelong learner; future educator

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