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.


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.


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.
Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Summary of Learning in ECMP 355

The last two months with this class flew by quickly! I am happy to see the end of my last university class for awhile but in a way, I am sad to leave the community we have developed in our class. It has been great to be connected to a pool of teachers who are all so willing and eager to help and share with each other. BUT I will not fret because a good chunk of this class was dedicated to learning how to develop a professional network online!

To see my overall thoughts and growth in the class check out my video below. I hope you enjoy it! I used a combination of sign language, images, and a voice over in my summary as a way to demonstrate some growth in my learning project that was also part of this course:

Posted in Learning Project

Practice makes perfect

Learning ASL has been a great journey that has only just begun. As our class comes to a close I know that I will continue to commit to the goal of becoming fluent in ASL. Lately, I have been very busy as summer moves in; family time gets busier, work gets busier, and internship is fast approaching, I’ve found it difficult to take the time to work through my Learn ASL in 31 Days Unit. I need a tool that keeps me practicing and applying my learning, but also something I could do on the go.

I decided to explore a few different Apps that are downloadable to my iPhone and easy to access.

The ASL App

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This app is very basic. Similar to the app I first discovered in earlier blogs: Spread the Sign, The ASL app serves as a pocket dictionary of sorts. What I like about this app more than Spread the Sign is that there are more options available to you for searching common phrases and conversation pieces. The only challenge is that after a certain amount of phrases, the app requests that you purchase each phrase you want to learn afterward. 

Sign School

This is a new one that I just discovered and am very curious about. There is an app for my phone and a website to visit on my computer. What I love about the app is that there is a wide variety of options for learning new signs. There are the ABC’s, 123’s and a large list of topics that break into different categories. The app for iPhone serves as a great pickup and practice quick tool.

When I have more time to sit down and work through something more challenging, the website is set up into units, quizzes, and interactive videos! This layout is similar to Rochelle Barlow’s ASL in 31 days. However, it is easier for me to access, I like the visual layout more, the quizzes are more interactive, and the videos use a variety of people rather than just one. This might be my new favorite resource for learning ASL! Stay tuned..

Marlee Signs

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This app is identical to others but what makes it so engaging is that fact that Marlee Matin off Switched at Birth created the app. She is a deaf actress and advocate for the deaf community. Her app has a neat layout and color scheme and videos of her doing certain signs. The great part is she makes all the basic and important conversational signs part of the free lessons. However, If you want to learn more you have to purchase more lessons.

This week I plan to dig into the Sign School website and use at least one ASL app on my phone a day for 15 minutes. Blog to follow!

Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

I can “speak!”

While I am still learning many different words in sign language, I am beginning to put words together in sentences which are really cool. When I watch Switched at Birth, I can pick up a few signs but I cannot always follow exactly what they say because they often sign fast.

Here is a video of me signing some different sentences: 

Last week I posted my second challenge to the ASL Facebook group. This time, I received plenty more feedback on my video than the first. I think this may be because I am playing a more active role on the page by liking and commenting on other people’s videos. Like Katia mentioned in class, if you want more followers on Twitter, you need to pump the tires of others! Okay.. she didn’t say exactly that. but something to that effect.

Engaging with others online in this journey has kept me motivated to stay on top of daily signing and documenting my progress. I feel a sense of accountability to my online community and support from those who are in the same learning process as me in ASL.

I mentioned a few blogs ago that I joined an online Google + community called The Sign Language Community. I posted to the group and received no feedback. However, when I scroll through the news feed of the community, I am still gaining access to more resources that others are posting on.

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In this community, I will continue the strategy of commenting on others posts, asking questions and helping others learn (even if my knowledge of ASL is still limited in retrospect). By reaching out, I am hoping more people will be willing to grab my hand or reach out to me so I can make some more meaningful learning connections.

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A challenge I would like to set for myself is reaching out to someone in the community and asking them to Skype with me. I have mentioned this idea before but have not yet fulfilled it. I can be very introverted. I love doing work on my own and stepping out to talk to others (especially new people), can sometimes be difficult for me. I know if I make this move it will not only make me a stronger individual but will also add more depth to my learning with ASL. Practicing signs and random sentences is one thing, but attempting to keep a conversation going with a person signing in real life is a level higher that I would like to achieve.


Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Making conversation.. learning along the way

This week I am on to challenge #2 for the ASL club on Facebook! Challenge #2 entails finger spelling 10 wordswithout posting the answers– and getting a chance to network with the other learners in the club through their guesses and answers. Next week I will post the answers in the comment section of my video!

Can you guess what I’m saying? I challenge you to learn the ASL alphabet and get back to me  😉  Take a shot and comment below if you think you know what I am fingerspelling! There are 10 words, good luck  🙂   I’ll post the answers next week!



Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Digging Deeper..

When I began my journey, the first resource I found and continue to use the most is Rochelle Barlow’s ASL in 31 days. Through her program, I joined a facebook challenge group and.. as promised, I completed my first challenge: Introducing myself to the challenge group!

In this video, I introduce myself by finger spelling my name, sharing my age, the country I’m from, and what I do for fun and work.

After posting my video to the challenge group, I left it open for feedback from my fellow learners and teachers:

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How cool is this?! I love that I can connect with people online who sign and get feedback. I’m hoping as I continue to post challenge videos I can make more connections. It would be really neat to make a friend online through learning ASL.

The work does not stop there! Of course the learning in a learning project.. never ends! I am continuing to dig through the online world hunting for resources and communities related to learning ASL. In my recent post, I attempted to join a Google + community for individuals who use ASL or are learning it. Unfortunately, I was denied access.. sadness..

Fear not, I don’t give up that easily! I found an open Google + community: The Sign Language Community. This group allows members to join their group as soon as they request! I reached out to the group and asked for a little help with resources. I am hoping that by doing this, I can meet some ASL learners to network with via Skype or video chat. This way I can have some raw practice with conversing in ASL and connecting with learners around the world.

I also explored some pages my colleagues follow on Facebook related to sign language (fan pages, sayings, etc):

  • Whyisign: I love this page because it has inspiring videos, memes, and videos of people who post themselves signing and describe the reasons they sign.
  • We Love Sign Langauge: This page is very diverse! There are memes, quotes, shirts you can order, and videos here as well. What I love most about this is that they post resources for ASL learners as well such as the alphabet, and signs related to time.
  • InVisible REvolution: This page is more of an advocacy and awareness page than it is a resource for learning ASL itself. It’s actually a page for a documentary that will soon be released called Invisible Revolution. The documentary is about a mother who fights for the survival of her culture and her son in a hearing world. This page is just as valuable to me as the others that I use to learn ASL because I think the deaf culture and history behind ASL is so important to learn about and understand.


Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Another Door Opens: ASL & Deaf Culture

I am so thrilled to announce that I have found more online communities and resources to guide me along my learning journey with ASL (American sign language). When I first began this journey I searched for ASL communities via Twitter and Facebook and only found one. This week, I wanted to challenge myself and find at least one more online community or resource for learning ASL. So, I did what all millenials do best… I googled “ASL learning communities”.

The first link that caught my eye was an ASL Buddies Google + community. This is cool to me because I only started learning about google communities since starting this class (ECMP355). Through this particular community, there are people to chat with and get tips from who are hearing, deaf, hard of hearing, etc. Finally, there is a link to a webpage called Dr. Bill Vicar’s ASL. It has daily quizzes that test your ability to decode sign language and finger spelling. Each day there is a new word to try and decode and there is a built in translator that you can find signs to words or phrases you want to learn.

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I am becoming amazed at the learning opportunities the internet holds if you really utilize it’s ability to open doors for you. I am currently working on building a sense of community in my life which is why I initially shared my negative feelings toward tech. Through this learning journey using online resources, I am finding it is possible to build community via the Internet. This completely changes my view on technology and creates an open mind that leads me to truly seeing the positive impact technology can have.


Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Over the Moon with ASL

I am on week 2 of learning ASL and I am so excited! Rochelle Barlow has been an incredible online resource for learning ASL. Right now, I am learning signs for requests and questions, time, and places.

As I move forward in my journey with ASL I am becoming more motivated and excited each day! I cannot say enough positive things about Rochelle’s online program for learning ASL. She sends me emails daily to help motivate and challenge me in different ways.

I appreciate the variety of emails because she shares resources, challenges, videos, and hints and tips for ASL. I am the type of learner who needs multiple ways to learn something specific otherwise I get bored fast (this is probably why I favor station teaching and carousels…). As previously mentioned, there are daily videos posted onto youtube that I follow in reference of where I’m at in the course.

For example, this weekend I spent my time practicing Day 2: Requests and Questions.  (Side note: I chose a new filter for my ASL videos. I find this filter adds to my signing because it focuses on my hands and face more than the space around me).

characteristic of sign language that I am learning is the importance of facial expression. ASL is a beautiful language, can be a beautiful language… if you get the facial expressions in. Without words or sound, facial expressions add so much to the conversation of signing.

This week I was also given access to a full online course to ASL through Rochelle’s emails. I am so pleased with the organization, procedure, and multi modes of instruction she uses for working through the units.

Here’s the breakdown:

Within each topic she goes through the DOs, DONTs and challenges of certain gestures in written form. Next you watch her demo videos on youtube that go through the signs you are learning that day. Finally, you put it all together by practicing on video. You can choose to upload a video to the ASL learning community on Facebook and get feedback, or you can do the practice work at the end of the unit that helps with recall of what you learnt.

Some extra resources I’ve found:

  • ASL Dictionary– I have not yet purchased this dictionary so I cannot review whether it is good or bad. It was reccomended to me as a dependable ASL dicitionary (it can be hard to find an accurate one)
  • Spread The Sign App– This is incredible. It is an ASL translator in the palm of your hand. All you do is type in the word you want to translate into ASL and a video of a person doing the sign will play. Not only does it provide the ASL action, but you can look up what the sign would be in a different language i.e. Spanish Sign Language (yes, that is right, ASL is not standard through the world)

This week I plan to:

  • Finish Unit I of the program
  • Pick 10 signs I want to remember and sign them daily (using Spread the Sign)
  • Watch clips of the TV series “Switched at Birth”, and try to interpret the actors signing
  • Practice finger spelling peoples names, things I see, things I hear, things I smell
  • Find another resource for ASL that is online or tech related


Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Day I – The ASL Alphabet

My search for online resources and networks for learning ASL (American Sign Language)beyond Pinterest, has served as a bit of a challenge. After some digging and hopping around between different web pages, I found a great resource that has multiple ways to learn ASL and network with other ASL learners.

Of course.. it all starts with my Pinterest board for ASL. I found Rochelle Barlow’s learn ASL in 31 Days and followed the resources through the internet grape vine:

I was led to Rochelles ASL Webpage and Youtube channel. There are multiple programs Each day of her program involves learning different topics in ASL i.e. Day 1: Alphabet Day 2: Questions. She has a variety of ways you can use the program free or at cost, through videos, printable tracking sheets, and her practice club on Facebook.

I took it upon myself to first download the tracking and practice sheets, second watch her Day 1: Alphabet video, and lastly I poked around her practice club on Facebook. I have not yet used the tracking sheets but I did watch her Day 1 video and practiced over and over until….

I now know the ASL alphabet! (still pretty rusty, I know a few of them were not perfect..whoops..learning curves right?)

Some helpful hints that I took from Rochelles Day 1 video include:

  • Dont knock your hand, it means you’re shouting
  • Try not to move your arms up and down when signing, its confusing
  • Turn your hand to face who you are signing to
  • It helps to hold your elbow as a beginner to keep your arm steady and your hands forward

Finally, the practice club on Facebook involves joining a challenge group. When you decide to join the challenge, there is a new task each week that you must practice signing something and post a video of yourself practicing to the page. Once the video is posted, members of the page will comment and you join a network of learners who are there to give you tips and support you through your learning together.

While I had the chance to scroll through the practice group page, I have not yet decided to join the challenge group. I’ve taken a peak at the tasks and they are a little intimidating to me! I plan to join the challenge group sometime next week!

Posted in ECMP 355, Learning Project

Exploring the world of ASL

Part 2 of my tech journey begins here.

I had some trouble figuring out what I wanted to choose for my learning project. It was a toss up between guitar, photography, ASL, and Spanish. I initially was going to do photography but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would not challenge me enough. In the end, ASL won the battle in my mind of which task to proceed with.

Here are the top three reasons I am choosing to learn ASL:

1. A few years ago my friend and I were walking around town and a person pulled over to ask us for directions to the gym. He wouldn’t speak, he only used his phone to communicate. My friend and I laughed and were kind of confused by what was going on. He wrote that he was deaf but at the time my friend and I had a hard time believing someone who is deaf, could drive. Long story short, we gave him the directions and moved on. I never thought it would bring me back to this but it has and I will go into that detail in my third reason.

2. Two years ago I travelled to Costa Rica to do some volunteer work at a school dedicated to serving special needs students. I was not given much information about my placement but when I got there, I found out it was a deaf school. Absolutely no one spoke, even if they could. I got frustrated a lot because I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t speak.  My questions remained floating in my head. I never once explored why no one would speak even if they could.

3. Finally, the reason that brings it all together. Has anyone watched Switched at Birth? If you haven’t, I’ll fill you in a bit on the series itself. It’s a teen TV series available on Netflix about two girls who are switched at birth. Here’s the catch: one of the girls is deaf. Besides the teen drama in the series, there is an emphasis on deaf culture and the deaf community.

Here is a quick video regarding the actors thoughts on using sign language in the show:

By watching this show, I have been given some serious perspective on deaf culture and why some people refuse to get cochlear implants or refuse to get speech therapy. Watching this show made me reflect on and re think every encounter I had with people who are deaf and the deaf culture. I had finally realized that yes people who are deaf can drive. No, some people do not want to speak even if they can, and yes there is SO much to learn about the community behind ASL beyond not being hearing.

My current level of understanding in regards to ASL is bare minimum. I remember “rose” in Spanish Sign Language and I know “thank you” from watching Switched at Birth.

Over the next month and a half my goal is to be able to communicate in a few sentences with basic ASL and know the alphabet from memory.  

I have began my learning journey with a Pinterest board of course and hope to find more online connections to guide me on this new adventure: