Dear Wanderer_920 (aka Laura),

So, it’s funny.  You remind me a lot of myself.  You are me-the way I remember myself to be about 20 years ago.  Fearless.  Optimistic.  Powerful.  I’m still those things, ya know…..only now my energy and focus are spread wide and thin.  Thank you for reminding me of the person I am.

I will tell you one thing: this course has become a part of me. It has crept its way into almost every part of my “regular” life.  It was definitely not a “come to class, do the work, forget about it” type of class.  It was transformative and all-encompassing. To be honest, I am still amazed when I think about the past few months.  (And I’m exhausted!) I keep wondering if other people-people outside of this class-have any idea what kinds of mind-blowing magical things have been taking place here.  Does anyone

I keep wondering if other people-people outside of this class-have any idea what kinds of mind-blowing magical things have been taking place here.  Does anyone really know or understand?  I want to scream it to the world: “Look at what we’re doing!!!” & “Do you understand how amazing this is?”  A part of me feels guilty- like I’m getting a Harvard education at a Kean tuition-rate. A part of me doesn’t want to breathe a word for fear they’ll steal my professors away from us, from this school.  Shhhhhh…don’t tell anyone we have the most amazing beings on earth as our mentos.  Please.  Don’t tell.  We need them!

I couldn’t think of a better ending to my official coursework as a graduate student.  I’ve had many people ask me if I was getting my MA “for the money” or a “better position at school.”  My answer was always the same: Uhhh… NO!  To me, that would be silly.  It’s always been about so much more. The decision to return to school (after so much time) was for ME.  For personal growth.  Satisfaction.  A creative and intellectual outlet (of which I’ve been deprived). I’ve been taking my time and trying to get the most out of every experience, rather than rushing through as many courses as I could in order to graduate sooner. Had it not been for a select few professors and colleagues, my journey would likely not have been nearly as meaningful. I am truly privileged to have cross paths with these individuals. Do you have any idea how lucky I am?  I mean really-if you really think about it- without these people, this experience could have been….well I don’t even want to think about what it could have been without them.   Ending this journey here, with this class, is more than I could have hoped for.

I knew right from the beginning that this course was something special.  I can remember driving home after my first class and thinking. Just thinking.  I’ve never told anyone this but for me, this half an hour drive-home ritual became a part of the class.  It was the time where I felt most connected to the content and topics of the past (and following) week.  The times when no one was asking me to help them with their homework or make dinner.  The times when my mind was mine, and mine alone.  I would drive on the parkway and lose myself in such deep thought that I had to snap myself out of it so I wouldn’t miss my exit.  It was these surges of introspective thoughts/moments when everything seemed most clear to me.  I could ponder the issues discussed in class, digest them, and somehow make sense of things. Although some of these thoughts never made it to a blog post or in-person talk, they were there.  This course became part of me.  Forever.

Almost immediately, I was sucked into this new world during any free moment I had.  I was decoding and researching and tweeting and connecting and writing and experimenting with new tools and…..well, you get the idea (I think you were secretly watching me the whole time).  One of the best things about this class was the fact that it seeped into my 6th-grade classroom.  If you met my students tomorrow, they would scream out “Alchemy!!!”  They were “open-participants” in every sense-without even knowing it.  So much of what I learned, they learned…and then I learned from them again. It was (is) a beautiful endless cycle.  My students have read e-poetry, participated in a web chat, made blackout poetry, tinkered with DDA’s, watched studio visits, decoded text with ROT-13, created avatars, engaged with, used soundcloud…..they have taken this course with me, in a way, and have shown me enthusiasm and openness.  I am a better teacher because of this class.  

Never before did I talk about a course with so many people. From my family, to my friends, to my co-workers, everyone I spoke to knew (to an extent) that I was part of something groundbreaking and unusual and that I was in awe of it.  It’s difficult to explain the full concept to others but they knew whatever I was doing was unlike anything they (or I) had experienced before.  So there it was-me and this course walking around my everyday life. Together.  Sometimes it took a backseat to whatever else was occupying my time, but never was it too far out of reach.  Sometimes “it” would make an appearance at a holiday gathering or late-night party.  It eased its way in and out of my daily life-just like a great course should, but rarely does. Yes, I carried this course with me wherever I went no matter what I was doing.  Because of this course, I have changed.  For the better.

How does one show what they’ve learned?  Is it possible?  Sure, one could study some material and spit it back on a test.  Many people could do that with their eyes closed and pass with flying colors.  But does it prove they’ve learned anything? Maybe. Anything that matters? Probably not.  Anything that will make a difference in life?  Not likely.  Anything that matters in the world?  I doubt it.  How do you, then, show someone what you’ve learned?  I think the answer is you show them how you’ve grown. When you have more deeply-inspired questions than you did before, that’s growth. When you look at the world around you through slightly different eyes, that’s growth.  When your creativity soars, that’s growth. When you know yourself a little deeper, that’s growth.  I have grown, my friend.  I have grown in more ways than one. And I have learned.    

Throughout this course, I have given and I have received.  Just for fun, I’ll take you down memory lane with me…….

It all began with a rabbit hole….and ended with a mirrored world.

After revisiting my blog posts and media/makes, I find it nearly impossible to summarize all that we’ve done.  But I’ll try.

I guess I would put the countless tools that I’ve become skilled in using into one category.  Using soundcloud, audacity, various gif/meme makers, and even making bots (I’ll admit I was proud of that accomplishment) is great, but what really matters to me is what you (I) can do with them.  It’s like learning another language or an instrument (neither of which I can do).  All of these tools and many of the DDA’s have empowered me.  They have given me the ability to communicate with the world in another way.  How cool is that?   I truly feel like an alchemist!

The studio visits and bus tours blew my mind!  Just knowing that others were willing to share their time and ideas with us was humbling and inspiring.  Wow! Connecting at its best!  In particular, the netprov and fanfiction talks really stuck with me throughout this journey and still keep me thinking about all this is possible in this discipline. Similarly, the outside participants added an invaluable layer to this course.  Without the likes of brilliant players such as Kevin and Sandra, this course would not have been as impactful. Amazing!

Speaking of connecting….one of the more subtle, yet profound, take-aways from this course was the generously-given comment or ping-back I’d receive on a blog post or tweet.  I think that was what this course was really all about.  If I could start over, I would spend more time giving in this way.  I read as many posts as I could, but would sometimes hesitate to comment on another’s work.  I wish I didn’t hesitate.  I loved so much of what I read and always appreciated any feedback I received.  Future alchemists: it’s not about what you can get from others, it’s about what you can give.

Giving came unexpectedly one class when we shared our writing in class.  I have rarely been as moved as I was that evening.  Those of you present understand.  This was definitely one of the highlights of the semester.  

Surprisingly, two of things I am most proud of are my cooking with anger story and my 5-card flickr story.  It’s not that I think the stories are particularly great but more that I was able to complete the tasks and feel satisfied with the outcomes.  I’ve expressed before how I do not see myself as a fiction writer but more of a non-fiction person.  So, for me, these tasks put me out of my comfort zone. That’s a good thing, sometimes. 

Perhaps the most important outcome of this course is that I just may have concocted the idea for my thesis….and just in the nick of time.  

This is only the beginning…..