Tag Archives: Education

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 3- Showing Up To Classes) – That Whole “Actually Going To Class” Part of College

28 Aug

Hey all, I know I have been MIA for awhile, sorry, insanity getting ready for my…wait for it…last semester of college! Ahhh. Real World, I am coming, get ready. Anyways, back to real topic at hand: going to those pesky classes at college, you are there to learn after all.

Even if you find out “attendance is not mandatory” you still need to show up, at least 95%. Professors will notice if you come to class, yes even in lecture, they will notice, especially if you introduce yourself in the beginning of the year. Professors can help you network, part of the reason you are at college is to find a job, and can even set you up with research they are doing if you are interested. Also, when you have a borderline grade, they are more likely to bump you up a letter. I am not going to lie to you, I have cut classes and chosen sections of a course by the professor whom I could cut a Friday class of. If you are going to pull a long weekend, don’t do it more than once, or the professor will catch on, I swear.  I am not your mom, but you should still go to your classes. If you are going to miss, you should email the professor ahead of time and ask what you will miss. When you email, make it believable, and sound sincere; even if you are lying, and they know it, if you never missed class before you can probably still get away with it.

Speaking of getting away with things, you will actually have to study and spend time doing homework. This is coming from someone who never spent time at home doing homework or studying for all of high school and graduated with a 95 average and in the top 15% of her class. I had the rudest awakening ever when I started freshman year. I don’t want you to face the same. You may be shocked at the little amount of time you spend in a classroom or lecture hall, but even more shocked at the amount of time you spend in your dorm or library studying or doing homework.  There is supposedly some rule that for every hour you spend in class you are supposed to spend like two hours doing work for it. I don’t believe there is a set ratio, but you will spend many hours outside of class on class work. For someone who is an epic procrastinator, me, this led to many Sundays locked in my room doing work until at least 2am freshman year. Then I wised up. In the first week of school, when you get all your syllabi mark up a calendar, whether it is google or a paper planner, just write the important things down so you don’t forget them.

I know you are enjoying this new sense of freedom, with no one telling you what to do, but I have to burst your bubble, sorry. Enjoy syllabus week, but then you need to start buckling down. College is for learning after all.

Have any other questions about classes? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

Fourth installment will be coming in the next month. Get Pumped Everyone!

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 2 – How To Get Along With Your Roommate) – So about that whole sharing a room the size of a jail cell thing…

25 Jul

This is part two of a multipart series on getting ready for freshman year of college.

Living with other people can be difficult especially if you are an only child (like me) or just happened to have your own room back home. You and your roommate(s) could be from very different backgrounds and ideals, be open, college is all about new experiences. Be upfront about your expectations for the room and the semester overall. Set boundaries, and stick with them, don’t be a push over. But don’t be so steadfast that you can’t compromise. You can’t ask them to change if you are not willing to either. Having a roommate will certainly present challenges; however, it can also be a highlight of your college experience.

Just about every possible problem stems from poor communication. First and foremost, when you find out who your roommate(s) is, Facebook or text them (most schools post phone numbers) just dropping a quick “hey, we are going to be roommates, when is a good time to talk” shows you care to get to know them, but understand everyone is busy in the summer. Don’t let too much time pass though (more than a week) there are important items to talk about (mentioned later in this post). Most items to be talked about will happen when you finally meet and are moved into your dorm, but one conversation can start now: Who is bringing what? Will you want a TV in your room? Movie collections? Extra seating? Video game systems? Oh and girls, even if you have old school N64, like me, bring it to school, you will instantly make some friends on your floor. After going over those topics, keep in touch as the summer winds down, updating on what you bought so far for the room.

Okay, so now you have moved into your dorm, using your trusty saran wrap of course, your parents have left and now it’s just you and your roommate(s) sitting in your room that will probably never be this organized ever again. What do you do? Lay down the ground rules of course!

Start off with the easy question: Night Owl or Early Riser– This answer will determine much of how your morning and night routine will go. If you happen to have a suite with a shared bathroom this question will help you figure out when to get a shower and where you can get ready; you can’t hog the bathroom to get ready if your roommate needs to shower too. Be courteous of their sleeping habits. If you are a night owl and your roommate is not, invest in a good desk light as mentioned in my first blog so you can both do what you need to. Or go to a study lounge or common area and work and come back when you are ready for bed (quietly). If you are a morning person, please be courteous of your roommate who likes to sleep in, grab all your stuff in one shot and take it out of the room, so you don’t keep opening and closing the door and blinding them with light.

You are at college to learn after all, well kinda. Some people need complete silence to study, others, like me, need music to concentrate. No matter what end you are on, you need to be respecting of your roommate’s study habits. Also, some students like to study between or right after class, others later in the day and into the night. This branches back to the night owl or early riser conversation, be considerate. If you have very different study regimens figure out who can study in the room or maybe prefer the library silence.

Sharing is Caring, but not always. Bringing a TV or extra chairs for your room is screaming “I am shared!” so just make sure you lay down the law of what can be shared and what can’t. Will some food or general household items (such as toilet paper) be shared? Respect eachother’s privacy and personal space, make a clear delineation between your stuff and theirs, or at least as much as you can. Always ask before borrowing, ALWAYS. There should be no problems if you let your roommate(s) know what’s off limits at the beginning; such as your computer, favorite article of clothing, oh and your boy/girlfriend.

Speaking of a boyfriend or girlfriend, they will probably want to come and visit you, or maybe you just have awesome friends who want to crash one weekend. Either way, you need to talk about the overnight guest policy of your room. Some key questions are: how much notice must be given; school vs weekend night; how many days in a row; and what is the roommate supposed to do when you have people over. The last is probably the most important; you CANNOT have hookups while your roommate is in the room! I don’t care how ‘deep of a sleeper’ they are or if they are ‘passed out’, it is the most awkward thing ever to wake up to that in your room. Also, lay down the law against ‘shady friends’, if you are not comfortable with them being in your room, tell your roommate nicely, propose maybe they hang somewhere else, maybe their place if they are a fellow student.

Water Pong, Fun For All Ages

College is where you are finally free to go out and stay out as late as you want, you finally have independence; or at least that is how I felt, finally shedding that midnight curfew, yes it was terrible. Whether it is a frat party or a house party or even having some people over in your dorm, you will end up partying at some point. Now before I go any further, I am not condoning underage drinking, nor am I condoning drinking in your dorm; it will end very badly if you get caught.  But I feel the approach of giving the knowledge to make your own decisions is the best way for you to learn. You can have ‘parties’ in your dorm by playing games or having a dance party, it’s all relative. Also, you can go to parties and not drink, that’s completely fine, but if you plan on it, please keep checking back for my post dedicated to partying safely. If your roommate decides they want to go out to parties there are some ground rules that should be set. The Buddy System, maybe go with them and you two (or a group from your dorm floor) can keep an eye out for each other and you will have a walk home buddy. If you don’t want to go out with them make sure you don’t lock them out of the room or set up a time that if they are later than that they need to find somewhere else to crash.

Once you have made a solid base for your roommateship spend time with them. You may be instant friends, or you may not, but there has to be a general level of camaraderie. Get to know your roommate, talk about classes, eat dinner together, watch a movie, etc; but don’t be overly or fakely interested, it will make it worse. Having an open channel of communication will be key if a problem arises. Hmmm that sounds vaguely familiar…

This is more general safety, but make sure you lock the door and windows, this may not seem entirely relevant to the roommate dynamic, but if your roommate’s laptop gets stolen on your “5 second run down the hall” you will feel terrible; or think of how mad you would be if it was reversed.

The cliché is true, the bottom line is communication.  You may think it’s weird to start talking about this with essentially a stranger, but come Thanksgiving break you will be so happy you did. Although, I will admit, you may get a complete dud of a roommate, it happens, but there is a whole dorm floor where you can find a pseudo-roommate.

Oh and two important side notes: everyone, or at least I do, hate those corny ice breaker games, but suffer for the hopes of meeting some people. Suffer together! Also, you will make mistakes, it’s inevitable; skipping class, getting very drunk, vomiting, and hooking up with someone you immediately regret the morning. See TextsFromLastNight for examples. Every freshman makes at least one mistake, if you are lucky you will learn from the experience. As Adele says “Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made,” college is all about making memories.

In the end, just expect the unexpected. No matter what others tell you about “how college is” your experience will be slightly different, don’t let false expectations let you down, or scare you to death.

Check out Part 3 about classes!

Have any other questions about roommates? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

College Freshman Survival Guide (Part 1 – What to Bring?) – Don’t Forget The Saran Wrap!

17 Jul

This is part one of a multipart series on getting ready for freshman year of college.

So you graduated High School. Attended the countless Grad Parties. Explained where you are going to school for the umpteenth time. And now it sets in, you have to pack up your life and move it to school. How will you ever decide what necessities you should bring and should leave home; the must have’s and what are the big no no’s?

Necessities and Must Have’s

http://www.mykindofcollege.com/ article-images/laundry.png

  • Bedsheets, pillow(cases) and blankets/comforter Depending on the climate. Check if your school has “extra long” twins or regular.
  • Mattress pad Many, many students have slept in that bed before, you want as much between you as possible.
  • Under bed storage bins, preferably plastic, and/or risers to lift the bed if need be. You will have zero room in your dorm, you will need to create as much storage space as possible.
  • Clothes are obvious, but make sure you bring a variety of seasonalwear, temperatures can change quick and you don’t want to be without a pair of shorts or a warm jacket. If you go to a school that has a wide swing of seasons, think of Thanksgiving and Spring break as your “clothes swap” points. Don’t forget some interview outfits  for impromptu job offers or career fairs.
  • Hangers! I totally forgot and then Walmart was sold out, slight problem.
  • Laundry will most likely be in your basement or on a random floor, so you must lug your dirty laundry (no pun intended) past many  fellow dormmates so make sure you have a sturdy basket, along with detergent, dryer sheets and quarters (or other payment method, depending on your school)

  • A variety of batteries will be essential as well for your TV remote, alarm clock, calculator and more. Not much is worse than getting ready to take an exam and your calculator dies
  • Bath Towels and a Robe to walk to and from the floor shared bathroom.
  • Shower Caddy will be your savior walking to and from the bathroom. Try carrying shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash and a razor down the hall without dropping them…its impossible. Oh and don’t forget your other toiletries: toothbrush and paste, deodorant, perfume/cologne and those other items sitting in your bathroom.
  • Shower Flip Flops kind of go with the mattress pad reasoning. You don’t know what’s been there…and you don’t want to.
  • Laptop (further explanation in a following post, stay tuned)
  • Printer with respective cords, ink and paper, some schools give you printing pages to use in the labs, but when you have a couple of end of semester papers or have to make copies of something for the whole class, you will wish you had your own printer.
  • TV for your room will be important, talk to you roommate about who will bring one.
  • Flash Drives– Many professors prefer this for presentations so there are no “Ooops the file wont open” excuses. Also, with group projects this is the easiest way to share information that is too big for email.
  • Extension Cords and Outlet Expanders– You won’t have enough outlets for your stuff in, believe me.
  • Headphones and MP3 device As mentioned in my previous post about Pandora, music is a necessity to get work done at school.
  • Ethernet Cable– not all dorms have WiFi, get a really long one at least 25 ft because you never know where the jack may be in your room.

Get Organized

  • Desk chair– Sometimes you are given a painfully hard wooden chair, sometimes not, so check your housing website.
  • A window fan if your campus is in a warm area, it is very unlikely to have A/C, and a fan is a great way to get airflow in a stuffy dorm room.
  • Lamp for your desk or floor lamp, you will want your own personal light source since dorms usually just have an overhead light on the switch.
  • Super Glue and Duct Tape will be your best friends, they fix just about everything. Oh and duct tape is great for those ABC parties.
  • Ruler, Scissors, Highlighters, Pens/Pencils, Stapler, 3-hole punch and PostIts notes. Self explanatory.
  • Alarm Clock because odds are you will end up having at least one class that is “early”. Also, come the end of the semester, you will be tired and even your 10am class will seem rough to get up for.
  • Bulletin Board– Whether it’s pictures, syllabi, a calendar or general reminders, it will help you keep organized. Don’t forget the push pins.


– Everyone has their preferences but a general list would be cereal, ramen, granola bars, peanut butter/jelly, popcorn, soup and bottled water/Brita pitcher.

  • Can/Bottle opener, solely for opening soup and root beer.
  • Paper plates and plastic silverware are definite for the food items listed above.
  • Backpack– Maybe they were a no no in High School, but in college it’s a no brainer. Walking all across campus for 3-4 classes with books, binders, folders and your laptop is just not going to work.
  • Index cards work better than you think. I will admit I didn’t really study in High School, let alone spend the time to make flash cards, but in college, they really help and can easily be studies in between classes or on a bus.
  • First Aid Kit, complete with Antibiotic Cream, Band Aids (I revert to my childhood and buy Disney Princess or Toy Story ones), Cough Drops, Decongestants, Pain Relievers and any prescriptions you have.

Don’t forget your Clipboard+ for your on the go working needs.


Don’t forget to check with your roommate(s) and see what they are bringing too so you wont have duplicates.

And girls, find some cute boy neighbors to help you move in, they will be happy to oblige…your dad however, not so much.

 Things to Leave at Home

  • Expensive jewelery or other pricey accessories.
  • Important documents (birth cert, SS card, passport, etc) if for some reason you need them, have them sent to you or your parents bring them on a visit (yes you will have them visit you, they miss you).
  • Most of your t-shirts, there will be many events with freebies. After my freshman year I think I had about 10 new T’s. If you end up with waaaay too many check this out!
  • Your stuffed animals, if you must bring one, pack it in a bag/box/bin no one can see in and see if it’s safe to let him/her out and hang on your bed. Tigger came with me freshman year, thankfully my roommate loved Tinkerbell and we bonded over Disney movies, since I got Tigger at Disney World.
  • More than 10 pairs of shoes, yes I know boys, you don’t own that many to begin with, but girls, you will probably never wear them all, just bring a variety and you should be set.
  • Too many pictures or posters-That is a good thing to buy at school or with the roommate. First bonding activity?
  • The dorky lanyard, it screams freshman, and not in a good way at all.

Still wondering where the Saran Wrap is involved…? Most schools give you hotel luggage carts or big industrial size laundry bins to move in and out of your dorm. If you get one of those hotel racks, how can you stack your items 4 feet high to the crossbar and still make turns without losing everything? Wrap Saran Wrap around the whole rack and then cut it off when you get to your room. You’re welcome.

Have any questions about specific items to bring or not to bring? Feel free to comment and I will get back to you ASAP. Or follow me on Twitter at SamSepanak1 and I will answer you there, as well.

Keep a lookout for the second installment about how to live with a random person and how to get along with your roommate!

Binary Explained – Minecraft Computer (Part 2)

25 Jun

In yesterday’s post we introduced Minecraft and its usefulness in education. Our final picture, a computer was built by the Changing the Way You Work Team. In today’s post we want to discuss Binary and how to create Binary Code in Minecraft.

Binary is a numeric system that uses two numerals (base 2) to represent all real numbers.

Each digit in Binary is a power of two.

  • The number one in the decimal system is the same as the number one in the binary system
  • The number 23 by contrast is represented as 10111 (16+0+4+2+1)

The decimal system makes perfect sense for human beings to use. We have ten fingers and  ten toes, so when human beings began counting they used these readily available markers. Binary is also a fairly natural system as things either ‘are’ or ‘are not’. Many mystical traditions used binary before the existence of the decimal system. Binary is also the cornerstone of the most important invention to date, the computer.

Binary in Minecraft

Now that you have a basic understanding of the binary system, it is time to move on to Binary in Minecraft. The first step is to gain familiarity with a resource in Minecraft called Redstone Dust.


Redstone Dust is a crafting a brewing ingredient in Minecraft. It is created when Redstone Ore is destroyed using an iron pickaxe. Redstone can be placed on the grond to create Redstone Wire. It can also create a Redstone Torch or Redstone Repeater. Remember, you also have access to unlimited Restone Dust in Creative Mode.

Redstone Wire is going to be the staple of your Binary code. Lat down Redstone on three blocks to create a straight line.

  • This wire will always be either ON (1) or OFF (0).
  • To turn the wire permanently ON, attach a Redstone Torch.
  • To switch between ON and OFF, connect the wire to a Lever at one end and a torch at the other, like this:

Thank you for reading today’s post about Binary in Minecraft! Tomorrow we will discuss the different types of logic gates that can be created from the simple ON/OFF switch made out of a Redstone Torch, Redstone Wire and a Lever.

Minecraft in Education (Intro)

24 Jun
  • Survive in a massive sandbox world
  • Fend off enemies
  • Create anything
  • Collaborate with friends

What is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a sandbox PC game created by Marcus “Notch” Persson and his company, Mojang. Gameplay has two primary play modes.

  1. Creative – allows characters unlimited resources, unlimited health, and the ability to fly
  2. Survival – the player must collect resources, maintain their health and fight monsters

Minecraft is a wonderful game for video game veterans and new comers alike. Foregoing the usual goals and requirements for its players, Minecraft is more like a toy, not a game. Similar to Legos or Lincoln Logs, Minecraft is a fantastic toy that has the capacity to foster divergent thinking and imaginative reasoning. As of November 7, 2011, Minecraft had over 16 million registered users.

Why does Minecraft matter?

Minecraft, Notch and Mojang are extremely influential for a number of reasons. As a member of the Minecraft universe you will:

  • Foster creativity
  • Promote collaboration
  • Support the independent community
  • Challenge the traditional video game model
  • Have a lot of fun

How can it help me educate?

Here at Changing the Way You Work, we like to find creative ways improve current technology. As a K-12 teacher, it important to be aware of the latest and greatest. As we have already established, Minecraft is a popular game with the ability to educate. Many teachers, like Joel Levin, the Minecraft teacher, have already begun to adopt Minecraft in the classroom. Check his site for teachers, MinecraftEdu for more info on how to get Minecraft in your classroom.

Build Anything

Many Minecraft users have taken quite a bit of time to build some amazing structures. Below are just a few of the most fantastic structures built on Minecraft.

Even a Computer

As you can see, truly anything can be built in this fantastic game. If you don’t believe us, check out this computer built by the Changing the Way You Work Team.

Look forward to our next post which will explain Binary code and detail how you can create your own binary code in Minecraft!