Skip to content
Feb 7 / Valerie Sobczak

21 Days of TED, Day 3: Learning Communities and John Green

College gives you the chance to learn as much as you can about as many different things as possible before you are unleashed on the world, head full and hopefully ready for a career. But, trying to soak up as much information as you can from the back of a lecture hall, thinking more about having missed breakfast than the fact that you’re missing the facts in your lecture isn’t the way to learn as much as you can about the things you want to learn about.

To learn the things you want to know, not just the things you need to know, you must take charge and create your own learning. Learning communities have been around practically since the beginning of learning. As the Greeks discussed their principles and philosophies both in their formal study and casual conversation, we discuss our own knowledge both in the classroom and outside in the world. College study groups and formal learning groups can be great tools for supplementing classroom learning, but as more and more of us turn away from strict and formal classroom learning, we turn to the internet not only for the information we need, but the information we want.

This is where John Green comes in. John Green is one of my favorite People on the Internet. He is an author, a vlogger, a huge nerd, and a producer of online educational content. With his brother Hank, he started the Brotherhood 2.0 project, during which they ceased all textual communication and corresponded through YouTube. They still vlog on the Vlogbrothers channel, and also work on their own individual projects like John’s Crash Course and Hank’s Sci Show, among several others. The focus of many of their programs is on creating an entertaining way to learn. Rather than presenting information on, say, Emily Dickinson in the same lecture format any student could get in the classroom, colourful graphics, laser beam eyes, and a style usually seen more often on television than in anything related to school. I find myself more interested in learning using this format, and use videos from Crash Course and other online educators, like Khan Academy not only to supplement and increase my understanding of what I’m learning in class, but also to entertain myself. Learning is already something I like to do, but including the internet as my learning community makes it even more fun!

In his talk from TEDxIndianapolis, John Green talks about what spurred him to become an avid learner and also about his experiences with online learning communities. Watch the video here, and then share in the comments: What is your learning community? Do you participate in an in-person group, or chat with others online, or both? How does your learning community impact your learning?


[youtube 1mUDw0sRZV0]

Feb 6 / Valerie Sobczak

21 Days of TED, Day 2: Passion and LEGO

One reason I love TED is the enormous range of topics presented at the conference. No matter what you like, you’ll find a TED talk to suit your interests. This also means that if you’re presenting a TED talk, you can talk about just about anything, and it will fit the theme of the conference. This lends itself to the extreme passion on display at every TED and TEDx event.

There’s something different about a speaker who is truly passionate about their field and their presentation. Maybe it’s the way their eyes light up, or their enthusiasm, or their excited tone of voice that makes the atmosphere in the room buzz when they speak, infecting the audience with a similar passion. This passion in TED and TEDx attendees is part of what makes each event so exciting for me – every person there has something that they think is the just the absolute coolest thing in the world, and they want to share every part of it with you. That’s exactly what makes me love today’s talk.

Hillel Cooperman loves LEGO. He loves them, and you can tell in his presentation, his energy, his mannerisms, his story, his expressions, and the frenetic way he bounds around the stage. Watch his talk, Legos for grownups (Yes, I know LEGO is pluralized improperly there, it’s their mistake, not mine), and enjoy his passion for LEGO, even if they’re not really your thing. Then, think about what makes you that excited, and take some inspiration from Hillel’s passion and act toward your passion.

[youtube KElS5nZD5yc]

Feb 5 / Valerie Sobczak

21 Days of TED, Day 1: I’m going to TEDActive!

Thank goodness you can’t bruise from imaginary pinches. I’ve been pinching myself in my head for a couple of weeks now, and I’m sure the number of imaginary pinches my arms will be enduring over the next month would cause serious damage if I were to actually pinch myself.

I’m pinching myself because I still can’t believe I’ll be attending the TEDActive conference at the end of this month. From watching my first TED talk a couple years ago, to attending and helping organize the TEDxDetroit conference here, attending one of the main, official TED conferences has been a lofty lifetime goal. I didn’t think I would get to actually go until maybe my thirties, and certainly not as a college sophomore, but through some hard work, the generosity of many, the permission of a few, and major budgeting and fundraising, I will be attending my first TEDActive three weeks from today!

TEDActive is the sister conference to the main TED in California. It is hosted at the same time as TED and in a city not too far from Long Beach, the home of TED. TED Activators watch simulcasts of the talks in a more casual and hands-on setting, also attending workshops and events to encourage an even greater exchange of “ideas worth spreading.” I am looking forward not only to watching the talks, which you can often find on their website, but experiencing the entire conference with people who are just as, if not more passionate about sharing knowledge, information, and fun as I am.

For the next three weeks, I will be getting ready for the conference here, sharing updates on my preparation and a TED video each day. Some of the videos are on my list of favorites, some are from the local, independently organized TEDxDetroit, and others are significant talks with big ideas already making an impact on the world. I wish I could take everyone to TEDActive with me, to feel the excitement and experience of the conference, but I can at least prepare for it with you and share my own experience!

Today’s video is a quick and entertaining primer on TED and TEDx. Watch it to learn a little about how TED works, and come back tomorrow for more videos and conference talk!

[youtube d0NHOpeczUU]


Bonus video: You can watch a special preview of the TEDActive conference from TED on their website.

Sep 19 / Valerie Sobczak


You can take as many college prep courses as your school offers, read as many college guides as your library owns, and read as many college blogs as the internet contains, but nothing can truly prepare you for this:

The List


I thought I came to college prepared. I knew that there would be a lot of homework, and especially a lot of reading. I knew I could handle it. Then I got to it.

I did finish everything. It just caught me off guard with exactly how much there was. Looking at it again, and thinking about how much time it actually took, it really isn’t a lot. I know my friends who are taking engineering classes or going into pre-med are reading so much more than I am , and I really shouldn’t complain.

This has been my first shock of truly finding the differences between high school and college. What was your big college shock, the one that said, “I don’t care how much you have prepared, the next four years are going to be totally different from everything you thought they would be?”

Sep 1 / Valerie Sobczak

Posting Machine

In my last post about freshman quest, I mentioned that we left on August 15th. Those of you who are really observant will have noticed that the date of the post was September 1st, a whole 15 days later. If you are really super observant, you will have also noticed that that date was after August 27th, move-in day. Shouldn’t I have posted something before now, if not to talk about Move-In, just to let my mom know I’m still alive and posting? (Hi, Mom. I am alive. Yes, I am okay. I’m going back to the post now.) Yes, I should have, and now, thanks to all my best friends in C&IT, I can. My computer had some issues connecting to the RESnet in my room, and it took several visits to IT, much praying, and several very very  nice words of encouragement to my laptop in order for it to start working. I am now all connected, and I will be a posting machine!

Sep 1 / Valerie Sobczak

Freshman Quest

If you went to college, or if you’re in college now, you probably went to some sort of new student orientation first. You checked in and were handed an enormous pile of papers, each with some important thing you had to know before beginning classes. You probably lugged the pile while following someone who made you sit in a lecture hall with your parents and a bunch of freshmen you didn’t know, listening to the Dean, some upperclassmen, and some other faculty tell you about how important everything is. Someone talked about important it is to join student organizations and get involved, someone else told you how important it is to choose the right classes in the right order for your right major, someone else told you how important common sense is, someone else told you how important it is to follow the code of conduct, and your mom told you how important it is to always have clean underwear and call her every day. Then, maybe some faculty or even some upperclassmen showed you around campus, pointing out every single building and rock of not. If you were lucky, you may have been given a tour of the dining hall and even given a chance to taste the food. Then, you were pronounced a “college student”, everybody clapped, and you and your growing pile of informational handouts were released to the campus to figure out the rest for yourself. Did your freshman orientation go something like this? This is only a pretty basic outline of the day. Maybe your orientation had a few activities unique to your school or major, or maybe you didn’t go to one at all.


Maybe your orientation was entirely different


The Au Sable River (source:, taken on a previous Quest trip)

Sure, I went to the “regular” orientation. It was very similar to the one described above, but a little more fun and with a few differences. However, Wayne State also has another, even more fun orientation, called Freshman Quest. I left on the Freshman Quest trip on August 15th, and had an absolute blast the entire time.

Walking up to the Rec Center at seven-thirty on a Monday morning, I knew some of what I was getting myself into. I was not-so-gracefully lugging my dry bag, stuffed with three days’ worth of camping and canoeing supplies, anticipating three days of fun on the Au Sable River. I did not know just how great the next three days would be.

We started Monday morning at the Rec Center, with a few icebreakers and last-minute trip reminders. Once all the vans were loaded with all the dry bags, all the freshmen, and all the leaders, we left for Mio and the Au Sable. After a three- hour drive, we arrived at the Rainbow Resort, where we ate lunch, and packed ourselves into a different set of vans, this time with canoes attached. We drove another forty five minutes to the put-in point on the Au Sable River. After loading up all of the canoes and a much-too-brief canoeing lesson, we set off on our quest.
The entire trip was a three-day, forty-four mile excursion through some of the most beautiful parts of Michigan. The forty-one members of Team WOW: Warriors on Water included first-year students as well as upperclassmen and faculty leaders from Wayne State. We canoed in the afternoon on Monday, all day on Tuesday, and in the morning on Wednesday, learning about ourselves, our classmates, and our school. In the evenings, we set up camp, ate dinner, played games, and had campfires. The campfires were the most orientation-like part of the trip, when we would sit around the campfire, and listen to the leaders talk about important college information. We had heard a lot of the information before, but replacing the lecture hall with wilderness and the rows of seats with a circle made the experience so much different. Instead of being lectured to, we were having a conversation. The group was smaller than the regular orientation, so we were allowed much more interaction than before. By the time we got to the campfires, we were all familiar and comfortable with one another, so it seemed much easier to ask questions without worrying if you sounded stupid. I really appreciated that we had both faculty and upperclassmen leaders on the trip, because talking to them around the campfire was extraordinarily helpful. I was able to hear from students who had been sitting around the same campfire a few years earlier, and who had survived both the trip and their first year of college, and it made me much more comfortable with going through it myself. Speaking to faculty members allowed me to gain another perspective on college life, like what they look for in a good student, and how to do better in classes.
I found Freshman Quest to be a very valuable and fun experience, and would definitely recommend it or a program like it to college freshmen, even if they aren’t feeling too nervous about the transition to college. I received so many tips and so much help in preparing for college, and made so many new friends. Going on the Freshman Quest helped make my transition to college so much smoother, and made me more well-informed about my school, while having fun. If your school has a program like this, sign up!


What was your freshman orientation like? Did you have a “traditional” orientation, or something more like Freshman Quest? Was it something in-between?

Aug 14 / Valerie Sobczak

Daily Inspirarion- August 13

Despite the advice of a few people and college tip books, I will be starting off my college career with a job. Until a few weeks ago, I worked as a waitress at a chain restaurant near my house, but moving to college made it impossible to keep the job. Instead, I will be working in Campus Recreation, at the Mort Harris Recreation and Fitness Center (Stop in and say hi!). I have been training for the position for a little while now, and I am really enjoying it thus far. Everyone I work with is so nice, and there is so much to learn and do while at work! I love it!

Friday night, as I was leaving, I passed the DeRoy apartment building on campus, and noticed something a little unusual.


Please forgive the photo quality. The lighting is pretty poor, but I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself using flash.

Do you see it? Maybe you don’t see it at first, but stare at the lights in the building long enough, and it sort of begins to look like a question mark. Do you see it now?

I feel as if I should have something really profound to say about this, like seeing the question mark on the building made me think about the big questions in the universe, and then I contemplated them for the rest of the night and achieved perfect internal peace and oneness with the universe. Actually, when I saw it, my tired brain thought nothing more than “That building looks like it has a question mark on it.” I giggled a little and kept walking, but then I thought of the blog. I snapped a quick (read: low-quality) picture and tried to figure out what I could say about it other than “Haha- it’s a question mark.” That’s where this post comes from.

Haha. It’s a question mark.

That’s it. It was late, I was tired, and my brain couldn’t do anything more than that. Looking back at the picture gives me a few thoughts that are significantly more profound than that, but at the time that was all I could come up with. It was something I saw that I thought was cool, and it made me happy. There won’t always be universally significant things to see or profound thoughts to think; sometimes you just need to be amused by the little things.

On an unrelated note, I have noticed the typo from a few days ago, when I posted my “Daily Inspirarion.” I’m not going to change the name, even though using it was completely unintentional, because I actually like it. A Daily Inspirarion sounds to me like the name of an old-time newspaper, and I like the way it sounds. I’m hoping to continue to use the Daily Inspirarion as a regular feature on this blog, so look for more posts in that category!

Aug 12 / Valerie Sobczak

How We Use Technology

This is the post that WordPress and my computer ate. I’m rewriting it now, and believe me, I have learned my lesson and will be saving copies in other locations before posting from now on.

I followed a link on Twitter to this infographic earlier this week.


Students Love Technology

As a student just coming to college (in 15 days!), I was very interested to see data on how college students use technology. I was interested to compare the ways I use technology now, before I start college, and see how my habits might change in the next few months. Usually, I find myself somewhere in the middle of the tech-addiction spectrum: I do rely heavily on technology, but I can live without it for a while and don’t consider myself an addict. I know that in college I will be even more reliant on technology, using it for more than the research and paper-writing I did in high school. Hopefully, though I won’t be using as much Facebook as the data suggests!

What about you? As a student, how does your technology usage match up with the data? Do you think the infographic is an accurate representation?

Special thanks to @thenerdyteacher for tweeting the link!

Aug 12 / Valerie Sobczak


I just wrote what I thought was a really great post, clicked publish, and then either my computer or WordPress ate it. Silly me didn’t write it in Word and save it first, like I usually do, trying to get it out quickly on the website only. Is there any way I might be able to retrieve the post? I think I know that the answer to the question will be no, but I wanted to ask first. Was there a button I accidentally pushed? Is there something I can do in the future to prevent this from happening? HELP!

Aug 11 / Valerie Sobczak

Daily Inspirarion for August 9th

Inspired by a suggestion from Nick DeNardis I’m going to start a new series on my blog. Instead of trying to do an elaborate post every day, I am going to share a picture or a link or something small that was significant to me during the day, along with a short explanation abouy why it was significant. Here is today’s entry.

I love music, and I will admit that I can occasionally be “that teenager” who walks around with her iPod always in her ears or in her pocket. I love how music conveys emotion, and how a range of music can convey a range of different thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I love feeling an emotional connection to what I’m hearing, and love music that takes me out of the moment not only with the sound but with the connection I make with it.

It isn’t often that I find a perfect song. I love all different kinds of music, but I am very picky about what I list as my favorite songs. From the first time I heard the opening, I have loved the song Ali In The Jungle, by The Hours. I’ve kept it on repeat for the last few days, and every time I listen to it, I find something new to love about it. It’s such an inspiration to me, from the driving drums to the motivational lyrics, and I just had to share it.