Experiential Learning in an interpreting classroom.

In 1949, Hebb’s theory on learning and memory was that when an electrical activity in one neuron was triggered, perhaps by a surrounding would fire, it would then fire to another ‘target cell’, and the more that activity was done the more it would fire, and the stronger that connection would become. This is a linear process, however, what researchers are finding is that people can create lifelong memories in a matter of seconds, which means our brain can store memories and intelligence in other ways.

This notion completely challenges the way traditional classrooms look and approach rote testing and repetition of skills and content. If this assertion is true, experiential learning, creating classes in which students are able to experience a series of events through a variety of sensory stimulus, thus activating different parts of the brain, may shorten the time needed to practice data and facts, and allow for more time in the classroom to focus on the application knowledge and behaviors. #geekingout #Ireallyamanerd#fasinatedbycognitivesciences #brainstuffiscool

ASL to English I Skill Practice-Target Message Production

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-68xL-DGEBo Listen & Analyze Voice Impressions. Think about and analyze how are people talk and show different characters, think about the word choice tone, register, pauses, breath, pace, volume, emotions that go into language use. For ASL to English interpreters, this is a vital piece of the production of the Target Message. Once the interpreter is able to connect with the paralinguistics of the message, and only then, are they able to render a dynamically equivalent target message.

Practice this, observe people around you, incorporate this in your work, reflect on the effectiveness of what was interpreted, ask mentors to look at your work and assess it, then modify and do it again using the information that you gained. We are always learning and crafting our skills as interpreters–this is what life long learning is all about.

Geeking Out-Deep Learning


Geeking out. There are many overlaps with how we teach the decision making processes to interpreting students. How many times has someone told you it depends? This is typically the standard answer because there are so many variables to the dynamic environments in which we work. Interpreting students and interpreters, in turn, use DC-S, ethical decision-making steps, language prompts, etc. as a ‘rule set’ to make accurate decisions.

I’m fascinated with how this applies to the interpreting field or academia in general. I like how by using this you can latch human decision making with a network, with more deep networks. Anchoring experiences with an already structured system become the proxy for what the student is thinking and the skills they are developing. The idea of students doing Think Aloud Processes (TAP) which allows students to examine their own processes against the data and deep networks of the scenario so they can begin to connect dots and fill in gaps in their own neural networks.

“If you have a result and you don’t understand why you made that decision, how could you really advance in your research.” Powerful. Bringing students to the place where they understand the theory behind what they are doing and apply it to experience is vital so they can talk about it, they can explain it, they can then replicate it in their professional careers.  We have much to learn.

Social Media: Constructive Exchange of Ideas

Social Media: Constructive Exchange of Ideas

By: Sarah Wheeler

Take a peek at a message board beneath any online article and you get a pretty revealing look at social media and this little tribe of ours known as humankind. First, you have people from across the globe instantly communicating their opinions and insights. They exchange links to more relevant information and even establish interpersonal connections with like-minded folk – it’s downright neighborly. Now pan down a few posts, that’s where you’ll catch your first whiff of conflict … It usually starts with a simple difference of opinion and then gets upgraded to a level-10 ruckus just a few more exchanges down the ladder.

There you have it, everything we love and hate about social media – nothing major, just the whole world present and past, placed at your fingertips, with all borders and filters removed. Welcome to the technological revolution! It’s huge, it’s powerful, and it’s the most sweeping social experiment ever. These are the kinds of rushing waters you want to be caught up in, but only if you have the skill and knowledge to properly navigate the maelstrom so it works for your purposes not against. And therein lies the challenge. How do we become mindful of the unwritten laws of social media and of course the potential minefield of human interaction, so we can enjoy and benefit from our social media engagement?

Social Media is a great way to share our thoughts, speak-up when we feel strongly about societal issues, express ourselves creatively, or to share the ups and downs of our daily life with family and friends. The opportunity to have meaningful dialogues and to cultivate change has been tremendously impactful in my own life. On a daily basis, I am learning and sharing with my social media friends and discussing what matters most to us. But as you may know, the word “friend” takes on a totally different meaning in the context of social media. For instance, I have 600+ online friends. Of those, I would personally count on to rescue me out of a bind would be less than 20. So for me, the idea of formulating bonds on social media to work through pain and conflict towards social change can be challenging. But I also know that for many of us, it can be a valuable and rewarding step to take. The question is, how?

Creating “Intentional Communities” might be the answer. They help bring people together to talk about specific issues in a comfortable environment. The goal is to break down societal divides, and recognize the things that we all have in common.  Within these communities we can safely seek out people who are different than us, who bring in new ideas, and who may challenge our own views. That type of constructive push back is a good thing. But you must not be too one dimensional in your thinking or get discouraged by others who are. Many people have no idea how to deal with conflict. They are cemented to their worldview and can’t imagine any other opinion. New perspectives can cause them to freak out, put up walls, or go on the attack. These types of attacks are actually reflections on the attacker’s personal issues more than the viewpoints of the person who wrote the original post.

  1. Gladwell, in his book: Blink: The power of thinking without thinking, introduced “the four horsemen of relationships”: Defensiveness, Stonewalling, Criticism, and Contempt. He demonstrated how they can predict, with 95% accuracy, which relationships will last and which will not. It’s a safe bet that these same behaviors would apply to online community relationships as well.

To avoid the pitfalls of the digital version of the four horsemen, you must always be aware and mindful of your reactions. If they start reflecting some of the horsemen’s narrow-minded, selfish attitudes, you must work to reestablish a respectful and open dialogue, and to assess your interactions from multiple possible perspectives. It can be challenging in the freewheeling environment of social media where etiquette is still very much a work in progress. Plus, we are emboldened by the anonymous nature of social media to say things that we would never say in person. Just remember, behind that goofy avatar, funky screen name, endless emoticons, and forests of exclamation points, is a living breathing human, just like you – always post or comment with this in mind. And before you submit your thoughts, consider whether or not you’re contributing to the community to benefit the members and make it a better place for the constructive exchange of ideas. I hope you are, because that is the true magic of social media, empowering each other to grow individually and collectively.


Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and



1) We are providing ways for people to communicate and connect with others but we don’t make the decisions. It’s THEIR lives. Always keep this in mind.

2) Stay present & engaged within each assignment.

3) Be open and respectful to ALL world-views, perspectives, and mindsets. Be empathetic to each situation that is encountered.

4) Show respect to each person you interact with. Treat people the way you would want to be treated, or you would want someone you love to be treated.

5) Be aware of oppressive systematic structures that can influence communication and relationships.

6) Enter in to each situation with a mindset of openness.  Learn as much as you can about the world and the people in it.

7) Allow yourself to let down your guard and to feel, BE HUMAN.

8) In order to effectively communicate, interpreters need to be able to take it all in, process it all, and learn from experiences.

9) Learn as much as you can and always seek to improve your work. Good enough is simply not ‘good enough’.

10) Self-care is so important. Do the things that make you happy every single day.

Freedom Dreaming..

It was early this morning that I lay in bed reading the memoir of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised a free man, then was illegally captured and held as a slave for 12 years in the deep south. The reality of slavery is one that none of us should ever forget, as the impacts of what happened during the years of slavery continues to perpetuate inequity and oppression to this day.

It just so happened my two boys Maddox and Asher ended up sleeping in my bed the night before and were cuddled up on one side of the bed. I am comfortably lying on the other side reading and got to the part where they are selling a group of captured slaves, in particular, a mother is being sold alongside her two kids. A son of 10 years old, and her daughter who is only eight years old. The mother is begging anyone and everyone to be sold with her children. She is screaming to everyone that she would do whatever it took just to be with her two children. She wanted to be there to protect them and love them. My heart started to weep as I knew I could never fathom the depth of pain that she must have felt. I began to cry as I could feel every breath and scream that she let out as she saw her kids separated and taken away from her. I could never know and experience it completely, but I felt it in my heart.. Maddox my 8-year-old woke up abruptly after hearing me cry and immediately asks me if I am okay. All I can do is look at him, realizing that this mother in the book had her child taken away at eight years old. This notion unnerved me to my core.I responded quickly and told him that all was good, that I had been reading a book about slavery and briefly explained to him that an 8 year old girl was just separated from their mother and sold into slavery along with her 10 year old brother. He came over and gave me a tight hug, and told me that it was going to be okay. Laying close to me under the warm covers, he quickly went back to sleep..

I could not go back to sleep after this. I thought about all the lives that continue to be destroyed to this day as a result of the slave trade. Inequities and oppression continue to be passed down since the first slaves arrived in America in 1619. The injury that was created during this time continues to be felt from generation to generation. My mind also wandered to the lives that are affected by the prison industrial system, the current modern day slave trade, immigration laws that separate families, poverty and homelessness, ongoing wars that kill and injure families, and so many more current social justice issues that tear away at important family bonds and communities. This ongoing societal destruction creates wounds so deep, and humanity as a whole suffers from those wounds. As I set my gaze on my children I realize how fortunate I have them here with me. I also can understand the privilege I have to ‘feel safe’ within our society and to have my family unaffected by most systematic oppression. Our stories are all happening at the same time all around us both good and bad. We need to stop to step outside of our own story in order to see the common thread that ties us all. Once we are able to talk about and see the truths, as painful as they are, we then be able to affect change in society.


Intersectionality in Experience

Last night I was invited by a close friend to attend a Sundown to Sunup event sponsored by the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) http://gsodaycenter.org/ in Greensboro. The goal was to get together for a sleep out to remember the 8 people who have lost their lives this year while homeless. What was so powerful was that everyone had an opportunity to interact with each other, there were no assumptions or opportunity to put up walls. We were all forced to understand and be with each other. I ended up bringing some extra blankets we had around the house. As soon as I got there I noticed first off that there weren’t that many people there. For some reason I had initially thought that there would be lot of people there supporting the cause, connecting to others. Not as many people as I had anticipated, yet people were there. There was a lot of food, a whole table full, and maybe about 10-15 people of all ages laying down on the ground or walking around. Overhead in the trees there were some beautiful Christmas Balls that made the night seem magical, although this feeling couldn’t mask the true reason why we were there. People have died while homeless and most likely without the supports that were needed. We all need someone to love us, to care for us, to help us. There is no way we can do it on our own. I could only assume the stories of some of the people there, based on my own experiences while growing up living in a car and a tent for a short period of time I could relate to the struggle. It is such a thin line between paying bills and having a roof over your head, and then losing it all and trying to just survive day by day. I had overheard some comments that some of the people had made there that it was a great place to be, a free camp site. This was true.. certainly a safe place where people could rest their head, despite the frigid air. Everyone was dressed warmly and seemed to be in good spirits. The friends that I showed up with all knew sign language, two of them being Deaf, and I am sure within this interaction we all learned a little something about each other. Some understandings or previous conceptions may have been changed, if just a little bit. As I was leaving Becky, a woman I had met for the first time that night, ran up to me and gave me a big hug goodbye. It had warmed me up from the inside and struck me in a way that left me feeling so happy, overwhelmed, and vulnerable all at the same time. I spend so much time putting up walls to keep people out, to protect myself, that I wasn’t able to really accept people when they wanted to connect with me. At that moment something crumbled a bit more, and I understood the importance of allowing that vulnerability to show. To accept the fact that the common thread that connects us all is our humanity, that we all have these shared feelings of love and of fear. By understanding that we are all so much more alike than we ever have known, we then are able to reach out to others and create this change in society. Instead of creating more walls and divides–we can create unity and connection within diverse communities. Today I am writing to share this experience with each of you, and also to also understand what this means within my life. I’m wondering if I can connect the dots between this particular experience last night, my life experiences, and how to connect this to my future actions? Still trying to understand… I appreciate you all going through this journey with me. Hopefully some of what I write will spark something within you to reach out, to understand another person’s story, to take down some walls that you may have up. #PAYITFORWARD