Friday, March 20, 2009

The Opportunities of Today (Mar 9)

This past week I attended a conference in Washington (state) at the Davenport hotel. It was definitely the most opulent place I have ever stayed, from carved wooden ceilings and furniture to original chandeliers from The Gilded Age (it was built in 1912). The trip was completely funded by the Honors Program... but I'm still not sure what my feelings are about spending so much. On the up side, we had a great time as we met each other and grew into a cohesive group by the end of the trip, even though our interests were so diverse. We had eleven students and 7 presentations, and we definitely represented BYU while we were there, and also made a valuable contribution to the academic rigor of the conference. But, still, I wonder if there isn't a more efficient, less expensive way to accomplish those same objectives. I'll have to do some thinking.

My presentation was on using games in education, including the motivations behind them and how to successfully implement games and other types of play into different environments. As part of the presentation, we played three different games to model how games could be used in education. It went well; everyone seemed to enjoy it and sometime in the future I'll get back the evaluations that each person in attendance was asked to fill out.

Beyond that, my advisor gave me the go-ahead on the final version of my thesis. Tomorrow I print it out on Master's Thesis paper, get a few signatures, and turn it in to the Honors Department. Almost done! My classroom teaching is also going well; I have fallen completely in love with my students and I am going to miss them when my time as a student teacher runs out in a month. I haven't heard yet from MIT about being admitted, but I'll know in the next few weeks... and I'm on the verge of deciding to self-publish Quan'da'ry – the game I created for my thesis. I still need to scope out exactly what the steps will need to be (timelines for game creation, initial costs, etc), but, most likely, that will be part of my focus after I finish teaching this summer. I am sure that it will be a difficult experience... but I'm also sure that I'll learn a ton.

This week my thoughts turn to the importance of taking advantage of blessings and opportunities while we have them. I think that one of my difficulties in life is that I feel more driven by duty than I do by passion. Faced with any number of choices, I first determine what I should do. I think about it and reason about it enough that the choice becomes something that I want to do, and then I do it. But all the while there are other things I want to do... and I put them on the side. I'm never really sure whether that's the right choice, but as time goes on I realize that there are other facets to making decisions. I think one of the most important facets of decision-making is using the tools and blessings and opportunities that we have in the present to their fullest extent. While I was at the Davenport Hotel, I learned they had an incredible fitness center. I took the opportunity to use it each evening, and the exercise helped me sleep better and ultimately have a better influence on the people around me at the conference. On the same level (but a bad example), I've spent 4 years here at BYU with a concentration of some of the best classical and musical theater voice teachers in the world... and I let the cost of taking lessons influence my choices so much that I never signed up for them. I may not have that opportunity again in the near future.

In life, we are constantly surrounded by circumstance. Our lives may seem simple or stagnant, but I believe that the present is constantly changing, and at some time the things we took for granted will no longer be available. People and opportunities for growth are often only part of life for a short time before they move out of our reach. It is up to us to make decisions that not only work towards our ultimate goals, but also take into account these swiftly changing opportunities. I realized that I couldn't become a full-time singer/dancer/actor at BYU while following my dream of changing the world of education... but I could have added in another half credit of voice lessons each semester. Reading a good book may be a worthwhile endeavor, but we could spend the same time talking with loved ones... and it is much more likely that our loved ones will move away or pass on before we will completely lose our ability to read. So my challenge for each of you is to look at the opportunities you have in life right now. Some of them are time-sensitive. Re-evaluate your goals and how you spend your time so that you are best taking advantage of the blessings that the Lord is willing to give you, today.

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