Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Summary of Learning

Please be directed to the following Smore flyer for my summary of learning, ECMP355 winter 2016 semester.

Contributing to the Learning of Others

Taking an online class is new to me.  In my four years of university education, this is the first semester I have ever taken an online class, and I am enrolled in two!  Therefore, my knowledge of how I can contribute to the learning of others was zero at the beginning of this class.  To me, learning always took place from professor to students - never from student to student (at least in the university setting).

Throughout the semester I tried my absolute best to aid others in their learning, although I feel like I fell short of what I probably would have liked to have completed.  I found the largest hurdles for me to get over with this task, were:
  1. A lot of the time when people in the class would post questions on the Google Community, I would have no clue what the answer was.  Most of the time peoples questions were about WordPress... which is a platform I don't use, so am unable to help.
  2. When I would see questions, they were already answered!  I could put in my opinion on a couple of these threads, but for the most part the answer was already given by someone who was much quicker at notching the posted question.
  3. On other platforms (such as tatting forums) I was the newbie that had all the questions, and really couldn't contribute to any of the discussions that I saw on the forums.  Again, the problem of the questions already being answered came up with another beginner would post a question I actually knew the answer to.  However, having said that, I was able to help Que when she messaged me via my blog with questions about my tatting and the sources I was using.  See below for more information on this interaction.
So in order to highlight what contributions I was able to give, I am going to separate them into four categories: Twitter, Google Plus, Blog Commenting, and Personal Communications.


Before I started this class, I had maybe 15-20 tweets that covered a two... maybe even three year span.  Today as I write this post, I have 253 of actually valuable information within the tweets (I like its valuable anyways). I had tried to use twitter a couple of times, (personally and by suggestion of previous education professors), but never really found my place on twitter.  I really didn't understand how it could be of any use to me... after all, I had Facebook.  Now, I am confident using Twitter, and know that I will continue to do so outside of the ECMP or education world.

It would be impossible for me to screenshot every Twitter interaction I had over this semester, so I encourage you to check out my profile @Leanne_Varley and see what I got up to this semester!  The major issue I still found with Twitter this semester is that most of the valuable twitter chats took place during class time and I therefore had to miss them!  I was able to participate in 3 or 4 chats throughout this semester and I learned a lot from each of them.  I also posted a blog post about Twitter, and how I found it could be more useful... you should definitely check it out and let me low what you think. I would also like to note that this blog post alone received 701 views, which is incredible.

At the time of this blog post, I have 67 followers and am following 62 (keeping in mind the ratio that Katia talked about... how you're supposed to have more followers than people you are following).  However, I have found this rule difficult to follow, because as a new twitter user, there are a lot of people I would like to follow, and it is rather difficult getting people to follow you.

Google + Community

Google+ was another completely new thing for me when I joined this class.  I knew that google had their own way of things, but I had no clue google+ even existed.  I have already referenced the issues I had with communicating with people through google+, but what I found beneficial was posting to it myself.

I really like how google+ has set it up for you to view all of your posts, this made it easy to see what my contributions were.  However, I do not think it shows the comments I made on other peoples posts, which I could not locate, even though I know I contributed to a few. 
Mainly, I used this platform as another way to share the blog posts I wanted to pass along.  I know that we had the and twitter, but I also like the google community because it was a good way to get more comments (some commented on google rather than the actual blog), and it was a good way to attach questions to the post that I would like people to think about when reading.
I think that as a whole, I was one of the top contributors to the google community (at least not on the bottom half of the class I don't think), but it mainly took the form of blog posts.  I did post a couple of questions regarding the blog and I got some quick responses.  However, I know that there were at least 2 questions I posted that I never did get responses to, so I started to question the worth of this platform in a group as big as ours.
This was technically my third attempt at keeping a blog.  In another education class we were told to keep a WordPress blog, and I absolutely hated the platform and how slow it was on my computer.  Therefore, I was reluctant to use it at all.  So when this class said we had to use a blog, I knew I wasn't going to use WordPress if I had the choice, and I did have previous experience with Blogger and I had quite enjoyed it.
Even before university, blogging became popular in my group of friends the year after we graduated high school.  Some people were staying in Regina to go to school, other people were moving across the country, and I moved to a different country altogether.  So we used personal blogging as a way of keeping in touch with what everyone was doing.  I loved the blog I kept of my adventures in London, and I still look at it today!
The first half of the semester I was commenting on blogs and not taking screenshots of them.  I sent a shout out on google+ for anyone whose blog I had commented on to let me know so that I could go back and record it - no one responded.  And unlike WordPress, Blogger doesn't have a button to press where it shows you your interactions in the past.  So the screenshots that I have are limited and only a sample of what I was actually doing.  I have separated my interactions into two categories:  my comments on others' blogs, and me replying to comments made on my blog.  I believe that both of these types of interactions are equally as important.  Unfortunately, I think that some of my best commenting was done at the beginning of the semester when there wasn't as much stress of homework as there was towards the end.
Personal Communications
This section is mainly one communication.  I have already briefly mentioned Que in this post.  She is a fellow beginner-tatter from the United States, who somehow saw one of my very first blog posts on tatting and PM'd me regarding the book I was using to teach myself.
Since then (and minding both of our busy schedules) we have been emailing back and forth regarding the progress of our tatting projects.  It is wonderful to have someone else who you don't know, concerned and excited for you about your new learning.  I never expected to have this happen for this project, but am super excited that it has happened.
These are not all of the messages, I usually delete things once I have responded.  But it is amazing to have someone just out there.  Who you can share techniques with, websites you've used, patterns you like, types of treat, advice, etc.  I went into this project thinking I would just have my grandma for support - well, now it has expanded.  Yay for Professional Learning Networks!
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All in all, I have tried my best to aid in the learning of others.  I wasn't one of the people who made amazing screencasts of how to do things (mainly because when it comes to "things" I am lost with how to do it myself), but I was one who always kept an eye out for questions I could possibly answer!
I would like to say thank you to everyone who commented on my blogs throughout the semester, and a thank you for everyone who amused me by replying to the comments I made on your posts.  It has been a wonderful semester and I have learned so much stuff!  Definitely a recommendable class for other education students!

Discovering Smores!

I love smores!  This is a new discovery!  And no...I'm not talking about the delicious mix of chocolate, marshmallow, and crackers.  I am talking about the online flyer program that is absolutely perfect for school projects.

Throughout the ECMP class the ECMP455 class gave many amazing presentations to the 355 class, and many of these groups used Smore as a platform to deliver their material.  I had never heard or seen a smore before, and I found it absolutely amazing.

They look good, they are easy to use, easy to hand in to your teacher, and organize the material in a way that makes sense to me - unlike other presentation platforms that really are just too much work for the end product.

For my ESST369 class, we did an inquiry based project on really any educational topic we wanted.  I though I would share with you my findings on Streaming (AKA Tracking).  My inquiry question was:  Is streaming beneficial or harmful to students?  I went into the inquiry project assuming that I would find evidence that shows that yes, streaming is beneficial and we should all adopt the practice (just like my elementary and high school self always wanted).  Surprisingly, I found the exact opposite.

I would love for you to take a look at my findings and let me know what you think!  
What are your opinions on streaming/tracking?
Do you think it is beneficial or harmful to students?
Even though Saskatchewan saws we do not use streaming, what are your thoughts on streamed math classes? 

Tatting Learning Project Final Summary

Learning how to tatt has been absolutely amazing.  It was something that I was honestly never sure if I was ever going to learn...but now I have!  I have not only made myself proud with what I have been able to accomplish, but by my grandma's own words, I have made her proud, and she wishes her mother could have seen what I was doing.  Because of that, this tatting wasn't just about an assignment for school (although it gave me the perfect opening to start), it was about connecting on yet another level with my amazing grandma and being closer to the family.

Tatting is hard - I do not want anyone to look at what I've posted here and think it's easy.  I went into tatting with a vast background knowledge of other stitching activities, like sewing, crocheting, embroidering, knitting, etc.  I grew up in a family that was always working on projects like these - my younger brother even knows how to sew and embroider because of it!  One thing that I found drastically different from all of these other activities is that tatting takes a LOT of time.  It isn't like knitting where you can see yourself move along a scarf fairly quickly (especially if you are using a loose technique).  The stitches are so small in tatting that you can spend hours working on a project and it hardly looks like you have completed anything.

After finals are done, I will definitely continue my tatting.  I really want to finish the stained glass pattern that I posted about in my last blog post.  Then following that pattern, the one that I started this semester wanting to try will be my next big adventure.  This nature-themed pattern looks modern and amazing - it will also be the first pattern I will have ever purchased!

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Over the semester, I have accumulated a large pile of supplies for my tatting adventure.

This pile started out very small after I first raided my grandmas supplier drawer, but Value Village later turned out to be a gold mine for thread at decent prices!  I also have purchased buttons and beads to decorate my project with in the future!

All in all, I think that my garbage pile was probably bigger than my completed project pile, but here is a picture of the summary of what I have made this semester (and have completed in a way that I though was decent enough to keep).

Dante (the dragon) is definitely my favourite project that I have made, simply because it is so different from all the boring "old-lady" patterns you can find, and it actually means something to me and my family.

My learning has come such a long way, it is obvious to see.  I had no clue how to tatt, in fact, I had skewed memories of what it was like watching my grandma tatt.  The first time she showed me how to do it this semester it was a complete mess.  My first blog post is a testament to that!  Surprisingly, tatting has also made me a new friend - someone from the United States who saw one of my posts, contacted me about it, and have been sharing tatting advice since!  This addition to my Professional Learning Network was a completely unexpected joy in my learning project process.

I have frequented a few tatting forums, but have never posted anything because they are all posted on by professional tatters who are posting patterns and advice for people below them.  I felt like my beginner status did not really allow me to post onto these blogs. (This is the largest and most useful of the forums I have found...and was actually introduced to by the PLN addition from above).

I have advanced so far into my "study" of tatting, that my grandma has admitted that I have done stitches she has never heard of.  However, this does not mean I have passed my grandma in skill...I'm not sure that will ever happen.  All it means is that I have been working on "new" patterns that incorporate different stitches than she is used to in the older style patterns that she works with.

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I would like to say thank you to Katia for making this space in ECMP355 to learn something new during a time in our lives where it is extremely difficult to just decide to pick up something new and learn how to do it.  School is so stressful that many things in life that we want to do keep getting pushed aside for homework.  This experience has been absolutely wonderful, and I wouldn't give it up for the world!

Tatting a Stained Glass Window

Over the past couple of weeks (its essay and finals season...tatting hasn't really been a priority) I have been working on a new project.  It would have looked better if I had the same colours in the pattern, but I started out using pink and purple to try and make it look as different as I could from anything I have made in the past. 

The pattern I am following

I started the pattern without realizing that there was a new type of stitch included in the pattern.  I quickly have come to hate this new stitch, and will forever avoid any and all projects that have this in it.  The following video is what I used to make the new "cluny" stitch - although the stitch is difficult, the video is actually really good at explaining what to do and why.

The guy in this video obviously knows what he is doing and makes it seem so easy and effortless.  The next video that I watched was more like what my hands were doing because the shuttle was always being dropped and the thread got in the way a frustratingly amount of time.

Both of these videos were extremely helpful, and I was able to sit on the couch with my phone and my tatting and learn how to do this stitch.  One issue I ran into with searching for videos and for techniques, is that many of the videos I found on YouTube use a loom to create these, which would be easier on your hands, but since I do not have a loom, I had to try to find videos that only used your hands. 

Cluny Leaf Stitch
This my first and only cluny leaf stitch that I have completed so far.  The pattern has LOTS of them, so I am sure I will get better as I go, but as you can see, this one is far from being perfect.

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I will definitely continue to tatt, I really want to finish this project when finals are done. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Like Driving a Car Without Training... My Reflection on Amanda Todd

Amanda Todd.  Her name has become synonymous with cyber-bullying and suicide.  On October 10, 2012, fifteen year old Amanda took her own life, after years of struggling with extreme cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking.  What was I doing with my life?  I was in my first year of university, just about to take my very first midterm.  After glancing back at my Facebook timeline, I could only come up with once piece of evidence of Amanda Todd.

Screenshot from my Facebook newsfeed
I honestly couldn't even tell you if I 'signed' it or not - of whether this was even a legitimate thing.  I do remember seeing her case on the news...and I remember kind of ignoring it and passing it off as 'just another case'.  What is wrong with society (myself included) that the death of a child is 'just another case' that I can ignore with such privilege and without a second thought?!

Four years on, I have just had the absolute privilege to listen to Amanda's mom, Carol Todd, talk about the harmful effects of negative online identities and what, as teachers and parents, can do to educate the youth of today and tomorrow.   Summarizing the entire presentation would be overwhelming.  However, on April 16, 2016, Carol will be presenting a Ted Talk revolving around the topic of online bullying.  I highly suggest you either watch it live on April 16, or YouTube the video afterwards - it will be well worth your time, I promise.

Carol is a passionate speaker, knowledgeable in her field.  She is one of the most positive people I have met - and considering the hand life has dealt her, I am amazed at and applaud what she does.  During her talk, she used many simple (yet clear and precise) analogies with corresponding stories.  One of the most powerful ones that she uses is how we go about teaching young people to use technology.  As parents, most determine the appropriate age their child should have a cellphone, tablet, laptop, webcam, etc., and then just hand the device over to their child without much pre-education.  What Carol asks, is how are the children supposed to automatically know how to use this device?  With today's level of surface digital literacy, we assume that children know how to use each device - and if they don't, give them fifteen minutes and they will figure it out.  However, what a large proportion of us do not do, is teach children the true ins and outs of the internet, its capabilities (good and bad) and what their place, as a child, is with their online identity.  As Carol so vividly put it,
You would never hand over the keys to a sixteen year old without giving them proper drivers training, so why would you hand over a device without giving proper technology training?
Exactly.  Each teen is given hours of in-class education about the rules and conduct of the road, and then even more hours of formal and in-formal practice in a car out on the streets.  Once the teen has passed the proper hours of practice, they then have to prove that they know what they are doing and what their place is on the road by taking a test with a trained professional.  And yet, any Joe Blow with money can walk into a store and purchase whatever technology they wish.  In a 2015 study, "92% of teens report going online daily - including 24% who say they go online 'almost constantly'".

Photo Source
This chart shows what many of us know - Facebook is the most popular platform of social media used by youth - and by a large margin.  And the sad part about this with Amanda Todd?  They were unwilling to help in the case against her bully/stalker until after she had taken her own life.  Is that what it takes to get Facebook's attention?

Cases like Amanda's need to be talked about in schools...but not just as a token lesson or presentation on bullying.  The very word, 'bullying', is becoming so over used that people are completely desensitized to the actual meaning behind it.  As educators, we need to be open.  One of the things that Carol Todd stressed, was the importance of parents (and here I will stretch to teachers) need to be open and available to listen to their children/students - and the children/students need to know that these adults in their lives actually do what to hear about what they're experiencing, and know that it will be taken without judgement or negativity.  My personal opinion on stopping this sort of bullying is bleak - I am not sure there will ever be a way to completely monitor the internet.  However, as adults, we need to make it our mission to educate students on the dangers of the internet and how to use it properly.  Students need to be taught how to be bored, as Carol put it.  They need to be taught that it is okay to be bored, and they need to learn of other ways to deal with being bored without putting themselves as risks.  As an example, Carol suggested looking and clouds and creating images like we used to do as children.  However, there are endless possibilities to be bored and to unplug.

A simple search into Google brings up numerous suggestions to how teachers can educate and help prevent cases like Amanda's from happening again.  Not only as educators, but as active members of society, we need to help put an end to "trolls" like Aydin Coban, who was eventually charged in relation to the assault and death of Amanda Todd.

Since Amanda's death, Carol has spent her time educating people about the dangers of online activity.  However, she, herself, manages to stay positive and look for the positive in others.  She has created the Amanda Todd Legacy in support of youth mental health.  The non-profit society also follows the hashtag #TeamAmanda on Twitter for support and unity.  For each of us, the battle against internet abuse will all be different.  How you choose to step up and make a difference depends on you - all I hope is that you do something.  If you have any suggestions or comments on how we as citizens, parents, educators, peers, etc. can make a difference, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Amanda Todd would be the same age as my brother.  I cannot imagine what her death and situation must have done to her family and friends.  So for those who want to help but aren't in a position to educate, donate money, or actively participate in's a solution.

The Amanda Todd Legacy has joined with the Peyton Heart Project and are asking people to create purple hearts in memory of Amanda.  At this site, there are free patterns following certain specs they would like.  If you would like, the snowflake is a symbol of the Amanda Todd Legacy, so if there is a way for you to incorporate a snowflake, I'm sure it would help bring a deeper meaning to the project.  As this connects to my #LearningProject, I will be partaking in this endeavour, and I challenge all of you to do the same!  I would love to see the pictures of your hearts if you leave it in the comments or tweet me a picture to @Leanne_Varley.

Photo Source

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Coding - Exactly What I Thought...

I am a complete failure at coding.  I knew I would be as soon as the assignment was posted.  I have always tried my best to stay away from coding and there's a solid reason why - my brain just doesn't think like that...even with these games made for children.

At first I thought I would try the Hour of Code because I had seen quite a few people in the ECMP class post about how they loved it.  I thought I was doing alright until I got to level 6.  Level six stumped me and eventually made me quit.

Screenshot of an attempt at level 6
The goal of the level was to create the diamonds without overlapping the pencil lines drawn.  I could not get it and had no clue what I was doing.  I found it extremely negative too - each time I tried to see what my code had gotten me, it would pop up with a "you failed" and then just tell me to try again.  AND, the "hint" button only gives you the same hint over and over again - to use the pink repeating thing.

Another screenshot of my attempts
I played around with numerous combinations and none of them worked.  And with each attempt, my anger level rose and rose (I am not used to being good at what I'm doing, do when I can't do things right [like sports] I just get frustrated and give up).  Eventually I was just putting together random lines because I wasn't thinking anymore.  I had no clue how to pass this level and so I gave up.

Then I thought I would try the child games on Scratch.  I have never been a fan of video games or computer games, so I thought that attempting to make my own would be just as frustrating for me as the Hour of Code...but since our task was to complete one of these things, I had to complete one.

I thought I was doing alright to begin with.  I made a little creature guy (I even gave him some custom accessories) and then I sat down and tried to decide what I would make him do.  I mentally decided on a disco dance type thing.  I don't know if anyone else had issues with this, but I could NOT figure out how to make the thing go!  I could write all the "code" I wanted to, but making him go was impossible!  Then, as I was getting frustrated and pressing random buttons, I somehow managed to get him to turn upside down, and I couldn't figure out how to fix it.

Screenshot of my upside down Scratch guy
So in an attempt to start over, I created a new avatar guy - a cute little crab.  Then I tried to make the crab socially awkward, but again ran into the issue of, how to make him move?  I honestly cannot figure it out.  It has stumped me.

Neither of the avatars will move on command
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So what I have decided is that I am incapable of learning and being comfortable with code.  I was beat by, not one...but TWO, applications for children to play with to learn how to code.  I have decided that code is not for me...and that's OKAY.

Coding is something that is becoming increasingly more important for our everyday lives.  I do not question the worth it has for children to learn how to code at an early age - like learning French.  It will help them get jobs in the future and will help them understand the world.  Unfortunately for me, I also did not learn French past grade 8 when I was given the choice. 

When teaching coding in schools, I think it needs to be taught with care.  Not everyone will be "code-minded" and this is totally okay.  I wouldn't push coding and computer technology on every student, but I can definitely see it as an elective in high schools, or as a portion of a modular class in elementary schools.

Coding is difficult.  There will always be people who need to understand and work with coding to make our society operate on the level and platform it does today.  If you're like me and just cannot get the hand of this coding thing...just make sure you know someone who will help you out!