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It’s All Fun and Games Until You Start Cutting…

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Some shirts laid out for my blanket design!

This week was not what I anticipated.  I was going to FINALLY start my real project- the blanket.  However, things did not go how I planned and this is the first time I questioned both my sanity and ambition for starting this HUGE project!  Cutting.  Not as easy or straight forward as I thought.  I’ve had a lifetime of practicing cutting paper and really, how hard could measuring and cutting out a few t-shirts be?  HARD. REAL HARD.  Mostly it’s the process that’s difficult  It’s time consuming, tedious, and requires a lot of patience which as previously stated, I do not have much of.

My week consisted of some more research as to what step to really take next which all began after a conversation with my grandma at Thanksgiving dinner. She told me I could borrow her tools for my little adventure which I was grateful for, but then I got confused.  Don’t I have scissors?  What else do I need?  Turns out, a lot!  A lot included a very fancy cutter called a rotary cutter, measuring boards and this material called interfacing.

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The Materials (Courtesy  of Grandma)

Welp, to Google I go!  I had to do some research about this new information.  Turns out the rotary cutter would actually make life much easier as I am left-handed and struggle significantly with scissors.  It makes incredibly precise cuts and I realized I would need to cut to specific dimensions, which I chose as 14 inches by 14 inches for simplicity but also sizing.  Squares are nicer to work with, and the large squares both fit all my t-shirt designs and gives me more room for error (which at this point is very probable).  So the measuring boards were to be used to lay out the t-shirts and to cut on, and to make sure the rotary cutter had a straight line to follow!  Simple so far, but then there was this mysterious stuff called interfacing.  Apparently, it restricts stretching of material which is necessary for a t-shirt blanket as t-shirts are quite stretchy so this is supposed to make things easier for me. Supposed to being the key word.  You have to iron this stuff onto the back of the t-shirt before you can sew it all together.  So, I have to cut and iron on this interfacing to the middle of my design of my t-shirt without actually looking at the design.  Urg.

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The first cut is the hardest…

This was the beginning of a long night.  Cutting the interfacing was simple, (just 14″x14″ squares) but placing them in the middle of the design was much more difficult.  It took a lot of patience and meticulous placement.  Then came the actual cutting of the t-shirts of which there are 30…

The following two hours consisted of cutting the interfacing, ironing it onto the back of the shirt, measuring a perfect square on the front of the shirt, and then cutting the shirt out on the cutting board.  I got 8 shirts cut to my dismay.  The first one was shaky and not as straight as it should have been, and I also learned you can’t take shortcuts and cut more than one at a time…(see pictures below). I didn’t expect this part of the process to take such a long time, so I have a lot more cutting to do this week!  And then there is the placement of the shirts to do as well.  This process is going to take a lot longer than anticipated!!  More to come!

 

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Teaching the Truth about Fake News

In today’s day and age, you can’t go a day without hearing some new rumour or supposed news story.  Even real news stories can have a twist of fake-ness to them.  So how does one educate the citizens of tomorrow how to distinguish between real and fake?  Students are bombarded with advertisements, viral videos and countless media outlets on a daily basis.  It is then vitally important to challenge them to be critical about what they read.

One way of doing this, is teaching them the proper way to research.  I often do this in my ELA B30 classes where my students are in charge of researching a global issue via TED.com.  They need to discuss their issue and present relevant information for the class and also come up with viable solutions for this global catastrophe.  I encourage students

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Image Via LifeHack

to find something they are passionate about and in most cases they do.  I’ve had topics such as Blackfish, global warming, overpopulation, refugees and war, and poverty.  These are REAL issues and my students gladly teach the class about why we need to act now!  Of course, with these issues comes two very different sides.  So, we discuss how to find credible sources, what types of things to look for in a valid website or post.  We discuss finding said information in more than one place and making sure as Alec Couros said in class, “take the emotions out of the equation.”  When people are revved up about an issue, it is human nature to find information that justifies our way of thinking and not information that challenges it.  Coralee discusses in her blog this week a lot about the Trump government and his accusations  that anyone who doesn’t agree with him is soliciting fake news.  She also makes an excellent point that someone is obviously believing this fake news.  To avoid this myself, I encourage my students to look at both sides.  What are the arguments for?  What are the arguments against?  How can they challenge these points appropriately and rebuttal?  The biggest challenge in teaching my students to think critically is getting them to remove their emotions from the situation.

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Image Via FoxNews

The same works for day to day teachings.  It’s not something I intrinsically do but it’s something that when the opportunity comes up that I take advantage of.  It could be as simple as a rumour they heard at school.  If a student confides in me, I ask them “how do you know it’s true?”  It often gets them to pause and think about the source of

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Via Tenor

information, even if it’s for just a second.  These little teachable moments are what matters the most because it teaches students to not only think for themselves, but it asks them to question the status quo and think about everything that they learn and hear.  In class if a student brings up a question and one I do not know for sure, I ask students to google the answer; but not just one student, a few.  This creates discussion around the answers they find as they criticize each other’s responses.  Whose answer is right?  Are they all right?  Is there a combination that is correct?  What sources did they use?  These lessons are the most important and they aren’t something that can be structured, only molded into a lesson given the right circumstances.

As for myself, I try to read many different sources on a certain topics before deciding on a correct answer.  It is more time consuming but then I can feel confident in the knowledge I am acquiring.  I recently watched “What the Health?” a documentary on617985582 Netflix about the meat and dairy industry in the United States.  What I learned on the documentary was enough to make me give up meat forever.  However, I realized that the story was completely focused on veganism the entire time.  Never bringing up the flaws in its own diet.  After thinking about the documentary a little more, I started analyzing it and discussing it with a few of my friends.  And then my search took me online to a plethora of resources both crediting and discrediting the documentary.  My head kllmwas spinning with information.  In the end, I did not give up meat or dairy because for one, I enjoy both of these things and come on, like I’m going to give up pizza!  This is just one example of debates online and my approach to critically analyzing what I read and see in this world full of information.  It is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed, but it just takes practice to cut through the fluff and hopefully find at least a version of the truth you can feel satisfied with!

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Tackling the Sewing Machine – Literally

IMG_2034After my confidence boosting experience involving hand-stitching last week, this week I decided to tackle the basics of the sewing machine.  After perusing the web for some starting points, I decided it would be best to find the actual manual, which I did.  I also found an ancient step-by-step for threading the machine.  Although it probably would have been helpful for someone who understood the terminology of the sewing world, I found it much less helpful.  I’m sure if I had had enough patience, I could have figured out how to do it with this diagram but as I am one of those millennials that have zero patience, I moved on to Youtube where I found an incredibly helpful video with what I deem “normal” language, a step-by-step demonstration and instructions, as well as it was in colour!

I watched the video twice, taking care to check out the similarities and differences of the machines.  I watched it a third time and paused often to complete the steps myself.  Step one was this foreign thing called “winding a bobbin.”  I confess I did not know what a bobbin was before this week.  Continuing to watch the video, I wound the bobbin successfully and here is the evidence.  I thought the process was cool so I decided to take a video of it.

After being mesmerized by the winding, I moved on to step two: threading the machine.  I continued to watch this video and pause when it got to far ahead, backtracking to re-watch certain steps.  I successfully did it!  As it was Thanksgiving, I had the assistance of my mother again.  I was quite proud of getting this far without her aid, and upon inspection she told me that I forgot to thread the actual needle in the machine.  Bummer.  So I sheepishly did that with only a little foul language and then with all her great knowledge, she said I was ready to practice some stitching.  As I began under her instructions of what to do, we found to her dismay the “tension” of the machine was off.  So I got to learn something new again!  This time, with my mother’s assistance.

I checked out some videos and a wikihow on adjusting tension and found out that it is essentially making sure the the thread is being pulled through the material evenly on both sides (meaning the needle and the bobbin).  If this doesn’t happen it looks uneven or like this:

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Image Via Wikihow

Together, I practiced stitching while we simultaneously adjusted several setting on the machine until the stitching looked the same on both sides.  This process involved rewinding the bobbin, re-threading the machine and then trying again.  I now understand why some people really don’t care for this tedious task.  This was a much more difficult process than I anticipated as there is no video or help online to find the “perfect tension.”  It is trial and error for your specific machine and material of choice because every machine is different, and each type of material needs a different tension.

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However, once we did re-thread the machine with some newer thread, the product was much better!  I also got more practice at the dreaded threading of the machine so all was not lost.  The next steps are going to be selecting my t-shirts for my blanket, the material, sizing and layout.  I’m a perfectionist at heart so I am anticipating this will be more difficult than I think!

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Innovation Over Information

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From Hawker Chase

I think my biggest concern about teaching in the digital age is teaching students properly about social media etiquette and making it actually authentic to their learning.  So many teachers feel like it is necessary to teach using technology and social media and end up doing it just for the sake of it.  I want to make sure when I am using it that it is actually authentic to the learning outcomes as well as engaging for them.  Students know when you are doing something just for the sake of doing something so it is important that the learning outcomes match the media you are using.

Another concern I have with teaching in the digital age is the monitoring of the World Wide Web.  If I were to implement blogging or social media in my class, I would be most concerned about what I am exposing my students to.  What happens if their work gets torn apart on the web?  What if it becomes viral?  What if an already emotional student gets more criticism than they can handle? Social media is linked to mental health, so now am I responsible to ensure their mental health remains high because I required them to be exposed?  How do I do that?  Do I need parental permission in order to expose students to a world they already have unfettered access to?

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Click for more on social media and mental health

Along I have my concerns, it is imperative that we teach students about this digital world because they need to be successful.   Pavan Arora stated in his Ted Talk “Knowledge is Obsolete” that “65% of grade school children will have jobs that don’t exist today” (2014).  This means that as educators we have a responsibility to teach students not knowledge, because as Arora pointed out, it is obsolete.  At the touch of a button, you can access any information you need, so why continue to teach route memorization, when the more important skills are critical thinking, creativity, and innovation?

Michael Wesch also made a good point in his Ted Talk, “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able” when he said that students aren’t learning anything in the classroom, they are learning to listen to authority.  What is that teaching the generation that will one day be in charge of our world?  Everyone has a voice and it is incredibly easy to state your opinion online for the world to see.  But what is more important is teaching students to use this voice in a positive manner and learn how to educate themselves with the internet and its abundance of resources.  Educators need to teach students how to cite information, how to interpret a good source from a bad source, and how to establish their own networks of learning online.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but it is the direction we are headed and as educators, it will be a lot easier to embrace this change, stop trying to teach information and be the “experts” and also students to find their own passion and creativity so they can become their own type of expert in a field that may not even exist yet.

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Hand Sewing for the Cat

IMG_2001So this week for my learning project, I decided to start with the very basics.  I’m ignoring the sewing machine until I can learn to fend for myself with a needle and thread.  I’m going to be honest, I began this week not even knowing how to thread a needle.  However, I persevered and learned on my own; turns out, it really isn’t very difficult and my clumsy fingers were able to handle this minute task.

My cat, Jax, being the destroyer that he is had ripped a

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The attacked toy in question

seam in his toy and I could no longer allow him to play with it and tear out the stuffing to his dismay.  Originally, I thought, “I’ll take this to my mother and she can fix it!” but with my new task of learning to sew, I took it to her house and said “Mom!  I need a needle and thread and I’m going to fix this!”  I actually watched a video on threading a needle (yes, this is how armature I am) and then also watched a video on fixing a tear with hand sewing.  Both videos were very easy to follow and I am going make sure to check out Stitch My Style for other sewing videos.  She has a lot of cool projects that maybe once I am more versed in this sewing world I can tackle!

My mom was also a great resource as she helped to make sure I actually was completing the stitch properly and actually completing my mission of fixing this cat toy.  I had great success!!  Not the cleanest stitching exactly, but it will last until Jax decides to tear it apart and I can fix it again!

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Messy but Fixed!

Feeling incredibly confident in my new-found stitching, I decided I should try some button work.  I used thread, a needle, an old tea towel and button.  I watched a couple of videos (this one was the best) and had my mom’s assistance waiting on deck but I was successful again!  This may not be as hard as I originally thought!  However, my mother then informed me that the stitching on the back of the button should be neat.  This is what mine looked like….

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Trial 1

…so I cut the button off, and tried again.  This time trying to keep the button straight and my stitching neat and tidy.  This was the second result…

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Trial 2

So far, YouTube has been a great source of videos as I learn much better from following someone else then just reading directions.  My next task will be to tackle the sewing machine and learn the basics for threading the needle and perhaps even just turning it on!  I found a fantastic blog called The DIY Dreamer with a lot of links to other blogs and I think it will be very helpful with the sewing lingo as well as some basic sewing machine tips!  More to come; stay tuned!

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From Contraband to Connections

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From Pinterest

When I was in high school, cellphones were banned from classrooms.  Teachers would take phones away by the dozen, and without batting an eye.  Cellphones were taboo.  They were a privilege and gradually they have gone from being such, to being an essential part of our every day lives.  Cellphones have slowly gone from being disposable to an ingenious way to be in constant contact and communication with one another.  They have gone from being something we took bad photos on, frantically pressing the end button when you accidentally hit the internet browser button or calling mom or dad when you were about to miss curfew, only to lose cell service, to a tool that takes better pictures than a camera, has instant internet access, and endless service to be used to share information with the world.  Now, why wouldn’t we, as educators want to harness a tool like that to teach students about our ever-changing society and world?  What better way to teach them about this life than through a tool that is already at their fingertips, waiting to be explored?

Most teachers shy away from the use of cellphones and social media in the classroom because they hardly understand it themselves.  This uncertainty causes many teachers to ban cellphones in classrooms or to be uncomfortable teaching students about it, because they themselves, don’t understand the material.  Teachers are supposed to be the experts; so how do we teach students about something when they are clearly the expert?  I grew up in the era of the “beginning of the cute flip phone” where Facebook was the newest trend in high school and EVERYONE had it.  For me, social media has been a way of life since my teenage years and so I can relate to my students quite well in terms of the use of social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Kik, etc., because quite frankly I use them daily.  For me, teaching students with technology is a given.  I have a Google Classroom, Class Dojo, and the Remind 101 app on my phone to send out reminders for homework, quizzes, and of course, so students can message me for homework help.  I do this all without batting an eye, but what I do, could cause another teacher to spiral into a panic attack, especially because I give students access to me 24/7 through Remind.  So with this in mind, teaching with social media should be no different, right??

Social Media Logotype Background
Kiev, Ukraine – October 17, 2012 – A logotype collection of well-known social media brand’s printed on paper. Include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Vimeo, Flickr, Myspace, Tumblr, Livejournal, Foursquare and more other logos.

Wrong!   Using social media to teach students creates a whole other range of possibilities because students are exposed to the outside world.  In my IMG_1986Google Classroom, my Class Dojo, and my Remind 101, students’ messages, ideas, and lives remain private between, me, them and their parents.  Adding social media to the mix causes some teachers to disengage because there are many consequences and risks to using it.  In my case as a high school teacher, students have access to these apps on their phones constantly.  It causes a lot of problems, like cyber bullying, harassment, plagiarism, cheating, sexting, etc. but there is also a lot of educating that goes with it.  We have a couple of presentations around bullying and cyber bullying every year, as well as a presentation on sexting and child pornography by the police department.  A lot of these issues in social media can be solved by simply being open to them and talking about the issues with students.

Maturity is a big thing as well.  I have engaged in a few social media projects in my experience and so far, they have gone well!  In my ELA B30 IMG_1988class, students have the option of creating a character profile on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and some have been pretty terrific.  I have also done a Snapchat project with my Grade 9 Female Health class.  The goal was to create more self esteem and positive body image so for a week, I asked them to take selfies by themselves and with their friends and post them to their stories for everyone to see.  The girls loved it and some of them actually said it helped them become more confident in themselves.  Although my experiences have been mostly positive, exposing students for the whole world to see their work can be amazing or horrifying depending on the reactions they get on their work from the public eye.  I think the biggest thing for teachers is to be open about the technology with students.  Because my students are older, I expect them to have a certain maturity level when they are engaging online or on social media.  We also discuss expectations and consequences to not following directions.  I think it is worth the risk to engage upon because students are exposed to this world whether we like it or not!  As educators, we might as well embrace it, and take advantage of a great learning opportunity and teach our students how to be responsible digital citizens!

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From Flickr
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To Learn to Sew

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From Flickr

I remember in grade 8 registering for electives for high school.  I looked at my mom and said, “I’ll take foods instead of clothing.  You can teach me how to sew.”  Alas, this never happened.  So here I am, 26 years old and still calling my mother or grandmother every time I have a hole in my jeans, a missing button on my blouse, or a pulled out stitch in my sweater.  I have always wanted to learn how to sew, in fact, I have made a couple of pillows before (with extensive assistance from my grandma) but I have never had the time, nor the patience to really learn for myself.  I think this opportunity is the perfect way for me to learn how to sew so that when I have kids, I don’t have to call grandma to help me fix my kids clothes or so that I am not 40 years old and paying to take my clothes to a seamstress, because I am incapable of handling a needle and thread.

From Flickr

I have always been an independent learner and enjoy learning on my own and teaching myself how to do different things.  This means it was very difficult for my mother to teach me when she did try.  I will however be giving it another go and allowing my mom to help me with this project as a “mother-daughter bonding experience.”  (There will be updates on how much I manage to try her patience over the course of this learning experience).  I told my mom I would be learning how to sew for my master’s class and she laughed at me, so we are already off to a good start! I also need her for the resources of materials as well as a machine to practice on however, I do plan on teaching myself a majority of the skills I will need to properly use the machine.

Idea and Photo From Little Blip Blog

I am also hoping to learn a few basics on my own using a variety on online resources and videos, so if anyone has any suggestions of good ones, please leave a comment!  My goal for this project is to first be able to fix simple breaks in clothing like a hole or a missing stitch.  I would like to learn how to sew on a patch and fix a button.  Once I learn how to do these skills on my own, I will be applying them to a bigger project.  In high school, I was very active in sports.  I have so many t-shirts from back in the day and when I was in grade twelve I decided I wanted to keep them to make a blanket.  Well, I still have all of the shirts, and just have never had the skills or the necessary motivation to learn how to make it.  I am really excited to finally get it done!  I’m going to attempt to first teach myself one skill at a time, starting small and learning the basics one week, then applying them to small projects throughout the semester gradually gaining confidence to be able to complete my blanket.  I am hoping to have the blanket finished by the end of the semester, to show as my final assessment piece, however time may affect this as I really don’t know how long it will take me to complete however, this blog gave me some good ideas and steps to follow.

If anyone has any suggestions about where to start or resources to share, please leave a comment!