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Formative Formative Formative!

I decided to take a closer look at Formative and I was impressed.  Going in, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but it is very similar to Socrative.  It is a formative assessment tool for teachers to help track data, give quick assessments, get real-time results and track student growth.  It can be used for any subject, and there are a variety of different types of questions you can create.  This was my favourite part!!  So many times, teachers are limited to multiple choice for online assessments and this tool really pushes the

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boundaries for what is offered.  You can create questions as well as upload existing documents, PDFs, or questions you’ve already made (no reinventing the wheel here!).  I think the thing I like most about this tool is that you can track and see the student data live.  There is a video that explains the process very well, and you can even give students hints, and give them feedback as they are working.  There is a ton of potential using Formative and the best part….it syncs with Google Classroom!!!!  I’ve been really thinking about moving from a paper and pencil classroom, to a more online and paperless environment, and I think this tool may help me get there.  I have also struggled with getting students to buy into my Google Classroom.  I post all notes, assignments, and due dates/exam dates on it, but I can’t get EVERY student on it.  They reject it or are too lazy to figure out how to access it and I think this tool would help me get the rest of them on board.  They will need their log-ins and if the two systems are linked then I am set!

Continuing, I think this is a great tool for teachers to use in the classroom because you can see real data, in real time!  It is quick to make, easy to integrate (as most students now have a device) and students don’t even NEED a log in; just a code for your assessment.  If you’re feeling brave and want to give my Calculus problem, a try here is the link and the code is: LSPPBN. I think it would be an effective entrance/exit slip assessment that I would be able to assign as homework or get students to do on their way out the door.  It’s flexible and provides many different opportunities for learning, and answering.  There is even Math Tools available!!  It even could have the potential to link to the outcomes of our curriculum, as it is already linked to Alberta’s.

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One thing I didn’t like was that I could assign math problems…but getting students to write out and show their work on a screen would be difficult as many of them would rather just do it on paper and I agree with them.  Showing their work on a screen is tedious and unnecessary, and unless it is a quick question, students would not benefit from the technology (so multiple choice is my limit in most cases).  I also loved that I would be able to see my students’ responses in real time,

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Meme Generator

BUT what time?  When am I ever sitting at a computer or in from of a screen while my students are working?  Or working on phones?  It is a great asset to the tool, but not beneficial to me, as I would almost never be just sitting at my computer watching their progress on a screen.  It would be nice!  But it is unrealistic for me.  Does anyone think it would benefit them more?

The potential is great for short assessments where teachers are checking for understanding before, during or after a lesson.  In math, it is limited, and it all depends on the types of questions the teacher has in mind to ask.  Some things are better left for pen and paper, while others could definitely be used by Formative.  In class, we discussed Kahoot and I love it, but it makes everything and every question a competition.  This tool is the same, but takes away the competition and puts the focus on learning the content.  I like that!  Again, this is a tool used for formative assessment so it would make sense that full length exams should not be created in this format.  It’s possible, but then as a teacher, you need to be specific on expectations and guidelines for pulling up other resources while working.  There is a lot of monitoring that would be downloadnecessary for this to work properly, but I think with enough practice and patience, this tool could be a huge asset to a classroom.

What do you guys think?  Would you use this tool in your classrooms or have you?  What kind of questions would you ask?  Are the specific subjects you would use it with or have?

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I Can See The Finish Line!

This week, I was on a roll!  I completely finished sewing all my individual squares!  I was

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super excited and with only a couple of hiccups between forgetting to put the foot down before sewing, forgetting to reverse stitch, and having my needle unthread…all super frustrating and tedious tasks but once I started going, I was in a rhythm and it was actually quite relaxing after my insane week of student-led conferences and planning.  Once I finished my squares, I was very relieved and thinking, “I’m actually going to finish this blanket!”

Then came the hard part…figuring out how to put all those squares together!  I revisited a couple of my quilting blogs for some advice and guidance.  I figured out that the IMG_2190absolute easiest way to get things fitted together was to start by sewing my rows together, individually.  This task was actually easier than I thought as I am creating a ruffle quilt.  That means messy seams, and mistakes are allowed, and I don’t need to worry about being perfect.  I laid out my row, and then took two shirts and placed them back to back to sew the seam.  This way, the seam would be in the front of the shirts, and once  I’m finished it SHOULD ruffle after I wash it a couple of times.  My only concern is that my ruffles are too big.  I think I want them smaller, but this also means I need to sit down and CUT (that dreaded word) all the shirt seams down.  Right now, I have zero patience for that, so I will decide that later on.  I continued, connecting the row of shirts together to get a product like this!  I’m super happy with the way it looks right now!

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My first row done!!

Once my rows were connected (I should mention, I only did three), I needed assistance to figure out how to sew it together.  Mom to the rescue!  We sat down and thought through some options.  This video also really helped us both visualize how it was going to work! The best one was to do essentially the same thing as I did with the rows, but I would need to skip the part where four shirts meet because I would lose my ruffle and the material is wayyyyy to thick to sew through.  We began by folding two rows over back-to-back and sewed to the end of the first shirt, making sure to back-stitch as far as it would go, then pulling the shirt out, and starting on the other side, again making sure to get as far back as possible to avoid holes!  I may need to go in an hand-stitch the corners but we will see how it holds up.  Overall, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought but it was more difficult to sew straight seams as the farther I went, the more material I had, and the heavier the quilt got.  All said and done, I finished and sewed three rows together!  I’ll hopefully finish the rest up this week and I will have a finished quilt!!! 🙂

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HALFWAY!!!
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Sharing is Caring

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve really shared to my best capability as a young, millennial could.  I have all the knowledge, and the tools and yet I don’t feel like my lessons or ideas are valuable enough to share or for someone else to use in the online world.  This is funny, because I don’t hesitate to hand over lesson plans, ideas, binders, or

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USB sticks of information to fellow teachers in my building.  If there is ever a need, I oblige and give any of my colleagues what they need, in hopes that one day the favour will be returned if I ever need it.  In my short 5 year career, I’ve taught a whopping 18 different curriculums at a high school level.  I know, in my earlier years, teachers handed me lots of resources and now it’s my turn to help some young, stressed out teacher play the part.  In Sharing: The Moral Imperative, Dean Shareski talks about how it is our responsibility to share these resources not just with our colleagues in the building, but with the world and I totally agree.  I think that main reason I haven’t, is because I’ve never actually thought about it!  I should.  I’ve had many compliments on my plans and curriculum.  I’ve made a bunch of “original” projects that would and could be useful to many teachers, especially in Saskatchewan.

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We discussed in class one night about who owns our lesson plans?  Us?  Or the division?  In some cases, it is the division, but I know in Prairie South, sharing is encouraged and I don’t think I would ever be reprimanded for sharing resources online via Twitter or my blog.  I think my personal barriers is thinking that my work will not be of benefit to others, even though I’m sure this is not the case.  As Dani stated in her vlog, she didn’t think her post would be noticed even though she should have known better.  I feel the same way.  I think I get caught up in the idea that the internet is SO big, how would my tiny footprint, make a difference.  I also think I haven’t shared online because in my busy day, posting an assignment or idea to Twitter seems irrelevant and like more work sometimes.  It’s super quick and easy, but it’s just not something I consciously think about on a day-to-day basis.

The benefits to sharing work and collaborating online are incredible!  Dean discusses a few examples in his video and the one that stood out to me the most was Dan Meyer’s Math Stories.  He put over 18 hours of work into one lesson.  ONE. And he felt validated by it because he shared it and had over 6, 000 people download and use it within a couple of weeks.  I think as educators, we get stuck in our bubble and in reality, there is SO much information out there that can help ease the stress and pressure on teachers to 3590412-quotes-about-teacher-collaborationbe innovative.  If teachers learn how to use the information, filter through resources and had time to collaborate together, I think there would be a lot more sharing going on.  Teachers need some professional development and education geared toward how to share, why it’s so important, and the benefits that can ensue.  I think that the younger generation of teachers is a lot more equipped to help this movement become a reality, however I think there needs to be support by divisions and maybe even time in a day, week, or month to collaborate with others in their buildings to help develop a sharing network for teachers.  The movement needs to begin small, and with an implementation like that, I think it would be possible to create a culture of collaboration.

Sharing students work is another story.  I think it is great to get their ideas out there and

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amazing things can happen.  Students can learn more authentically and understand how to navigate social networking sites and be able to filter through information.  I’m starting a project with my ELA B30 class as we begin Hamlet.  In the past, I’ve struggled to make it authentic and get them to really buy in.  I created an assignment after browsing a few websites on making Hamlet relevant.  I decided to use social media to help them relate to the characters (with some motivation from this class).  I want them engaged so I’ve decided to get them to create character profiles for the whole play.  They have the option of doing it alone or in groups and they have the option to interact with each other online as characters or as an omnipresent narrator. Here’s the link to the assignment (also my first attempt at sharing my work online): http://bit.ly/2AYEYJO. I’m pretty proud of this assignment already and I think the students are already engaged with it as I had two new Instagram followers (Hamlet characters) yesterday immediately following me handing it out!  I will keep you posted as we progress through the play and I hope to actually share some of their posts if they are good! Of course, I’d love to know what you think of the assignment? Maybe a fellow Senior English teacher like Kelsie could chime in?  Anything I could tweak?  And what do you think would get teachers more involved in openly sharing resources online?

 

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And the Sewing Begins!

I DID IT!  I started sewing!  To say I was nervous was an understatement but I persevered!  I began by winding my bobbin again with black thread, and then threading the machine.  This was much easier than the last time I did it and needed no assistance via videos!  I was proud (proof I’ve actually learned something in this)!  After finishing the cutting stage, I needed to pin all my shirts and material together – shirt, black flannel, plaid flannel.  The goal was to purposely mismatch the flannel pieces so that it doesn’t HAVE to be perfect when I sew it together.  If it is purposely mismatched, then less mistakes can be made!

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I finished cutting.  Now I had to pin!  Thank goodness, my mom showed up to help!!

However, as I began the sewing process, it began clear that it didn’t matter if I tried to mismatch them or not, the plaid is square and it matches anyways.  Just the colours of the lines don’t line up and I am fine with that!  I think it creates character, and I really did not feel like attempting to line up the plaid in a way that matched on the whole quilt.  That would take much too much patience, planning, and perfectionism for this girl!

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After sewing together 3 rows of squares and realizing the pattern on the back with almost always line up despite my effort to have them not line up…

So on I went, pinning my squares together.  After a couple, my mother showed up to assist me in the process and to hang out with me while I sewed.  She is just as interested in this project as I am at this point.  My mom helped me pin the shirts to the flannel and after a while, we fell into a pattern of her pinning the shirts together, while I sewed the squares.  I am actually impressed with how easily I managed this week.  I watched this video for a refresher on using the sewing machine and to help me sew the corners, and then I was set!  I have used a sewing machine before, so I understood how the whole thing works, so I just needed a little reminder on the basics.  I knew I needed to create 1-inch seams (as decided previously) around my shirts, so I had a lot of room for error.  It was nice to have that reassurance, and after the first couple of shirts, I was rolling.  Sewing, pulling out pins as I went, lifting the foot, making sure the needle stayed in, turning my material, and continuing to sew.  My lines were even straight thanks to my painter’s tape I had placed on the machine to keep me in line!

I managed to get through three rows of shirts rather quickly, thanks to my mom’s help of IMG_2167pinning the shirts!  I hope to finish the other three rows this week and then begin the real task of sewing it all together!!  I’ll have to check out some resources for how to sew the seams together, without going over the ruffles I’ve created.  I might also have to trim the edges of my squares…I don’t know if I want 1-inch ruffles all the way along the quilt yet or not, so that will be this week’s task!

What do you think?  Should I keep 1-inch ruffles or downsize?  Keep in mind, this means more cutting for me…

 

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AIM – OER for Higher Education

This week, we were charged with the task of evaluating an OER (open education resource) and I chose the American Institute of Mathematics since I have been teaching Calculus for the first time this year!  I wanted to check it out and see if there are any resources or lessons that could help me on my way to building my curriculum.  I was slightly disappointed by what I found.  To begin, the homepage is wordy and heavy texted.  There are limited pictures and seems more like a mathematician’s website than a teacher resource (which is what I was hoping for)!

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Homepage of AIM

I did watch a pretty cool video about how mathematicians are working with strawberry farmers to create an optimal profit which could be used to supplement a lesson of sorts, but there weren’t really any teacher resources on the homepage.

I began checking out some of the other pages and links and although easy to navigate, there aren’t a lot of resources for middle years or high school students.  There is a whole page dedicated to Workshops and a Problems List, however the problems are far above my students’ head as well as my own.  It’s definitely a well-organized site but more for a higher level of education than what I currently teach, and as I moved on, I found what I was looking for: the Online Textbook Initiative!

Our Calculus textbook was brand new when I was in high school (8 years ago) and it is STILL being used.  A new resource would be awesome for my students so I checked them out and was pleasantly surprised.  There is an evaluation criteria and it even gives information about the textbook: exercises, solutions, etc.  There is a plethora of textbooks to choose from for a variety of different courses and material and although I didn’t look at every one, they do seem to be of high-quality and focused on university course material.  This is again, above my level of teaching but might be a good place to check out for my AP course next semester!

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So although it is a high-quality website with a TON of resources, workshops, and problems, it is mainly a university website which is too bad because I was really excited to find some new resources for my students.  I’m sure if I weed through some of it enough, I’ll be able to some examples, and problems for my students to use.  But, I was disappointed in the text heavy layout of the website and pages as it makes it much more difficult to read and decipher.  The language is definitely for those who understand mathematics and teach it at a much higher level than me.  For high school or lower, it would not be very user friendly if you do not “get” the math language!  I’m sure it would be a useful website for mathematicians, and university students, especially in terms of finding some free textbooks to use instead of paying the big bucks for them!

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And I thought I was done cutting…

I’m back from Fabricland and sadly, it was more disappointing than anticipated.  First of all, I walked into the huge store expecting to find a plethora of flannel fabric, to which I found only a couple of racks.  I was disappointed in the variety, and I really didn’t find anything I really liked.  Luckily, I had gone to Quilter’s Haven in Moose Jaw first, just to check out the patterns there, and to my surprise, there were more that I liked there!  But since I am 1) a woman and insist on window shopping everywhere before purchasing, and 2) because I was already planning a trip to Regina, I decided I would test my luck at Fabricland before settling on the beautiful pink and grey plaid I found at Quilter’s Haven.  I also needed to find another colour of flannel to go in between my t-shirt and the backing, to which I settled on black.  (I’d also like to point out that the prices in Moose Jaw were cheaper!)

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So now that I have my t-shirt squares cut and interfaced, and the flannel bought, it was time begin the real fun!  The kind lady who helped me in the store, helped me measure out how much I would need and gave me instructions to wash the flannel pieces first separately as I had two different colours.  Then I had to dry them and check the dryer every 15 minutes or so because there would be so much lint in the lint catcher as well as the dryer.  She was not wrong.  So washed and dried, I was ready to start sewing — except I decided in my last blog post, I would be sewing one t-shirt to my two pieces of flannel IMG_2149first, then sew all of my squares together to make my quilt.  I followed this blog for some guidance on sewing it all together.  I like the idea of making an X on the squares, but I’m not sure if I want that pattern across my t-shirts.  However, it was nice to see a visual of how to sew the rows and squares together.  This method also means I had to measure and cut all my flannel squares now, before starting to sew.  This is where, once again, I realized this is a bigger project than I anticipated.  So a night of cutting 30 black squares and 30 plaid squares began.  I started with strips and then cut those strips into squares making two at a time so it really only took a couple of hours although, tedious.  I’m not sure who said quilting was relaxing, but this is not my idea of relaxing…

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How I feel about cutting more squares…

But now, I am officially READY to start sewing!  I must say, I am a little nervous to make those first few stitches as Marley was to make those first few cuts.  I don’t want to screw it up and I don’t have any extra material or t-shirts, if I do screw up.  I know once I get started, I will be good to go, but it’s the first square that will be terrifying.  Here’s to hoping my sewing machine is forgiving and I’m not a total disaster!IMG_2153

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Teaching is Stealing

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Open Education is defined as “education without academic admission requirements and is typically offered online. [It] broadens access to the learning and training traditionally offered through formal education systems” (Wikipedia, 2017).  After watching the videos this week, I’m all for open education and honestly, I think I always have been – I just don’t think I knew it had a real definition or official term.  If I think back to my university days, I was all over Google looking for math help to make it through those tough math courses and I found a lot of help in websites like Khan Academy and Wolfram Alpha.  They were necessary resources for me to survive these courses, as well as help from fellow classmates.

As I moved into my teaching career, it is very rare I make a lesson or project from scratch.  In university, the famous Rick Seaman told us “Teaching is Stealing” and I still believe that to this day.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel if there are perfectly good resources online, or in another teacher’s hands.  I have taken from the web, from websites like Teachers Pay Teachers, and used videos from Khan Academy as well as my new favourite resource, Desmos.  For those of you who don’t know what Desmos is, it’s a FREE online graphing calculator app.  No longer do you need to pay obscene amounts of money for graphing calculators and even better, it’s in colour.  There is also a plethora of teacher-made lesson plans and graphing calculator activities on this app which anyone can access.  I have yet to figure out how to make these activities, but until I do, there are plenty activities there that I can tweak and use for my students.

But back to my point on “Teaching is Stealing;” I think teachers should live by this rule.

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From Everything is a Remix Part 3

As a beginning teacher, I have survived my first few years by asking other teachers for resources for courses they have taught, and in return, I pass on my resources to other teachers new to the career or a course I have taught.  I believe the teaching community motto should be “pay it forward” always!  I can’t tell you how many teachers have asked me for resources and I gladly help however I can, because when I need resources for a new course, there will always be another willing teacher to help me out.  This is where I feel the “Everything is a Remix” theory fits directly into education (and I need to say, this video series was so interesting and informative; my mind was blown many times while watching).  The main purpose of the video series was to break down the barriers of original concepts and make people realize that everything is indeed a remix, even subconsciously.  Everything ever invented, has concepts from other places integrated into it, in order to create the completed puzzle.  Teaching is the same way.  Original ideas are awesome, but in a demanding career, why not remix a resource you find online or from a fellow colleague, instead of spending hours reinventing the wheel only to find someone has already done it?

Copyrights.  According to Kirby Ferguson, “the belief in intellectual property has grown so dominant, it’s pushed the original intent of copyrights and patents out of the public consciousness” (Everything is a Remix, Part 4).  In 1790, the original Copyright Act was intended for the “act for the encouragement of learning” and the Patent Act was to “promote the progress of useful arts.” We have gone so far beyond this, and as humans, we have become selfish.  We are fine with copying Ferguson says, as long as what is being copied is not our own.  There are constant lawsuits over this idea and as teachers, we do need to be aware of the consequences of copying resources online, if there is a copyright infringement.

The idea of open education as a teacher is great, because it gives a plethora of resources that we can freely access without the worry of our school budgets.  However, we do need to be aware of where we “steal” things from.  The idea of the Copyright and Patent Acts was to “better the lives of everyone by incentivising creativity and producing a rich public domain.” (Everything is a Remix, Part 4).  We depend too much on paying for resources, and not enough time taking risks.  The idea is to beat the big companies forcing us to pay too much for ideas that should be for the greater good, our students, as Lawrence Lessig discussed in his Ted Talk, Laws that Choke Creativity when comparing the ideas of BMI’s victory over ASCAP in the music industry.  So, we need to get back to this idea of sharing before it is too late for our society and we all become too selfish and stuck in the idea of personal wealth over common good.

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From Beginner to Intermediate

IMG_1990My project is currently at a stand still until I can get to Regina next weekend for some fabric.  I could have had someone run to Fabricland for me, but I wanted the experience of picking my own fabric and making sure I liked the colour or if there were more colours to choose from.  So, it is perfect that Alec asked us to reflect on our learning projects this week.  So far, I feel that I have learned a lot of new skills when it comes to sewing.  My knowledge in the beginning was incredibly limited.  I barely even knew how to hand stitch something like a button!  I now have the skills to fix my cat’s toys, sew buttons back on to clothing, as well as patch a few holes.  My confidence might not be incredible, but it’s better than it was.  I think a lot of my confidence came from having a person there for immediate support if needed.  I could do most of the hand-stitching on my own, but knowing that I had an inspector there for immediate feedback was a nice support.  I think of Ryan, and his struggle with crocheting – sewing and crocheting from scratch, with little to no experience would be incredibly difficult to learn on your own without anyone to show you the skills needed.  Of course there are plenty of online supports, but having a teacher there in person is very reassuring and helpful, even if you don’t have a lot of questions.

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When I turned to the sewing machine, things got a little tricky, but I have from some great resources to help me along the way to creating my quilt – I was also recently told that “blanket” is a swear word in the quilting world, so I will now refrain from using it as I am apparently making a quilt, not a blanket.  My sewing machine has proofed to be quite finicky so I have opted to use one from my school.  The clothing and sewing teacher at Central has kindly offered me an extra sewing machine to aid me in my sewing adventures.  I think it’s a good call as my grandmother’s is quite old.  A newer machine might be a smarter move right now for my first official project.

IMG_2094My next move is to start sewing the flannel onto my t-shirt squares.  This needs to be done individually, and then I sew the t-shirts in rows, and then sew the rows together.  As I am beginning the stages of actually sewing, I am extra grateful that I do not have to follow a sewing pattern like Marley!  She is brave!! And then once the squares are all sewn together, there will be another stage of sewing which involves sewing the entire back piece onto the quilt.  There are actually two options for this: cut the backing for my quilt into squares and individually sew the back flannel on so that I have a square pattern on both sides of my quilt OR sew an entire back piece onto the outside edges of my quilt and then hand sew stitches into each corner of the t-shirts.  There are 30 t-shirts, and 4 corners per t-shirt.  This method is going to prove to be very time-consuming and profanity inducing I’m sure, so I am leaning towards the first method.  If there are any quilters out there, let me know which method you think would be best!

I feel like I am on track for finishing my quilt before the end of the course.  I know this is not mandatory as we are supposed to be learning a skill, but I know myself, and I know that as my year gets busier with the start of basketball season, I will be less inclined to work on this project, if I do not have the external motivation from my fellow ECI 831 members, so my plan is to have a final product by the end of the course.

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Just Keep Cutting

IMG_2089Picture a rainy Saturday afternoon; most people would like to be curled up on the couch, watching movies, relaxing, reading a book, but not I!  I spent the entirety of my Saturday  cutting t-shirts and interfacing, ironing interfacing onto shirts and then cutting said shirts into 16×16 inch squares.  This process was incredibly draining, tedious, and frustrating.  I must say that although incredibly time-consuming, once a rhythm was established, it became a much easier task.  I will also admit that I definitely enlisted some help this time around as the task would have taken probably double if I have stubbornly admitted to tackling the task all by myself.  My mom came to the rescue, helping me iron the

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My  Little Helper

interfacing, while I sat and cut the shirts into the appropriate sizes.  It was actually enjoyable with her help as I got to catch up with my mom and be productive at the same time.  She was very helpful, and I would honestly has been a great resource up to this point!  It’s been a rather smooth process.

Once I finished cutting out all 30 shirts, I began the real fun part!  Organizing and laying out my pieces.  I was so excited to finally have an image in my head of what it will look like as a finished product!  I laid them all out and then began moving the squares around until I finally settled on my placement.  I may still change a couple of pieces but overall, I like it!  What do you guys think??  Any suggestions!?  My goal was to spread out the brighter coloured ones as well as make sure I had at least one white, black and grey one in a row or in an area so it doesn’t look too dark.

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In the process, I ended up kicking out a couple of shirts and replacing them with shirts I either forgot to cut and really wanted on the quilt, or one shirt that is very awkward to cut, so alas I will need to cut and iron three more shirts! I will end up actually cutting it at the side (under the arm) of the shirt, and placing a patch of the front of the shirt in the middle of the square.

My next task will be buying the flannel of choice for the squares and the backing!  I will probably need to make a trip to Regina to buy the flannel as Moose Jaw only has one store, Quilter’s Haven and I’m not sure on the amount of options they will carry and I will not have time to order some online.  Fabricland perhaps?  Does anyone know any other places to buy fabric in Regina?

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The Golden Rule

This week, we discussed social activism online and whether or not it can be effective.  Is it worthwhile?  I think it is possible for it to be worthwhile and meaningful if the people that are advocating for the cause are invested beyond just social media.  We discussed in class the idea of slackivism.  Wikipedia explains this to be the concept that people believe that are contributing to a cause by simply re-tweeting, sharing or liking a page.  However, sharing or liking something on Facebook, although a great way to create more acknowledgement towards a specific issue, does not solve the issue.  It is a way to share information and give people who actually WANT to create change, a medium to do so.

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Image Via Wikipedia

One excellent example I found was Wael Ghonim: a social activist who used social media to help create the revolution in Egypt in 2011.  Essentially the movement began with the death of Khaled Said, and a picture that was posted and shared relentlessly on social media.  This sparked interest and Ghonim created a Facebook page to support this outrage.  He gathered hundreds of thousands of followers; then realized, it wasn’t enough to just gather online.  They needed to do something.  He asked his users an important question: “Today is the 14th of January. The 25th of January is Police Day. It’s a national holiday. If 100,000 of us take to the streets of Cairo, no one is going to stop us. I wonder if we could do it.” (TED, 2015)  And they did it.  The video goes on to explain the aftermath and the revolution we know today.  I think it is awe-inspiring that something so life-changing began on social media and with one picture.

As educators, I think we do have a responsibility to model active citizenship online, but it can be difficult.  As teachers, we are on the radar all the time.  Anything we say online can be traced, twisted, or interpreted the wrong way and it can affect us, personally and professionally.  The challenge then becomes to advocate professionally and ask ourselves questions before interacting online:

  • “How will this be viewed by people who do not know me?”
  • “How will this be viewed by people that do know me?”
  • “Would I be okay if my students saw this?”
  • “Would I be okay if my colleagues/family saw this?”

Although, it is unfortunate we cannot be as uncensored as other people can be online, are these not questions we consider before speaking out loud?  Why should what we discuss online be different than what we talk about in our classrooms or in our day-to-day lives?  And shouldn’t all people really abide by these “unwritten rules”?  We are taught from a young age to be kind, to listen to other’s opinions, to think before we speak, so why is it that as soon as we are hidden behind a screen and a keyboard that we forget these guidelines apply and become trolls, argumentative or outright rude?  I think the most important thing is that we model our personal beliefs and values and model the

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Image via CCTV

ideologies that we would be okay with our students, our friends, and our families seeing and modeling too!  After all, that is our job and yes, sometimes it is hard to remain in this mindset in the heat of the moment, but these rules apply to the real world, why shouldn’t they apply to the online one too?

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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!