Creating Participatory Communities in the Classroom

We live in a world that is more connected than ever. Everyone is on social media. It’s become strange to meet someone who is not online and even those that are too young to use a cell-phone or a computer already have a digital footprint. In class we looked at some staggering stats which stated things like “34% of children have a digital footprint before they are even born”. A digital identity is no longer a thing people choose, it is something we are born into.

This week we had the chance to watch the video “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” which attempted to contextualize YouTube, the content on it, and the participatory community mentality of the website. I found this video extremely interesting to watch because I am a surface level YouTube user. I mostly use YouTube to watch The Tonight Show, music videos, and the occasional web series (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was pretty awesome!) and had no idea really that people used the platform to engage with a greater community.

The most interesting part of the video to me was the section where the presenter, Michael Wesch, broke down the idea of cultural inversion, emphasizing the tensions that exist between what we value as a society and what we express. I think that this trend can be seen in every form of social media. It is why people obsess over followers and likes. It’s why everyone posts every detail of their lives from the trips they take to the food they eat. And as much as the video seemed to romanticize the community that is created via media platforms such as YouTube I think that it is a sad commentary on the state of the world. We are so concerned with being digitally connected that we overlook the relationships we should be cultivating around us. We are too afraid to be vulnerable and authentic with the people around us and so we create these online personas and pretend to be people we aren’t in order to feel valued.

The portion of the video that discussed the lonelygirl15 debacle was extremely interesting but I found it completely ridiculous that people, as members of this participatory community, were so gullible and emotionally invested in a person that they didn’t really know. They were so desperate for the digital connection that they were deceived by this campaign. As future teachers in an increasingly digital age it is our duty to teach students the skills to be critical consumers of digital content.

I also think that as teachers we can tap into the idea of the participatory community while providing students  with a more authentic space and way to engage with each other and the world around them. In the video there was a section that talked about the masks people put online as part of their digital identity and in our classrooms we need to make sure that we are creating spaces where students feel the sense of acceptance without having to be masked. There is a clear desire in our students to be involved in something bigger than themselves and we need to be innovative as teachers and create ways for them to engage in that in the classroom. As I watched the video I couldn’t stop thinking about the craze of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and how many people I knew that participated in that phenomena. If we as educators can get our students engaging in a larger context (whether that is on a school, provincial, national, or even global scale) through their learning then students will buy into their learning much more and then more authentic learning will occur. It will be important to present classroom sand schools not as vacant buildings to be filled by the students but as rich learning communities that they can take part in as we move forward in the digital age of teaching.

If you are interested in checking out the video the link is listed below:

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Whimsical Words: Learning Project Week Four

With Valentine’s Day coming up this week I decided I wanted to use my Learning Project to practice making a hand lettered Valentine’s card for my fiance. He doesn’t live in town and so I am always looking for fun things I can send him in the mail and I thought a hand made Valentines card would be perfect. I decided I would continue to use YouTube Videos this week to inspire my lettering. Another major part of hand lettering is not just the words but the accents you include around the words. So I started to experiment with the accent details this week. The first element I practiced was a simple dandelion.  My practice sheet for the card ended up looking like this:

I wanted a little more practice forming dramatic and sweeping words and I found a video that allowed me to do just that. This video is another one that was created by Julie Turrie. I really enjoy how she actually writes the letters out in the video because it makes it way easier to follow along.

My version actually looked pretty similar. The trickiest part about this word was that I attempted to write it out without the guidelines that appear in the video. Without the guidelines it made it difficult to judge how large to make each of the letters. It is also really difficult to create a fluid swirly detail under the “f”. The other accent detail that I wanted to work on this week was drawing feathers. Drawing a life-like feather takes a lot of patience and practice because there is so much detail in a feather. I chose a video where the form of the feather was more loose and less detailed simply because it is so difficult to draw a feather well. My finished product looked like this:

The feather looks way better on the picture than in my book.

So far in my project I have stuck to the fluid cursive hand lettering and brush lettering style but there are so many other fonts out there to play with. The other style of lettering I find really beautiful are the fonts that are geometric. I needed a break from the flowing cursive lettering and so I went on my Pinterest board and found some geometric fonts to try.

This is a list of the videos I used this week that you can check out if you want to give it a try:

Next week I think I am going to try the old Gothic style of calligraphy! Happy lettering!

People Do this for Fun?? My Thoughts on EdChats

This week we were asked to participate in an EdChat using TweetDeck. All week long I was dreading having to do this because I felt as though I had little to nothing to offer. I am a 4th year student who has had all of four months of full-time teaching experience and so I wondered what on earth I could possibly contribute to the conversation. But as much as I was dreading it at the start I was floored by the richness of knowledge the other people in the chat had to offer.

I participated in the #2ndaryELA  edchat this evening and I think there were about 12 participants in total. While that may sound small I was thankful that the group was so small because it meant that you could actually follow along with the conversation and read everyone’s responses to the questions. Earlier in the evening I lurked on the main #edchat feed and I was so overwhelmed. I would read a tweet and by the time i came to the end of it 468 375 958 more tweets had already popped up and the topic of conversation had changed. Another thing I did not enjoy about the #edchat was that a lot of people seemed to just be tweeting random education related stuff but there was no actual conversation going  on. I would definitely recommend finding a smaller chat to partake in because then you can actually read what everyone is saying and you actually feel heard as well.

While it was a great experience, I am amazed that people schedule these things into their day for fun. There is value in hearing different perspectives though and the resource sharing was awesome. On a technical note I wish that you could be more selective about who sees your responses to the chats as opposed to it being blanket tweets that everyone that follows you can see. It would be nice to be able to filter who sees your responses and who doesn’t. Or if your profile tweeted once to say “Sally is participating in an #edchat. Click here to see his/her contributions”.

I loved using the chat to gain some new resources and perspectives but I’m not sure it is something that I will engage with on a regular basis. But I definitely recommend trying it.

Graduating from Practice Sheets: Learning Project Week Three

Last week I started on my hand-lettering journey using the grade one style alphabet practice sheets. After doing the alphabet in both upper and lower case I got bored and decided that I was ready to graduate to free-hand practice. I felt fairly confident about my lettering ability and when I set my pen to paper I imagined creating something like this….

via GIPHY

I know that this will come as a shock to all of you but my letters did not look anything like that. It turns out that free handing the letters is much more difficult than I had anticipated. My letters were shaky and somewhat misshapen. You almost have to retrain your brain how to form the letters. When you use the calligraphy markers and pens you have to be conscious of two things: how you are holding the pen and where you are creating your down-strokes. I don’t think about either of these things when I write normally so it was a bit of an adjustment.

One of the distinct aspects of calligraphy is the use of the wider down-stroke and thinner up -stroke. In order to create the thicker down-strokes the writing tool has to be held a certain way. I found that it was easier to create the calligraphy effect using the pen which had free flowing ink. The shape of the tip on the markers made it a bit more challenging.

My first attempt at letting free hand.

I fond that because I had to think about how I form my letters differently it was much easier to watch a video on YouTube and mimic their motions. I browsed a few videos before I found this one by Julie Turrie. I like this video because the style is simple yet elegant. Also the pen that is used in the video is similar to the one that I use and so it made it much easier to mimic the letters. I also enjoyed that I could go back and watch the process over and over if I couldn’t get it just right.

I also used another video this week called Learn to write ABC Calligraphy for Kids. Now I realize it says “for kids” but that is the skill level I am at right now and I actually really like how the letters turned out.

The last thing I did this week was I attempted my first word. After all the lettering searches I had done a video about creating basic calligraphy words popped up and I decided to do it. Again I watched the video and then duplicated it as best I could.

Then I experimented with the lettering styles from the practice sheets and created this:

Videos are definitely the way to go in terms of learning how to form the letters. I had so much fun this week, especially with mixing words and art. Next week I will continue to experiment with individual words.

Cheers!