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:


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….


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.



Brush Lettering Training Wheels: Learning Project Week Two

This week for my learning project my goal was to attempt every letter of the alphabet in brush script. When I set out to find practice sheets I discovered that there are millions of variations on hand lettering and once an artist gets good they often will develop their own variation of a popular style and then their words become a type of calling card for them. Going into this project I had no idea that there was so much variation.

So in order to narrow it down for myself I went to Pinterest and found some free hand lettering practice sheets that looked like what I had pictured as hand lettering. Turns out what I imagined is called brush lettering and it can be done with brush markers and if you get really good at it you can use paintbrushes and watercolors to create beautiful pieces of art.  The website that I took my free (woohoo!) printable practice sheets from is a blog called One Artsy Mama Creations and there were tons of awesome resources on there. I highly recommend this website and will likely come back to it for further resources.

So like I mentioned last week I bought calligraphy markers and a calligraphy pen. This is how they look on the paper:

After a bit of practice I have decided that the flow of the calligraphy pen makes it much easier to write the letters smoothly and makes it look more elegant. Now just a bit of a disclaimer here, I do not have nice handwriting and so this is going to be a bit of an adventure. I am starting with the upper-case alphabet just to try it out.

Practicing the letters was eye opening to the fact that this is a much more technical skill than I imagined. Next week I will do lower case letters and then attempt a new style. Stay tuned!

Food for Thought on Feedly

This week in EDTC 300 we were introduced to RSS readers like Feedly. Prior to class I had never heard of an RSS reader before. It stands for Really Simple Syndication and what it does is it allows you to follow and categories the materials that you read online and it stores it all in one place. You get to select different topics that you want to appear in your home feed and when certain blogs and websites get updated they pop up in your feed. Instead of scouring the internet for content it gets all conveniently stored in your feed.

When I set up my Feedly account I wasn’t sure it was going to be all that useful. I generally don’t spend much of my free time reading online. But since creating my Feedly account I have already used it more than I anticipated I would. When I was first getting set up I decided that I would dedicate my account specifically to educational content. I have had a Pinterest account for years and when I go on there to look for resources or educational content I inevitably get sucked in by tantalizing recipes or possible DIY projects. So I selected a variety of filters for my Feedly such as EDTech, Education, and English. Then I continued to go through the “You Might Also Like” section of the website to see what else was out there.

I also found this much easier because I already had built up a bit of a network on my Twitter account. So what I did next was I went into my Twitter account and looked for accounts that I found useful and then searched them up in Feedly. From there I would get linked to other resources and after skimming the headlines for each resource I decided to follow them or not based relevancy and on how many people followed them.

One of the most useful resources I have found through Feedly is Teach Thought.  The articles on this blog are very practical. They discuss the importance of student centered learning and there are many articles that break complex ideas down into simple lists such as, “10 Strategies to Promote Curiosity in Learning”.  I also enjoy Teach Tech because Terry Heick is often a guest author and I find he is one educational guru that I have recently discovered and enjoy reading.

Another blog that I have enjoyed reading since setting up my Feedly is EDTechDigest. This was one of the first resources I added to my feed and I have found it challenging but in a good way. One of the latest advances in technology that I have really balked at is Virtual Reality. I think that it is absurd that people would put their phone in goggles and then play video games using this technology. It’s crazy to me that all kinds of money has been poured into this technology and yet there are people in our own city that go hungry. Anyways, one of the first articles I read on Feedly was titled “Does VR Have a Place in EdTech?” and I clicked on it completely ready to discount every argument the article was going to put forward. But after reading it I realized that I already have used VR in my classroom and not only was it effective but the students loved it. It was great to have my thinking challenged and to reevaluate my position on the matter.

I look forward to future reading!

Old Soul Meets Tech World

My name is Katelyn Pippus and I am a fourth year student in the secondary program. I recently finished my internship experience at Martin Collegiate and it was such an incredible experience. I learned SO much in my four months there! One of the things I learned was that although I viewed myself as fairly tech savvy heading into internship, once I got into the classroom I realized there was so much more to learn.

I consider myself to be a bit of an old soul. I still prefer to read an actual physical book as opposed to any e-reader or online platform. In high school I was the last person in my friend group to switch from a flip phone to an iPhone.  I still have not signed up for Snapchat and only just created a twitter account for this class.  I am not against technology by any stretch but I feel that it is possible to become unnecessarily over connected through social media.

That being said, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly digitized and there are some seriously cool digital tools out there that can enrich the learning in our classrooms. Last year in ELNG 351 we had an assignment where we worked in small groups to teach our classmates about some digital tool that could be used to enhance learning in a high school English class. We used things like Plickers, EdPuzzle, Socrative, Kahoot. In internship I used Google Classroom and Google Read and Write with students to enhance their writing and to stay organized.

Photo Credit: marcoverch Flickr via Compfight cc

Internship really reframed my understanding of technology and media in the classroom. Going into internship I didn’t quite realize how addicted kids are to their phones in high school. A major reason why I took this class is because through my internship I discovered the importance of viewing cellphones as a tool and not an issue in the classroom setting. I want to empower my students to use their technology to enrich their learning instead of detract from it. Going into the classroom I assumed students knew how to use their technology as tools to enhance learning but that is a skill students need to be taught.

I still can’t decide how I feel about blogging. I have blogged for other university courses and I enjoy the opportunity to write less formally and I love that I can interact with my colleagues instead of exploring ideas in isolation. I am enjoying creating my blog a lot more after our first week of class because when I tried setting it up on my own it was somewhat confusing and frustrating. I can also see the value of keeping a blog as a practicing teacher to ensure you are reflecting on your teaching practice. At this point it feels a bit like a necessary evil but I may come to love it yet.

I am looking forward to learning more about how to effectively integrate technology into my future classroom. Feel free to follow me on twitter as I embark on this journey!

Today is Someday: Learning Project Week One

Learning Project board I created to compile online resources.

Pinterest is one of my favourite things in the entire world. I am not ashamed to say that I have spent hours scrolling through planning my future wedding (long before I was even engaged), dreaming about trips I may take one day, and pinning a million recipes to my food board. The biggest board on my Pinterest is my “Create” board. I am a fairly artistic person and the thought of taking time to create something thrills my soul. I have pinned a lot of hand lettering and calligraphy type projects over the last few years with the intention to try it someday. Well, today is finally someday!

I have decided to do try hand lettering/calligraphy for my Learning Project. For years I have pinned all sorts of beautiful, scripty sayings and quotes in the hopes of recreating them myself but I have never had time. My hand writing is legible but I don’t often write in cursive because my printing is neater and quicker. I am looking forward to playing with lettering and the little design elements that often come with hand lettering. Each week I will attempt a different aspect of hand lettering and my goal is to create a sign of sorts at the end that can be used in my wedding in July.

Materials: Artist’s Loft Sketching Pad, Elegant Writer Calligraphy Markers, 1.1 mm Calligraphy Fountain Pen.

This week I went to Michael’s and gathered my supplies. I am just a beginner and so I decided to go the less expensive route and start with some calligraphy markers that come in a variety of colours including black, blue, brown, red, and green. I also purchased a 1.1mm calligraphy fountain pen so that I get some experience using different mediums. I also bought a simple sketch book to practice in.

Super excited to get started! Check back next week for my first attempt at hand lettering.