Monday, July 4, 2022

IMLRS in Madison

 Late June seems to be a popular time for conferences. For many districts, students are finished for the year (just not for TDSB elementary schools) and members of the target audience are technically available to attend. 

ISTE was in New Orleans - but I wasn't there.

ALA was in Washington D.C. - but I wasn't there. 

No offense to either of these conferences, but this year I'm glad I wasn't in attendance, especially now that I'm seeing lots of posts on social media from participants with positive COVID results. Instead, I was at a smaller event, closer to home, and able to celebrate the last day of school together with my students. 

I attended the International Media Literacy Research Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin. This blog post is a summary of my experiences and learning.

Before I begin, I want to address two issues: flying and sharing via social media. If you can avoid flying this summer, do it. The traveling portion of my adventures was easily the most stressful part. It doesn't compare to the chaos that is a hospital visit, but unlike trips to the ER, airline trips might be optional and navigated in different ways. On Sunday, I arrived at the airport at 6:30 am for a 10:30 am flight and I needed all that time. Even though I checked in from home the night before, it took two hours to get through security and customs. We actually didn't leave until after noon because of mechanical issues related to the plane - and we were still grateful. Several other people never made it to the conference at all, after waiting hours on the tarmac in the plane. Returning home was even more challenging - I'll tell that story in chronological order. As for sharing, I was hesitant to announce my scheduled absence with social media updates because of the current climate in education. After all, on the last official day of school in Ontario, the premier made a point of warning teachers that "they better be back in school" in September. "Optics" are a big deal and I didn't want any of my posts to be misconstrued as being on early vacation, even though I was busy presenting. In other words, to quote one of the AML key concepts of media literacy, "audiences negotiate meaning".

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Milwaukee, WI

Neil Andersen, president of AML, and I arrived in Milwaukee and were picked up by Karen Ambrose, the executive director of IC4ML (International Council for Media Literacy, formerly known as the National Telemedia Council). Karen was a gracious and generous "chauffeur", ensuring we were fed before making the trek to Madison. Neil reminded me about the interstitial nature and value of in-person conferences; (interstitial means "of, forming, or occupying interstices.") "moments between the moments" that mean a lot. The van ride to the site was just such an example. After settling into our dorm rooms at the University of Wisconsin, some of the attendees were treated to a boat tour of Madison. When our tour ended, we hurried to the WU "Rathskeller" student union run restaurant for fried cheese curds, bratwurst and local ale (as well as ice cream produced from the milk of the university cows!) 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Madison, WI

Neil and I took a self-guided tour of the state building early Monday morning. We found so many intriguing and fascinating examples of media that we were half-tempted to create some lesson plans! Messages are conveyed in a media environment and many were communicated via the choice of floor, art, and signage. 

We briefly helped the organizing team pack conference bags and after lunch it was time for the University of Wisconsin - Madison First National Cultural Landscape Tour, lead by Aaron Bird Bear, the Director of Tribal Relations with the Office of University Relations. I learned a lot from this tour. You can also visit for more information. Some of the notes I took included information such as:

  • notions of property differ between Indigenous people (kinship) and settlers (commodity)
  • in colonization, the goal is replacement - assimilation and termination (and within assimilation, the role for Indigenous people would be nothing higher than the labor underclass)
  • there are three different "types" of tours that the university offers: the "special" (for visitors and general public that focuses on the positive aspects), the "mindful" (as orientation for those entering the university that guides their on-campus actions) and the "critical" (for those who are involved with the university, the "warts and all" version showing there is so much  more work to be done)
  • the university has a history of much "play-acting" and cultural appropriation of Indigenous ceremonies and symbols (even the lakes are made-up names to sound "Indian" despite having actual Ho-Chunk names)
  • sometimes monuments aren't even for the place or people there but serve to focus on successful colonization (e.g. several plaques refer to Blackhawk, which is from another state); Mount Rushmore is the worst kind of insult to Native Americans as it highlights the four presidents who were particularly horrible to Native Americans (and as I read earlier, was carved on sacred land)

I asked Aaron how could it be possible to honor the oral tradition in higher education. I myself felt a bit guilty for having to rely on notes to remember what he was describing. He replied that it was hard because academia loves the "peer review" concept. He also made a fantastic point about story telling. Not only is it important about WHO tells a story, it matters WHEN the story is told. He elaborated and said that the Ho-Chunk nation only tells their stories when the snow is on the ground. If these stories are digitized, there is the chance that they could be played at any time of year, instead of the proper time. These things matter.

I suspect that several people found it hard to listen and accept what Aaron Bird Bear was saying. Aaron himself is Mandan, Hidatsa and Dine' (although settlers might be more acquainted with the titles Sioux and Navajo) and he is not shy about saying he is different from those on the tour, nor is he hesitant about making statements based on fact that might contradict people's opinions of the country (e.g. it is founded on cruelty and greed). 

Monday, June 27, 2022
5:30 p.m.
Marieli Rowe Award Ceremony

Summary: There were four winners of the inaugural Marieli Rowe Award. The recipients came from Belgium, Italy/USA, Finland/Sweden, and the Philippines. You can read about their projects here.

Monday, June 27, 2022
6:00 p.m.
Opening Keynote - Henry Jenkins

Henry was unable to be with us, as he was unwell, but he joined us remotely via Zoom. His talk was called "What We Put Into Their Lives Is Far More Important Than What We Take Out": Josette Frank, the Child Study Association, and Media Literacy. 

3 Key Points: 
1. There are many other people who deserve recognition beyond Dr. Benjamin Spock, such as Josette Frank and Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg.
2. Some things still remain the same, such as showing interest in your children's media texts.
3. Terms are interesting. Progressive parenting? Permissive parenting? 

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
8:45 a.m.
Jessie McCanse Award Ceremony
Opening Remarks - Belinha DeAbreu

The winner of the 2022 Jessie McCanse Award was Renee Cherow-O'Leary. Belinha created a powerful video compilation that encapsulated many of the events of 2022-22.

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
9:30 a.m. (Session 1)
Media Literacy Practical Classroom Teaching Strategies - Neil Andersen & Diana Maliszewski

Summary: (taken from conference program)
Presenting several K - 12 practical classroom Media Literacy teaching strategies, including:  Using End User License Agreements to help students understand and appreciate their roles,  responsibilities and risks on online environments; Probing algorithms, search and auto correct etc. to understand and appreciate how they impact our online communications;  and Integration of media literacy education into the data analysis, data visualization, data  collection/organization and data literacy portions of the math curriculum.

3 Key Points:
1. Media literacy education can be for the youngest learners and beyond (with samples from 4-year-olds).
2. Playing with algorithms (via spelling errors, auto-complete, and search results) can help us understand how they work.
3. Math, French, and Health are all subjects that can integrate well with media literacy (and examples were given)

So What? Now What?
This was my/our presentation, so I am biased about the results. I counted and there were 22 people in our room, which was a good turnout. I am glad that we brought he AML EULAs with us and mounted them in the room, because the posters continued to "speak" for us even when it wasn't our turn. 

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
10:00 a.m. (Session 1)
Foundations for the Future: Preparing Students to Examine Biases and Engage in Civil Discourse - Melissa Mallon & Megan Mallon

Summary: (taken from conference program)
Encouraging students to think critically regarding what they see, share, and promote is a  crucial task for educators at all levels and disciplines. Students must be provided with  the awareness and skills they need to address these issues firsthand and discuss issues of  misinformation and disinformation in a civil and productive manner. The presenters will  discuss the importance of promoting examination of self-biases and the role of civil discourse  in preparing students to become media-literate practitioners and discuss the importance of  equipping students with these skills at an early age; examining context within K12 education  and how this transfers to higher education. Our presentation will also share strategies to  engage students in exercises designed to identify and examine biases, and share a framework  for conflict resolution that prepares students to approach difficult conversations in a way that  promotes civil discourse and encourages conversants to also begin to interrogate biases.

3 Key Points:
1. Classroom strategies include starting with an open mind/understanding of biases, and to look critically at multiple sources.
2. To navigate difficult discussions, build peace within and between.

So What? Now What?
Melissa and Megan were interesting presenters, not just because they were identical twins, but because they operated in public schools with Grade 5 kids and at the university level. I'm glad I grabbed a screen shot of their contact information, because I didn't see them at the conference after this session.

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
10:30 a.m. (Session 1)
Teen Informal Information Behavior - Kerry Townsend

Summary: (taken from conference program)
Media tools are evolving as are the ways teens are using them. Preliminary findings of a study  aimed to understand how teens are utilizing digital tools for everyday life information seeking  will be shared. This study intends to explore the informal information behavior of teens.  Specifically, information behavior is explored alongside the mass communication theory of  Media Uses and Gratifications in order to study how teens answer the questions of everyday life.  Communication and information behavior studies traditionally focus on specific media formats  or specific digital tools. However, as media formats evolve, so too should how we study media.  The following research questions will guide this work: How do teens gather information from  digital media to answer the questions of everyday life? What sources of digital media do they  use? How do teens find the digital media sources they use? What motivates teens to use specific  digital media sources and in what formats? What do teens do with the information they find?

3 Key Points:
1.The plan is to conduct 30 interviews but Townsend realizes that might be a lot, as the interviewees love to talk!
2. As the Library Coordinator for her district, she hopes to be able to bring this information back to her school librarians

So What? Now What?
Seeing Kerry made me think about our own Program Coordinator of Library, Andrea Sykes, and how hard she works to spread ideas and good pedagogy. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
11:00 a.m. (Session 2)
New Directions: McLuhan and Beyond ... - Carolyn Wilson, Paolo Granata, Neil Andersen & Diana Maliszewski

Summary: (taken from conference program)
This session will explore the influence of Marshall McLuhan and others on media literacy  in academia and public education, as they apply to the current realities of our digital world.  Algorithms, surveillance structures and social media have created an “environment” of which  we are an essential part, and where we have become the content. What are the media literacy  concerns and pedagogies that do, or should, inform our practice?

3 Key Points:
1. Ideas such as figure/ground, acoustic space, and through/about media are still just as timely and relevant as when McLuhan first suggested them.
2. The McLuhan Foundation is busy with projects such as the Global Village Square (an online community hub), supporting the Global Media Educations Summit, and a site on the Toronto waterfront.

So What? Now What?
One concrete next step I will take is to join the McLuhan Foundation's Global Village Square community. I will also need to start working on my proposal for the MES in 2023. It was tricky to balance a panel with some members online and some in-person, but it worked. 

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
1:15 p.m. (Session 3)
Media Nationalism, Credibility, and Claims of Representation: Media Literacy Challenges in India - Shashidhar Nanjundaiah

Summary: (taken from conference program)
Media literacy has been seen as a solution to problems, especially those of misinformation  and fake news. The concept of misinformation makes presumptions about the pervasiveness  of media illiteracy, about availability of truth, and about representations. Media literacy  practitioners’ efforts may be blindsided notions of truths and media illiteracy that can suppress  individuals’ efforts to defend and consolidate beliefs. Available media texts are governed by factors such as official sources, belief-solidarity, and bias. Further, in claiming to represent  their audiences, media parse stories through structures that include production processes,  agendas set by official sources, and ideological positions. This analysis problematizes these  factors in an Indian news television context, using examples to examine how media literacy  efforts may inform or obfuscate. The presentation also examines the role of a government in  media literacy efforts. 

3 Key Points:
1. Media education in India is often taken care of by corporations, which is a problem.
2. Polarizing incidents occur, such as the case of a traffic death of protesters by the convoy with a Minister's son; originally the story was portrayed as "vicious protesters"

So What? Now What?
It was interesting to see what's happening in other countries.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
1:45 p.m. (Session 3)
Media and Information Literacy as High Societal Priority in Kosovo - Remzie Shahini Hoxhaj

Summary: (taken from conference program)
This paper aims to study how in the youngest democracy in Europe, Kosovo, the universities  and civil society are committed to change the approach of teaching media and information  literacy. As many other countries in Europe, Kosovo has become a battlefield of mal information, misinformation and manipulation, spread by media, domestic political actors,  but also by anti-European external regional powers. This research will show what skills  students, teachers, and general public need in order to build media and information literacy,  based in field research done during Pandemic on online teaching/ learning process as well  as field work that focuses in teaching skills. Journalism Department of Prishtina University  in cooperation with Kosovo’s Teachers Association has trained around 3000 teachers in  importance of teaching skills and how to integrate media literacy skills into the curriculum  for primary and secondary education. In Kosovo, formal education is heavily content-based  where students deal with a lot of information, and learn no critical thinking nor how to use,  analyze, evaluate or deconstruct information they perceive. This paper tries to find ways to  see how media and information literacy will be integrated into school curriculum.

3 Key Points:
1. Kosovo is a complicated place that many people do not know about; it is the last unit that emerged from the former Yugoslavia, survived Serbian aggression and information blackouts, and now has many more online sources of information and wifi networking than many other places in Europe
2. 95% of the study's respondents have a smartphone but only 16% say they need it for learning
3. 92% of those surveyed said Media should be a mandatory course in Kosovo schools

So What? Now What?
I exchanged contact information with Remzie, who approached me later on because she said I looked very focused and was the most concentrated during her presentation. I will try to reach out to thank her for her informative talk.

Visual / Social Media Artifacts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
2:15 p.m. (Session 3)
The way to prevent COVID-19 infection: an analysis of messages and local media literacy, from the US and Bulgaria - Barbara Ruth Burke

Summary: (taken from conference program)
This study focuses on online discourse related to COVID-19 local rule implementation, and  in particular discussions about rule following: examining cultural beliefs and values as they  relate to the establishment and continual negotiations about who, how, when, and why given  individuals and groups create and maintain their status as opinion-leaders or information  gatekeepers, and how they utilize available means for providing feedback and comments to  others, in two contrasted language communities–the United States and Bulgaria. The people  in both countries have deeply politicized views about COVID-19 warnings, masking, and  vaccines. Our comparative analysis of mediated communication and media literacies offers  a framework for understanding the local environment which makes given norms culturally  intelligible, and suggests ways in which the flow of information/ disinformation happens.

3 Key Points:
1. It was challenging to get translations for Bulgarian because often any Cyrillic translations default to Russian. 
2. Studying the micro (e.g. comments to a news article on a Bulgarian morning show or comments in a local Facebook group page) helps to understand situations. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
2:45 p.m. (Session 4)

It was at this time that I got a notification on my phone that the second leg of my return trip to Toronto had been cancelled. This was not good news. I found Neil and told him. We then began the arduous task of trying to find new ways to get home. 

Guardian angels come in different packages. Ours came in the form of Rebekah Willet, the Vice President of IC4ML and one of the main conference organizers. She saw us frantically searching for contact information online and gave up her own time listening to excellent speakers to help us try and make new arrangements. At one point, there were three cell phones and two laptops all commandeered for this purpose. We couldn't reach Air Canada by phone or text to cancel the rest of the flight. We tried booking a flight with United but every time I completed filling out the information, it'd set me straight to the beginning (with a higher price for the tickets, I might add - two one-way tickets went from about $700 to over $1200 in an hour of attempts - algorithms in action). In the end, we were able, thanks to Rebekah's laptop and searching, to book a new reservation from Madison WI to NYC and then from NYC (LaGuardia) to Toronto on Wednesday. It meant being unable to attend the Barry's Wander in Milwaukee planned for Wednesday, but we had little choice.

Apologies to Dan Choe (Game Based Learning: Helping Students Build Media Literacy Muscle Memory) and Paolo Granata / Abus Abdelgabi (Play Media Literacy Games: From Lamboozled!, The Medium, and More) for missing their session. It was disappointing for me to lose this precious time while in Madison, but thankfully I got a chance to speak with Dan at dinner that night at Nitty Gritty, a local restaurant.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
4:15 p.m. (Session 5)

It took this long for Rebekah, Neil and I to find a satisfactory alternative. This meant I also missed three other presentations I planned on hearing: a) Digital Media Use of Children growing up in Foster Care Networks - Action Research, by Borbala Timar from Hungary, b) Advancing Media Educational Competencies: Development of a Pedagogical Concept for Initial Teacher Education, by Jannie Hahn & Silke Grafe from Germany, c) Crossing STEAM and Media Literacy at Preschool and Primary School Levels: Teacher Training, Workshop Planning, its Implementation, Monitorization, and Assessment, by Vitor Tome & Belinha DeAbreu from Portugal/USA. I will need to see if I can access any of the presentations for future viewing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022
5:30 p.m. 
Closing Ceremonies

The 5th IMLRS event will be in the Azores in 2024. I texted my sister and she's keen to go. Now it's a matter of figuring out the logistics and if it is even possible!

The wonderful thing about the size of this conference was the ability to have conversations and connect with many people. People that I had the pleasure of interacting with included, but was not limited to:

  • Carolyn Wilson (with UNESCO)
  • Tessa Jolls (from Center for Media Literacy)
  • Megan Fromm (from NAMLE)
  • Michelle Ciccone (doing her PhD right now)
  • Belinha DeAbreu (IC4ML / IMLRS)
  • Sean Gabaree (MD high school teacher)
I'm sure I am forgetting many more names. I hope Neil will help me fill in the gaps, as he knows so many people around the world related to media literacy. 

The evening was filled with socialization at dinner (including interactions with more people, such as Amanda Latasha Armstrong, Dan Choe, Jeff Share, Yonty Friesem, and Geraldine Wuyckens). A small group of us (Michelle, Yonty, Neil, Dan and I) wandered back into a wonderful game store in downtown Madison called Gamers Library to chat with Andrew, the owner, and visit his beautiful big dog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Delta Airlines saved our bacon. We flew from Madison to LaGuardia. Fortune smiled upon us, because we landed and our gate to board for our flight to Toronto was only three spots away and we had just enough time to go to the bathroom before they started to load the second plane. We made it back to Toronto between 3:30 - 4:00 p.m.

Big thanks to my traveling companion, Neil Andersen, for all the guidance and support. Thank you AML for the financial assistance related to this trip. I hope it will continue to pay dividends in the future.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Warm Demander

 This is going to be a very short post. I'll explain why next week.

I finally finished reading Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond. I had planned to finish this book at the end of 2021, alongside Jennifer Cadavez and Connie Chan, but the end of the calendar year was too full for us to maintain our scheduled deadlines for reading three chapters at a time.

As I read Chapter 7, I was struck by the term "warm demander". Hammond says this is what educators should be. The sentence was, "As warm demanders, our job is to get students to recognize that putting forth the effort is worth the work". I've been struggling a bit with this, as some of my students have not been meeting expectations. Are my demands still warm? If they fail or get a poor mark, how much of that is on me and how much of that is on them? Did I explain enough? Did I scaffold enough? Did I give enough opportunities to retry? Did I understand the root cause of the issue? How will they think and feel after their learning time with me is done?

As if I needed more things to preoccupy my thoughts! (Happy last week of school!)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Grad Prep

This upcoming week will be the senior kindergarten and Grade 8 graduation. As part of the festivities, both organizational groups are creating multimedia presentations to play at the various ceremonies. Certain teachers involved with those classes have been asked to prepare short video messages directed to the students moving on to the newest stage of their educational careers. 

The above image is licensed under Creative Commons attribution and was created by Pinterastudio at 

It's not easy crafting these inspirational, heartfelt snippets. How do you capture two years or ten years of moments in a minute? What do you say that is meaningful and not full of generic platitudes? Filming these clips yourself also leads to a host of different issues - shaky camera work, awkward faces, multiple takes when inevitable bloopers happen, incorrect angles, and more. 

I was going to use the green screen to project some images behind me to supplement my message, but as I realized from my recent Grade 2-3 green screen lesson, I'm rusty on using DoInk and it took me several tries to recall that you have to put the background image in the bottom track so that it appears behind the speaker.

Both of these school events will be held in-person this year. Our school population still masks indoors and we hope that we'll continue to be cautious yet inclusive. It will be the first time ever that the kindergarteners will have assembled in a group larger than their own class together. For some of the virtual kindergarteners, it will be one of the first times they've been in the building for an extended period of time. (Some came for Photo Day and to pick up packages from their educator team.) It will be interesting to see how everyone acts and reacts. There will be many rehearsals and practice runs, at least for the Grade 8s. I've been impressed so far with how well everyone who chooses to use formal footwear can walk in heels. 

Congratulations to all graduates, everywhere!


Monday, June 13, 2022

Kindergarten Comics and Doing Dominoes

 There are only three weeks left of the 2021-22 school year left; counting today, Monday June 13, that's 14 teaching days. As the intensity of finalizing report card marks subside, the question of "what do we do in the meantime" surfaces. Many of these late June activities won't be able to appear on the report cards because of time constraints, but learning shouldn't be dictated by what can and cannot be included on those final evaluations.

Two sets of tasks that were able to make it onto that official document we are also able to continue for our final classes in kindergarten and they have to do with comics and dominoes.


For our library periods, the kindergarten students and I have been looking at comics. During free time, there are some students that choose to read graphic novels instead of play with toys, which delights my teacher-librarian heart. We went over some of the basic codes and conventions of comics and then got into teams to create our own comics. The teams told me how many panels and what shapes the panels had to be on their large chart papers. The results demonstrated to me why the kindergarten program is two years long.

Some students understood the concepts right away. They merged ideas. They experimented with making their own speech bubbles and filling them with words their characters said. Some even had a narrative structure, with a beginning, middle, and end. (Naturally, I took photos of the ones that impressed me the most.)

Then there were students that have made significant gains over the year but aren't quite there yet. They drew people in their panels but didn't understand directionality, so they were sideways and upside-down. Others drew people but when I came to assist them with their speech bubbles, they had no idea who the people they drew were, or what they could be saying. The idea of continuity between panels hasn't developed yet for them.

Then there were students who just scribbled or coloured in the boxes and shapes. 

I'm glad we have a few weeks more so we can continue to have time to explore comic creation, read some comics, and teach.


In media, we focused on agency and decision-making. We looked at some games to determine how much player agency they allowed. The students, with some prompting, began to realize that certain games, such as tic-tac-toe, give players the power to make decisions. Other games, such as Chute and Ladders or Candyland, can proceed without the players making any choices of their own because the probability tool (cards or dice) make all the decisions for them. It's interesting to note that many board games targeted at young children rely on probability rather than player skill. I am teaching the students how to play dominoes, both with online and face-to-face resources. I bought a huge wooden set of dominoes (with my own money) to use in the library. I noticed that most children only know about lining up the dominoes to knock them down in a pattern, rather than using the pips to actually play the game. It's going to take us several times of playing for the students to grasp the game rules and strategies. It's also great for math (number sense and even geometry as they turn the tiles to match the numbers) and for cooperative skills (turn taking, consulting with team members about the best tile to place). Here are a a few photos of the students in action.

As part of their media evaluation, I asked them which method they preferred to use - the online dominoes or the in-person one. The students also had to articulate what techniques drew the players in to get them to keep playing. It was fascinating to see that many of the learning-in-person students commented on the computer version's attraction, whereas the learning-online students (who only could see me and their ECE playing the physical version together via their screens) tended to suggest that the face-to-face model was more appealing. I also find that their patience for the length of a game is quite short. 

I'm glad I can introduce the game of dominoes to the students. My parents used to play dominoes with a set that they brought up with them from Guyana and there are some fond memories associated with the game.

Monday, June 6, 2022

What makes a good assessment or slide deck?

 This week has been peppered with preparation and evaluation. I've been making several presentations (for my June 9 talk for AML's Media AQ course, for the June 14 ONLibChat event promoting TMC, and for a June 27 session for IMLRS [International Media Literacy Research Symposium]). Educators in my school board did not teach on Friday, June 3 because we had a report card writing day; even though I am no longer a classroom teacher, I still had plenty of things to mark to get ready for calculating those final grades. It got me thinking about what makes a good assignment for assessment and what makes a good online presentation. 

Good Presentation Slides - Tips

When I took my Presenter's Palette workshop with ETFO in 2016, I learned a lot about structuring professional learning. One of my favourite take-aways was the difference between offering content and allowing processing of ideas. The facilitators called it "giving the gum" and "time to chew". Learners of all ages (and especially now, with Zoom fatigue and increased distractibility) cannot be lectured at for long periods without something for them to "do". I believe that Mary and I have designed an engaging, fast-paced talk for this coming Thursday. Our topic is "Comics, Cosplay and Consoles: Worthy Media Texts". There's lots of "gum" and lots of "chewing". I hope the AQ participants agree.

Neil Andersen taught me not to be stingy with my slides. He has shown me big images and words, without a lot of clutter on the screen, can lead to big impact. Duplicate a slide and use shapes to highlight something you want your audience to notice. Our presentation, on Practical Media Literacy Teaching Strategies, has a lot of information to impart. We pared down the amount of examples but used lots of slides as evidence.

For more suggestions on making good slide decks, check out the TED Talk blog with 10 tips for better slide decks, or the 6-6-6 rule explained by Helen Jane Hearn on the American Express business website.

Good Assessment Tasks - Tips

There are some assignments that I dread marking. The ones that I don't dread marking (and that even can be fun to mark) have some shared characteristics:

  • the marking criteria is very clear (and developed beforehand) - for instance, the Grade 1-2 students and I determined how both our clay cakes and real cakes would be marked. We had it on a big piece of chart paper so there was no mystery about how the grades were generated.

  • processes that can be automated are - the final tasks for my social studies classes were some Google Form quizzes. Since they were all multiple choice answers, the students received their results immediately after completing the evaluation.
  • creative individual results make it entertaining for creator and evaluator  - I loved watching the fake news in Francophone communities video assignments that the Grade 6-7s and 7-8s made. I'm excited to see the Grade 3 animated figures from communities in 1780-1850 and the green-screen paired inquiry videos. 
  • the students are set up for success - the tasks are not so hard to complete that excelling is a rare event. The social studies inquiry projects were structured with ample time to finish and easy entry points (drawing for the Grade 1s, almost Mad-Lib level fill-in-the-blanks for the Grade 2s). Some of the Grade 2s did very poorly because they did not follow the simple directions (or complete all the requirements properly). The Grade 1 health task did not make it necessary for students to read words, only to use numbers to label body part locations on a blank form. The Grade 2 health task just involved them placing sticky notes with descriptions on the drawings that indicated various life stages; they only had to write their name on the sticky note and place it on a picture.
When I searched online for suggestions related to this, one site (that automatically downloads a Word file with the information, so I don't recommend clicking it) says:

  • has clearly stated goals/objectives
  • lack of a pre-determined outcome: you learn something new
  • personally relevant and memorable
  • uses real-time, current data
  • logistically do-able (for both students and instructor)
  • synthesizes prior information and concepts
  • no clear right or wrong answer - open-ended
Hope this helps!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Icing on the Cake: Return of Quiz Bowl and Red Maple Marketing

 This past week was filled to overflowing with events. I'm going to comment on three.

Media Lesson - Cake Decorating with Grade 1-2s

On May 26, the Grade 1-2s trooped up to the staff room (where some had never before ventured) to decorate real cakes as part of their media unit studying cakes. It was hectic but enjoyable and impressive.

I have to thank the adults who lent a hand: Kris Luk, Kerri Commisso, and Lydia A. It wouldn't have been possible without their assistance. Many of the students remembered to bring their plans and some actually referred to their plans while decorating. Change was permitted and several students were overcome with the choices of colours and types of sprinkles. Their final creations ran the gamut from a messy pile of sugary blobs to some really incredible, detailed, artistic cakes.

Intermediate Division Reading & Media - Red Maple Marketing Event

Also on May 26, the Agnes Macphail PS Red Maple Marketing team met in the school library to listen to author Philippa Dowding give a virtual guest talk. Following Philippa's engaging presentation, the teams from Agnes Macphail PS, Macklin PS, and David Lewis PS jumped on a different Zoom link to compete in the xxxth Red Maple Marketing Campaign. We were so fortunate to have three volunteer judges from Manifest Com - Jack, Rachel and Paige agreed to listen to the ten-minute promotional campaigns (increased from the previous limit of five minutes because we only had four teams). Credit should also go to Jennifer Houston-Douglas and Samantha MacInnis-Villalon for helping their student teams prepare for the event and coordinating all the required permissions at the school-level.

Big congratulations to the second team from David Lewis PS that marketed Eric Walters' book, The King of Jam Sandwiches, for winning the competition.

It was very different holding the event online. Benefits included a more efficient use of time - the event, which usually takes an entire day, only took two-and-a-quarter hours. Costs were reduced as we didn't have to travel to a central location. The use of technology went smoother than usual, although we still had issues. The disadvantages included a lack of "buzz" in the air that used to accompany the gathering. The students didn't get a chance to interact with their peers from other schools. This may be a result of the pandemic, but I also found that it was harder for students to sit and listen. Because cameras were off during the author visit for recording purposes, and because only the presenting team had their cameras on during their presentations, I noticed that students felt free and were inclined to wander around or get distracted by other things. The other unfortunate part of holding this event virtually was that we were unable to take any photos of the proceedings. I only have this shot of the mock Instagram pages my school team created for their focus book, From the Roots Up: Surviving the City Volume 2. The other books marketed were Firefly, and Tremendous Things

Junior Division Reading & Oral - Quiz Bowl Competition

On May 27, three teams from Percy Williams Jr PS, Macklin PS and Agnes Macphail PS met online for a friendly competition related to the 2022 Silver Birch and Yellow Cedar nominees. This was a much trickier event to coordinate and there were a few snags. One other school had to drop out. We planned to use Google Meet but turned to Zoom at the last minute because we were having troubles; Zoom gave us a new set of troubles because it doesn't track whose hand raises first like Google Meet, and it was inconsistent between screens. Every school had two computers running - one for the competitors to use and one for the teacher coordinators to broadcast from and use for reading questions and monitoring responses. Some of the computers at the different sites wouldn't allow audio. At my school, one of the students accidentally unplugged the laptop that we were using halfway through the fiction competition (the one laptop that happens to completely shut down when not continually attached to a power cord) so they had to share the one I was using to broadcast. We were going profoundly overtime and had to only ask five questions instead of the usual ten. One of the books didn't have questions composed for it and we had no time to quickly write any replacements. We were twenty minutes late for our author visit with Leslie Gentile. The ice cream truck cancelled their appearance due to the weather.

Despite all these challenges, the students really seemed to enjoy themselves. Competitors were nervous and excited to enter the "booth" to answer questions. However, they were delighted with themselves when they were able to answer correctly. Take a look at the tweet below to see the results.

Big congratulations to Percy Williams Jr PS, who won both the fiction (Silver Birch) and non-fiction (Yellow Cedar) contests. Again, big thanks must go to Salma Nakhuda and Jennifer Houston-Douglas for organizing the teams, writing the questions (helped by Kim Davidson), and being wonderful teacher-librarians. Appreciation also extends to Jennifer Brown for helping us arrange our author visits.

I was really tired after all of these events. I went to bed at 8:30 pm on Thursday night and slept soundly until 7:00 am Friday! However, my teacher-librarian and media educator heart is happy knowing that some serious memories were made this week at school.

Monday, May 23, 2022


 Don't worry - it's not COVID.

Last Monday evening I had a dentist appointment. In addition to the cavity I'm going to need to fill, I had to wait a while before I could eat to let the fluoride treatment kick in. I became involved with other tasks at home and eventually ate some unrefrigerated pasta carbonara with old apple cider at 9:00 pm for dinner.

Big mistake.

I woke up at 3:00 am feeling awful and vomited. I stumbled back to bed and slept until 6:00 am when I woke again and violently vomited over and over. It wasn't one of those "puke and get it over with" deals - I felt like I was run over by a truck. No school for me that day. 

Are other educators like this? I felt guilty because I actually used this sick day to get better. Part of me foolishly thought I could squeeze in a bit of marking but this just wasn't possible. I was sick. I slept. Then I woke up, feebly drank a bit of water, and slept again. Sleep. Hydrate. Repeat. That was the day.

I dragged myself to the computer to help with AML's presentation for OTF, called "Media Literacy is Serious Fun". I kept my camera off because I just rolled out of bed but I was still somehow able to participate.

I feel so much better now. I haven't gotten my appetite back yet but I was able to get back to school the next day and go to the gym AND host my Forest of Reading Celebratory Lunch AND host a Zoom meeting for my Grade 1-2s to get ready for their cake decorating lesson next week.

Now that was "sick" (and sick in the terms of "crazy cool"). It was so awesome to have a group of students together in the library. We only just ended cohorting outside a couple of weeks ago, so congregating in mixed-class groups is quite the novelty. They ate pizza and partook in a taco bar and watched part of the OLA Forest of Reading Award results online.

Big congratulations to this year's Forest of Reading winners. Although I did not have as many students qualify this year, it's a season for rebuilding, and that works for me. (It's the topic of one of my Treasure Mountain Canada 7 papers.)

I was pretty "lucky" that my illness only lasted a day and did not prevent me from continuing the fun events planned. I guess if I had to be sick, that was the way to do it.


And this is where the post-within-a-post begins.

A common set of words to pair with Sick is the phrase is "Sick and Tired". This phrase applies to how some individuals or groups act and react without consideration for others

I've "buried" this part of the blog post because I don't want the critics to come out en masse again. The beginning of the week brought some surprises to me via Twitter. I retweeted someone who mentioned recent current events (he originally phrased it Palestine, Buffalo, Peterborough) and iterated the need for education and the ability to discuss these subjects. I quote-tweeted this person to point out that I didn't want to center myself in this discussion but that I thought his point was good, so I instead amplified him. Both he and I were attacked for this post. I was called a coward and that the post was "disgusting modern blood libel". Commenters said I don't stand up for Jewish students. The person I originally quoted apologized to the critics and explained, "I'm so sorry for the miscommunication. I never intended to compare the three cities. I was saying that incidents that occurred in all 3 need to be addressed. I absolutely condemn any form of anti-Semitism, and would confront it the same as any other form of oppression". My reply wasn't as polite; I said, "Genuine question: how so? I thought assaulting pallbearers at a funeral was improper, to say the least."

I really believe at times that you are "damned if you do, damned if you don't". If you are on social media and you don't comment on a recent tragedy or anniversary, then you are wrong because you are silent on an important issue. If you are on social media and you comment on a recent tragedy or anniversary, then you are wrong because you are bandwagonning or putting yourself and your feelings as the focus for the distress another group is experiencing. I wrote an article for AML a while back called Reining in Rapid Righteousness, about the need to slow down before reacting on social media. The points are still true. 

There's this, and there's the frustration of making do with exhausting and nearly-intolerable situations when the system is broken, the supports aren't there, school autonomy is removed while school responsibility is increased, and no one's needs are satisfactorily met. Add that to fielding concerns/complaints about offered bonuses that were missed when the blame for the omission feels misplaced ... that's when you get "sick and tired" of making extra effort. 

I'm not miserable, far from it, but there are moments when you wonder why you bother. Then you get the kindergarten student who says, "I love you Mrs. Mali" that reminds you that it's not for the praise but because it's the right thing to do.