Monday, May 25, 2020

Avatars Saved My Bacon

"Avatar" has several definitions - the third one on is

Digital Technologya graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.
Avatars have saved my bacon several times during the pandemic. Let me explain how, and share a few theories as to why avatars are so important to people.

1) Facebook vs Bitmoji - which avatar is better?

On May 20, 2020 I jumped on the bandwagon and created my Facebook generated avatar. This article from Elite Daily by Daffany Chan tells me that it officially debuted on May 13, 2020 in America (North America?) but arrived earlier in Australia and Europe.

I did a bit of reading on the topic, as some users have not yet been able to access or create their virtual Facebook selves, (don't worry Emily Burns and Ruth Gretsinger - you'll get it eventually!) and I thought this quote from a article was telling:

You'll have to build your icon from the ground up; there is no option for Facebook to automatically generate an avatar based on a profile picture or selfie. “We want to make sure we don't show you something totally opposite of the photo,” Raimo explained. “There's sensitivity around facial recognition.”Jun 4, 2019 

How we look is very important, even in online environments. Images are representative, either in a  realistic or an idealistic way. (I lean towards "accuracy" in my creations, but more on that later.) My post generated a large amount of responses from my friends and family, weighing in on how similar my creation is to my actual face. I commented that I was quite fond of the nose on the Facebook version. I have a "Roman nose" (or "big nose" if you speak to some of my filter-free students) and prominent probosces aren't always considered beautiful in Western culture, so it's rare to find a variety of detailed and different noses on avatar creators. Compare it to the Bitmoji version of me.

Representation matters. People can have very strong reactions to their avatars - either they "look nothing like me" or individuals choose to use their avatar in lieu of real photos of themselves. (I wonder if the recent trend for "virtual classroom spaces" featuring teachers' Bitmojis "on location" is a way to "be in class" when we cannot. It's very popular to create these right now.)

Making my avatar, sharing my avatar, comparing my avatar - this has been a fun distraction and a way to connect with others when we can't congregate physically to socialize.

2) Yearbook Group Shots

In this time of uncertainty, when many teachers wonder if all their efforts are worth it, creating the school yearbook has provided me with a much-needed sense of meaning and purpose. Usually creating the yearbook involves a lot of stress (as I wrote about here back in 2015) but this year's project, unlike some of my recent online lessons, feels like the work was for the greater good and important not just to me.

One of the biggest challenges was that, due to the strikes and the premature end of our physical time together at school, we did not have the opportunity to take photos of the (reduced number of ) clubs we ran this 2019-20 school year. How do we still represent them visually in the yearbook? One of the solutions was to use avatars. Andrew Li (yes, the same Andrew I've mentioned multiple times on this blog) offered to lend a hand and recommended we use avatars for a few of the group shots. Thanks to the organizational skills of Farah Wadia (who, I should mention, was simultaneously managing her Grade 7-8 class of 34 students online, with preparing videos, arranging Google Meets, modifying activities and marking assignments while providing feedback during all of this extra support she provided us), she generated a Google Form to consult with student members of the clubs that were getting the "avatar treatment" in the yearbook. We needed the students' consent to either make an avatar for them or to reproduce an avatar they created of themselves. Students who did not respond had their name included without a "photo", just like if they were absent during the picture-taking day for the club.

I feel it is safe enough to share two of the composites, since I won't include the names of the students seen. One is for the Eco Club (done in the style of Animal Crossing New Horizons) and the other shown below is for the Volleyball Team (done in the style of Pokemon trainers). I found it fascinating that many of the students that created their own avatars for the group project did not try to aim for something that resembled them the most; they created versions of themselves that (I suspect) they found most aesthetically pleasing to them. Or was it because they were unfamiliar with the technical aspects of the avatar generator? I noticed a lot of light-brown-haired individuals, which is interesting when my school is predominantly made up of students from an Asian or South Asian heritage (which means the most common hue is of black or very dark brown hair). The students that created their own avatars went for more creative, idealized, or "metaphorical" representations of themselves, instead of my attempts to "keep it real".

Obtaining consent to create the avatars, creating and collecting student avatars, and assembling them into a group photo for the yearbook was a worthwhile endeavor that filled my days and helped make the yearbook feel completed in a way that a "no photo available" square would not have done.

3) Animal Crossing New Horizons Dress-Up

My hair is making me rather discontented with my appearance lately. I have short hair and I cannot get it cut - and I refuse to break the rules by arranging for clandestine appointments. I'm feeling very unmotivated to try and transform it in any significant way (other than washing it 30 minutes before I'm scheduled for a Zoom or Google Meeting appearance online). Other than my Covid-19 Animal Crossing t-shirt that I want my husband to order for me, I have no interest in new clothes or dressing up. This weekend was supposed to be the annual Anime North convention and my eldest, who had been anticipating this for months, forlornly wore her cosplay outfit briefly before changing back into regular clothes.

This disdain for attending to my personal appearance isn't true, however, when I'm playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (yes, I've found another way to sneak in new photos I've taken in-game). The Able Sisters are a pair of sibling hedgehogs that have their own clothing store on the island. Each day, they offer new stock and I spend thousands of bells buying the latest outfits. It's possible to also fly to Harv's Island for photo shoots. My family members have complimented me on how well put-together I look on ACNH and my husband has hinted that I should attempt to duplicate these stylish outfits in real life. It's much easier to select and purchase clothes for myself in a video game than IRL. For one, there's no concerns about whether or not the clothes fit - they always do in the game. Also, I can afford new clothes easily in ACNH. In addition to "personal remodeling", I like cleaning and redecorating my house much more in-game than I do with my actual house because it just takes a click of a button to transform walls and floors. (I'm now on my "final home loan" with Tom Nook, which means I own a basement. I've decided to rotate my kitchen between 2-3 of my favourite designs and my upstairs is my exercise room and big bathroom while my basement is currently my music room.)

The ironic thing is that, even though I can switch my hair style and colour easily in the game, I've kept it to its current grey with long wispy sides. Why haven't I cut or coloured my hair in the game? I'm not sure - I think it's the signal that despite the beautiful clothes, it's still me or a version of me on the screen.

Me with blue overalls - I want this outfit IRL!

I wear this peasant blouse a lot in-game

I wear a lot more dresses than I do normally

I love how coordinated this ensemble is

Hubby says he can picture me actually wearing this

Even quirky outfits like this grape one can work!

Selecting outfits for my ACNH avatar and taking photos of my ACNH avatar have, in the wonderful words of author / illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, been therapeutic - it's balm for my emotional and social well-being that's given me an outlet for my creativity.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Educators Educating Extra

My routine for planning and creating this blog post still remains the same - I reflect on the events from the past week and consider which moments were significant to my learning and worthy of re-examining. I realized that there was a consistent thread over the past two weeks that merited some public celebration and introspection - and I thank the two people that center quite prominently in this narrative for allowing me to speak about them.

Teacher have been extremely busy supporting their students during this extended period of remote learning - but who supports the teachers? After all, for some people, this has been a huge learning curve and despite reassurances that we will not be judged, instructors still want to try to provide the best lessons in the most engaging and pedagogically sound ways.

In my school board, professional development is taken seriously - if a workshop or webinar is being offered in an official capacity (i.e. it is being advertised and registration occurs on Key To Learn, our TDSB portal for PD), then it has to be vetted and the quality has to be high. As a teacher-librarian, I spend a lot of time paying attention the Library and Learning Resources Department. Andrea Sykes, our Program Coordinator, has gone above and beyond to play a part supporting the board's Remote Learning Team. During the first phase of implementation, the Library and Learning Resources Department had a four-prong approach: workshops/webinars to support the general population of educators, office hours to support individuals with specific questions, TL network meetings to support teacher-librarians professionally, socially and emotionally, and a site for teacher-created resources in addition to our existing Virtual Library. Andrea is amazing but she is a single person and appreciated/relied on the support of the staff of Library Technical Services, the Professional Library, and several volunteer teacher-librarians who offered to do more.

Two teacher-librarians that I've been blessed to work with quite intensively as of late are April De Melo and Wendy Burch Jones. They created an incredible webinar about Choice Boards, sponsored/supported by the Library Department, and I offered to act as the chat moderator. (For those reading this wondering what on earth is a chat moderator, it is the person or people who monitor the back channel or chat pod for an online workshop and field/sort questions as the presenters are talking. Tina Surdivall and I were moderators for April's workshops on Curating Resources from the Virtual Library and it is a support role but a useful one.)

April and Wendy have absolutely astounded me with their dedication, selflessness, and hard work.

They have also turned me into a better chat moderator. After each webinar, we remain on the Google Meet to debrief and consider ways to improve. These conversations have led me to prepare for moderation by pulling up the frequently requested URLs and have them ready to copy and paste into the chat box (e.g. the Google Forms feedback sheet or the link to the Google Slides). This simple task has made my moderating duties so much easier. I've also learned how to record the meets and fix settings for sharing. (I am still horrible at creating Google Meet URLs but Francis Ngo has been very supportive and saved my bacon more than once.) April and Wendy are constantly updating the slide deck with the most current information at their fingertips. When those "virtual classrooms" became a hot new trend in choice boards, April and Wendy had examples in the presentation.

This photo above is an example of a virtual classroom. Thanks to Zélia Tavares for giving me permission to include the image of hers here on the blog. Zélia simply asked in return that I mention the educators that taught and inspired her: Andrea Payne (@schooledbypayne), Larissa Aradj (@MrsGeekChic) and (@misspanczner).

April and Wendy have been so generous with their time, their resources and their expertise. They have conducted the Choice Board webinar four times. Every time, the attendance has been around or over 100 people. Despite these large crowds, April and Wendy offer support that exceeds expectations. They stay after the hour-long webinar is officially over, to answer questions. Sometimes this means that they are online for nearly two hours helping out. During a recent Virtual Library Office Hours session, there were so many questions about choice boards that I sent out a "Bat Signal" - a quick text/DM to the pair of them to assist if they were available. Both April and Wendy jumped in within minutes of getting the "distress call" and were gracious guides, providing how-to videos they created themselves and offering emotional support as well that had me weeping when I thought about it afterwards.

I'm unsure if educators who have not themselves provided PD understand how exhausting the process can be. Facilitators have to be "on" in a way that differs from "regular teaching" because the audience consists of fellow educators. (Teachers aren't easy to teach!) Despite these added demands, Wendy and April have consistently delivered professional learning that differentiates for a wide spectrum of participants, from those who are unfamiliar with basic tenants to others who have attended the workshop (and others like it) multiple times and seek to "up their game". Wendy and April have decided to pause on delivering more live workshops on choice boards because we have several recordings of the webinar that interested parties can refer to, and because both of them still have other jobs to do. April and Wendy are parents of elementary-school-aged children that need attention. April and Wendy are also both teacher-librarians at TDSB schools that still rely on their experience to help with classroom and school support. It was due to this "ending but not exactly an ending" that prompted me to publicly thank them for all their efforts. April and Wendy - I'm not happy that this pandemic happened, but one silver lining in all of this storm has been getting the opportunity to work with you closely. You are both so very inspiring. In addition to these choice board workshops, you have both contributed so much to TDSB Library and TDSB as a whole (Google sites, other workshops, office hours, creating resources, etc.) and I hope you feel appreciated and valued.

Let me end by mentioning that April and Wendy are not the only extraordinary TDSB Library-related volunteers. I've had the pleasure of working with Jordan Graham, Susan Novak, Alanna Julien, my LC3 TL co-facilitators Tracey Donaldson, Moyah Walker, Kim Davidson and Francis Ngo, and many other individuals who have asked themselves "How can I help?" and found ways to go beyond. Thank you to those people, as well as those who have sought out professional learning to improve their practice. Ontario's current Minister of Education may not seem to appreciate it, but many do. Thank you!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Animal Crossing New Horizons - Popularity and Possibilities

I think this is the first time that I will have posted an identical blog post in three different virtual places simultaneously:

(L-R) Mary, Peter, Diana

This is because the topic is relevant to all three sites: my recent use of the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a video game produced by Nintendo for the Switch console system. It has become a very popular game to play during the recent global pandemic for many reasons. This game set sales records and created buzz in the mainstream media.  This article consulted game developers and asked them to explain the reason for the game's popularity. They mention things such as:
  • a relaxing escape via the comfort of doing daily tasks
  • the desire to "do your best" for your village and villagers
  • rewarding for those who like structured tasks and those who like to explore/discover
  • feeling accomplished/euphoric when tasks are accomplished (the hook)
  • ability to achieve at your own pace without time pressure and complete collections
  • agency / ownership and social aspects - joy without harm

I can tell you why I enjoy the game. 

1) It's something to do that is enjoyable and can use many hours.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a lot of fun. There are so many things to do each day. You can go shopping (at Nook's Cranny or The Able Sisters, plus the assorted vendors that show up in the town square to buy and sell their specific wares - anything from Leif with his flowers to Daisy Mae, who offers turnips only on Sunday mornings for the stock/stalk market and trended on Twitter last week). You can visit others, whether they are "real" or not. Fishing, gardening, bug catching, shell collecting ... I can spend hours playing and it helps pass the time. It's a place to go when I can't actually physically go anywhere right now. As this article from the Daily Mail suggests, the game eats up your spare time and many people (who aren't essential workers) have a lot of spare time on their hands right now.

I got stung by wasps but I'm okay!

2) The game has cross-generational appeal, and not just for "gamers".

In my nuclear family of four people that reside in my home, three of us play Animal Crossing: New Horizons (which I will refer to in the rest of this post as ACNH) every single day. The game demographics are quite wide. The rating of the game suggests that it's for children, but this article by the New York Times describes its appeal to millenials. Dr. Romana Ramzan, an expert quoted in this article, explains how the game is attractive on multiple levels. Children can do adult things, and adults have a gentler, idealized existence where you experience calm and control. It's a simple game to learn but allows me a lot of creativity, like this post by website The Gamer says.

My family, posing at Harv's (photo) island

3) I can play the game whatever way I want.

The last game to captivate me in such a way was Minecraft, another "sandbox" game that offers multiple ways to interact. (The game I loved the most before that was Webkinz.) I notice that my young adult daughter, teenage son and I all play in different ways. Our methods relax us, like this article by the SpielTimes mentions, and we all have different priorities - and that's okay. There are benefits to engaging in certain activities but players do not fail if they ignore or minimize those tasks; for instance, I had not been visiting the villagers inside their homes regularly, which meant that I received less DIY recipes from them. 

This is me farming peaches on a different island.

4) The game provides me with a social outlet and achievable goals.

Sometimes, my family will sit down and just watch someone play ACNH. It's gentle and calm, as this How To Geek article describes, but it is also entertaining. When my son landed on Tarantula Island, we all watched attentively as he captured the "most dangerous" creatures in the game. (Tarantulas make you faint. You can't "die" in ACNH but seeing a big spider attack you is thrilling enough.) 

I caught an oar fish!
I've also invited some of my friends that also own ACNH to our island. It's the only way we can visit each other right now. We love seeing how others have designed their islands and visiting with the non-player characters that live alongside them.

I love to take photos in real life and I've been able to transfer this hobby into the virtual realm. I've linked my ACNH account to one of my social media accounts and have been posting screen shots of my adventures (late at night, so that those who aren't ACNH aren't peppered with too many photos of my video game play). 

ACNH can also be used to explain every single media literacy key concept.

At KK Slider's concert

Enjoying KK Slider sing tunes on request

1) Media construct reality.

My current / new reality is partially shaped around my game play. I report to work (which is just another room in my house) from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm and then I go visit my island of Morioh. On Saturdays after 6:00 pm, each of us visits the island for a free concert by the ACNH singer KK Slider. On Sundays before noon, some of us seek out Daisy Mae to buy turnips.

Me with Daisy Mae

2) Media construct versions of reality.

The avatars on ACNH are flexible. Players set up their virtual stand-in at the beginning of the game but then have options to change it throughout the game. My wardrobe in ACNH is gorgeous and probably more along idealized versions than reality. However, I chose my hair to closer match the actual colour and the way that my hair growth has "wings" sprouting from the sides.

I'm dressed as a super hero!

My ACNH house is tidier and much more coordinated than my actual house. 

3) Audiences negotiate meaning.

ACNH has its own set of memes, in which the community of players exchange jokes and humorous observations that would be lost on non-players unfamiliar with the "lore". Also, I have been very cautious not to post any ACNH images during school hours, because audiences might see this activity as unfitting for a teacher or a waste of time.

Here are the best Animal Crossing: New Horizons memes we've found ...
You won't understand this joke unless you know that Blathers the museum curator hates bugs.

4) Media have economic implications.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was extremely unhappy with EB Games and their lack of safety precautions when they released ACNH - this caused huge lines to form in front of stores as consumers purchased the physical copy of the game. (My own family decided not to line up on the day it was released and had to wait three [long] weeks before they were able to order and receive a copy of the game.)

In-game economics are significant. Bells (and Nook Miles) are the currency and expanding connections helps you financially if you are interested in buying and selling turnips at a major profit. Players will sometimes offer their island access codes if their turnip prices are particularly lucrative, and even celebrities like Elijah Wood can come to your island to take advantage of the great offer.

This was the first place I lived on ACNH - a tent.

This was my first house, with a loan.

This is my house as of this week (May 2020)

You can earn money in different ways. My son's favourite way to earn money was to go "tarantula hunting" on other islands that you can travel to after buying Nook Mile tickets. He taught me the strategy to maximize his captures (nicknamed "No Bully Lane" (c) 2020) and if I'm patient, I can wait to sell the tarantulas (or scorpions, because tarantulas aren't in season right now) for the regular going rate plus 50%.

Me hunting on Tarantula Island

Selling my tarantulas to Timmy and Tommy

5) Media communicate values messages.

What does it mean to be a good citizen? This message is shared in so many ways in ACNH. Good citizens pick up litter, like fallen branches. They chat with their neighbours and bring them medicine when they are sick. They are active and wander the island. They donate items to the museum. They contribute to the prosperity of the island by buying and selling items from regular vendors (Timmy and Tommy, the Able Sisters) as well as visiting salespeople (CJ, Flick, Leif, Kicks, and even "shifty" characters like Redd the Fox who sells authentic and fake pieces of art). 

6) Media communicate political and social messages.

It's not just me who thinks this. The Atlantic ran an article called "Animal Crossing Isn't Escapist; It's Political" and does a convincing job of describing how it supports capitalism AND pastoralism. There are elements of consumerism but also community works.

I do not know if the gender constructs in ACNH have been examined, but they are present and fascinating. There are eight types of villagers, four male and four female. The female types are sisterly, normal, snooty and peppy. The male types are jock, smug, lazy and grumpy. There are a few characters in the past that push beyond the binary, but they aren't very popular. My daughter also informed me that the player character's gender is not fixed. This game, she tells me, is popular with trans fans because it doesn't ask if you are a boy or a girl. The pronoun used by villagers to refer to players is always the gender-neutral "they".

Speaking of popularity, there are over 300 non-player characters (NPCs) that can be your villagers. Certain villagers have become very sought-after and the reasons center on their beauty. Their personalities are limited to their type, so the only difference is their appearance. 

My current set of villagers.

7) Form and content are closely related in each medium.

ACNH is a video game, although more precisely it is a "life simulation video game". As such, it has game elements as part of daily chores and tasks. Will you catch that fish or will it get away? What fish will you catch? How might adding fish bait to the water increase your chances?

Shortly after this photo was taken, I was stung & fainted.

8) Each medium has a unique aesthetic form.

It is easy to recognize the "style" of ACNH, both visual and behavioural. When you catch something like a fish or a bug, your avatar holds it up to the camera for the player/audience to see, describing what has been caught and adding an amusing pun.

There are different clothes associated with different cultures but whatever you wear, you can tell you are in ACNH. There are different objects you can buy, learn how to craft, or can be gifted (thanks to floating presents in the sky). They can be recognized as coming from ACNH.

This is my bedroom.

This is my craft room.

This is my kitchen.

This is my living room and bathroom.

This is my upstairs entertainment suite.

In conclusion, I don't see any conclusion to my Animal Crossing New Horizons obsession / admiration in the near future. I won't be including it in my teaching (because not all elements of popular culture should or must be included into education), but I will be using ACNH avatars as a club photo in lieu of our in-person group photo. If you ever want to visit my island, contact me and let's see if we can connect - just make sure to abide by those hospitality rules that makes ACNH such a beloved pastime of mine and others. 

Monday, May 4, 2020


I am writing today's blog on the day it goes live - Monday, May 4, 2020 - because I'm reflecting on an event that just happened Sunday night.

Two acronyms are suitable for beginning this post, and both begin with F.

FOMO stands for "fear of missing out" (confirmed via and was what I was experiencing when I was reading the tweets from my friends.

FOLD stands for the Festival of Literary Diversity (confirmed at and was the subject of all these tweets. This year, because of the global pandemic, the festival ran online.

Thankfully, there were still spots open for a Sunday afternoon session called "Fighting Injustice with Fiction", which was a panel featuring Kagiso Lesego Molope (@kagisobua), Adnan Khan (@whotookadnan) and Danny Ramadan (@DannySeesIt), moderated by Wayne Grady.

For some reason, I was both excited and nervous to register. I wasn't already familiar with these authors; does this mean I'm just a poser? What should I expect? What is a Zoom Meet with over 100 people going to be like?

The first thing that impressed me was the land acknowledgement before the session began.

What I really liked about it was that it included a personal action item: "we are dedicated to continuing to increase our own awareness, understanding, and conscientious action on this land". This is so important because recently a friend informed me that she heard someone comment during a different webinar, "Is this really necessary?" as the land acknowledgement was shared.

Based on advice from my friends who have attended previous FOLD sessions, I had pen and paper at the ready, as well as my cell phone so I could tweet some of the memorable insights.

The above tweet was my way of dealing with my ambivalent feelings about the performance of the moderator in this panel. The moderator was prepared; it was clear he had read the novels written by the panelists. (Sometimes it was too clear, as he revealed plot "spoilers" during the conversation!) The questions started strong, with "Why do we write novels?" but faltered afterwards. I believe the session truly became remarkable and memorable when the panelists almost ignored the moderator and began to talk amongst themselves about their experiences dealing with conferences and publishing companies.

Before you think I am being unfair to Wayne Grady, let me back-pedal a bit. There were tweets that lauded his moderating skills. This could just be a matter of opinion. Also, as I allude to in my tweet, moderating isn't easy. It's not like I felt like I could have done a better job - heck, I didn't even think I was worthy enough to even attend. This was nothing like the absolutely appalling debacle at another festival where the moderator of a panel that was supposed to be about diversity on the Young Adult fiction industry bemoaned the lack of representation for straight white boys. My concerns are nothing as serious or severe as that. It was, overall, a very good session.

There were so many great things said, especially in the later half of the panel. My notes are a mess, so instead I've copied and pasted my Twitter thread during that time, where I tried hard to capture all my favourite quotes. (If you want to read them in the order they appeared, read from the bottom up.)

Kudos should also go to Danny Ramadan, who was somehow able to tweet and retweet while still contributing fully to the panel. That is a level of multitasking that I cannot ever hope to achieve!

I enjoyed the panel and felt like I learned quite a bit. In the future, if people complain about undefined words or terms in books from different languages, I'm going to remember Adnan Khan's comparison to whaling in Moby Dick. I am also going to investigate and purchase at least one of the featured authors' books - it's been ages since I read an "adult" book (which reminds me that one day I need to write about getting "traumatized" by books).

The icing on the cake was when FOLD founder Jael Richardson hosted a Kahoot game at the end of the panel with actual prizes.

After the fifth question, I was in 11th place. That was my highest standing and I fell far behind shortly thereafter, but it was a fun and interactive way for the audience to participate.

Thank you to the FOLD organizers, the participating authors, and my persuasive friends for an excellent experience. I look forward to seeing/listening to some of the other panels from #FOLD2020 when they become public.

Monday, April 27, 2020

DigCitTO and the future of conferences

I presented at and attended a virtual conference on Saturday, April 18, 2020.
Often, when I attend conferences, I like to give a summary of what I learned and my experiences.
This will have a bit more reflection at the end.

You can see the list of speakers on their website,

Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 9:00 a.m.

Community Welcome and Introduction to the Day

I don't know if anyone else has noticed a shift in their cicadian rhythms, but I find it difficult to wake up "early" in the morning. (This is a long-winded way of saying I slept through this part.)

Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 9:25 a.m.

Museums and Minecraft / Help! I'm new to online learning!

I think I might have been awake by this time but not actually mentally or physically ready to face the world, even when it's the world as mediated through my webcam!

Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Mental Health and Well-Being (panel) / Get O.E.M. Connected

By this time, I was finally ready to learn. I wanted to attend the OEM session (because I am part of the OEM team and I wanted to show support) but I couldn't get into the Zoom session. Instead, I joined the YouTube Live session. I was logged into my Gmail account that isn't associated with my YouTube channel, so I couldn't comment directly during the session so the moderator and presenter could see. Instead, I shared my comments in the Twittersphere.

There were lots of great points made during the panel about keeping an eye on your own personal mental health; Mandy advised the audience to conduct a "body scan" on ourselves because sometimes we are not aware we are holding in our stress inside our bodies. Jessica also said we should "choose our thoughts the way we choose our clothes" - that is, deliberately.

Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 10:35 a.m.

Supporting Digital Agency Through Media Literacy / Leveraging Social Media for Allyship

I was so sad that I had to miss the session on allyship but it couldn't be helped - after all, I was co-presenting! 

Quick tangent: I really want to be more like Jennifer Casa-Todd and Stephen Hurley, in that they do not yet adversity or errors prevent them from staying positive and carrying on. Jennifer occasionally forgot to unmute herself when she talked but this didn't stop her from continuing to facilitate sessions with a smile on her face. Stephen Hurley lost power in Milton as he was live-broadcasting the Zoom portion of the conference but maintained his composure, diagnosed the problem, and did what he could. I had been listening to the Mental Health and Wellness Panel through YouTube Live and I forgot to close this window when I entered the "Broadcast Booth" link for our YouTube Live link session. This caused a lot of audio feedback on my end as I heard myself twice, and it took precious minutes off our short presentation to learn of my mistake and rectify the situation. (Thank you Carlo Fusco for discovering the cause!) I continued with the presentation but internally I was beating myself up for the careless slip-up.

Big thanks to my co-presenter, Chelsea Attwell, who not only covered for me as I winced through my sound difficulties, but also stepped in and presented when my microphone conked out when I was supposed to talk - I had to exit my tab and re-enter, and Chelsea took care of things. She also ad-libbed when I realized I had taken too much air time and we needed some new voices and views.

Big thanks also go to Carol Arcus, vice-president of the AML, who was in the backchannel of the YouTube live presentation. Carol supplemented the presentation and unofficially helped moderate the comment section and did so with style.

The participants were engaged and themselves had such good insights to make that I was quite taken with their comments.

I should also thank Neil Andersen, who was the original source for the observation that the image that can be "read" from the top down or from the bottom up. Neil also provided post-conference feedback, which made me realize that I had forgotten to internalize the eighth key concept - when I had prepared the slide deck, I created it with the idea of having the images on the big screen as I presented. Instead, I was presenting on a small screen and my slides were shared alongside images of me and my moderators / co-presenters, which meant the visuals weren't seen as clearly due to their size.
This is a shame because there was an extra-important image shared with special permissions. I want to, once again, thank Brazilian artist Bruno Saggese for giving my permission to share his art as part of my presentation. Here's a short version of the story: I saw a visual tweeted by someone. I thought it was perfect to explain the Media Key Concept that media have economic implications. I wanted to use the image but I didn't just want to copy and paste it. My PLN came to my rescue; Sharla Serasanke Falodi did some internet detective work and found the name of the artist.
I found out how to contact the artist and we had a lovely conversation via Facebook Messenger. I explained that I was part of a non-profit organization, conducting a workshop for another non-profit organization and asked for three things: his permission to use the visual, his directions on how to cite it (if permission was granted) and a method of financially compensating him for the use of his art. He agreed to all three and we had an interesting conversation about artists and how things spread online.

Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 11:05 a.m.

Closing (Consolidation, Burning Questions, Next Steps)

The Menti poll was an excellent way to capture the feelings of the online attendees and thank the many people involved with transforming this conference into a virtual experience. There's a rumor going around certain parts of the Internet that I created the term "crisitunity" but I cannot take credit for it. That goes to a combination of the Chinese written language (see the above photo) and the Simpsons. 
This leads me to some further reflection. What is the future of conferences? Will they completely die out? Will there only be small venues? I'd be sad if there were no more big conferences for the foreseeable future. It's highly likely that Fan Expo Canada - my daughter's favourite place for cosplaying, panels, and pop-culture shopping from independent artists and crafters - will be cancelled. My son's favourite convention, Anime North, was cancelled. OLA SuperConference is accepting applications for their January 2021 event - but will it happen? Certain things can be replicated online but not other aspects. What might be the economic and social implications? The main reason I've seen every province except one (Saskatchewan) has been because of conferences. Conferences are great opportunities for me to learn and to meet with friends, despite the big price tag associated with going elsewhere for PD. I wish I had a crystal ball to foresee the future of conferences.