Monday, June 18, 2018

Being Joy

I've noticed a trend in the last three of my blog posts - they all deal with these mixed positive and negative feelings related to the hectic schedule I've been keeping and the various events that I'm participating in or involved with this June.

As I mentioned last week, I was busy trying to create my So You Think You Can Dance costume. It's tradition to have "celebrity judges" and Tina Voltsinis, Jennifer Balido-Cadavez and I chose to be three of the characters from the movie "Inside Out". Finding the right clothes and accessories was challenging. I wanted to look as similar to the character as I could, and my thrift store dress purchase was the right shape but wrong colour. I decided, in a last-ditch effort, to go to the fabric store to search for some material that I could use to somehow place on top of the existing dress to make it more realistic.

Let me interrupt this narrative for a reality check. I don't always write about equity issues in my posts, but I should. For instance, as I describe this process, I need to recognize that I am coming from a huge place of economic privilege here. I am able to devote time and money to making something that isn't essential to daily living. Some educators do not have this luxury. Back to the story.

I got a great deal on the fabric - $3.00 a meter. The big question was, would I be able to actually sew a dress, from scratch, in an evening? Other impending deadlines got pushed aside (sorry, pile of Grade 5 science assessments!) and I worked quickly. Here's a photo essay of the steps.

1) I used the dress I bought as a pattern. I measured 1.5 " around and used fabric chalk to mark the distance. Then I cut it out.

Photo by son

I always get nervous cutting cloth - no going back after a snip!

2) I matched up the front and back and pinned the shoulders and sides together. The front and back didn't always match evenly, so I had to get it as close as possible.

Shoulders pinned

Overhead view of the pinned dress (uneven bottom)

Pinned sides
3) I then grabbed my sewing machine. I switched the thread colour and spent an inordinate amount of time threading and re-threading my bobbin. Then I stitched together the shoulders and sides.
Putting pieces together


 4) I borrowed fabric pens from last year's fashion show supplies and my daughter helped me find a close-up of Joy's dress, to examine the detailing. I used both fabric markers and Sharpie markers to create the blue starburst design.

Visual references help!

The toonie acted as a "blank center" for the lines

5) I hemmed the bottom, reinforced the arm holes, and left the neckline alone.

My colleagues were also frantically assembling their outfits. Facebook appeals were sent, party stores were searched and plans had to be modified.

Is it okay if I sneak in another equity observation? Are hair spray paints only made for Caucasian hair? My friend's hair really resisted the blue but my hair changed noticeably. Are others limited to only using wigs? Thankfully my creative colleague added blue glitter to her hair to make it more blue.

It worked! As we dressed in the nurse's office / OSR room, we moaned about how our outfits weren't quite right, until we added some element that changed things around completely. For Tina, it was the long green eyelashes that transformed her into Disgust. For Jen, it was the oversized round glasses that completed the metamorphosis. I was tickled pink with my dress, and knowing that I made it all myself made it that much sweeter.

Emotional selfie

Disgust, Sadness and Joy!

Tina Voltsinis, aka Disgust

Jennifer Cadavez, aka Sadness

Diana Maliszewski, aka Joy
Jen also added this fantastic detail - we carried "memories". These were glass containers filled with glowing LED lights and tinged with tissue paper to match the emotion.

The staff and students seemed to really enjoy the performances, both the dance ones by the students on stage as well as the drama improvisational ones by the staff. 

Thanks Stephanie Paterson for this image of us speaking
(Please alert me if you can see any student faces in this video and I'll take it off the blog.)


What does it meant to be the physical embodiment of joy? At first I felt it's being positive, happy and delighted with almost everything you see and hear and experience. After studying the movie (by re-watching it), I realized that the character of Joy isn't always joyful. She's driven, bossy, and focused on her own goals (to keep Riley happy, even when Riley needs a wider emotional landscape and realistic reactions to her current situation). We can't always be joyful all the time. We can't always be happy. In fact, I was pretty worried at the end of the week when we learned about a local shooting near our school that sent two young girls to hospital. We used the TDSB guidelines for discussing traumatic events with students and had some sensitive and helpful conversations. It wasn't joyful but it was a way to restore joy and reduce fear - and sometimes that matters more than getting work done or meeting deadlines.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Feeling Stressed, Feeling Loved

I am writing this blog post 90 minutes before Monday, June 11, 2018 ends. This is not like me at all. I usually write my posts on the weekend and it goes public early Monday. However, I can barely catch my breath, despite having the previous Friday off work as a report card writing day. (Boy, was I grateful for that time!)

Here's some of the things that have kept me busy this past week, in no particular order. I finalized my report card grades and comments for all the classes that I'm responsible for. On June 5, my OSLA partner in crime Alanna King and I went to Ontario Library Association headquarters to select which conference workshop applications would be accepted, which was a day full of intense decision making and negotiations. Alanna and I then attended the OSLA Council meeting to give our Super Conference summary and update. This weekend, there were also a lot of tasks to complete related to Maker Festival Toronto - I distributed the promotional material to every secondary school in TDSB and TCDSB and spent four hours on Sunday with Aedan and Nathan rewriting the volunteer role descriptions and calculating the number of bodies we'd need per shift during the festival. Hubby and I spent two hours on the weekend editing the research paper that my research assistant, Terry Soleas, and I hope to have accepted by a peer-reviewed academic journal. I tinkered with Moodle in preparation for my Library Additional Qualification courses that I'll be teaching for York University this July. I can't forget the Volunteer Tea invitations that went out today. My daughter and I spent 3.5 hours on Saturday searching for the costume I need for tomorrow's So You Think You Can Dance celebrity judging, and 2.5 hours tonight sewing parts that will make the outfit look more authentic. (I'll post pictures tomorrow via Twitter and Facebook.)

I don't list these things to make myself look super-human or to brag. It's more of an explanation why it's taking a lot longer for me to process instructions or comments, as my brain madly sorts through the various "tabs open" to determine what's being discussed. It's an apology for the "deer in the headlights" look or the tired gait. When people ask "How does she do it?", I answer "Not particularly well" and that it's possible for me to do many of these things because my teen children don't need me as much as they used to, and my husband runs the household single-handed.

Despite all these jobs and all the stress, I'm feeling very loved. My family made a point of going out to breakfast together on Sunday at our favourite local morning eatery. On June 9, while at the OSLA Council meeting, I was shocked and surprised when Kelly Maggiarias, OSLA President, presented me with a cake with my face on it and a wonderful framed poster created by the talented Lauren Hummel, my OLA staff liaison for The Teaching Librarian magazine. I didn't expect it at all.


Thank you to everyone who was involved in the surprised presentation, to those who took the pictures that I put on today's blog, and also to all those kind people who said such nice things on Twitter in response to those tweets. Your caring fuels me and makes it possible to push along despite the frantic, hectic schedule and demands.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Huge Triumphs and Tiny Regrets

Another whirlwind week has passed and there are so many things to consider! I realized that despite all the excellent things that happened, each event had a micro-moment where I had a "I wish that had gone differently" thought. I know I need to focus on the positive, but as I describe what I learned and experienced, I'll articulate the doubts (in a smaller font).

Radio Trip to Visit 98.1 CHFI, KISS 92.5 and 680 NEWS


On May 30, 2018, 31 students selected from Grades 1-5 had a chance to visit the headquarters of several, Rogers-owned radio stations. In February, a separate group visited the Bell-owned radio stations CHUM and Virgin Radio, and that helped shape our understanding of how radio stations operate. Our May visit really consolidated our learning and I am so grateful to Angela Morra for accommodating us. Radio stations are not meant to host school tours, especially for elementary school students. We were extremely fortunate that they made an exception for us.




The broadcast facilities at Rogers are incredible. We were treated so well, especially by Jax, the DJ at KISS 92.5. The students were thrilled to actually get to be on the radio. The news station was very informative and it was a technological wonder to see how seamlessly the reporters shared despite being in separate spaces. We took many photos! Big thanks to Ms. Bicos and Ms. Landra for helping to supervise the students with me. Watching students try to enter a revolving door was quite entertaining!

The tiny regret: One of my students has a visual impairment. I had hoped that on this trip, she would be able to touch some of the equipment that she had only heard us describe in the school setting. I mentioned the importance of having a tactile experience to the adult leading the tour but for whatever reason, the student didn't get the opportunity. In addition, there was a promo photo moment that I had to make a quick decision about and I could have included another student whose parent would have allowed it.

Media Additional Qualification Course Reunion

On May 31, 2018, students from the fall and winter sessions of the TDSB-sponsored Media AQ courses gathered at Northern Secondary School for a reunion of sorts. This was a deliberate effort to continue the learning and build capacity. We had very intellectually stimulating conversations about gaming, heard about a great resource from Michelle Solomon - Michelle, what's it called again? Some of us taped short comments for Charles C Chan to compile into a promotional video for the course. Thanks so much to Neil, Carol, Michelle, Tracey, Charles, Doris, Hong Rong, and others for adding so much to the discussions.

The tiny regret: The agenda was co-created by all the participants and one of the topics we decided to cover somewhat last-minute was the Maker movement. I name-dropped Melanie Mulcaster and attempted to channel her expertise in my answers but I felt like I forgot to mention some key people (like Laura Fleming, Diana Rendina, and Andy Plemmons). I will need to follow up with Melanie on some of the questions that I fielded that I'm unsure I did justice to - sadly, this will only show up in the meeting notes and not be part of the original talk, which is more memorable for people.

ETFO ICT Conference for Women

I love this conference! This year it was held June 1-2, 2018 in downtown Toronto. If you follow me on Twitter, you'll notice I posted a lot of my thoughts there. At the risk of repeating myself, here's my traditional "conference breakdown" reflection.

Friday, June 1, 2018 (10:30 am) - Opening Keynote by Dr. Camille Rutherford [Tech Trends Sweeping the Globe: Will They Be Coming To Your Classrooms?]

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Don't use technology as a one-trick pony or a hook; use tech that helps students grow from consumers to creators.
  2. Information is power only if you know what to do with it.
  3. Educators should be aware of some of the upcoming technology trends (i.e. VR,  AR, mixed reality, 360 video, block chain, bit coins, AI, predictive analytics, etc.)


So What? Now What?

I love listening to Camille. The questions she posted after providing a few examples were questions that we should ask ourselves frequently. I won't tune out just because I might not understand the concepts at first. Camille did a great job of scaffolding the information for the crowd and keeping us engaged. I even received a Lego female mini-figure as a gift.



Friday, June 1, 2018 (1:00 pm) - Amplifying Student Voice through TED-Ed Talks by Elke Baumgartner and Meghan Lowe

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. TED-Ed Clubs are more about the process than the product and are meant to channel students' passions.
  2. Resources are available if you register and the 13 sessions are geared towards students in Grades 3-12 (and it usually takes about 6 weeks to go through)
  3. Skills like presentation literacy, primary source data collection, developing copyright friendly images, etc. are all developed through the TED-Ed framework


So What? Now What?

My teen has complained about the overuse of TED talks shown in her high school class, but Elke and Meghan really showed how being creators instead of consumers might change her opinion. I'd like to take their advice and invest in a good lapel microphone so audio projects can be better and not reliant on a standard microphone that might inhibit gestures. We can even use it for storytelling!



Friday, June 1, 2018 (2:15 pm) - Games-Based Learning: Playing to Learn by Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Games-based learning and gamification are two separate things.
  2. Some games aren't appropriate for the classroom but by being aware of the games your students play, you can leverage that in other ways in the classroom.
  3. Be aware of who has created a game, what their purpose might be, and the intended audience. (Not all games are created equal.)


So What? Now What?

I love presenting with Denise! She and I work well together. She kept us from going over time and the participants were interested and interesting! I just need to keep finding opportunities for Denise and I to work together.



Friday, June 1, 2018 (3:30 pm) - Closing Keynote by Leigh Cassell [What if?]

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. When we depersonalize the learning experience, there is no experience of learning.
  2. Behind every image is a person with a story.
  3. In the absence of an authentic audience, and without a meaningful purpose, literacy instruction is just read, write, repeat.
So What? Now What?

Well, Leigh made us laugh and cry. Her words challenged and moved the audience. Rethink how relationships impact learning - and act on those thoughts!

Saturday, June 2, 2018 (8:45 am) - Game-Based Learning: Time to Play by Denise Colby and Diana Maliszewski 

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. The smartest thing in a room full of teachers is the room - thanks Laura for sharing a new online game with the group!
  2. Don't play Cards Against Humanity with students unless you want to be in the blue pages! - The more serious point is that you can use old tech (like the Nintendo Wii vs the Nintendo Switch) in your classes.
  3. There are many curriculum tie-ins to different games and online versions of board games that help students learn the rules without cheating.






So What? Now What?

We had so much fun in this session! Despite the fact that it was the first session of the day, teachers that attended were active and engaged. I loved it when a teacher saw a creeper and asked if it was friendly; her follow-up question was "How can you tell who are the good guys and the bad guys?" and I love that for a general inquiry question! We used a "choose your own adventure" centers model and at one point we had some playing Ticket to Ride on an iPad, some playing Outdoor Challenge on the Wii, and some playing Minecraft. My next step is to play Little Alchemy with my Grade 5s as part of their science unit on Properties of and Changes in Matter!




Saturday, June 2, 2018 (10:45 am) - The Best Online Tools for Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration by Trish Morgan

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. Peek back at your list of great online tools to keep them current (some change, some update, some stay the same, some alter their policies).
  2. Using some of these online tools in the classroom provide a safe place to teach digital citizenship, chat rooms, and redirecting off-topic discussions (like with Today's Meet)
  3. Consider different ways about using some of these tools and put new spins on old ideas (e.g. instead of saying "What would you do with a million dollars?", ask "What would you and your family do with a million dollars?" so you can get different perspectives and family involvement.

So What? Now What?

I got a lot out of this session. Some of the tools I've heard about a long time ago, like with Voki. Some of the tools I just learned about recently at ECOO Camp Owen Sound, like Geo Guesser. Some were new to me, like Jigsaw Palace. I will definitely use these tools in June so that there's still purpose to our time together with students, even if we've "covered it all". Trish is an excellent presenter and some of the things I learned don't get filed under "good tech"; they get filed under "good teaching".

Saturday, June 2, 2018 (1:30 pm) - Bring Creations to Life with the Makey Makey by Susan Lee and Louise Vaillancourt

Summary and 3 Key Points

  1. For an object to act as a conductor, it needs to have salt and water. Note, a Veggie Straw will not work unless it is completely soaked in spit.
  2. There are certain ways to handle your Makey Makey so that it doesn't break or fall apart.
  3. There are many curriculum connections you can use with Makey Makey, especially when combined with Scratch.






So What? Now What?

Connecting circuits takes brain power! I always had to remind myself to complete the chain and I like how Louise and Susan demonstrated this by having the group hold hands. It takes perseverance and I think I may want to get a single Makey Makey for myself to use next year.




I completed the feedback form for ETFO that asked us to describe the top 3 things we learned at this conference. I copied and pasted my answer because I thought it was worthwhile to share.

1) I have a wonderful network of old (and now new) contacts that I can turn to for help and support - e.g. thanks Julie for offering to help me with Moodle! Thanks Laura for showing me Little Alchemy!

2) Teaching about copyright and ownership shouldn't be boring or a one-off - embed it in different things you do, like Leigh's suggestion to Creative Commons license your slide decks, or Trish's example of using a Word Cloud you make for an online jigsaw, to value what you made.

3) Gender and tech do impact each other, like Camille mentioned about design that ignores female realities (like no pockets).

The tiny regret: The sessions went smoothly, but during our Friday workshop, I ran out of time to share the two anecdotes about gender expression in gaming environments. These examples were quite pertinent to a tech conference solely for women. I probably should have made the time to share it, as they were powerful stories to share and as Leigh said in her keynote, "behind every image is a person with a story".


Thank you to everyone who contributed in some way to those learning triumphs I got to experience (especially those who organized the events: Angie at Rogers, Neil and Carol for the Media AQ reunion, and Ruth, Kelly, Erika and others for the ETFO ICT conference). My tiny regrets are just that - tiny, and in the grand scheme of things, quite insignificant. I just don't want anyone to feel like things go "Instagram perfect" every time.



P.S. I nearly forgot to mention the site where I bought my dress that I wore on Friday!
As I tweeted Because isn't just about tech, but about women supporting each other in different ways (including flattering, comfy clothes with pockets!), I share the site-