Author Archives: danieldion1

Summary of Learning

Despite screaming kids, speaking in my second language and hours of editing, here it is.  Enjoy!

I’ve had such a great time participating in this class and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my blogposts.  Your contributions to my journey of learning was greatly appreciated.

Learning How to Sew (week seven)

This week represents the culmination of my project.  My aim was to complete my EDC2 bag and I’m pleased to report.  MISSION ACCOMPLISED!  Here are how things went in the final week of my major learning project.

My first task was to cut and install a piece of plastic to act as a rigid bottom to my bag.  I scavenged an old piece of plexiglass that I has in my supplies and used the table saw at school to cut it down to size.  I then used a piece of sandpaper to make sure there were no sharp edges.  I didn’t want the piece of acrylic to make any inadvertent holes in my bag.

base

I then placed the piece of acrylic in the bottom of the bag between the outer layer of the bag and the liner I had completed last week.  Once I had aligned the liner and the bag, I pined them in place to prepare for the installation of the zipper.  Making sure I had everything aligned, properly oriented and securely clipped in place, I was ready to stitch the assembly.  On the other side of the bag, I did the same procedure with one additional step.  In the original plans, two nylon paracord loops are placed underneath the zipper to act as a clipping location for the eventual shoulder strap.  Having purchased plastic clamp style clips to use instead, I cut out a couple pieces of fabric to act as supports for my clips.  This little bit of improvisation went smoothly.

(Side note: Had I not gained the experience of the previous project, I’m certain this step would have never been so easy.  This small piece of sewing improvisation gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities as a student of sewing.)

With the zipper installed, I felt a wave of momentum that called for me to finish my project.  I should have kept calm and collected as this is the point when things started going awry.  The spacing in my stitching started being uneven and I even missed the proper location to stich at some points.  I started introducing involuntary pleats in my seams and started to get irritated that things weren’t going as quickly and smoothly as I wanted.  I was getting tired and it was late.

(Side note: Over the many years I have spent working late nights doing hobbies that I love; I have noticed that working when tired is never a good idea.  Patience quickly runs out, I rush through steps, I miss important ones and end up with mediocre work that is not up to the standards I set myself.  At this point, I should have listened to my body and to my frustrations and stopped.  Sewing, like many other practices like teaching, performing sports and playing music, having a positive growth mindset is essential.  This is not achievable when the mind and the body are tired.  There is no shame in taking breaks and going to sleep when contemplating a problem.  A good night of sleep seems to always bear fruit in these situations.)

I decided to at least install the two zipper sliders and secure the zippers by sewing the stops at both ends of the zipper.  The first stop was a challenge as the material was very thick and didn’t want to feed properly in the machine.  The machine was struggling to get through all the thicknesses of the material, and in my impatience, I floored the pedal to get the job done.  By doing so, my first zipper stop was crooked and poorly stitched.  In frustration, I removed the stitching and tried again with a relatively satisfactory result.  When came time to install the second zipper stop, the same problems arose but a major one manifested itself.  Due to going too fast and asking too much of my machine, I broke my first needle when it slammed into the flat part of the zipper.  That was the tipping point for me.  Not knowing where the replacement needles were and not being in the mood to proceed, I left the project there and stormed away.

(Side note: Breaking the needle was probably the best I could have asked for, it forced me to stop my unproductive use of time.  I often tell my students the following words of advice: There is no sense in staying up late to study as the mind is not in a state where that information can be retained.  I recommend, the night before and exam, for my students to go to bed early and get a good night of sleep.)

The next day, rested and ready to continue with my project, I found a new needle, replaced it, and finished my final zipper stop without any issues.  The next step was to install a long piece that was going to act as a tube to house the rods retain the shape of the bag when it opens and closes.  I used the seam tape to keep the folds in place and sewed the tube in place in a matter of minutes.  I was once again, one with my machine!

The last important part of the project was to make the shoulder strap.  Not only did I have figure out how to thread the webbing through my clips, I had to fashion a primitive shoulder pad.  There were no instructions on how to make said shoulder pad, but a quick scrub through my resource videos quickly gave me the answer.

The final part of the puzzle was to bend some stainless-steel rods for the openings on my bag.  This was quickly done with a hack saw to cut the rods to length, a hammer and a vice to bend them into shape and file to remove the sharp edges.  Installing the rods was effortless.  Suddenly, my project was done.  I had learned the foundation of sewing and felt an enormous sense of relief and an even bigger sense of accomplishment.

As I proceeded in completing my final sewing tasks related to my major learning project, I came to appreciate the mix of resources I was able to use to accomplish my goals.  Learning how to sew is not an easy task, but with the proper resources and the proper support, it is well within reach for any learner.  Although I had my wife available to support me, I honestly tried to fend for myself so as to explore my limits and fully exploit the tools and methods a new learner would have at their disposal without the luxury of someone with experience by their side.  The main resource I used was YouTube.  The diversity of available tutorials ranging from complete beginner concepts to more complex situations, I could always find answers to my questions on Youtube.  The availably of open resources such as the creative commons patterns I used were very valuable to my development.  I’m not going to pretend that after 7 weeks and more than 50 hours of sewing that I’m an expert.  I still have many things to learn and as with any new skill that is acquired, new questions arise, and new opportunities emerge.  I’m already thinking about the next project I would like to accomplish.   I’m also reflecting on how these new skills fit with all the previous skills had already acquired in my capacity as a make.  I have gained a new perspective on a world that was foreign to me and I’ve proven to myself that I have the ability to learn by using many of the technological tools we have explored over the past few months in EC&I 831.  From social media, to open educational recourses and well beyond.  Here are a few pictures of the progress I have made and the final product I have achieved.

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Being an educator in the world of social media activism #difficult

The term activism can encompass a wide range of interpretations as we can attest by the varied discussions that were shared this past week in our EC&I 831 small group discussions.  Wikipedia starts its description of activism in the following way:

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society.

As social media has taken an ever-increasing priority in the daily lives of an swelling segment of the population, it’s only natural that the idea of activism has established itself into it.  Human nature leads us toward wanting a better world that better reflects our personal values and our personal situations.  As the internet has become almost ubiquitous in all corners of the world, the panoply of values and opinions ranges all walks of life.  From human rights to religious beliefs, from art to culture, the internet and social media provides a medium that allows society to debate and thus continually evolve the social contract.

When it comes to the idea of social justice in the online world, an uncountable amount of initiatives are continuously fighting for our attention.  By the difficult to understand voodoo of social media and viral campaigns, certain initiatives gain notoriety and affix themselves in the psyche of popular culture.  Here are a few examples of initiative that have certainly crossed your social media feed just to name a few:

As these online initiatives fight for your attention, others important initiatives fall through the cracks and never gain your attention.  This reality in an unfortunate part of social media in that with the current structure provided by the big social media frameworks, media and information is being tailored for audiences thus providing a certain filter that can easily blind individuals to the true depth and complexity that makes up many social justice issues.  As Zeynet Tufekci from Scientific American elaborates in his article: YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm Has a Dark Side, the algorithm that recommends content from YouTube is structure in a way to lead users in very deep rabbit holes of content and often leads towards content that promote extreme views that are often unbalanced and heavily biased, thus inculcating erroneous information in the minds of its users.  On a personal note, I had this experience when, out of pure curiosity, I clicked on a video denying that humans had landed on the moon.  As a science teacher, I wanted to see first-hand, the arguments put forward by the creator of the video so as to gain an insight in this large piece of online subculture.  In the following days, I had difficulty avoiding these types of videos in my Youtube Recommendation feed as the algorithm was constantly trying the recommend videos of the same type and genre.  Had I not been strong in my convictions and knowledge about the issue, I can see how undecided minds could easily be influenced towards one side of an issue, regardless of which side is right or wrong.

Another more nuanced example of the same situation is the influence social media had in deciding the 2016 American General Election.  Although there is much analysis that remains to be done to determine the real effect social media had on the decision the American electorate made, Hunt and Gentzkow in their article entitled: Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, explain that social media is a growing source for news.  With questionable sources of said news and the speed at which this information travels, one cannot deny that social media’s influence on society will continue to grow.  The many nuances and the many biases that are present in many sources of information on the internet make evaluating social justice issues a true minefield that can be very unforgiving.

IMG_4771Social activism on social media is without a doubt very present in our daily feeds, but how effective can it be?  In my option, activism requires concrete actions and changes in behavior.  It’s easy to comment on a social media post, it is easy to change your profile picture and it is easy to retweet an article related to a social justice issue.  It is much harder to have a conversation with political figures that have actual influence on the issue, it is much harder to write a letter to entice a company to change a behavior and it is much harder to get out of the house and act on what you believe is right.  In my own situation, my conviction towards the use of sustainable renewable clean energy has led me to invest my own money in a solar power system for my house.  This is real action as opposed to continually tweeting about the advantages of solar power.  The inertia that often keeps people from real social activism is often referred to as Slacktivism.  As Wikipedia explains it:

Slacktivism is a pejorative term for “feel-good” measures in support of an issue or social cause. Slacktivism is showing support for a cause with the main purpose of boosting the egos of participants in the movement. The action may have little effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed.

This is not to undermine the value of sharing ideas, views and positions on social media.  Awareness is without a doubt an important part of activism and cannot be underestimated.  As a teacher, I feel conflicted in using my platform and my influence as an educator to promote any social justice initiative.  Although certain initiatives can seem to be straight forward and obvious, other issues can be delicate and complicated.  No issue more complicated that politics.  In the last Canadian Federal Election, strong opinions and positions circulated in my school.  I was often asked for my opinion by student.  This was a trying time in that my convictions sometimes came into conflict with those of my students and, in many cases, their parents.  I was very careful to not share my own views but would carefully guide the discussions towards the debate of broader ideas and the rationale behind such ideas.  I encouraged my students to seek real and credible information to substantiate their positions and their arguments.  To me, this habit of evaluating information, seeking it and basing one’s opinions on it is the basis of good citizenship.  I cannot, in my own good conscience be a social justice warrior online or in my classroom without first guiding my students towards habits of healthy information processing.

Curtis questions in his blogpost about Activism: “Am I making a difference? Am I being complacent in taking the cause further? By posting on Social Media how can you participate in productive conversations online?”  I tend to go through these same questions when confronting activism on social media.  In most cases, I just don’t see the value in participating myself considering the potential risks as a semi-public figure in my school community.  This might be a bias in my own mind since, as Catherine elaborates in her blogpost, there are many pros related to social media activism:

Social media activism can:

  • Spread a message to a large audience very quickly

  • Organize events easily (like the Women’s March)

  • Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely

As Brooke wrote in the conclusion of her blogpost:

As classroom teachers, we have a responsibility to present social justice issues to our students. If we chose not to participate, our silence indicates a clear message, that these are not issues we care to address and therefore, do not value (Source). If we choose to remain silent on these issues, we risk allowing our students to become passive citizens rather than justice- and action-oriented. 

I feel the pressure of this responsibility and I feel like I must face it in my own way.  In way that I will have true impact.  These arguments by my classmates have pushed my beliefs to a point where, at the moment, I’m of the opinion that social justice and activism has an important place in the classroom.  As much as I would like to take positions on certain issues as a teacher, I believe my job is to foster discussions and lead my students to making strong arguments based on good information.  By promoting good social media practice and by teaching strong media literacy skills, I think that if I accomplish these goals, I will have done my part in promoting healthy activism and productive social justice activism.

danieldion1 2019-11-19 04:24:53

As I started my remix of the EDC2 this week, I initially thought I had bitten off a bit too much than I could chew by trying to undertake a project like this one.  Upon watching all the tutorial videos, I was feeling a certain sense of anxiety and dread that I would fail.  (This is something I see quite often when teaching high school science.)  I often had to settle down and tell myself, as I often tell my students, let’s take this one step at a time.  There is no sense in worrying about step 32 when steps 1 to 31 have yet to be completed.  With this feeling of anxiety and dread, I buckled down and got to work while telling myself: there is no shame in failing, as long as you do your best!

Step 1: Preparing my fabric

Last week, I was thinking that using canvas as my main fabric was the way to go, but when looking for canvas to use to my bag, I found it was hard to find exactly what I liked.  The canvas material that I found was very expensive and it wasn’t quite the texture I wanted.  Before making a decision, I decided to go look at the remnants section of the store and found some denim.  After much consideration, denim was much more affordable and provided the rigidity and the structure I desired.  Having cut all the patterns last week, a few hours of cutting and all my fabric was ready to go.

material cut

Step 2: Sew the pocket

The first task I undertook was installing the pocket on the liner of the bad.  Positioning the pocket took a bit of measuring, but once everything was positioned, a few pins kept everything in place.  I first folded over the edges and stitched them all the way around.  This stops the material from fraying on the edges.  Then I stitched the pocket to the liner remembering to not stitch the top.  I added a couple vertical stitches to keep pens and markers in place.  Although the stitching is not the nicest, as this will be inside the bag.  I’ve accepted this result as a learning experience and decided to press on.

Step 3: Attaching the bottom to the outer bag

The next step was to attach the bottom piece to the outer bag.  Although relatively straight forward of a task, I needed to fold over the edge of the denim and met a major obstacle.  As once tries to fold over denim, the material has a tendency to regain its shape thus not keeping the fold.  I had seen in one the Youtube tutorial videos someone use some special tape to hold the fabric in place when preparing it to be sewn.  After a bit of rummaging in my wife’s supplies, I found said tape and was amazed at how well it worked!  Not only did it keep everything in place, the constant width it provided made for a nice consistent professional look.  I’ll keep that special tape in my toolbox for years to come!  With everything taped up, top stitching the bottom to the bag went perfectly.

seam allowance tape

Step 4:  Make the handles

This step was and interesting one for me.  To make the handles, I first had to fold over strips of material and stitch them in a manner to make a long tube.  Using fabric clips to hold everything in place, the stitching was rather simple to accomplish.  The difficult part was turning over the tube to get the proper side on the outside while hiding the seam.  A long stick proved to do the trick.

Once the tubes completed, I had to fold over a small section in the middle of each tube and stich them together to make the place where the handles are to be grasped.  I was surprised by how well this technique worked and how it made the handles sturdier and more comfortable to grasp.  I’ll never look at bag handles in the same way again!

handle grasp

Step 5:  Attach the handles to the bag

Positioning the attachment points for the handles was simple.  The pattern provided the exact locations.  I simple overlaid the pattern on top of the bag, poked holes in the corners of the areas where the handles were to be attached and drew marks with my white pencil that I had retrieved from my sewing kit.  I then traced the positions and removed the pattern.  Now that I had clear locations for my handles, I need to attach them.  I positioned them with sewing pins and stitched them with a rectangle stitch pattern with and x pattern within.  As I got to the 4th handle, I was pretty happy with my improvement.

(Side note: At this point of the project, for the first time, I had the feeling of being one with the sewing machine.  My old Signer was now an extension of my mind and by body.  I felt complete trust in its abilities and the machine worked with me rather than against me.  Perhaps this is the point where my anxiety started to fade, and I started having fun.)

Step 6: Stitching the sides of the bag and the liner

This step was simple, stich the sides of the bang and the liner.  Making sure to hit my marks it went perfectly.  The next part of this process proved to be a bit more difficult.  I needed to add a second stich along the inside of the bag to provide strength to the structure.  This required me to sew inside the bag and I had difficulty seeing what I was doing and it blocked much of the light from getting in.  To solve this problem, I retrieved my trusty headlamp from my toolbox and my world was illuminated!  (This is the type of problem solving I love!)  Doing the inside stich went like a breeze.

Sept 7: Bottom stitch and flip

The last step was to do the final bottom stitch of both the bag and the liner do the final flip to reveal the bag in its half-done glory!

Next week: zippers, straps and clips!

Learning How to Sew (week five)

This week was one of preparation.  As my projects increase in complexity, the time required for preparation seems to also increase.

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As I undertake my final project, which is making an EDC2 from Savage Industries, I’m realizing that a big part of sewing is not really sewing.  Gathering the required materials and preparing them takes longer than sewing the project itself.  This week’s tasks were categorized in three parts: gathering the materials, preparing the pattern and mental preparation.

edc2

(Source)

Gathering the materials proved to be more difficult than I initially thought.  In my mind, a quick trip to the fabric store was all that was needed; however, this was not the case.  As I proceeded through the list of things to find and acquire, it became apparent that choices had to be made.  As I decided to source the materials locally, I had to modify the supply list to products that were immediately available.  Steel hooks were one the list from the pattern maker, I decided to go with plastic clips as an alternative as they are more economical and were immediately available.  The zipper I needed wasn’t available, therefore I decided to wait until I’m further in the project as it’s not an essential until much later in the construction process.  The materials that were recommended was used sailcloth, given we live in the middle of the continent, let’s just say it was impossible to find.  Therefore, I decided to substitute sailcloth for canvas.  For the bottom part of the bag, I decided to repurpose and old pair of denim jeans.  These are but a few of the numerous adaptations and decisions I had to undertake over the past week.  Here goes to hope that these decisions won’t impact me too negatively later on into the process of making my bag.

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The preparation of the pattern was smooth sailing considering the ordeal I went through last week.  (This goes to show how with I’m reapplying the concepts I’ve learned from the past.)  I printed the pattern on 11’ x 17’ paper using Adobe Reader and with the straight edge, the cutting wheel and a bit of tape, assembled the pieces to make a full-size pattern.

*(Side note: Early on in the process, I was made aware quite clearly by my wife that certain cutting appliances were exclusively for fabric and others were exclusively for paper.  It turns out, paper, which is made of cellulose, is extremely hard on cutting edges thus dulling blades quite quickly.  I was reminded of this lesson by the following tweet from @courosa)

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I prepared a time-lapse video showing the process of cutting the pieces of the pattern that I had previously assembled.

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The final part of the project was mental preparation.  As building this bag is much more complex than my previous project, I needed to familiarize myself with the process of assembly from people who have already accomplished this project.  I therefore turned to Youtube and found a selection of excellent videos of people who undertook this project.  The initial video I watched was the original video of Adam Savage assembling the bag himself.  It’s a fantastic step by step process that goes in depth on how to assemble the bag.  There are certain parts that were hard to follow but overall, it was an excellent starting point.

My take on Adam Savage’s EDC2 bag// sewing by Make With Miles was a fantastic video where many different substitutions were made from the original plan.  It gives a nice step by step process.  The author’s father owns a sewing based business, consequently, he used many types of machines that I don’t have, and he used a few procedures that I could not use in my situation as a beginner.

Adam Savage’s EDC 2 Bag in the style of The Martian by Malt and Make is another video I appreciated as it clarified many of the difficult to understand parts of the process.  I also appreciated his approach in explaining the intricacies of assembling the bag.

Finally, the last video I watched was Making my own version of Adam Savage’s EDC.ONE by Crafts by Ellen.  Another step by step video using other techniques that are different from the other two videos.  It’s apparent that the author is very experienced in sewing and the quality of her explanations and work is self-evident.

With all these videos, I feel like I’m on the path to success as I have all the support I will need to achieve the result I’m wanting to achieve.  Many unknows will undoubtedly appear in the next week, but as I’m a journey based on open education, I’m sure I’ll be able to find the answers I need somewhere online.  I’ll end this post by showing the message inscribed in the pattern of my project written by Adam Savage.  I found it so appropriate when considering OEP from this week.

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With a message like this from Adam Savage (of Mythbusters Fame), how can one not become a bit exited to get back to work!

The future is OPEN for learning

The introduction to open education practices (OEP) provided by Verena Roberts during our class this past week had my mind going into overdrive.  Following the end of the class I realized that as a teacher over the past few years, I had conceptualized the idea of OEP in my mind but could never describe it and develop my thoughts in a way to make the concept comprehendible and logical.  Now that I’ve had time to read and reflect on the subject, I feel like I have at least acquired a basic understanding of OEP and have also been able to untangle the mess of ideas that I had retained in my brain over the past few years into more succinct and concrete terms.

Roberts describes OEP as follows:

Open educational practices (OEP) in K-12 learning contexts can describe an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners from formal to informal learning environments. Individualized open readiness can be demonstrated contextually, as a result of  teachers and students co-designing for personally relevant learning pathways where learners can collaboratively and individually share their learning experiences, that encourages communication of meaning through multiliteracies, that blends curriculum and competencies and that promotes community and networked interactions with other learners and nodes of learning from multiple cultural perspectives in digital and analog contexts (Roberts, 2019).

What strikes me the most form the description from Roberts is how OEP “expands learning opportunities from formal to informal learning environments.”  When we as humans develop in the first few years of our lives, our learning environments are mostly informal.  We learn from the environment that surrounds us and from the people that care for our wellbeing.  Once we get to school age, we enter a formal learning environment in school while retaining the informal learning environment at home.  Once most people are done their formal schooling, many turn towards the workplace to start their careers and start building their professional lives.  From my experience as a lifelong learner, I’ve come to conclude that no matter the amount of preparation in a formal learning environment like a traditional classroom, the most valuable and the most effective learning conditions seem, in most cases, to be in informal learning environments. This is why I’m so intrigued by OEP.  Bringing more informal learning environments to schools seems like a logical approach to helping prepare our students for the world which is inherently an informal.

I’m reminded by the classic Sir Ken Robinson TED talk where he is critical of the structure of the current educational system and highlights the inability for students to follow their interests and their curiosities in the fields which interests them.  As a result, our current education system seems to be producing effectively unidimensional learners that have difficulty expanding their knowledge in the unstructured learning environment after formal schooling.  The world of the internet and social media seem to be fostering a renewed influence on the population at large by being an excellent medium for the transmission of ideas.  As much as it pains me to admit, social media is influencing the way we live our lives by providing a mechanism that renews our intrinsic thirst for knowledge and information.  How many of us have been inspired by 30 second videos on Instagram or Facebook that shows an interesting fact or initiative?

The influence of social media on our culture was highlighted following the 2016 American Presidential election.  The ability to interpret sources of information and data in a critical and effective manner requires skills that do not come naturally to many people.  Consequently, we cannot be amazed when people can be easily influenced by seemingly credible false information that is controlled by entities with hidden agendas.

OEP provides a mechanism and a structure to help develop critical minds become lifelong learners.  As Loreli highlighted in her blogpost, Exploring Open Educational Practice: Week 9 Blog Post:

A major benefit of OEP is the engagement of the learner in a learner-centered environment, and provision of authentic learning experiences.  The level of engagement will positively affect the level of learning.  Learning becomes transparent and obvious to both the learner and the teacher.

I would add that the line between learner and teacher becomes somewhat blurred in an OEP as learners become teachers through the sharing of their exploits while the teachers become learners as they relinquish the role of being sources of knowledge and become co-learners in assisting their students in navigating the world of information.  As it is mentioned in Open Education: Practices, “OEP have the potential to empower students to be engaged, active participants in more authentic learning than they might otherwise undertake.  Further, OEP go a step beyond active learning by engaging the learner in creating and revision OER (Open educational resources) and hence contributing to the learning of the students who come after them.”  With such promise and potential, how can a teacher not consider shifting their pedagogical practice towards OEP?

Still being new the idea of OEP, I’m still uncertain in how to approach this shift in my own educational practices.  Although I acknowledge the benefits of OEP, the challenges remain, in my own context, a large preoccupation.  The digital divide is always a reality in my context as our school has only 38 computers for over 170 students.  Gaining access to the computers is a challenge as they are not always available, and their locked down nature makes them difficult to use and inflexible when new software or web applications need to be used.  In addition, we have a considerable population of students who have difficult socioeconomic realities where they don’t have ready access to computers or even smartphones at home.

Apart from the technological challenges, there is also a language barrier in my context as the availability of resources in French online is only a fraction of the diversity and quality of those available in English.   Although difficult, this situation might present an excellent opportunity for my students to develop their own OER, thus helping future generations or students.

Another challenge I foresee is the how to integrate OEP with the curricula I must teach.  Sciences from grade 7 to 11 could be quite easily adapted to OEP as their outcomes are well structured for exploration and remixing.  Grade 12 sciences could also be amenable for OEP, however, the need to prepare my students for Departmental examinations that have a value of 40% of their final grade, limits my ability as a teacher to deviate from what is on the test.  As an unaccredited teacher, I feel stuck in a corner where I have to teach to a test which is a revolting idea when thinking of OEP.

How might OEP look in a francophone high school science class?  For me, the obvious place to start would be within the context of a science fair project.  Having students openly share their learning progress with their communities while exploring scientific knowledge and processes from across the world though the use of social media and technological tools is quite alluring.  As demonstrated by Lile Audris in his Rube Goldberg Video, opening ones learning to the world can provide excellent results.

Finally, as a teacher, evaluation always remains a challenge due to the diverse nature of the work students can produce in the context of OEP.  Verena Roberts provides an excellent start with her rubrics in her document on Open Readiness & Open learning Assessment Rubrics.

The transition from my current educational practice to an OEP might never be complete, but I’m convinced it’s well worth the investment in that it will hopefully allow me to foster more effective learners in a world bombarded by unlimited amounts of data and information.  My thirst for more knowledge related to OEP is large.  I think we can all take cues from Dean’s educational practice as a starting point towards such a transition.  How does OEP look in your classrooms?  What kind of OEP do you aspire to integrate in your classroom?

Learning How to Sew (week four)

My major learning project was back in full swing this week as I attempted to make a pouch from plans I had purchased from Savage Industries.  The model I chose was the Savage Industries EDC Pouch Small.  The following image of the what the final product should resemble following the exercise.

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(Source)

This week’s objectives were the following:

  • Use a pattern as the base of a project for the first time.
  • Gain confidence in adjusting my methods to get better results.
  • Use a raw zipper that is not pre-assembled.
  • Gain experience in using binding.
  • Gain more experience and confidence in using the sewing machine.
  • Keep working on the alignment of my seams and keeping consistent seam allowances.

Unlike the last project I undertook, this one had a pattern from which I had instructions to follow.  After downloading a PDF of the pattern from the website, I met my first challenge.  I initially printed the plans on a 8.5’ x 11’ piece of paper and upon further inspection, I realized the pattern had to be printed at a reduced scale to fit on the paper.  I would have to print at 100% scale for the dimensions to work out but that would require a paper size and a printer that isn’t readily available.  I considered many ways to attack this problem, I could have the plans printed at a print shop, I could use a digital projector to project the plans on large piece of paper and trace the pattern by hand or I could print the pattern on regular sized pieces of paper and assemble them manually.  I opted for the last option as it was the most economical and required less time and energy.

Fortunately, I work in a school!  Our copier can print on 11’ x 17’ pieces of paper which reduces the amount of assembly I would have to do once I had my pattern printed.  The process proved to be a bit of a challenge as I couldn’t find a way to do such a print job on my Mac.  After quite a long period of time going through menus of the PDF reader on my computer, I was ready to abandon the idea of printing and assembling the pattern on smaller pieces of paper when, in desperation, I decided to explore the feature in Adobe Acrobat Reader.  With much elation, I had finally found what I needed, a function to printer posters using multiple smaller papers.

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After assembling the papers, I finally had a pattern and was ready to start cutting fabric.  Upon further inspection, I noticed that the pattern was explicitly licensed under a Creative Commons license!  One nice link to our class discussions on open education!  This particular version of the Creative Commons license specifically allows for people to share and adapt this pattern as long as attribution is made, it remains noncommercial and all adaptations have to keep the same license.  I found this application a perfect use of the Creative Commons license in the context of open education.  Good job Adam Savage!

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Given that this pattern only comprised of square shapes, I decided not to cut my pattern to transfer the dimensions to fabric, instead, I decided to simply transfer the measurements to fabric using a ruler and a straight edge.  It worked well in this case.  Once I had all cut all the pieces, it was finally time to sew.

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On a side note, as with many hobbies that are form of making, often ignored is the idea of preparation.  Success when working in the world of making can often be directly linked to the quality of the preparation of the materials, the maker and the space.  In my case, as much as I just want to get going with my sewing machine, I have been adamant in staying disciplined in the quality of my preparation.  I find good preparation negates many potential future frustrations and issues.  Being prepared is a value I have fostered throughout my personal and professional career and it has never let me down.

I started with the zipper and immediately noticed something was wrong as the stitching was much too loose.  I took a few minutes to fiddle with adjusting my machine using fabric scraps and once the issue was resolved, I pressed on with my project.  Sewing the panels of the bag was quite straight forward and I must say that the experience from my previous project paid dividends in that I had a lot of confidence in how things should fit together when being assembled.  The instructions provided by the pattern were very minimal and had me asking many questions.  As I proceeded step by step, many of those questions were answered simply by analyzing the situation using my previous project as a guide and working through the logical progressions that had to be followed.

Sewing binding was a first for me and it was rather difficult.  Keeping everything straight without causing wrinkles and creasing was very frustrating.  I got through it, but I’m not satisfied with how it looks.  Fortunately, all of this work ends up being inside the pouch and remains mostly hidden.  “Hiding your crimes” is a common saying in the world of making and in this case, that is exactly what I did.

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The final result was a bit disappointing.  Although simple in concept, this little pouch proved to be very difficult in execution.  Making nice corners proved to be difficult and I have a few didn’t turn out very good.  Otherwise, I’m very happy with how my pull tabs worked out and how the overall shape of the pouch looked.  I opted not to include patches and labels as this project is not to be a professional product made for the mass market.

I knew mistakes would be made and took the opportunity to learn from them and progress in my learning the art of sewing.  Now on to something more ambitious!

Learning How to Sew (week three)

It was extremely difficult for me to dedicate time to my major project this week.  My work had me traveling for a few days, I had a day full of parent-teacher-student conferences in addition to a wedding that consumed my entire weekend.  As a result, my sewing machine was left idle the entire week.  Not to be deterred, I thought new skills could still be learned by bringing with me, on the road, the sewing kit my mother gifted me when I left for University in 2003 and see what I could learn in my hotel room.

I decided to start by  exploring the contents of my old sewing kit:

Next I found a YouTube video that explained how to accomplish various hand stitching techniques.  I picked a few to try, here are my results:

Through this small experience in the time I had, I learned a few things.

  • Hand stitching is difficult!
  • Keeping even spacing by hand makes you appreciate a sewing machine.
  • Making tight stiches requires much precision and patience.
  • Thread can even be tangled when hand stitching!
  • The thimble is a fantastic tool that saves your fingers.

Despite the little time I had this week, I tried to maximize the situation I had.  I’m pretty happy with the new hand stitching techniques I have learned.  I’ve gained comfort in knowing that in a pinch, I can always use the old needle and thread.  It felt good manipulating the fabric and the needle with my hands as opposed to a machine.  Feeling the tension in the thread with my hands and feeling the resistance of the needle pulling through the fabric made me more fully appreciate the wonder of modern sewing machines.  It has also allowed me to better understand the mechanics of stitching and the situations in which each type of stitch has its advantages and its disadvantages.

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With Open Education Comes Hope

Teaching in a francophone school in Saskatchewan, finding good resources that meet the needs of my students is extremely difficult.  In most cases, teachers in the same situation as me, resort to investing large amounts of time developing resources for the specific context in which we teach.  On occasion, resources can be found from other provinces and other francophone regions of the world, however, Fransaskois teachers spend significant energy trying to adapt and modify these resources to meet the needs of their students.

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Given that our schools are very small and geographically dispersed across the province, I’ve never had the opportunity for collaborate with other French science teachers in my school.  In the 12 years that I have taught, I’ve always been the only science teacher in my school and efforts to collaborate on developing resources between the science teachers within the division has always fallen short.   Our workload always seems to be too large and the technological tools for collaboration have never been effective to the point of being practical.  As a result, all the science teachers in my division have mostly worked in isolated silos.  Perhaps we could all get ideas to more effectively share like Chris elaborates in his blog.

The idea of open education is very appealing to a teacher in my situation.  As a result of initiatives like Wikipedia and the Kahn Academy that are producing and sharing larger amounts of French resources, my life as a teacher is becoming increasingly manageable.  These open platforms offer quality materials that I can use on a daily basis.  An open education initiative to which I contributed was the development of the French language version of the Computer Science 20 course developed by Dan Shellenberg.

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As a result of this collaboration with the ministry of education, all students in Saskatchewan have access to a fully developed course including most materials for free.  This opens the possibility for more students to take the course and allows for a larger proportion of teachers to teach the course.  As mentioned in the video on Why Open Education Matters, an investment like this gives opportunities to almost all students and teachers to have success regardless of their social or economic realities.

As I watched Larry Lessigs Ted Talk on the Laws that choke creativity, I’m reminded of my daily struggle with copyright protection and the protection of many forms of content online.  Given that no French textbook will ever be created for the Saskatchewan science curricula that I teach, I’ve accumulated dozens of print resources from Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia, Manitoba, Alberta and even France for each class.  As a result, only a few pages and sometime a few chapters in each book is directly useable.  What I’m I to do as a teacher?  I cannot justify purchasing 30 examples of each textbook for which I only use one or two chapters in my pedagogy.  The price would be exorbitant for my school and each of my students would have a dozen textbooks each of which they only use a small percentage.  As a result, I try to make my own recreations of most of the content I consult and sparingly photocopy only the essential piece to distribute to my students.  Hopefully, as open education gains wider acceptance and propagates further in other languages, this reality will be a thing of the past.

So many great educational videos can be found on Youtube and, more recently, on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Given the ever-changing nature of these platforms and their policies related to protecting their content, I have great difficulty archiving resources from these plarform for offline educational purposes.  Although there exist many workarounds and third-party tools to download and archive videos and animations from said platforms, the friction involved in accomplishing this task often results in failure and frustration.  If only these platforms could migrate their policies related to user generated content towards a default that encourages their release under a creative commons license or something similar.  If that were to happen, content could potentially be freed for download.

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As Ben Sullins mentions on his Telsanomics Youtube Channel: “If you free the data, the mind will follow”.  As the Internet matures, I find the sharing of information and the freeing of data is become in vogue.  I feel optimistic that much like the Open Source initiative in computer software championed Bruce Perens, educational material is following much the same path.  Great open resources are being released from many of the best educational institutions in the world from places like MIT and BCcampus.  As a result of initiatives like these, education is becoming democratized and new opportunities for discovery and learning are appearing.  The success of autodidacts like the famous Jeri Ellsworth could become more common given they have the tools like open education to thrive.

Learning How to Sew (week two)

Following my initial adventures in sewing from last week, I felt enough comfort in using a sewing machine that it was time for my first real project.  After a bit of searching the internet, I decided to take a shot at this Zipper Pencil Pouch Sewing Tutorial by Amy at Positively Splendid.  By completing this project, I was aiming to accomplish these specific goals.

  • Gain experience with measuring and cutting fabric.
  • Incorporate my first zipper in a project.
  • Practice fabric and seam alignment.
  • Practice stitching with consistent seam allowances.

My first task was to find all the materials needed for the project.  A quick stop at Fabricland allowed me to pick up zippers for my project.  I wanted at least two in case I made a mistake with my first one.  Seeing they had a deal for three, it gave me peace of mind knowing that I had the opportunity to make at least to really bad mistakes without having to go back for more supplies.  (On a side note, I think this notion of expecting mistakes and gaining comfort in acknowledging that they will happen is very important when learning new things.  I often work with students that are risk averse and are afraid to make mistakes in their learning process.  This makes learning more arduous and can result in high levels of anxiety.  Establishing an environment where students can take risks and feel comfortable in taking them is one of the priorities I have as a teacher. I feel it’s an important part in my learning environment.)

Once all my materials were gathered, I proceeded to cut the necessary pieces using a cutting mat, a cutting wheel and a straight edge.  I learned that it’s much easier to cut freshly pressed fabric than wrinkled fabric.  From now on, I shall press all my fabric before I start working with it.

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With everything cut, I proceeded with my first stitches and everything worked great.  This was going to be a breeze!  (Little did I know it was not going to be so easy.)

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After sewing the first side of my zipper, I installed my second paned and pined it into place.  I learned that pins are a fantastic technology that really helps in keeping my fabric aligned and properly positioned.  From now on, I will not hesitate to pin things in place.

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Boom!  My first mistake.  I sewed my second panel, that I has taken so much care to align and pin, facing the wrong way.  The finished side had to be face down as opposed to face up.  With much shame, I had to ask my wife for the seam ripper which, with an evil smile gladly handed to me.  Luckily this setback only took a few minutes to address, but I had to make sure I paid more attention to the instructions provided by the tutorial I was following.

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Great success! The zipper is installed!

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Epic fail!  When I started applying the finishing stich on either side of the zipper, my initial stitch on the left side went well although I had sewed-in a small wrinkle at the top.  I gave myself a pass and turned my attention to the right side.  I don’t know what happened, but something in the machine jammed, my piece wasn’t feeding through the machine, everything bunched up and got tangled.  This mess was so bad that even the trusty seam ripper couldn’t fix it.

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Lesson learned, if something unexpected happens, STOP!  Evaluating the situation, I decided to press on and keep this mess as a reminder that I’m a beginner and that there is always room for improvement.  As I started regaining momentum and stitching more panels together, something didn’t look right so I STOPPED!  (Hey, I’m a quick learner!)  Upon further investigation, it was obvious that I had ran out of thread on my bobbin.

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I had two new skills to acquire if I wanted to finish my project, transfer new thread to my bobbin and thread the sewing machine.  The trusty manual I had printed last week came in handy and guided me through the first task quite well.  Achievement unlocked!

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Threading the machine went just as well and after making a few test stitches on a scrap piece of fabric, I was back in business!  The last few stitches were made and after a quick inside out flip, my glorious creation presented itself to me!

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my first creation and it really works as a pencil case!  Time to take things to the next level and undertake something a bit bigger and a bit more complex.  Lessons were learned and I’m sure more lessons will present themselves in the future, but I have to admit there is always a lot of satisfaction in seeing a finished product.  I achieved all of my goals for this phase of my learning project and even learned a few new tricks of the trade.