A Few Thoughts on Blogging

At the beginning of this semester, I did not think that I would find blogging to be a useful way to document my learning. Contrary to what I thought initially, I have actually found it helpful. After every EDCI 336 class, I write a blog post about what we did in class. Whenever I need to reference something that we did in class, I can just search for it easily on my blog. Blogging has also been helpful because it gives me a less formal setting in which I can organize my thoughts. It has also kept me accountable and focussed on doing my inquiry projects. Because I know I have to write weekly blog posts for each of those projects, it motivates me to practice my Italian skills and research information on graphic design. I thrive when I am in a routine, which is why I love being organized and making weekly blog posts.

I would love to blogging in my classroom one day. I change my mind about what grade I would like to teach, but as of right now, I would like to teach middle school. If I end up teaching middle school, I will likely ask my students to write blog posts. My students would ideally use these blogs to document their progress on inquiry projects and respond to prompts from me about various different subjects and issues. Blogs have value in the classroom because they encourage technological literacy while teaching other subjects. I have included the citation below of a fantastic article about blogging in a middle years context.

References:

Baldino, S. (2012). The classroom blog: Enhancing critical thinking, substantive discussion, and appropriate online interaction. Voices from the Middle, 22(2), 29-33.

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Midterm Reflection – Ukulele

Learning the ukulele for the past month has presented many challenges, but has become a rewarding experience. At first, I had trouble tuning my ukulele and, since it was out of tune, everything that I played on it sounded bad. This discouraged me. It also deterred me from practicing every day like I had planned to at the beginning of the project, which set me back by about a week. I asked one of my friends to tune it for me and he tuned it an octave too high. When I came into music class and got it tuned properly, I was finally able to practice productively. I am glad that I chose to seek help because it meant that I could start to progress in a way that I am happy with. My other main issue was that I had long fingernails for the first couple weeks of practicing which made playing exceedingly difficult. When I finally cut my nails, I had a breakthrough: I was able to play a G7 chord! After this breakthrough, I started to enjoy practicing. I found several instructional videos that helped me develop a better understanding of how to change chords quickly and effectively. I found it helpful to try to play along with these videos. These videos are were also helpful because they show you how the song is supposed to sound on the ukulele. I have linked the two most helpful videos that I found below. I became more motivated to improve, which resulted in more practicing. My goal for the end of the semester is to be able to play the song “Riptide”, by Vance joy, on the ukulele and sing along at the same time. The chords required to play this song are A minor, C, G7, and F. My goal for the midterm assessment (this submission) was to be able to play all of the notes correctly and be able to sing along. I believe that I have achieved this goal. My goal for the end of the semester is to be able to strum properly (while still playing the notes correctly and singing along). Right now, I have just been strumming based on how I think the song should sound, rather than how it is written. I also want to become more confident with my singing by the end of the semester. I was in choir for all of high school, but have sadly lost most of the confidence that I gained by doing that. I am going to make an effort to sing in front of people in order to gain my confidence back.

Here are the two most helpful resources that I found:

I have chosen not to post the video of me playing. Hopefully I will gain enough confidence by the end of the semester to post my final result!

Open Inquiry Blog Post #6

It is day 28 today; I am have been learning Italian for 4 weeks now! Honestly, it is getting a lot more difficult. At first, I just learned the basics: common nouns and a few phrases. Lots of Italian words are similar to English words, so it was easy to identify them. They also provided pictures to go along with every noun which always gave away the answer.

Now, I am working on some more difficult components of language. I am having particular difficulty with possessives. I remember that this was challenging for me when I was learning French in school. Some of the Italian possessives are similar to French which is a blessing and a curse because sometimes it helps me remember and sometimes it just confuses me. For example, “our” in French is “notre” and it is “nostro” in Italian. This can be confusing, though.

I read an awesome article by Tim Ferris and Benny Lewis about learning languages. It outlines 12 rules for learning languages in “record time.” It also includes countless resources for language learners. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but I thought I would summarize it anyway:

The 12 Steps:

  1. Learn the Right Words, The Right Way: learn the words that are most frequently used in the language.
  2. Learn Cognates: cognates are “true friends” of words that you know in your native language (kind of like what I was talking about above with “notre” and “nostro”). You already know tons of words in the language that you are trying to learn!
  3. Interact Daily in your language without travelling: listen to the radio or watch TV in your desired language.
  4. Skype Native Speakers: I might not do this one because it creeps me out, but I understand that this method has merit.
  5. Do not pay to learn a language: the best resources are free!
  6. Realize that adults are actually better language learners than kids: you are NOT too old to learn a language.
  7. Expand your vocabulary by using mnemonic devices.
  8. Embrace Mistakes.
  9. Create S.M.A.R.T. goals: (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound)
  10. Jump from “Conversational” to “Mastery”: Do a lot of spoken practice. Like, a LOT.
  11. Learn the accent. You will not sound like a native speaker until you develop an accent.
  12. Become a polyglot: Learn multiple languages!

Tech Inquiry

Maeve, Olivia, and I are all pretty unfamiliar with graphic design. Broadly, all of us are simply curious about what it is and how to do it. Specifically, we are interested in how we could use it to enhance our teaching practice. This article gave us a few ideas about how to do so. The article talks about using “C.R.A.P” principles of web design when creating infographics. C.R.A.P stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. Contrast is vital in order to make the important elements stand out and the less important elements less obvious. The purpose of an infographic is to communicate information to viewers in a logical and clear way, which is why more important information should be more obvious. The article suggests making contrasts in the types of font, colours, line thickness, spacing between elements, and shapes. The “R” in C.R.A.P. stands for repetition. Graphic designers, according to the article, repeat certain elements of design (such as colour or shape) in order to “develop a sense of organization, unity, and consistency”. Most graphic design tools do this automatically when you choose a template, so this is not an area that you generally have to focus on. The “A” in C.R.A.P. stands for alignment. All design elements should be connected to the others in some way; nothing should be placed on the screen arbitrarily because this causes the design to come across as messy and disorganized. Lastly, the “P” in C.R.A.P. stands for proximity, which is important in order to communicate the relatedness of two or more concepts. Basically, when doing graphic design, be mindful of your creative choices.

The same article mentions that Canva can be helpful for teachers to design worksheets, infographics, schedules, posters, flyers, and more. Below I have included a screenshot of what the Canva website looks like.

Canva is free and easy to use. As far as I can tell, though, you have to pay for your images if you wish to remove the watermarks from them. If I were using them in the classroom, I wouldn’t mind if there was a watermark.

I have been experimenting with Canva and had lots of fun creating a concept map for this project (shown below). I am obviously not an expert, but I think it looks pretty good considering how new I am to graphic design! I am starting to see that there are lots of ways to use graphic design in my future teaching practice.

Canva also allows users to be collaborative on projects. For example, if Maeve, Liv and I wanted to work on a graphic design project together, I could just invite them to view my designs, edit, and share their designs. Last semester, we had to make a flyer for one of our classes. My group ended up making it on Microsoft Word and then emailing each other a draft with every small change that we made. If we knew about Canva, our lives would have been so much simpler.

Graphic Design Starting Point

For our tech inquiry project, the three of us (Olivia, Maeve, Julia) decided to learn about graphic design. Throughout our daily lives, we are constantly exposed to graphic design through digital and social media and in our everyday tasks. As young professionals starting out in the education world, being proficient in graphic design will be an asset to our classrooms and school communities.

As a starting point, none of really know much of anything about graphic design. We are aware that it is generally a combination of words and images that make up some sort of advertisement or logo, etc. We are not certain about how to do graphic design. We recognize that there are several outlets that we can use to create our own graphics but we are unaware of the differences between the outlets and which one is best suited to our needs.

To begin, we watched several videos about graphic design (like the one below) on Youtube. From there, we were able to learn several of the fundamental ideas about graphic design such as line, shape, and balance.

Our goals moving forward are individually different, but as a whole, we would like to further our knowledge and attempt some graphic designing. So far, one of us has used Adobe Spark  (which was free and easy to find) to create very small graphics. The website took some time to sort out and we are still learning what we can actually do with the site. We would like to explore the graphic design world a bit more and explore what kinds of things we would like to learn. We are in a state right now of almost not even knowing what we don’t know so we would like to delve further into this concept that is relatively new to us.

We’d like to experiment with different websites to try graphic design and hopefully, find ones that either doesn’t cost anything or that we can begin with a free trial. Once we become more adept, we will decide on our favourites and how they compare to others.

Open Inquiry Blog Post #5

I have officially been learning Italian for 3 weeks now! I am getting more and more comfortable with the language and am actually quite proud of my progress.

I had every intention of following through with my plan to experiment with the time of day at which I do my lessons, but I will confess that I have not stayed true to my plan. However, tomorrow I will start doing my lessons before bed, as suggested by the article that I read last week.

I saw my Nona this past week and made an effort to speak Italian with her, as I think my conversation skills are lacking. She does not speak true Italian very often; usually when she talked to relatives on the phone she speaks Calabrese, so I could tell it was a challenge for her to shift to formal Italian. Although we did not speak Italian together for long, I think that it was a valuable experience. My accent definitely needs work. I have an issue speaking in a fluid and natural way and, as a result, I sound pretty choppy. I think that this issue will resolve in time and with practice.

As a creature of habit, I have been enjoying my Duolingo Italian lessons every day. However, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Duolingo alone will not help me achieve a high level of fluency. I have been researching other supplementary methods and came across a useful article. One of the methods suggested in the article was the Michel Thomas audio lessons. My older brother used these when he was learning Italian and found them quite helpful, so I think I should try them out too.

PSII Visit Reflection

Today our EDCI 336 class had the pleasure of visiting the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (website is linked below). PSII, as the name suggests, focuses on individualized learning through inquiry. Each student has an individual learning plan that is based off of their own passions and interests.

The new BC curriculum emphasizes the importance of inquiry based learning. Because I was educated in a traditional school, my experience with inquiry based learning is limited. I am interested in learning about tools that can help me facilitate inquiry with my future students. PSII uses Trello to organize students’ inquiry projects and E-Portfolios as a place to save all of their work over the course of the year. PSII offers one on one sessions, group sessions, individual work time, and group work time, depending on each learners’ needs. They have a variety of different work spaces to accommodate all of the different needs of learners. During my visit, I spent a fair amount of time in the well equipped music room talking to one student. This student kindly took the time to describe his experience at PSII. Overall, it was quite positive. He said that he has learned a lot and that when he took a political science class at UVic last semester it was “pretty easy”. He was eloquent and clearly has a good sense of self. He not only answered our questions, but asked all of us questions about our lives too. One thing I was interested to know was approximately how much time an average learner at PSII spends per day. He answered honestly, saying that he looked at one screen or another for most of the day. This results in most PSII students being exceptionally adept with technology. Although that is positive in many ways, I do worry about the long term effects on learners that extended screen time may have. I also asked this student about his daily physical activity. Being active is a profoundly important part of my life, so I was curious about whether the school emphasized its importance. He said that he goes to the YMCA to exercise two days per week. The BC curriculum requires that students get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week (which may translate to 30 minutes per school day). To me, it sounds like many of these students reach the bare minimum requirement, which is not ideal. Having said that, reaching the daily physical activity requirement is also an issue for many kids who attend traditional schools.

I was amazed to hear what the PSII learners are doing at a young age. There are kids designing clothing lines, makeup lines, curating art shows, starting up businesses, and many other ambitious projects. Overall, I think that PSII is a fantastic school and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit.

PSII website: https://learningstorm.org/

Principal Jeff Hopkins’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/hopkinsjeff?lang=en

PSII Twitter: https://twitter.com/PSIIvictoria?lang=en