Category Archives: EC&I 831 Project

My Summary of Learning for ECI 831

This spring 2023 semester of EC&I 831, Social Media and Open Education, was very different than my initial visualizations when I first read the course synopsis. My first impression was that there would be a more prevalent focus on academic rigour, which I had taken to be the norm for most courses (this is a graduate-level course… of course). Instead, it diverged: blogging and posting! Chatting and sharing! Social media as an assignment! It’s been very different than my expectations, but I’m glad it’s been. I have never been much of a blogger or overall sharer of my progress with something, so it took some time to adjust to the structure. With this summary of learning, I felt it appropriate to continue with the blogging format, as it is something so different than other formats I’ve used thus far in my graduate program, such as presentations and video recordings.

At the outset of this course, and the reveal that much of our efforts were to be devoted to learning… for the sake of learning, I initially had concerns. What was I supposed to dedicate myself towards? I’d tried this sort of self-paced learning structure at various times since the beginning of the COVID pandemic: I dabbled in guitar, but spent more time reading and delving into ideas and plans than actually practicing. I thought about getting into coding, since it’s been something that I’ve introduced to my Grade 7s at a basic level, who have since absolutely lapped me in their ability. This, too, was short lived.

I knew I needed to find something that had, I wouldn’t call it “stakes”, but something a little more immediate or “urgent”, that depended on my consistent upkeep in order to be successful. It was my wife Nicole who suggested gardening, and it make quick sense to me. It’s something that can’t be delayed or put to the side if one wants any sort of productive yield. We have a large garden space in our backyard, as our house once belonged to my wife’s grandparents, and my wife and her grandmother continued to grow with it since we initially moved in, with me being happily relegated to making sure it was watered. I have a biology degree, but really didn’t have much practical knowledge of gardening.

The initial burst of interest came easily. I began by rototilling the garden, which is one of the two tasks I am usually responsible for. But I never even delved into WHY I was rototilling, other than the time-tested “it’s what we’ve always done”. This time, I needed to know that WHY. A couple quick Google searches later, I understood: tilling helps break up clumped soil, helps spread nutrients around, and can aid in churning detritus under the top layer of soil.

However, my search also produced many articles presenting the other side of the topic, that tilling can actually be detrimental to overall garden health. I’d never thought there was a negative to it. #TheMoreYouKnow. With a greater understanding, I ultimately decided to till, keep track of the overall soil quality in greater detail this year, and try the alternative next season.

Some sources for the pros and cons of tilling a garden include:

This first part came easy: I’ve done it before, and it doesn’t require a ton of thinking. Actually plotting out a garden, planting, and allowing it to grow, were things I hadn’t had a role in before. It was important for me to know WHERE each plant was supposed to be, but at the same time, I did have one particular limit set on me: while this garden was part of my course project, it was also still something my wife and her grandmother were connected with, so I needed to make sure I didn’t make drastic changes that affected the overall success of the garden.

I found a well-sourced article from, which outlined the practices one should follow when plotting a vegetable garden. Ultimately, I didn’t change the general locations where our vegetables would be, as my wife had the garden planned out before this course began, but rather, I was able to better understand WHY certain species were where they were. It also helped clarify which species grow best together, and which ones would compete against each other. #NatureIsLit.

With the plot established and the garden tilled, it came time to seed. I underestimated the quantity of seeds needing to be planted, while at the same time ensuring there was no overcrowding. I’d say the most annoying seeds to plant were the carrot seeds: they are absolutely minuscule. Nevertheless, I seeded, covered the rows with soil, and applied a healthy dose of water to the garden. With the garden established, and by me this time, I had something to show for my efforts, unlike my previous attempts at self-paced learning.

With this gardening project, I was fortunate to still have help. My wife Nicole, first and foremost, was the one who suggested I choose gardening as my project focus, as her grandmother had reached a point that she wouldn’t be able to physically participate anymore. This is also the first summer our 17-month old son, Ben, is able to “help” with the gardening. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the next learning project… how to prevent backyard grass from dying from too many toys resting on it…            

Reflecting on my gardening social media/learning experience

As this spring term’s EC&I 831 course draws to an end, I’ve been reflecting on how the parameters of the course shaped my overall direction in planning, organizing, and facilitating growing a backyard garden. It also had me reflect on my comfortability with social media, in general.

First, my thoughts on how this project went. I chose gardening as my focus for a couple reasons. It’s something that I’ve played a minor role in here at home, with my wife and her grandmother doing the vast majority of it. I mentioned in my beginning post that with my wife’s grandmother stepping back, I took this as an opportunity to step in more directly. But I also knew I needed to look at this as something more than just following the directions that have been followed before. I felt this would be a good opportunity to compare what I knew beforehand to what I could gain by maximizing social media tools.

But I’ll admit, I don’t think my social media implementation was as effective or far-ranging as what could have been idealized. I found early on, just in my experience, that Instagram failed me. I don’t have much experience with Instagram to begin with, but I found it lacking when it came to trying to find some semblance of community or previous discussion on the topics I was looking for. It seems more of a show-off space, for lack of a better term, and much of what I found wasn’t very relatable to what I was building. So, scratch this tool off the list.

Twitter surprised me, though again, maybe it’s more my implementation than any shortcomings itself. I used Tweetdeck to try to find related threads or conversations, but many of the results seemed to come from businesses advertising their services, and less in terms of community discussion or collaboration. Again, I’m not prepared to full-on abandon Twitter (I use it for many other things, still, so I know it can be effective), but I don’t think it benefited here as much as it maybe should have.

I tried to avoid using Facebook or YouTube, as these are services I’m most familiar with (Facebook), and might otherwise feel like cheating (YouTube). I found Reddit came to the rescue. I liked that the discussions and conversations are easily findable and are hosted in subreddits that are full of related discussions. Reddit came in clutch, for sure.

Now, reflecting on my own contributions or discussions. I’ll openly state that my own contributions or submissions using social media have not been overly numerous. When it came to questions I had throughout the project, such as the ideal quantity of berry bushes to plant together, or how to generally organize where certain plants should be planted in the garden, I sought out previous conversations, rather than ask my own. My general thinking has been that nothing I’ve been doing throughout this project is particularly novel, so certainly the questions I’m asking have been answered before.

Knowing this, I’m not sure I’m the greatest determiner of the effectiveness of social media in education. I’ve learned a lot throughout this project, and the course in general, and I found every topic interesting and engaging. I’d say the biggest roadblock I had in this project is myself, and my hesitation in maximizing my effective usage of the different social media tools available (for instance, I never created a TikTok account to check things out there).

However, I also know that I’ve opened a door regarding my mindset towards social media in education, and that door won’t be closing with the conclusion of this course. I know there are a plethora of learning opportunities to be found, and I just need to continue nudging myself towards those opportunities. In that sense, I look forward to continuing my own education towards better utilizing these social media tools.

Rain: much needed, gratefully accepted, but please don’t flood!

Water has been such a fickle thing throughout this garden experience. It has seemed like the rain offerings have been either feast or famine; downpours at a time, followed by long periods of dry heat. My experience with growing plants, including grass, has always involved the concern of over-or-under watering. I’ve always struggled to determine the ideal quantity of water that should be present in a growing space. But then Mother Nature goes ahead and takes that worrying out of my hands, so in a way, that’s good!

(I don’t say this to complain. My stakes are FAR lower than those of farmers and other agricultural participants.)

As I write this, we just experienced a major downpour this evening, including a small amount of hail (seemingly the first this season). The rain is absolutely helpful, don’t get me wrong, but I also know I pretty much won’t be entering the garden for the next several days. While at this point I hope the plants have grown enough that they won’t be completely swamped by the quantity of rain, I also know there isn’t much I can do right now if they were. Such is the waiting game at this point, I suppose.

Aside from the moisture considerations, there’s also the above-ground cleanup following such a heavy rain that must also take place. The garden is heavily inundated with all sorts of by-products from nearby treees, including full-on branches and such. The pictures below illustrate the point:


For added dramatic effect, take a look at our new backyard beach from our last downpour (the sand box was covered with a tarp, so this is not the full quantity of water that had rained):

I’ll update this post tomorrow with pictures of the latest swamping. The purpose of this post, I’d say, is more of a commentary about how despite all our plans, nature still has the final say in the success of our growing projects. At least we haven’t experienced true hail yet! #blessed

Replacing the Saskatoon berry bush. Plus, an addition

As mentioned in my previous blog post, we suffered a loss in our garden: one of our three Saskatoon berry bushes succumbed to the voracious eating habits of an ant colony. The solution I used, the borax/sugar mixture, seems to have worked well! I guess the idea with this mixture is the borax does the heavy lifting, but ants aren’t inherently attracted to it, so this is where the sugar comes into play. In observing the area we discovered the garden ants, there are no longer the high number that was found earlier, though there still are some individuals bandying about, so I’ll continue with the mixture for the time being. It doesn’t harm the plants or produce, so that’s good.

Here are a couple sources I found that support the use of borax in dealing with ants:

Terminix: Borax for Ants: An Effective DIY Treatment?

Ant Killer with Borax: Yes, It Really Works!


It’s all well and good that we seem to have the ant problem figured out, but this didn’t solve that we are down a berry plant. Our hope when we planted them was to have yielding plants within three years or so, and maintain long-term growth and harvest at that point. During the summer, we camp up in Meadow Lake Provincial Park, and one of our pastimes is to go Saskatoon berry picking. We’re hopeful that these berry plants will provide us some additional yield, but not if the ants keep killing the bushes!

It’s a good thing that Costco exists. We purchased our original bushes from there, and it’s where I got our new replacement. But I didn’t leave with just the one. For whatever reason, I figured we could supplement the Saskatoon berries with a traditional blueberry bush. I just wish I had learned a little more about blueberry bushes beforehand? Why? It turns out that blueberry bushes are not self-pollinating (such as raspberries, of which we have a bush in our backyard), and therefore, like the Saskatoon berry bushes, will heavily benefit from several of the same plant in the vicinity. So… hopefully the bees are active!

Here’s an article from everyone’s favourite channel, HGTV, about how to effectively plant blueberry bushes. I sure wish I thought about this first…

I went ahead and planted the new blueberry bush anyways. The Saskatoon bush will likely grow more successfully as it has two other established buddies in its midst.

Planting was straightforward: dig holes deep enough for the bush transfers, move the bushes into their new locations, fill in with soil, and provide plenty of water.

With these planted, hopefully they will grow into healthy, berry-yielding bushes.

Weeds and ants

The garden has been planted for a couple weeks, and by this point I am beginning to notice that the clean, pristine soil space that had been tilled, lined, and planted, isn’t looking quite the same. Namely, this seems to be the point that weeds and other inconvenient growths are starting to emerge, even after the soil was initially cleared and tilled. We aren’t going to chance using any sort of chemical product, so manual labour it is!

There hasn’t been much to research about this, just a matter of getting into the garden and cleaning out weeds. I focused on making sure the aisles between different rows were cleaned up. The pictures below will illustrate that.

The pictures here help showcase the kinds of growth being found, and my efforts to basically pluck the root systems out of the soil.


A more difficult problem was also discovered: ants.

We’ve had ants before, but they’ve typically been found around the concrete perimeter of our house, and I’ve easily managed them with the aid of chemical product. But this week we discovered the presence of a sizable colony in the backyard. Rather than say hello to us, they decided to strike first. We’d been wondering for awhile now why one of our three Saskatoon berry bushes hadn’t appeared to grow this season, compared to the other two beside it. Unfortunately, the bush had been taken over by ants. When I dug up the bush (we accepted that it wasn’t going to grow), we found a large presence of ants below.

My first solution was to boil water in a kettle and unleash sweet justice upon them. After creating a boiling wet soil soup, and hoping that my work flooded some part of their network, I had to figure out a more effective solution. Typically, I just go with a Google search. In the spirit of this course, however, I tried to relegate my answers to those found through social media sites.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of Instagram is. It doesn’t seem to be much of a source of discussion or comparison, and it wasn’t much help in this regard. When I search “ant garden control” what popped up was mostly business advertisements and varieties of basic infographics, but nothing in the way of video exemplars or demonstrations. Moving on to Twitter, I used Tweetdeck to search for garden ant management, but again, not much came up. Is gardening not something very popular on social media?

Still determined to avoid YouTube, I tried Reddit. I’ve used Reddit for years, but not for anything related to gardening. A quick search for ant garden management helped me find this page. I’ve heard of using a borax/sugar mixture for dealing with ants, so this is what I went with. I made the mix and applied it around the region where the ants have been most active. Hopefully this helps!

As far as lessons to be learned through this period of the course, I would say I still struggle with maximizing the effectiveness of Instagram and Twitter, but this could also be due to gardening not necessarily being a hot topic of the platforms. As new questions pop up throughout my gardening experience, I’ll keep this in mind as I continue to try exploring these platforms in greater detail.

EC&I 831 Major Project: Planting a Garden and Keeping it Alive

The timing of this course, and the major project focus of blogging about personal learning, is quite timely. It’s this time of year that my wife and her grandmother begin their process of planting a garden in our backyard. I have to admit that my prior involvement in the garden is very minimal: I run the rototiller early on, and do some hauling of soil, compost, and such, but have otherwise been uninvolved. For context, we purchased our home from my wife’s grandmother, and she and her late husband had maintained a garden during their time in the home. When we moved in, my wife continued the garden with her grandmother, and this was an important bonding activity for them that I generally stayed out of.

Not this year. The physical rigour of building and maintaining a garden is enough that my wife’s grandmother is unable to continue the tradition. So, I’ll step in. There’s lots to be done with the process of the garden. Much of my knowledge-building will naturally come from my wife’s experience, but I will supplement the process with all sorts of resources and references that will help explain the rationale behind how we build and maintain the garden.

My goal, in this process, is to articulate all aspects of the gardening experience, ranging from material choices, to the layout, and the activities involved. As long as the garden survives and is yielding produce, I’ll count this as a success!