Author Archives: danieldion1

Learning Hot to Sew (Week One)

This week’s objectives in learning how to sew were the following:

  • Get a work area setup.
  • Get acquainted with my sewing machine and learn the basics in how it works.
  • Cut some pieces of fabric in shapes with straight edges and some with curves.
  • Practice sewing in straight lines and in curves.
  • Practice my spacing.
  • Verify and adjust my machine for the quality of my stitching.
  • Test different stitching patterns.

Setup of a workstation was simple, I didn’t want to interfere with my wife’s sewing station, therefore I took a temporary folding table and installed it in a corner of my basement.

Sewing Station

I ran a power cord and installed my old 1970’s vintage Singer Fashion Mate 252.  Although old, this machine is robust and simple, two attributes that bode well for a beginner with my level of skill.

Singer 252

In order to have a good reference for the workings of the machine, I searched the Internet for the user’s manual and to my surprise, singer provided the PDF to its original manual right on their website.  It’s great to see a company care and support its products so well.

Singer website

To my amazement, I found the manual to be a fantastic beginning resource to not only learn the machine but also learn how to sew!  The manual includes fantastic illustrations and simple to follow step by step instructions to guide you into properly using the machine and also learn the basics of sewing.  I love the hand drawn illustrations; they provide a great visual support to the instructions and they really add to the easy of learning.

Singer manual

Once having threaded the machine, it was time to do my first stitches.  To accomplish this, I used small pieces of paper that I fed through the machine.  The contract, the flatness and the rigidity of the paper make those first stitches easy due to not having to worry about alignment of cloth and its stretchy properties.

Stitching practice

I tried to sew straight lines and made small adjustments to the machine as I went.  I even tried a zigzag stitch!  These first few lines of stitching allowed me to comprehend the feel of the machine but learning how it was going to react to my inputs.  I gained the feel of the pedal and was able to register in my mind the corrects sounds and the movements this machine normally makes.  I then preceded with cutting a few pieces of cotton the sew them together for form a simple rudimentary pocket.  This allowed me to practice sewing along a curve and allowed me to gain the feeling of sewing actual cloth.  I took my time, and everything went well.  The results are, to me, satisfactory.

Here is a vlog that summarizes my journey so far.

Screencasts Open Up A New Dimension to Teaching

Finding and exploring new digital tools can often be a challenge.  The learning curve associated with deciphering how to use a new application can often mean a significant amount of time is spent before any meaningful and useable things come out.  I find it a rare occurrence to come across game changing applications that revolutionize or completely transform how I work in my personal or professional life.  However, with new applications appearing on a daily basis, I find it frequent that I find applications that remove just enough friction in my digital life it’s worthwhile to adopt given the increase in efficiency to my work.

In an attempt to make some of my teaching practice more visual, I decided to explore the Google Chrome extension called Screencastify.  Being weary of my privacy, I initially was disappointed to see that I had to login with a Google account.  Although I’m aware that free applications monetize your information, I find it a big pill to swallow to have the ability to use a simple screen-casting application.  If it weren’t for this assignment, I wouldn’t have proceeded with the installation purely on the principal of privacy.

screencastify1

The next window that appeared was once again a bit disconcerting.  Due to having logged in with my work email, the language changed to French.  This didn’t bother me, however the quality of the French displayed in this window is so poorly translated that I’m left wondering if the interface will be comprehendible.  I’ve often encountered translated applications that were so poorly translated that it made them extremely difficult and frustrating to use.  For me, as I work exclusively in French, this is a very important feature that can be a deal breaker.

screencastify2

Once authorized, permissions must be set for the application to access the camera and microphone built into the computer.  This is reasonable considering the nature of screencasts.  Once again, giving access to such fundamental hardware on my computer to the Chrome browser is unnerving as it expands my risk vectors for online security and privacy.  How can I be assured that my video and audio is not going to directly to the Google advertisement machine?  I guess I’ll have to assume that proper encryption is used by Google and my information will be protected.

Screencastify3

Once the initial setup is complete, you are greeted with a much-appreciated tutorial video that goes through the important points in how to use the application.  This is fantastic as it improves the learning curve and allows me to more quickly get to using the application.

screencastify4

Once I got everything running and made a few test screencasts, I prepared the following screencast to give a tour of the software and elaborate on its advantages and disadvantages.

Even though Screencastify is far from being the ideal screencasting tool available on the market, I think this Chrome extension, or others like it, could prove useful in many aspects of my teaching practice.  As part of my robotics class, many of the things I must teach have to be accomplished on the computer.  A screencasting tool is perfect to record tutorials on how to use software and how to accomplish specific tasks within those pieces of software.  As an example, in the unit on 3D modeling, I could use screencasts to introduce the software as well as explain many of the functionalities within it.  I could assign some of these video tutorials as homework in order to preserve in person class time to actual 3D modeling and helping the students solve problems related to their assignments.   This could increase the pace of the class without introducing significant amounts of stress.  In addition, once these videos are completed, they could be used in the years to come resulting in freeing more of my time to prepare even better course materials.

Students could also use a tool like Screecastify to share their work, their challenges and their successes to their classmates as well as me, the teacher.  In one example, we could flip the classroom and ask each student to learn a new digital skill and share with their classmates this new skill using a screencast.  I recognize this would require a computer and internet access for all students and thus situations where there exists a digital divide might prove to be challenging.

Alternatives to Screencastify exist and one must weigh the pros and the cons of each type of application in order to choose the right one for you.  In his blog, Matteo recommends Screencast-O-Matic.  I suggest you watch his review to see if it works better than Screencastify in your situation.

Overall, I see the large potential of such an application and how it could be an effective collaborative tool on many levels.  Not all students are comfortable recording themselves or presenting in front of others.  In the context of oral presentations, the intimacy of using a computer and not presenting in person in front of one’s peers, screencasts could be a solution to this challenge for many students.

How would you use screencasts in your classroom?

Sink or Swim, Time to Jump In

Having been a teacher for over 12 years, my perception of my role as a teacher has changed in many ways.  If the first few years, I viewed myself as conduit of information to that had to be channeled effectively to my students.  Today, I view my job as a teacher as a curator of information and a guide to assist my students in interpreting and navigating the ocean of knowledge the internet has to offer.  With my guidance and the structures, I provide within my classroom, I hope my students learn the skills and the abilities that will prove critical once they leave the confines of school and enter their adult lives.  It’s my hope that they use these skills to navigate life and make good decisions based on good values and good logic.  As Brown and Adler mention in their article, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Trail, and Learning 2.0:

The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.

By controlling the environment in our classes where our students develop, we as teachers can influence, in a calculated manner, how students are learning.  There is no sense in competing with the quantity and quality of the information the internet can provide; however, we can influence and teach our students how to manage these strong sources of information so that they can be properly interpreted and processed.  This is the type of social learning that can be achieved through the use of social media in the classroom.  By providing a safe environment where students can make mistakes and takes risks, we can guide them in being responsible digital citizens.

In the recent past, it was possible to live in two separate worlds, the online world and the real world.  The ever-connected nature of our modern society creates a situation where people are now, more than ever, forced to integrate their digital lives with their real world lives.  The online world is now the real world and the real world is more than ever online.  We as a society have moved the majority of our social conversations to the internet and this is where we must concentrate our efforts in helping our students.

Like Michael Wesch postulates in his TEDxKC talk, we must help people in their transition from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.  With instant access to information, students have to gain the ability to not only contextualize and be critical of the information that flows on a daily basis, they must also gain the ability to act on the knowledge they have in concrete and positive ways.  The integration of social media into our classrooms represents, to me, a way to foster Wesch’s idea of knowledge-ability in our students.

With social media and its ability to open the classroom to the world, concerns related to privacy and safety are always the first things that come to my mind.  One of the 21 century literacies that is presented in The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies is:

  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes.

Much like Alfed Nobel and his creation of dynamite, all the best intentions in the world will not always lead to positive and productive use of such technology.  As we have seen in the past decade, the weaponization of information though the spreading of fake news and the dissemination of pseudo-scientific misinformation can cause real harm to a society.  Much like the use of propaganda in the last century, the control of information can guide society to very dark places.  With large companies like Google and Amazon recording, studying and modeling our every move online, my information is being commoditized and sold.  Although I’d like to think I’m just another number in an infinitely large database across multiple servers in hundreds of locations across the world, I’m convinced the Internet I see might not be the Internet others see due to companies like Google personalizing my portal to the web.

image-portal-002

(Source: http://ngecacit.com/ARFiles/BP-portal-more.htm)

Our students have to navigate this world, and as soon as they log onto the Internet at a very young age, their electronic profile is already being built.  The idea that a large corporation owns so much information on so many individuals is starting to spark many political conversations across the world.  In the European Union, the Right to be Forgotten has provided a mechanism for a person to erase their online profile.  This leads me to believe we should have a similar mechanism everywhere in the world as this might allow kids to live their online childhoods not having to worry that if they make a mistake as a 13-year-old, it will not haunt them for the rest of their lives.   Another interesting regulation from the EU, which has its pros and cons, is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which aims “to give control to individuals over their personal data”.  With all of these initiatives, I have a bit of hope that someday control of our data will come back to the individual.

Building resilience and “knowledge-ability” in our students can be a daunting task.  It is one that I personally don’t feel like I’m well tooled to address as of today.  Gradually, I’m gaining confidence in the possibilities of social media in my educational practice.  I know my pessimism is getting the best of me at the moment and I acknowledge the many fantastic things social networks can bring to the lives of students.  I need to leave this zone of stagnation and take more risks as a teacher, more specifically in the world of using social media in my classroom.  How can I expect my students to learn the skills I hope they acquire without me being good digital citizenship that they can observe?  How do I take the plunge without having the fear of drowning in the deep end of the SAMR model?  (Thanks Brooke for bringing this version to my attention via Twitter!)

SAMR

Exploring what needles me

Contemplating my major digital project for EC&I 831, I felt an opportunity had arisen for me to dedicate a certain amount of time towards reaching a goal that I have been wanting to achieve for many years.  I’m a maker.  The idea of making things that are useful in everyday life is very appealing to me.  I’ve engineered many electronic projects; I’ve built a garage all by myself and built a few pieces of furniture just to name a few of my exploits.  I fix anything and everything, however there is one large domain that remains to be conquered and now is the time.

Sewing is going to be my next frontier to explore as a maker.   Mostly reserved to the women in my life, I think it’s a skill worth dedicating time and energy towards learning as it can prove useful in a wide variety of ways.  From fixing clothing to making my own custom creations, I view sewing as a lifelong skill that will forever be an asset.  Much of the inspiration for this idea comes from Adam Savage and his One Day Build where made his EDC1 bag.  Watching him gives me hope that I can do the same.

My wife is an avid seamstress with a well-stocked sewing studio.  At my disposal is every kind of machine that one might need to accomplish sewing tasks.  (I have no idea what the difference is between a regular sewing machine and a surging machine, that will come in step one.)  Although my wife will definitely be an excellent resource during this project, it’s my intention to mostly rely on her expertise for feedback on my progress and the outcomes of my projects.  I really want to see how far I can get using books and online resources in my learning experiment.  Of course, your feedback will be crucial!

There are so many things to learn!  It will be impossible for me to become a master at sewing; however, I hope to establish a solid base that will allow me to feel confident when a new potential sewing project might arise.  As any good teacher, one must have a plan.  Learning how to sew is much too vague of an outcome to be realistically achievable.  As a learner, I learn best by doing and I will approach this project in much the same way.  I intend to start with a simple project and work my way towards more complex projects as I progress over the next few months.

Step one: Learn the machines and their capabilities.

Project: Make a simple pencil case.

Zipper-Pencil-Pouch-25

https://www.applegreencottage.com/2016/07/how-to-make-felt-pencil-case.html

My initial step will be to use online tutorials and articles to learn how to use the machines.  Youtube will my primary source of material but I’m sure other sources will crop up as I get going.  During this step, I intend to learn how to thread and setup the machines properly.  Subsequently, I will use scrap material to start practicing using the machines by sewing things together and evaluating how close I come to the desired outcome.  Once I have gained enough confidence, I will attempt to make a simple pencil case.

Step two: Learn to use patterns and following build instructions

Project: Make a small pouch using plans from Savage Industries.

pouch_white_small_angle2_sm_2048x

https://adamsavage.com/collections/pouches/products/edc-pouch-small

In this step, I will purchase a pattern for a small pouch from Savage Industries.  This will initiate me to using patterns and the steps to follow when considering a larger more complex project.  I will install my first zipper and hopefully learn how professionally designed cloth projects work.

Step three: Learning more advances sewing techniques

Project.: Make and EDC2 from a kit from Savage Industries.

edc2_white_beauty_2048x_36283a77-1625-4a6a-a5f5-eac3b51d3da1_2048x

https://adamsavage.com/collections/bags/products/savage-industries-edc-two

This step will involve using a more complex kit to make a bag that I intend to use as my new school bag.  This project will use many more advanced techniques that will have been built and acquired from the previous two projects.  Through my research, many people on the internet have built this project as their first sewing project, thus I feel like this will be attainable.

Bonus step: Transition to my first piece of clothing

Project: Make a Lab Coat for school.

If I’m able to complete my three previous projects, I’d like to find a pattern to make a custom lab coat to use when I’m teaching my science classes.  This will require custom measuring to fit a garment to my body and represents, to me, the ultimate degree of difficulty.

I can’t wait to get going!  Here we go!

Capture d’écran, le 2019-09-29 à 22.07.00

Social Media and Me

As I grow older, I find that social media is taking ever increasing larger portions of my time.  I’m not proud of this reality and must make a conscious effort to limit and control its usage as to minimize the potential negative impacts it may have on my duties and responsibilities as a father, a husband and a teacher.  I recognize social media can have potential positive impacts in many aspects of life, but the older I get, my views on the matter are becoming more pessimistic.  As we observed during our assignment on the history of social media, there isn’t much optimism in the current state of social media.

socialmedia

(https://docs.google.com/document/d/1agtrB36RlnAHfQ1iLntLBkMBPsgCwNuVZ_PDpqDIaXk/edit?pli=1)

I started my social media consumption as a kid in rural Saskatchewan when we finally had our first internet connection via a 28Kbps modem.  The software of choice at that point was MSN messenger.  All of my friends were on this same network and I remember many late nights of instant messaging with my friends from all across the province and even across the country.  As a very shy and awkward adolescent that didn’t have the gift of the gab, internet messaging allowed me to share and communicate with friends with the benefit of using the written word.  The ability to pause and reflect before committing an idea to a conversation was very powerful for me.   Some very good friendships evolved within this world and it, without a doubt, helped me develop into a more confident person.

MSN_Messenger_4.6

MSN messenger circa 2001

As I entered my university career in 2003, web forums took a larger place in my life as I had finally discovered a place on the internet where my interests in motorsports and technology could be quenched.  MSN messenger was still the method of communication of choice as I didn’t have a cellular telephone and text messaging was much too expensive and restrictive to be practical.  It’s at the end of my university experience around 2007, that me and all of my university friends joined the now infamous Facebook.  It was the perfect tool that arose at the perfect time in our lives.  As everyone was going their separate ways, Facebook allowed me and my cohort of friends to stay in touch.  Twelve years later, many of those friendships continue to develop and evolve.  The recent developments with regards to influence Facebook had in the results of the 2016 American general election has me questioning how I might be influenced by social media in my everyday decision making.

Today, MSN messenger is no longer in existence and the ubiquity of smart phones and internet access has pushed me to more recent social media platforms including Twitter and Instagram.  Although Facebook still has an important place in my social media usage, I’ve found it as the tool of choice to know what is going on with family and friends.  Over the past years, I have found Facebook to be a terrible platform for news and current events as it is only curated with my own friends and family.  A much better platform for me to get the pulse of the Internet and the world is Twitter.  Its micro-blogging structure lends itself to be an effective tool for the broadcasting and consumption of real-time information.  In addition, the use of hashtags like #eci831 and curated list allows you to filter content in useful and effective ways.

Personally, I tend towards being a consumer of social media as opposed to actively posting information.  My worries related to online privacy and the fear of posting something I would someday regret comes to odds with being a very active social media user.  As a result, I’m very hesitant to use social media in my professional life.  Although I have learned about many of the wonderful things that can be accomplished with its use in the context of my career as a teacher, I’m still hesitant to take the full plunge.  Other than the privacy implications associated with social media, the ever-present technological divide between many of the families in my school remains a serious challenge.  In addition, it is rather difficult to provide computer access to all the students to our school for budgetary reasons.  I can’t fathom using a technological tool where all students can’t have equal access thus equal opportunity from which to benefit.

The only social media tool I use in my professional life is YouTube.  As I’m at times absent from the classroom and it’s very difficult to find specialized French speaking science teachers, I often record lessons and post them to allow students the opportunity to learn when I’m away from the classroom.  This has proven to be a very effective tool and has become a valuable tool in my pedagogy. In fact, some of my classes have accumulated over 1700 views! Perhaps I should take this success as a glimpse into the possibility of further technological use related to social media in my classroom. Perhaps my experience in EC&I 831 will push me further and diminish my reticence if using new social media platforms.

youtube

Another challenge I’ve struggled with is the separation of my personal and professional life related to the use of social media.  At the moment, I don’t think the mixing of my personal and professional lives on social media is a good idea.  I’m aware of many teachers who manage multiple social media accounts to overcome this problem, I’m however still concerned with the blending of both situations.  Perhaps this view will change in the future, but at the moment, I cannot justify the stress and the energy involved in managing different personas.

Over the past few years, I must say my use of social media has brought me much joy and happiness.  It has, however consumed much of my life and I’m not sure if the time invested in using social media has been worth the return.  Exhibit A, my screen time statistics for the last week.  Good or bad?  At this point, I’m not too sure.

Photo 2019-09-22, 21 03 02