Pick Me, Pick Me!

This week, I have reflected a lot on the culture of participation, as outlined by both Michael Wesch and Alec Couros.

In Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, he shows a number of videos of people dancing and singing to the same song, Numa Numa. From all around the world, people belt it out into their webcams, “expressing joy” for others to see. He seems to suggest that these people are all connected and that they feel the need to participate and be a part of something bigger than themselves. He describes the uploaded videos as “a celebration of new and unimaginable possibility” and “a celebration of new forms of community.” I, on the other hand, feel that the exact opposite is occurring. These people are not wanting to be a part of a community, but on the contrary, want to stand out as a singular and unique individual. These people participate out of a need and a desire to be noticed. They perform for the Internet and expect something in return: their 10 minutes of fame. They do not want to fit in with a community, but instead want to stand out. This causes them to engage with the most ridiculous (sometimes dangerous) behaviour. However, their reasoning and motives aside, they are nonetheless participating.

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Photo Credit: benpal4 Flickr via Compfight cc

Alec Couros also talks about a different form of Internet participation, also known as “Catfishing.” This is simply when an individual or group of individuals poses as someone else online, therefore misleading others for either, money, sympathy, attention, information, etc. Couros shares an example of how he himself was part of a “catfish”. His public photos were used by someone else to create a phony Facebook profile. These “catfishers” participate online as a means of exploiting. They use others’ identities, or made up identities, to engage with others and get them to participate online in a way that will benefit their own personal motives. As I highlight the negative forms of participation culture online, it is clear that weather one is looking to make their identity known/be recognized, or hide their identity altogether, this participation can be done with deceitful or selfish intentions. However, the classroom seems to be a place where the participation culture can be used for something positive.

Through technological participation, students are able to demonstrate their knowledge. Much like the Numa Numa singers, they seek to be noticed – but for they acquired knowledge. They are “showing off” what they have learned as a means of being assessed. This could be through the form of videos, songs, commercials, Kahoot quizzes, etc. Students engage and participate using technology as a means of demonstrating knowledge. This enhances the evidence of learning and makes assessment easier. This is where the participation culture positively affects an entire field: education. If we’re looking at the SAMR model, this culture easily lends itself to the “Redefinition” category.

In closing for this week, I’d like to research other positive and negative effects of the participation culture and will be watching the rest of Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. Until next week, web surfers.

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Mr. Ingola Paints Mr. Burns

For this next piece, I worked on incorporating a more elaborate background. Since Mr. Burns works at the nuclear power plant and is often seen polluting Springfield’s air, I included a billow of smoke. This is in addition to the dollar signs, which are a symbol of his wealth. I quite enjoyed painting a “villain” or antagonist this time around, as I could experiment with slightly darker colours. I am also very pleased with my incorporation of more background elements without taking away from the character as the actual focus of the painting.

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I used the sponge brush to create the smoke effect. In researching the sponge brush, however, I discovered that it is actually called a foam brush. According to heartlandpainters.com, one of the negatives of using the foam brush is that it leaves a ridge of paint on both sides of the paint stroke. I used this to my advantage as it created a texture within the smoke and gave the illusion that the smoke was thicker in some places.

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While incredibly happy with the stylistic advantages of the foam brush, the cleanup afterward was not the best. Unfortunately, the foam absorbs a lot of paint and, compared to the standard brush head, requires a lot more work to get the paint out (in my experience, anyway). I developed a technique of letting the foam brush soak in the water, and then ringing it out like a regular hand sponge. This seemed to work.

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I had originally wanted to use a silver colour for the smoke, however, the acrylic paint that I had purchased at Dollarama was very hard and would not come out of the bottle. It was unusable. For this reason, I had to mix black and white together to make my own sort of grey. This disappointed me, as I had initially envisioned a more metallic silver. My disappointment lead me to doing a bit of research.

This site offered many great solutions for thinning hardened acrylic paint, including a product called the “Acrylic Flow Improver.” I also read a great WikiHow that offered solutions that could be reached by using simple household products. Chipping the paint out with the end of your paintbrush and then grinding it up and adding water to it seemed to work for me, however, my painting was already finished at this point. I also noted that doing this to the acrylic paint turned it into more of a water colour, which gave me a great challenge for my next painting: using water colours. Stay tuned.

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My first three attempts at becoming a fan art artist. I challenged myself by going a little bit bigger with the canvas size each time. 

Growing up means realizing you have become a Squidward

Before starting my Squidward painting, there are a few things I would like to improve upon:

  • On my Marge painting, the darker tones and lighter tones both changed when the paint dried, making them not as noticeable. I will be incorporating bolder colours this time around.
  • I’d like to put something in the background, behind the actual character.
  • I’d like to use a different style of brush, particularly the sponge brush (since Squidward is a SPONGEbob character).

The following video helped me with my initial sketches:

I used a lot of the same process for Squidward as I did with Marge, however, when I got to the background, I used the sponge brush to create a more textured and “underwater” effect. I also checked out Squidward’s colour palette on Colour Lovers.

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Following this, I researched how to paint bubbles from drawingteachers.com. This helped me with the look of the bubbles, as I didn’t know how to make ordinary circles look like bubbles. I am quite happy with the result.

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The final product

Not a bad improvement, if I do say so myself. Eventually, I’d like to be able to create more realistic bubbles like the ones featured in the video below:

Next challenge for myself: Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

Disclaimer: Despite really enjoying drawing, I have never actually painted seriously before. I am loving how it adds a whole new dimension to my drawings/brings them to life.

Flipgrid flips the engagement switch to “ON” in French Immersion

One fifth of the French Immersion curriculum is comprised of “Production orale.” This is the ability to produce oral language. Many students harbor feelings of anxiety toward this portion of the curriculum, however, it’s one of the most important components of learning a new language. Oral production of language is how you will primarily use what you’ve learned as a means of interacting with others. Flipgrid takes the intimidation out of oral communication of a second language and allows students to speak to their webcams/Chromebooks, rather than be intimidated by a classroom full of eyes hanging onto their every word.

Flipgrid is a discussion community wherein students interact verbally through brief videos. It gives students a voice and engages them with a number of topics, set up ahead of time by the teacher. Their video responses are laid out in a grid format, which is great for visual learners and very user friendly. It also allows students to respond to one another and build on one another’s points. The catch, as mentioned earlier, is that it’s all done through video/through verbal interactions. Students cannot write to one another, but instead must communicate vocally and use the language they are studying.

One of the reasons Flipgrid works in engaging students is that the videos are limited to 90 seconds. Anything seems less intimidating when you chunk it into 90 second installments. Speaking for a minute and a half is do-able. Also, Flipgrid is stimulating. There are a number of different discussions happening and conversations to engage with. Students have choice without feeling overwhelmed.

I created a locked grid for my classroom, meaning only my students (and their teacher) could access the grid. We had our own access code that allowed them access to the grid. This allowed students who do not have media release permissions to still participate.

One drawback to Flipgrid is that creating an account will give you a “Flipgrid One” account, which means exactly that. You have access to only one grid. Unlimited grids falls under the “Flipgrid Classroom” package, which will cost you $65. In a regular classroom, this may not be worth the money, but in Immersion classrooms, it is worth every cent.

Flipgrid’s value also comes from the fact that it lends itself well to evaluation and assessment. Having a conversation with a student or having a student raise his/her hand in class is good… but there’s no record of it. Flipgrid records and allows you to play back all of your students’ interactions with each other, giving you the chance to evaluate their level of French proficiency, fluidity, pronunciation, etc. I used Flipgrid for my class’ inquiry project, the Potato Olympics. Students worked collaboratively in groups to plan out the opening ceremonies, the events, etc. while still keeping a record for me to see who contributed the most and the least to their group.

Students learned from one another’s ideas, and I’ll admit… I enjoyed being able to make my own video prompts to them as well. My next steps with this tool involve using it with another classroom or school and having the students interact with others who are outside of their comfort zone. I’d like for them to practice their French in authentic situations outside of the school, and Flipgrid allows this without ever having to leave the school.

Final notes:

  • Great for French Immersion 
  • Easy to use/ user friendly
  • Limited account if you don’t pay $65
  • Encourages vocal abilities/verbal communication

  • Flipgrid was recommended to me by my Vice Principal, Ian

                Final grade: A-

Blank Canvas No More

I pulled up my chosen picture of Marge Simpson on my Macbook Pro and began mixing my colours. I had already sketched her figure onto the canvas, so now it was time to fill her in. I started with her yellow skin, the tone of which I was able to find online (see my last blog post).

As I looked at her picture online, I took note of lighter and darker tones, particularly in her hair. When I mixed my colours, I had one light, one medium, and one darker tone. On the right side of her body, I used the dark tones. On the left, I used the lighter tones. It created a really cool effect. I did this with her green dress, her yellow skin, and her blue hair. She was composed of just those three colours, plus her red/orange necklace.

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While using the brushes, some of the bristles were very hard and coarse, while others were soft and thin. I had no clue when to use which brush, so I simply Googled it. I was brought to art-is-fun.com, which outlined the different types of brushes and what they are used for. It was very helpful, particularly in realizing that I had really “cheaped out” when buying my supplies. It was very clear to me that I did not have the appropriate brushes. But I kept on painting anyway. It was too late in the game.

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After I had finished colouring her in, I gave her a pink background colour, which is a colour quite commonly used on The Simpsons. I then took out my thick Sharpie marker and began to trace out her eyes, her dress, her hand. As I did this, she began to “pop” – she started looking like a real cartoon character. I’d love to say this idea came to me from research, however, while I was in Dollarama, I saw the biggest Sharpie I had ever seen in my life and stopped to look at it. When I did, I thought it would be perfect for my project, rather than unsteadily tracing Marge out with black paint (which was my original game plan). I was more confident with the marker. Perhaps in other blog posts, I will teach myself how to successfully outline with black paint instead. Time will tell.

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All in all, I am happy with my final product and am actually very excited to continue working on my style and technique. I’d also like to incorporate a more complex background to accompany my chosen character. Next week’s challenge: Squidward Tentacles from Spongebob Squarepants.

Let the Hunger Games Begin. This year’s arena: Twitter.

I just recently joined Twitter and am in the process of building my online PLN (Professional Learning Network). Twitter had never really appealed to me before teaching. The 140 character count limit seemed to suggest that nothing important was being said. Now that I am a working professional, I see that the character limit simply makes important discussions more direct and to-the-point. There is no “extra” – just what needs to be said. As someone with a lot on his plate professionally, and an ongoing/constant list of 100 things I should be doing, this brief and succinct form of PD is actually really appreciated.

I was lucky enough to join the discussions in Saskedchat on Thursday night. In one of my tweets from Thursday, I compared myself to Katniss Everdeen as she is about to be launched into the Hunger Games. I went into it knowing that the chat would be a bit overwhelming and that lots of people would be contributing, however, I quickly realized that you just pick and choose what you wish to engage with. It’s a personalized form of PD that reminds me of our school PLCs (Professional Learning Community) where teachers get together once a week to talk about practice, student engagement, literacy, numeracy and basically anything that helps us as individuals become better educators. It’s about engaging in important dialogue that helps you reflect on your practice. The difference is that you can engage with anyone in the world. Just because the character count is limited does not mean that your scope of people to engage with is. Quite the opposite, actually.

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Photo Credit: webtrakya Flickr via Compfight cc

For me, Twitter is currently my professional social media platform. This might be because of how public my profile is. Facebook is great for posting pictures of what I did over the weekend or catching up with my grandmother through the chat features. Instagram is great for looking at hundreds of cute dog pictures or sunsets. These accounts are both set to private for me. However, Twitter seems different. It’s more focused and allows you to use it in very specific ways, partly because of the hashtags. I look at it as a professional platform and do not want to remove myself from people who aren’t currently in my inner circle. I want to bring them in and see what they have to offer. The amount of resources and articles that are shared under educational hashtags is perfect for teachers and keeps me from deviating from educational material. I don’t feel distracted or the need to explore other topics just yet, as I’m still consuming the plethora of educational resources.

For your Twitter experience to be successful, however, you must contribute as well as consume. It is a give and take relationship and you must also offer something to others. I think that Twitter is a useful tool for modern classrooms (sharing pictures, posting homework). I am not yet a fan of the chat feature, simply because Facebook and Instagram offer the exact same thing, however, I could see myself using it for professional dialogue only.

As I continue to navigate through ECMP 355 with the University of Regina, I will continue to build my PLN and will hopefully have built something that I can return to when the course is over. For now, my primary reason for engaging with Twitter is simply to explore an online professional world that I previously did not know existed. I look forward to seeing how that evolves as I spend more time on the social media platform. The Hunger Games continue.

For more information about Twitter, check out this page by David Truss.

Hungry for more Feedly

When I read the Weekly Plans for ECMP 355 this week, I stopped my students during their work period and asked them if any of them knew what an RSS reader was. They (almost all in unison) shook their heads “no” and waited for me to give them the answer. I laughed and said, “Well neither do I. I was actually asking”.

I had come across the acronym before but admittedly had no idea what it stood for or was. My lack of knowledge reminded me of why I was taking this course and that I should probably know this by now. All I can say is… Thank you Google! I started exploring feedly probably 30 seconds after I typed “RSS reader” into the Google search bar. Rather than reading about what an RSS reader was, I started exploring myself.

To choose the content/blogs that I wanted to follow, I simply looked at everything through the lens of “Will this benefit me or overwhelm me?”. Seeing the word “free” caught my eye, and I followed “Free Technology for Teachers”. I am a teacher. I am looking to incorporate more technology into my classroom. I like free things. Done deal.

Free Technology for Teachers ended up being a great resource with lots of information that applies to me. My school uses Google Calendar daily, whether it be for booking the computer carts or letting others know of events going on in the school. For this reason, I was drawn to the article “5 Google Calendar Tips for New Users”. It even included a video that I later followed to a great YouTube channel. This source is perfect for me because I often find ideas for classroom lessons, etc. on social media, but this one is geared more toward teachers and what they can use behind the scenes, like Google Calendar.

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Here is a screenshot of my Feedly page. Also note that I Googled how to take a screenshot.

Another blog that caught my eye was “TED Education”. It seemed to marry two of my interests: TED Talks and Education. It led me to a YouTube animated video that answers the question, “Why are sloths so slow?”. I ended up showing it to my class during our science period. It’s good to know that I can always find something interesting to start or finish a period. Videos such as the ones offered on TED Education are a fun little reward for students to work toward, but yet they still centre around learning and education. The fact that they are geared toward children but still super informative is a win-win.

I enjoy the amount of information that is at my fingertips, and it does seem to be a really easy-to-use way of finding information. The drawback for me, however, is that it is a bit overwhelming as the options are limitless. I don’t think I would want to follow too many blogs, as it could get to be too much too fast. It’s kind of like my Netflix subscription. The longer I look through my movie options, and the more options I find, the less likely I am to settle on a movie and be happy. I work best with 2 or 3 options to choose from, rather than dozens.

I look forward to exploring and becoming more familiar with RSS in the coming weeks. For anyone looking for more information regarding RSS readers, or if you are still unsure of what they are, check out this site.

Walk before you run. Draw before you paint.

As I open up the brushes and paints, I suddenly feel like a kid again, sitting on a miniature version of a chair and awkwardly holding a paintbrush that I clench with my balled up fist. I blink and am brought back to reality – as an immersion teacher, I teach visual arts. And this will undoubtedly benefit my students one day. However, if teaching has taught me anything, it’s that scaffolding is essential in the learning process.

Before actually painting, I decided I would draw first. I have always enjoyed drawing and cartooning, but I had underestimated how hard the simple characters were to recreate in pencil, which intimidated me when I tried to imagine how I would do it with paints.

Being that May is the month for mothers, I decided I would start with one of the most iconic cartoon mothers: Marge Simpson. The following YouTube videos offered me the basics of drawing her basic features and I practiced for a few hours (while watching old The Simpsons episodes) before actually touching my paint.

After exploring Marge’s figure and features, I started researching her colour. I wanted to get her yellow skin tone and blue hair just right. I consulted a few websites, but ColourLovers was particularly helpful. I knew her colours had to be exact to her character’s on the show, or else my version simply wouldn’t look like her.

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Plans for my first painting: A portrait of Marge Simpson.
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Actual photo of Marge Simpson, probably not too impressed with my rudimentary drawings of her.             Photo Credit: messiole Flickr via Compfight cc

With Marge’s shape down, and her colour mentally mixed, I knew that I would soon start painting. The scent of Elmer’s Glue and glitter suddenly filled my nostrils. I was in Kindergarten again.

Forever Young

I unfortunately never grew out of certain things as a kid, one of which being the whole “not liking vegetables phase”. To this day, I grimace at the sight of an onion in my spaghetti or a tomato on my burger. I also still enjoy Saturday morning cartoons. This is partly why I get along so well with my students in grades 5 and 6.

As an avid t.v. enthusiast, I’ve often wanted to create fan art (specifically paintings) inspired by my favourite cartoon characters. As part of this Learning Project for ECMP 355, I will be doing just that. I will attempt to delve into the world of fan art and will be creating a number of pieces inspired by The Simpsons, Spongebob, Adventuretime, etc. The idea came from a number of fan art Instagram accounts that I follow, including: idrawhomer and thesimpsonstattoo.

In addition, when I was completing my Undergrad in Education at the University of Ottawa, I had a custom painting done in the Byward Market. It features two of my favourite characters (Harvey Spectre and Donna Paulson) from one of my favourite television shows: Suits. It currently hangs in my apartment, that I share with my fiancée, and whispers to me every day, “Jordan, you could do something like this if you put your mind to it”. Well today I am putting my mind to it.

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Painting done by artist Cinema in the Byward Market, Ottawa.

I will be using all forms of technology to acquire the skills and techniques that come with painting. And you, as one of my readers, will hopefully notice an improvement in my style/technique from week to week.

From its roots, this project is based out of technology, as the shows that inspire the paintings originally play on television, one of the most influential technological inventions of our time. Today, I moreso access these shows online. Through the Internet, the shows I enjoy and the art I hope to create will meet to help me learn a new skill.

To start the project, and to begin my education in painting, I have consulted a number of different websites as to what types of paint supplies to purchase. Being a first time painter, I originally had no clue what to purchase, or even where to purchase my supplies. The following article was helpful: Top 5 Brands of Acrylic Paint for Fine Art and Craft Painting, however, did not fit with my budget/teacher’s salary.

I eventually ended up at the paint section of the Michael’s website, assessing the cost of supplies and checking out what they had to offer in terms of canvases, paints, and brushes. I also downloaded the Michael’s app, which is super easy to use and offers coupons that are up to 50% off! From the app, you can also browse products, see their weekly ads, etc. Their pages are also grouped based on “Projects” which made it really easy for my research. The “General Crafts” section under “Projects” had all I needed – but I will be sure to check out the “Teacher Section” soon.

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In the end, I spent $83 and landed on a combination of supplies from Michael’s and Dollarama (can’t resist a good deal). Stay tuned as I figure out what to do with all of these newly acquired tools that I’m told will create art for me. À bientôt.

Bienvenue/Welcome

My name is Jordan Ingola and I am a grade 5/6 French Immersion teacher at École Connaught Community School in Regina. This is my second year as a teacher and I love incorporating technology into my classroom wherever and whenever I can. Many of the students in my class are still too young to have phones/technology or do not necessarily have the means to purchase such devices on their own. For many of them, some of their first interactions with certain types of technology are in the classroom – which makes it essential that they understand the responsibility that comes along with its usage. It sets the tone for the rest of their technological education. They must learn how to use it appropriately before using it to their advantage.

As an immersion teacher, Google Read & Write is a tremendously positive and useful tool in my classroom that gives students the opportunity to edit their work by listening to it orally. As the computer reads back their work to them, they are able to follow along and catch errors more easily. They are also able to improve the flow and fluidity of their sentences. As for students who are researching or reading articles online (working on comprehension strategies), they can easily look up definitions of new words or have them read back to them. Both the text-to-speech and speech-to-text features really are a great asset to any student.

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Photo Credit: Teknobeyin Flickr via Compfight cc

Staying on the subject of Google, Google Docs and Slides are a staple of our classroom projects. Through these, students can instantly share their work with me and allow me to track their edits and changes along the way. I can also add comments and provide students with feedback mid-project. Stay tuned to my later blog posts for more on Google within the classroom.

As part of ECMP 355, I will be updating my blog twice a week. Blogging is incredibly beneficial in terms of sharing of resources and professional collaboration among teachers and colleagues. It is a great platform to engage one another on a professional and educational level and allows teachers to put their thoughts into words at the end of the day – something that seems to get lost in the chaos of teaching. The self-reflection aspect of blogging is perhaps the most appealing from a personal standpoint.

In addition to my blog, feel free to network with me through my professional Twitter profile.