All of the things I learned in ECMP355!

Check out the youtube video below for my summary of learning. I originally had a much less interesting plan for this summary, then in the midst of producing it I had some new ideas to make it a little more engaging to watch which compelled me to start over, and I’m glad I did because I’m actually quite happy with how this turned out, and I also learned how to do some new things in the process.

Me talking was filmed using an iPad, then was edited using Final Cut Pro. I cut out pauses and the “uhh” and  “umm” to make it a little more fast-paced and give the illusion that I am more articulate than I am. I also used quicktime player to record my screen in order to show all of the things I was talking about. Finally, the title cards were done in Procreate using an iPad and apple pencil.


Engaging in a PLN

One of the primary goals of Ecmp355 was to engage in a Professional Learning Network with our classmates. This is one of the fringe benefits that social media has yielded. In the spirit of embracing digital literacy, I think it is imperative that teachers take advantage of the various tools they have before them for building a PLN. As teachers we must acknowledge that we’re never fully formed or “done”. We always need to be engaging our selves in pedagogical discussions, keeping an ear to the ground on educational issues and trends, and also be looking for ways to support other teachers as well.

In the context of this course, we utilized google plus, twitter, and wordpress (and later slack) as platforms for our PLN. Each platform yielded different capabilities and allowed for different kinds of interactions. In this post I’ll be showcasing some of the PLN activity I engaged in. The purpose of our PLN was to provide support, feedback, and help whenever needed. The support I provided my classmates wasn’t so much through tech support as much as it was pedagogical feedback. At the end of this post you can find a google doc which as an aggregated list of some of my notable interactions, much of which is covered in this post.

Google Plus

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I tend to do a lot of reading of short form articles offering commentary on educational trends. The screenshot I have below would probably better qualify as an example of where my classmates helped me. I had read this article before the semester started and a few months later found it was still tugging at me. I put it forward to the community and some people offered really valuable clarification and perspective on it. I suppose they learned something in the process as well.

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We were told that the main purpose of the google plus community was for us to ask for help when when we had questions. Here are a few shots of me giving assistive responses.

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Blogging Community

Blogging was a great way for us to reflect and respond and for each of us to take what we were learning about in our own direction. Blogging really isn’t that satisfying unless someone else is reading it, and I think a lot of people thrive off of comments and feedback. Shantel had mentioned in the chat in our 3rd or 4th class that she hadn’t received any comments on her posts yet so I made sure to look for it so I could learn from her valuable perspectives.

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Giving each other encouragement for our learning projects was important too. Not just that but learning vicariously through each other helped us to gain a birds eye view of the journeys each other were on.

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As I said in my intro, I enjoyed giving pedagogical feedback on the various topics my classmates would write about, which include inclusive ed, social justice, and deconstructing norms.

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Finally, getting comments on my own posts were rewarding, especially when my readers would ask follow up questions in order to glean even more understanding of a topic.

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I spend a good time of time talking about how my views of twitter have evolved and how I’ve engaged in PLN over this medium in my Summary of Learning, so I won’t duplicate what was said there. The main thing that I’d like to point out is how awesome twitter chats are. I found that most of teaching and learning that goes on on twitter happens during these chats. Below you can find some screenshots of my interactions. Some of which are not included in the google doc.

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I’m grateful for the opportunity that we had to get into the habit of building our PLNs. My hope is that I, as well as the teaching population at large, will continue to press further into this as I think it has great capacity to curve the disadvantages of working in a silo culture of teaching. As promised, here is the link to the google doc.

How A Novel About Clones Helped Me To Process The RIIS Cemetery.


It was a Wednesday afternoon a few weeks ago when myself and some of my STARS cohorts decided to join another university class in a visit to a special patch of land just west of Regina. We arrived at 701 Pinkie Road, and as we stepped out of the car into the open field we were met with unbroken heavy winds that surged through he -3 air. Light hail nipped at our jackets, and we all felt a little underdressed for this excursion. We stood under grey skies that muted the colours of the world around us. I couldn’t help but think that the discomfort that the blustery whether brought was probably appropriate. This wasn’t supposed to be a comfortable experience. Grieving the past never is.

We approached a small fenced area, about the same size as an average backyard. Beyond the fenced boundary lay acres of featureless prairie, set against of background of skyscrapers, dwarfed by the enormous saskatchewan sky. Inside the fence was flat ground, a few trees, and some brush. Along the fence posts, and littered on the ground were stuff animals, plastic flowers, and other trinkets. Worn and weathered, these relics were intentionally placed above the earth to commemorate what lay beneath it: the remains of approximately 30 students who attended the Regina Residential Indian Industrial School. They function, I imagine, as stand-in headstones for graves that would otherwise be unmarked.

As I took in the sight, and pondered the significance of what I was seeing, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the final paragraph from my favourite novel, which I had just finished rereading a week before. “Never Let Me Go” by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro, is a book about a 31 year old Kathy H who recalls her days growing up at an English boarding school called Hailsham. After a few clues are dropped, we find out about a third of the way through the novel that Kathy, along with all the students of this school, are clones who are being raised so that their organs can be harvested in order to prolong the life of “normals”. I have written a few university assignments justifying why a novel study of this book would be a good compliment to a study of the history of residential schools. There are many parallels between the dystopian reality Never Let Me Go’s characters live in and Canada’s history with colonialism. Parallels that are both overt and subtle. The themes of the book are memory, place, self-determination, justice, and identity. All things we ponder when remembering our history.

The final scene of the book places Kathy two weeks after her last friend (and love) has “completed”. This is the term used for clones who have died whilst making an organ donation. Kathy has only her memories to keep her company now, and she is now herself preparing for the first of many donations that will end her short life. On her way to a donation centre she parks her car on a road in the country side and takes a moment to grieve her completed classmates.

“I found I was standing before acres of ploughed earth. There was a fence keeping me from stepping into the field… and I could see how this fence and the cluster of three or four trees above me were the only things breaking the wind for miles. All along the fence, all sorts of rubbish had caught and tangled. That was the only time, as I stood there, looking at that strange rubbish, feeling the wind coming across those empty fields, that I started to imagine just a little fantasy thing… I was thinking about the rubbish, the flapping plastic in the branches, the shore-line of odd stuff caught along the fencing, and I half-closed my eyes and imagined this was the spot where everything I’d ever lost since my childhood had washed up, and I was now standing here in front of it.” (Ishiguro, 2005, p.287)

This picture that Ishiguro paints in the final paragraph of his novel is nearly identical to what lay before my eyes in that blustery field. Except, instead of acres of ploughed earth, a symbolic grave for Kathy’s organ harvested class mates, I saw maybe 1000 square feet of literal grave.

Mike gave a short introduction to this history of the school that no longer stood here, and the current challenges with maintaining this space.

The Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS) operated from 1891-1911. This location was viewed as a model for Residential schools across Canada. One that other schools should aspire to. Residential schools existed as one of many assimilation initiatives by the Canadian government. For more than 100 years students were placed in schools far from their homes, where the goal was to prepare them for mainstream Canadian culture. This was done by forbidding many things that were tied to Indigenous identity, such as language, spirituality, traditions and cultural approaches to family and provision. Conditions at these schools were abhorrent, and abuse of every fashion occurred within their walls. During it’s 20 year run, RIIS schooled approximately 500 students, and it is believed that nearly 100 died during their time there.

In the same way that the clones in Never Let Me Go are robbed of organs they need to survive, First Nations people were robbed of their language, spirituality, practices, and customs, which they needed to survive as a culture. If “Kill the Indian, save the child” was the agenda of Canadian residential schools, then it could be understood that “Kill the clone, save the organs” was the agenda of the donations program in Never Let Me Go.

Mike concluded his talk by opening up a container of apples. He said that Joseph, the resident Elder of the U of R, suggested bringing a treat for the kids. We each took a piece and proceeded onto the grounds. I think we all felt very reverent as we walked wondered the space. People began finding whatever landmark they could that represented a child’s resting place and started doing their thing. Praying, reflecting, mourning.

I found a lone doll propped up against a post and tried to imagine the girl who lay beneath. I tried to remember her is if I knew her. I tried to imagine the homesickness she must have felt at the school. I tried to think of the happy memories of home that she must have clung to during those times. The small comforts brought by friendships formed with fellow students who shared a common anguish. I wondered what she wanted to be when she grew up, and if she believed she could be that. And I wondered if there was a moment before her death were she realized she we not grow up to be that or anything else, and that she would not see home again, or feel the love that is transmitted through the embrace of family.

In all my imaginings and wonderings I’m sure I fell short.

As I sat there pondering these things, the roads of my thought lead me to another excerpt from Never Let Me Go. Kathy recounts an incident from her childhood at Hailsham. Thinking she is alone in her dorm, she listens to a song and interprets the lyrics to be telling the story of a woman who is told she can’t have babies, but then does, so she holds the baby close, cherishing it, never wanting to let it go. Being a clone, Kathy won’t be able to make babies. She role-plays the woman imagined in the song by cradling a pillow, and swaying to the music with it in her arms. Kathy turns around and finds that Madame (one of the humans in charge of Hailsham) is watching her, transfixed, and weeping. Years later, as an adult, Kathy seeks out Madame, and asks her to explain why she cried at the sight:

“I was weeping for an altogether different reason. When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But a harsh, cruel world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go…I saw you and it broke my heart. And I’ve never forgotten.”

This poignant experience made me long for what Madame saw in Kathy. Optimistically, I like to believe our story is the inverse of the one in Never Let Me Go. I like to believe that through changes in attitudes, through deeper understanding of the effects of colonialism, and through these acts of remembrance, that the harsh cruel world is the one that will not remain. That we will see a new kinder world rapidly coming. But in order to do that we need to press into remembrance and press into calls to action.

We want to have the site commemorated and protected from development projects so that these students will never be forgotten. In addition to the work already being done by the Commemorative Association INC, Project of Heart, RIIS Media Project, we also have started a petition to present to Mayor Fougeres. Please take the time to sign it.



Process Process Process

In my last post about my learning project you got to watch me draw the human face at a flat angle. After that I started learning about drawing at different angles.Below are some pics of a starting point (a long with some other doodles). I did these on paper a few weeks back before I had my new iPad.


I felt like these were an okay start but they still looked fairly flat, and I wanted to try and create something that was more believably three dimensional. I was a bit frustrated because even though I was following tutorials my drawing still felt fairly cartoonish.

Foervraengd has a really strong tutorial where they explain how the simple act of drawing cubes and spheres with lines around them can go a long way in developing a spatial reasoning that can be used for drawing. Since spheres are what is used to as a starting point for the human head I focused on those. Below are some snapshots of little drawing I made while following the tutorial


I found this exercise of drawing a sphere with a flat rectangle on it the front of it super crucial. Since this rectangle is going to represent the face of the head, it was important for me to learn how to draw this at various angles as it will go a long way in helping me to draw a face at various angles. As you can see in the picture below, getting the angle of the rectangle sheet to match that of the sphere is achieved by matching the crosses on both shapes.


And then there were faces. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein as I bring these objects to LIFE!


After I finished with this exercise Foervraengd talks about how learning to draw a human skull is beneficial to drawing a three dimension face. Above you can see the process to drawing one at a flat angle. The images you see below represent the process of drawing a human skull at an angle that better conveys space. The red parts you see are meant to help guide me in determining where the front of the face ends and the side begins, which I’m sure will help me to understand shading a little later on too.


And then I attacked a profile version. This was a little different because if that rectangle is a flat sheet then it disappears to a line in a profile version. As I said in my last post, I am surprised at how much math-like plotting is used to maintain proportions in anatomy. As you can see with the first image below the shape of the face is formed but connecting the lines between what would be the rectangle (which goes down a little passed the circle) and the cross in the circle. The line that forms the jawline goes from the bottom of the chin so that when it extends it just grazes past the perimeter of the circle. This math-like approach to drawing is exactly what i was hoping to learn with this project. I wanted to be able to be sure that I had the portions correct, or if not, easily be able to see where I went wrong.


Watch a sped up video of me drawing this below!



DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP: taking it from something we learn to something we learn through

The Internet is a wonderful terrible thing . It is a precarious animal that has had some strange effects on culture and the way we behave and interact with information. For every positive thing that the Internet enables us to do, it usually also delivers an equally negative. As I’ve said in previous posts, I think social media yields a lot of positive possibilities (I may be biased because my own experiences have been only positive), but in many ways it is still in its infancy, and the hazardous nature of social media where people get into trouble are indicative of the “growing pains” of a culture that has been forced to evolve too much too quickly. Consequently we, as a culture, have not had the time or experience necessary to process the weight of all the possibilities social media has to offer. One of the things parents and teacher needs to be aware of is the implications this has on students.

The CBC documentary Sext Up Kids takes a hard look at the role the internet has played in commodifying the stomach churning reality of child sexuality. The documentary asserts that girls are sexualizing at a younger age, usually around 10 instead of 14 or 15. Of course social media is not the cause of this, but merely a tool that has been used to enflame an already out-of-control issue.

The documentary takes notice of the disney princess fandom that is prevalent in small girls and speculates that it may be the earliest seeds of developing a healthy sexuality, because the premise of most disney princesses is that they are the prettiest girl. By 13, girls have internalized the idea that they are an object of someone else’s desire and needs. Aside from increasing promiscuity, this also creates in the girls a disposition where all their goals and ambitions revolve around males.

21ccb3_44b214b7a3524852a43fad3c8546048c.pngThe nefarious message here, as put by CBC, is “when girl meets boy, it’s all about the boy” and that there is only one way to be a female in this culture and it is a way the sets them up for all sorts of abuse.

Likewise, boys are steeped in a culture where female sexuality is viewed as a performance. In the end, both boys and girls are trained and conditioned to perpetuate a cycle of dysfunctionalism and disempowerment.

This was all true before the digital revolution, but the internet has offered another channel from which these problematic scripts can be perpetuated. They are now being propelled by the possibilities that smartphones and social media apps are opening up. For example, the internet has given the porn industry a platform from which it has become one of the fastest growing industries. Furthermore, recent studies have also shown a direct correlation between the demand for porn and a rise in human trafficking. “Sext Up Kids” states that 70-80 percent of boys watch pornography, with a vast majority of these boys reporting that their first exposure to it was when they weren’t even looking for it. What was once a fairly difficult thing to access is now equally difficult to avoid.

Among other concerns is the sheer amount of teenage life that is played out on digital plains. We are now putting a generation through school that has never known life without the internet. How do we get kids to think critically about something that is ingrained in their world and sense of community? How do we teach them to be kind on the internet, recognizing that what they post may have a much longer lifespan than their own?

How do we inspire them use the digital spaces to enhance their communities?

How do we give them the wit and courage to recognize and disengage from trolls and predators?

Cutting students off from the digital world is neither possible nor the right answer. Disqualifying digital literacy as an important outcome in the learning of students would only prove to handicap them for the world that tomorrow is bringing. The digital world has many wonderful enhancements to offer, and in order for our students to grow up to become empowered innovators and contributors to society, kids need to be taught to use it responsibly.

In recognizing that social media is here to say, we must learn to move passed the question “Is social Media a good thing or a bad thing?”  and move onto the more prudent “What will we do to ensure that social media is a good thing?” To paraphrase Carol Todd, we can ensure our kids stay safe from car accidents and parking tickets by never letting them get their license or learn how to drive, or we can teach them the empowering practice of really good driving. 

We need to strive to keep an open dialogue going between parents and kids. We need to be intentional about creating spaces where kids feel they are able to admit when they’ve made mistakes. This is a crucial feature of any learning experience.

Where Canadian education is concerned, it is my belief that digital citizenship should be headlined across the curriculum much the same way that Treaty Ed is. It is something that should be taught in every subject at every grade level, but not as a one-off lesson that makes recurring cameo appearances. Presentations on cyberbullying and internet safety are important, but it needs to go deeper than that. Digital citizenship needs to be something that informs our instructional approach and the way we engage our students. It is something that needs to be exemplified, modelled and practiced. Not only learned about, but learned through.

Back to the eyes

After a few weeks of following various eye tutorials, I wanted to see how I did when approaching the subject free hand. I still took a tutorial approach here where I consulted some tips to keep in mind when drawing realistic eyes.

“The eyes are thicker than one might think. Try to visualize the eyelids as a pair of lips” is one such tip. And not making eyelids thick enough is definitely a mistake I’ve made before. As I said at the beginning of the project, a lot of my drawings come out more cartoonish, and this kind of stuff is why. I’m pretty pleased with the results and feel like this little piece of understanding is bringing me a little closer to drawing more realistically.

First I drew an eyeball with the lines around it. I’m starting to see this as pretty essential to drawing objects that look like they make sense proportionally. After that I copied the eye and then started to draw the lid around it.




Digital Drawing with the iPad Pro

As some of you may read on my twitter account, I recently invested in the new 9.7 inch iPad pro. I’ve never had a tablet before, but this Learning Project where I learn more about digital art has really begun to surged my interest in it, so I decided to upgrade from my $60 Wacom Drawing Tablet to an Apple Pencil outfitted iPad.

I’ve only drawn one thing so far but I’m already wowed by how much better this is. The Pencil is much more precise and responsive than what I was using before. Plus the added benefit of drawing right on the screen like you would on a piece of paper makes the whole experience feel a lot more natural. But I don’t want this post to turn into a product review, so before I move onto explaining the learning process for what I drew, I’ll just say that my mind is swimming with all kinds of ideas of how to integrate the iPad and pencil into the classroom. For example, using the Mirror App, you can wirelessly screen cast an iPad onto a smart board. With the pencil you could simply do all your whiteboard writing on the tablet and have it show up on the smart board. No need to write on the board with your back to the class, you can write on the tablet facing your students to gauge their understanding, or stand at the back of the class and see the board from their perspective.

The last few days I’ve been working on realistic facial proportions. The best way to start this, I knew, would be to start with a straight on angle of the face, then work on more dynamic angles.

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A small snippet of the exceptional tutorial “How To Go From Manga To Realistic” I studied for this drawing. Put together by the very thorough FOERVRAENGD.

One thing I’ve learned about drawing realistic anatomy is how mathematical it is. In the tutorial above, you can see that a grid is applied to help map out the proportions and maintain symmetry. Every face starts with a circle to form the upper half of the head. A ‘V’ then extends from the bottom of the circle, which both helps to frame the lower half of the face, and it also shows you were the cheek bones would be. Every feature of the face, eyes, nose, mouth, has it’s place along the grid. Essentially every feature has a fixed adjacency to every other feature. So if you’ve done a good job at placing one eye, then the next should be easy, which will then make placing the nose a simple matter of finding their half way points (the tip of the nose is half way between the eyes and the chin, and the mouth is half way between the tip of the nose and the chin).

Below you can watch my application of the grid to draw a face in the video below. I drew this in Procreate, an app for the iPad. I’m used to doing all my drawings in Adobe Photoshop CS6, but I’m finding that Procreate is way better for my purposes. It’s much more user friendly and  it was only $8 in the app store vs the many hundreds of dollars Adobe Suite costs (something that would be much easier for a classroom to invest in). Plus it has a nifty feature where it records you drawing so that I can share the process with all of you!

Looking ahead, I’m not confident that I’ll meet all my goals for what I want to learn in this project, but I’m okay with that because I’ve learned a great deal of things that weren’t on my list of goals (but if I could revise that list they definitely would be). Even though I probably don’t know as much about how to draw realistic human anatomy as I wish I did by now, I’ve learned a lot about the practice of digital art itself. The resources that are out there, the different apps, the different processes, the communities, are all discoveries that have unexpectedly enriched my learning and have succeeded in hooking my into this art form that I will definitely be continuing long after this class is over. These extra learnings that don’t necessarily line up with my learning goals also seem to be a lot more relevant to my role as an educator, so I’m delighted with where the project is headed.