Perfecting Pasta

The theme of my Learning Project this week: pasta.

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Photo Image: Jasmine via grazeme.com

The reason why I wanted to learn how to cook pasta is because pasta is such a versatile food — not just in the type of noodles you can buy but in the types of pasta dishes you can create. Pasta dishes, for the most part, are also relatively quick to make — pasta is an easy meal to whip up after work. I wanted to expand on the one, boring pasta dish that I knew how to cook (read: spaghetti and store-bought tomato sauce) and see what other pasta dishes I could learn. To help me decide what pasta recipes to try, I took requests from my family: my brother requested “anything with shrimp”, and my mom asked that I try making a vegetarian lasagna.

My brother’s request for “anything with shrimp” didn’t give me much direction, but I ended up picking a recipe for spicy parmesan shrimp pasta which I found on the Damn Delicious — a food blog created by Chungah Rhee which focuses on quick and easy meals for the everyday home cook. Here is the breakdown of how much I spent on this meal:

Cost For Ingredients:

  • Olive oil – $0 (had at home)
  • Parmesan cheese – $0 (had at home)
  • Garlic – $0 (had at home)
  • Brown sugar – $0 (had at home)
  • Soy sauce – $0 (had at home)
  • Red pepper flakes – $0 (had at home)
  • Shrimp – $10.63 (I bought a 1.7 kg bag for $31.99 and used roughly 1/3)
  • Penne – $1.88 for a box
  • Green onion – $0.21 (I bought a bunch (6) for $1.28 and used one)

Total = $12.72

On my Learning Project blog from last week, my ECMP 455 classmate Randi commented with some cost-effective cooking tips that I took into consideration when buying my ingredients this week. Randi suggested trying to buy my ingredients, especially the protein, in bulk whenever possible, so I bought the shrimp that I needed for this recipe from Costco. Overall, the bag of shrimp was more expensive then it would have been at another grocery store, but because I bought such a large bag, I was able to freeze the shrimp that I didn’t use and save it for another meal. So, in the big scheme of things, I ended up saving money (thanks, Randi!). I also had most of the ingredients for this recipe at home, so, overall, I didn’t spend much at all.

In terms of cooking, this recipe is super easy to make. I left the shrimp out to thaw during the day on Friday while I was at school, and Friday evening I washed the shrimp, took the
tails off, and made the marinade. Then, I left the shrimp to soak in the marinade overnight in the fridge.

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The shrimp soaking in the marinade (olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, & red pepper flakes).

Aside from that little bit of prep work, the whole meal took me 20 minutes to make on Saturday afternoon.  I had never cooked shrimp before, so that was a bit of a learning curve. According to the recipe, the shrimp are cooked when they turn pink, but to me, they always looked a bit pink, so I had trouble telling when they were done and had to sample a few to find out (which I’m not complaining about). Aside from that minor blunder, though, man, was this recipe delicious.

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The finished product.

Because the recipe is so easy to make, I was a little uncertain of how it would taste. But, it was incredibly flavourful and had a nice kick to it from the red pepper flakes. A word of caution: If you’re not a fan of heat, I would cut down on the amount of red pepper flakes — a little bit goes a long way. I used the amount the recipe called for and it was very spicy. My brother loved the dish, as did my mom and I, but sadly, he only rated it 8.75/10 because he wished that I used spaghetti noodles instead of penne noodles (thanks, bro.).

The other pasta dish that I attempted this week was a vegetarian lasagna. While I was researching a recipe, I was surprised to learn just how many different types of vegetarian lasagna there are. The recipe that I ended up choosing I found on another food blog called Eating on a Dime (which I found convenient considering the stipulations of my Learning Project).  Unlike the spicy Parmesan shrimp pasta recipe, I had to buy most of the ingredients for the vegetarian lasagna, so the meal ended up costing me a little more than anticipated:

Cost For Ingredients:

  • Lasagna noodles – $3.85 for a box
  • Mushrooms – $1.56 for an 8 oz. container
  • Zucchini — $2.04 for two small zucchinis
  • Green bell pepper – $1.53 for one
  • Onion – $0 (had at home from when I cooked Shepherd’s pie)
  • Garlic – $0 (had at home)
  • Olive oil – $0 (had at home)
  • Pasta sauce – $3.97 for two 24 oz. jars
  • Basil – $0 (had at home)
  • Ricotta cheese – $6.28 for a 500 g container
  • Mozzarella cheese – $6.98 for a block
  • Eggs $0 (had at home)
  • Parmesan cheese – $0 (had at home)

Total = $26.91

When I started cooking, I was a little worried about how this dish would turn out. The recipe calls for two jars of pasta sauce, which is normal, but unlike a traditional lasagna,

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My soupy sauce.

there is no meat in this recipe to absorb some of the sauce, so when I was putting the layers of the lasagna together, it looked a bit soupy. The lasagna was still soupy when it came out of the oven, which made me even more worried that I had screwed up. However, the recipe calls for the lasagna to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, and I learned that there is a reason for that — the sauce sets during that 15 minutes, so the lasagna ended up being quite firm when I went to cut it.

Another thing that I was worried about was that, without meat, there would be no substance to the dish.  That did not end up being a problem, though. The lasagna was full of flavour and it ended up being quite filling with all of the vegetables — you honestly didn’t even miss the meat. In fact my mom rated it a 9/10 and said that she enjoyed it more than a meat lasagna.

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Right before going in the oven.

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The finished product.

That being said, if I were to make this recipe again, there are a few things that I would change. First, I would try sautéeing the zucchini by itself for a few minutes before adding the other veggies because the zucchini was still a bit firm in the lasagna. Second, the recipe called for a box of lasagna noodles, but I only used nine, so I ended up throwing out the rest which was really disappointing and a big waste of money. The recipe also seems quite adaptable, so if I were to try making it again, I would try adding other vegetables like spinach, squash, and maybe even some grated carrots.

Again, these were two meals that I was able to make for under $50 (less than $25 a meal), and we had tons of leftovers which will last us early into the week. However, the prices that I’m quoting for the meals don’t include the basic ingredients that I already have at home.  So, while these meals may be cost effective, they would cost more if I were living on my own. One thing that I’m starting to realize from this project is that when I move out, I’m going to have to put money into stocking my fridge and cupboards with basics, everyday ingredients like spices, condiments, etc. In addition, I’m already starting to see that when I’m living on my own it might be worth it to cook several large meals over the weekend and freeze the leftovers for lunches and suppers during the week. While cooking at home initially might be more expensive than eating out, the fact that I’m able to cook one meal and have leftovers from that meal saves me money in the long run.

With the February break coming up, I’m hoping to do a lot of cooking. Any suggestions on what I should try next? Let me know in the comments!

Teachers as Content Creators

This week in ECMP 455 we discussed the idea of teachers transitioning from the role of content facilitators to becoming creators of their own content, and in class we explored different content creation tools that are available to teachers.

I like the idea of teachers creating their own content and sharing it openly with their students.  I strongly believe in making education accessible to students outside of the classroom. Sometimes, I think we treat education as this teacher-held secret that students can only acquire if they are in class to write it all down — as if learning can’t take place outside the four walls of a classroom. But, if there is anything that I learned during my internship it’s that some kids have a lot going on in their lives and sometimes my Physical Science 20 class, or whatever class, isn’t their priority. I get that, and I don’t think that a student’s education should have to suffer because of that. After all, on the most basic of levels, our job as teachers is to help students learn. We shouldn’t restrict that learning to inside classroom. When teachers create and share content openly, students can access and review that content anywhere and everywhere, and as many times as they would like.

As I mentioned in a previous post, during my internship, I set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class — the class that I taught all semester. At the end of every class, I would upload any notes/class work directly from my SMART Board to the Google Calendar, along with any handouts or assignments, in order to make the course content available to my students outside of the class. Looking back now, though, I realize that maybe there was a more effective way for me to share content with my students.  Although my students could access the notes and view them exactly as they were taken in class, they were just that — static notes. I realize that for some students it may have been tough to decipher the notes because they couldn’t hear me explain step-by-step how to solve a mole calculation problem, they could only see how I solved the problem. That being said, for the purposes of this blog, I wanted to explore different screencasting tools that would allow me to record a video of myself explaining the content. I ended up coming across one tool in particular that I really liked: Educreations.

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Photo Credit: Dakota Moncrief via tes.com

 

Educreations is an app that essentially turns your iPad or computer into a recordable, interactive whiteboard that enables you to create Khan Academy-style video tutorials, lessons, or stories. Right away, I was really intrigued by this tool because, as a student, I am someone who needs to watch and hear a concept be explained multiple times before I get it, and I know that many of my students during internship were the same way. With Educreations, you can create a video lesson for your students which they can watch whenever or wherever they want, and replay or pause as many times as they want. If you have never come across Educreations before, here is a tutorial video that provides an brief overview of the tool:

One of the things that I like best about Educreations is how easy it is for teachers to use. Other content creation tools, like PowToon for example, have a lot of bells and whistles — you can add visuals, animations, background music, etc. This might make presentations more visually appealing, but I think it also adds a lot of extra work for teachers. For instance, the other day I spent some time exploring PowToon, attempting to make a chemistry lesson using the tool. However, I felt so overwhelmed by all of the different features that I got nowhere with the actual lesson — I spent most of my time trying to pick the perfect background and sound effects. What I’m looking for in a content creation tool is something that is practical and simple to use — I don’t want to spend a lot of time making a video lesson. Maybe that makes me sound like a bad teacher, but in my opinion, teachers already have a lot on their plates — it’s not realistic to spend hours upon hours creating a video lesson, especially if it’s something that you do/are going to do on a regular basis. For me, something like Educreations is just more practical. Educreations many not have as many options (you can draw, add text, or upload pictures), but I don’t think that’s a bad thing — depending on how you use the different features I think you can create an equally engaging lesson.

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PowToon — a lot going on

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Educreations in contrast — much simpler 

Another thing that I really like about Educreations is that is enables you to deliver instruction in a simple, clear and concise fashion. Last week in class we were introduced to Crash Course — a digital education channel on YouTube that provides information on all sorts of different topics from physics to psychology. I had never heard of Crash Course before so I spent some time watching some of their science videos, like the one below:

One thing that I noticed was that the videos were actually quite hard to follow — they are full of graphics and animations which I found distracting, and on top of that, the creators speak quite quickly. So, while I might have understood the content that was being presented, I didn’t actually take anything away from the videos that I watched. Now, this is not to say that the videos were not good quality — they absolutely were! The videos were very fun and engaging and were, I thought, unique way to present information. However, at some point, I think all the flash and fun impedes the facilitation of the content and takes away from the learning. Sometimes I think simplicity is key, and that’s what I like about Educreations — you can provide simple explanations or simple inquiry and still be helpful and engaging.

Overall, Educreations is exactly the type of tool that I was looking for to be able to share content with my students. I’m excited to explore it further and maybe start creating sample lessons to practice using the tool. To sum up, here is my pro/con list for Educreations:

Pros

  • It’s free (you can upgrade, but in my opinion, the free version works just fine)
  • Can use on iPad or computer
  • It’s compatible with Google, so you can upload documents and pictures right from Google Drive
  • Very easy to use
  • Simple — not a lot of bells and whistles (this may be a con for some people)
  • Khan Academy-style video lesson creator
  • Can be used in multiple contexts
    • Flipped classroom
    • Some teachers use it as a way to create simple tutorial videos for their students, like the one here
    • Create and share an answer key — can work through the assignment showing and explaining the solutions
    • One teacher uses it as an assessment tool in English, math, phys.ed, and health

Cons

  • Simple — not a lot of bells and whistles
  • Have to upgrade (which costs money) in order to access more features

Cost-Effective Cooking

I really didn’t know how to start my Learning Project. Last weekend I did some initial research and started sifting through recipes to try and figure out how I wanted to structure my project, but I was so overwhelmed by the number of cooking resources available online that I couldn’t decide what to cook first. My boyfriend and I had plans for supper Tuesday evening, and that’s how I finally got started. One of our favourite restaurants is Earls, and every time we go we both order the Cajun blackened chicken. I thought that for my first meal, it would be cool to try making a homemade version of this dish for our dinner.

After deciding on what to cook, I turned to Pinterest to find a recipe. I love Pinterest, but I do admit that it can be a bit daunting. For instance, while I was browsing, I typed in “Cajun chicken recipes” and literally hundreds of different recipes came up — it was hard to know which one to pick. However, one of the neat features of Pinterest is that you can rate a recipe that you have tried and leave comments or tips which other people can view. As a newbie chef, I find this feature very helpful because I can read what other people have to say about a particular dish before I try it for myself.

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I ended up choosing a recipe for baked Cajun chicken breasts that was originally posted on galonamission.com — a food blog created by Chelsea Haga. In addition to the chicken, I decided that I would make mashed potatoes (because they are my all-time favourite food) and green beans as sides.

Next, I went shopping for my ingredients. As I mentioned in my first Learning Project post, one of the factors that I want to take into consideration during this project is cost, so while I was shopping, I kept track of how much I was spending on all of my ingredients. One of the big things that I noticed while I was shopping is how expensive spices are — I had to buy a jar of paprika for my recipe and it cost me over $6. Luckily, my mom had most of the spices and herbs that I needed for the rub at home. Overall, for this recipe, I ended up being a little over the $25 budget that I had set for myself; however, if I had to buy the majority of the Cajun spices, I would have been way over budget. Here’s the breakdown of how much I spent:

Cost For Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts – $16.08 for 6 large chicken breasts
  • Green beans – $2.40
  • Potatoes – $5.97 for a 10-lbs bag (I used roughly a third of the bag)
  • Spices – $6.19 for paprika; everything else I had at home

Total = $30.64

The actual cooking went relatively smoothly — the recipe was clear and concise making it easy to follow. I did, however, have to make a slight adjustment to the recipe. First, the recipe that I was following was for baked Cajun chicken, not blackened Cajun chicken. Blackened chicken is the result of a quick cooking over very high heat.  This is a technique that I have never tried before, so I found a short YouTube video that taught me how. It ended up being very simple — basically, before putting it in the oven, you have to sear the chicken in a smoking-hot frying pan for one minute on each side to char the spices from the rub.

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Prior to blackening


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While blackening

 

Overall, I was very pleased with how the meal turned out — the chicken was delicious (my boyfriend gave it an 8.5/10)! I did make the rookie mistake of forgetting to take the chicken out of the freezer ahead of time, so I had to wait close to 45 minutes for the chicken to thaw before I could start cooking. This wasn’t a huge deal, but it did add extra time to the meal prep, so we didn’t end up eating until really late. It was worth the wait, though.

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The final product

As I mentioned before, this meal ended up costing more than $25; however, after supper, we had enough chicken leftover to have three more meals over the next few days, so I got my money’s worth.

I also ended up trying out another recipe last week. I had a ton of leftover mashed potatoes from my Cajun chicken meal, so my mom suggested using the extra potatoes to make a shepherd’s pie. Since I’m trying to be cautious of cost during this project, I liked the idea of being able to turn the leftovers from one dinner into a whole other meal, so I decided to try it out. While searching for a recipe, I came across a website called Simply Recipes, founded by Elise Bauer. The recipes posted on the website are neatly organized into categories. I conveniently found the shepherd’s pie recipe that I used in the “budget” category. The recipe was very budget-friendly; I had most of the ingredients at home, so I hardly had to spend anything:

Cost For Ingredients:

  • Potatoes – $0 (I used the left over mashed potatoes from my previous recipe)
  • Onion – $1.97 for a 3-lbs bag (I used one onion)
  • Butter – $0 (had at home)
  • Ground beef – $8.50 for 1.5 lbs
  • Mixed vegetables – $2.97 for a 1 kg bag (I used half a bag)
  • Beef broth – $0 (had at home)
  • Worchestershire sauce – $0 (had at home)

Total = $13.44

This recipe was super simple to make — there was very little to it! I did make one tiny adjustment to the procedure: I cooked the beef separately in order to drain the fat that was released before mixing with the veggies (a little tip that I got from my mom).

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I made shepherd’s pie for dinner for my family on Friday night, and everyone really enjoyed it. All in all, I think it was another successful meal. What I liked best about the shepherd’s pie recipe was how inexpensive it was to make — I liked that I was able to save money by using the leftovers from a previous meal. In addition, the recipe was large enough that, after supper, we had extra shepherd’s pie leftover!

 

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Right out of the oven


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The final product

In the end, it cost me $44.08 for the full two meals that I made this week. I set a goal for myself of $25 per meal, which means that I was under budget, and I had leftovers from both meals. I’d say that’s pretty cost-effective cooking.

Now I’m looking for my next cooking project. For starters, I have created a “food board” on Pinterest where I have started to pin different recipes that I come across that I think are interesting and might want to try throughout my Learning Project. Do you have any go-to favourite recipes? Share them with me in the comments!

 

Exploring Google Classroom

Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Schoology are becoming increasingly popular classroom tools. A LMS is basically a digital classroom — it is a online space that is used to deliver content, manage assignments, monitor student participation, and assess student learning. This week for ECMP 455 we had to explore a LMS platform and evaluate it as a teaching/learning tool. The LMS platform that I chose to try out is Google Classroom.

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Photo Credit: Alice Keeler via alicekeeler.com

I personally have never used Google Classroom, although Regina Public Schools, the school division where I interned, uses Google Classroom as a division-wide LMS platform — all RPS teachers and students are given an email address that allows them to connect. I wasn’t assigned a teacher email address during my internship so I couldn’t use Google Classroom with my classes; however, I did set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class (the class that I taught all semester) where I would upload class notes, handouts, and assignments in order to make those resources readily available to my students outside of class. I didn’t mind using Google Calendar. It was easy to use, and I liked that I was able to organize the calendar such that I could label each day with the topic that we covered and attach any notes or assignments that were given. The downside to using Google Calendar was that it was inconvenient for students to access, so it become more of a space for me to post notes rather than an online learning space — the communication was only one-way

To really explore Google Classroom as a teaching/learning tool, I started off by creating my own class.

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Next, I started to add content to my class.  Right off the bat I liked how easy Google Classroom was to navigate and to use as a teacher. Google Classroom has what’s called a “Stream” which is a space where things that are posted show up as they are added. Essentially, the Stream organizes everything that students need in one place. My initial thought was that the Stream could get crowded by the end of a semester — students would be forced to scroll through a semester’s worth of material in order to access content from the beginning of the year. However, Google Classroom conveniently allows you to organize the content you add into topics.

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Topics can be used a way to organize course material into units. For example, in the class that I set up, I created three different topics corresponding to three different units: “Atoms and Elements”, “Molecules and Compounds”, and “The Mole”. When I went to post something, I could choose the topic that I wanted it to post under.

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In an elementary setting, rather than having to make a new class for every individual subject, topics could be used to separate the subjects. In her helpful post on adding topics to Google Classroom, teacher Alice Keeler also suggests using topics as a way to move towards outcome-based assessment. The neat thing about the topics option is that students can click on a particular topic and see everything (class notes, assignments, handouts, etc.) that has been posted under that specific topic. This eliminates the problem of having to sift through an entire semester’s worth of content.

Google Classroom also simplifies the assessment process. When posting an assignment to Google Classroom, you have the option to make a copy of the assignment for every student.

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This option makes it easy a teacher to monitor individual student’s progress as they are working on the assignment (which they can do through the platform) and provide on-going feedback — a feature of Google Classroom that my classmate Sarah found useful during her internship. Students can also submit their assignments through Google Classroom, and Google Classroom will actually provide you with a report of who has handed in the assignment and who has yet to finish. Teachers can also grade and add comments to students’ work directly through Google Classroom, so students are able to view their marks online and see any comments made by the teacher. However, I think one of the best features of Google Classroom is that you are able to give certain assignments to certain students. I think this would be very helpful for differentiating to meet students’ unique, individual learning needs.

Aside from posting notes and assignments, in Google Classroom a teacher also has the ability to post class announcements, create a class poll or question, create discussion forums where students participate in conversations, or post videos, presentations, or other attachments. This is a way to keep communication active even when the class is not physically together.

Google Classroom has so many cool features that I could go on and on all day. I guess one major disadvantage to the platform is that it is not available to the general public — teachers only have access to it if their school division does. However, after my little test run this week, I think Google Classroom is definitely a tool that I would use in the future if I end up in a school that has access to it because it provides a space where students can access course materials outside of class, simplifies classroom communication, and allows for easy management of assignments.  I’m excited to keep exploring what Google Classroom has to offer.

Do you use Google Classroom or another LMS platform in your class? What are the advantages/disadvantages to using an LMS platform like Google Classroom? Let me know in the comments!

Learning Project 2.0

For my major project this semester I have chosen to tackle the Learning Project…again!

For those who don’t know about the infamous Learning Project, the purpose of the assignment is to learn a skill that is significant and complex using online sources (i.e. videos, text resources, podcasts, etc.) and to document and share learning progress openly in an online space. I had the opportunity to do a Learning Project when I took ECMP 355 last year in spring semester (check out my project here), and I enjoyed the assignment so much that I have decided to do it again — this time in ECMP 455. That being said, after much deliberation, I have decided that for my Learning Project 2.0 I am going to learn how to cook!

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a terrible cook — I can work an oven or a stove-top without burning the house down. However, my cooking skills are quite limited in the sense that I only know how to cook a few, very basic dishes like spaghetti with store-bought pasta sauce and, my signature, pan-friend chicken with a side of Minute Rice. 32029451061_85c921e18e                                     Photo Credit: guiapopular Flickr via Compfight cc

Cooking is something that I’m really interested in (fun fact: cooking shows are a guilty pleasure of mine) and have always wanted to get better at, I’ve just never put in the time or effort. Though, now that I have 40+ available for this project, I finally have the time to learn. Over the course of the semester, my goal for my Learning Project is to simply increase my cooking skills so that, by the end, I can make more than just pasta and one kind of chicken. However, there are a couple factors that I want to consider during my project: cost and nutrition.

I currently live at home, so I have the luxury of not having to worry about buying groceries. I often don’t have to worry about cooking for myself either — my mom typically makes meals for my family. However, I am in my final semester of university and don’t plan on living at home forever. Once I have a job and am living on my own, I’m going to have to be conscious of how much money I am spending on things like food. That being said, budgeting is something that I want to consider during my Learning Project, so I am going to focus on learning budget-friendly meals that I can make for under $25. In addition, while I’m not a health-nut, eating healthy is relatively important to me, so I’d also like to focus on finding nutritious meals that I can make.

Please follow my Learning Project journey on my blog and on Twitter. Time to get cooking!

 

Back From My Blogging Hiatus

I’m back to blogging after a bit of a hiatus — this time for ECMP 455!

For those who don’t know me, my name is Amy, and I am a fourth-year pre-service teacher in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. This is me in a nutshell:

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  • I am a Secondary Education student with a major in Chemistry and a minor in English
  • I just completed my internship in December at Thom Collegiate — a high school here in the city — where I taught Physical Science 20, Science 10, Chemistry 30, ELA A10, and ELA 20
  • I am a member of UR S.T.A.R.S. — an on-campus group comprised of pre-service teachers, practicing teachers, and university professors who are passionate about anti-oppressive education and teaching for social justice
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Photo Credit: UR S.T.A.R.S. via Facebook 

  • My interests include running, reading, travelling, and watching ridiculous, over-the-top reality TV shows with my mom (our current show: The Bachelor)
  • And most importantly: I have a one-year-old kitten. His name is Niko, and I think he is the most adorable thing in the entire world.

With only one semester left to go before I graduate, I admit that I am struggling to get back into the swing of things. However, I am looking forward to ECMP 455 this semester and continuing to extend my personal knowledge and skills in using technology in the classroom.

Three learning goals that I have for ECMP 455 this semester are:

1. To expand on my knowledge of different tech programs/sites/tools/etc. and their applications in the classroom. 

After taking ECMP 355 this past spring, I tried to use technology in a variety of ways during my internship. For example, I set up a Google Calendar for my Physical Science 20 class (the class I taught all semester) where I would upload class notes, handouts, and assignments in order to make those resources readily available to my students outside of class. Remind was another tool that I used as a means of communication between me and my students. I also used Kahoot a lot in my classes — it was very popular with my students, and we even started a Kahoot-er of the Week challenge. Now that I have had some experience using technology in the classroom, I would like to explore more in-depth different tech tools and how they can be used to enhance student learning.

2. To learn about some of the controversies surrounding the use of technology in education.

There are social, ethical, cultural, etc. issues often associated with the use of technology and media in education. While I think a lot of the concern stems from a ‘fear of the unknown’ that doesn’t make the concerns any less valid. As teachers, we need to be aware of the concerns/oppositions that may be held by parents, administrators, and other educations and be able to justify our use of educational technology. This semester in ECMP 455, I would like to examine some of the controversies surrounding the use of technology in education so that I have a critical understanding of all perspectives, can form my own opinion, and be able to explain how/why I use technology in my classroom.

3. Continue to develop my PLN

In ECMP 355 I worked on building my PLN and becoming a connected educator. Since then, however, I haven’t been very active online. This semester in ECMP 455, one of my goals is to continue to develop my PLN by becoming more active in different online spaces such as Twitter, blogs, and the class Google Plus community. This semester I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts/learnings/resources/etc. with my classmates and others and learning from them in return!

 

 

ECMP 355 Learning Contributions

Aside from learning how to integrate technology into the classroom in appropriate and innovative ways, one of the main focuses of ECMP 355 was social learning — that is, becoming a connected educator. Throughout the course, I participated in different online spaces such as Twitter, blogs, and the ECMP Google Plus community in order to try to build my PLN, or my personal learning network. By participating in these online spaces, I also contributed to the learning of others!

Here are some of the ways I did this:

Blog Comments

I regularly commented on my classmates’ #LearningProject blogs to offer words of encouragement and support, as well as to provide feedback and suggestions to help further their learning:

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This comment appears on Angela’s blog post “Mixed Emotions…

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This is a response to Amie’s blog post “Why do I HAVE to learn this?”

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This comment is in response to Matt’s post “Finally starting to come together…

I often made comments and posed questions on my classmates’ blogs to help encourage deeper thinking:

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This comment appears on Matt’s blog post “Tweet Tweet

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This is a response to McKaila’s blog post “Maximizing Muscle Growth

I also contributed to my classmates’ learning by providing resources and tips where I thought they might be helpful:

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This is a response to Kelsey’s blog post “Digital Citizenship in the Classroom

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This is a comment I left on Aysha’s post “The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Week)

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This is a response to Shelby’s blog post “Stress Ease

 

Twitter Interactions

Another way that I contributed to the learning of others was by regularly and consistently sharing articles and resources on Twitter that pertained to course content and class discussions:

On Twitter, I also shared articles related to topics/issues that I am passionate about. This allowed others to engage with the content and become informed about various social justice issues:

In order to open up a space for discussion, I posed questions to my classmates and my PLN in general. This often led to conversations with my classmates, some graduate students, and others outside of the course:

I also used Twitter to answer some of my classmates’ questions:

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By being an active participant on Twitter, I went from having 138 Twitter followers to having 207 followers in just six weeks!

Google Plus Community:

I also contributed to others’ learning by being an active member in the ECMP 355 Google Plus community. In the course community, I regularly answered people’s questions and provided resources where I thought they might be helpful:

 

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I also helped a classmate out with one of her assignments by voting in the poll she created and by leaving a comment:

 

Blog Posts:

During the semester, I wrote a blog post in response to my one of my classmate’s posts. In my post, I linked to my classmate’s post and explained my thoughts in relation to her’s.

I was also excited to see that some of my blog posts contributed to the learning of others outside of ECMP 355. My instructor, Katia, shared one of my posts on Twitter, and over 15 people retweeted it — including Carol Todd and Monica Lewinsky!

 

This post highlights some of the ways that I have contributed to others’ learning in different online spaces this semester. That being said, I would like to thank my ECMP 355 classmates and others for contributing to my learning this semester through Twitter, blog posts/comments, and the Google Plus Community. I look forward to continuing to connect with educators and continuing to build my PLN throughout my teaching journey!

 

 

Final Thoughts (And Final Braids)

#LearningProject update:

For the past two weeks I have been learning how to braid, and my end goal was to learn how to French braid my entire head by the end of the semester. Well guess what?

I did it!

But let me just say this: it wasn’t an easy feat. Learning how to French braid is probably the most difficult skill that I have learned throughout this entire project.

 

Before I even attempted to French braid my whole head, I practiced French braiding on small sections of my hair, and eventually, I learned how to French braid my bangs. This tutorial video was the main resource that I used when I first began learning how to braid. As I mentioned in my previous post, I also practiced on a Barbie doll that I borrowed from my little cousin. Although the Barbie isn’t a tech resource (whoops!) it really came in handy — it was helpful to be able to practice my French braiding technique on real (fake) hair

 

When I was finally ready to attempt French braiding my whole head, I watched these two tutorial videos:

Although the videos are very similar, and both provide good instructions, I actually found the second video a little more helpful. When you French braid you own hair you are essentially blind — can’t see what’s going on in the back of your head. The woman in the second video French braids her own hair (whereas the woman in the first video braids her daughter’s hair), so it was helpful to see how to hold and cross my hair. It took me several hours and multiple attempts, but I finally got the hang of it. The braid in the picture above is a little crooked, and it’s not as smooth as I would have liked, but overall I think it turned out really well!

And with that, my #LearningProject has now come to an end; the past six weeks have just flown by. Check out this recap of my entire #LearningProject experience:

#LearningProject Recap

#LearningProject: Making It Meaningful

  • Introduction and rationale for my #LearningProject
  • Pictures demonstrating my level of mastery at the beginning
  • Goals for the end

Buying a Curling Iron: A Not-So-Simple Task

  • Conducting research: what factors to consider when purchasing a curling iron
  • Pictures of my brand new (and first ever!) curling iron

Curling 101

Five 5-Minute Hairstyles That Took All Night

  • “Quick and easy” hairstyles
  • Frustrated by lack of decent resources — pictures difficult to follow
  • Pictures comparing how the hairstyles were supposed to look vs. how they actually turned out

Mastering the Art of the Messy Bun

  • Advantages of working with second or third-day hair vs. clean hair
  • Pictures showing the three different messy bun styles that I tried
  • Struggling with being a perfectionist

#LearningProject: Trials and Tribulations

  • Reflecting on how my #LearningProject has been going thus far
  • Describing the many challenges of learning a skill online
  • Sharing some of my favourite resources (TheSmallThingsBlog.com)
  • Critiquing resources: how-to pictures vs. tutorial videos
  • Sharing personal frustrations

Braiding For Beginners

  • Final task: Learning how to braid
  • Describing regular vs. French braid
  • Sharing braiding resources for beginners
  • Pictures of braiding progress

 

Reflections On My #LearningProject Experience

I have struggled with my hair my whole life — it used to be something that always got me down. My hair is very flat, fine, and frizzy, and the only two things that I could successfully do with my hair were straighten it or put it up into a ponytail. I was bored and frustrated with my hair. I chose to learn how to do my hair for my #LearningProject because I couldn’t think of a more personally meaningful skill for me to learn.

Going into my #LearningProject, I didn’t really have a specific goal or outcome in mind that I wanted to achieve. All I wanted was to learn a variety of hairstyles and techniques so that I could do more than simply straighten my hair. Overall, my #LearningProject wasn’t easy; it was challenging and extremely frustrating at times (check out this post where I describe some of the challenges of learning a skill online as well as my own personal frustrations), but I feel as though I have learned a lot. I went from having virtually zero hair-styling experience to learning a ton of different hair styles and techniques.

It may have not been a smooth learning experience, but I can definitely see the benefits of learning a skill online and sharing about progress openly in an online space. Through my #LearningProject, I was able to learn from and critically evaluate a variety of online resources like blogs, websites, and videos; I was able to share my progress openly through my blog and through the #LearningProject hashtag on Twitter; and I was able to receive feedback and words of encouragement and support from my PLN. Another benefit to learning a skill online is that it is flexible — I was able to learn at my own pace and choose resources that were best for me.

Overall, I’m glad that I had this experience. Thanks for following my #LearningProject journey!

HTML, JavaScript, Python, Oh My!

This week in ECMP 355 we learned about coding! Coding, or computer programming, is essentially a language for machines — it is a precise set of instructions that tells a computer exactly what to do. Coding is what makes it possible for us to create and use computer software, apps, and websites. Learning how to code means learning how to read and write in “machine language”.

Coding is starting to make it’s way into the classroom (check out the #CodeinClass hashtag on Twitter), as it is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial skill for students to have.  For one, many young people are making their living from computer programming on platforms such as Android and iOS. In fact, roughly half the highest-paying jobs in America now require some basic knowledge of computer programming. Aside from making a living, coding also provides students with valuable life skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and digital literacy.

So, for homework, we had to learn how to code — or at least give it a shot. We had two options: We could code a short project using Scratch (a kid-friendly computer programming language), or we could take part in one of the Hour of Code options on Code.org. I chose to do the Hour of Code.

I took three separate screencasts during the Hour of Code to show my learning progress throughout. In the first video I work through puzzles #1 and #2. Puzzle #1 was easy, but the angles tripped me up on puzzle #2 (my geometry teacher would be so disappointed). It took some thinking, but I was able to quickly fix my mistake to complete the puzzle!

In the second video I work through puzzles #5 and #6 after being introduced to the “repeat loop” block which allows you to repeat a line of code x number of times. In puzzle #5 I had to figure out how many time to repeat a given line of code in order to draw a flower.

In the third video I work through puzzle #8 where I was introduced to the “function” block. A function is another type of programming tool to help you avoid repeating yourself. I used the function block to draw three colourful flowers without having to write out the code each time.

The final puzzle, puzzle #10, was a free-for-all — I was allowed to design whatever I wanted using code. Check out what I made:

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Hour of Code Certificate

My Hour of Code certificate of completion

So, how did it go?

To be honest, I went in with  a negative attitude. I had seen formal coding language before (like the HTML view on WordPress) and it always looked intimidating — how was I supposed to replicate something like that? Plus, many of my friends who have taken computer science complain about how hard coding is. I was expecting to hate every second of it. However, I was surprised at how fun it was to learn how to code!

The Hour of Code was challenging, but in a good way — I was forced to think and problem-solve my way through each puzzle. Sometimes it was frustrating when my code didn’t work, but it also motivating — I actually wanted  to back and find where I went wrong so that I complete the puzzle. I also really liked working with Blockly. Code is usually written in text, but Blockly uses visual blocks which you can drag-and-drop to write a program. Underneath I was still creating code, but Blockly just simplified the formal code language which can be overwhelming and confusing for beginners.

After taking part in the Hour of Code, I can totally see the value in teaching coding in schools. In terms of the Saskatchewan curriculum, coding can connect to units in both the Math and Arts. Ed curricula. I even think that coding can connect to English Language Arts. There are many different forms of language; students use a different type of language when they are at home with their families vs. hanging out with friends vs. in the classroom. Coding is just another type of language, only digital, and I think it is important to give students opportunities to practice and develop all these types of languages. Aside from direct curricular connections, I also see how coding can help students to develop important life skills like problem solving, reasoning, and patience.

Overall, I really enjoyed learning how to code; I felt a sense of empowerment and pride afterwards, and I had a lot of fun. However, before I go and integrate coding into my classroom, I need to learn more about it, spend more time practicing, and find good resources. I know what I’m doing this summer!

Know of any good coding resources for students? How/where do you integrate coding into your classroom? Please share with me below!

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Citizenship — Where Does it Fit?

For the past couple of weeks we have been talking a lot about the importance of teaching digital citizenship in schools.  Just because students are online and connected does not mean that they are digitally intelligent — we constantly hear stories about young people using technology inappropriately for things like cyberbullying, sexting, cheating, plagiarizing, etc.  As educators, I believe that we have a moral responsibility to teach students how to be productive, responsible, and contributing members of the digital universe.  Digital Citizenship Education can help us do that.

Not only do we have a moral responsibility to teach about digital citizenship, it is actually a professional responsibility of Saskatchewan teachers as well.  Like Treaty Education, Digital Citizenship Education is mandated in Saskatchewan — schools and teachers are required to teach about it.  Where I get stuck, though, is finding connections between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum.

There are tons and tons of resources out there for teaching about digital citizenship — Common Sense Media has designed an entire K-12 digital citizenship curriculum complete with units, lesson plans, and resources.  However, if you can’t make curricular connections, the resources don’t matter.  Part of the issue is that digital citizenship is such a broad topic that encompasses many different themes — it is much more than just teaching about online safety. Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship provides a helpful framework for understanding the major components of digital citizenship.

Photo Credit: www.thinglink.com

Using Ribble’s nine elements, I browsed the Saskatchewan curriculum and came up with a list of subject areas and specific curricular outcomes where Digital Citizenship Education integrates nicely:

Health and Wellness 

Outcome USC9.7 in Health Education 9 has students analyze tragic death and suicide as distressing community issues. I think this would be a fitting space to discuss current digital issues such as cyberbullying and sextortion — issues which can have a huge impact on one’s mental and emotional health. This outcome relates to three digital citizenship elements from Ribble’s framework: Digital Health & Wellness, Digital Communication, and Digital Safety & Security.

The Wellness 10 outcomes W1 and W4 also relate to the Digital Health & Wellness element of digital citizenship. Outcome W1 says for students to evaluate their own understanding of wellness. I think that digital wellness is an important dimension of overall wellness, but one that is rarely talked about. This outcome allows for teachers to have a discussion with students about their physical and psychological well-being in a digital world. Outcome W4 focuses specifically on mental health and its impact on the well-being of self, family, and community. This would be another fitting space to analyze topics like cyberbullying and sextortion, as well to discuss issues like social media depression

English Language Arts (ELA)

Both ELA 9 and ELA B30 have a unit called The Search for Self — a unit where students explore who they are and how they have been shaped by family, friends, society, etc. When talking about identity, I think it is important to also talk about digital identity (and why it is so important to create/maintain a positive digital identity) since the two are so interconnected. The ELA outcomes CR9.1aCC9.1aCRB30.1, and CCB30.1 can all connect to Digital Citizenship Education as they ask students to comprehend and respond to texts that address issues of identity, as well as to create and compose different texts that explore identity. These outcomes relate to the Digital Communication, Digital Literacy, and Digital Safety & Security elements of digital citizenship.

Science

The Health Science 20 outcome HS20-HB2 has students investigate various pathologies and aliments and how they effect cells, tissues, organs, and systems of a healthy human body. This outcome relates to the Digital Health element of Ribble’s framework — it allows for a discussion about the implications of technology on physical health and well-being such as eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, etc.

Social Sciences 

Aside from the three mandatory units in Law 30, educators are also required to teach a minimum of two optional units. The Law 30 curriculum has not yet been updated to the new outcome/indicator format, so I couldn’t make any formal curricular connections to Digital Citizenship Education; however, I think Law 3o would make an excellent space to talk about the Digital Law element of digital citizenship.

These are only a few connections that I have made between digital citizenship and the Saskatchewan curriculum. My hope is that as I learn more about digital citizenship and find more resources that I will continue to make additional curricular connections. Please note that the above list only focuses on secondary subjects, as I am a Secondary Education student.

Where/how do you integrate digital citizenship into the curriculum — specifically the secondary curriculum? Know of any excellent resources to use to teach about digital citizenship? I’d love to hear your thoughts.