Of What Use Is It?

As I look through my old books I tend to focus on the strange reality they present. I have spent hours looking through ‘facts’ of the past. The Earths core is solid, orange peels are a public safety hazard, you should never discuss hobbies at a diner party… these are the light side of my book collection. Segments easily removed from the context they were written and which show a comical contrast to today.

My encyclopedias from the 1920’s are both accurate and inaccurate portrayals of life at that time, these books were written for children and their families to learn about the world, they are intended as a complete view of the world and they include the sexism, racism, and colonial views of the people producing them. There is an assumption that the reader is a white child clear in the text. The images they create are true portrayals of what they wanted life to be at the time, but also show the biases influencing the writing, hinting that there are entire stories and lives that are never mentioned.

I am interested in knowledge. I love learning about the past and the assumptions these books make tells me a lot about the time they were written in, positive or negative.

Old textbooks are evidence of how children of the past were taught. I have met people who grew up reading “the book of knowledge”. We won’t know exactly what teachers were teaching in a classroom at any given time but we can reflect on the curriculum and resources they had access to. My set of encyclopedias was left in an elementary school in Victoria for 98 years, they were printed the year the school opened. I think they were likely used by the teachers.

I also have an additional set of encyclopedias from America in 1926. They are a different edition of the same book and as a result have content which differs slightly from the Canadian set. I have yet to research the difference in society between 1921 and 1926, it is something I plan to study further. Anecdotally I have noticed a trend of the Canadian books relying on colonial ideas, an article on the formation of the earth pauses several times to say that Canada is better than other parts of the world. In contrast the American text has the same article and it does not mention other countries or cultures, instead focusing on the formation of the earth through the lens of science and god. The Canadian book doesn’t mention god.

I feel that currently I have skimmed these books. I have not read all 18 volumes but I have looked at particular articles in depth. I plan to continue exploring the information and ideas of these books, as I recognize patterns and themes I will be able to focus my studying further.



Coding And Reality

Today we listened to the last of our class presentations on Tech inquiries. One of the presentations was on coding which gave us the opportunity to try Scratch coding by following a module. It was encouraging to follow the steps and learn a few of the tools, I am sure if I tried to incorporate more actions it would quickly become complicated but as it was I could understand what I was doing. It was easy to see how students could use a tools like Scratch to build coding skills.

We also looked at virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual reality I have seen a lot, it is a method of placing yourself in another ‘reality’ usually through glasses and headsets which are made to display images that move with your motions. Augmented reality is using technology to overlay virtual images on real world images. The best example would be Pokémon Go. Using augmented reality in class looks more achievable, there are apps and programs which allow you to create you own hotspots. You can use an app to place a virtual image and then later read it using the same app. The app linked in one option, although it can be limited in terms of animation.

The last thing we looked at was QR codes. These are everywhere now, they are a box shaped code which can be scanned and link to a webpage. In using QR codes in a class students can learnt to make their own, they can make presentations where further information is available through the code.


Music Reflection

As the semester comes to an end we have been asked to reflect on our music class. This music class was the first I had had in a school since I was in grade four, most of my schools did not have a music teacher and in the case of my high-school, no instruments.

Before this class I had one strength in music and that was knowing of a lot of songs. Through years of girl guide camps and living with my mother who ran strong start programs I have collected many many songs for children of all ages. When I see myself teaching music in the future I hope to bring more knowledge about the use of these songs in teaching music skills. Knowing which songs show tempo or play with pitch and volume (dynamics in music).

I think the biggest take away from this semester of music class will be a better understanding of these components of music. The methods behind the songs and how songs can be used in class to teach both about music and other topics. I feel more prepared to integrate music into a lesson rather than simply decorate a lesson with it.

A Bit Of A Guide to Campfires

This semester I have been working on a project for our physical and health education course where I created a resource package. I chose to make a resource for teaching survival skills. The below section is a guide to how to prepare, build, and use a fire in a survival situation.


Step one: Choose a location

  1. Pick an area clear of debris which could catch on fire, beware low tree branches or high grass.
  2. Stones are not enough to contain a fire, if you have a fire lit make sure to keep an eye on it.
  3. If there is snow you must dig down to the ground to build the fire, a burning fire will slowly sink through snow (this can extinguish it).

Personal experience: I once attended a camp where they decided to use cardboard ovens under a willow tree, when the ovens caught fire there was a rush to stop the willow branches going up as well.

On another occasion lit lanterns were blown into the trees and the trees caught fire. Please be aware of your surroundings when handling fire!

Step two: Supplies

To start a fire you will need fuel and fire starter.

Fire wood is fuel, depending where you live the types of firewood available will be different. A general rule to follow in a survival situation is to find dry wood on the ground. You can usually find enough branches and logs on the ground in BC to start a fire. If you are in a survival situation you could break off branches or cut down a tree to burn.

Always look for deadwood on the ground first as it is drier and does less damage to the forest.

~If you are not in a survival situation you should follow the campfire rules in your area. If you are in a survival situation you should try unless there are no other options~

Fire starter can refer to what you use to spark a flame:

  • Matches: Water proof matches and/or strike anywhere matches are best for a survival situation. Be sure to keep them safe in a water proof container.
  • Lighter
  • Flint and Steel: This method can take practice to do well. By striking the steel along the surface of the flint you create sparks. Hold the end of the flint over the kindling so the sparks start your fire.
  • Using two sticks: This method is often shown on television as ‘rubbing two sticks together’. It looks simple and doesn’t take many supplies. Unfortunately it is not easy in cold/wet climates. There are very dry climates where this is useful; our temperate rain forest is not one of them. If you try in a wet climate it takes considerable energy and time. I have not seen it done successfully in our forests.
  • Magnifying glass: By reflecting the sun onto your fire starter you can spark a flame.

Personal Experience: Children lighting a match for the first time will often panic and drop the match, I have seen children of all ages do this. If you are out making a fire with students make sure to have them light a match somewhere without flammable materials underfoot (over a fire pit, rock, or sandy beach). If they light a match and interact with fire in a safe way they won’t feel that panic when they need to use fire in an emergency like a power outage. 

{Fun Fact: Matches were originally called Lucifers.}

Fire starter or tinder can refer to materials which will catch on fire easily:

  • Kindling: small dry sticks or pieces of wood and bark.
  • Old Man’s beard: Green lichen which looks like hair growing off trees and catches fire easily.

Old_Man's_Beard_2009-1 Mike Peel CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Old_Man’s_Beard_2009-1 Mike Peel CC-BY-SA-4.0.

  • Cheetos (or Doritos): Will catch fire and burn quite well.
  • Sap resin: A solid form a sap found on the bark of trees. This needs a longer time to catch fire but once lit will burn for a while.

Resin mass on Acacia tree-James St John-CC-BY-2.0_files

Resin mass on Acacia tree-James St John-CC-BY-2.0_files

  • Cotton ball with petroleum jelly: Something you can prepare in your survival kit. Cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly will burn for a few minutes, are easy to make, and are water proof.


Step Three: Building

A fire needs oxygen. Gently fanning or blowing a small fire can help it grow. Be careful not to blow it out.

While a fire is burning make sure to add fuel consistently. If you need it to keep burning all night collect a lot of fuel during the day so you don’t have to go looking at night. Gather a lot of wood! 5 times the wood you think you will need.

When you are extinguishing the fire double and triple check that it is really out. Let the wood burn down, remove any unburned pieces so it is mostly ash, pour water onto the ash and mix it with a stick.

When you leave the fire pit should be cool, if it is still warm pour more water and mix it again. Don’t leave until the fire pit is cool.

There are several ways to build a fire depending on your goal; here are two which can be useful in a survival situation.

  1. Standard Campfire: This fire is built by leaning logs up against each other to form a pyramid.

Start by leaning small sticks around a pile of fire starter (kindling, bark). Lean larger logs around the structure. Light the kindling and add more logs as the fire burns down.

This fire is good for warmth and cooking things on a stick (marshmallows, hot-dogs).


Personal experience: Since this fire is warm I have often seen it used for drying gloves, boots, etc. By digging a stick into the ground nearby you can hold up your gloves to dry, unfortunately if you aren’t careful they may fall into the fire.

To direct the heat of this fire build a reflecting wall. This can be made by stacking wood on one side, far enough away that it won’t catch fire. Stick strong branches into the ground to hold up the logs.


If you have snow you can build a snow wall. This is called a reflector fire and will reflect the heat back towards you.

  1. Two log cooking fire: A lower flat fire which can be used for cooking.


When cooking with fire it is better to use steady embers and coals than tall flames. Start this fire by laying two logs next to each other. Place fire starter between them and light it. You can place pots, a can, or tinfoil wrapped food over the two logs to cook.

Always boil water collected in nature, whether from rain, a running stream, or snow.

Fire Building Activities 

  • What can be used as a Fire starter?

Since types of fire starter can be unexpected, bring in a collection of potential fire starters and not-flammable materials. Students can examine materials and try to work out what would work and what wouldn’t.

  • How would you build a fire?

Depending on available material students can design their own fires. They can try and create something that would be good for warmth or for cooking. (They could draw designs, make them out of sticks, or out of actual firewood)

  • Class trip to build their own fires: Go to a campsite or any location where it is ok to have campfires at that time and make fires in the fire pits. Students can cook a lunch or treat on the fires.

Roasted veggies: Take a piece of tin foil and fill it with cut up vegetables. Add oil and seasoning (salt, pepper, etc.). Fold the tin foil over the vegetables and place on a campfire grill for 15-20 minutes.

Banana S’mores:  Take a banana and cut it long ways through the peel, fill the middle with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and any other toppings. Wrap whole banana in tin foil and place on the fire to melt the chocolate and marshmallows.

  • On a sandy beach build mini pyramid fires to roast mini marshmallows on. (Roast the marshmallows using long skewers)


While researching this project I have found some other useful sites. This website has information on Canadian wildlife as well as safety tips. The red cross has an app which may useful for quick information on first aid tips. There are also lots of girl guide and scout sources online for learning trail signs, knot tying, and camping.


Semester Ending

Our technology 336 class has involved all my peers creating their own blogs. We had a list which linked to them all allowing us to follow each others learning. These last couple of classes people have presented their group work and it was great to see everyone’s projects come together. Because they were working on such a variety of topics each presentation has had new information and activities.

Our group worked on podcasting and are getting ready to present next week. As we finish this course I appreciate the new platforms and skills we have gained, I used Trello to work with my group but soon found I enjoyed using it for my day to day planning. I will have to decide what to do with my WordPress blog, I think I will keep it but create a second, one for my art and personal book projects and one for education based learning.


Open Education

I have been thinking about the availability of information and by extent education.

I love reading old newspapers, I could (and have) spend hours sorting through digitized newspapers from the 18th to 20th century. I have access to these achieves through my university, access I will lose when I am no longer a student. While the newspapers themselves are mostly public domain they are behind paywalls on the site’s that host them. Even information which is no longer copyrighted can be unreachable.

Our class had a conference call with Verena Roberts on open education. She talked about students in a community asking the town council what problems they were facing and then spending time creating solutions. She also mentioned students sharing the information they learned throughout the year in a public way. (The students could remain anonymous but the information public).

I really enjoyed these ideas and could see them working. In communities which are smaller and rural problem solving as described can be felt by everyone. When students gain knowledge and share it with the whole community the value of their education is shown, they can see how to use what they learn to impact their families and lives.


Editing A Podcast

When I stated researching how to record a podcast I found the app Anchor which does a lot of the work of recording and publishing a podcast for you. Unfortunately using it mean your podcast is in owned and controlled by this company, when they post it on iTunes you won’t have access to the stats and information provided by iTunes. One of the benefits of podcasting is that you own your content. You don’t have to worry about a hosting site lie you would with YouTube. You control where it is posted and the content. Anchor would advertise on your podcast since they are providing a free service.

I am going to go over a few basics for making and recording a podcast. This is with teaching in mind so I have not investigated actually posting your podcast on iTunes, if you are recording with a class of students the audio would not likely be public.

Sound quality/recording 

Although some people may expect the best quality sound from their podcasts often less quality sound is alright if the content is interesting. Especially if the recording is only intended for a class or school. I listen to several podcasts where they have guests or one of the hosts phone in remotely and therefore will have a poor recording. As long as it is legible and not too distracting it will work. And today with updated phones the microphones are fairly good. (I have certainly listened to podcasts with worse) so if you are starting out a phone or inexpensive microphone will work well if you are not ready to invest in more expensive equipment.


Some apps will allow you to record and then edit your audio. Voice Record allows you to record and then export the audio in different formats, as well as some basic editing tools. Audacity is another recording and editing software that works well and is free. I have been exploring its features and the basic features are easy to use, I was able to upload a recording from my phone, edit it, and save it in a new format. It comes with instructions and there are tutorials online.


When recording you want a quiet space, to prevent echoes record in an open space. A larger room with lots of furniture will absorb more sound while a small room will sound echo-y. test out different locations, is there a fan you hadn’t noticed? Is your recording picking up outside noise? You can also dampen other noises by hanging blankets around your recording space.

These are just some first steps to making recordings, as you delve further into audio recording you may want to set up a more permanent recording space, invest in editing software, and buy a better microphone. These tips are a place to start.

Distributed Learning

I have mentioned in a previous post that I had the option of taking video conferencing classes when I was in high school, a system that was new at the time and occasionally involved technical difficulties. My overall experience with video conferencing was positive, I was able to take classes that would not normally be offered in my small community and I still had a direct link to my teacher.

In contrast the one experience I had taking an entirely online course was lacking. I tried to take a photography class online before the video conferencing system was in my school. The teacher running the course was over 500 km away and had students all across BC. I took the course with four classmates and we soon noticed a pattern. Our assignments were to google search a type of image (Fish-eye lens, portrait) and then send it to the teacher, for our efforts we all received 97% on every assignment.  (I ended up changing courses).

I have seen negatives and positives in distributed learning. I do think a wider reaching entirely online course like my photography class could be successful provided there is someone there for support (a teacher or learning center). There needs to still be class size limits and students should have some method of consistently contacting their teacher. If the teacher designs a class with the mode of education in mind (a well done video conferencing class) it can go well.

Distributed learning is important as learners and teachers are distributed geographically and due to circumstance.There are going to be students and teachers who can’t always meet face to face in a classroom. Whether in kindergarten or grade 12 it will be an obstacle that we now have more and more tools to help overcome.

One of the other tools we saw today was the Beam Robot, a robot connected to a computer which can be remotely controlled. Students who are not able to be in the classroom can control the robot, see their teacher and friends, and talk through the speakers. It allows for participation in the class you don’t get from notes or watching a recording.

Learners may prefer not to be physically present in a class, they may have a long commute or costs involved with reaching a school. I currently commute two hours to school one way, this means that on my days off I am very hesitant to commit the time to come into school to work on projects or discuss assignments. I would much rather call, text, or work collaboratively on google docs than spend four hours on the bus for an hour meeting.



Privacy and Safety

In technology 336 we have discussed privacy and safety when using online and cloud based tools. Cloud based tools will store and keep your information, in an education context you need to get parent or student (depending on the students age) consent to store information this way.

My family has always focused on what you should/shouldn’t share online. Not only for the usual safety concerns but because our last name is not common. My mother kept her maiden name and has several people with her name, if you google her you find professional swimmers, professors, and psychologists. She doesn’t show up for a few results. In contrast there are 7 people in Canada with my last name and they are all in my close family. Google my full name and you will see every newspaper I have been in, my school presentations, and some of my Instagram photos.(As far as I can tell there was one other Natalie with my last name in the early 20th century).

As a result when I am considering creating something online I know it could be easily found. This is really true of anything you post under you name online, although it is  easier to find my name, everyone’s public posts are a certain amount of permanent. If you become a public figure, even locally, your posts will matter to people.  I would want to be sure students understand the possible lack of privacy online platforms hold while also showing that they can use these tools safely.

Sketchnote, Twine, And Design

Today in technology we learned about Sketchnoting as a form of note taking. When we were asked if we had heard of it I said no, but upon seeing what sketchnotes consisted of I realized it is similar to how I normally take notes. I doodle and rely on arrows and drawings to keep track of my train of thought. As we looked through the google classrooms instructions I was reminded of some notes I have taken.

Below are some notes I took a while ago at a talk on the Chauvet Caves. In class we read an article that said by drawing part of your notes you can remember things more clearly. I know for me that is true, the more I am composing the notes the more invested I am in what I am writing/drawing (and the more I remember).


We also learned about Twine, a platform where you can create your own ‘Choose your own adventure’ stories. It was not difficult to pick up how to make a story and I could definitely see using it with middle years and older students. The main difference between twine and other mediums we have used is that Twine does not have a way for you to save your creation on the site itself. You have to save it as a file, and fairly regularly as the story is only saved to your browser through cookies. Twine was fun to use but would take a bit more planning to use in class.

When thinking about the way I have learned to use technology I am aware that I do not necessarily know the inner workings of the web. I expect that a site will be easy to use and have all the tools I may need to produce something through that platform. I like using technology and I enjoy figuring out a new medium to present information. But I am aware that the sites I am using have been made with simplicity in mind.

Finally we listened to presentations from our classmates on design and video editing. In both presentations we were given the opportunity to explore the medium ourselves. One of the suggestions for creating a graphic design was the site Canva, a site I have used for a few of my posts on this blog. It is another example of a site which is easy to use and I can expect to create something quickly which I could easily share. In the 5-10 minutes we got I made this simple (and silly) image.


My own photo of Mont st Michel combined with a quote from Disney’s Tangled (the castle was inspired by this island).