Cuts for the Table

This post is part of my EC&I 831 Learning project.

I had my plan. I had my supplies. Now it was the scary step of starting to put things together.

I knew exactly how long I needed all of my pieces need to be after spending the time to create my SketchUp Model.

The first problem I encountered was that I wanted all of my boards to lie flush against each other for the top and bottom surfaces. However, the lumber I bought had rounded edges all the way around. This video got me started on that process, called squaring the lumber.

Basically, I used a table saw to cut off the edges of each piece to get rid of the curved piece. Then, just to make sure things were perfectly squared up, I ran them threw a planer. This might have been overkill, but it turned out great.

Notice the different between the two edges now. Before: right, After: left.

Notice the different between the two edges now. Before: right, After: left.


How I set up the table saw to square the lumber.

Then, it came time to trim things down. I found a couple tips for measuring from YouTube. There are a ton of videos and resources on this topic.

Here’s a quick clip of me using the miter saw to trim down my wood.

Luckily, I came out with all my fingers. This is type of learning situation where trying to learn this exclusively online might not be the best. Having someone who is experienced guide you through the process would be smart, especially if they know the tools and can keep you from avoiding injury. Once you get the hang of it, using these tools on your own wouldn’t be a huge concern.

What type of wood?

Before I could start building my coffee table for my EC&I 831 learning project, I needed some supplies. Luckily, I had a shop available to use with a ton of tools. However, I needed wood. From my design, I knew the sizes of wood I would need and the lengths I needed them to be. But, one major question remained: What type of wood should I buy?

I tried some searching online to see what I could learn about selecting wood. This reddit post was very detailed, but didn’t provide much insight into what type to buy, just the order you should pick things up in the store. If you want to get really technical, The Art of Manliness has a very detailed guide to picking lumber I found. I found the following video to be quick and straightforward:

This video by Wood and Shop was a little more advanced than my needs for this project, but has been bookmarked for any possible future projects I will do.

After a while researching, here are a couple of tips for getting wood for a project that I obtained:

  • Always buy more than you need. Extra will be useful for any mistakes you make (I’m anticipating many…)
  • Check for warping, twisting, or winding. The straighter and flatter the wood is, the less you’ll have to fight it.
  • Check for checking (splits or cracks) and knots in the wood.
  • Have a friend with a truck.
  • Check the moisture (I didn’t do this and was delayed waiting for it to dry)

Ultimately, my decision came down to what was reasonable. Since this is my first go at things, I settled on what Lowe’s had and went with what they recommended: cedar. It was fairly soft and marked up quite easily, even from a fingernail.


Because of this wood choice, I’ll need to ensure I have a good polyurethane coat to protect the project when it’s complete. The next step is to make my measurements and cuts.

Regarding learning this online, I found that just heading to a place that sells wood to be more useful. There is a ton of information online, which I’m sure is good. But, if you can talk face to face to an expert, they can guide their recommendation based on your experience and specific project. Perhaps this could be done with a video conference call or through tweeting experts, but it’s probably more effective just to head to where you’ll already be going to make your purchase.

Planning it out with SketchUp

After scouring the web for way too long, it became time to make the design for my table.

Despite great aspirations to make my table really cool and something unique, I ultimately decided to try to make my design as simple as possible since this is my first go round at this.

I ended up basing my design off of this table created by Ana White. The design is called Rustic X Coffee Table. It was simple, but I decided to make it even more simple.

I ended up cutting out the side x and wanting to change how the bottom shelf was structured. And, I wanted to change up the dimensions.  I decided I wanted to make sure my design a little more detailed than sketches on scrap pieces of paper, so I downloaded SketchUp to start my design. I have some CAD drawing experience, but not a ton with SketchUp itself. So, I headed off to YouTube and found a ton of resources. After watching a couple intro tutorials I got the basic idea. From that point on, I just typed exactly what I wanted to do into YouTube and found a tutorial specific to it.

After designing my table once, I decided to screen record myself (I used Microsoft Mix‘s screen recording feature) building it again, to see if I have a good understanding of the tool and clean up my original design.

I also was able to very easily make the entire screen recording into a quick animated gif using Giphy.


Here is a link to the actual SketchUp Model in their 3D Warehouse if you want to try it out yourself. I’m sure my actual design will change as I dive in and try to make it all fit together, but this was a good starting point. I also embedded their neat 3D viewer below (click and drag to rotate the view).

I am always amazed at the resources available on YouTube for learning, especially when it comes to software. Additionally, I found it extremely easy to make my own videos and share them on YouTube. I have made flipped math videos for my students before, but I haven’t shared anything as raw and quickly as my table making tool. I hope that maybe someone can make use of it. I also came to the conclusion that it was time to contribute. If you’re going to learn from videos on YouTube, you might as well share your experience and method in the off chance it might help someone else.



Slacktivism with Students

Social media platforms have given users unprecedented access to a world-wide audience, at almost no cost to the user. It has given a voice to those who were previously muzzled. It has brought issues to the attention of people who would not normally know anything about it. Social media has changed how we address justice issues in our world.

With such a strong push for social justice to be taught in our classrooms, we regularly discuss how social media has opened the doors for so many to speak out. We talk about what things must have been like before these tools. We talk about if we would even know anything about these issues if it were for these social justice heroes using social media.

One thing I haven’t talked about with my students yet is slacktivism, a word I’ve had to right click and “add to dictionary” a lot over the last few days.

A recent report from UBC found that if Facebook users click “Like”, they are less likely to make a donation to a charity (LINK). A charity that has clearly caught their attention if they are clicking “Like”. The thought being that your network of friends has seen you’re supportive of a cause is just as useful as donating to the cause.

After the attacks in Paris this past year, Facebook made it even easier to support the cause, by just clicking a button to overlay a flag on your profile picture. You don’t even need to open Photoshop or Paint to do this yourself now. Click. Done. Was there any suggestion of what you can do to help others? Not that I saw. Was almost every Facebook friend covered in a French flag? You bet.

aaanew_facebook_3501243bPhoto: Facebook

I think the problem in a lot of cases is just that we want others to be aware that we are aware. It’s difficult to know how you can contribute to a lot of social justice causes online and there isn’t a lot of information. It’s impossible to engage with all of them. It’s easy to look like you are.

There is a lot of debate about whether or not slacktivism is a good thing. Some find it not just useless, but counterproductive. Others say it is changing the world. Personally, I think both sides make solid points and have challenged me to rethink my interactions with activism online. As a classroom teacher, I’m more interested in how slacktivism is seen by my students. Is it their normal? Are they conscious of it, and changing their behaviour because of it? My students have been around a digital world their entire lives, born right around the time I first use the internet myself.

Do they see “liking” something just as valuable as going out and donating time or volunteering to help a cause? The big questions, the ones I will pose to my own students when we talk social justice and slacktivism next, are:

  • Is clicking Like better than no support at all?
  • Are we so conditioned with all the causes online that we don’t take them all so seriously?
  • Is it even possible to fully engage in all the causes we see?
  • What can we do make our presence online more meaningful?
  • When is it necessary to take activism offline? Or, is it?

These should prove to make for an interesting conversation with my current middle years students.

I think it’s important that we make our students aware that their actions online can impact their world online. It’s easy to click Like, feel good, and move on. I’m guilty of doing so in the past and will probably do it many more times with causes I support. But, now that I’m more aware of slacktivism, I’ll start looking out for opportunities to engage further with the causes – online or offline. I hope to get my students to the same place.

Image from Flickr: Anti Government Protest (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Let’s Talk Passwords

There has been a lot talk in recent weeks about Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone used by a San Bernardino terrorist. Even Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has sided with it’s long time rival Apple on the encryption debate.

This all got me thinking about my own security measures. I like to think I’m pretty security conscious, and I wanted to share the limited knowledge I have with other teachers.

Often I notice teachers log into their devices with a password that can’t be longer than a couple of characters. Considering the high levels of confidential data and emails about students that most teachers have stored on their devices, this is concerning. Sure, it would be nice if we didn’t have to keep this data on devices that go back-and-forth from home, but that’s just not realistic for most teachers.

First things first, test out how strong your password is. If you use multiple passwords, test them all out and see where you stand. Check out How Secure is My Password.


According to their GitHub documentation,

How Secure is My Password? lets your users know how long it would take someone to crack their password. It also checks against the top 10,000 most common passwords as well as a number of other checks (such as repeated strings, telephone numbers, and words followed by numbers).”

I’m sure whatever result you get from How Secure is My Password, you will be surprised. What’s even more surprising is that an average desktop computer can test about billions of passwords per second. Yes, per second.  A quick google search actually yields many ways to hack passwords, meaning someone with some time and motive could potentially get past your password. I used to use what I thought was a very secure password – I took a random word and inserted random numbers inside of it (something along the lines of ca4na6da). Little did I know, this wasn’t very secure (cracked in one minute). There are countless ways to make stronger passwords, but the most useful tool I’ve found is Make Me A Password, which is actually a sister site of How Secure is My Password.  A few minutes of playing around with the options on there and copying & pasting the passwords to test their strength gives you a pretty good idea of how easy it can be to make really strong passwords that are just as easy to remember (believe it or not, some people suggest that the only secure password is one that you can’t remember). There are tons of password generating websites out there, even one that promises Unf#!gettable Passwords (language warning) . Try them out, find a better password that works for you.

Many security experts also call for people to use a different password for every single service they use. Despite this, 55% of internet users over the age of 16 (yes, that’s a huge demographic) use the same password for most, if not all, websites. Let’s be honest, many of us teachers have accounts set up on hundreds of different sites and need to be able to access them regularly. From a practicality standpoint, this just isn’t reasonable for most teachers. On the other hand, it’s even more important for teachers since we house so much personal data about our students on our devices. I don’t want to come across as a fear mongering but just imagine if someone got a hold of your password and all the information they could gather. It’s important that we are proactive about this. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to improve your own personal security.

I highly recommend getting yourself a password manager that safely stores your passwords for every site and allows to not worry about them. My tool of choice for this is Dashlane (this is my own personal referral code link that gets you free Dashlane Premium). Once you sign up and install your browser extension, it will start asking you to save any passwords you enter. After a while, it will even give you a security score, based on how strong your passwords are (or aren’t) and how many passwords you use multiple times.  Even better, it will automatically log you into any site you go to in your browser (this also works on my Android phone with any app I need to log in to).  So, once you have come up with different passwords for each site you use, you don’t even need to worry about remembering them.  Another nice plus is that if a site’s security has ever been compromised, it will prompt you to change your password right away.  Here’s a nice video overview of all the features.

Honestly, using a password manager has actually saved me time since it will automatically log me in.  I value Dashlane so much that I have purchased their Premium version, but there are other alternatives out there like LastPass, 1Password, and KeePass..  I highly recommend trying a few out and discovering which one works best for you and your needs. Lifehacker completed a comparison guide for some of the top options out there.

The first step towards teachers being more secure with data online is through password security. The more you know, the more you can make decisions that will better protect yourself and your students online.

Photo from Unsplash: Thomas Lefebvre

Years in the Making

This week in EC&I 831, we’re talking digital identity.

It’s been a while since I’ve Googled myself. Much to my relief, when I went to check myself out online again, my own domain was the top hit. I have a fairly common name, so there were some other unfortunate news stories that came up, but they were would be difficult be to confuse.

Just over 6 years ago bought myself the domain While learning about digital identity in ECMP 355 and 455, I realized that I wanted to control my presence online, and owning these spaces give me full control.  If you go to today, you’ll see it’s a nice landing page that links you to all the other spaces I currently occupy online (Twitter, YouTube, Blog, etc.). Additionally, I recently changed hosting companies and got a free domain out of the mix, so I also added to my domain collection (I use it as my own URL shortener using a tool called YOURLs). This was not something that was necessary, but it’s neat to completely control even your links in this way.

With the recent Jeb Bush and Donald Trump domain situation, I looked deeper into domains.  You can even purchase a .sucks domain. I could purchase (thankfully, no one has spent the money to do this!). Actually, I could also buy It turns out that recently, there has been an opening up of a huge amount of other types of domains you can buy.

I could go on all day about domains, but that’s not what this post is about. Back to digital identity.

Prior to making the move back to Canada, I needed to find a teaching position. In an attempt to be different and share myself a unique way, I threw together this online resume – which is still live and I update it once in a while when I have some time to kill. Looking at it now, I realize it’s probably due for an update and definitely a new picture, this one is 2 years old now.


My online presence has been almost entirely professional in recent years.  Heck, my only Facebook posts in recent years (yes, years) have either been about moving or an article that I felt needed to be shared with those people I haven’t talked to face-to-face in years (that’s what Facebook is for, isn’t it?).  Although I manage the spaces I share online, I haven’t been as concerned about my digital identity, because I’ve been sharing myself in a professional way for years, since the beginning of my teaching career. Like many of the students I teach, the more personal aspects of my life have switched to smaller, more intimate spaces.

If I hadn’t set up these spaces to act the way I want, the thought of my students, parents of my students, or colleagues stumbling across me online would be horrifying. But, quite regularly, I have students come up to me and tell me that “they found my website”. Instead of panic, I can ask them what they think about it. Often their feedback is quite interesting and we’re able to have a conversation about why I have these spaces. Ultimately, most of these conversations end in the students asking about how to make their own. Even though most of my students do have some sort of online presence, getting them to think about how to own it and make it a positive space that reflects who they want to be online can only be a good thing.

There is true value in owning the spaces you operate online. Although it might take a little time set up, there’s something to be said about controlling your own identity. Plus, as a teacher, modelling positive digital identity for students is a bonus and lesson that will certainly serve them well as they grow up.

Photo from UnsplashThom