Down the Rabbit Hole

When I embarked on my learning project for ECI 831, I figured the research portion would be the easiest part of the entire process.

Little did I know, there are endless resources online from DIYers. I spent hours upon hours clicking through websites, finding myself opening up anything that looked somewhat interesting. The websites that I found most useful were Instructables, Makezine, and videos on YouTube. Soon, my browser looked like this (this is even after I closed 20 or so tabs). Note the mess of tabs I had open.


Every where I turned online I was finding something that I could take and apply to my project. I was finding inspiration everywhere and valuable resources galore. I couldn’t stop myself.  If it looked like there was even the tiniest chance there might be something useful I Ctrl+clicked the link (shortcut to open in a new tab, for those that don’t know!).

It was clear that I needed a better way to manage this. Most links had something I could benefit from, but not all of them were going to be essential for my project. I considered using Diigo (my preferred social bookmarking tool), Google Docs, and PearlTrees as spaces to collect the link I found most useful. Ultimately, I settled on the tried-and-tested Pinterest to house those links most valuable to this project. This decision was based largely on the fact that so many educators swear by Pinterest, but I have been reluctant to fully engage with the tool.  This project will prove to be an opportunity to put it to the test with a meaningful project.

Here is the current state of my Learning Project pin board, which I will continue to trim down and add to as I work through the project.

Follow Kyle’s board Learning Project on Pinterest.

I think it’s safe to say that at some point or another, we’ve all sat down to watch a quick YouTube video, and looked to the clock 2 hours later and wonder what happened. We’ve all fell down this rabbit hole.  This is a very real part of trying to research and learn online. If I were to repeat this part of my learning project again, I would limit myself to a certain amount of time to search aimlessly online for resources that may be useful. Following this broad, open-ended search period, it would be important to focus your researching to very specific things that you want to learn. Aimlessly searching, hoping for the “answer” to fall into your lap, will not get you very far.

The next step for me is to do some much more focused research. I’ll be looking at options for the top of my coffee table, legs, and what sorts of tools I’ll need.

Photo credit: Down the rabbit hole! (CC BY-NC 2.0)

How can we help?

When I first read about teens using the internet to self-harm this week, I was shocked. Some teens are using social media sites like Reddit and 4chan to ask others to “roast them”. As Tanitha Carey put it, these posts result in “a feeding frenzy of comments beneath it, vicious to the point of being unprintable”. But wait, it gets worse. Some of these posters take this to a whole new level by creating additional accounts and going back to comment on their original posts, roasting themselves.

Still in disbelief, I went to Google to see what one of these posts look like. They are real. Very real. With a full subreddit, /r/RoastMe, fully dedicated to them. I do not feel comfortable linking to any of the posts directly on my blog, but a quick click through and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.  On a much happier sidenote, there also exists a subreddit called /r/unRoastMe which aims to be a “place of niceness”. It looks like some users jump back and forth between the subreddits.

Sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was happening the other way around. Students posting asking for positive feedback and then going back in to comment on a different account about how awesome they are (similar to a company self posting fake positive reviews of itself). But somehow, this strikes me as very different. Is pumping yourself up online from a fake account different than putting yourself down in the same spaces?

After tweeting out a quote from the original article, Nicole posed a question to me.

Still in bewilderment, I didn’t really know where to go with this.

As a classroom teacher, the part that I struggle with most is that I wouldn’t have any idea if my students were doing this. Aside from trying to track them down on my own personal time, which I don’t think is a good idea, there doesn’t seem to be much that teachers can do to monitor this. There are not the physical signs of self harm that we typically see on students who do things like cut.  I am terrified at the thought that some of my students might actually be doing this.

So, back to Nicole’s question. How can we help?

Is this type of self-harm something we should be teaching kids about? What would that look like?

I think this specific issue puts us in an interesting place. It combines a number of issues that pull from the likes of health and wellness classes, bullying and cyberbullying, and digital citizenship. I like to think I’m a fairly “with it” teacher, but this was beyond me and likely beyond the imagination of most teachers and parents.

Ultimately, I think this comes down to figuring out why students (and adults) are engaging in this type of behaviour. It is clearly a complex issue, one that I’m not going to pretend for a second to fully understand – but one that we, as educators, need to take seriously and talk about.

Nowadays, prior to self-harm, people tend to go online to seek out images of what they hope to do to themselves. There also appears to be direct link between young people who self-harm and their use of the internet.  This problem is likely only going to grow.

If we’re only starting to hear about this now, I think it’s safe to say that this type of behaviour is only going to increase and take on new, more surprising forms.

How can we help? What can we do?

Photo from Unsplash: Tom Sodoge 


My Story of Snapchat: Now I get it (I think)

I’ve been thinking about Snapchat a lot this year. Not like my students, though, who do seem to obsess over the app. I’ve been thinking about how it can fit into my classroom and getting nowhere.

Without fail, every time I’ve had to take away a device because of inappropriate use during class time, it has because they’ve been using Snapchat. When I let my students use their devices during our lunch break in our classroom, the majority of them are on Snapchat. Some are not talking at all, but are deeply engaged with their phones.  Some, the only talking they do is to show their device’s screen to a neighbour of something they saw in the app. When they get the chance, that’s what they do: Snapchat.

I have Snapchat. I sometimes even use Snapchat. By sometimes I mean that I’ve sent maybe 10 snaps in my entire life.  Sometimes I get sent a snap, but the majority of these are just of my sister’s dog. My Snapchat usage would certainly be described by my students as sad. For the most part, Snapchat sits idle on my phone, wasting storage space.

Needless to say, I don’t really get it.

Then, I watched this video, shared to me via my EC&I 831 class:

Now, it’s starting to click. I’ve always asked my students why they liked Snapchat, and they’ve almost always responded that it’s fun. I didn’t get why it’s fun. But, if it’s now all about sharing personal stories, I can see how that’s fun. Hearing stories is fun, it’s engaging. But, as all teachers know, the ability to let students share students can be even more engaging.

I was quite surprised to realize that students are now opting for narrowcast tools, allowing them dive deeply into more intimate, close-knit networks or friend groups. The advantage of social media has always been to communicate and connect easily with the whole world, or so we’ve been told. Yet, today’s students aren’t engaging with them as much as yesterday’s students. Are students just smarter now-a-days? Do they know to keep different identities in different places online? Is Snapchat just a fad?

Or, do students just crave more intimate relationships? They have always had these networks in their lives, they are a norm in their worlds. And, instead of wanting to share with everyone from everywhere, maybe they just want to connect to others a deeper level. Isn’t that what most kids want and what has gotten kids in trouble since the dawn of time?  Perhaps, they don’t appreciate the networks like Facebook and Twitter as much as us who, at one point in our lives, didn’t have them. It’s tough to say, but I think it’s clearly more than just self-destructing messages.

The one concern that I do have, is how easily the app is to access for students. Snapchat’s terms of service explicitly state that users must be 13 or have parent permission if between 13 and 17 years old. However, there is no age check when logging into the app. This is normal for most apps, as I was reminded after tweeting out about this.

Although I don’t see the app as much more dangerous than other apps, assuming students are using it in close-knit networks, I doubt many parents really understand how their children are using the app. Luckily, AJ Juliani, has posted a solid summary of what Snapchat is all about for teachers and parents alike.  It was pretty clear until now, that I had no idea why it was being used so much.

Now I’m starting to think about how I can bring this into my classroom. The following video gives some good ideas for how Snapchat could be used.

Tarver talks about using the story feature to put out announcements. They self destruct in 24 hours, but that would work well for most announcements. You could even give a device to students to make a Snapchat story about an event at school, so others can watch it after.  He does recommend, as I would, to completely avoid personal messages with students, since this could open the door to other issues. I would recommend using something like Remind for this.

It’s clear that Snapchat is an untapped line of communication gold that’s dying to be used. I’ll be posting more on this as I think about it. Please let me know if you’ve had had any success using Snapchat your classroom or school.

Photo credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Some rights reserved by AdamPrzezdziek

Learning for the Sake of Learning

For my EC&I 831 course, I have been given a gift: Learn anything you want.

There’s a little more to it than just learning something: we need to use open, online resources and, most importantly, share our progress as we go. Being an advocate for Genius Hour in the classroom, this sounded like an amazing opportunity and finally an excuse to justify the time it would take me to explore something on my own time. I’ve been thinking about doing my own personal genius hour ever since I read John Spencer’s blog post Teachers need genius hour, too. In his post, John suggests that we become stronger teachers, and gain a better appreciation for the struggle of failures and learning – something that I think many of us advocate for in our classrooms, but have a difficult time sharing with our students.

My initial excitement for this learning project opportunity soon turned into panic. Five days passed and I was further than ever at deciding what I wanted to explore. Every time I sat down to try to narrow down my ideas for my project, my list seemed to grow by a few more items. Before I knew it, I had a list of just over 50 ideas. Luckily, I’ve seen this problem before. I finally understood why my students had such a difficult time picking their Genius Hour topics. And, even though I had never been in this position, I knew I needed to outline some rules to narrow down the search.

My rules:

Make something.
Something I have never made the time to do.
Unplug. No screens.

My list of about 50, quickly cut down to three. Ultimately, none of those three were enough to get me excited to learn and write a blog post about it (hence the delayed start to this process). I settled on an idea that is simple, challenging, and meets all of my rules.

I’m going to build a coffee table from scratch.


A quick Google search showed me that there are plenty of websites and videos already out there. As far as social media goes, it looks like there are plenty of communities and forums ready to share and welcome a rookie. I’ll be checking out Make and Instructables as I try to figure out sort of shape my coffee table will take. Reddit has a large community of DIYers sharing projects and tips quite often, r/DIY. I also know some people who are willing to share tools and space with me as I try to figure this out.

My very rough plan for this learning project will be:

Research, research, research. Find out as much as I can about different designs, tools, and materials that could be used. I’ll find an open tool that I can collect and share ideas and resources that I find.
Make my own design. Hopefully, I can use a free tool like Google Sketchup to make a digital plan, but I’ll explore other options here as well.
Learn the tools. Spend some time practicing different cuts, drills, and whatever other skills I’ll need.
Start building. This will be interesting. I just hope to keep all my fingers.
Fail. Fix. Repeat. This is optional, but I fully expect that I will make a bunch of mistakes in the building process or things won’t go quite as planned.

Needless to say I’m looking forward to diving in and am thankful for the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning. Stay tuned for more!

Photos from Unsplash: Mikesh Kaos and Mathieu Nicolet