Where the Green(ish) Grass Grows – Week 4

Before I get into how this week went for my learning project, I want to quickly highlight two new tools that I will be using moving forward to better document my learning project.

The first one is Screencastify. This is a simple free Google Chrome browser add on that I can use to record my screen. It was super easy to download, and a small icon is now located on my tool bar so that I can quickly access the program. It allows me to record my whole desktop or just one tab. This is a great tool for better showing the online resources I am using for my learning project, but I can tell it will also be a useful tool as I move through my academic career and into becoming a practicing educator!

The second new tool I’m using is called Gif-Maker. This is another free Chrome browser extension, and much like Screencaster has a small icon located along my toolbar. This one opens another page where I can upload images or videos and create a GIF. There are some settings along the side that are straightforward to use. This is going to help me with something I feel is lacking in my learning project posts. It’s not nice to look at a large block of text so I feel like GIF’s will make be a great way to break that up.

Moving on, this week was pretty brutal! We finally had some nice weather so started the week by power washing the rest of the fence in the yard and left it a few days to dry. I figured it would be a great week to try and remove the old paint along the older portion of our fence. This went horribly! However that was not because of the resource I used this week. I found myself on this article written by Matt Smolsky. This article had great step by step instructions, as well as a list of things you will need, any warnings, and even some helpful hints. Unfortunately I didn’t quite listen to this resource! The article suggests using a quality paint scraper to get rid of the paint, however I didn’t immediately have one at my disposal, but I did have a power sander. I figured I could just skip the scraping step and go straight to sanding. This did not work so I made my treck to my local Home Hardware. I chatted with a worker there (can’t say enough good things about Home Hardware, the employees are always extremely helpful) who suggested I also pick up some paint remover. This was a bit of a pain as it was messy to put on and dried very quickly, and since the instructions said to keep the area wet for 30 minutes, this was a challenge!

The scraping itself was not that difficult, however once the paint was removed I was able to get a good look a the quality of the fence, and it was obvious that it was in pretty rough shape that was beyond any reasonably repairs. I think I will need to reevaluate if doing this portion of the fence is worth the time and effort it will take to complete!

The other project I started again this week was to finish staining the other fences, as last time I had just done the area where I wanted the garden boxes to go. This also did not go as planned! Despite the fact that I purchased an air sprayer (nothing too fancy, a simple hand pump was all I figured I’d need), something went wrong with the stain itself. The stain went on in such a paint like layer that it was too thick to work properly in the sprayer, and left a horrible finish on the fence! Luckily this was an area of the fence that I was considering removing anyway, but I’m at a loss as to what went wrong with the stain! Check out this comparison between an untreated portion and the freshly stained portion.

When we purchased this house, the entire kitchen was painted in a horrible brown colour, and it was one of the first things I ripped out! As soon as I saw what looked like brown paint on the fence, I knew I had to stop and figure out what was going on. The only thing I could think of was that somehow the stain must have turned bad after I used it roughly two weeks ago, as it was very watery then and was easy to apply! Anything I googled just gave me recommendations on how to remove old stain, so I think I’ll have to do some more research. Thankfully I picked up two more cans of stain which will hopefully last me the rest of this project!

A New Culture of Connection

Participation, engagement, connection. These are three things I’ve been hearing a lot about in the past few months. These all play a huge role as society has been forced to suddenly shift to online learning and communication, and it will continue to be a priority as we move to maybe a more blended teaching system in the upcoming school year. Most of the teachers I’ve spoken with have said engagement and participation are one of the biggest struggle they have been facing. One teacher I spoke with said that it’s frustrating, because they are putting in the effort, and not seeing anything back, which is overall demoralizing. My partner is a grade 8 teacher, and every morning I watch him log onto his Google Classroom, and barely a fraction of his students show up.

Photo Credit: Marketoonist retrieved with permission

Michael Wesch’s video on Youtube and the web was fascinating to watch, particularly because it was created in 2008. It’s unbelievable to see how far technology, and Youtube in particular has come in just 12 years. For example, one of the first videos he talks about is the internet sensation that was the “Numa Numa Guy” (AKA Gary Brolsma). In Michael’s video at around the 4 minute mark, he shows a screenshot of how many videos are uploaded under the term Numa Numa. This shows roughly 58,000 videos have been uploaded. To the best of my knowledge Youtube no longer shows the number of search results, but when I used Google today to look up the same thing, I got roughly 144 MILLION results. There was roughly 92 Youtube videos posted today alone (although some of them probably did not directly correlate with the song).

One thing Wesch mentions around the 5 minute mark in the video linked above, is that through the internet and sites like Youtube, we are creating “global connections transcending space and time”. This is surely an undeniable fact as we are more connected now than we’ve ever been in history, but how meaningful are these connections? Anyone who has chatted with a group on a video communications app like Zoom or Facetime, knows that technology has not yet evolved to truly replace face to face communications. There are no side conversations, it’s difficult to have more than one person talking. It feels more like a sharing circle than a real conversation. Problems like these are going to be huge as we move forward through this abrupt digital shift, particularly among students where that social piece is so important for their development.

I also think that there can be some perks from this shift. People are generally pretty reluctant to change. I hope that at the very least this forced change can lead to to good change. Perhaps a blended teaching style of face to face and online communications will be the new way forward. Maybe it will work better for some students. While students who were already present and wanting to participate will, I’m sure, continue to do so, maybe those who are less than willing will find their footing in a new way forward. I am at the very least hopeful and excited at what prospects can develop from this unique time. Though there will definitely be some struggles, challenges like these are not new to educators. Good educators face adversity every day and are constantly trying to adapt to students learning needs with no ulterior motive of their own. If anyone can push forward digital change during this time, it will be educators.

Where the Green(ish) Grass Grows Week 3

This week was a bit of a let down (which at the very least balances out last week!). We were lucky enough to get some rain, but then it rained almost the entire week which prevented me from getting out into the backyard very much! The biggest project on the go is to finish cleaning and staining the deck and fence. However I need a stretch of nice warm days to get that done, which unfortunately didn’t happen this week. Another reason I didn’t get to go out into the yard much this week was because we had the yard sprayed to kill the horrendous amount of weeds we get back there. I explain some of the reasons why in the video below but ultimately I decided this was one job that was best left to the professionals. These guys did an awesome job!

One thing I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet is our giant dirt pile. When we purchased this home, the grading along the outside of the house had been significantly washed away. We had some dirt brought in so we could help restore the grading, however we got a little bit more than we bargained for and we have been trying to use it up. All of this rain highlighted one area on the front portion of the house that needed a bit of help since it was directly underneath a downspout. The water was coming out of the downspout and pooling along our foundation, which is big trouble! I found this article through Pinterest that talked a bit about splash blocks, and I decided to DIY the project using some of the large rocks from our dirt pile. I think this will have to be a temporary solution, but for now it will do.

Lastly I tried to tackle a project I initially thought would only take me a couple minutes, but ended up taking much longer. One of the boards along the driveway was almost completely broken off, but under a bit of inspection I discovered that the screws weren’t simply missing, they were broken and lodged inside! This article from Lowes gave me some simple solutions to get it out, but also used some tools that I didn’t have available. The drill we own also is not the most powerful tool, which was quite the hindrance in this project. Because the tip of the screw was nearly flush, and the replacement screws location didn’t matter too much, I decided to just leave the broken screw in place. However I still ran into more problems when trying to get the replacement screw flush, and was unfortunately not able to succeed as any further attempts were simply stripping the new screw, creating an even bigger problem. This is probably the first ‘fail’ that I’ve encountered thus far. It wasn’t a great note to end the week on, however the weather for this upcoming week looks much nicer, so hopefully the future will be filled with more successes!