SAVE SASK LIBRARIES – READ ABOUT THE MESS AND HOW YOU CAN HELP CLEAN IT UP.

Group of concerned citizens reading outside of Brad Wall’s Swift Current MLA office for the DEAR Sask rally on April 7, 2017. Approximately 7,000 participated province-wide. Photo credits to Jill Erickson-Siever.

This Facebook post sums up the AGM (Annual General Meeting) of the Chinook Regional Library today:

“If they do nothing and/or have no rate increases from RMs and towns they will cease all operations by June 30. [This includes the Swift Current branch.]

Even with changes and rate increase they state they may need to close all libraries but 9 plus Swift Current. This is disastrous. They also stressed that the potential is there that Saskatchewan could lose all of its libraries entirely.”

Brad Wall and Don Morgan need to work towards restoring the budget AND RMs need to do what they can, in order to save the library system that is so admired by other provinces. To go from a thriving to a barely surviving community treasure is heartbreaking, and I cannot believe how little public outcry is happening despite the DEAR Sask rally being all over SK and Canadian media.

Check out this site for more information.

You have several choices on how you can help:

  1. Sign a petition. Your local library may have one. If not, print one out, sign it (and get your friends to as well) and mail it or hand-deliver to Merrilee Rasmussen. If 15% of Saskatchewan voters sign, a referendum and basically an election will be held to restore funding to libraries. Make sure you are a registered voter before signing.
  2. Contact your MLA, voice your concerns, and ask them to reconsider the budget. In Swift Current the person to contact is Brad Wall at premier@gov.sk.ca or bradwallmla@sasktel.net. All MLA contact information throughout the province can be found by looking through these PDFs. One written and mailed letter counts as 100 public voices, 1 e-mail counts as 10 voices, and 1 phone-call counts as 5 voices.
  3. Join the rally that will be held Saturday April 29, 2017 in front of Brad Wall’s SC office. I will be helping to plan it, acting as a concerned citizen who wants to keep public library doors open. If you have any questions, or are passionate about helping, do not hesitate to comment below.
  4. Share this blog post and any news on libraries. Tweet it, Facebook it, like it and comment on WordPress. Get your friends involved. We can do this!

Facebook groups to join to stay informed:

Save Saskatchewan Libraries

Chinook Regional Library

SC Branch Library


If you do nothing, especially after now being informed, you are helping to CLOSE libraries down.

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“I hate problems without solutions. I look for solutions before I present problems.” – Lemarr Treadwell

Lemarr has been an invaluable resource to me this semester insofar as our alignment of educational philosophies. He expresses how I know I feel about education and it is great to be inspired when I look at someone’s Twitter feed! He is extremely kind and thoughtful, as he will message you when you retweet media of his!

My employers have echoed to their staff this sentiment of not voicing a problem until solutions have been tried and this certainly applies to both teachers and learners in the education system.

 

ONline Social ACTivism

As an opening thought, I have a question for you – why do you go online? What is it that compels you to turn that computer screen on everyday?

I believe, if you aren’t online at least 80% of the time to make a difference in someone else’s life (even if it is your own) and further your soul or your intelligence or your self-actualization… then your time is not well spent.

Blog post focus this week: Can online social activism be meaningful and worthwhile? Is is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?

I accentuated the “on”, because I believe online is still turning us ON to activism. I accentuated the “act” in activism because, to me, activism is all about taking action. However, while some people say speaking isn’t enough, speaking out is still a form of acting – it build community, and brings awareness, educating other minds to act beyond you. Typing, speaking, retweeting – it is all acting.

WHAT DID I LEARN FROM “THE EXPERTS”?

I decided to go onto Google Scholar, a site I learned about while in Education but never actually utilized (I always stuck to UR Summons and/or in-person library services). I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to type in keywords and get relevant, intelligent articles to read from. You can even create a Google Scholar profile and keep a “Library” of favorite articles and citations – how cool is that for the passionate academic reader?! It is so accessible that young kids can use it and learn the importance of getting news and information from a balance of public media and academic sites. The only downside is that you have to search the journal the article came from manually to see if it is peer-reviewed (no peer-review search option on Google Scholar – seems a shame but I suppose they want all of their searches to get the most hits!) Still, it is mind boggling you can get such rich resources (still with using your critical thinking skills) with such easy access and quick efficiency.

I saved these two articles to my Google Drive, as I didn’t realize from my mobile phone that I could start a Google Scholar profile and have my own library. I read them and will summarize what I learned from each:

The Dark Side of Online Activism

This article talks about how they use online activism (videos) to recruit people to their right-wing (fascist) ideologies and it mainly had me reflecting on how – like any tools in the online world – it is all about potential for good and bad choices. Just like we can use the online world to stop war, we can use the online world to start war. This got me thinking of the extreme terrorist videos that have been shown online, of killings of innocent journalists – that is all still considered activism, or people fighting for what they believe strongly in, as well. It is so important to step back and think: Am I acting with an equitable, peaceful end in mind, and will I use peace and relatability (not friction and war) to get there? There is a huge difference between offending someone for difference of opinion, and having rights (or lives) taken away. We never want to do the latter.

Does Slacktivism Hurt Activism?

Lee and Hsieh explain, “The goal of this study is to examine whether the decision to sign or not sign an online petition (slacktivism) affects subsequent donation to charity. Specifically, under what conditions will moral balancing effects occur? And under what conditions will consistency concerns dominate one’s decisions to take up a civic action?”

They define “slacktivism” as “activities such as clicking “like” to show support for an interest group on Facebook, signing online petitions, forwarding letters or videos about an issue, and painting one’s profile green to support demographic election in Iraq” and quote an outside source that says slacktivim is still acting, but on a minuscule scale. They go on to say some people believe slacktivism is not only useless, but detrimental to social movements: “despite its potential to reach people and raise awareness at large scales, critics continue to question the efficacy of this low-cost, low risk form of activism. Critics argue that slacktivism may hurt real activism—people may feel satisfied through their slacktivism and this type of low-cost civic participation decreases other subsequent activities that could make a difference. If critics are correct, then we must re-consider the use of slacktivism.”

Reflecting on this personally, I think that everyone (these researchers included) have to be so conscious of when they use the word slacktivism. They say it like any like on Facebook is slacktivism – any online activism really – yet I think it depends scenario by scenario. Maybe that like is enough to fix the problem, and in that case it is online activism.. Maybe it does nothing, and in that case it is slacktivism.

They found in their study that signing the petition had no ill consequence overall on subsequent donation, and found that it sometimes led to higher donations. This article is definitely worth a read!

These last articles were found with a simple Google (non-scholar) search as I felt I wanted to include a more relatable, less wordy and formal perspective:

Why Social Media is Reinventing Activism

The article starts out comparing how often people “Share” to how often they really share: “If you only measure donations, social media is no champion. The national chapter of the Red Cross, for instance, has 208,500 “likes” on Facebook, more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, and a thriving blog. But according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, online donations accounted for just 3.6% of private donations made to the organization in 2009.” Keep in mind, this is almost ten years ago.

The article then goes on to introduce different activists and how social media shaped their lives as activists and building activist communities. For example Shawn Ahmed using online awareness to bring in help and donations to help with disaster relief, and Craig Kielburger believes it is the easy accessibility of the Internet that helped bring in help for his Free the Children initiative.

Last but not least, this is a cool link to read about how several times (in this decade) that online activism grew into something important.


 

THOUGHTS ON PEER BLOGS

Brittany did, however, touch on a powerful subject, called “slacktivism” in her blog. I do think this can become very real. I think that if we fall into the pattern of retweeting and absorbing information without seeking out/creating avenues for solution, it can lead to feelings of being jaded, hopeless, and eventually – apathetic to horrific situations that need to be fought against. I think it is important to:

a) really dig into the other side(s) of the argument. Don’t just develop this invisible/superficial sense of “other” because it will lead to you, yourself, becoming prejudiced and stereotypical. What does a Trump supporter actually say, do, etc. Where are they coming from – WHY are they acting the way they are?

b) you need to have a support system of people who you know are on your side. There is nothing worse than feeling alone in an ocean of social media online, when you retweet and Share and get no likes or comments. I was told that politics and religion and anything controversial are not polite topics to be had and should be personal – I think we need to make it so we CAN have those conversations and get to know who our friends really are.

These are both tasks you can accomplish online. You can find people of all persuasions with simple Google searches. It is also more important than ever, when doing social media activism, that you are informed and critical of your sources. Do the sites you are reading have academic citations, first person interviews, lots of detail and clarity? There is nothing worse than sharing an article on Facebook that had a catchy headline WITHOUT READING THE ARTICLE (and I think we are all guilty at some point of doing this – whether it be sharing it online or discussing it among friends in person). The online community can quickly become a huge game of Telephone where the truth gets stretched and becomes something else – as citizens we ALL have the responsibility of upholding the truth.


ME AND ACT-I-VISM

I wanted to share my own personal connections to social activism. I started out on Facebook and Twitter terrified to share anything slightly controversial, for fear of losing friends and respect. I still have those fears and occasionally they hold me back but I have pushed myself further into a place where I value my opinion and quest for truth and goodness more than others’ opinions of me. I find out who my true supporters are, those who will stick with me and whichever marginalized group I am fighting for. I am gay myself, and have never come out to my family, even though I came out semi-comfortably to my Education classmates last year. I agree with what Katia said in our webinar chats when she says it is up to more than the oppressed to change the situations around, but I always felt so guilty, knowing I was who I was, and yet if I was approached to help make a GSA or state my opinion on it I avoided it to not “ruffle any feathers”. I post articles speaking out against homophobia almost every week or month and am no longer worried about offending others, and I attend Pride events whenever I hear about them. I credit the online world for being part of my gateway to being more comfortable in myself and my voice to change the world.

ECMP friend Robbi expressed to our class she was afraid to offend people in the pursuit of activism, and I get the merit of that. I love people, and I hate seeing people upset, ESPECIALLY if I caused it. However I still replied to her, “If we talk about racism we will probably offend racists!” Ultimately you cannot go about life avoiding offending all people, or in the process you yourself will go crazy. It is a matter of choosing who is worth offending, and how BEST to offend them in such a way that they can see why you are upset or concerned. Ultimately, if we say we are neutral or we support something but “don’t want to get involved”, we are on the side of the oppressor – if we are neutral, we are helping others get hurt by being the bystander. This powerful and humorous quote sums up exactly what I think of standing up for what you believe in:

This being said, I think that the most effective way to change is not through showing someone how angry you are. Sarcastic humour that points out how stupid the other side is doesn’t have the hope when it comes to getting the other side to “come around” to you. Respect and honesty are key. I think the most effective way is by drawing parallels, so they can see how others hurt the way they do. When we can relate to those we disagree with, I believe that is when we see the most change. That is why education, as opposed to war (what putdowns and angry outbursts can and do turn into) is the best form of activism. That is why, even online, our words matter.

I have taken action against Saskatchewan’s recent budget cuts in several ways. My Facebook page is full of probably over 10 shares spreading awareness on the budget cuts to our rural libraries and the unfortunate consequences happening due to this…

After my job was lost due to those budget cuts, I took to Facebook sharing websites on layoffs that will be happening shortly. I have had a handful of people like my articles, but that handful of people I know I can trust to be on my side, people who provide community and support in my fight to spread awareness and make a change. I feel like my online activity was not useless, but I do think that – given the nature of the thing I am protesting – it was better to take in-person action too. I signed a petition, and took to the streets with “save SK library” signs, and we picketed in front of Brad Wall’s office and read books in (possibly?) the largest peaceful protest in SK ever.

If you look at the photo below, Gwen and I are on the left, underneath the Central Place 245 sign – among approximately 200 other people! And, of course, the Lyric Theatre in the top right corner.

I have relatives who are related to Brad Wall (typical Swift Current scenario!) and sent him a personal message on Facebook, though I am not certain he will get it. I do feel that sometimes shaming (not fighting, but pointing out how they have hurt you) is a powerful way to get a message through to someone – different than getting people fueled up, angry, and ready to retort back at you. This is what I sent:

Brad. This is _______________’s daughter. I just lost the best job I have ever had, due to budget cuts. I have proudly protested for our libraries. From family of family, I am deeply disappointed. This could have been done differently.


 

IDEAS FOR THE CLASSROOM AND CLOSING THOUGHTS

When I reflect on how social activism can be meaningful online, I think of educational platforms where you can host debates between students so they learn those life skills that are needed to navigate the real world with people of different backgrounds and opinions, and simultaneously teach and learn. I think the online world can help us more with activism in that we can have conversations with (and see news/see videos of) people from around the world, or people in very different scenarios that we would not come into daily contact with in the real world. It allows us to put ourselves into way more peoples’ shoes and develop a compassion and a passion for fighting for others’ rights. We can have students argue different stances on debates through platforms like Flipgrid (with a judge and different sides, sharing arguments and rebuttals). The Flipgrid could then be shared around Facebook or Twitter to see how many outsiders share similar comments or could add to our video! (With parent permission for young children.)

However I then think of how Donald Trump is so infamous, and so many people have spoken out against him online (AND IN PERSON – at rallies) yet it has gotten the United States nowhere. It is almost similar to Kony (which we discussed in class) where it is almost like the attention has made him happier and fueled him to be more ridiculous. Like we discussed in class, if we are going to share or discuss issues, it should always be with a solution in mind. If I can make a little analogy:

Don’t complain about the fire, go to find the bucket(s) of water.

Don’t just complain about how crazy Donald Trump is – look into petitions you can sign that will be recognized politically, look into organizations with power fighting against him and join or donate to them, and so on. That is the difference between slacktivism and activism.

How Good Of A Digital Educator Have I Been?

First of all, I want to put this question out to my colleagues and digital friends – how have I helped you this semester? Please don’t hesitate to include any ways I inspired you and/or taught you something in the comments. I think it is most powerful when you hear from your students, or pupils, how you have been helpful – more powerful than your own (ultimately, subjective) idea of how you have helped them. Is there any way, small or large, that I had an impact on you this semester? I promise that I can share back a way that you helped me! I have all of your Twitter accounts and I am not afraid to use them (learn from them), if I can’t think of a way you helped me already off the top of my head.

 


 

REFLECTION ON WHAT IT MEANS TO HELP

I know the blog prompt is specifically related to how we helped classmates, but I don’t want to discount others I have helped in the process. As educators we can’t discount the ‘little things’, or the unintended consequences – sometimes, that is what motivates and inspires us! I think I helped many people on Twitter and WordPress just by sharing teaching resources that I didn’t even create!

I reflected this semester, in our last chat on online activism, how helping doesn’t just mean “giving answers”. Specifically, I mentioned in our chat that we cannot change anyone forcibly – they need to change themselves. Helping, then, is providing tools and a safe space that inspires students to help themselves. I think I did an alright job of that this semester. I could have done better, but I also could have done worse!

 


 

WORDPRESS (BLOG) HELP

I feel like I was helpful to Britany Jefferson in a couple of ways this semester, because of her wording on her blog posts. I showed her (and everyone else in ECMP355 who looked at her blog) that another form of replying to blog posts could be by video. As she says here, “I had a classmate, Taylor Harder, who decided to film a video instead of typing a regular response to my most recent blog post. I thought that this was great. It added variety to my blogging and I was very excited to watch her video response.  As usually, it was very thoughtful and insightful!  I also think that it added a more personal element to blogging. I was able to see her and make a connection. Thanks for doing this Taylor!”

Anytime I get a thanks I feel I have done something worthwhile!

I also helped Britany reflect further on online activism and its potential for benefit, when I commented on her latest post about “slacktivism”. You can read my comments at the bottom of her blog post. I will quote her reply here:

“Hi Taylor!
Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them. I definitely would say that you are not “slacking”. You are taking action. That is really neat to hear. Way to go! That is a perfect example of what I was talking about in my post. I really value integrity. I think that is why I ended up discussing how our actions need to line up with what we are saying. In the future this is something that I hope I can teach my students. I also appreciate your quote, “even a footstep ahead counts”. You are right, we need to take one step at a time. And even if it is small, it still counts! This quote is definitely applicable to our future classrooms. Thank you for your insights. I always look forward to them.”

 


 

I also provided a resource that Amy can stash away for the future, if a lesson opportunity arises…

Helpful_Project_Idea

Near the beginning of class I also commented on Christina Thiel’s blogs a bit, as I also have an interest in painting:

Helpful_Christina2

Helpful_Christina

Shayla did an overview of my blog and its posts and shared her thoughts in a comment!

Helpful_Shayla.png

 

TWITTER HELP

I also want to talk about the cycle of learning that manifested itself this semester, with Robbi and Flipgrid!

She showed me how Flipgrid works (from a student’s perspective), and I in turn helped bring attention to her Flipgrid account so people liked and retweeted both of our Tweets on Flipgrid (and Brooklynn even added her own video response to the resource!) Both of us helped grow it into something that helped many people, in and out of class, learn about a great EdTech resource. Robbi’s offer to help me experience Flipgrid (by setting up a question for me) after I initially learned about it through this infographic is likely what caused me to become passionate enough to compare Flipgrid’s customer service to WordPress’s. In this process, Becca Bennett commented on my blog post: “Thanks for sharing Taylor. I was unaware of what Flipgrid was and this post was great to read about!” so I (we – myself and Robbi) managed to help at least one peer in my class out with learning about Flipgrid.

Taking a step back from the actual process, the PRODUCT I made using Flipgrid helped people in my PLN by inspiring them on how to encourage student voice. It was good timing because I had just done a super fun project with the kids and wanted to share it. Here is my Twitter link to my video:

After doing this whole experience I even thought – hey – kids could act as the teachers and interview people to do videos for LA/social projects! So I shared that lesson idea and got a lot of appreciation for it on Twitter.

 


 

CLASS (ZOOM) REFLECTIONS

Even during chats, I felt I helped out my peers with my spontaneous ideas. I tend to type as I think, instead of after I think, and I think that is a perfect way to showcase the evolution of learning (because I will also type/say when I have made a mistake, when I need to change something, and so on). I felt very honored when Robbi told me “I like the way you think” after I had typed, “you could have all of the kids design treasure maps and get their kids to code their sprites to “visit” each stop – geography project?” She told me she likes the way I think and so I assumed that was in regards to the ideas I was throwing out about what to do with Scratch.

Robbi also told me, the next week, “you are so brave” (for speaking out against homophobia).

This has made me reflect that I naturally help those around me with my motivation to learn, to be active online and in person (even in little ways), and my endless supply of ideas. I help in the way of being a good role model.

 


 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – GOOGLE+ AND ANY HELP WITH TECHNICAL ISSUES

I helped Kanchan with organizing her blog layout and she replied thanking me!

Check out this folder and look at all of the white rectangular screenshots labelled “Helpful_1” or 2 or 3, etc… for ways I helped out on Google+. Here is one example:

Helpful_4

 

Last but not least… the Screencast I made on how to share a Screencast!

Try to Be A Good Role Model – Always in All Ways

Listen here to my voice recording summarizing what I took out of this Google Teacher Tribe Podcast with Jen Giffen as most important to my educational philosophy.

If you’d rather read than listen, I basically summarize how Giffen explained that as teachers, we shouldn’t role model to our students a refusal to learn new skills in new areas (including transferring knowledge to the digital realm with new technological apps), just like our students shouldn’t be able to refuse to follow different teachers’ outlines year to year. If we expect flexibility of our students, they should be able to expect flexibility of us, too.

It just makes sense to show our students proper attitudes that invite learning and excitement rather than hesitance and anxiety. As teachers I think we should be willing to “try anything once [or more]” if it sounds at least mildly educational and helpful. Katia Hildebrant, my ECMP355 prof, kind of touch on this in our last class regarding coding when she said that we could either approach it from an ‘Oh no, I messed up, this is horrible’ approach or an ‘Oh I messed up, oh well, I will get better eventually’.

I wanted to blog about this because I feel this sentiment relates strongly to my long-standing (and never shaking) belief of integrity and importance of fostering mutual respect. Students won’t take you serious if you don’t take your calling serious – if you promise something, make sure you mean it, and follow through.

There were also two more points that stood out to me from the Google Tribe podcast that I thought would fit in the Resources category moreso than the Educational Philosophies:

  1. Google Forms can be used as exit slips to a class (a paperless way – and easier to track and save way – of collecting assessments on students)
  2. Classrooms can use Google Hangouts to do a kind of 20 questions game – the catch is that neither class knows where the other is located, so they need to put their geographical and social knowledge to the test as they ask relevant questions (link explaining this further here) and here is its Skype counterpart.

In regards to a positive/negative mindset when learning, I recalled video that I had seen on TV. I discovered that it can’t be found with a quick Browser/Youtube search – darn! To summarize, it starts off with a pencil-written word CAN’T. Then an eraser comes off and erases part of the word so that it spells CAN. I think I may have come across it when I was watching my taped videos from the early 2000s the other week, and forgot that the advertisement is 20 years old!! If I find it I will make sure to note who made the commercial, because it was short and very inspiring.

When I first saw it I was immediately like – wow, this was an advertisement well spent watching. Something that can be shown to my elementary students at the beginning of the year or in the midst of difficult assignments. I once had a professor who told me – if you think you can’t, then you probably won’t. So much of our success depends on our mindset towards it.


I wanted to share one other video that I have long liked, but have not shared online until now. If a teacher says something and does another, in my experience, the children always focus on what you do, because that is more often where the honesty lies.

The below video is very graphic and raw and definitely brings out the emotions when you see children imitating their parents step for step. There is violence, so watch at your discretion.

 

Obviously there will be times when we fail, or we make bad decisions for our children to witness. The best thing we can do in those situations is reflect on them and turn them into teachable moments – own up to your mistakes, apologize to your kids, explain why you thought you were wrong. Honesty is always key.

 

 

 

Part of My Philosophy is One of Optimism/Positivity


This image is part of a video on Facebook that meant a lot to me. I saw this on a coworker’s Facebook page. I feel overall we share a lot of the same philosophies.

Build your kids up, don’t make them anxious and insecure. We are social creatures and we become part of the world around us. Be a light in their world so they can be a light for themselves and others, too.