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Notes on Graphics

In class this week we talked about graphics – how to make, edit and use them:

  • Graphics are either pixel or vector based. I haven’t thought about this stuff in so long, but my background in mapping and remote sensing was where I initially learned about these terms. Sometimes I forget that I do have quite a bit of experience dealing with graphics, it was always just on the side so I didn’t really know I was learning it
  • The most commonly used programs for creating and editing graphics are Adobe Photoshop (pixels) and Illustrator (vector)
    • I’ve used these without any instruction and muddled my way through. There’s definitely a lot to learn.
    • They are expensive to buy (thank goodness for a student price 5 years ago), and now have annual subscriptions which increase the price as well
    • Most school districts don’t have access to these, so using them in our future classes is likely not possible
  • There are lots of other options. Some are also proprietary, others are open source or browser based. There’s also freeware, where you can use it initially for free but some functions are off limits with paying
  • A few I jotted down and will check out later were GIMP, Vectr, and Pixlr
  • BUT Michael mainly wanted to show us some of the capabilities of using Microsoft Powerpoint for editing (and creating) graphics
    • Widely accessible, not nearly as expensive
    • Familiar to most people
    • The early Microsoft take over of the office product suite really was incredible in how it still continues to dominate despite most of our class using apple products for everything else
  • So, in using Powerpoint, anything on the slides can be exported as a graphic, and it won’t be the size and shape of a slide, but the actual graphics you are interested in
    • You can save as all different kinds of file types
    • All the slides in a deck can be saved as individual images (I need to find out if there’s an automated way to do this because that would be great. Do they append the names?)
    • There are different artistic effects and formatting tools
    • You can add text, and use cropping and flipping/rotation to alter images
    • Smart Art can do a lot for you, or at least give some ideas

So I tried it out and made this image, which I’m going to use in a post soon to get into the weeds a bit about what really makes Middle Eastern food what it is….. a spice and ingredient round up! Stay tuned.


Pacific School of Inquiry and Innovation

Last week our class visited the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry – an independent school in Victoria that focusses on integrating the curriculum, emergent learning, and critical and creative thinking. The founder, Jeff Hopkins spoke about the school’s philosophy at TEDxVictoria in 2014.

My notes after watching this talk:

  • Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a flame.
  • Distinction between getting information and actually knowing it
  • If education system doesn’t shift, from “knowing about” to “knowing”, making changes for the better in our world could be difficult
  • Ingredients in knowing:
    • Initial questions -> looking deeper -> new questions
    • Reason to learn -> emergent learning
  • Need opportunities for deep personal inquiry, hard to do with groups of 30 kids
  • Right now – subject silos, but we need to move to more personal competencies
    • some have been revised in new curriculum, some not
  • (Talk is mostly focussed on secondary school rather than elementary)
  • Suggests reorganizing learning – critical thinking, creative thinking, ecological literacy, mathematical literacy
    • Combine with high level learning objectives
    • This is happening at PSII right now, he has proposed this to the B.C. Ministry of Education

I was really looking forward to the tour, but unfortunately my son was sick that day and I was unable to go. I talked with my classmates after the tour and these were their notes:

  • The learners were eloquent, respectful and mature
  • They talked about how their learning focussed on independence, time management, collaboration and respect
  • There are 95 students in the school, and tuition is $7,200 per year (way lower than I would expect for a private school, but I don’t know much about the funding models for these)
  • I didn’t realize there are no more provincial exams in B.C. anymore, just curricular competencies that students need to meet
  • Some students found that their large inquiry project did not fulfill all of their curricular requirements so they had to do certain make up courses to fulfill these
    • Sometimes this was in the form of additional smaller inquiry projects
  • The school doesn’t work for all learners, parents or teachers
  • They spend time giving the students a grounding in what inquiry is, something that our teaching program has really lacked even though we currently have 3 inquiry projects assigned to us
  • Jeff Hopkins described the inquiry model as an Indigenous way of knowing – the questions the students ask are important to them, their families and their communities
  • Students have the opportunity to sit in on UVic courses – I believe either in part or in full?

I may try to make up the tour on my own, my classmates were impressed and inspired by the way learning is happening at PSII



Ingredients: Halloumi

When I was looking through the Zaitoun cookbook, I saw an appetizer recipe for halloumi. We happened to have some halloumi cheese in the fridge, and this weekend was the spark I needed to make it. It was Thanksgiving and we were headed to some friends’ house for dinner. When I checked the recipe out again, it seemed super quick and easy, and the ingredients were simple/things we mostly had. It was also perfect because it used Pomegranate molasses which is now the flavour of the week I guess.

Halloumi is a cheese associated with Cyprus, and eaten throughout the eastern Mediterranean (the Levant). It is a semi hard, unripened cheese with a high melting point, making it ideal for frying and grilling (see right, photo from Wikipedia). Traditionally halloumi was made with sheep or goats milk, or a combo, but as it becomes more popular, cow’s milk is also used. I’ve eaten halloumi in restaurants a lot of times but never cooked it myself.

It was a great recipe to take to a friend’s because I could prep most of it beforehand, there was only one cooked element (the cheese!) and the rest was just topping. Basically the recipe is orange segments, chopped dates, and fresh mint sprinkled on top of crispy, browned, fried halloumi, drizzled with pomegranate molasses and olive oil. I fried the cheese at our friends and assembled it in front of everyone. Not only did it look like a showstopper, it was unbelievably delicious. One of our friends hadn’t even heard of halloumi, so it was a fun dish. They asked several times for me to send over the recipe too. I know this one will be made again.

My friend took the top photo with portrait mode which seemed to help a lot. But I’m still working on this!

Flavours: Pomegranate molasses

Pomegranate molasses is a thick syrup made by reducing pomegranate juice. It becomes a sweet, tart and tangy syrup. (It’s not actually molasses at all). It is regularly used in middle eastern cooking, particularly in Iran, Turkey and Lebanon. I bought the Cortas brand again, which it turns out was recommended here. It can be used in many different ways – marinades, salad dressings, even in cocktails when mixed properly.

After looking through the Zaitoun cookbook (on cloudLibrary of course!), a recipe that caught my eye for a relatively simple weeknight meal was Lentil, eggplant and pomegranate stew. I made it tonight (with some characteristics omissions). I swear that before I got groceries on the weekend, I checked and I had brown lentils, but when it came time to cook, I could only find red. And somehow I completely forgot to buy sumac (another ingredient on my flavours to explore list). So anyway, red lentils and no sumac, I forged ahead.

The recipe was pretty simple: lentils, spices, eggplant, pomegranate molasses, shallots and garlic. Served with basmati rice. For a simple meal, it really packed a punch. Pomegranate molasses has a really complex flavour which came through well in this dish. I added extra to my bowl to play around with the flavours more too. It’s a very tangy, sweet and rich flavour overall. The combination with the smooth flavours of the shallots and eggplant balanced perfectly. My 1 year old liked it too, but my three year old stuck with her macaroni.

My photo of this really did not turn out well (note to self, learn to take better food photos). Here is what I’m going to pretend mine looked like:

Lentil, eggplant and pomegranate stew from Zaitoun

In researching pomegranate molasses, I have also found this recipe for pomegranate glazed chicken from Bon appetit which I now want to try next!

Top photo from here

Rosewater Take Two: Once is Not Enough

After the ghraybeh (Lebanese butter cookies) didn’t show off the rose water very well, I knew I wanted to try again. We were going for Sunday dinner at my dad’s house so I said I would make dessert. I had been perusing the Zaitoun cookbook by Yasmin Khan and Sweet by Ottolenghi and there were a couple cakes in them that were calling me.

My original plan was to make the Semolina and rose water slice cake from Zaitoun (the picture to the right), but I got a bit confused when it came down to starting. I blame cloudLibrary somewhat here because it is way too easy to flip back and forth between books and lose track of whats happening. So I prepped the ingredients for the Lemon and Semolina syrup cakes from Sweet instead before I realized what had happened. The problem was this recipe said in the introduction that it could be flavoured with rose water syrup (or orange blossom), but only gave the directions for a citrus syrup instead. So I took some of the measurements from the Zaitoun recipe to try to approximate the rose water amounts.

The recipe was super simple to follow and the batter mixed up quickly. It makes 8 mini cakes using a muffin pan. Making parchment collars was a new skill for me, and not one I have totally mastered yet but I am not afraid to try again! The batter has lemon zest in it and each mini cake has a thin lemon slice on top. I had to trim the edges of the slices to get them to fit.

My oven always runs a little cool so I would bake these at 350 rather than 325 next time, but that’s probably different for everyone. It just took a little extra time to back and I never got the caramelization on the lemons that the recipe called for.

When it came to making the syrup, first I followed the ‘Sweet; recipe (1/4 cup each of sugar and lemon juice) and added just a 1/2 tsp of rose water. But the lemon was so strong and really over powered everything. My kids were going to be eating this too so I didn’t want it to be quite so strong with lemon flavour. So I added a 1/4 cup of water and another 1/2 tsp of rose water. Then even more rose water just by eye! The flavour of the syrup at that point had a perfect balance (to me) of lemon, sugar and rose water. Just enough floral to give that turkish delight style magic. Then the syrup just gets brushed on as soon as the cakes come out of the oven, with the cakes still in the pan. They really soaked it up!

At my dad’s house the cakes were a major hit. The recipe suggested serving them with yoghurt or creme fraiche, but we went with whipped cream just to be a crowd pleaser. I found I like the cake plain though to really let the rose water flavour come through. The tops of the cake, which had the most syrup were the best part. My dad, granny, cousin and husband all loved the cake. The kids were a little more fond of the whipped cream.  But the adults even gobbled up the lemons from the top.I will make these again, or probably try the Zaitoun recipe first, but this is definitely worth a repeat. I would like try it as a round cake though rather than the minis. I would use parchment on the bottom of the pan too because  I had a lot of sticking even with liberal butter on the pans. I would make double the amount of syrup to make sure the cakes were drenched all the way to the bottom with syrup. Yum!

Yottam Ottolenghi also made a version of this cake for Bon Appetit (my forever fav website) which you can find here. This version has slightly different measurements than the one from Sweet but from a first glance I think it might just be for a larger batch. This recipe also doesn’t have lemon slices on top. But I recommend giving it a try! (The featured photo up top is from this recipe)

Exploring digital cookbooks

In July, Helen Rosen (@hels), a food writer that I follow on twitter (starting to realize that I love to read about food), wrote an article about the top 10 cookbooks since 2000. One of the books mentioned was ZAHAV by Michael Solomonov, with an honourable mention for the books by Yottam Ottolenghi. I checked the Greater Victoria Public Library site and eagerly put them on hold. Ottolenghi Simple came in first and I devoured it. I read it like a book and quickly made several recipes which I will recap in a later post. When ZAHAV came in I read all the introductions and immediately went out and bought a better quality tahini. I had to return the book before I got a chance to dive in further so I hope to get another chance with that book again soon.

Recently I went to check the books availability again and some of the Ottolenghi books are available as ebooks. There are a lot of different way to view their digital content, so I chose and  downloaded the app for cloudLibrary. I was immediately able to borrow Simple and start rereading it.

At first using cloudLibrary seemed weird because I couldn’t see the entire pages. But once I figured out how to change the text size, it pretty conveniently shifts the spacing across the pages around to make it easy to read at various sizes. The headings can get a little bit messed up when you navigate through the book but overall it’s not too hard to figure out. The tables of contents are clickable so it’s very convenient for navigating through something like a cookbook where you may not read it straight through from the beginning. And the search function is amazing for finding different ingredients being used throughout the book. Not only can you use cloudLibrary to view ebooks, but you can browse the digital catalogue for the GVPL and check books out right there. I do prefer to read most books in hard copy, but for cookbooks, and especially ones that are often unavailable it’s a pretty nice resource.

Yottam Ottolenghi has many cookbooks, so far I like “Simple” because it seems a little more achievable for my life right now. Browsing on cloudLibrary, I also found Zaitoun, a Palestinian cookbook by Yasmin Khan, and I am loving the recipes and reading about different parts of the country. Even though they are ebooks the library only has so many licenses for them, so there are still waits for books that are in demand. But you can make lists of interest and put things on hold the same way you would for a hard copy. Unfortunately there’s no digital version of Zahav yet so I will have to get myself on the hold list again asap.


Notes on Social Media Use for Educators

Jesse Miler from Mediated Reality came to talk to our class today and kind of blew our collective minds. I’ll sum up  some of what he said here.

  • Using social media and mobile technology in education environments has impacts for our professional responsibilities
    • Need to be aware of how the personal meets the public
  • Captcha – I had no idea that the data from the “I’m not a robot” tests is used to train the technology in self-driving cars
  • Photo radar can be used to set minimum times that cars should need to travel dangerous sections of road (like the Malahat)
  • We need to be aware of what IS private online – screenshots and other downloads can negate the privacy settings
  • Educators are often focused on internet safety, but we should be teaching students about what networked citizenship looks like
    • digital identity – all the many, many profiles we create, maintain or forget throughout the internet
    • digital rights – 2014 Intimate Images Act in Canada – established implied consent to deal with issues like revenge porn
    • digital literacy
  • We have to be aware of how we use and maintain our communication networks – social, professional, personal
  • “We shape our tools and thereafter, our tools shape us” – John Culkin
  • There are times when kids are able to focus and not look at their phones, usually when they are ENGAGED, so instead of trying to control phone use, put your emphasis on building engagement in the classroom
  • Amy Orben is a researcher who has looked at screen time, kids and technology – found that kids are starting to make healthy boundaries for technology. This generation has always had it so it makes sense that they would develop some healthy adaptations to deal with it
  • Erase BC – a provincial strategy to give kids an anonymous way to report bullying
  • We need to address existing and emerging social media concerns with education and media literacy conversations
    • open constructive solutions-based dialogue with co-workers, stakeholders, clients, employers and the public about social media trends
  • We have personal use entitlement
  • Should be aware of balancing professional expectations
  • Higher income schools have lots of technology, but lower income schools may rely on things like Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with parents – no issues with cell phone bills that are unpaid etc.
  • The audiences for educators on social media are:
    • Public/parents
    • Staff/co-workers
    • Students
  • High schools now have esports teams – there are 18 in B.C.
  • Treaty 4 Esports in Saskatchewan – an elder in the community saw that many kids were playing video games. He approached a local casino for some space and created an Esports team. It is so successful that they built it up and started social and academic programs for kids in the same space
  • We have societal expectations of which activities are good and which are bad, but these ideas need to be examined
    • Having a diversity of extra curricular ideas is a good idea though

Jesse definitely changed my mind a bit about technology use, or at least alleviated some concerns about the new, scary modern world I’m heading into as a teacher. I guess we just have to pay attention as this generation grows up to see how things shake out from their unprecedented upbringing.

Notes on Creating Audio and Video

Today in class we learned about creating and editing audio and video. I had never done this before and I was so surprised at how easy it is.

Video has so much to offer for education. Did you know that until they videotaped a horse running, they didn’t know if all the feet ever left the ground at the same time? Being able to slow down motion can help us learn so much about the world. Alternatively, stop motion photography can help us learn about things that move slowly – metamorphosis in butterflies, respiration in plants or seasonal changes in the environment.

We focussed on iMovie today. I’m a mac user so this is software I have access to at my finger tips.

Rich McCue, from the Digital Scholarship commons came back today and walked us through some tutorials he created. You can find them here, in this post on his blog.

I did two of his tutorials. After learning some of the basics, within a short period of time I made this movie (it’s kind of long and it was my first attempt ever).

After that I followed another the green screen functionality to make this one (I would say this one is much better)


Flavours: Gimme gimme more Tahini

Tahini, also called tehina and tahina, is used through the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, the south Caucasus and North Africa. Basically, it’s an oily paste made from ground sesame seeds, like sesame butter. It has a nutty, earthy flavour with a bit of bitter. It’s commonly used in hummus, baba ghanoush, as a sauce for vegetables and falafel and a marinade for meat.Pour it on anything really, you can’t go wrong.

Something I learned from the ZAHAV cookbooks is that you need a good quality tahini. I used to buy tahini from my regular grocery store, and it would be fairly dry and non-pourable. From my reading in Ottolenghi Simple and Zahav, I learned that all tahini is not made equal, and there are strong regional differences. They recommend Lebanese, Israeli and Palestinian brands, for the creaminess and pour-ability. I went to Fig on Cedar Hill Cross Rd and got one from the Costas Brand. Pourable, creamy and delicious.

Israeli Chopped Salad

Greek salad seems somewhat ubiquitous as a concept – tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, kalamata olive and an oregano dressing. It’s everywhere and it’s a classic. Until last year, I never knew there were varieties of the same thing from elsewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean.  A while ago, I started experimenting with different sauces on this idea, using a lemon, yogurt, and oregano chicken marinade I love, orwith coriander, cumin and lemon. A key for me is always salting the tomatoes after I chop them and letting them sit in a strainer to help the water release and concentrate the flavours (osmosis!).

After reading the Ottolenghi Simple (more to come on this later), one of the first recipes I jumped onto was the Israeli Chopped Salad (tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, and red onion dressed with lemon, olive oil, garlic, tahini, cilantro and za’atar), it felt like this was what I had been missing. I am obsessed with the flavour of tahini and the combination with za’atar is PERFECT.

This salad is soooo easy to make and for the amount of delicious flavour, I don’t know if it can be beat. It’s one of those dishes you definitely don’t need a recipe for, once you get the hang of it you can combine everything to taste. Highly recommend!

Top photo taken by Marco Verch


Notes on Open Educational Resources

There are a lot of amazing programs, technology, and data sets out there, but many of them have the price tag to go with it. One way to get around paying out the wazoo is to learn more about Open Resources – data, software, and content, that are free to use, maybe modify, and even in some cases monetize. This post will list some of the resources we talked about in class.

When we talk about open resources, it’s important to know what copyright is. Copyright: applies to all works created, is assumed automatically and immediately. There are some fair use options for educational use of copyright material on the internet. There are Fair Dealing Guidelines for Canada.

Public Domain is the category for things that are available for use by all.

But all is not lost, there are so many amazing people out there focussed on Open Educational Resources. These are awesome! These can be shared online, used by anyone, improved, and shared again. Many of them have what is called a Creative Commons license.Creative Commons is a new category that allows use of copyrighted work in certain circumstances

Some of the open resources I have experience with is R, the statistical programing language, QGIS, geomatics software, and open office word processing and spreadsheet resources. But there is so much more. Did you know all the content (text at least) on Wikipedia is openly licensed!

Apparently one of the most common reasons people are heading for Open Educational Resources is for Inspiration and Ideas, which is a good sign that there’s exciting stuff going on in this area. I’m going to be saving this slide show from our class last week to make sure I can take advantage of all the different resources out there.

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