Scary, Scary Internet: Part Two

When I think of the Internet, I think of it as a useful tool.  I use it every single day, for personal reasons and for professional reasons.  So far, I have not had any negative experience online, which is honestly shocking, when you know just how prevalent it is.

Our readings for the week had us looking at online harassment and trolls.

Not these trolls
Not these trolls

Photo Credit: Pablo_JFT via Compfight cc

Most of our readings were along the same theme.  There were accounts of online harassment becoming a norm, doxxing women who speak on “issues they shouldn’t” (as if having XX chromosomes means that you aren’t allowed to discuss video games or violence toward women gamers) and how online comments are apparently on their way to becoming a thing of the past – or, anonymous comments are, at least.

In regards to that last article – CBC announced on March 17th that they would no longer be allowing anonymous comments on their articles, and if you look at the comments on the article itself, within the first two comments, someone mentions that the CBC is “killing Free speech.”

I assume what the commenter meant is that, in trying to get people to use their real name on the CBC website in order to comment, people would no longer be able to freely speak their minds.  Which is frustrating, because using your real name shouldn’t alter what you would like to say, should it? If what you have to say is within your rights to free speech, it shouldn’t make a difference if you are saying it with your real name or a pseudonym.  (Or, am I wrong? I definitely don’t want this statement to be along the same lines of “oh just don’t take naked pictures of yourself, that’s how you won’t get revenge porn.”)

Although, I can see why people would like to be anonymous online.  Not everything you do needs to be entirely connected.  I don’t always use my real name online and I have several different email addresses that I use, depending on what site I’m on. Amazon knows my real name, Imgur (I think) does not.  However, I am using neither site maliciously.

As I stated earlier, most of our readings for the week were along a similar theme. However, there was one that was a little different.

In this video, James Veitch describes, hilariously, how he essentially trolled scammers who were trying to extort money out of unsuspecting people.

The video is amusing, honestly, but it also illustrates a point.  In this, Veitch clearly knows that he is trolling someone disreputable. We, and his audience clearly agree. You can see how the audience is accepting of his tale – there is clear “what will happen next” in their expressions.

The internet is filled with stories like this. You can find listicles like the 7 Most Awesome Internet Trolls of All Times.  Within that list, is my personal favourite, that of David Thorne and his spider drawing.

spiderdrawing

Photo Credit: Spider Drawing via David Thorne cc

The email chain is funny, as are his other pranks and essays.  However, I’m wondering, is there is a fine line between the humorous trolling that Thorne and Veitch are masters at and the hate filled trolling that so many experience online?

The causality might not be there – not all funny people are also awful trolls. Certainly not all awful trolls are trying to be funny people. But perhaps some of what is happening online, can be attributed to people trying to be funny? I’m sure that this excuse is used far too often and we can all safely say that it’s not funny. (And to please stop.)

The rest of the people, the ones who are threatening to kill or hurt people online, or post the actual addresses of people who they disagree with online so that others can threaten to kill or hurt them, what about them? What can we do to stop them? I definitely don’t have a solution, but having some sort of law in place so that victims can more easily seek justice is the first step.

And, as I’ve learned from John Oliver, (I’ve now binged watched nearly every segment available on Youtube, because I probably have the same crush as Brittany.) After talking about something terrible, you need to end with something a bit lighter. So, with that in mind, here is a flock of pretentious flamingos:

Privacy Online

This week’s readings were incredibly interesting to me. Sharing online is something I think about often.  Internet Privacy is a topic that is coming up more and more often, whether at home or at school.

So much of our lives are lived online now, that Internet Privacy has a real impact in our day to day lives.  In a recent survey, it was reported that we have grown our internet consumption by 105% in the last five years.

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Photo Credit: via Quartz cc

This chart doesn’t specify what the numbers started at and what they’ve risen to, but it is still accurate to say that, in general, we spend way more time online than ever before.

I know that I am online a lot. I use the Internet before going to work, I use the Internet at school often (attendance, marks, teaching tools/aids, classroom blogging, etc.) When I come home, I am, again, often online (websites, twitter, email, class, reading, etc.)

When online, a lot of the time I am sharing. We have, as a class, been trying to create our digital footprint.  Here’s where things get dicey: when we are trying to create our own digital footprint, we have to be careful to not step on anyone else’s footprint.

This is a tricky thing and, I admit, I am guilty of taking photos in my classroom.  I have a classroom blog, (in linking to it, I hope that I am not overstepping my own boundaries) which parents give permission for me to post photos on. I have a classroom blog that is updated daily. I include what we did at school and often have pictures of kids at school.

My goal for the blog is to get parents engaged in what is happening in our classroom. Too many times I’ve heard ‘when I ask what they did at school, I get a shrug, or they can’t remember.’ I started the blog as a way for parents, who are often apprehensive of starting French Immersion, to know what is being taught in the classroom. I often have a sentence saying ‘ask your child…’ or ‘get your child to show off their skills at…’  But then, you read about how “in the good old days” kids could go to camp, or school, without parents needing to know every little thing about them.

Most of the time, at least in the past couple of years, I have found that kids love showing what they are doing at school.  I often have kids coming up to me, with their work or something they created at centre time, and ask for me to take a picture to either put on the blog or to share with their parents.

This definitely got me thinking.  There is a fine line, to be sure, between sharing and sharing too much.  One of the articles we read this week was kids telling parents “don’t post about me online.” I completely agree, if a student in my room does not want his or her picture taken, I do not put it online.

Perhaps a blog where most of the readers are parents (and sometimes grandparents) of the students in the class is not a good marker of privacy. The readership of my blog is very minimal, it is certainly not made to induce ‘fame‘ in my students.

Maybe what is needed is a checklist, similar to this one:

bf

Photo Credit: via Helen cc

Before posting pictures online, perhaps we need to think about what we are posting and how it will affect students in the future, with their own digital footprint.

As an aside: I do not have children yet, but my “checklist” for sharenting is this blog (strong language, beware!)

Making Macarons

This week I attempted to conquer one of the hardest French desserts out there:

The Macaron

512px-Multi-coloured_macarons,_September_2010

Photo Credit: julien haler via Wikimedia cc

These super pretty and very tasty treats take a lot of time to make. There are also so many recipes, all with very pretty pictures to match.

To start, I figured I would try a simple recipe, and I found one titled Basic French Macarons. The recipe is pretty simple, actually.  Combine 2/3 cups of almond flour with 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar. Sift.  Then, in a separate bowl, beat 3 egg whites and 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form, add 1tsp vanilla. Mix the flour/sugar mixture in with the egg white mixture and – Voila! You have macaron batter.

The next part is where I kind of messed up. I’m bad at guesstimating the size of things and I definitely made my first batch of macarons too small. They were adorable and still turned out well, but way too small.

With the second batch of macarons I made, using this recipe, I corrected this mistake and piped them a lot bigger. But! I forgot the crucial part to making the perfect macaron the second time: let the piped macarons dry for 15 mins on the counter before cooking them in the oven.

Due to this oversight, they did not all turn out the way they were supposed to. Luckily, I was able to find a blog that listed all of the problems that I could possibly have with my macarons and ways to maybe fix them.

Problem Possible Issues Fix
Egg whites don’t seem to stiffen Egg whites have too much water Age egg whites at least overnight.  I leave a tupperware of egg whites in the fridge at all times.
Added flavorings or coloring too early. Never add any flavorings or color until the very end. Not even spices as some have oils.
Egg whites seem to flatten or liquefy when mixing in the powdered sugar and almond meal Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source. Don’t add so much! Easy does it! If my flavoring has oil (often does), I add just a few drops just prior to piping.
Beating too hard. Fold the egg whites gently. After adding coloring and flavorings, I fold no more than 10 times.
Egg whites weren’t whipped long enough. Whip egg whites until very stiff peaks. Then whip for another three minutes.
Egg whites sat without movement for too long. Don’t waste time between steps.  Get a move on it.
Top of Macaron seems bumpy or blemished. Too many chunks of almond meal or flour  in the batter. Sift the almond flour before using.
Too many chunks of almond meal or flour  in the batter. Process the almond meal in a food processor for a longer period of time.
Macarons maintain a stiff peak after piping and baking. Batter too stiff. Fold a few more times or add just a few drops of liquid (flavoring, coloring, or water).
Batter too stiff. Rap the bottom of the pan on the counter to flatten.  I heard macarons are particularly fond of Sir-Mix-A-Lot.
Macarons liquify after piping.  They can also run into each other and hold hands. Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source. Don’t add so much! Easy does it!
Beating too hard. Fold the egg whites gently. After adding coloring and flavorings, I fold no more than 10 times.
Egg whites weren’t whipped long enough. Whip egg whites until very stiff peaks. Then whip for another three minutes.
Batter got warm or over-handled with piping Pipe macarons quickly taking care to not hold the piping bag in your hands too often.
Piped batter too closely. Pipe macarons further away from each other.
No feet develop. Batter is too wet. See the liquefying problem.
Air was beaten out of the batter. Gently fold the batter.  Quit messing with it!
Too much flavoring, color, or additional liquid source making the batter too wet to rise. Don’t add so much! Easy does it!
Luck. Sometimes, things just happen.
Macarons crack on top when baking.  There are two types of cracks.  1. Macaron is too delicate. 2. The foot develops on top creating a large bubbly crack. Shell too delicate because the batter was too wet. See fixes for egg whites flattening.
Macarons did not dry to form a shell on top prior to baking. Allow macarons to dry for longer periods of time.  Heat up the oven to dry out to the room or use a hair dryer to dry the macarons.  Or turn on the heater or air conditioner to dry out the room.  The top of the macarons should be very dry to the touch prior to baking.
Temperature too high when baking in humidity.  Humidity kills. Lower oven temperature when higher humidity levels. In dry weather, I bake for 11 minutes at 350. In medium humidity, I bake for 12 minutes at 325.  In wet weather, I bake for 13 minutes as 305 degrees.
Macarons stick to the bottom of the pan.  Perfect ones will pop off cleanly. Baking surface was a bit dirty. Make sure baking surface is thoroughly clean prior to piping.
Silpat is old or cheap. Go for the gusto and buy the expensive stuff. Some people use parchment, but I’m a huge believer in the silpat.
The bottoms are not fully baked. Bake for a while longer. Check every 45 seconds.
The tops of Macarons come off, but the bottoms remain stuck to the pan. Baking surface was a bit dirty. Make sure baking surface is thoroughly clean prior to piping.
Silpat is old or cheap. Go for the gusto and buy the expensive stuff. Some people use parchment, but I’m a huge believer in the silpat.
The bottoms are not fully baked. Bake for a while longer. Check every 45 seconds.
Luck. Fill the tops with extra filling and stick them together anyways. Scrap off the bottoms and eat them.
Macarons are inconsistent. Some are perfect, some are terrible. Uneven airflow. Bake only one pan at a time.
Uneven airflow.  Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Uneven airflow. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door cracked.
Temperature change in batter or over-handling in piping. Work quickly and don’t mess with the batter.
Luck. Sometimes, things just happen.
Macarons rise and then deflate. Removing from heat before fully baking. Leave them in the oven until they are done. I’ve accidentally taken macarons out of the oven when they are only needing to be rotated.  That’s how I learned this lesson.  Re-baking them does not fix the problem.

Final Verdict: Really Good!

I was able to make very decent tasting macarons. They didn’t look the best – the first batch wasn’t the best, due to their small size and the second batch didn’t develop “feet” like they were supposed to. But, all in all, it went pretty well for my first attempt at this tricky dessert! I’m happy and will probably try this again sometime soon!

Here is my picture of my pretty macarons, both big and teeny tiny!

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Here is a link to my live tweeting of this macaron adventure!

 

When Data is Out of Date

Last week’s readings were connected to the idea of Open Education and the idea that barriers should be removed between the learner and the thing that they are trying to learn.  Sharing information helps others gain knowledge. It’s a simple statement.  If you are able to share what you know, others can benefit and, more than likely, synthesis that information and create something new with it. (Which is the goal, according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, right?)

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Photo Credit: mrpetersononline via Compfight cc

It’s also true to say that Open Education is aided by the technology available today.  It’s easier to share ideas and information now, more than ever. And that information can help others out enormously.  When I was watching The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, (which was an incredibly sad story) I saw, near the end, proof that Aaron Swartz had the right idea, that information should be free. One of the speakers talks about a boy, Jack Andraka, and how he used online journals that Aaron Swartz had publicized to create a test for early cancer diagnosis.  So, I looked up more about Jack Andraka and found a TED talk where he describes the process of creating this test for pancreatic cancer.

It’s incredible. He was intrinsically motivated to create something brand new and was helped and further motivated by the information that he could access online. From this we can see that there is merit to Open Education, to our ideas and knowledge being shared as soon as we can.

There is also the fact that a lot of our current data is out of date.  As Chayln said, “as an educator, sometimes our materials are out of date, as we have to track down many of our own resources to use in the classroom” What is widely available within our schools and in our libraries is not always the best, up to date information. That’s why it’s so important to have current data. It can change so much over the course of a couple of years, or even a couple of months.

While wasting time on one of my favourite websites, Imgur, I came across a post of Hans Rosling arguing with a newscaster. It was this video:

But, on Imgur, there are only gifs or pictures, so the orignal poster had taken screenshots that you could read through his arguements about the fact that the news media is not reporting the actual facts.  From there, I googled Hans Rosling and found his TED talk. Admittedly, it is from 2006 and is now ten years old. But it still illustrates a key point.  Our worldview, and our current data available within our classrooms is out of date. When you actually look at information available online, you can develop tons of other ideas. Rosling ends the TED talk with a hope that more information will be able to shared and that we will have new and better ways of sharing, which links back to Aaron Swartz and what he was doing just a few years after this TED talk was published.

Rosling’s TED talk also illustrates what happens when data is out of date. With out of date data (essentially the wrong information) we can draw the wrong conclusions.  We need to have correct, up to date, information widely available for our students to be able to create new and exciting ideas.

Classic French Madeleines

This week I made Classic French Madeleines for my learning project.  As usual, I had a lot of recipes to choose from.  I’ve talked about this before, but I was thinking it over as I decided between the different recipes.  I know that my decision wasn’t a big one, it probably won’t even be the biggest I make this evening!

Turns out, having too much choice is not a good thing and can create anxiety.  Before choosing which recipe I would go with, I read about why having too much choice is making you unhappy and why too much choice is stressing us out. Both articles seem to point out that the internet is one of the causes of having too many options, allowing us to see all the possibilities and then, finally, not choose them.

Anyway, back to the madeleines.  The recipe I decided to go with is a Classic French Madeleine recipe from Julia Child. My friend at school happened to have a madeleine pan that she let me borrow, so I didn’t need to buy one just for this recipe!

The recipe was actually quite simple, in comparison to other things that I’ve made so far.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon All purpose flour (Maida)
  • 140 grams unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Slightly beat the eggs in a bowl. Measure ¼ cup of eggs into a bowl.
  2. Then beat in the sugar and the cup of flour. Add little more egg ( a tablespoon at a time), if the batter is too dry. When thoroughly blended, set aside and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan, bring it to the boil, and let it brown lightly. Set aside.
  4. Place the 1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl and blend in 1½ tablespoons of the browned butter. Paint the Madeleine cups with the butter-flour mixture. Set aside.
  5. Stir the rest of the butter over ice until cool but liquid. Mix the butter with the last of the eggs along with salt, lemon rind and juice and vanilla.
  6. Add this mixture to the resting batter and stir well. Allow the batter to rest for 10 more minutes. If you want a big hump in the middle which is so characteristic about Madeleines, allow the batter to rest for one hour at room temperature or couple of hours in the refrigerator.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 F, and set the racks in upper and lower middle levels. Divide the batter into 24 lumps of a generous tablespoon each, and drop them into the Madeleine cups. Bake in the preheated oven, 20 minutes, until the cakes are slightly browned around the edges, humped in the middle, and slightly shrunk from the cups.
  8. Un-mold onto a rack. When cool, turn shell side up and dust with confectioners sugar for serving. (dusting is optional). They will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two in an airtight container.

Sounds simple, right?

I followed the directions perfectly and made, even if I’ve never had them before, decent madeleines.  However, during the process I was a little frustrated. The pictures on the websites never look like what I am creating. On the blog post the pictures of the batter showed a very liquid batter. Mine, however, was very dry and looked more like cookie dough than cake batter.  (Not to worry, in the end, my madeleines turned out really well!)

What got me thinking, though, is how difficult it is to learn a new skill on the internet without an expert around.  I’ve been using the food bloggers as my experts, as they’ve usually tried the recipes that I am attempting.  It’s wonderful to be able to cross reference their pictures and opinions with other pictures and videos as well.

Luckily, most food bloggers are not looking to troll others trying out their recipes and therefore they can be mostly trusted. (I hope!)

However, if you are trying to learn a skill without a clear expert, sometimes you have to spend a lot more time researching and verifying that your ‘expert’ is, in fact, the read deal. Or, you can use different websites to check out your source!

And, to finish this blog post, here is the end result of my madeleines! (Final Verdict: Delicious!!)

IMG_4530

Scary, Scary Internet

I teach five-year-olds, 22 of them, every day.  (22 is SO MANY five-year-olds). At the beginning of the year, we start with the very basics. We go over how to listen at our tables. We go over how to show that you are listening on the carpet. We go over how to ask to join someone at play time. We essentially start from scratch and build knowledge so that, after not that long, I hardly need to remind them other than “Wow, look at how nice so-and-so is listening to Madame.” It’s an amazing thing.

My Kinders listening to a story
My Kinders listening to a story

Kids who join in after that initial “starting from scratch” are also quick to pick up the cues. I usually have around three kids join my classroom after September.  It helps that the rest of the class knows our routines and are excellent at helping others.

This happens in so many classrooms. It’s what we were taught in our Education classes.  Routines and procedures first, awesome and amazing things next! (You should see my centre time with 22 five-year-olds. It’s incredible).

Centre time!
Centre time!

What I’m getting at here, is that as teachers we start at the beginning – wherever our kids are at when we get them.  We start at the beginning and build to get them further.  This is true for how we want kids to walk down the hall or how we want them to put their hand up.

So why is this any different with the internet? This week’s (and last week’s) recommended and required articles and videos had me asking that question.  (One of the articles had the best quote:  Yik Yak under attack in Chilliwack). Is it any different than starting with the basics wherever our learners are at and then building with them how to use the internet or apps in our classrooms?

If, indeed, it is similar to how we teach students to follow routines, then why are there still so many scary articles? Are we not teaching these things and instead outright banning them?

As an aside, on the banning front, it’s not working well. Banning useful tools is super frustrating. This past week I was trying to save a YouTube clip so that I could share it later (the upstairs wing of my school is notoriously bad for internet connection) and I couldn’t! The sites that I use at home, to save YouTube clips were all restricted at my school and I had to hope and pray that the internet would work later instead of having the sure thing ready to go.

I guess I am just starting out in my Edtech journey, but it already is very frustrating to hear negative stories about the very scary internet and apps that are out there.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
H.P. Lovecraft

I think that we need to teach students how to use it, properly. Banning and worrying and wringing our hands won’t stop the new, cool things from being invented or liked by our students. If we are proactive and teach them how to go about navigating the scary, scary internet, maybe it won’t be so scary?