Social Activism: What do you Have to Risk?

What is Social Activism?

Activism.  According to Anjali Appadurai’s Ted Talk: What is Activism? They define activism as:

“The practice of addressing an issue, by challenging those in power. It is an act done by civil society directed towards a system of governance.”

In addition, according to Shahla Ghobadi, an assistant professor from the University of Manchester.  She describes social activism as a broad range of activities that are beneficial to society or particular interest groups.  Social activists operate in groups to voice and educate for change targeting global crises using social media.  Social activism could include examples of:

Let’s face it, social media has engulfed most of our lives in some way.  Many of our students use social media every day.  Often it is the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we look at before bed.  The majority of information that our students receive will be through social media.  A campus newspaper I found from New University: the University of California discussed that we are in a Hashtag generation, which could inform and inspire us to take action, start a movement, and allow our voices to be heard. As educators, it is important for us to embrace social media, and promote students to become digital citizens to learn how to participate in social media to its greatest extent.

The Benefits of Social Activism: 

Social Media provides an avenue for people to be heard.  Often we only hear from people who had large amounts of influence, money, and power. It was their opinions that mattered (still largely is the same way today).  In today’s digital age it provides a voice for others.  We are able to hear from people who are from marginalized communities, including but not limited to, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, indigenous, refugees, etc. Many of these people have not had a platform where their voices could be heard to the level of the traditional media.

Another benefit of social media also provides a raw view of the world around us.  The media is not necessarily involved.  By people joining in on social media for a cause, brings awareness to issues that may otherwise be dismissed. All the post needs is a spark. This is what happened with the #FlintWaterCrisis.

Furthermore, by participating in social activism you are making a statement.  As Katia Hildebrant from the University of Regina states, 

If we are online, as educators, and we remain silent about issues of social justice, if we tweet only about educational resources and not about the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in Canada, or about the burning of Black churches in the southern United States, we are sending a clear message: These issues are not important.

As Katia explains, we have a responsibility to use our privilege to speak out, to participate in meaningful ways to promote equity in networked spaces.

We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.

– Katia Hildebrandt

The Threats of Social Activism:

Many believe that the act of social activism may only create the impression of activism.  This has been found in many of the articles that I have read. By changing a profile picture, liking a tweet, or 1 like = 1 prayer posts on Facebook that the older generation seem to enjoy, raises the question, is my contribution only surface deep? Online activism: it’s easy to click, but just as easy to disengage questions,

“Is your contribution deeper than a click?”

In addition, we have also seen the impact of how social activism campaigns have impacted many governments across the world.  Many countries have internet filtering and have blocked access to several websites, or conduct internet surveillance.

A couple key countries to ban social media that stand out include China and Bangladesh. China’s Internet Censorship Agency has its own internet censorship song (which is interesting, to say the least).  The reason why it was banned is that citizens used it to organize protests that turned into riots.  Currently, Facebook and Twitter are only accessible in a small region of Shanghai, or in Hong Kong.

Bangladesh’s social media ban was put in place due to a Supreme Court decision to uphold the death sentence of two men for war crimes. It never has been reinstated.

Furthermore, another threat of social media is the idea of “doxxing”.  Doxxing is publicly spreading information about individuals with the intention of harming their social or work lives.  This is truly a terrifying situation where it ensures that people are kept accountable for their online actions.

What do I Have to Risk?

Writing this blog post has made me think deeply about the impact that I have had regarding social media activism. Am I making a difference? Am I being complacent in taking the cause further? By posting on Social Media how can you participate in productive conversations online?

We must ask ourselves:

  • Is my involvement only surface level?
  • How can I take this further, what can I do to be more involved in the cause or in the conversation?
  • What is our role in educating youth the potential of social media

We have a lot of privilege to live in Canada with access to technology that we do. Just as we teach students to become personally responsible citizens, it is equally important to teach them to become participatory citizens and justice orientated citizens.

As Katia points out, access to technology comes down to privilege. As the Pew Research Center has discovered, “Black and Hispanic social media users are more likely to say these sites are personally important for getting involved with issues, expressing their political views”.

We are often held back by posting on social media as we are fearful that our posts, comments, photos, etc. could have negative consequences leading to the loss of our jobs, or making us unhireable. We have seen this happen, most recently with the firing of Don Cherry from Sportsnet (although not produced through social media, but nonetheless a platform used to reach a vast amount of Canadians), and we have seen this in the recent federal election with politicians stepping down due to inappropriate comments made on social media.

Brooke highlights in her blog post Social Media Activism… Are We There Yet?:

Even if people choose not to participate in these discussions on social change, the hashtags, news articles, videos, that they find on their social media platforms make it difficult to ignore.

I agree with Brooke, that the power that social media has in inspiring people to become participatory citizens or social justice citizens in addition to socially responsible citizens is due to the fact that social media campaigns make these issues hard to ignore. It provides a venue where previously we were not a part of these discussions but now we are able to participate.

If we have the privilege to be a part of these conversations and discussions we need to step up and have our voices be heard, standing in solidarity with those who do not have such privilege. If we do not have discussions on social media due to living in fear of the consequences of our social media activities it is a result of our privilege. I echo as Katia and many of my other colleagues such as Brooke, and Catherine, as we all believe social justice needs to be taught. By not participating and staying silent tells the world that the issues are not important. However we as educators have the opportunity to teach students about social media by teaching them to become participatory, and social justice citizens. And it just so happens that social media provides the avenue to make these issues relevant to our students.

Week 7: Creating a Simple Calculator

This week I attempted to code a game with my GUI and Tkinter using the code that I have created in a different week with the text-based game that I created.  I discovered that this was actually A LOT more advanced than I had anticipated. However, the learning gained through this process was valuable.

One of my struggles last week was to figure out how to make buttons disappear when they are clicked.  That was a success.  This was due to the online forum Stack Exchange which allows people to ask questions about their code.

I am currently finding it difficult to take my code and apply the attack and heal buttons to execute the math equations that I want it to do.  This has turned out to be the current delay of the game.

I seem to be stuck in a cycle of trying to figure out why something is NOT working, as well as trying to figure out what something IS working.   In coding, there is something called Rubber Duck debugging. This involves talking through code to your rubber duck in the hopes that talking through your problem we can understand what the issue is.  As strange and silly as this may sound, this could be used in a lot of other applications.  Imagine a situation where we can encourage students to decipher and problem solve by taking the problem, decomposing the problem into smaller pieces.  Recognize patterns, filter information, and organize steps in order to solve problems. By talking through problems to my rubber duck (yes, I have one on my bookshelf next to my computer) it allows me to troubleshoot by myself, then I can take my issues to the next level asking for help. Imagine if we trained students to use this level of thinking and independence? This way of thinking also is the foundation of Computational Thinking.

However, in my frustration, I decided to take on another challenge.  Building a simple calculator.  Using the GeeksforGeeks website, I was able to discover a tool that walking me step by step into creating a working calculator.  Now, this calculator that I have created could be improved.  And I feel as I may switch gears in the future to see how I could implement something such as brackets, exponents to add on to my calculator.  My hope is that I can take these skills from this activity and apply them to complete my game in the future.

Below is my video that talks about the calculator that I have created this week using Tkinter and Python:

Week 6: Creating a GUI (Graphic User Interface on Python)

About GUIs:

This week I focused on learning about Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs), what they are and how to use them.  According to Computer Hope,  GUI us a system of interactive components such as icons, and other graphical objects that help a user interact with computer software.  A GUI is often pronounced as G-U-I or as “gooey”.

Everyone who has operated a computer has seen a GUI.  A GUI can look like the following:









The following video Crash Course video explains all about GUIs.

Learning Project using Python on my Raspberry Pi to Create a GUI:

This week was all about learning how to create a GUI within Python.  I used many different tools such as the website LikeGeeks. This website broke down all the components of GUI’s and how I was able to add widgets such as text, buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes, images, menus.

Below are some of my creations for the week.

This photo highlights the code required to create a Combo box, a menu that provides a dropdown with a list.

The following shows a label, “Hello”, and a button “Click Me”.









The upcoming week I hope to take my new GUI knowledge and apply it to the game that I have created prior.  Instead of using the command line, the user will hopefully be able to interact with the screen to play the game.

On first attempt, this was proven to be difficult as I found that it is difficult to make the button provide new information and then disappear, something that sounds so simple I tried to complete for well over an hour and a half.  Hopefully by using resources such as stack overflow, an online forum, will help me troubleshoot some of my issues.

11 Reasons to Use OER Commons in Your Classroom

Definition of OER:

According to OER commons, an OER is “Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

What is OER Commons:

OER Commons is a free digital library of resources for teachers.  OER is a part of the worldwide movement that states, “Human right to access high-quality education.” Teachers can search for resources or use the Open Author tool to create lessons or documents.

Open resources are always free, but free resources do not always mean open.  For example, OER commons explains that free resources may introduce fees to access these resources.  Furthermore, free resources that may not be modified, adapted or redistributed are not considered to be OER.

Instructional Videos on How to Use OER Commons Effectively

ISKME has curated a list of How-To videos on navigating OER Commons.  This list provides teachers with the necessary videos to navigate the 30,000 resource database.

OER Commons Connecting with Each Other To Provide Cross-Curricular Learning Experiences

Why Should You Use OER Commons?

1.  Saved or shared through Google Classroom.

OER Commons allows you to create your lessons within their platform and then transfer the lessons, modules or resources to your Google Classroom.

2.  Can search by education standards (Currently only common core)

While searching for resources within OER Commons it allows the user to filter resources through searching by specific standards. Currently, you can only search by the standards used in the United States, but educators in Canada may find it useful to filter to certain standards that match to their outcomes.

3.  Can search and filter by subject area, education level, material type, language, and provider.

Due to the volume of resources that are found on OER Commons, it is important that you filter your resources the best that you can.  As it takes time to go through all the resources available.

4.  1000s of resources make it crucial to filter out resources in order to find quality resources.

OER Commons features over 30,000 resources that educators can use to meet their classroom needs.  As said previously, be sure to filter, and use the user rating to find resources that are quality resources rated by other educators.

5.  Promotes Collaboration between educators

One of the 21st century learning skills is collaboration.  OER Commons allows educators to collaborate with one another through the creation of groups.  If educators are promoting collaboration with their students, OER provides opportunities for educators to collaborate together.

6.  Educators are able to adapt for their own as the resources are through the public domain.

OER Commons should be the first stop shop for teachers looking for resources.  OER Commons allows educators to adapt their content to the needs of their students.  The ability to use their built-in lesson editor provides an easy way to alter lesson plans and resources.

7.  Access to textbooks, multimedia, and research-based practices for free.

Not only are their lesson plans available for use, but there is access to textbooks, multimedia resources, research-based practices for free.  These resources provide educators with additional resources to supplement the learning already in the classroom.

8.  Keep information current, by adapting information people can keep their information current and up to date.

Due to the ability to adapt the information in OER Commons many resources are fairly current and up to date. It is important that we are providing students with relevant information.

9.  You can take training and PD through ISKME, the group that created OER commons. View webinars and other resources.

OER Commons provides PD training and offers webinars about their services in addition to learning more about Open Educational resources in general.  They pride their PD as educators teaching educators about OER.

10.  Build your own modules, resources and lesson builder

The ability to create and share modules, resources, and lessons is built into the program itself. This provides an easy way for educators to share what they have created with other teachers.

11.  View collections of resources such as STEAM, Ancient Civilizations, and various educational textbooks.

OER Commons has curated resources around popular subjects such as STEAM, Ancient Civilizations, and countless others.  This provides educators with easy searching by providing fully indexed collections of resources.  To find exactly what educators want and need.


Week 5: Minecraft Selfies

This week in my learning project I decided to use a Raspberry Pi.  A  Raspberry Pi is a small computer that promotes teaching basic computer science in schools.

This has been my first project with the Raspberry Pi.   There are numerous tutorials online that will work through how to code using a variety of different lessons.  This week I decided to look into one called Minecraft Selfies, as I was inspired by Meeno Rami’s guest appearance last week.  I decided to buy a Raspberry Pi camera module and experiment with Minecraft Pi.  Minecraft has its own free version on the Raspberry Pi.  This plays as normal Minecraft, but I can add some code to the game.

Check out what I did this week!