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Calligraphy Update!

This week I focused on comparing platforms in order to learn calligraphy skills. Which platforms were useful, and which were not? What lessons could I learn from my own learning process to share with my students?  I created a video to share this week’s learning. Side note: I feel like I am really doing two learning projects: calligraphy and video editing. I really should start documenting my learning process for this as well; I can see that my videos are getting better, but there are now things that bug me — I need to make better title slides, and figure out how to fade music more effectively. Anyway, lots of learning!


Reddit… I read it

So, I am choosing to explore Reddit. A number of people I know talk about Reddit, and I’ve been on it before but I don’t understand how it works, or who it is for; nor do I understand how to navigate the platform. My initial sense is that people seem to talk about it like it’s a niche demographic who uses it, but I don’t know who that demographic is. It seems to be the kind of thing people say “if you know, you know” to. I have no idea if that’s accurate. So, time to explore, and I’m off to create an account!

Ok, so I was able to sign up with my Google account, which also happens to be my work account. It immediately asked me my gender, and then asked me three different things I would like to see in my feed, similar to other platforms. During class when we talked about the Twitter feed I went on and followed the #eci833 feed. Mike had tweeted  a video about why he had quit Twitter. Here it is:

This gave me some insight to the Reddit demographic, and kind of tracked what my limited impressions already were: people who think they know stuff…? 

Next, Reddit asked me to choose a community to be a part of. I don’t understand how the communities work, or what a sub-Reddit is. I assume I will figure that out…

All right, I’ve spent some time on the Reddit app, but to be honest, I’m still not really sure who or what this platform is for, or how it is significantly different from other platforms. I’m able to scroll videos, and the app leads me to more like videos. There’s a comment section, and then an up vote or down vote button – I suppose the down vote is a bit different. It’s certainly more text based than Instagram or TikTok, and FB as well, which speaks to the play on the title “I read it.” There are a lot of pics and videos on my stream, but I also see a lot more writing than my other social platforms, so that’s one major difference. I think I am going to spend a bit of time exploring what other people have to say about the platform. 

This blog explains that Reddit is “Reddit isn’t often mentioned alongside the “big” social networks, though it’s one of the most influential. It boasts 420 million users — 20% higher than the population of the United States — and receives more traffic than Amazon with over 1 billion monthly unique visitors. Reddit continues to grow by double digits every year, adding 25% more users in 2020 and 14% more in 2021. That growth, combined with 40% of Gen Z searching social platforms for info instead of Google, makes Reddit a unique opportunity for brands.” Apparently it labels itself as “the front page of the internet” so that gives me some more context for the site. 

Ok, so another explanation I found helpful is this: “Reddit is a social network with a forum-style discussion structure. Users create posts in topic-based communities — called subreddits — and interact in comment threads. Every thread has an OP (original poster) who started it. Users can also vote content by others “up” or “down” the algorithm.” Now I understand the big picture concept of subreddits, and why I am getting the context that I am on my feed. I liked that the writer above also explained the site as kind of a cross between a forum and a more modern social networking site – hence the focus on the written element. 

Later on in the same article author Michelle Martin identifies some primary uses on Reddit:

  • To ask for help with a specific problem, such as tech tutorials (or big life crises)
  • Subscribing to subreddits to stay informed about their favorite topics
  • Connecting with others who share their interests
  • To learn something new (check out r/IWantToLearn)
  • For entertainment via memes, humor subreddits, or to discuss TV or movies

Once I finished reading Martin’s article, I found I had a much better understanding of the purpose of Reddit, and how people used it. Another article I read explained some popular acronyms unique to the site, or perhaps initially generated by the site. Here are some common ones, taken from the TechTarget article:

  •  ELI5: Explain like I’m 5 — A term used when redditors want something explained to them in very simple terms, as if they were a five-year-old asking for the answer to a question. A popular subreddit, explainlikeimfive, exists for this very purpose.
  • TLDR or TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read — In some longer posts or comments, redditors may place a, “TLDR” at the end of their text for the purpose of shortening what they wrote if other redditors do not want to take the time to read the entire post.
  • NSFW: Not safe for work — When redditors make a post or comment that has explicit content, it is marked with this acronym to let other redditors know not to view the content at work or any place where explicit material would be unsuitable.
  • TIL: Today I learned — Used mainly in the form of “TIL” posts, this term is used when redditors want to share something new they learned.
  • OP: Original poster — The redditor who created the initial post.
  • AMA: Ask me anything — A popular acronym used on Reddit’s “IAmA” subreddit, where redditors can post “AMA” threads. This is another name for a Q&A thread, where redditors answer questions about their life and, usually, their occupation. President Barack Obama made headlines when he participated in an AMA on Aug. 29, 2012. He was the first sitting president to do so.

I have heard of some of these, specifically AMA and NSFW. AMA has become common in other platforms as well, but I primarily associate it with Reddit, so I assume it originated from the platform. I wondered where the NSFW acronym originated from, but as I googled it, I learned it wasn’t Reddit where it originated, but apparently Snopes. 

After all this I had a much better sense of how the platform worked, but I still had no sense of its users. I mean, I have a general sense of who uses Facebook – 35 plus for stalking purposes, 45 plus for actual sharing of content (please note these statements are solely based on my own observations and interactions with various platforms). Instagram seems to be a cross over of young and old, though my feed seems to indicate that it’s used by primarily 20-50 year old women. Finally, TikTok is the land of the youth… I know these are pretty broad terms, but I have an overall sense of the vibe of these platforms, and I don’t for Reddit, outside a vague know-it-all kind of feeling that I can’t pinpoint the root of. Anyway, I looked up some of these memes below, as they proved helpful to visualize what I was trying to identify above. Dolly and Sex and the City memes make the platform purpose pretty clear. 

I then searched for comparable memes using Reddit, and I found a few helpful images. This image is from Reddit itself, and while it didn’t help me understand the general vibe or demographic of the platform, it did help me understand the way it’s used compared to other platforms I am more familiar with:

One of the other things I think is really interesting is the way the algorithm curates the “front page” of Reddit. One article described it as based solely on upvotes, but as I explored this a bit further, I realized this is not exactly true. JungleTopp explains it this way: “Reddit uses a story algorithm, meaning the number of votes and submission time of links have the biggest impact on how stories rank on the platform. Reddit also ranks items by the number of votes they accumulate, as well as the age of the post compared to others. This is what makes the front page always appear fresh to a new user.” However, I’m not sure if this means I will get a wider range of content on my front page, or if it will work like other platforms, and give me more of what I seem to like via my engagement with the app. Ostensibly, it should be the former, but I’m unconvinced, given my current front page of funny memes, ChatGPT and satisfying videos. 

In terms of the platform’s usefulness to teachers or students, I found a few articles that seemed to suggest that it could be helpful. This American Board article suggested a few specific subreddits that could be helpful. One, simply identified as “Teachers” “is loaded with educators from across the country asking questions, telling their stories, and discussing common frustrations. Occasionally, students will also pop-up on the forum. They often ask for advice on how to handle a situation with their teachers. The forum provides a safe space to ask questions, get answers, and brainstorm ideas outside of the classroom.” Another subreddit is designated as teaching resources, and there are many more specific to subject area. I checked out the ELA subreddit, and found some interesting conversations, like this one about ChatGPT in the ELA classroom. However, there was a lot of information and it was kind of all over the place – from pictures of proms, to requests for ELA lit recommendations for middle school, to grade 9 ELA paper topics to meme sharing. It seemed like a lot to navigate so I’m not sure how much I would use it. 

In terms of student use, I did read an article from called “5 Ways to Use Reddit for Studying.” If you can find a community that actually shared similar class content, I can see how this could be quite helpful. Because the platform is so text based, it looks like it would be quite easy to share issues with content in terms of specific subject areas. I searched on Reddit to see if I could find anything with active students. I randomly chose chemistry, and quickly found this link to a subreddit focused on chemistry help. It is an incredibly active sub (lingo for subreddit, look at me go!), with many posts in the last few days. There seems to be quite an active community, and I think this could be of use to students in terms of help with specific subject area content, especially at the high school level. 

My general assessment: we will see! I don’t think I have spent enough time yet exploring the platform to know if it’s something I will use regularly. However, I’ll continue to check it out as I’m scrolling in bed at night, and keep you posted as to my overall assessment! I would like to explore enough to at least know if this meme is funny. Or to understand it. 

First steps… or rather, first strokes!

This week I started figuring out where to begin my lettering journey. Or, as Jaquie called it, Clark’s Calligraphy. I went online and bought some beginner pens, soon to be delivered a couple of days later. 

As I waited for the pens to arrive I went down a lettering TikTok hole and learned a lot. First, there are a number of different kinds of lettering styles and pens – really, too many to list. When I thought about doing this, I just kind of have “fancy writing” in my head, done with a fancy slanted pen. And, as it turns out, that might not be too far off a definition. Loveleigh Loops defines calligraphy as “Calligraphy, or the art of beautiful handwriting, is a very broad term that encompasses what can only be described as a global tradition.  With the earliest examples of calligraphy going back thousands of years, the art of writing texts that are written beautifully and arranged according to ideals of harmony has been around for a long time. Calligraphy is not only an ancient artistic expression, it’s also an art form that has been practiced all around the world.” So really… fancy writing.

I used this same calligraphy website to get a concise overview of the different types of calligraphy in order to decide what it was that I really wanted to learn. After reading about Western, Eastern, and Arabic calligraphy, I read up on the different styles of Western calligraphy. I realized that the traditional calligraphy, the kind I was so interested in when I was young, was not as appealing to me now as a more modern style of brush calligraphy. See the difference in this pic from Loveleighloops:

After reading this I took a look at some videos comparing the types of calligraphy; I wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted. And, I wanted to look at some of the language and terminology used so I knew what else to search for when I wanted to watch more videos. Here’s a pretty good example of the difference between the classic style and a more modern style:

I also liked this video in that it showed the similarities between the two styles a little more clearly:

After my pens arrived, I realized that I needed to buy some sort of device to film my learning process. So, I watched a bunch of videos on tripods and iphone devices, then read a bunch of reviews on Amazaon, and then got overwhelmed and just texted my techy friend Will, and he sent me a link to this tripod set up

It came a couple of days later, and I was now ready to actually start trying out my new hobby. After googling how to set up the tripod and getting it ready to go, I decided to try out my new pens. The set came with 8 pens for beginner calligraphy, and I didn’t know what these different pens did. So, I tried them out, writing my name. I recognized the difference in pen purpose from my learning about the different styles of calligraphy. Some of these pens are for modern, brush lettering style of calligraphy, and others are for the more traditional style. You can see them in the video I made below. 

Side note: the longest part of this process today was actually learning how to edit the video I took, and then uploading it to YouTube so I could use it for my blog. I use CapCut to edit, and then I had to figure out how to rotate the video. I used this YouTube vid to teach me this.

And then somehow it made it really small, and I realized I could just do this right on my photos in iphone 😣. Anyway, I re-imported the vid into CapCut and learned how to speed it up. No one wants to watch 2 minutes of slow uncapping, writing, and capping. So, I found another YouTube video that showed me how to do that:

Then, as I watched it back, I realized the background noise was terrible, so I figured out how to silence that, and then I wondered how to put in some music. As I was doing that, I noticed a voice over button, so I tried that out, and that’s what I ended up using. I think that feature will serve me well in making my own learning story at the end of the class.  

Up next: practicing the basic elements of calligraphy! Details to come next week…

To post or not to post…

My relationship with social media is mixed at best. I drastically vacillate between enjoying the engagement that comes from talking with old friends and connecting with people I maybe don’t see on a regular basisa and hating the pressure and anxiety that comes with social media. Some of the questions I struggle with include how to navigate the tension between how I use social media on a personal level, and how I use social media on a professional level, and how I use social media in terms of social justice platform. I think inherently I don’t love to post things on social media because it either feels like a) I am bragging or b) like I am yelling at a whole bunch of people to look at a random picture of my cute dog.

In terms of social media platforms, I have a personal Instagram page that I keep fairly small, limited to people I have relationships with currently. This is about the only place I post anything and usually it’s a story that disappears within 24 hours. I have a Facebook page that remains in order to stalk people as needed, mostly limited in usefulness to stalking people over the age of 35.  I have a TikTok account that I used to consume vast quantities of videos about dogs, musical theater, Karens doing Karen things, military officers coming home to see their dogs, musical theater dogs, babies, aesthetically pleasing men with their dogs (Hi Brodie!), and finally, random forays into other strange worlds like preppers and the Drake Passage. Oh, and skin care. In short, I use my personal social media primarily for entertainment purposes. 

I also have a Twitter account that I use professionally and, I realize, politically. To be honest, most of my news comes from Twitter but with the change in Twitter power it certainly has made me highly aware of what sources I am consuming, and I find myself trusting and using the site less frequently. This has been the space where I follow professional sources, educational sites, and where I amplify the voices of others, where I engage with social justice issues, and otherwise engage on a professional or political level. 

As part of Balfour Arts Collective, we maintain a Facebook page, a webpage, an Instagram site, and a Twitter page. Each of these platforms seems to target different audiences, and myself and another colleague do the lion’s share of the posting for BAC. To be honest, it’s a weight sometimes. I do feel the pressure to post because it’s good for our program in that it lets people know what we’re doing and engages parents in the community in student learning. However, as with any other social media platform, consistent posting is key in engaging the community and I find that exhausting at times. 

In a recent class I took with Alec Couros we engaged in a series of debates relevant to educational technology. One of the debates was regarding teachers’ responsibility to use social media to advocate for social justice issues.  I struggle with this issue. Here are some of my thoughts from my blog on the discussion:

“Some may think we have a deep responsibility to use our own social media platforms to advocate for social justice issues, to advocate for change. But….

I disagree. 

Let me be clear: I am not against using social media to advocate for others, or to draw attention to issues our students and communities are facing, or to draw attention to broader global issues. I have no problems with this [and in fact think it’s fantastic!]. I do disagree with those that suggest teachers must use their social media platforms to promote social justice. 


I hate the idea that the way we do the work – the work of social justice, the work of engaging in creating equitable spaces for all, must be mandated. We are different people, with different personalities. Not everyone has an online presence, and not everyone wants an online presence. Why does activism have to take place on social media? What if some choose to do the work – and so many obviously do – through other means? There are a multitude of ways we can advocate for social justice that do not involve social media. Like, doing real, live things to help people, rather than just posting about it. I strongly disagree with the poster below. This assumes so much about educators with so little actual information. I would argue that statements like this do more harm than good; they divide in their insistence that social justice must look a certain way. It is incredibly disrespectful to those educators who work hard to create equity and to fight against injustice in ways other than social media.

I have such a bad taste in my mouth from those who are often so vocal on social media, but don’t follow their words with meaningful actions. In the day of performative activism (if activism didn’t happen on social media, did it happen at all?), it sits especially heavy.”

As I read these words back that I wrote about a month ago, I still feel this same way. I want to use my social media platform to advocate for change. But I don’t want to assume that if someone is not, that they are not doing the work. It’s so incredibly disrespectful. To be clear, I’m not suggesting the poster above is not doing the work in real life; I’m concerned with the blanket assumption the poster is making about the rest of the colleagues in their profession.

So, those are my thoughts on social media. This has been a bit exhausting. I should probs go take a TikTok break. There are dogs waiting for me. And babies. And dogs hugging babies.

Practicality or Obsession?

I’m really looking forward to the personal learning project option. A long time ago a former student of mine was doing one of these learning projects and I just never forgot about it. She was learning to crochet, and I thought that just sounded so appealing. Honestly, sometimes it seems like there is no time for hobbies — learning for enjoyment. BUT… if you are telling me I HAVE to learn something, that’s a different story. If I have to take up a hobby for educational purposes, I won’t feel guilty about it, right? I suppose at some point I should unpack that guilt, but I digress…

Anyway, I have a number of ideas — here are my initial thoughts about subjects and things I have always wanted to learn, or might benefit me to learn:

Calligraphy – I’ve been obsessed with these videos of hand lettering for a long time. This was the first option I thought about. I think I would likely have to invest in some supplies, but would need to do some online research about what to buy and how to learn, obviously. I think recording my process would be relatively easy; it’s the editing of the video that would take me some time to learn. I have a basic knowledge of imovie, but no one wants to watch a janky video, so I think I would need to spend some time learning those skills, on top of the actual calligraphy or brush lettering skills. 

Movie editing – this got me thinking about how often I need to use video editing technology. There are so many platforms that make learning easy, but a really well edited video is just so much more impressive in terms of communicating messages effectively, and in an entertaining way. One of my colleagues in our Balfour Arts Collective does all our editing and tech problem solving (thanks Will!) and it would be nice to actually possess some of those skills myself, as opposed to always have to depend on him. We use so much of this type of technology in BAC, it just makes sense to spend some time learning something that would benefit me and my students. 

Social Media editing – In a related vein… social media editing, specifically, Instagram and TikTok – Again, in our BAC program we use social media frequently to promote our program, and to promote and share student learning. I am responsible for most of the social media posts. I have a working knowledge of stories and reels etc., but I know I am not using the platform to its potential, and I know I could do a much better job at creating videos, reels, posts that better reflect what our students are doing, and better engage parents and the community. 

Dance – I love to dance, but I have no formal training outside one random adult tap class. I’d love to learn something… maybe a hip hop sequence or more complicated tap steps. I’m not going to lie, I can totally see myself getting into full scale interpretive dance. But, do I really want to film myself doing this? I fear it would be more along the lines of some serious prancing …

Conclusion: I’m up in the air right now. It makes the most logical sense for me to learn movie editing, especially as I could then use the skill to literally make the video for this project, and for my summary of learning. And yet… I want to learn how to do (?) or write (?) using calligraphy (calligraphize? I don’t even know the right verb to use). I’ve been obsessed with it since I was a kid. So, I need to think on it: practicality or pure enjoyment?