June 1

Life Hacks That Seem Impossible Likely Are

There has been a rise in the past year of viral video ‘life hacks’ or ‘kitchen hacks’ depicting recipes or experiments that create impossible results.  These videos have kids rushing to try out these sometimes dangerous experiments thinking that incredible things will happen, only to be left disappointed that it didn’t work for them.

What’s wrong with posting these kind of hoaxes online?  They contribute to the growing problem of misinformation.  That is, spreading information that simply isn’t true.  In some cases, they are also putting children in danger.  Bleaching strawberries, making popcorn with a clothes iron, microwaving things that shouldn’t be microwaved, playing with hot glue, plugging random things into electrical sockets are just a few examples of potentially dangerous hacks.  One woman in England ended up in hospital after trying a life hack where you boil eggs still in their shell in the microwave!  In the following video, Chris Foxx tries out some recipe hacks to see if they work.

In this video Lifehacker explains what is wrong with creating pointless hack videos.

This video, made as a joke, shows how silly and simple making these types of videos can be. He uses a lot of squishies to make it look convincing.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Make a fake life hack or kitchen hack video!  Yes, you heard right.  The best way to learn about the ridiculous nature of incredible and untrue hack videos is to make one yourself.  Maybe you will use baking soda to transform an apple into an orange.  Or put toothpaste in chocolate chip cookies to make them mint chocolate chip.  The sky is the limit with this assignment.  If you would like to share with me, I will post your fake hacks on this page.  Send your videos to b.ruel@theojcs.ca.

Our student lifehack videos!  Amazing work.

May 19

Media Violence and Reality

Part 1 – Movies versus real life

 

In a superhero movie, you often see the superhero killing or hurting the bad guys and you feel happy about it.  Your good guy is winning the fight or saving the world, right?  But if the movie was real life, what would happen if a good guy hurt or killed a bunch of people (even if they were bad!)  Would the good guy get arrested?  Would he have to go to court?  Maybe go to jail?  How would he feel about what he had done?

Movies, tv shows, and video games do a really good job of helping us to forget about the real world for a little while by telling us an exciting story.  But it is easy to forget that the way violence happens in the media isn’t the way violence happens in real life.  In real life, the consequences of violence are very serious!!

In school, if we pretend to be Spider-man and punch our friend because we are pretending he is Venom, what would happen to us?  How much trouble would we be in, from our parents and our teachers?

QUESTIONS – Choose just ONE to answer in the comments on this blog page

1.In video games you are often shooting or fighting other players to try to defeat them.  This is how you win the game.

What would happen if you used violence to win something in real life?

2. Every action movie seems to have have a crazy car chase, car explosion, or car crash scene.  

In real life what would happen if there was a big crash like this on the road or highway?  

3. In superhero movies the hero always kills a whole lot of villains and bad guys.  

In real life what would happen to someone who did these things?

4. In video games and movies when people get shot or injured they bounce right back and keep fighting.  

In real life what happens if you get seriously hurt?

Part 2 – Violence and Our Feelings

Here is a very violent scene from a movie you’ve all probably seen, Beauty and the Beast.

Watch this scene and then pay close attention to how it makes you FEEL.  Does it make your chest get tight?  Your heart race fast?  Your stomach turn?  Did you close your eyes?  All of these feelings and reactions are your body feeling stress from what you are seeing, and it is important that we learn to notice these kinds of feelings.  I know that watching things that are violent make me nervous and it’s hard for me to sleep at night when I watch them, so I avoid them.  That is an easy solution.  Another solution is to remember that what we are seeing in movies, tv, and video games is not real.  That can be very reassuring to remember.  The people are actors.  Writers have written everything that happens in the story.  In this clip Gaston and the Beast are just drawings made by artists.

If something that you’ve seen really bothers you, always talk to your parents about it.  They can have helpful advice for handling those feelings.

Next time you notice violence in media, remember that it is made to entertain people but is a far cry from how things are done or should be done in the real world.  It is important that we always use our words and not our fists to solve problems in the real world.

 

May 12

C is for Cookie

Middle School Digital Literacy Lesson

Whenever you visit a new site, you will most often get a message notifying you that the site uses cookies.  Sometimes it will give you an option to choose to continue with cookies or not.  You may have felt very confused about what a cookie was… is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Could it harm my computer or device?

Or maybe you were talking about something with your device near at hand, and then noticed an ad for something connected to what you were talking about an hour later.  Coincidence?  Not at all.  This video explains how and why this happens, and what exactly a cookie is.

Your Assignment:

After watching the video, I want you to pair up with a friend who you share often with on social media.  Imagine you are trying to collect data from each other’s information to target them with ads.  What can you find out about your friend that would help you target products to them?  Example:  I notice that my friend is always posting photos of her dog online.  If I were an advertiser, I would target her with ads for fancy dog toys, furniture, and biscuits.  She often comments about how much she misses her family in Israel.  I would target her with ads for chat products like Houseparty, Zoom, etc…  See how many you can come up with.  Write them in a Google Doc and submit to b.ruel@theojcs.ca

April 21

House Hippos and Cabbits

First we are going to watch a video about the North American House Hippo…

When this video started, for a moment did you believe that this could be real or did you know immediately that it was not?  What were some of the reasons you did or didn’t believe it?  How could we be sure?

Some of the most important skills we need to be a great digital citizen are our critical thinking skills.  A big part of critical thinking is our ability to find out if what we are seeing, reading, or hearing is true or not.  There are some easy quick tricks we can use to verify (which means to check out or investigate) information.

So let’s try one of the easiest tricks.

Here is a picture that I found online a Cabbit.  Online it says it is a cross between a cat and a rabbit.  Isn’t it adorable?

So let’s run a Google Search on the information we want to verify.  So open up Google and type the word cabbit in the search box.  Or, if you’re on an ipad or have a home assistant, ask it out loud what a cabbit is.  What did you discover from a simple search?  Is it real or fictious (not real, imaginary).  Type your answers in the comments on this page.

This shows us that the fastest way to check if information is true or not is to look around… look in other places!  Check a couple of different websites.  See if what else you can find out.  Websites we use to find information are called our sources.  Always check more than one source, especially if something sounds fishy!

Here is a video that offers you a few more special tricks you can use when you are choosing websites and videos to use for your research projects.  Write down the 5w’s so that you can remember them when you need them!

April 21

Seeing Should Not Always Mean Believing… Especially Online!

Here is a picture that’s been floating around online.  It is a photo of a Sea-Rex.

What is your first reaction when you see this picture?  Do you think it’s real or fake?  Why?  What are some of the reasons you think people might post a photo like this online?  This is actually a photoshopped piece of art called SeaRex by Rastroboy.

It is not hard for people to use special photo editing software to change photos into something that isn’t real.  This is called digitally altering a photo.  There are lots of times when changing pictures this way is just for fun or to be silly.  But sometimes pictures are changed to make us believe something that isn’t true.

Look at this photo which was used as an ad for cologne.  Why do you think George Clooney was digitally altered?

Did you notice that the wrinkles were taken off?  That the hair was made darker and less grey?  That there are no shadows under his eyes?  These are all ways that digitally altering a photo can make someone look younger or better looking.  Another word for this type of photo editing is called retouching.  This is done in most magazines and advertisements to make people look perfect.  Especially when trying to sell face creams and cosmetics so that you believe that they work!  It is even done in our school photos!

But we need to understand that this isn’t real life.  Nobody looks that perfect.  It is impossible to look at yourself in a mirror and see this kind of flawless image (until they invent mirrors that do this electronically and that is my million dollar idea!)  Understanding that these images are not real is one way that we can be kinder to ourselves when we look in the mirror.  We can’t compare ourselves to what we see in magazines and online because almost every celebrity has used a special filter or had their photos professionally altered.

Sometimes people post photos of themselves online that have been heavily edited to make them look perfect and sometimes it doesn’t even look like the same person!  It only took me a minute to alter my own photo on my phone.  Bigger eyes.  Slimmer face.  No dark circles.  If I post this version of myself online, do you think my friends would notice?  Most of my friends, especially women, tend to do this for every photo they post up.  But what does this say about the kind of high standards in beauty we hold ourselves to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editing faces in videos has become extremely simple too.  You may have seen examples of this with the app Snapchat.  You can record a video of yourself as an old person, as a hamburger, or even as a celebrity!

Here is a ridiculous video that has been edited to look like the little girl is Donald Trump!

These kind of videos are called Deepfakes.  Sometimes they are harmless and funny.  But often they are posted to make people think that someone did or said something that they didn’t do or say!  That can lead to the person’s reputation to be ruined or worse.  Imagine there was a video out there of a kid saying bad things about his/her teacher and someone put your face over it and posted it online!  This could get you in a lot of trouble.

Here is one of my favourite videos about the importance of not believing everything you see and hear online.  You may have seen it on TV.

This video was made to educate students about the importance of critical thinking.  Critical thinking is our ability to find out what’s true and what’s not.  It is really important that we always think about what we are seeing.  Seeing should not always mean believing… especially when you’re online.

Your assignment this week is to drastically edit a photo of yourself!  Send them to b.ruel@theojcs.ca and I will post them on this page.

March 31

News Made Just For Kids!

Even though you are a kid, you can be exposed to a lot of serious and scary world news through social media, overhearing parents watching television or listening to the radio, or even listening in on adult conversations that aren’t intended for you.   Hearing bad news can cause us to feel a lot of fear and anxiety.  Sometimes you will want to share bad news with your friends even if you haven’t fully understood it.  This can cause something called MISINFORMATION, which is when news is shared that isn’t factually correct.  It is important that we get our facts straight before we start spreading news around!

There are many current events and news websites available online for kids in which news articles are written sensitively and clearly so that you can understand it.  It is news made just for kids and can help you to know what is happening in the world right now.

Here is a list of kid-friendly sites.  Take a quick peek at them now to see what they are like.  And feel free to visit them whenever you want to know more about what’s happening in the world.

 

www.cbc.ca/kidsnews/

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.dogonews.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://newsforkids.net/

 

 

 

 

 

https://teachingkidsnews.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a video by another school librarian, Marina, reading a book about news called On The News – Our First Talk About Tragedy by Dr. Jilian Roberts.  This book will help you to understand more about the news and talks about some feelings connected to hearing about bad things in the news, and how we can cope with those feelings.  Click on the video link and then click ‘watch it on youtube’.  You can’t watch it on this page.

In the comments on this page, let me know what kids news website you liked the best.  Also let me know what you thought about the book On The News.

March 23

What is Advertising?

Take a minute and write down a list of 5 things you’d like to get for your birthday.

Is your list done?  Good!

Now read over your list and ask yourself… how do I know about these things?  Did I find out about them from a commercial that played before a video I watched on YouTube?  Did a YouTuber I like play with one of them on a video?  Did I see it in a magazine?  A catalogue?  Did I see poster of it somewhere?  Did I read about it online?  Or while I was playing a video game?  All of these places are places we see ads, which is short for the word advertising.  Advertising is any kind message that is designed to sell you something or make you want to buy something or ask your parents to buy you something.  It is important that we learn how to identify what is an ad because we want to be the ones to decide what we need or want.  We don’t want other people putting those ideas in our heads for us!

When companies create advertisements, they often try to link what they are selling with happy feelings or amazing powers or abilities.  So even though I know in my head that eating a cheese string won’t help me defeat a dragon, the commercial shows a child doing just that.  So now we all think that eating cheese strings will make us strong, even if that isn’t the truth.

Much of the time, an ad is a commercial that plays before a video.  Here are examples of commercials that try to make you want to get junk food.  We all know junk food isn’t good for us, but you’d never know it watching these commercials!  For each commercial, think about the message that it is telling you about the food.  Is the commercial telling you the food will make you better at sports?  Will lead to adventures?  Will make you popular?  What are the messages?  Are they true?  Can those products do those amazing things?

Below is an example of an ad you’d see in a flyer, a magazine, or online.  It is just a static picture with words, but it is also selling us an idea.  The idea here being that playing with lego turns us all into superheroes and leads to amazing adventures!  I’d love to be a superhero but I know that Lego can’t make me into one.

This ad is for Rice Krispies.  It is selling us the idea that Rice Krispies cereal is super fun to play with.  Which it isn’t!  It also making a kid connection to trucks, which kids love.

So here is your task today.  I want you to choose to make your own ad for a product YOU invent.  It could be a toy, a junk food, anything you like.  Draw a picture ad or take a photo ad.  If you are really good at making videos, you could even make a commercial.  Remember, advertisements make big claims about what a product can do or how it can make you feel even when it isn’t true, so use that when you create your ad.  By creating your own ad, you can experience for yourself the kind of tricks companies use to sell their products.

There is no need to submit it to me, but if you know how to email the finished product to me, then you absolutely can and I can post it on this page so that others can see your work.  My email address is b.ruel@theojcs.ca

Have fun!

 

March 23

Become a Fact-Checker – Part 2: A Little Help From My Friends

Last week we tried a new technique called ‘Lateral Reading’ to help us become better fact-checkers.  This week we are going to learn about various websites that are out there that can help us find out if what we have heard or read is factual or not.

You are going to read the following article and visit 3 of the 10 sites that are listed and take some time to explore them.  Top Ten Sites to Help Students Check Their Facts by Jennifer Snelling.  I want all of our OJCS middle schoolers to become proficient at using these sites.

I have heard that there is a Tic Toc video going around that claims that an asteroid is going to hit Earth next week.  I want you to visit snopes and find out if this is true or not.  I mean, this is a serious claim!  Our lives may be in jeopardy (or not!)

In the comments on this page, I want you to post which three sites you explored as well as what you discovered about this asteroid.

 

 

March 17

Become a Fact-Checker… Part 1: Reading Laterally

There is a constant stream of misinformation and disinformation out there about a lot of world news and this is especially true about the Coronavirus.  Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is often posted deliberately to deceive.  Disinformation is false information put out through certain politicians or governments to deliberately deceive.  Unfortunately, both misinformation and disinformation are frequently accepted as truth and widely shared by people who have believed what they’ve read without looking further afield for confirmation of the information.  As the false information spreads, it causes a lot of very confused ideas and can even wrongly influence public opinion.  It is in itself very much like a virus that spreads and infects the mind.

By becoming a fact-checker you can help stop the spread of the disease of misinformation!  The first step to becoming a fact-checker is to use your head!  Critical thinking is an essential skill of the fact-checker.  If something doesn’t sound right to you, it very often isn’t.  That feeling that something you’ve read is off should be the first indicator that you need to research further.  Researching outside of the suspected piece of information is called ‘Lateral Reading’.

To read laterally, the first thing you can do is use Google or another trusted search engine to search for information about your source or the author of the information.  Searching about your source can often reveal within seconds if the source is trustworthy or not.  But when it comes to social media, often the person responsible for posting is just a regular person and there won’t be information available about that person online.  So the second way you can read laterally is to search for more articles about the information you suspect to be false.  So when someone told me that Justin Bieber was so dumb he didn’t know how to eat a burrito properly and was photographed eating it sideways, I thought, hmmmm, that doesn’t sound right to me.  I typed Justin Bieber Burrito into the Google search bar, and the first article was about how the photo was a hoax.

Another example of this is that I received an email suggesting that I stay away from spicy food to avoid the Coronavirus.  I immediately thought that sounded wrong and did a quick Google search Coronavirus Spicy Food.  The first article was about how that information was completely false.

So now is your opportunity to try lateral reading.  Here are three social media posts that are either misinformation or are real information.

Step 1: Look at all of these social media posts.  Which ones immediately seem off to you and why?  Which one do you immediately trust and why?

Step 2: Do some lateral reading.  How long did it take you to determine how true or false this information was?

Step 3: Answer step 1 and 2 questions as a brief comment on this blog post page.

Step 4: Teach your parents and grandparents how to do this too!  That way we can all fight the virus of misinformation!

Post #1 – From the account of Facebook user Michael Conniff

 

 

Post #2 from the Twitter verified (blue checkmark) World Health Organization account

 

Post #3 from Twitter, user Allison Pearson

 

May 22

What is a Digital Footprint?

Today students were introduced to the concept of a Digital Footprint.  We used the example of tracks left by animals and how we can use our own deductive capabilities to infer quite a lot about an animal based on its tracks.

The same is true for us when we go online.  The sites we visit, the comments we post, the videos we upload, the games we play, all of those things create a digital footprint that can tell people about us and will exist online for a very long time.  We tied this in to the concept of responsibilities and discussed what our responsibilities are to ourselves and to others online.

Our grade 3 and 4 students came up with some of the following ideas;

Our students are getting the foundation they need to navigate the sometimes scary world of the internet in a safe and responsible way.