Hands On Media's First Trip to Europe!

Hands On Media's First Trip to Europe!

A few months ago The National Film Museum of the Czech Republic invited us to a very exciting Czech film festival to present the Media Education work we are doing on an Industry Program panel, plus deliver a Real or Fake? workshop with educators. As we are super keen to learn about Media Education in other parts of the world outside of Canada - AND I had never been to the Czech Republic - I enthusiastically accepted the invitation!

And what a trip it was…. The Czech Republic has such an interesting and rich history, with Prague at the heart of some of the most beautiful buildings, neighbourhoods and cityscapes I’ve ever seen. I took a few days to explore Prague before heading east to the festival, soaking up the sights, beautiful music, and tasty Czech treats, including ice cream in a doughnut spiral?? (Review: AMAZING!)

Myself and UK-based Dan Mayfield from School of Noise (the other invited international guest) took a 3-hour train ride from Prague to Uherské Hradiště where the film festival was being held, and I couldn’t believe what a big festival it was! This year was the 45th annual event, with 5000+ attendees, guests, filmmakers, film students, journalists and professors flooding this small town each year. So many outdoor and indoor screenings, experimental film events, panels, and merchandise booths in a compound-style space with cafés, beer gardens, vintage clothing booths and even a prosecco bar? A super lively and fun environment which I honestly was not prepared for, as I’ve never seen anything like this in Canada or the US.

The following day was my time to present our work on the Media Education panel, hosted by Táňa Abrhámová of One World in Schools, and including Miroslav Hanus from Fakescape, a cool media literacy & critical thinking game designed by University students to inform youth about fake news.

It was on this panel that I learned that teachers in the Czech Republic are encouraged NOT to discuss media literacy or media education with their students because it is seen as “too political” for the classroom. This tells me that Media Education is seriously needed here (and very possibly in other Central European nations) to help demystify for school administrators what, in fact, media education really is, and how critical it is for all of their teachers and students.

Our Real or Fake? Online Information Verification Workshop was really fun, although 2 hours was a bit tight for everyone to complete their Public Service Announcement or Fake News video clip. We had a full house of 20 participants aged 7 - 70 years old! I’m used to working with iPads for our workshops, and while I brought 4 with me for folks to use, I learned that iPads aren’t really a thing in the Czech Republic. PC computers were the clear favourite, so instead we used Movie Maker to create their video projects.

A huge thank you to Terezie, Jakub & Adela of The National Film Museum in Prague for the invitation, and for being such gracious hosts. I cannot wait to return, and I look forward to working with you again in the near future!



Educating Our Unknowing


Educating Our Unknowing

We often think of social media as a superficial, easy-breezy mode of communication. And in some ways, that might be true. But as I learned this week, the way we choose to engage, interact, and produce content on our social media platforms can also hold a lot of meaning - some of it conscious, some of it not, but all of it a distilled imprint of our education, our background, our culture, and all of the unseen factors that influence the lens we see the world through.

Image source: University of British Columbia,  Dialogue on Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission , 2013

Image source: University of British Columbia, Dialogue on Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2013

This being National Indigenous History Month, my first week as Social Media Coordinator at Hands On Media Education coincided with National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD), celebrated on June 21st. Knowing that it was an important day to acknowledge and highlight, I was eager to spread the word on HOME’s social media platforms. But shortly after I started skimming the Internet for images and piecing words together, something just felt off

As a white, non-Indigenous Canadian, the task of writing about a day, a month, a celebration that isn’t mine made me confront my own “whiteness”, and along with it, my privilege and my own unknowing when it came to articulating the importance of a day like NIPD. How do I write about this? *Should* I be writing about this? What do I actually know about this day? Can I post an image of a pow wow? Is that appropriate? 

The task proved harder than I expected. I wasn’t sure how to approach it, what to say, and how to say it. As it turns out, the experience was an important part of an ongoing learning curve. It was uncomfortable, but it was necessary. Despite my background in History, my interest in the news and Indigenous issues, I still had a lot to learn. I’ll always have a lot to learn.

Walk for Reconciliation through downtown Vancouver, September 2013. Image from the TRC Final Report.

Walk for Reconciliation through downtown Vancouver, September 2013. Image from the TRC Final Report.

It also made me realize that I likely wasn’t alone. There were probably a lot of people who felt that they didn’t have the knowledge or the words to navigate Indigenous histories, heritage, cultures, and the difficult but crucial issues surrounding the legacy of the residential school system and the lasting impacts of colonisation. It is important that we resist mitigating the discomfort of our own ignorance by avoiding the topics altogether; it is such a crucial and exciting time for Indigenous voices, with landmark movements such as “Idle No More”, the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the global emergence of several Indigenous-led organisations, not to mention the string of recent award-winning documentary films made by Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit filmmakers. They are but a few examples of the momentum that has been building, carving a place for Indigenous voices and perspectives.

Hands On Media workshop - Bennet Field, Northwest Territories, 2017

Hands On Media workshop - Bennet Field, Northwest Territories, 2017

We each have a role to play in reconciliation, to acknowledge our history, and to work together towards a better and more informed future. By making space for diverse narratives, by listening, by reflecting on ways we can overcome our own lack of knowledge, we pave a way to supporting and understanding one another. Since the mission at Hands On Media Education has always been to use education as a tool to open conversation and build critical thinking, we wanted to share a list of educational resources for educators, students, and/or lifelong learners looking for ways to be more informed and engaged with Indigenous issues, during (and beyond!) National Indigenous History Month. 

We hope they can help you explore and learn more about Canada’s true diversity and open up dialogue in your classrooms, homes, universities, and any other setting. Please let us know if there are any other resources you would recommend in the comments below!

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Legacy of Hope Foundation - an Indigenous-led charitable organisation that aims to raise awareness and educate the public about the legacy and impact of Residential Schools on Indigenous, Métis and Inuit communities. Along with developing research and policy actions, they provide a variety of resources for educators, students, and researchers: http://legacyofhope.ca/education/

Media Smarts logo.png

Media Smarts - a Canadian-based not-for-profit organisation providing media and digital literacy programs and resources geared towards youth. They cover a wide-variety of topics, from cyberbullying to online privacy to navigating social media and developing critical thinking skills. Hands On Media is a proud collaborator of Media Smarts and encourages parents and teachers to learn more about their resources on Indigenous culture, history, and representation in the media: http://mediasmarts.ca/diversity-media/aboriginal-people

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) - a national advocacy organisation representing 900,000 First Nations citizens across Canada. It is a key actor in discussions with governments, the private sector, and the public with regards to treaties, Indigenous rights, and land resources: https://www.afn.ca/Home/

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“Plain Talks” iBook series - an educational resource developed between AFN and Apple Canada Education, exploring themes such as residential schools, the impact of colonial contact, pre-contact history, and cultural protocols within traditional Indigenous ceremonies and practices. https://books.apple.com/ca/author/assembly-of-first-nations/id1246403802#see-all/books

KAIROS Blanket Exercise - an interactive, 90-minute experiential workshop aimed at expanding the narrative of our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people: https://www.kairosblanketexercise.org/

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Whose Land - a new web-based app developed in partnership with Native-Land that uses geographic information system (GIS) technology to identify Indigenous territories, Treaties, and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. It is a thought-provoking and interactive way to understand the importance of land acknowledgement, treaties, as well as to help spark dialogue around reconciliation, by asking the question, “Whose land am I on and what does that mean?”: https://www.whose.land/en/


New Canadian Youth Living in The North Share Their Stories

New Canadian Youth Living in The North Share Their Stories


Well this was a first!

The first time I had ever worked with Northern youth that were neither indigenous, nor Canadian.

I was delivering a Digital Storytelling workshop with Yellowknife youth that were all, instead, Permanent Residents with Syrian, Palestinian, UK, Kenyan & Somalian roots. They were new to Canada, and wow…what an inspiring, resilient, brilliant and fun group of youth they were.

Based in Yellowknife, the NWT Literacy Council has been a HUGE supporter of ours the last three years, generously loaning us their 10 iPads for a wide range of Digital Storytelling workshops across the territory. Digital Literacy is, after all, a very important aspect of literacy for every NWT citizen.

We were of course happy to help them with this special workshop offer, and so after our flights were booked, the 2-day workshop was confirmed for the 2 last days of March.

Muhammad experiments with mirrors in our photography activity.

Muhammad experiments with mirrors in our photography activity.

The workshop participants have all relocated to Yellowknife from their home country between 1-3 years ago: two Syrian youth escaped war through a family sponsorship program in Yellowknife, and two youth from the UK moved here because one of their parents got a new job in Yellowknife. 

 Their stories of home, of travel, of quickly learning a new language, of making new friends, of adapting to sub-arctic weather, of learning how to fish in NWT lakes for the first time (and loving it!), and of making community in Yellowknife were rich with detail, colour, warmth and strength. 

Fidaa & Khaled with their family in Yellowknife

Fidaa & Khaled with their family in Yellowknife

They dove right into photography, narration writing and recording, beat-making with Garageband, & video editing with iMovie – all on the iPad. As one would expect, they were quick to pick up their new skills, and were keen to continue long after time was up.

 To be honest with you, I was expecting more sadness from the youth, more longing for their home country and more difficulty adapting to Northern ways. 

 I was proven wrong, and I will always remember this experience as a lesson in resilience, optimism and new beginnings.  Thanks for the being so awesome Fidaa, Kahled, Muhammad & Mohammed! I can’t wait to hear how life continues to evolve for you in Yellowknife.

Watch 12-year old Khaled’s Digital Story below:

Digital Storytelling in the Community of Behchokò, Northwest Territories

Digital Storytelling in the Community of Behchokò, Northwest Territories

Last February I was in Yellowknife for the Northwest Territories Teachers Association Conference teaching educators how to use Digital Storytelling in the classroom. In was in one of my workshops that I met Tammy Steinwald from the Tłicho Government. Tammy works in the Tłicho community of Behchokò, and was determined to make Digital Literacy workshops happen in her home town.

Fast forward one year (almost to the day) and I was flying back up to Yellowknife to deliver one week of workshops with Behchokò students and adults February 18-22 2019. A big thank you to Tammy for making the workshops happen, as well as a big shout out to the NWT Literacy Council who generously loaned us 10 iPads for the project!

Behchokò is actually made up of two towns: Edzo and Rae, and combined has a population of about 2000 people. Behchokò is the largest Dene community in Canada, and this was our first visit to deliver workshops.

The 1st workshop took place over 2 days with 10 students aged 15-26 at the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School, and the group was fantastic! The students got really into the first day’s photography activities, posing for powerful portraits, playing with shadow (thanks for the amazing sunlight Behchokò!) and even got permission to take photos of the lunch prepared by the kitchen cooks.

Below you will be able to view two completed Digital Stories from this workshop: one by 17-year old Allistair Wetrade, and the second by 26-year old Desmond Zoe.

Behchokò Photo Gallery

The 2nd Digital Storytelling workshop took place in Rae with 6 adults who had little-to-no iPad or computer experience. It was a jam-packed few days with plenty of stories shared, jokes told, and photos taken in-and-around the Sportsplex.

You can watch Lloyd Bishop’s project titled “Birch Bark” below — this story was one shared with him by his grandmother, and he felt it was important to document this story and share it with others.

Jessie would like to thank everyone in Behchokò for their invitation and participation in the week of workshops. Your support for Digital Literacy outreach programs, such as this one, is greatly appreciated and we are prettyyyy sure everyone involved had a great time. :)

Until next time Behchokò! Masi.

Our Community: #HOMEisCritical

Our Community: #HOMEisCritical

Word Art.jpeg

Back in November of last year we celebrated 3 YEARS of being Hands On Media, and we thought it would be awesome to connect with the partners, teachers and clients we have worked with all across Canada and beyond. We posed our supporters a question:

What does Media Education mean to you?

And we were overwhelmed with the response!

Our supporters sent us their thoughts & great selfies wearing our awesome new Hands On Media Education swag, with contributions from all over Canada, plus the US, Japan, America, the UK and India. We got to see and hear a kaleidoscope of ways in which Media Education benefits people’s lives — Check out the sweet gallery below see their awesome pics, and click on each to read their words and thoughts!

We also created a really cool word cloud here (seen left), which helps give you an idea of what words and concepts were repeated, created from all our #HOMEisCritical responses.

At every single step of that journey, we’ve been spreading the message that Media Literacy, Critical Thinking and Responsible Media Creation are crucial. We’ve been empowering students, educators and life-long learners with the skills to tell their own stories using digital media.

We now have a real and tangible sense of COMMUNITY that is fostered through this kind of work.

The scope of support we’ve had has also been a reminder that people of all ages, and in every area of the globe, critically need media literacy skills to survive and to thrive. Thank you SO much to everyone who participated in spreading the message: Hands On Media Education is critical! As we approach a new year of 2019, let’s keep on spreading that important message - #HOMEisCRITICAL

(And remember, it’s not too late to order your own sweatshirt or let us know: What does Media Education mean to YOU? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Contact us today to learn how you can join our community).

3 Years of Travel, Workshops & Media Literacy!

3 Years of Travel, Workshops & Media Literacy!

I cannot believe it.

The 3 years of Hands On Media have truly flown by.

The story begins November 2015 after I had a logo, our website up-and-running, and 5 new purchased iPads. My first workshop trip as Hands On Media Education (or HOME) was booked for one of the most beautiful places on earth: Haida Gwaii. I could hardly believe my luck.

Haida Gwaii

The location of our very first Hands On Media workshop tour.

Since that mythical workshop tour by plane and 3 ferry boats (which saw me delivering 4 Media Education Workshops to 75 students and teachers), we have spent the last 3 years travelling, teaching and spreading the word and skills about Media Literacy, Critical Thinking and Responsible Media Creation across Canada and beyond. We have also grown from a team of one (me!) to an incredible group of talented, enthusiastic and passionate staff who have either taught, assisted or supported the delivery of hundreds of workshops to thousands of teachers and students.


And what better time to celebrate our 3rd anniversary, than during Media Literacy Week 2018!

What is Media Literacy Week, you ask?

In short, this is a week that Canadians celebrate the importance of critical thinking and creation when it comes to the massive world of Media. Who created this message? What lifestyles or values or represented in this media, and which ones are left out? What creative elements were used to attract my attention? These are just some examples of what it means to engage with media critically…but that’s not all.

We at Hands On Media are all about CREATION as the final step of Media Literacy, and that is why we offer production-based Media Literacy Workshops using Digital Storytelling and Stop Motion Animation.


To celebrate our 3rd year Anniversary AND Media Literacy Week this year, Monday November 5th we will be launching our MEDIA EDUCATION IS CRITICAL campaign, showcasing supporters of ours from around the world and their thoughts about why Media Education is important. Follow our hashtag #HOMEiscritical on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, and please share your own thoughts with us about why YOU think Media Education is important.

Amy Siegel, Director of ReFrame International Documentary Film Festival, Peterborough, Ontario.

Amy Siegel, Director of ReFrame International Documentary Film Festival, Peterborough, Ontario.

For Media Literacy Week we are also hosting several exciting Media & Digital Literacy Workshops:

  1. Monday November 5th @ McGill Faculty of Education (Montreal, QC), delivering “Digital Literacy Training for Canadian Educators” Workshop with 30 Pre-Service educators.

  2. Wednesday November 7th @ Bishop’s University (Sherbrooke, QC), delivering “Digital Literacy Training for Canadian Educators” Workshop with 45 Pre-Service educators.

  3. Thursday November 8th @ Concordia University (Montreal, QC), delivering “Create a Digital Story: Showcase your Digital and Creative Capabilities" Workshop with 30 Undergraduate Students as part of the FutureReady Program.

If you are interested in learning more about Media Literacy Week and/or how you can bring Media & Digital Literacy into your own classroom, university, organization or research project, contact us today. We would be happy to help you in any way we can.

Happy Media Literacy Week everyone! People of all ages in every area of the world need these skills to survive and thrive in today’s digital world. #medialitwk

DIY Media and Digital Education: How Do Twitter Users Learn to Use Social Media for Activism?

DIY Media and Digital Education: How Do Twitter Users Learn to Use Social Media for Activism?

Guest blogger Megan Ryland recently completed her Master of Arts degree in Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her thesis focused on media and digital literacy, social media, informal learning, and activist hashtags (available here). She advocates for media and digital literacy as a required skill set for all to equally access, understand, critique, create, and enjoy the opportunities available online today and help shape our digital future. You can follow her on twitter @meganryland.

More and more people are using digital tools to protest or get heard on important issues. I’ve spent the last few years studying how people are learning to use social media for social change. In my thesis, I looked closely at how people learned to use hashtags on Twitter like #BlackLivesMatter, #IdleNoMore, and #MeToo to advocate for justice. After interviewing Twitter users and reading their tweets, I noticed that new Twitter users learned to use the platform in a few big ways: exploration, using models, accessing expertise, and applying prior knowledge.

Most people depended on several ways of learning. The most common strategies were gaining experience with the platform, observing others and copying them, and simple trial and error. Few people used educational resources or courses to learn and most people reported being self-taught. In general, the technical elements were easier to learn than the social elements of Twitter—i.e. learning to retweet a hashtag was easier than learning what was considered good Twitter etiquette. Creating a hashtag for activism on Twitter requires both technical and social skills. 


Here are some learning strategies -


Getting exposure and giving it a try. 


·  Gaining experience on the platform

·  Exploring and being curious

·  Using trial and error to see how it works

·  Getting responses or feedback from other users

·  Measuring performance (e.g. checking and comparing analytics)


Using Models

Watching and learning from others.


·     Observing others and copying them

·     Looking for examples and copying those

·     Looking for role models 

·     Paying attention to leaders in the community

·     Watching the responses that others get, and avoiding what inspires negative feedback (e.g. a community member is called out and you learn how to avoid that misstep) 

·     Considering how the media shows it or how it’s advertised to work


Accessing Expertise

Seeking out people and resources who can shed light on the topic. 


·     Asking a teacher or mentor how to do something

·     Asking friends or peers for their help or opinion

·     Participating in tutorials, workshops, or courses

·     Referring to books, websites, blogs, and videos that teach useful skills


Applying Prior Knowledge

Using what you already know. 


·     Applying strategies or “common sense” learned with other technologies (e.g. similar logic, buttons, or set up)

·     Applying principles or instincts you learned from similar tasks (e.g. talk like you might in other spaces)

·     Following intuition based on past experience or personal judgement 


I was studying how people gain the knowledge and skills to use Twitter for demanding social change, but these learning strategies might apply to other similar situations. When you’re learning a new digital skill, consider borrowing from each kind of strategy. You might find that it takes several ways of learning to master a new social network or content creation platform.  


We know that people aren’t waiting to be taught how to use social media to make social change—they’re learning and trying on their own. However, if media and digital literacy can be used to make our world a better place, it makes sense to speed up the learning process by offering more support. More media and digital education would help more people use new digital tools to make a difference in the real world. However, in the meantime, people will use the resources they have to learn what they can. 

Real or Fake? 3 Fun Resources to Help Kids Spot Fake News

Real or Fake? 3 Fun Resources to Help Kids Spot Fake News

“News just in! You won’t believe this amazing trick that’ll help you lose 100 pounds! And what happens next will shock you!!”

The internet can be a difficult place to tell fact from fiction. Clickbait headlines are everywhere and viral videos can be shared halfway around the world before they’re called out as fake. For young people who consume most of their news on social media, sorting fact from fiction can be especially tricky.

Luckily, there’s a growing a number of tools for the misinformation fight back! Educators are thinking innovatively about how they teach kids to be critical thinkers online. We’ve rounded up 3 of the best resources out there to help kids spot fake news -

1. Dog Island.com - Bogus Sites

Welcome to Dog Island. According to the site, over 2,500 canines have migrated to this paradise to enjoy a better life.


Sadly for your pet dog, the page is a hoax but teachers have capitalized on its claims to get kids thinking about reliability. Does a website have improbable claims? Check. A strange web address? Check. Then be aware! 

2. X-Ray Goggles - Free Softwares to Hack the News

 Use X-Ray Goggles to ‘remix’ the news, suggests internet not-for-profit; Mozilla.

They’ve created a lesson plan that allows kids to alter real-life web pages. Using ‘X-Ray’ software, young people can hack headlines and remix article content with their own made up stories. It’s a powerful way to see just how easily online information can be altered and misconstrued!


Read Mozilla’s lesson plan in full here.

3. Real or Fake? Media Education Workshops


Finally, did you know we offer media literacy training for teachers and young people? 

In our new Real or Fake? workshop you can learn why it’s important for us to know how to evaluate websites and videos, plus we teach you how to make your own Public Service Announcement on the topic of fake news, which you can share on YouTube, Facebook or school website. For more information, contact us today, and download our 2018-2019 workshop kit here.






Transformative Education

Transformative Education

When you work in Northern Indigenous communities, it is impossible to ignore the fact that colonization took place, and that ongoing, multi-generational trauma is real. We've touched on some of these issues in our recent blog posts on the We Matter campaign, the Matawa Education Conference, and the Northwest Territories Educators' Conference, and have been reflecting a lot on the role that we, as educators, can play in the Truth and Reconciliation process that is happening across Canada. 

The importance of education, as well as the need to transform the Canadian education system itself, were key findings of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

The TRC was established in 2008 as a result of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Its primary aims were to document and promote awareness of the history and impacts of the Indian residential school system; to provide a safe setting for former students, their families and communities to come forward and share their experiences; and to produce a report and recommendations concerning the Indian residential school system and its ongoing legacy. 

The findings of the TRC were released in 2015, along with 94 “calls to action” regarding reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. 

Amongst these calls to action, two deal specifically with education: 

  • Recommendation 62 calls on governments, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for K-12 students.

  • Recommendation 63 calls on the Ministers of Education to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including developing and implementing curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools; sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history; building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect; and Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal representatives from 4Rs Youth Movement present the 4Rs drum made by Nisga’a artist Mike Dangeli, as an expression of reconciliation at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Alberta National Event, March 2014. (Image from the TRC Final Report)

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal representatives from 4Rs Youth Movement present the 4Rs drum made by Nisga’a artist Mike Dangeli, as an expression of reconciliation at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Alberta National Event, March 2014. (Image from the TRC Final Report)

With respect to education, the TRC report also notes the particular challenges of our digital age:

"In a digital world, where students have ready access to a barrage of information concerning Treaties, Aboriginal rights, or historical wrongs such as residential schools, they must know how to assess the credibility of these sources for themselves. As active citizens, they must be able to engage in debates on these issues, armed with real knowledge and deepened understanding about the past."

In other words, students must be given the tools to understand the historical aspects of the residential school system and the experiences of Indigenous peoples, as well as the digital and media literacy tools necessary to navigate online resources and debates, to access information, and to think critically about issues such as the representation of Indigenous peoples in the media. 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Northern National Event, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, June 2011. (Image from the TRC Final Report)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Northern National Event, Inuvik, Northwest Territories, June 2011. (Image from the TRC Final Report)

The TRC report also emphasizes that to achieve reconciliation, learning about residential schools “must be part of a broader history education that integrates First Nations, Inuit, and Métis voices, perspectives, and experiences”, building bridges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

Importantly, the education system itself must be transformed in order to identify and eliminate “the racism embedded in colonial systems of education and treats Aboriginal and Euro-Canadian knowledge systems with equal respect.”

The report acknowledges that such transformation may be difficult. Teaching and learning about residential schools can bring up feelings of anger, grief, shame, guilt, and denial. But this kind of education is crucial; it can “shift understanding and alter world views.”

If you have not yet read the findings and recommendations of the TRC, they can be found on the TRC's website, along with many other important resources. 

We Matter - A Campaign to Support Indigenous Youth

We Matter - A Campaign to Support Indigenous Youth

While in Yellowknife last month for the Northwest Territories Teachers Association Educator's Conference last month (you can read more about that experience from my blog post here), I shared a cab to the conference one early morning with Kelvin, one of the founders of the We Matter campaign. It didn't take long for us to figure out how similar some of our work is working with Indigenous youth for positive, empowered social change, and he was kind enough to give me a USB packed with educational resources for workshop facilitators and teachers across Canada. We at Hands On Media are so pumped to learn more about the project, that we thought we'd highlight their work in this week's post. We hope you enjoy, and are able to share the project and the message with your community that indeed, we all DO matter.


We Matter is an Indigenous-led non-profit organization that is committed to Indigenous youth empowerment, hope and life promotion. It was started in 2016 by Tunchai and Kelvin Redvers, a sister and brother who wanted to respond to the overwhelming number of suicides and other issues faced by Indigenous youth. 

Artwork by a student at St. Nicholas Junior High, Edmonton, Alberta

Artwork by a student at St. Nicholas Junior High, Edmonton, Alberta

The centre of their work is the We Matter Campaign - a multi-media project featuring short videos, written work, and artistic creations from Indigenous role models and allies all across Canada, sharing their own experiences of overcoming hardships, and communicating messages of hope, resilience and positivity to Indigenous youth. 

Most importantly, the campaign seeks to communicate to Indigenous youth that they matter. 

"By sharing our stories, our words of encouragement, and our authentic messages of hope and resilience, we help to make a community and nation stronger. We remind youth that I Matter. You Matter. We Matter. We prove that we are all #StrongerTogether."

In addition to an extensive archive of deeply inspiring and moving video messages from role models across the country, young people are encouraged to upload their own videos, written works or artistic messages of hope.   

We Matter provides lesson plans for educators, as well as resources for youth, teachers, support workers, parents and community members on how to use the We Matter Campaign to help those who may be struggling in their own families, schools and communities. 

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Artwork by a student at St. Nicholas Junior High, Edmonton, Alberta

Artwork by a student at St. Nicholas Junior High, Edmonton, Alberta

At Hands on Media we've also seen how powerful it can be for young people to share their own experiences with others through the creation of digital stories and other media. If you're interested in learning more about our Digital Storytelling Workshops, please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Truth, Reconciliation & the Importance of Education

Truth, Reconciliation & the Importance of Education

Over the past 8 years, I have attended close to 50 education conferences across Canada.  But last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a truly memorable gathering in Thunder Bay, Ontario – the Matawa Education Conference 2018.   

In partnership with MediaSmarts, I was asked to deliver the workshop "Digital Literacy Training for Canadian Educators" to conference participants, alongside other workshops including cultural curricula, First Nation language/immersion programming, teaching strategies for literacy and numeracy, and nutrition.

The workshop was a success, with 25 incredibly-engaged educators asking all kinds of questions about media bias and perspective, and how they can help their students think critically about the media they consume. They were truly a joy to work with, and I look forward to seeing how the integration of Digital Literacy into their classrooms evolves in the future!

Kevin Lamoureux delivers his keynote address "Truth and Reconciliation in Education"

Kevin Lamoureux delivers his keynote address "Truth and Reconciliation in Education"

Keynote speaker Kevin Lamoureux was a highlight of the conference, delivering the 1.5 hour workshop "Truth and Reconciliation", plus an inspiring 45-minute keynote address that garnered a standing ovation.  

He spoke about how we "other" those who are different from ourselves, offering a few key ways to help address this highly problematic behaviour, which often leads to racism.   

  • Create a relationship with the person you're trying to educate; no one learns well when feeling shamed or inferior.

  • Provide access to good information, awareness and education.

  • Try to understand poverty & privilege: if you have privilege, how can you use it to help others?

Kevin is doing some really important work with the National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation, and I highly recommend checking out their website to learn more.

After sharing with him our work at Hands On Media, he was excited to tell me about a campaign for elementary, secondary and post-secondary school students in Canada called "Imagine a Canada". This campaign provides an opportunity for young people to share creative representations of what reconciliation in Canada could look like. The submission deadline is April 2, 2018. Please spread the word to any students you think would be interested in participating!

Another highlight of the conference was meeting a tech teacher from Fort Severn, Ontario – a small northern community of 400 on Hudson Bay. He has been working with youth there to create a website for students to share stories, knowledge and activities. Learn more about their community through their blog posts, maps and videos by checking out the website here.


We believe in the power of digital initiatives such as these to foster understanding, awareness and connection, allowing even very remote communities to share their experiences with people around the world. Increasing awareness can decrease ignorance. A step towards truth. A step towards reconciliation.

Contact us today to learn how you can incorporate Digital Storytelling Workshops on Truth & Reconciliation into your classrooms.  

Helping NWT Teachers Bring Digital Storytelling into the Classroom

Helping NWT Teachers Bring Digital Storytelling into the Classroom

The Northwest Territories Educators' Conference took place in Yellowknife last week and we were honoured to return, presenting three Digital Storytelling Workshops to 75 teachers from across NWT. The conference is quite the event, with over 900 delegates flying in from across the Territory in 21 chartered airplanes. Because of the logistics (and the expense!), this conference is only held every three years. 


We began each workshop by screening several Digital Stories created by NWT youth over the past year, demonstrating how technically quite simple these projects can be while still conveying a compelling message through such a relevant and empowering activity. These Digital Stories are inspiring and informative, allowing young people to grapple with issues of identity, challenges in their lives and their communities, and goals for their futures. 

Following the screening, we demonstrated the basics of digital storytelling using simple PC, Mac & iPad software. Our aim was to provide educators with a powerful tool to incorporate digital literacy and media education into their classrooms, while also helping students find their own unique voice and tell their own stories.     


Here's what some of our workshop participants had to say about their experience:

"[Digital storytelling is] a perfect fit for my media class. The process or skills needed are attainable and the equipment is basically already in our school. The end product has so much potential for meaningful student self-expression and positive feedback."


"I appreciate how students will be able to create their own works to explore their identity, experiences and community and share elements of that with others."


"[Through digital storytelling] every child has the opportunity to create a project that is important to them and [...] they can be proud of their accomplishment."


"These workshops are invaluable. I hope to see you in our schools soon."


We have participated in teacher conferences across Canada over the years, but the NWTTA Educators' Conference is truly an inspiring experience. We are grateful for the incredible opportunity to learn from the keynote speakers -- including Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dr. Marie Wilson and author Richard Van Camp -- in addition to meeting so many teachers who are excited to introduce digital storytelling to their own students!   Spoiler alert: it looks like Behchokǫ̀, NWT will be the next community we bring our new Digital Storytelling Workshop to. :)

Keynote speaker Richard Van Camp

Keynote speaker Richard Van Camp

 If you are interested in learning how to incorporate digital storytelling into your classroom, contact us today. We would be happy to help you get off on the right foot!

Remote Digital Storytelling Workshops

Remote Digital Storytelling Workshops

Did you know that we offer workshops remotely? It’s a big world out there, but thanks to the power of the Internet, we are bridging the divide!

We are currently delivering Digital Storytelling Workshops to seven communities in the Beaufort Delta, Nunavut, as part of an e-learning course. Participants in these remote workshops create their own personal narratives by weaving digital photographs, video, voice, text and music together to create short digital films. Using Skype, we guide participants through every stage of the production process, from storyboarding to editing.

The workshop provides an opportunity for students to move from being passive consumers of media to active creators, and also teaches important digital literacy skills, encouraging students to reflect on their rights and responsibilities as consumers and producers of media. 


Creating a personal narrative through digital storytelling can be a transformative experience for participants. The impact of sharing these stories and connecting with others’ experiences is also powerful. In fact, three of the digital stories created during our first remote workshop series were selected for the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2017 Young Filmmakers Showcase – an event that features short films created for young people by young people.

In addition to the remote digital storytelling workshops currently underway, we have two new remote workshop series happening in April with students in grades 10 and 11. We can’t wait to share in the unique stories they have to tell!

If you’re interested in learning more about our remote workshops, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Summer Camps with Hands On Media Education!

Summer Camps with Hands On Media Education!

The weather forecast may be filled with snow here in Montreal, but we’re already dreaming of warmer days! If you’re also thinking ahead to the summer, why not consider booking a Hands On Media Summer Camp?


We offer summer camp packages that can be customized for a range of ages, settings, and special needs, and can be delivered in French or English. Our camps are highly interactive and production-based, allowing participants to explore their creative side and try their hand at making their own short animation or digital story. We also help young people develop valuable digital literacy skills, encouraging them to reflect on their roles as responsible digital citizens.

Oh, and did we mention they’re tonnes of fun?


Bring your students into a world of magic and creativity through our iPad Stop Motion Animation Camp! Based around a theme of your choosing, participants will learn how animation differs from other forms of filmmaking, and will get to make their very own stop motion animation using a combination of tactile and digital exploration and problem solving. Participants will learn how to storyboard their animation idea, create their own characters using clay, and use a simple iPad app to execute all the production stages of a complete animation video. 

Our Digital Storytelling Camp guides participants through the process of creating a digital video, weaving together photographs, video, voice, text and music to produce a compelling personal narrative. Easily adaptable to any theme, this camp allows participants to move from being passive consumers of media to active creators. Participants will storyboard their project, learn photography composition skills, and edit their projects using iMovie. This camp is also packed with digital literacy skills, encouraging students to reflect on their rights and responsibilities as both consumers and producers of media.   

Contact us today if you’d like to learn more about our services or discuss booking your own customized Summer Camp!

Black History Month

Black History Month

February is Black History Month – a month to celebrate and honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. This year, the Canadian government has chosen to focus on Black Canadian Women: Stories of Strength, Courage and Vision. Their website is full of useful educational resources, including videos, information on historical figures and events in Black Canadian history, and this poem by acclaimed Canadian poet and playwright, George Elliott Clarke.  

We also wanted to take this opportunity to share a #BlackLivesMatter animation created by students at Option II - an alternative school in Montreal's Saint-Michel neighbourhood. The animation is a great example of how young people can use digital media and storytelling to explore and engage with issues, and to tell their own stories in innovative ways.   

If you're interested in learning more about Black history in Canada, find out if there are any events happening near you! If you're in the Montreal area, you can check out Mois de l'histoire des Noirs for events and activities. CBC has also curated reading lists for Black History Month, which you can find here and here, and Reading Rockets has a ton of great resources for children and young people.    

And of course, if you want to learn more about the range of workshops we offer, don't hesitate to get in touch!

New Federal Funding Gives a Boost to Digital Literacy in Canada

New Federal Funding Gives a Boost to Digital Literacy in Canada

In partnership with MediaSmarts, Hands On Media is excited to announce that our Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators will be expanded over the next year and a half to reach each and every faculty of education in Canada!

This expanded roll out is part of the Canadian government’s new CanCode program. The government announced last week that it would be investing $50 million over two years to support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth from kindergarten to grade 12, as well as initiatives providing teachers with the training and professional development required to introduce such skills in the classroom. In particular, the program aims to equip young people and traditionally underrepresented groups with the skills necessary to prepare for a rapidly changing job market. 


The original pilot program involved the delivery of 11 workshops to faculties of education across Canada. The new funding means that MediaSmarts and Hands On Media will be able to provide digital literacy training to 3,500 new teachers in both English and French, who will in turn reach an estimated 300,000 students. The training is based on MediaSmarts’ innovative Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools, which identifies seven essential aspects of digital literacy and provides important information about each one, as well as model lessons for all grade levels.


You can download a full printable PDF of the Digital Literacy Framework here.

You can also learn more about Hands On Media and the other customizable workshops we offer for students and educators here, or by contacting us directly!

ArtBridges – A Hub for Community-Engaged Arts Across Canada

ArtBridges – A Hub for Community-Engaged Arts Across Canada

Hands On Media Education is thrilled to have joined the inspiring roster of organizations and initiatives on ArtBridges’ Community-Engaged Arts Directory!

The Directory is a database of information about accessible and/or affordable community-engaged arts projects, programs, organizations and resources in Canada; a scroll through the profiles provides an exciting glimpse at the diversity of community-engaged arts initiatives happening all across the country.

Founded in 2008, ArtBridges is a hub for community-engaged arts initiatives with a mission to connect people interested or active in community-engaged arts nationwide. It seeks to nurture and provide better access to community-engaged arts through "ArtBridging" - a term created by the organization to describe the creation of networks and collaborations between community arts projects, programs, organizations and resources to produce positive benefits to Canadian communities.

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ArtBridges believes that the arts are a crucial component of healthy community development, strengthening the bonds between generations, improving health and a range of other socio-economic outcomes, and increasing community engagement, amongst other benefits. 

At Hands On Media, we also believe in the power of the arts to strengthen communities and expand opportunities for meaningful dialogue and self-expression. To this end, we’ve developed a range of customized workshops to help our clients do just that – from a workshop on Black History Month, told through animation, to digital story projects on the personal and cultural impacts of climate change.     


You can learn more about ArtBridges here, and to learn more about our socially-focused workshops, contact us today!

Digital Storytelling at the NWT Educators' Conference

Digital Storytelling at the NWT Educators' Conference

Although our Director Jessie just got back from Yellowknife, she's already looking forward to returning next month to participate in NWTTA 2018 - the NWT Educators' Conference! The conference happens once every three years, and brings together over 800 teachers and education officials from all across the territory to learn and participate in a range of professional development activities. 

Jessie will be delivering three Digital Storytelling Workshops, as well as a presentation on her experiences teaching Digital Storytelling in the North last year. (Jessie has described some of these experiences here, here and here). 

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This year’s conference, taking place from February 19 – 21, will also feature several themes around which many of the sessions will focus, including Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations, Wellness, Mental Health, and Professional Learning Communities. Other sessions will span a wide range of topics, from integrating Indigenous science into classrooms and supporting children to grow gardens, to bucket drumming, yoga and dance.

The conference also boasts two inspiring keynote speakers: Richard Van Camp – an award-winning author and storyteller, and a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation, and Marie Wilson – an illustrious journalist and one of three commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 

To learn more about the NWT Educators' Conference, you can check out the NWTTA website: https://www.nwteducatorsconference.ca/

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If you'd like to learn more about Digital Storytelling, we offer workshops for both students and educators, including Remote Digital Storytelling Workshops via Skype (something we've been doing with seven remote communities in the Beaufort Delta through the Beaufort Delta Education Council). 

Drop us a line to learn more! http://www.handsonmediaeducation.com/contact/  


Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators

Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators

For young Canadians, digital literacy skills are vital to:

  • supporting their safety and well-being,
  • improving their job prospects in an increasingly digital economy, and
  • enhancing their ability to engage with and contribute to the world around them.

In response to this growing need, many education ministries are adding digital literacy to their curricula, and teachers increasingly are called upon to ensure that their students acquire the skills necessary to flourish in a digital world.

Yet to some extent, faculties of education in Canada have struggled to integrate digital literacy into their teacher training programs.

That’s where we come in!

Hands On Media is very excited to partner with MediaSmarts – Canada's top not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy – to deliver a series of 11 workshops in faculties of education across Canada on digital literacy for Canadian educators.

This project supports teachers with training and resources to effectively implement digital literacy in their classrooms, helping students to develop the critical thinking skills they need to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens.

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Here are a few of the highlights.

Distinctions between Media Literacy and Digital Literacy

Media literacy is included in the curricula of each province and territory. Media literacy is usually defined as being able to access, analyze, evaluate, and produce media. It focuses on becoming active, rather than passive, media consumers. 

On the other hand, there is somewhat less consensus around the definition of digital literacy, and the concept continues to evolve. In general though, digital literacy refers to the ability to do three basic things:

  1. To use digital technology in an effective, responsible and ethical way;
  2. To understand the implications of how we use digital technology (and how it uses us) and to critically engage with digital content; and 
  3. To create digital content and participate in online and offline communities using digital technologies.
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Key Concepts for Digital Literacy

  • In digital media, there are no one-way connections. Instead, everyone involved – as producer or consumer – is linked via a multidirectional, interconnected network
  • Digital content is permanent: everything that is transmitted is stored somewhere and can be searched for and indexed. This includes things that may seem temporary, like Snapchat photos.
  • Digital content is shareable, and you post online may be seen by people you didn’t intend or expect to see it. Once content is shared, you have a limited ability to control who sees what.
  • What happens via digital media is real but it doesn’t always feel real. When we’re online, it can be easy to forget that laws, morals and rights still apply, and that online actions can have real world consequences.  
  • Digital media, like traditional media, reflect the beliefs, unconscious biases and unquestioned assumptions of their creators, which in turn can influence our own experiences and behaviours.
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Teaching Digital Literacy

So how can we effectively teach digital literacy? MediaSmarts has developed a framework that identifies seven essential aspects of digital literacy and provides important information about each one, as well as model lessons for all grade levels.

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The entire Digital Literacy Training Presentation for Canadian Educators will also be publicly available in the near future (we will keep you posted!). In the meantime, check out the MediaSmarts website for all kinds of fantastic teacher resources, including lesson plans, videos, and tutorials.

Hands On Media can also help design curriculum and professional development solutions for your faculty and students. We are available to facilitate custom trainings that target the provincial or territorial-specific needs of your educators and students. 

Contact us today to learn how!

The Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators is funded by CIRA’s Community Investment Program.

A Summer to Remember + Many Exciting Projects Already Underway!


A Summer to Remember + Many Exciting Projects Already Underway!

When I originally started sketching out a business plan for Hands On Media, I assumed, since we were working with K-12 teachers and students, that our summers would be relatively light. The months June, July & August would be time for us to decompress. 


Ha! How wrong I turned out to be... ;)

Ever since we have expanded our workshop offerings to include customized media education experiences designed in collaboration with organizations, community centres, and research projects, we have been very busy with a rich variety of Digital Literacy workshops in both Quebec and the Northwest Territories.

The beginning of the summer saw us working with 30 youth as part of the Town of Mont Royal and Montreal West's Summer Camp series.  We spent 2 weeks delivering our iPad Stop Motion Animation Camps which included a mini Film Festival, where parents and community members came from far and wide to celebrate the students' creative success. 


Mere days after packing up our Stop Motion Animation Workshop kit, I was on a plane to Yellowknife to deliver iPad Digital Storytelling workshops as part of the SMASH and FOXY Peer Leader Retreats, which were held at the unforgettable Blachford Lake Lodge.  Sex Education, Mental Health Awareness, Leadership and Digital Storytelling skills were taught throughout each 10-day program, with swimming, sharing circles, drumming, singing, eating delicious meals, and dance parties happening throughout! These two retreats were personally and professionally huge for me, as leaders and youth shared a special connection and learned so much from each other. Friendships were made at these retreats with both co-leaders and youth that I cherish, and which I hope continue far into the future. You can read my earlier post about the SMASH retreat here.


After a few days off in Vancouver to visit family, I was back up North to work with a new group of Dene and Métis youth, elders and several researchers from across Canada in a remote on-the-land bushcamp organized by the SRRB (Sahtu Renewable Resources Board) called Dene Ts'ı̨lı̨. Held at Bennet Field, Northwest Territories, participants at this 17-day camp learned Boat Safety, Wilderness First Aid, Hunter Education, Medicinal Plants, Sewing, and Digital Storytelling. And wow, as a supposed "leader" of the camp, did I ever learn a lot! Because the bushcamp is also an active hunting camp, fresh meat was brought in almost every second day. Beaver, grouse (or "chicken" as it's called), geese, caribou and moose were regularly on the menu. 


Digital Storytelling was obviously where I spent most of my time with the youth. I was impressed with how seriously they took their projects. 22-year old Shannon Oudzi from Colville Lake, NWT completed her project titled "Dene Life" and was keen to post to her Facebook page early on. In only 10 days the project had garnered 3700 views and 73 shares through Facebook, not to mention the dozens of comments supporting Shannon in her new creation. I could not have been prouder as a media educator, and if we had a few more days at camp she would have completed her 2nd Digital Story, no doubt. :) 

This camp was also the first experience i had working with both youth and elders simultaneously.  Walter, an elder from Deline, completed a beautiful Digital Story about the powerful relationship between a grandfather and his grandchild, while Michael, also an elder from Deline, wove a traditional legend about the time giant beavers used to roam the land, adding photos and video of him singing a Beaver song, completing his Digital Story "Tsa".


I have so many reflections on the Digital Storytelling workshops I delivered these last 8 weeks, lessons I learned about working with youth, adults and elders, and quotes by workshop participants about their own experience. No blog post could be long enough to describe them all, but I will carry these experiences forward into my life and work. 

I returned to Montreal 2 weeks ago, and though it's hard to believe, our workshops are already in full swing for the new school year! 

  • We have returned to Royal Vale Elementary school in NDG for another 12-week iPad Video Production & Stop Motion Animation Workshop with Grade 5 & 6 students;
  • A second round of remote Digital Storytelling workshops for the Beaufort Delta Education Council begins tomorrow with 20 students in 7 communities of the Northwest Territories;
  • A 6-month Digital Literacy Training Program for Canadian Educators tour, in partnership with MediaSmarts has begun in a variety of universities across Canada, with 11 workshops to be delivered to hundreds of student teachers;
  • Several students workshops are booked already in Montreal with both primary and secondary students!

If you are interested in learning more about the Digital & Media Literacy workshops we delivered this summer, and how we can help you, your faculty, classroom, or organization, please contact me. We are here to help you enhance any learning experience with creative, practical and critical digital learning skills.  I look forward to hearing from you!