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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:

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:

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:

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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.

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

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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?”:


We are growing!


We are growing!

With the new season of Spring technically here in Canada, we have news to share of growth, experience and travels!  We have been very busy these last few months growing and expanding in new directions.  So busy in fact, we have had little time to write regular blog posts or updates. 

Busy with what, you may ask? 

  • Brand new, customized workshops for a variety of clients in Montreal, Ottawa and the Northwest Territories,
  • A refreshing new, bilingual website to better serve both Francophone and Anglophone teachers and students in Canada.
  • A new 12-week after-school iPad Animation & Video Production enrichment program with 15 Grade 5 children. 
  • A 4-part remote Digital Storytelling Workshop for youth living in 5 remote communities of the Beaufort Delta, Northwest Territories, and
  • Delivering a series of drop-in family Stop Motion Animation workshops for the Ottawa Public Library this past Spring Break!

We also have a new team member, Antonio Sonnessa, who has joined us from Concordia's Film Program!  He has extensive animation experience, as well as graphic design skills, and loves working with children.  Antonio is already helping us a lot with our current workshop delivery in Montreal, plus any graphic design help we need with posters, images and workshop information packages.  You can learn more about his experience and skills here. Welcome to the team Antonio!


As we look forward to new projects, warmer weather, and even more growth ahead, we thank you for your continued support, valuing customized, hands-on, and empowering media education for Canada's youth.  We are currently taking Professional Development, Student and Organization Workshop registration for the new school year 2017-2018, and we look forward to hearing from you. 


Lester B. Pearson School Board & "The Digital Citizenship Program"

In 2011, Montreal's Lester B Pearson School Board (LBPSB)  launched an innovative new initiative called The Digital Citizenship Program, making it the first and only school board in Quebec to officially recognize the importance of media education and technology in the classroom. The program calls for all 56 of their elementary, secondary, and continuing education schools to implement media literacy training into their curricula in order to provide students with a productive experience with technology that can be very beneficial outside of the classroom and later in life. As technological interfaces become increasingly present within a child’s everyday experiences it is important to teach them that screens and interactive media are not merely a distraction or a reward, but are something that can be used to learn and create.

A school board recognizing the importance of teaching its students how to appropriately and positively interact with different technology is a major feat as many schools today not only exclude modern technologies in their schools, but ban them altogether. Instead of being treated as something dangerous and disctracting, LBPSB acknowledges that technology is a powerful teaching tool and that it is time to bring education into the contemporary era. As they explain, "Digital citizenship can be described as the norms for appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Some incredible (and free) digital literacy resources found on the program website can be found here!

While we were very excited to find out about the Digital Citizenship program, we wanted to see if and how the schools in the LBPSB had implemented any technologies or media tools into their curricula. After some digging we were surprised to find that only 25 out of 56 (44%) of the schools had implemented the technological requirements, according to their latest annual reports. Many of the schools are using iPads, Smartboards and laptops in various classes but some have gone even further, creating a media-based program or class. For instance, Macdonald High School has a whole class dedicated to Digital Citizenship and Westwood Jr High School has a ‘Matrix’ program which has implemented technology in all core classes. Though the schools that are following the school board’s recommendations appear to be on the right track, there are still 31 schools that either have plans to incorporate the Digital Citizenship program or do not mention it at all.

Hands On Media workshops are a great start for these schools and would also benefit those which already teach with technology. Our workshops teach students how to think critically about the media we are consuming and creating, while simultaneously providing teachers with effective educational tools to continue to incorporate media into their curriculum long after we have gone.

We applaud the LSPSB’s Digital Citizenship program as a model for the education system in Canada, and are here to help other school boards across Quebec and Canada embrace media in the classroom, using these powerful tools to create a media and digital literate generation.

Is there an IT skills gap in Canada? Introducing digital skills and careers in the classroom

By Jovana Jankovic

Today, we bring you some business news and its relevance to the digital media literacy we practice and preach here at Hands On Media. Did you know that some experts worry we are in the midst of a widening IT skills gap in Canada? Many industry insiders report that Canada just isn't competitive in the global marketplace when it comes to technology. We can change this for the next generation by starting youngsters off early and bringing digital literacy and tech skills into the classroom. The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the governing body that administers the .ca domain, just released a new report called “From Broadband Access to Smart Economies: Technology, skills and Canada’s future.” You can read the full report here, but here are a couple of key takeaways:

* Many large Canadian IT companies surveyed in this report say that it’s difficult for them to find the talent they need in Canada — 40% of respondents report they had trouble recruiting IT professionals with the right skills.

* 49% of respondents believe that Canadian technology companies are not adequately equipped to compete in the global marketplace, while 75% stated the importance of “made-in-Canada” solutions for the kinds of technology challenges Canada faces today and in the near future.

A few weeks ago, the CIRA held their sixth annual Canadian Internet Forum at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. A number of panelists and speakers expressed concern that the digital literacy skills gap is widening in Canada. According to the Ottawa Business Journal, “panelist Tanya Woods, vice-president of policy and legal affairs for the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, said a lack of digital literacy in young Canadians from kindergarten to post-secondary school will negatively affect the IT industry in the years ahead.”

The panel on which Ms. Woods spoke was particular focused on the current state and future potential of the multi-platform video game industry. Did you know that Canada’s video game industry grew by 31% between 2013 and 2015? The industry currently contributes $3 billion to the country’s GDP—and yet talent is hard to find. Young people interested in technology may be pleased to learn that video games, a beloved form of leisure, could present a very real and rewarding career opportunity for them in the future!

So, how do we jump-start the process of a lifelong commitment to learning about technology (and digital media in particular)? Educators, with the help of our in-class student workshops, can act as "media mentors," engaging with kids to encourage them to use technology in creative, active, and interesting ways, rather than simply passively consuming media. Setting up this active engagement encourages kids to then “mess around” on their own with digital media tools—experimenting with new tools and developing new skills that will eventually be highly sought-after in a professional setting.

A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council of Canada asserts that “Canada simply does not have enough young people selecting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines in school nor ICT (information and communications technology) as a career choice to meet its current and future needs.”

Let’s change this by bringing technology and digital media creation tools into the classroom now! Young people already think of digital media devices as a daily part of their lives, but getting them to think of these tools and activities as not simply a form of leisure but as a viable and rewarding career choice can shrink Canada’s IT skills gap in one generation. Learn more about our in-class workshops here.

Yes it is summertime, but you can begin to plan your students’ digital media education for the 2016-2017 academic year now!

As we mark a milestone, digital skills and tools take centre stage in Canada’s future

By Jovana Jankovic

A Model for Digital Literacy

A Model for Digital Literacy

In 2017, Canada will mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation. As part of this milestone, the federal government launched Digital Canada 150 (DC150) back in 2010—a comprehensive plan to provide all Canadians with the digital skills and tools required to navigate our future. Within the DC150 initiative, public consultations were sought from stakeholders in the media literacy, digital technology, business, policy, research, journalism, and education sectors, and more than two thousand Canadian individuals and organizations shared their ideas!
But perhaps most interesting for us here at Hands on Media was the submission from our friends at Media Smarts (formerly the Media Awareness Network) titled “Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation”.

Here’s the tl;dr (you’re welcome!)

  • Digital literacy skill development in young people must be a cornerstone of government strategy, to ensure that Canada is creating citizens who can think critically about digital content and use digital technologies to their full extent. Media Smarts calls upon the government to create a National Digital Literacy Strategy, which includes consulting with a broad group of stakeholders, policy-makers, and researchers.
  • Citizens already use digital technologies to navigate through all aspects of their lives, from healthcare to news media to the workplace and beyond. The influence of digital technologies over our lives will only increase in the future. How can we ensure that our population keeps up? As the report says, “the issue for Canadians is no longer if we use digital technology but how well we use it.”
  • Recommendations include: compiling a comprehensive list of existing media education and media literacy bodies nationwide, as well as a comparison of similar programs in parallel jurisdictions like the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • K-12 and post-secondary learning institutions are a target for prime media education and media literacy initiatives; while the government has invested in developing technology and building infrastructure, it has not balanced these investments with developing the skills and knowledge needed by Canadians to use technologies safely and effectively.  Definitely take a look at a fantastic Digital Literacy Framework created by MediaSmarts.
  • “Digital literacy” doesn’t only mean being able to view and read digital content critically, but also includes the more complex and nuanced abilities to create and produce a wide range of content with digital tools. Citizens and students should be able to create “rich media such as images, video, and sound; and to effectively and responsibly engage with Web 2.0 user‐generated content such as blogs and discussion forums, video and photo sharing, social gaming, and other forms of social media.”
  • Barriers to digital literacy are important to address. While there’s a common stereotype that all younger people are digitally savvy while older people are clumsy and unfamiliar with digital technology, there is far too much variety within each generation to make this kind of simplistic assertion. Many factors including geography (and infrastructure), socio-economic status (and access to equipment), and language barriers (such as those experienced by recent immigrants) can be the cause of varying levels of digital literacy and competency.
  • While some educators have been wary of bringing technology into the classroom, evidence shows that digital technologies are an integral part of interpersonal learning between students and teachers. Technologies can provide platforms for collaboration and tools for organization. As the report states, “Excluding digital media from schools creates a potentially damaging split between educational and personal experience. Digital media are a knowledge technology; keeping them out of the classroom creates a significant dissonance in how youth gather and share knowledge.”
  • The career value of digital technology education is high. Many small and medium-sized businesses have been slow to adopt digital technologies in their internal operations, or to establish a web presence or move their businesses online by developing e‐commerce capabilities. This means students educated in harnessing and deploying digital technologies will have a distinct advantage in the workplace, as they can offer lagging businesses the tools and skills to make them competitive in the global marketplace.

If you have more free time, you can explore the full report here. Yes, it’s quite long, but it contains some excellent research and recommendations on how all stakeholders—government, academia, educators, business owners, councils on learning, ministries of education, industry organizations, library associations, and institutes for information technology and digital media—can assist the next generation of Canadians in using, understanding, and developing digital media literacy and digital technology skills for the successful future of all Canadians.

Interested in learning more about how to incorporate technology and digital media literacy into your learning environment? Check out Hands On Media’s selection of student workshops, or inquire about our curriculum consultation services if you’re looking to address a particular area of specialization.
Contact us and we can work together to make sure your students are becoming responsible, creative, and engaged digital citizens!


Workshops Anywhere in Canada

Apparently my love for traveling is a family trait.  My grandparents remind me of this regularly, citing the many moves they did as a family throughout the Prairies with a young family, and finally settling on the West Coast of British Columbia.  My father lives and works in the United Arab Emirates, and my mother embarks on at least one big international trip a year, most often solo.  So it is no real surprise for me then that traveling comes so naturally and regularly. 

The sincere love I have for meeting new people, seeing new areas of this country, and being exposed to new ways of thinking and working together continues to feed this travel bug of mine.  And this lends itself well to Hands On Media Education in very exciting ways, because though we are Montreal-based, we are eager and flexible to travel anywhere in Canada to deliver PD or student workshops.  No community too remote; no flight too long! 

Having this flexibility and freedom to travel easily is a truly wonderful part of existing as a small operation, and one we are proud of.  Contact us for details concerning off-site services.