Back from a Sexism & Hip Hop Workshop in Toronto; Now off to Korea and Japan!

Social Media Training 101: if you're going to post a new blog, don't do it Friday.  Tuesday or Wednesday are sweet spots, as folks are more awake than Monday, have a bit more free time to read and learn, but by Thursday afternoon and all-day Friday, don't even bother trying to attract anyone's attention.  Most people are distracted and counting down the hours until the weekend.

Here I am writing to you on a Tuesday, but I so desperately wanted to throw that rule out when I returned from Toronto last week and started writing this blog Friday: I wanted to share this recent workshop with you as soon as I could! 

York Prof of Cinema, Art Curator and all-around Toronto powerhouse Janine Marchessault asked us to deliver a customized workshop to a class of Grade 11 & 12 Photography students at John Polanyi Collegiate in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood of Toronto.  The idea was teach the students how to create their own Digital Stories, using a recent talk they participated in with famed hip hop music video director Director X as a starting point.  In the talk, X was generous to share his history, experience and ideas for aspiring artists and music video directors with the students.  One student then asked him about the women he chooses for his videos, asking if he thinks the fact he only chooses one "type" of woman for his videos as problematic.  He replied with a "if they want to dress and dance like that, I won't stand in their way" response, accepting no responsibility for his role as a creator in perpetuating this very narrow and typical objectification of women.

I was asked to use this response as a starting point of discussion with the students, introducing Media Literacy through themes of Patriarchy, Feminism & Misogyny, as evidenced in many hip hop music videos.    I asked my friend and Toronto music video director Sammy Rawal to join me, providing context through his experience, plus his insight into the responsibility he feels as a creator of media.

We then asked the students to reflect on these themes, and formulate their opinion, thoughts and message through the creation of a Digital Story.  And what a job they did!  I literally had tears in my eyes during our group screening at the end of the workshop.  The students were so creative, thoughtful, intelligent and powerful in their messages.  Stories of harassment in their schools, homes, and in gym class.  Messages of power and resistance to these same treatments, with a resolve to overcome these unfair prejudices so that they can act and dream to become the adults they want to be. 

Now that we are back from Toronto, we are preparing for our upcoming trip to Korea and Japan, where we will be researching their own approach to Media Education, while delivering 2 workshops in Osaka to Japanese Association for Language Teaching professors.  We might even get a chance to take a bit of a vacation--can you imagine?

Stay tuned for news from the tour, plus many exciting workshops, contracts, & Spring Break camps to be announced!  We are booking up quickly for Spring 2017, but still have a few spots open if you are interested in booking a workshop for your staff, students, organization or community center. Have a great rest of the year, and we wish you and your students a wonderful end-of-semester!






Teachers and Tech: Our HOME Teacher Survey Results

Two months ago we created a Teacher Survey to learn more about how K-12 teachers in the Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa areas are using technology as an educational tool in their classrooms. By filling out our survey, teachers were also entered into a contest to win a Free iPad Stop-Motion Animation Workshop at their school! While we finalize the winner we wanted to share some of our survey findings!

First of all, we were so excited to see that 100% of the teachers that filled out our survey use some form of technology in their classroom and over half of the respondents also stated that they actually allow their students to use their own devices for learning purposes in the classroom!

Also, while only 27.5% of teachers reported having participated in any kind of media and/or technology Professional Development session, an even lesser 6.7% reported that their students had access to any similar type of Media Literacy workshops or training. This suggests that there is a disconnect between teacher media training and a follow through to their students. Many Professional Development workshops are also lecture-based and offer little to no hands-on training.

We also found out that 51.7% of the teachers are using technology every single day at their school while another 44.8% using technology 1-3 times a week.  A whopping 86% said that they would benefit from hands-on training to help them learn ways to teach Media and Digital Literacy in their classroom.

We wanted to see what kind of restrictions teachers face with technology on a day-to-day basis so we asked them what they would benefit from and what problems they are currently facing when it comes to Media Literacy training in the classroom. One teacher commented “Technology is changing so fast and as much as I'd like to, I can't keep up. I would love for my students to get more instruction that is as current as possible in their ever-changing world”. We at Hands On Media know that the constantly changing nature of technology can be overwhelming for teachers! New apps, platforms and interactive media are always emerging and we believe that teachers would truly benefit from the opportunity to learn how to use these tools.

Another teacher stated, “We are told to incorporate more media and digital literacy into our teaching but we lack resources”. A common complaint we have heard from hundreds of teachers, which we know can be a very frustrating reality.

We found that there were a lot of teachers who do not know how to incorporate the already existing technology into their classrooms or feel they lack the technology itself. When we asked to describe if they would benefit from a hands-on instructional workshop on how to incorporate Media Literacy, Digital Literacy, iPads and laptops into their curriculum, almost all responded "YES!". The responses ranged from a desire for technical iPad training, to learning how to teach Digital Storytelling, to learning about Media Literacy more generally.

There is an immediate demand from educators for help with the integration of technology into the classroom learning experience and we are happy to be ale to provide teachers with the help they so desperately need.

Contact us now for more information on how we can provide you, your staff and students practical, educational and effective tools and activities for technological integration for the classroom.  Together, we can help bridge the digital divide we know so many students and teachers are experiencing.



Autumn Update from HOME: Media Literacy Week, Teacher Survey & More Workshops!

Hello everyone!

With the 2016-2017 School Year off to a great start here in Montreal, we have much to report from HOME.  (Isn't our Hands On Media Education acronym so good?!) 

Where to start...

Our free workshop contest and Teacher Survey has been very informative for us, with over 30 teachers responding with how they use technology in the classroom.  Did you know 100% of our teacher respondents use some kind of tech in the classroom, but 86.2% are wanting to learn more about media literacy and hands-on workshops at future Professional Development opportunities??  Luckily for them, this is why we exist, and we are excited to help them grow and learn soon.    Contest deadline is October 31st 2016, so please share the survey, and help us serve Canadian educators as best we can! 

Our new workshop season got off with a bang, starting with a great partnership with Vallum Poetry Magazine to deliver several iPad Stop Motion Animation + Poetry Workshops at the alternative outreach highschool Perspectives II.  Each group of students pre-selected a poem which they used as inspiration for their animations, and then worked as a team to develop a story and storyboard.  They then created their own clay characters, and took a series of images using iPads.  Sound, titles and credits were added, followed by a group screening of their final productions, and what an incredible and inspiring collection of work they produced!  Stories of break-ups, daydreaming, and Black Lives Matter are just a few examples.  Take a look at one here, titled "The Flower of Love". 

November is going to be one of our busiest months, as the word has spread throughout the EMSB of our workshops, and so have several booked with Perspectives I, II and Venture in Verdun.  We also have the exciting news of Media Literacy Week, a national Media Literacy and Education campaign October 31st - November 5th 2016.

Because the theme of MWL this year is "Makers & Creators" our HOME workshops are a perfect fit, and as such, have been invited to collaborate on a few exciting events.

Thursday Nov. 3: In partnership with kidsCODEjeunesse, we are hosting 4 FREE student workshops @ Notman House, delivering iPad Stop Motion Animation & Coding for kids in both English et en francais.  Nearby schools have already been invited and registered.

Saturday Nov. 5: In partnership with Rubika, we are pleased to host a FREE Digital Storytelling for Educators, and there are still a few spots available!  Register through Eventbrite here.   

If you are interested in learning how we can help you, your staff and students incorporate technology into the classroom or workspace through engaging, educational and fun activities, please get in touch!  We would be happy to speak with you about how our hands-on, customized and effective workshops can bring 21st century skills and learning to any pedagogical objective.


Join us! Digital Storytelling for Educators Workshop: Nov. 5, 2016 in Montreal

Forget about Thanksgiving, Halloween, or even New Year’s Eve. The most exciting festivity of the year is upon us: that’s right, it’s Media Literacy Week from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, 2016! At the tail end of this exciting week of awareness and education about media literacy, Hands on Media is offering a FREE bilingual Digital Storytelling for Educators workshop in Montreal on Nov. 5, 2016.

Thanks to our partners at Rubika, an awesome design, animation, and video game education institution, we’ve got a space in which to present our hottest tips, tricks, and best practices in digital storytelling.

Are you an educator who wants to incorporate digital media and digital storytelling into your classroom? Not sure where to start? Our workshop will introduce you to activities, tools, and techniques that will help stimulate your student’s excitement about digital creativity, media literacy, and personal storytelling.

Join us for this FREE 5-hour workshop (but bring your own iPad or laptop, please!) and discover the power of telling personal narratives through digital media, whether it’s video, audio, animation, photography, text, or a multimedia project.  This workshop is a great opportunity for educators to develop their technology know-how and practice their skills for classroom application.

What can your students gain from learning how to tell stories with digital tools? The benefits are proven. Students will become familiar with the digital tools they’ll need to use for all aspects of their lives, whether in personal, academic, or professional realms. They’ll gain the confidence to express their opinions and share their experiences. They’ll boost their communication skills and unlock their creative potential.

Want to know more about the power of digital storytelling? We’ve written about the empowering effects of digital storytelling for girls and women, the learning benefits of digital media for kids with special needs, and the career potential of developing facility with digital tools in early life. Finally, check out this article by Hands On Media Director Jessie Curell. Jessie explains why digital storytelling is accessible, easy, fun, and most of all—highly educational.

All the details of the Digital Storytelling Workshop are in our Eventbrite calendar, so make sure you note the date, time, and location. While the workshop is free, registration is required, so go ahead and sign up right now. Note: this workshop is appropriate for educators of students aged 12 and up.

And in case you’re wondering: this workshop and its activities are relatively easy to execute for even the most techno-phobic teacher. There’s no time like the present to bolster your own digital and technological skills, while also gaining insight, skills, and confidence you can share with your students. See you there!

Calling all Teachers! Win a Free Workshop by Filling out a Quick Survey about how you use Technology in your Classroom!

Are you a teacher working in or around Montreal, Toronto or Ottawa?


Our team of experienced Media Educators are working hard to provide you with the most relevant, easy-to-follow and effective workshop education, but we need your help. We are researching the access and use of technology in Canadian classrooms in order to better customize our workshops to cater to your needs.

If you are a teacher or work in a school we would love to hear from you!

Complete our short survey and let us know what types of technology you use in the classroom, and how you use them by October 31st 2016 and you will be entered into our contest to win one customized, hands-on Media Workshop with your staff OR students at a value of $800.

Hands On Media Education is an exciting new organization. Unlike online or generic workshop offers,  we provide teachers and students with unique, hands-on media workshop experiences they need to integrate Media & Digital Literacy skills and activities into the classroom. We cater to both K-12 teachers and students in order to help bring classrooms to the digital standards of today.

The survey is completely anonymous, and will be used for our contest and workshop development purposes only.
Contact us at if you have any questions about how we can better serve you, and thank you for your important insight!

Hands On Media Participates in Media Literacy Week

Co-founded by MediaSmarts and the Canadian Teacher’s Federation in 2006, Media Literacy Week focuses on the role of Digital and Media Literacy, its importance in the education of our youth, and how it’s being integrated into classrooms across the country.

This year, Media Literacy Week takes place from October 31 to November 4, and we are excited to announce that for the first time, Hands On Media will be participating in several ways, including hosting two free Media Workshops in Montreal, plus a published article titled “Digital Storytelling in the Canadian Classroom” for the Canadian Teachers Federation publication Perspectives!

This year’s theme is Makers and Creators, and offers a special focus on media production, remixing, maker/DIY culture and coding.

A lot of attention has been paid to the concept of media literacy since UNESCO declared it a fundamental human right in 2007, meaning that every individual should have the ability to access, analyze and evaluate the technological messages they receive. One of the best ways to recognize, and be able to reject, the manipulations presented by the media is by understanding the process through which media is created. By learning to create and produce one’s own work comes a greater understanding of how the whole machine works. Equipped with this understanding, people become empowered to use the media, rather than allowing the media to use them.

To this end, Hands On Media will be offering two separate workshops:

  • Stop Motion iPad Animation Workshop (Montreal, November 3)
    On November 3, @ Notman House in Montreal, Hands on Media will be partnering with Montreal-based kidsCODEjeunesse to offer two separate workshops under one roof. While the latter organization will be teaching Coding in one room, Hands on Media will be conducting iPad Stop Motion Animation workshops in another.

This workshop will provide students with a hands-on introduction to the basic principles of animation, including story-boarding, character creation, production, and even post-production. It’s a 3-hour workshop that culminates with the completion of short films which are then screened as a group. Geared towards participants 6 years old and up, we’re inviting schools from across the city to participate in this free event.

  • Digital Storytelling Workshop for Educators (Montreal, November 5)
    In conjunction with our new article “Digital Storytelling in the Canadian Classroom” published in the upcoming CTF Perspectives publication, we will be offering a Digital Storytelling workshop to teachers November 5th. Developed around any classroom theme, this workshop aims to equip educators with the necessary skills to develop short digital narratives with their students, comprised of photographs, video, voice, text, and/or music.

The workshop is geared towards those who teach students 13 years old and up, and will also be offered for free. The location is to be confirmed. Get in touch to register today, and please spread the word with all your teacher friends!

As a growing company, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to take part in this special week, and we look forward to meeting and collaborating with new teachers and schools across the city.

For more information about Media Literacy Week or our workshops,  please contact us today.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Back to School with All-New Digital Workshops from Hands On Media!

Just in time for the start of the new school year, Hands On Media is introducing a series of customized, hands-on media workshops for both students and teachers in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

For Educators

Our educational system must keep up in order to remain relevant, as we all rely on some form of technology to express ourselves and share our experiences. These workshops are designed to provide teachers with a solid foundation in digital storytelling, allowing them to seamlessly integrate digital literacy, media literacy & media production into their curriculum.

Teaching Animation in the Classroom equips educators with easy-to-use Stop-Motion techniques. Animation is an excellent way to engage students and make any subject or theme come alive. This 3-5 hour workshop will provide practical, hands-on experience in how to set up an animation station, how to story-board an idea, how to capture animation images, and how to sound effects, voice and music. This course is geared towards educators of students 6 years old and up.

Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom introduces educators to the concept of developing 2 – 3 minute visual narratives and offers basic strategies for creating digital stories in the classroom. Mediums used include photographs, video, voice, text and music. This is a 5-hour workshop and it’s geared towards educators who teach students 13 years old and up.

For more information on these workshops, visit the Professional Development section of our website.

For Students

Nothing engages students more than interactive learning. At a time where common thinking still seems to be to keep technology and gadgets out of the classroom, the truth is that embracing these new tools is the path to greater learning. If you want to excite your students and inspire them to learn in a fun and challenging environment, read on.

The iPad Stop Motion Animation Workshop gives students a hands-on introduction to the basic principles of animation, including story-boarding, character creation, and production. Watch as your students fall in love with the process while learning to work as a team in order to create their own short stop-motion film. This is a 3-hour workshop, but we also offer a 5-hour version that includes sound and narration design. Geared towards students 6 years old and up, maximum of 30 participants per workshop.

The iPad Digital Storytelling Workshop enables students to use digital photographs, video, voice, text, and music to create a personal narrative in the form of a digital video project. Rather than simply consuming media, your students become an active participant in its creation. Suitable for any curriculum or classroom these, this 5-hour workshop teaches digital and media literacy skills as it encourages students to reflect on their rights and responsibilities as they consume and produce media. Participants will storyboard their projects, learn photography composition and video editing using iMovie. Suitable for ages 13 years old and up, maximum of 30 people per workshop.

To learn more, please consult the Student Workshop section of our website.

Be the teacher that makes a difference by bringing an unforgettable, immersive, hands-on experience right into the classroom. There is nothing like the pride and sense of accomplishment your students will feel after completing one of our programs, and they will carry the skills they learn with them for the rest of their lives.

Contact us today for more information.


A HUGE year for Hands On Media

For the past year, we at Hands On Media Education have been busy designing and delivering engaging, creative and effective Digital and Media Literacy workshops for teachers, students and organizations across Canada (and even a workshop tour through New Orleans!). We have set the bar high for hands-on media education training and experiences, and as a result, we have seen an increase in demand for production-based media literacy workshops at all levels.

Teachers and organizations need Hands On Media to more effectively integrate technology into their classroom, staff training and public programs; Hands On Media is excited to grow, to learn, and to reach our potential.

Looking Back

It was one year ago that Hands On Media Education was born, and we feel now is a perfect opportunity to highlight a few key landmarks:

  • On the road we delivered Media Education workshops to hundred of students and teachers throughout Haida Gwaii, Vancouver, Toronto, and New Orleans,
  • At home here in Montreal we worked with over a dozen organizations, festivals and schools, delivering workshops to over two hundred participants,
  • In July we moved into our new Little Italy office which features a brand new studio equipped with iPad and computer stations where we will be hosting workshops in the very near future,
  • In August we hired our very first employee, Jessie Marchessault as Outreach Coordinator who is proving to be an incredible asset already!

Looking Forward

In addition to these exciting new stages of growth and development this past year, we are proud to announce a few upcoming projects:

  • We will be presenting our work during a session of “Equitalks” October 4th to Montreal and Vancouver staff of Equitas, an incredible international Human Rights Education Organization based in Montreal,
  • We are delivering 2 Professional Development Workshops to English Montreal School Board Teachers October 21 & 28th,
  • As part of Media Literacy Week Oct. 31-Nov. 4, and in partnership with Media Smarts and kidsCODEjeunesse, we are hosting 2 Media Literacy Week Workshops Nov. 3rd 2016 @ Newton House,
  • We will be hosting a public Teacher Digital Storytelling Workshop Nov. 5, (registration will be open soon!)
  • In partnership with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship we will be delivering an iPad Stop Motion Animation workshop for Syrian refugees in November @ the McCord Museum,
  • In partnership with the Museum of Nature, we will be delivering a series of Digital Storytelling workshops to Inuit students attending Nunavut Sivuniksavut,
  • And to end the year, we are heading to South Korea to deliver a series of Language Learning Media Workshops to teacher and students!

We are so excited for all the new opportunities this new future holds for Hands on Mediain the world of education and media, and we look forward to meeting you on this new journey.  Send us an email, give us a call, or send us a message on our Facebook page if you are interested in learning how we can bring Media Education into your classroom, workplace or organization.

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.

Girls and women in digital media: from passive consumption to critical creation

By Jovana Jankovic

Research has repeatedly shown that the quantity and quality of media representations of girls and women are staggeringly low. Female characters in film, video games, and all sorts of online content are often trivialized, sexualized, and stereotyped (when they do appear at all). There is evidence that these problematic media messages make it hard for girls to negotiate the transition to adulthood, as they take their cues from oversimplified and vapid representations of women on-screen.

How can adults—especially educators, teachers, and other influencers—give girls the skills and information to understand media representations critically and to develop a more holistic, healthy self-image as they transition through puberty and into adulthood? One way is to encourage girls and young women to become active creators of their own culture and representations by gaining access to the tools, technologies, and knowledge required to create (rather than simply consume) digital media products. As Rebekah Willett writes, “media, particularly new digital media, offer young people the chance to be powerful and to express their creativity as media producers. In this view, young people are doing important identity work—finding like-minded peers, exploring issues around gender, race, and sexuality; and defining themselves as experts within particular communities.”

Fun fact: our very own Jessie Curell, the brains behind Hands on Media, completed a Master's project at Ryerson University in which she conducted a cross-Canada tour teaching teenage girls about feminism, media literacy, and media production in 15 communities, all the way from Victoria to St. John's, in order to “empower girls to tell their own stories, be their own experts, think critically, develop positive friendships, and build skills.”

Jessie’s passion for introducing girls and young women to active, creative, and critical digital media production has borne an exciting new collaboration: Hands on Media will soon be partnering with Girls Art League to bring technological aptitude and artistic creativity together to educate and empower girls and young women through digital media creation and the visual arts. Stay tuned for more details on our fruitful collaboration!

The STEM industries (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and ICT sectors (information and communications technologies) have traditionally been stereotyped as distinctly “male” endeavors, so the stigma and lack of encouragement is already there for girls, even before they may have begun to explore their interests in (and aptitude for) digital creativity. This handy literature review notes that “gender and other stereotypes may lead women and girls to think that ICTs are reserved for men or for elites, or to doubt their ability to learn new skills, or participate in new activities or the public domain.” It’s incredibly important that we encourage and support our girls and young women, including transgender girls and women and genderqueer/gender non-conforming young people, to take the reins of contemporary communications technologies and create voices, images, and stories about themselves that reflect their own realities.

No skills education is complete, however, without the encouragement, context, and support required for girls to continually use those skills. Unfortunately, the online space remains an often unsafe one for women’s and girls’ voices: everything from trolling to cyberbullying to sexual harassment, “revenge porn”, and threats of rape and death remain a common experience for many women and girls who are active (and creative) in online spaces. Researchers have found that women receive twice as many death threats and threats of sexual violence online as men do. This unjust reality may result in girls and women ceasing to engage in digital content creation, despite the fact that they demonstrate an aptitude for, and interest in, digital tools. Teaching both boys and girls about constructive, respectful, and fruitful online discourse is paramount to curbing the cycle of sexist harassment that the anonymity of the internet has unfortunately engendered.

Whether students are using digital tools for the purpose of technological learning or creative expression, equity for and access to digital tools should reflect the diversity of experiences of the people who use them. We look forward to bringing our educators, students, and communities new learning opportunities for girls and young women in the digital space.

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!


Discover the advantages of technology in the classroom for kids with special needs

By Jovana Jankovic

Yesterday, Hands on Media conducted an in-classroom workshop in North Vancouver with a group of 7 kids at the incredible Kenneth Gordon Maplewood Elementary School, dedicated to students with special needs.  We thought today would be a great time to spread the word about the importance and value of technology (specifically iPads) in special needs classrooms as students use slide shows, movies, audio presentations, and music to learn and to communicate. How can your special needs students benefit? Here are a few fast facts:

* Software is more predictable and orderly than human communication, which is usually context-dependent and nuanced. Kids with some form of autism can often feel safer and more ready to communicate through software than human interaction.

* For tools to work with special needs kids, they need to be motivating and encouraging, engaging them in repeated attempts to use the tools. Kids on the autism spectrum are often not motivated by authority and instruction the same way some other kids are (ie. “Teacher has told me to do this, so I will.”) Software, and particularly large, portable, high-resolution tablets like iPads, is visually engaging and appealing, rather than simply instructional like some traditional classroom tools. Autistic kids are often more adept at learning and communicating visually rather than verbally.

* For students with physical or motor impairments, tablets and their highly receptive touchscreens are more aligned with how their bodies move. For example, these kids may find it easier to tap and swipe than to point and click with a mouse. Tablets allow them to keep their eyes focused on one spot (the screen) rather than moving their eyes, necks, and heads between a screen and a keyboard.

* Digital technology is multi-sensory and customizable; if a student is impaired visually, she can deploy aural and audio technologies to communicate her ideas, and vice versa. Non-verbal students may find it useful to communicate through images, shapes, and colours, making them more expressive overall and increasing their variable range of communication.

* Digital communications can increase social awareness and social communications skills. Video chats, for example, may help students focus specifically on learning to read facial cues, a big part of the emotional development of students with special needs.

* iPads and other digital technologies are “cool”, unlike some older development tools for students with special needs, which often came with stigma. Students with learning disabilities already feel like they’re on the margins; contemporary digital technologies are a non-conspicuous way of customizing the learning environment for special needs students without making them feel out of place.

* Text-to-speech software (a program that reads type words aloud in audio) can help students analyze and revise their written work; hearing the text read aloud may assist students in catching grammatical errors that are harder to catch through reading alone. Studies show that text-to-speech software “can improve students’ sight reading and decoding abilities” and “can improve the reading comprehension of individuals with specific deficits in phonological processing (difficulty hearing letter-sounds) as students can learn to decode new words when they are highlighted as they are read aloud.”

* Any students who struggle with the mainstream curriculum due to their particular needs or disabilities will respond well to something that is perceived as fun! “It’s more like a game for them,” says Christina Panichi, a third grade special education teacher in New Jersey. “For some reason when technology is involved—especially cartoons—it engages them more.”

There you have it! These are just a few of the many advantages that digital technology, and especially tablets, can bring to student with special needs. Research into the benefits is still on-going and developers continue to design a huge array of products for special needs kids. But the future looks bright as humankind expands the ways in which we communicate through the power of technology!


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!



Today’s Students, Today’s Needs: Key Areas of Specialization for Educators’ Professional Development

By Jovana Jankovic

The end of June marks the final days of classes for elementary and secondary students in most school boards throughout Canada and the US. As educators consider professional development opportunities for the new school year beginning in September, it’s important to keep in mind that the most effective professional development is the kind that helps educators focus on the needs of their students.

What are the most pressing needs of today’s young people? Are there gaps in your curriculum that could be filled by addressing emerging contemporary topics and skills? Obviously, the convenience, ubiquity, and constant access to mobile digital devices have strongly impacted the ways in which we communicate with, interact with, and analyze the world around us. Critical media literacy and an understanding of digital media technology are crucial skills for today’s young people to develop, and many school boards have yet to formalize these subjects into their core curricula.

Teaching students about digital storytelling, audio-visual production, new communications technologies, digital animation, critical media literacy, and the history and current state of media creation has been shown to have many positive effects. These effects include: mindful technology use (not just passive, distracted browsing of the internet or social media, but active engagement in, and production of, original content), technical troubleshooting (including learning new software and managing archives of digital content), and real-world digital production skills (as all businesses are increasingly required to have an online presence, digital marketing content creation such as image editing and video production have become highly sought-after workplace skills). Not convinced? Just take a look at this charming and thought-provoking personal essay from educator Paul Barnwell in Louisville, Kentucky. After he initiated a digital storytelling project in his classroom, his students felt like “trailblazers” and gained the confidence to “become the authors of their own lives.” Mr. Barnwell rightly warns that “if we don't consider and carefully plan what skills students are learning and practicing by employing technology in the classroom, we're doing our students a disservice."

If you’re an educator at the elementary or secondary levels, and particularly specializing in art, language, literature, music, theatre, science and technology, history, or social studies, you can have a great impact on your students’ media education by helping them to create and modify images, plan and organize ideas through storyboards, write scripts, perform in front of cameras, design and produce web content, or report news stories.

Not sure where to start? Check out Hands On Media’s Professional Development workshops, or inquire about Custom Training sessions for educators in a particular area of specialization. Contact us at #514.659.3814 or and we can help you understand and tailor your professional development goals to meet the current (and future!) needs of your students in a saturated and stimulating digital media landscape.

We wish all our educators, their students, and our community partners a happy and eventful summer break!


British Columbia, Here We Come...Again!

For the dates June 11th - July 13th, we are heading to the West Coast of Canada for the 2nd time in 6 months to deliver media workshops with as many groups and organizations as we can!

Vancouver, Victoria, Saltspring Island and Gabriola Island are just a few spots we will be visiting this trip, so please get in touch if you are interested in hosting, or know of any groups that may be. 

Several dates are already booked with an elementary school in North Vancouver, an art gallery in the Downtown Eastside, and a public drop-in workshop for adults with learning difficulties.

Looking forward to meeting old and new friends in my hometown, as well as swimming in the Pacific and eating fresh seafood.  See you soon!

New Orleans & Toronto Workshops this week!

We have two Hands On Media teams delivering workshops simultaneously: I am in New Orleans delivering teacher and student Stop Motion Animation workshops, and After Effects extraordinaire Justin Tripp has headed to Toronto to teach the Juice Mobile creative team how to create their own motion graphics for a full week! 

We are both busy, but totally having a blast. :)

Aside from discovering the rich music and food scene down here (the very exciting New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is also taking place this week), I have been learning a lot about the New Orleans education system post-Katrina which is quite different from the way the school boards are run in Canada.  Most schools have been privatized and place a lot of emphasis on standardized testing and the hard sciences, with very little funding for the arts.  Thankfully there are plenty of incredible arts organizations that I have had the pleasure of working with already (Young Audiences of Louisiana, KidsmART and Big Class), ensuring that vibrant and effective arts and literacy programming is available to youth, no matter what their socioeconomic background.

We have 3 more workshops booked for the next week here in NOLA, but hereis a taste of what we've been up to during the 2 workshops we have done so far:

As the city gears up for the last Jazz Fest weekend, the sunscreen is slapped on, the iPads are charging and the clay is being bought for new animation characters.  We are loving you New Orleans!




Hands On Media Update from this Side of Spring Equinox!

Happy Spring everyone!  Are you as excited as we are for bike rides, open windows, road trips and Vitamin D?  We at Hands On Media have been busy with some really exciting projects, and have a few new plans coming up this spring which we wanted to share with you.

We were back in Toronto last month for 2 weeks of customized video editing training for Juice Mobile staff, using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.  It's a heavy program with more features, options and keyboard shortcuts than one could ever really use in one lifetime, but we were able to focus on editing theories, key tools and tips to get the course started.  The students flew through the program faster than we ever imagined, working with raw footage to complete several editing activities in record time.  We finished the course with a real-work challenge: complete an awards submission sizzle reel in just a few days.  The students quickly got to work whipping up titles, animations, audio mixing and the sequence with a really impressive final product. (Cue tears from one very proud educator). Well done Mira, Amanda, Lauren and Kelly!  We are returning May to continue with the same group for an intensive After Effects course, and then again in June for Stop Motion Animation.

Some really productive meetings with the Association for Media Literacy, Ryerson University and a handful of Toronto teachers with the Toronto District School Board also took place, with some promising projects in development.

We received some excellent news last week--we have been accepted into the SAJE program for young entrepreneurs in Montreal, meaning 1 year of business training and a $19,000 grant!  We have already met some really interesting entrepreneurs in the program, so we are feeling incredibly encouraged and supported moving forward into the first year of business. 

Next month we are heading to New Orleans to work with a few cool media educators and Alternative Arts Education Organizations (Big Class and Young Audiences), with several workshops and meetings already confirmed.  We will also be partaking in the unbelievable New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest while there, so it will surely be a trip we will never forget. 

Also on the horizon for Hands On Media: potential Virtual TV studio partnership development for secondary students in Montreal, extensive Media Literacy program for Haida Gwaii students and teachers, plus and a brand new office space with non-profit organization Plus 1 in Mile End.  

The ball is rolling folks!  Thanks for all your continued support, encouragement, and help in spreading the word about our hands-on production-based media literacy workshops.  We are feeling the love, and hope to see you this spring!






Storyboarding with Ryerson Photography Students

Storyboarding is a crucial tool for filmmakers before the camera is even turned on, whether for documentary, animation, live action or interactive projects.  The purpose of a storyboard is to translate your initial ideas and visions into a cinematic language using specific cues, notes and symbols that inform you (or your camera operator) what images to capture.  Is this a close-up, or an extreme close-up shot?  From what angle do you envision this shot--a high or eye-level shot?  Is this a static shot, or is the camera moving at all for a pan, tilt or tilting shot?  What music or dialogue do you want for this sequence, if any?


I was invited to teach at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario this past week to teach 60 Photography students how to Storyboard their first film through their "Expanded Image" class, and I was thoroughly impressed with their creativity.  It was a challenge for many of the students to understand camera movement, as they are far more comfortable with the static image, but what a rich array of film projects and ideas.  Their completed films are all due this week, and I cannot wait to see them all. :)  A big thank you to Elisa Gonzalez for inviting me, and to Clare Samuel for hosting.

This Friday I will be a guest teacher for 50 Cégep students in the New Media program at Cégep Champlain, where I will be presenting my past radio journalism work with CBC and a variety of community radio stations, plus presenting a sample of radio and podcast formats, which will help inform their future radio journalism projects.   I'm really excited to meet them all, and hear what they have to say about what I'll have them listen to.

If you are interested in learning about having your own media workshop with Hands On Media, please contact us at #514.659.3814 or and we look forward to hearing from you!



New Year, New Workshops!!

Hello Everyone, and Happy 2016!

What a great start to the year, with mild temperatures for most of January here in Montreal, and plenty of time for getting outside and playing in the snow! 

It is also a great opportunity to begin indoor projects from the comfort of a classroom or house, and what better project than a fun, creative and challenging media project or workshop? Have you ever wanted to make your own Animation, but weren't sure where to start?  Would you like to incorporate Documentary film into your secondary classroom to help teach global relations or history?  We are here to help with any of your media and technology project needs. 

After a few enjoyable weeks of vacation, we are heading to Toronto for 3 Storyboarding Workshops at Ryerson University to work with 60 3rd year Photography students in the brand new Image Arts building.  We will also be meeting with a few other organizations who are interested in hosting Hands On Media workshops of their own, and so we are taking full advantage of our opportunity while in Toronto.

We are taking workshop bookings for the Spring 2016 anywhere in Canada, so if you would like more information about how we can help with your media skills in either your home, school or workplace, please send a note to 

Wishing you all the best this year, and we look forward to working with you!