Tag Archives: university

Making is a Click Away: 3 Kid-Friendly Maker Projects I Can’t Wait to Use in a Classroom

I’ve always felt like STEM was out of reach for me. It wasn’t that I felt locked out of the party, like many women throughout history have been, I just never thought I would actually enjoy a job in any of those fields. Much like our guest writer Emily explained, I love the idea of more women working in STEM… but other women, not me. Just the thought of sorting through code or equations when I could be reading or writing makes my eyes glaze over.

Luckily, over the last couple years, I had the serendipitous opportunity to work at a lab that combines the hands-on approach of maker culture with consideration for the humanities. This job forced me to approach a lot of tasks that I had never really encountered before, but it allowed me to do so from the perspective of a humanities student. We were prototyping, yes, but with the goal of understanding more about history, culture, and theory. My experiences at the lab gave me a whole new level of interest in the field of STEM and, while I still don’t feel like it’s the field for me, I feel confident enough to approach coding or engineering for some very (VERY) basic projects. It’s opened the door to ideas that once felt impossible to even consider.

I’m particularly excited to learn about the accessibility of maker culture because I recently decided to pursue a career in teaching. The more I learn about in the world of making and prototyping, the more excited I am to implement these approaches when teaching.

Building Circuits

If you look up the basics of circuit building online you will probably find a page that highlights all the tools and parts you will need to build a basic circuit. While this is incredibly helpful, for someone like me it’s also overwhelming. Even when approaching a much more accessible tool, like Arduino, circuit building can seem like something only experts should do.

That’s why I’m so thankful for kid-friendly tech companies who want to make this process simpler and more interesting for kids (and those of us with a child’s attention span for detail).

The first time I tried circuit building was with a Makey Makey, a kit that easily assembles into a simple circuit and allows you to use a variety of household items as computer keys (like food, pencil markings, and play dough).

I also brought it to work with me when I was running a summer kids program and got the kids to assemble it themselves. They loved the experience and were full of questions about why and how we could turn cucumber slices into a piano keyboard. I can only imagine how a simple circuitboard like the Makey Makey, or circuit stickers like those at Chibitronics, could make simple physics that much more exciting to learn. Continue reading

The Power of Twitter Showcased at the Oscars: #OscarsSoWhite, #YesAllWomen, and #AskHerMore

Twitter has changed the way news is reported. The Black Lives Matter movement has been particularly successful in raising awareness for cases of police brutality that generally would have been overlooked by mainstream news channels.

Arguably the second most important aspect of Twitter is its ability to connect celebrities to their fan base. With the prevalence of these two features, it’s hardly surprising that celebrities and celebrity events have become more politicized.

This year’s Academy Awards are a prime example of this overlap between the celebrity world and political struggles that have been highlighted via Twitter. Below, I’ve included a few notable examples of Twitter flexing its muscles at the Oscars

#OscarsSoWhite

I’m not going to dwell too much on the circumstances of the #OscarsSoWhite boycott, since Gordon and Evan have already thoroughly explained its context. However, I do want to talk a bit about how the controversy was handled by the Oscars host, Chris Rock.

tumblr_o3ajap2ea01rwbf4ro1_500

Overall, I thought Rock did a great job calling out the Academy without reducing his monologue to a humourless lecture. However, in his article for Salon, Arthur Chu points out that,

Acting like caring about day-to-day violence in the streets and the impact media and culture have on that violence are somehow mutually exclusive — a common, frustrating, tired argument anyone who talks about racism in media will inevitably see dozens of times in the comments section — ignores history.

It ignores the many, many arguments that have been made about how the excuses made for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown frequently come verbatim from untrue stereotypes out of TV and movies, how the only way Darren Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” who was “bulking up to get through the bullets” could possibly make sense to anyone is after a lifetime of media portrayals of the scary superhuman black man. It ignores Martin Luther King going out of his way to call Nichelle Nichols and tell her not to quit “Star Trek” because having a black woman on TV who wasn’t a domestic servant mattered. It ignores the ongoing civil rights protests around the Oscars back in the 1960s and ’70s, including Marlon Brando making history as the first and only best actor winner to boycott the ceremony, sending American Indian Movement activist Sacheen Littlefeather to accept the award in his place.

Similarly, several activists have since pointed out the one-dimensionality of calling for more black representation only to appeal to Asian-American stereotypes for a laugh. Continue reading

3 Reasons Why the Paris Attack Feels like 9/11 and 1 Reason Why It Demands A Different Response

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.

In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.

1) It felt close to home

I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.

Even though last Thursday 45 innocent victims lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Beirut and, 6 months ago a similar attack in Kenya killed 147 innocent people, many of us heard little to nothing about those attacks until their news coverage was compared to what occurred in Paris. In our effort to show solidarity with Paris, the Western world made it apparent that certain tragedies frighten us more than others.

As Elie Fares explained in his blog comparing the media response to the Paris and Beirut attack,

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

Continue reading

Justin Trudeau Makes Me Cry: The Trouble with Strategic Voting

I love democracy. No bullshit. The idea of “one citizen, one vote” fills me with hope and pride. As a woman, a Canadian, and a self-declared citizen of the world I am acutely aware that voting is a hard-won privilege. People my age (particularly women) have given life and limb to make voting my right. So usually, when I vote, I swell with pride. This year I hated voting. Voting made me so sad. Because this year I voted strategically. In Vancouver South Liberal party candidate Harjit Sajjan is most likely to beat Conservative candidate Wai Young. So I voted Liberal.

Before I get too far I need to note I’m not a right-wing-hater. In fact, I pride myself on being relatively non-partisan (but left). I don’t think that people who vote Conservative have bad hearts. In fact I am sure there is enormous goodness in the heart of your average Conservative MP. Good hearts aren’t hard to come by. I do think that the government, as it is, has gone too far. I believe that Stephen Harper’s once good heart has been corrupted by unchecked power. And that’s why I lied on my ballot.

Nor am I a Liberal-hater. Like many of his Conservative competitors and coworkers Justin Trudeau has a good heart. Since I was a child I loved Justin Trudeau. He was my political celebrity crush. He was my rock star. He was like the sensitive one from a political boy band.

trudeaujpg

Photo by Jean-Marc Carisse – CC BY 2.0, 

I had so much hope for his solo career. And that childhood crush sort of lingered through until adulthood. I was SO excited when I heard that he (he!) would be speaking at my university (mine!!!). I was going to get to be in the same room as Justin Trudeau! I couldn’t wait to hear what political wisdoms he would impart and what solutions he would offer to the Conservative infestation we seemed to be having in the cabinet. I arrived two hours early and helped set up chairs. Then he started to speak. At first I was confused. Then I got sad. Then his stupid face started to piss me off. Continue reading

The Hoarder Vs. The Purger: How Do You Appreciate What You Own Without Letting It Own You?

This will be a shorter post than usual because I am visiting my family for the week while John and I transition from “school home” to our “summer job home”. In the spirit of moving, I wanted to touch on a question that might occur to anyone who has ever had to pack up their belongings: How much stuff is too much stuff?

This is an example of what too much stuff looks like.

This past Saturday John and I handed back the keys to the basement suite we called home for our last two years of university life. Despite storing our books and dishes at a friend’s house, we still ended up with way more bags and boxes than our small car could possible hold. While I struggled to decide which pants I wore least often and how badly I would need those mason jars for canning, John had no qualms throwing out pretty much anything that he knew he wouldn’t need in the immediate future. He also jokingly called me a hoarder, knowing that it would get under my skin.

As I sat on my suitcase (in an attempt to keep as many of my clothes as possible), I thought back to a couple years earlier when almost all of my earthly possessions could fit into one suitcase. What is it that makes me hold onto things now so much more dearly than I did a few years ago? Continue reading

Lisa Nakamura Part 1: Tumblr Activism and This Bridge Called My Back 

On Thursday and Friday UVic hosted Lisa Nakamura, Collegiate Professor from the University of Michigan, to speak about her research on Digital Media and Race, Gender and Sexuality. Nakamura has been writing about digital media since 1994. While she has written several books about race and the internet, some of her shorter pieces focus on things like “The Racialization of Labour in World of Warcraft”. In order to feel qualified to write about platforms like World of Warcraft, she spent hours playing the game herself.

On Thursday, Nakamura’s talk was titled “The Digital Afterlife of This Bridge Called My Back: Women of Color, Feminism and the Internet”. She began by giving a brief overview of the book and explained why it matters so much.

As an anthology that prioritized written work by women of colour, This Bridge Called My Back responded to the whitewashing of feminism long before movements like the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag began to highlight the problem. This book also introduced the concept of intersectionality, which has since become a key element of feminist theory.

Unfortunately, since it’s original publication the groundbreaking collection has struggled to remain in print. According to Wikipedia,

“The anthology was first published in 1981 by Persephone Press, and the second edition was published in 1983 by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. The book was out in its third edition, published by Third Woman Press, until 2008, when its contract with Third Woman Press expired and it went out of print.”

The book’s struggle to remain in print made it an “artificially scarce commodity” and drove up the price. At its inflated price, the book’s authors might even have been unable to afford their own work.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.48.27 PM Continue reading

The Last 3 Books That Made Me Cry (And Why You Should Read Them)

I love getting lost into the world of a book. You know how it is when you can’t handle taking a bathroom break or stopping to eat lunch because it might mean tearing your eyes away from the page? Luckily, as an English major, reading is a big part of my learning experience. Not every book I’ve been assigned to read has been my style, but some of those books have been so good that they sucked me deep into the story until the next things I knew, tears were streaming down my cheeks.

For the sake of this article, I won’t be focusing on all the books I’ve read over the past year. If you want to read a fantastic overview of a wide span of books, I suggest you check out Evan’s 2014 Literary Awards. Instead, I want to share the last three books that made me cry, and, more importantly, I want to discuss the larger issues that make each of these three books valuable reads.

Each of these novels engages with what it means to live in a post-colonial world. In each story, it quickly becomes apparent that the horrors of colonization do not simply end the moment government policy changes.

While I will avoid any key plot points in these books, I will be alluding to general context around the books. If you prefer to go into your reading experience with a blank slate, I should warn you, Spoiler-ish content below.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Generally regarded as the post-colonial prequel to Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea opens in Jamaica, shortly after the abolition of slavery. Rhys’ protagonist, Antoinette, comes from a family of plantation owners who were brought to financial ruin by abolition. As a child, Antoinette struggles to understand what separates her family from the rising class of British capitalists.

By writing from the perspective of a child on the wrong side of history, Rhys prevents any oversimplification of her narrative. She also challenges the idea that colonial injustice somehow ended when slavery did.

Rhys’ strong narrative style creates a story that will immediately pull you in, but her imagery and carefully thought-through word choices create layers of meaning that make this novel much more complicated than it appears at first read. While it initially seems to be a Gothic Romance, Wide Sargasso Sea also explores a variety of important questions around race and gender. Continue reading