The Dragon

Three months ago, when I looked at “Realistifying” a student’s drawing, I had some high expectations for myself. As a fairly tech-savvy person, I thought I would be able to do 4 or 5 drawings and that it would look like a movie poster… Well, was I wrong!

Although the overall Dragon did not turn out movie quality, I have gained an enormous respect for people who use Photoshop seamlessly. I attempted to make several videos of myself working on the Dragon. However, after a few hours and only a tiny portion of progress, I didn’t think they would be delightful to watch. Not only was I having to pause and watch a 30-40 minute Youtube video, but I was also having to slow it down and re-watch small portions several times to try and mimic their movement or see what tool they had selected.

A massive takeaway from attempting this is how frustrating it can be for a student to put hours into something to only come up with what many would mark as “approaching.” Every day in the classroom, I see students put in extra effort, seek additional support, and are still frustrated at the outcome. As a professional development tactic, I think this is the only way to put yourself in the shoes of a student. To try, struggle, try again, and in the end, know that other people have better outcomes and make it look way easier!

Back to my Dragon. I was very fortunate that I had a young man in grade 7 lend me the picture of his Dragon and allow me to post it all over my blog. There is a piece of me that feels like I have failed him because I thought it would be movie quality, and I believe that is what he expected.

This is the original drawing I had to work from

As I was going through, I had ideas on how to texture things based on what I think a dragon would look like. I will admit that my ability did get in the way of my overall vision; I was still able to learn along the way. Below is an early picture of the progress I was making.

Scales added

At this point, I had been working on this Dragon for a long while. I was several hours of Youtube videos in. I was able to make the general shape. I had a scale texture I used and masked into the shape. Also, with several frustrating attempts, I changed the colour! These were all small successes for me!

Although my overall goal was to “Realistify” this Dragon, I was very curious about many parts of what photoshop had to offer. Learning the layers in themselves was a challenge. The basic premise of if it is on top of the list, it is the top thing. However, when dealing even with this Dragon, there were hundreds of layers to work with. I found myself following Youtube tutorials and working through different projects to learn the tools, which can be found in my Give the People What They Want blog post. There I was able to create some different ones of which I use as my computer background for the time being. I would suggest that new Photoshop users follow tutorials to learn some of the complex tools.

Desktop Background

As I felt more comfortable with these tools, I would go back to work on the Dragon and found myself getting more frustrated because I just felt success in many of the tutorials I followed along with. Patients were a definite need when learning Photoshop. I knew just because I did it 5 minutes ago does not mean I could replicate it again. The Dragon did not turn out exactly how I envisioned when I began this journey three months ago, but here is the grand reveal!

The final product

Things I wish I could have done better would have been the shading on the scales. I messed around with the upper neck for hours trying to blend. I could not figure it out. The spikes are something that looks good but took many, many, many hours. Each one was pasted, sized, and shaded to give an effect. The back spikes are the things I am most excited about. I wish they could have been attached to a cooler-looking Dragon, which was my fault. You will also be able to tell I had to omit some things from the original design because I did not know how to incorporate it with a texture. Looking back, I may have done feathers.

As you can guess, I am no pro when it comes to photoshop. I tried to add a little flair with the castle and moonlighting. Perhaps it was a flop, but I did have fun in the process, although I was testing my patients at times. I can say in the end. I learned more than just Photoshop through my learning project!

I appreciate if you took the time to read my blog throughout this process. Have a great holiday and hopefully you’ll catch me in the next class!

Durston McKenna

EC&I 831 Learning Summary

Hello Everyone,

I had a great time in this class! It has been around eight years since I was able to take Alec’s class, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I have in the past. As someone who enjoys technology and utilizing it as an aid in the classroom to enhance learning, I find it rewarding to be around like-minded people. It gives me a chance to learn and grow in my own understanding and implementation. I was able to take many things away from this class.

To name a few here. Blooket is one that I have been using in my class since week one. The students love it, and I have been able to incorporate it as both a fun, competitive activity and an assessment in my classroom when teaching a new concept. TikTok is another app that was fun to hear from others in the class, like Curtis Norman (Twitter/blog), on how they are implementing it in their class for learning instead of a distraction. There is an ever-growing number of resources, so this list could go on forever, but for my last one, Desmos is another tool that has been added to my kit. Although previously thought of as only a graphing calculator, you can use it for check-ins and so much more in your classroom.

A bonus thing I have to mention is Virtual Vacation. Every second day I put on a new monument or city. The kids instantly come in and start speculating where it is, based on what they are seeing. After 10 minutes I take guesses, and then we talk about the place and some other things that the city would have to offer. I find it a great way to start the day and expand the horizon for students if traveling is ever something they want to do.

As you watch the video, I was fortunate enough to partner with Jocelyn Wigmore on her last class in her Master’s journey. As colleagues, teammates, and friends, I enjoyed working with Jocelyn on this as we could bounce ideas off each other and were able to do several takes because one of us laughed or stumbled through our part. You will see in the video we featured other colleagues such as Chris Brennan, Gillian Crocker, and others.

I hope you enjoy the video, and if you ever have the chance to take an Alec Couros class, I highly recommend you seize the opportunity!

Open Education

Looking through open education resources (oer) has shifted my perception of what an oer is. When looking through other blogs in this class, I was drawn to my colleague Leigh’s blog, specifically her post, November 20, 2021: Assessment & the Value of OERs. She wrote about the 5R’s, which talk about some of the fundamentals of open education.

Before, I viewed Khan academy as an open education resource. However, looking at it through the lens of the 5R’s, I now look at it as just a free resource and not as an open education resource. Khan Academy is just a variation of Youtube in a sense. I use Khan and Youtube in my math classes as content aids, and then I rework material to align with their teachings.

I want to share some screenshots and a document of my google classroom of how I have set up my google classroom for my math.

As you can see I have all the outcomes listed under the “classwork” tab. This way you are able to bring the students into the curriculum and talk about SLOs.
This is a layout of the outcome guide. As you can see I laid out the Khan videos and then I have worked some open-source textbook links and it is all attached to the outcome listed at the top.

If you are interested in checking out the outcome guide, I have linked it here. When virtual school was our reality, this was a resource I was able to share with teachers. I know it doesn’t fall under oer, but I do like the idea of having free resources that will benefit the students. Many teachers were able to take it and change it to what fits their classroom and teaching style. It was a unique experience as I’ve been able to see it be remixed by many teachers too!

I do enjoy the idea of open education resources. Due to Covid-19, I think many teachers who were not comfortable with technology would have benefited from having some of these resources at their fingertips or being familiar with one or two of them. As was brought up by many of my colleagues, they are not all user-friendly. Many of them need some experience in navigating, which may not be as appealing as a paid program.

Thank you for taking the time and hope you have a great week!


Photoshop Transfers to Illustrator

For this week I wanted to do something a little different which is showing how the skills in Photoshop can transfer over to Illustrator. One of the big differences from Photoshop to Illustrator is the ability to create vectors. Vectors are paths that can be made into any size and will not pixelate. When a company is creating a logo they are generally vectors. This way they could put it on a semi-trailer or business card with no distortion.

This week you will see me take an image, recreate it on illustrator, and utilize my photoshop skills in order to show a preview before then creating it. I apologize in advance for the longer video. As I have said in previous posts I am no wizard so it does take a little longer.

Creation process
Preview picture of what they’d like
Re-created vectors on Illustrator
Used Photoshop to show a rendering of what it will look like
Engraving Process

Using Photoshop in order to be able to create a realistic looking preview makes it easier for the client to approve the design. When sending the vector on the white and black it can make it challenging to imagine what it will look like. Although these skills do seem small as you can see they do take a beginner a while to navigate.

When screen recording on my computer I use Streamlab OBS. Streamlabs was popular for streamers. It was a way they could show their game play while showing their webcam and sharing their voice. It has many capabilities, and would definatly be something I would use if I were to teach virtually again. Also, there is several tutorials on Youtube which makes it easy to follow along.

As always thanks for taking the time to read my blog, hope you’re having a great week!

Is Social Activism Worth it?

This is a blog post I did struggle to write. Personally, social activism is not something that I partake in. I believe in things and would like to take a stand, but the thought of “The Internet Is Written in Ink, Not Pencil” does scare me. I want to get on social media to enjoy what I see and catch up with others. Even with that, I have muted people on my “friends list” who partake in controversial social activism. I believe in freedom of speech. However, I believe that I also have the right to take in what I would like on my social media. After a long day, I do not want to see my friend debating their knowledge on a hot topic in the news.

All that being said, my views have shifted slightly. I have realized that not every act of activism has to be on a large scale. An example of this would be the NeverSeconds movement by Martha Payne, a nine-year-old girl in Scotland who was not satisfied with her lunches. She used her blog as an outlet to get her message out. She was able to see change due to her blog, and I like seeing that outlet of activism. However, my partner has told me that it seems I’m fine with activism as long as it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, which could be true. After a deeper look, it’s not that the subject makes me uncomfortable. It is just that I would not put my thoughts “in ink” online at the risk of being viewed negatively by the public or an employer.

I do appreciate the idea that people who feel alone in their fight can turn to the internet to feel as if they are not alone. I think positive change has happened due to social activism, so I think there is a place for it in the world. I just know my views need to shift to see the good and not just the debates on my social media.

ten facts about social activism

I’m sorry this is a spotty blog post. As I said, this was a blog post I did struggle to write with many conflicting thoughts within my own head

Thank you for reading! I hope you have a great week!

Step in the Right Direction?

Hello Everyone,
Thank you for checking in with my blog and I hope you are having a great week!

Welcome back to the journey that is me learning Photoshop! After many hours of messing around with the tools and ever-growing features photoshop has to offer, I created something that I was excited about. I want to warn you I was not excited because it was good, but because it was a step in the correct direction for my end goal: to “Realistify” a kid’s drawing.
I also showed the awesome dragon a student drew for me to try and realistify in Photoshop at 4:02. I told him that I could butcher it, but I will do my best!

The real question is does anyone like the sound of their own voice in videos!?

Stay tuned for a list of videos and tools that I have been using through this journey to help me improve!

Give the People What They Want

Although it was only five responses. I wanted to leave it in other people’s hands. I would have thoroughly enjoyed learning any of these five skills. The results are in… *drumroll*

Forms response chart. Question title: What should I learn. Number of responses: 5 responses.

60% voted for me to learn photoshop and “realistify” drawings or things! I am excited about this. The videos I shared in my previous post from Benny Productions did inspire me to explore this option. Another interesting thing about Benny is that he is a 19-year-old kid from the Netherlands who has exploded on YouTube in the last year. He said he had always been creating but was able to turn his hobby into a career, which I find amazing about the internet.

where am i now?

Since the vote, I thought it would be vital for me to learn some of the ins and outs of Photoshop. However, I do use Adobe Illustrator causally for a side hustle of mine. I am by no means a professional or proficient at it. I learned very quickly that Illustrator to Photoshop, although made by Adobe, function differently even to navigate around. This will take some getting used to.

The last week I have spent time following along with tutorials closely to learn some skills and get more proficient at things that I have seen in Benny’s videos that make things come to life. Skills like illuminating, shading, and overall colour in the photos. Below are some of my creations with the linked videos that I followed.

I hope by next update I will have followed along with more tutorials and become a little I hope by the next update, I will have followed along with more tutorials and become a little more comfortable navigating through Photoshop tools and all the layers I am creating. There are some tutorials around warping and exposure shading that I will need to dive into if I want to make a drawing realistic.

I have a few students at school that create drawings of scary and creative monsters. They build them almost like Pokémon. They have great details, and they outline the strengths and weaknesses of their creations. It would be cool if I could incorporate those into the final product as well.

I look forward to continuing this journey and sharing my creations with you!

Keeping up With the Kids

As someone who enjoys tech and fears being “the old teacher,” I try to stay up on what the students are using. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat were all around while I was in either high school or university, so they were easy to get on and use. As Discord rolled out, I grew up a gamer, and it was an easy transition to being to use that. TikTok was the social media platform I was reluctant to use, but when a student told me, “it is Vine on steroids,” I was in!

In a recent blog post, I talked about how my feelings towards social media like Facebook and Instagram have changed. As someone who works in a school, I feel as if I am always in the public eye. When I leave work, I want to be more private, and for that reason, I have faded out of posting on social media.

Social media can be a distraction in classrooms; I would like to talk about how TikTok could be a tool in a school. An instant challenge that is brought up frequently is the privacy of students in a school setting. Another obstacle is kids having the accounts, or getting them to sign up would be a no. I think the easy way around this is that most things are on YouTubeTikTok and Fortnite have encouraged students to dance and learn some fairly good moves! When looking at the Saskatchewan Curriculum, you can see that “dance” is a strand. Using YouTube to watch TikTok trends and having the students recreate them. This approach can help to make those outcomes enjoyable for students. Dance is a strand in the curriculum that middle years teachers have struggled to get engagement in. When this was attempted at our school, the students were not thinking of it as dance. They were just having fun. 

I’m curious if there are any ways you are utilizing social media in your school to engage more students in trickier outcomes?

What skill should I learn?

As I think about what skill I would like to learn and share my journey, I have many ideas. I have four thoughts around this that I would like to share and get your opinion about. The most important thing for me when choosing is to enjoy learning it. There are many things out there that I have wanted to do, but time has always passed by, and I haven’t for some reason. I want to take this class/assignment as an opportunity to achieve one of these finally.

First: Photoshop “Realistify-ing”
I have minimal experience with Photoshop. I have messed around with a few things in the past 20 months throughout Covid. Nothing good at all, and just following tutorials. However, I ran across this Youtube Benny Productions. He takes drawings and turns them into a realistic type of creation on Photoshop. My first thought would be to have a student in my school draw a picture of a character, and I would try to “realistify” it. 

Benny Productions –> Photoshopping YOUR Drawings! | Realistified! S1E3

Photoshopping YOUR Drawings Again! | Realistified! S1E2

Second: Create a Videogame
As a millennial that grew up playing video games and still finds them as a way to unwind after stressful weeks, this has always been a dream. Create a video game. This past weekend I spent several hours running through tutorials and was able to get the main character to move with different animations. This is a more significant undertaking, but it is something that I enjoy learning about. This one involves several steps. I would need to learn how to use the program, the coding language, and creating sprites. When it comes to this, I would need to create a small goal to have a functional world that I could have an objective and complete it in the game. I still have to do some thinking around this, but I would love your thoughts!

My attempt at a sprite
My attempt at code to make player move

Third: Podcast
This thought is right in the title, a podcast. For this project, I would look to split some of the learning with another classmate Chris Brennan. After researching how much goes into a podcast, I thought it would be good to bring in a partner. 
–> A name
–> Topics for discussion
–> Planning
–> Scripts
–> Recording
–> Editing
–> Creating theme music
–> Adding music

Fourth: Visual Effects/Rendering Software
My fourth and final thought is difficult to describe because the program has various functions that I could explore. The easiest way to describe it without looking too much into it is to create something and add real-world materials and render it as if it was real. The free program I would use is Blender. I followed along with a tutorial for around 3 hours and created the very early resemblance of a doughnut. There are many other functions, as I said earlier, that I would explore. One function that would interest me is rendering a remodel for my house. This would take some exploration.

Early stages of creating a doughnut
This could be the final product rendered with many more hours!

As I said at the beginning I am curious to know what your thoughts are. Would you please take a second to fill out a survey to help me decide? –> Survey

Social Media and Me

Thinking about how social media is so integrated in my life is mind boggling. I rely on it as a huge means of keeping up with distant friends and families life. I am able to watch people’s kids grow up from a distance. We communicate, share, and bond over many of the memes, videos, and content that can be found over several different platforms. Without social media many of the relationships I have today would’ve faded into the background, and many of them wouldn’t have started at all.

I grew up in the “Early Internet era”. I remember the first computer being set up in my house. It had a disc drive which I was told was a big deal because, “it could read stuff very fast”. Many of my early memories on the computer were playing minesweeper, pinball, and a disc game The Time Warp of Dr. Brain. These were not multiplayer games, but me and my 3 siblings at the time had fun taking turns.

I do remember when it all changed and I had an email created for me at my friends house, Her dad made it for me and showed me that I would be able to talk with my friend even when I was at home. Interested I went home, we downloaded MSN, and after several phone calls there it was I could talk to her on my computer. The following year when I went to summer camp people were exchanging MSN accounts to talk after we all left. It was the first time that people were staying in touch when we weren’t in the same city and I thought it was awesome!

Later in life this would be where friends and I would gather around to talk to other groups of friends and try to coordinate plans. We didn’t need the phone anymore because you pre set up these times at school and met online. Beyond MSN people were starting to get into Whyville. This was a platform that you could create a persona for yourself online which in my head was my first taste of social media. You were on the internet with a floating head that you tried to make look like yourself and were just on the internet connecting with friends and strangers.

The Rise of Web 2.0 would be the turning point in my love/hate relationship with social media. As a teenager I loved always being connected with my friends and see what they were up to online. Connecting with people and of course remembering their birthdays. It was addicting. I logged on frequently when it was on my computer. Then it moved to my phone and it felt like I was too connected. The negatives of viewing many people’s fantastic lives and feeling as if I was doing nothing. It was around the time of Facebook and Instagram that I started to get more self conscience with how I looked, what I had, and the experience I could afford.

As an adult in his late 20s I find myself avoiding social media. I use it to stay in contact with my distant friends and family. I have found myself more private on social media and not willing to share about pictures, or posts about myself. I also untag myself in posts and pictures that I actively try to avoid while out in my real life. I also distance myself from “keyboard heroes” that I know in real life. I do get tired of online personas and would rather a phone call then a direct message on a platform. The only social media that make me laugh is TikTok which I am on their anonmysly just to observe and not be interacted with. This could be a repercussion of having a job in the Education sector where we are held to higher standard both on and offline.

Positives that I do see and experience are on the communities that are built online. Many people feeling lonely can almost always find a community of people that are experiencing the same as them. There is also the communities of learning new skills are amazing. This has helped me in my DIY projects around the house, small business ownership, and my teaching career.

As social media continues to grow I know that it has many positives that can be accessed. There are also negatives that need to be taught to younger generations. The balance of being “too connected” and experience life. I see the ramifications of children being too connected daily and confusing it for experiencing life. My goal is to help educate the younger generation to have social media as a connection tool and not a substitution for interactions.