Ontario Extend mOOC – Module 1

Assorted Lego on a wood floor.

I’m currently participating in the eCampus Ontario Extend mOOC focused on technology enabled learning.  As part of this medium sized Open Online Course (mOOC) it was suggested that participants keep an ongoing set of notes to document and organize their thoughts about the experience.  As a way to document my experience I’m going to be keeping informal blog notes that reflect on what I’m learning and the activities I’m engaging in via the mOOC.

Module 1 of the mOOC is all about “Teacher for Learning” and is really focused on student learning and the ways in which learning happens.  I’ll be working through this module’s activities this week and will be sharing my work below as I complete it: Continue reading Ontario Extend mOOC – Module 1

Design Skills: Posters and Outreach

Wooden bench in fall with leaves on the ground. Poster text reads "design skills for public historians"

One of the side projects I’m working on has had me thinking a lot about self-promotion and employment skills.  This thinking has been primarily around what emerging public history professionals should know when they go on the job market and how they can build the strongest resumes and cover letters possible.  Unsurprisingly this line of thought has also inspired me to consider what skills new professionals are bring to the workplace.  I’ve also been doing a lot of outreach events recent and thinking about marketing techniques.

So about those pretty graphics. Online promotion, creating physical flyers, and designing attractive graphics is a huge skill set.  Not every heritage organization is lucky enough to have their own design or communications person.  In smaller organizations with minimal staff one person is responsible for everything from event design, to promotion, to facilitation.  So how are your poster making skills? And how can you build basic design skills without breaking the bank?

Public Domain Images Are Your Friend

Don’t recreate the wheel or steal other people’s work. Seriously. There are a ton of places online where you can access public domain images to use in social media promo or other design projects.  One my favourite go to sites is Unsplash a website which hosts high resolution public domain images created by photographers. These images often work great as stock photos and are also available to remix and reuse as desired.  Check out “made with Unsplash” examples for ideas on how the images could work in promotional material.

I also love Old Book Illustrations, which is a collection of public domain illustrations that have been scanned from out of copyright publications.  The site specializes in Victorian and French Romantic images, they are available as raw scans to download or in a variety of resolutions.  I also particularly love that this site provides information on creators, where the images came from and the techniques used to create the image.  If you’re looking for historical images I would also suggest checking out library and museum collections to see what public domain scanning projects they have started.

Other sources I use for public domain images: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr Commons and the aforementioned archives.

Yay For Templates!

Poster design takes practice.  Knowing where to place images, how large text should be, and how to make everything eye catching takes work.  There are some horrible posters out there and chances are we’ve all been guilty of creating at least one – too much text, an image that is a bit blurry, or just a bad colour combination.  Using templates can take some of the guess work out of this. Most word processing programs include poster template if you’re looking for something basic.

Canva is an online drag and drop design program that comes with a lot of templates for social media, presentations, flyers, and other formats.  You can signup as a free user to access a number of the templates, images, and fonts.  They also have a subscription option for folks interesting in using their resizing tool or accessing additional templates.  This program is really easy to use for beginners who aren’t looking to invest a lot of time into design.

PosterMyWall is similar to Canva in its use of templates. It is a simple drag and drop design setup with an emphasis on building attractive promotional images. I’ve found this site particularly helpful if you’re looking for a event flyer inspiration or templates. I haven’t used it for social media graphics but it looks as though that is an option as well.

Training Options

At minimum I’d suggest that folks should gain basic photo editing skills.  This can be using Photoshop, GIMP or another open source editor of your choice.  Being able to crop, alter file sizes and formats, and alter the colour of images can be easy first steps to building your skill set. Want other design skill ideas? Allana Mayer wrote a great series of posts about how heritage organizations can use public domain images to create print-on-demand products.

There are also more and more design workshops popping up locally.  Check your local employment centre, library, or entrepreneur group to see if they are offering any introduction to design or introduction to online promotion workshops.

AlgomaU Profile: Decolonizing and Indigenizing the Academy

My fantastic co-worker Skylee-Storm Hogan and I were recently profiled as part of Algoma University’s ongoing efforts to highlight the great work going on at the university.

The profile focuses on our work relating to decolonization and indigenization with an emphasis on the “Doing The Work: The Historian’s Place in Indigenization and Decolonization” Active History piece we wrote in December 2016.

I’m delighted to have had the chance to work with Skylee-Storm over the past couple of years and thrilled to see the work of the archives staff garnering some attention.

Mental Health Awareness and Support

In the nine years I’ve had this blog I’ve started and deleted variations of a post on mental health many times.  I’ve written about self-care, historical trauma, or emotional labour in heritage fields.  These topics all relate to mental health but they also dance around some of the harder hitting closer to home issues associated with mental health.

Wednesday January 25, 2017 was #BellLetsTalk day which encourages Canadians to discuss mental health.  I have some problems with the commercialization of mental health though this initiative and the overwhelmingly middle-class white cis representation in the associated media campaign.  However, this is a huge awareness campaign that reaches many Canadians and the merits (or downsides) of this type of ‘end the stigma’ based campaign are worth of a separate discussion.

In addition to #BellLetsTalk, LIS Mental Health Week is January 30 – February 3, 2017.  This week aims raise awareness of mental health among library and archives workers.   On February 2, 2017 there will be a #lismentalhealth twitter chat at 5pm EST to talk about mental health in the LIS field. This advocacy week also encourages library and archive professionals to use the week as a time to facilitate discussions about mental health, share skills, reflect, and advocate for support.

I do think that sharing mental health experiences can be helpful in raising awareness, advocating for improved services, and supporting each other.  I think initiatives such as LIS Mental Health Week are particularly potent because of their sense of community and the resulting discussion of the intersection of the workplace and mental health. I also really like that LIS Mental Health week emphasizes the fact that you don’t need to disclose your personal mental health status to participate in a conversation about mental health. For many people some talking about their personal mental health experience can be victimizing and stressful.  I’ve suffered from depression on and off since I was a teenager and in the past year I’ve also been struggling with anxiety, however I don’t feel the need or desire to expand on that experience in this context.  We need to respect that fact that you can be an advocate and supportive without sharing all (or any) details of your mental health status.

For many people, myself included, mental health is a deeply personal topic that can be difficult to talk about.  For me, many of my interactions relating to mental health have often been directly connected to my gender and sexual identity. Gender based social stereotypes about mental health and gender bias in diagnosis/treatment can greatly impact a person’s experience when seeking support for a mental health concern. I know many female presenting folks that are genuinely afraid to talk about mental health in their place of work because they are already battling equality issues related to their gender. This concern is amplified for WOC, queer women, and trans-women who often face discrimination on all sides.  Conversations about mental health can be difficult and emotionally draining but they are important and it’s worth considering how we frame our workplace dialogues about mental health.

How do you help support conversations about mental health in your workplace or professional circles?