Toronto teen uses app to give visually-impaired a new look at the world | Toronto Star

Mass Media technology creates opportunities and can fill social needs  when appropriate problem solving is applied to daily living conditions to the whole  range of society.

Anmol Tukrel, a 17-year-old grade 12 student at Holy Trinity School in Richmond Hill, has created an app that helps visually impaired people identify objects and text. Tukrel’s free iPhone app, iDentifi, allows users to take a photo of virtually any object, and then describes that item in great detail back to the user. People can also take photos of text and have it read back to them, in one of 27 languages. Tukrel hopes it makes every day tasks — like picking out the can of pop you want — easier for people who are visually impaired.

Source: Toronto teen uses app to give visually-impaired a new look at the world | Toronto Star

Media Literacy: Bars & Pie Charts, Oh My !

Last semester, as part of my teaching assignment with the Assisted Study Program, I was providing an English Business Technology course for students who were enrolled in a Construction program.  EBT4O is intended as an open level course. The students in the construction program ranged in level from essential to college bound. They received a total of four credits. Two credits for their construction work, building a house/cottage, one credit was for in class construction training, and the last for the EBT4O.

I modified the content and assignments to better reflect their range of ability and the subject matter.  In order to provide them with some practical application I used  Open Office to introduce bar graphs and pie charts. The content came fromEasy, No-Brainer 3-Step Roofing Estimator to relate it to their work in construction class.

One of the problems I faced was making sure that the bar graph and pie chart wa easy to apply.  The default setting on the Open Office graphing graphics is confusing for those unfamiliar with  such application. After checking with a math teacher I was able to determine the basic setting that most people would require.  I saved that setting in the lesson so that all the student would need to do is copy and past the sample graph and then insert the correct information.

In learning a range of computer and media literacy skills, I have found students acquire skills and knowledge more effectively when you use a template. If the content can be related to specific knowledge and skills that are subject related then it re-enforces those computer & media literacy skills.  Note that that this lesson  and instructions on pie charts can be adapted & applied to different subjects.

I have included download links  both the lesson and the instruction sheet. Open Office is free. It can be used at home and at school  ( students will need to have it loaded on their personal laptops or the school board needs to install it on their network).

graphing-instruction-pie-graph1    EBT4O_L4 Pie Charts

The Construction Class De-constructs Some Photographs

One challenge faced by many secondary school instructors is making a subject meaningful to students. This can be especially difficult in courses like English and Media Studies. How do you make the content relevant to students? This challenge is more easily met when the credit is part of a set of credits that are all inter-connected in a co-operative education model.

As part of a set of credits for a co-operative education Construction Technology course, I set up an English Business Technology ( EBT4 O ) credit. This involved taking existing Independent Study lessons and adapting them to the content of the students’ construction technology classes. By staying with content and vocabulary that the students were familiar, I could have them develop and demonstrate specific communication skills related to business technology and media literacy.

For example, the students were required to demonstrate their skill at preparing a five-slide presentation, using presentation software ( Word Perfect Presentations, Power Point, or Open Office Impress). The target audience, content, and purpose are clearly set out and fit the overall content of Construction Technology.

  • Intended Target Audience of this presentation: students in the Co-op Construction Class
  • Purpose & Content of this presentation: inform students about construction materials ( Steel, Wood, or Aluminum). Information and useful links were set up in advance.

Lesson 5_Key Question

The range of abilities of the students in this course is quite wide. Some students have learning issues / limited print-literacy skills, while others are achieving at college bound level.

The slide-show assignment allowed all the students to:

  • acquire digital-print communication skills,
  • use research skills,
  • demonstrate their subject knowledge.

Goals I had set out to meet in re-designing the EBT4O lessons

Provide lessons that:

  • could be done independently and fit into a flexible co-op schedule. ( In class time was adjusted as weather conditions dictated. This modified the number and type of projects that were available over the semester.)
  • had content that either re-enforced knowledge and skills acquired in their other construction classes or expanded that knowledge
  • expanded and enhanced their Business Technology communication skills
  • let the students use those communication skills to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of Construction Technology
  • increased students’ overall Media Literacy Knowledge & Skills

The major assignment involved photography.  The students would use communication skills to demonstrate their knowledge and analytical skills in regards to building construction and the codes and conventions of photographic composition.

Building on the students’ previous experience with slide-show software and report composition, it introduced Media Literacy knowledge and skills and connected them to Construction Technology.

  1. There are codes and conventions to both Building Construction and to Photographic Composition.
  2. Photography is used in the construction industry to keep track of work and the construction process.
  3. A professional contractor will use photography to help sell their work and communicate to clients.

Other forms of media communication that students would be familiar and could relate to Building Construction are:

  • Report Writing
  • Informational Posters
  • Magazine Articles

The results of this modification to the Construction Technology Co-operative credits:

  • students’ overall success improved
  • the pressure of completing the fourth credit diminished

Just a Wordle about This Assignment

One web application tool that I have used in the past and recommended it to students and staff is Wordle. Lighting the Fuse has a post about Wordle and how it can be used on a blog or website. Wordle is tool that generates “word clouds” from text provided by the user.

The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and colour schemes.”

Recently I have come up with a template that incorporates a word cloud that was composed with Wordle. I had already introduced a student to Wordle for a short assignment that was part of an independent study lesson. I observed positive results in both the completed  product and the student’s sense of satisfaction with their  work.

The student has some learning issues and is familiar and comfortable with only a narrow range of computer programs. There is a tendency for the student to rely on paper, scissors, and markers when doing graphic design assignments; so when an assignment required creating a personal crest/coat of arms came up, the student’s default was to print a black and white template.

Frustration arose immediately.

  • How would they print a large enough graphic with the available printer?
  • What type of content was required ?
  • What form should the content take to fit in the crest ?

At this point I offered a possible solution. The student could again make use of Wordle. The expected response came:

Great, but how ?”.

This is where I needed to have some things in place, a suitable template and a sample of the  production process.


What then followed is a hands on lesson using PhotoShop Elements, with which the student had no experience.

A couple of points to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t make the assumption the student knows more about the technology/software than you.
  2. Don’t assume you or your student has to have complete mastery of a particular application. They and you only need to know enough to accomplish the required task, the same as in any subject.

Here is what the student needed to know to compose a suitable product.

  • How to use Wordle.
  • How to use Print Screen Key (on keyboard) to copy the completed word cloud and other graphics to the imaging software.
  • What layers were and how to use them to compose an effective layout.
  • How to use the flood-fill tool modify selected areas of the background.
  • How to use the text tool to place any extra required text on the layout.

For those who didn’t know, the Print Screen Key copies what is on the screen and saves it on the clipboard. The image can then be opened in PSE as a new file  from clipboard or pasted as a new layer on an already open image.

The way I explain layers to my students is by referring to an older technology, overheads. We still use them at our school. I explain that if you pile overhead transparencies on top of one another you CONSTRUCT a new image. Layers are just digital transparencies that can be modified.

The flood fill tool can be set for a tolerance level of about 32 -36. This means that you can change the colour of individual quadrants on the crest / coat of arms. Only the area within the lines will be coloured. This is very satisfying, to those of us who always had trouble colouring within the lines.

Finally, I purposely set the size and the resolution on the basic template high. This means if you wish to print a large poster size version of the finished work you can. It also means that the sharpness of images and text is insured for printing, even if the image’s print size is reduced.

I hope this is useful. Let me know if there are possible improvements, or if anything is unclear.