Don’t Cry Over Broken Needles

Just as I thought I was getting the hang of things, I figured it might be smart to practice a little more on scraps before sewing my clothing . . . you know, just in case. I put the scrap material under the needle and pressed down on the foot control and – SNAP – I broke the needle. No big deal, I thought – must have been a faulty needle. I replace the needle, press down on the foot control and – SNAP – break another needle. In walks confidence crusher.

I could not for the life of me figure out what I was doing wrong, but I continued to breaking needle, after needle, . . . after needle. In fact, I spent the next two hours breaking needles. With a little troubleshooting, I was sure I could figure this out. How hard can it be, right? Wrong!

Attempt 1: Online User Manual

I checked the troubleshooting section of the online user manual – went through each point under the needle breakage section. I reinstalled the needle, tightened the needle clamp and loosened the tension. Put the fabric back under the needle, pressed down on the foot control and– SNAP – broke another one.

Attempt 2: Internal Examination

Photo Credit: VeRoNiK@ GR Flickr via Compfight cc

I opened the bobbin housing and slowly turned the hand wheel to move the needle up and down in the hopes that I could see where it was striking. I could hear it striking but couldn’t see the point where the tip of the needle was making contact.

Attempt 3: The Bobbin

Thinking I might have threaded the bobbin incorrectly or installed the bobbin case wrong, I rethreaded the bobbin and reinstalled the bobbin case. As soon as I started to sew – SNAP – broke another needle.

Attempt 4: Presser Foot

Zig-Zag Foot

Maybe I was using the wrong presser foot? After all, the zigzag foot and the satin stitch foot look so similar, perhaps I inadvertently had the satin stitch foot on?

Satin Stitch Foot

So, I changed the presser foot and as soon as I started sewing – SNAP – broke another one.

In Walks Dispair

Nothing was working. Was my machine broken? I figured my last option was to read the ENTIRE online user manual! And what do you know, waiting for me, right there on page 32 was this:

It turns out that when you change the stitch on the stitch selector, depending on the stitch you select, you change the position of the needle. When I had been testing out different stitches, without realizing it, the needle position was moved to the left and it was striking the presser foot and snapping. So although I wasn’t using the straight stitch foot, I learned from this section of the user manual that changing the stitch can change the position of the needle, causing it to collide with the foot.

But even a skilled seamstress can fall victim to the dreaded skipped stitch or broken needle, or what’s possibly the most annoying of all sewing machine headaches: thread bunching

After solving the problem I decided to do what I had intended to from the start, practice stitching. As you can see it didn’t go so well, but at least I didn’t break another needle :).

Laughable Moment

After all of that, I pulled up the user manual and hit CTRL+F, and what do you know, it is searchable!!! I hadn’t even tried searching the document as it was so fuzzy looking that I just assumed it wasn’t searchable. All that time I could have just CTRL+F’d ‘break’ and found the solution, less all the turmoil. Lesson learned. No knowledge is ever wasted, right?

My Brain Must be Growing

On a positive note, according to Mindset Theory, my brain should have grown exponentially during all those challenges!

Plan of Attack Update

My plan of attack has changed quite a bit since my first post Teacher Shirts. Thus far, at my current skill level, I am pretty confident that I won’t be sewing on my actual clothing until I have mastered the basic skills. My next challenge will be learning to sew button holes!! Wish me luck.

What about You?

Have you ever tried to learn something new and failed repeatedly, but persevered? I would love to hear about it.


DF YouTube

The Good

I love this Chrome extension! I was using SafeShare in the past, but DF (distraction free) YouTube is far easier to use. It allows you to watch YouTube videos without additional videos appearing in the sidebar, comments, or ads. Not all of the additional content that appears within YouTube is appropriate for students, so if you are having students use their tablets to watch an assigned video, or even playing a video for the entire class, DF YouTube is great add-on to keep little eyes from straying from ‘G’ rated content.

Annoyed by the ads that play before and during videos? Never fear! DF YouTube to takes care of those too. It removes all ads from videos and provides you with a distraction-free viewing experience. One of my favorite features of the DF YouTube extension is that it allows you to choose what you want and do not want to see.

This allows you to tailor the extension to ensure it is age appropriate. Fewer restrictions for older students and more restrictions for younger students.

Have you ever went to YouTube to watch a particular video, and then been sidetracked by sidebar videos and strayed from your original path? Students are just as easily distracted which makes this extension so valuable for use in the classroom.


Doing inquiry with younger students can be difficult, and it can be a long and tedious process to provide students with links to videos that have ads removed using other sites (i.e. SafeShare), and then subsequently having to create QR codes for students to access these sites. I talk more about this process in my “The Journey Begins” blog post. All that time and effort, just to ensure students are not exposed to inappropriate content. DF YouTube takes all of the work and provides the same results.

The Bad

As with most free apps, developers do not provide them for free out of the goodness of their hearts. There is a give and take. We get the free extension, and they get access to some of our personal information and user data. Here is the privacy disclaimer associated with DF YouTube:

I do not read, examine or track your browser history or any other personal information.  The only permissions I ask for are "tabs" to insert the functionality and "storage" to store your settings.  I am a strong believer in privacy.  This extension is just a tool to help remove the distracting elements from YouTube.

DF YouTube and the SAMR Model

Does DF YouTube help create tasks that lead to higher order thinking and have a significant impact on student outcomes? I believe it has potential in this area. DF YouTube, as a tool, helps makes it safer for younger students to engage in online inquiry where teachers may have hesitated before. Quality inquiry leads to higher order thinking as it enhances student experiences by allowing the teacher to provide safe content but does not. I would place DF YouTube at the Modification level for this reason.

Do you see DF YouTube as a transformative tool or simply an enhancement?

To Tweet or not to Tweet

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I am a reluctant blogger and a reluctant tweeter. However, the more I blog and the more I tweet, the less reluctant I find I am becoming. Regardless of my increasing comfort with having an online presence, I continue to be weary. According to one article;

“Social media sites . . . encourage registered users to provide as much information as possible. With limited government oversight, industry standards or incentives to educate users on security, privacy and identity protection, users are exposed to identity theft and fraud.”

Photo Credit: Visual Content Flickr via Compfight cc
Sure, there are privacy settings that can help keep your information private, but events such as the recent Facebook scandal point to the fact that privacy settings were not enough to protect Facebook users from a privacy breach.

Photo Credit: stockcatalog Flickr via Compfight cc

The Good:

What I like about twitter is that it helps you stay current on the latest technologies, programs, and strategies that can be useful in the classroom. Lurking around twitter, I have already found a number of things I can use in my future classroom. For example, I am all about using stories to teach content and learned about several apps I could use from Kali’s tweet.

I also like that I can follow groups and organizations. This helps me stay current on various programming and events. I am also able to connect with people with similar interests, and like-minded educators.

Twitter Chats

Last week our class participated in #saskedchat. We were given a series of question by the moderator and provided an opportunity to respond to each as well as have dialogue with others. The topic was around the benefits and disadvantages of having a paperless classroom. I found that it moved very quickly, but using the tweetdeck helped me to keep up with the questions. Reading and responding to others responses was a little more tricky because of how fast things went. I am planning to give Twitter chats another go over the next several days. Twitter chats are a great way to network and connect with other teachers and a powerful platform for discussion.

Professional Development

Both Twitter and Twitter chats are powerful professional development tools. I don’t know of any other platform that connects teachers and like minded individuals from around the world in the way Twitter does. It is a great way to share with, and learn from other teachers and organisations, groups and movements.

Twitter in the Classroom

Being new to Twitter, I didn’t really have any ideas on how to use it in an elementary school classroom. After a little searching, I found an article called ‘50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom‘. Here are two of my favorites from the article;

Track a hash tag

Incorporate Twitter in lessons that track hash tags for another interesting lesson in how trends spread and the various ways in which people use social media to communicate ideas.

Connect with the community

Partner up with local government or charitable organizations and use education Twitter to reach a broad audience discussing the latest cultural or educational events in the area and encourage others in the community to attend.

What I like about using Twitter to connect with a community and track a hashtag is that it shows students that Twitter is more than simply a way of communicating with friends and encourages deeper connections.

Concluding Comments and Questions

There is no arguing that Twitter is a powerful professional development and educational tool but is using it worth the potential risks to personal privacy and data? I haven’t entirely decided yet. What do you think? Do the benefits outweigh the risks for you? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Needles and Bobbins and Thread, Oh My!

Threading the Machine

It took a few tries, but I can now thread my sewing machine! I never would have figured it out without the sewing machine manual I found online. Here is a video of my having a go at it. 

Another helpful resource was a YouTube tutorial for threading a Kenmore machine The sewing machine used in the tutorial isn’t the same model as mine, but it is very similar. Seeing the machine threaded both in the form of a diagrams (offered in the online user manual) in addition to a demonstration via video really helped me learn how to do it myself. The trickiest part is that it is difficult to see all of the small components being referred to in the threading diagrams, so it took some trial and error on my part, but I figured it out eventually.

Threading the Bobbin 

Photo Credit: Stefan Leijon Flickr via Compfight cc

Next I learned how to thread a bobbin. Again, I found it most helpful to learn from two sources, the online user manual and video tutorials. Figuring out how to do this would have been far more difficult if I only had one or the other. Here is a video of me having a go at it:

Bringing Up the Bobbin Thread

Okay, this was the most difficult step for me. I tried this at least 10 times before getting it to work. The thread kept getting built-up and tangled in the bobbin housing and I eventually ended up breaking a needle. I figured out what I was doing wrong after I consulted the manual. It turns out you are supposed to hold the top thread gently in front of the needle while lowering the needle. I hadn’t been doing this. Here is a video of me having a go at it.

I kept breaking the needle and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why? Any experienced sewers out there that have any ideas, I would love the advice.

After getting the machine all ready to sew I had to do a little practising. The first stitches didn’t come out right, they were all tangled and bunched together. I am not sure what I did wrong. I re-threaded the machine and the stitching came out much better. You can see the result at the end of this video.

Next Steps

Now I need to learn more about the different fabrics and stitches, thread, and needles appropriate for each. Hope you check back next week for updates on my learning project. Thanks for reading.

The Hunt

It took some hard work and tiring Googles searches, but I finally found a user manual for my Kenmore 385 -12914 sewing machine. Additionally, I was able to find a separate threading guide for my model which was super helpful as it is much clearer than the images in the user manual.

Change of Plan

I was going to try threading my machine, but honestly, I got side tracked with a ton of cool videos about everything to do with sewing. I have started into Step 2 and decided that it makes more sense to learn about tension, thread and fabrics before threading the machine.

Okay, so now I get to talk about all the cool tutorials I watched and want to try out. I found a great video on YouTube that demonstrates many of the basic sewing techniques a beginner needs to know and another video that talks all about the different fabrics. But by far, the most helpful video I found was a tutorial on using the right tension by Becky Hanson. She is an excellent teacher! I discovered that using the correct tension, thread and stitch for your project are critical to success.

She also posted an excellent tutorial on how to thread a bobbin which I am certainly going to use when it comes time to thread my machine (tomorrows project). The tutorial is specific to a Singer machine, not a Kenmore (which is the model I have) but she goes over general information that is helpful to all sewers. I also learned a ton about common sewing machine problems that can be avoided by following some simple practices. For example, serger thread isn’t meant for use on a regular machine, but if you do want to use it you can use a separate stand alone spool holder and a spool insert to keep it from moving too much. And that you should have a spool felt under your spool pole so it glides easily. And, you should put a spool cap on top of your spool. Apparently, these come in different sizes and you need to use the proper size to ensure your thread doesn’t get caught in the imperfections of the top of the spool while sewing. It should be a little bigger than the top of the spool. There is also a technique for putting it on properly. It shouldn’t be too loose (too far from the top of the spool), nor should it be pressed tightly against the spool. For best results, it should be very close but not quite touching the spool.


Thread that is wound onto a spool in a crisscross pattern is designed to be put onto a vertical thread holder while thread that is not is meant to be put on a horizontal thread holder. Becky Hansons tutorial also taught me that you can’t just use any old bobbin in your machine. You have to use the exact same type of bobbin that came with your machine. She also said that she does not recommend buying pre-threaded bobbins as they are not the correct depth and this can cause problems.

If anyone happens to know of other online sewing tutorials that teach basic skills, please feel free to share!

Feedly, Deedly, Do

I am so glad I was introduced to Feedly! Feedly is an RSS feed reader that helps you organise, read and share your favourite online sites. This is what it looks like:

The Search

I started by searching for blogs and publications using ‘Edtech’ as the keyword. From there I looked at a number of things to determine whether to add a source to my feed (i.e. number of followers, percentage of followers who read the posts and number of posts per week). I also read the brief description provided in magazine view (see image below) to help me determine if the sources were relevant to what I was looking for.

A Good Find

I found a great site on educational technology and mobile learning. My favourite part of the site was an article called The Ultimate Edtech Chart for Teachers and Educators. It provided an extensive PDF chart of Edtech resources categorised by subject. I love quick reference tools like this. Teachers are busy and when you have a list of tools at your fingertips, it makes you more efficient at managing your time. This is a list that can be converted into a word document and then added to as you find additional resources throughout the years. You can also take out resources that might be for students much older or younger than you plan to teach.

How about you? What do you like most about Feedly?

Teacher Shirts

To Ukulele or Not to Ukulele

I was set on learning how to play the Ukulele for my personal learning project for my EDTC 300 Course.

Photo Credit: FolsomNatural Flickr via Compfight cc

In fact, I ordered one on Amazon and as I write this post my little blue Ukulele is in the back of a truck on the way to my house. So how did I stray from the path of plucking away at a stringed instrument? It all started with a shirt, a super cute, cold shoulder, black shirt to be exact. The most important detail being that the shirt was the PERFECT length. This is important. When you are teaching, you are bending and reaching, and depending on your enthusiasm, maybe even twirling and jumping. Although we want our students to know many things, they do not need to know the colour of our underpants.  I digress, back to the shirt, that is . . . my inspiration. Yesterday my sister came over wearing a shirt that I LOVED. What made this shirt so special in an age of crop tops was . . . you guessed it, the length. Crop tops being all the rage these days makes it tough to find a shirt that you can do the things teachers need to do while keeping the colour of your knickers top secret.

What is the perfect length you ask? For me, it is a shirt that falls just below the hip. As mentioned earlier, the the crop top trend has made shirts this long tough to find. However, when I go shopping I see so many dresses and think, ‘if only they were a little shorter, they would make the perfect teacher shirt’.

Okay, so to the point! After further investigation, I learned that my sister’s shirt (the one I envied) was originally a dress, which she altered herself and voila – one perfect teacher shirt! This made me think about the sewing machine my grandmother handed down to me that has been collecting dust in my closet for the past four years. If only I had the power to use this mysterious machine I could buy all of the dresses that were destined to be teacher shirts and transform my wardrobe MUAHAHAHA. Goodbye Ukulele, hello learning to use my dusty sewing machine!!

How about you? What do you feel most comfortable teaching in?

Photo Credit: helsinkihacklab Flickr via Compfight cc


I have used a sewing machine before, however it was approximately 13 years ago. I went on a sewing kick one summer when I went up to visit my sister who was stationed in a remote area of North Saskatchewan. I thought sewing would be a great way to keep myself busy in a place with little else to do. I made a shirt, a skirt and a dress. It was the first and last time I used a sewing machine. In other words, I am starting from scratch as the old adage goes if you don’t use it you loose it. I have some basic knowledge of what has to be done but do not remember how to do it. For example, I know that you need to thread the machine and thread the bobbin, but can’t recall for the life of me how to do this. I do have a basic knowledge of sewing and alteration terminology which should be helpful.

Plan of Attack

Step 1: Learn how to use my sewing machine:

  • Search online for a manual or find videos on YouTube that outline how to use the make and model of my sewing machine. I need to figure out how to thread the machine and how to thread a bobbin as the first steps.

Step 2: Stitches and needles

  • The next step in my master learning plan is to learn more about what size of needle is to be used with different types of material. Furthermore, I will search online for information about different kinds of stitches to use for making alterations.

Step 3: Practice and make mistakes

  • I will practice my new found knowledge and skills on scrap material and old clothing to make sure I have the hang of it before I attempt to alter clothing that I plan to wear in the future.

Step 4: How to Make Alterations

  • I will look online to learn about the different types of alterations that I would find useful such as taking in clothing at the side and back seams, creating darts, and hemming.
  • I own several shirts that could use some tailoring so I will start there and begin to make alterations so that they are the perfect fit.
  • Lastly, I will buy a dress that was destined to be a shirt and and hem it.

The Journey Begins


My name is Meagan and I am a fourth year education student with a focus on Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 5.

My First Blog

I fall under the category of a reluctant blogger, mainly because I am a pretty private person by nature. However, this is a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and embrace all of the benefits that come from having a positive online identity and being part of an online learning community.

My Experience with Educational Technology

As far as my experience with using technology in the classroom goes, I would consider myself to be at an intermediate level. I have some experience which I talk a little more about below. I see great value in incorporating technology to enhance and engage students and to make learning relevant in the 21st century.

The Magic of QR Codes: Endless Possibilities:
During my pre-internship I experimented with QR Codes and online voice recordings as a way of differentiating instruction. This provided the grade 3 students I was teaching the options of reading the course materials or listening to me read the materials through links to my online voice recordings (made accessible through QR codes). Furthermore, students were able to provide answers to questions in writing or orally by recording their answers on their tablets.

This was a huge hit and was a great adaptation for struggling writers. I also used QR codes to guide online inquiry, which is important for young learners. Students were provided with QR codes that linked to videos that I uploaded into Safeshare. Safeshare is a wonderful site that allows you to remove the ads from YouTube videos amongst other editing tools, all of which are great for ensuring content is appropriate for little eyes and ears.

Think you might want to try this in your classroom? Here is a quick step by step process for using voice recordings and QR codes:

Step 1: Create your online voice recording

Record yourself reading the course materials using SpeakPipe which is a free online service that allows you to create voice recordings online that are then saved and accessible through a URL.

Step 2: Creating a QR code that connects to your recordings

Using a free QR Code Generator, input the URL that links to your online voice recording (which you did in Step 1) and generate a QR code. Click ‘download’ and sign up for a free account to access your QR code.

Step 3: Print the QR code you generated and downloaded in Step 2

Step 4: Give the QR code to your students and have them use the pre-installed QR code reader on their tablets to take a picture of the QR code you provided them.

Step 5: After taking a picture of the QR code using their QR code reader they will be directed to a link which will lead them to your voice recording.

Is this something you could use in your classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts? Any ideas on how to improve?