Garden Sketch, A New App For Garden Lovers

As we are approaching Autumn, your garden is probably finishing up quite a round of transformations as it went from buds, to blooms, to full Summer glory, and now an Autumn harvest! This is where the creative genius Maija Leivo and Ian Herring comes in. Inspired by their own gardening experiences, they have created and recently launched Garden Sketch App, an interactive iPad experience that lets you plan out your garden design strategy now to have an even more delightful, invite everyone over to enjoy your garden kind of story for next year!

Essentially, the Garden Sketch App is a planning tool where you can plot out various arrangements if you are looking to transform your garden space, or if you find yourself with a yard you’ve never tended to before and you need to dream up some ideas to transform it into a beloved garden.  Once you enter the dimensions of your space, you can map out as many different designs as you want, making your time spent on this App almost as Zen-like as gardening itself.  You really are creating your own storyworld that you get to live in through next year’s growing season! We’d like to illustrate the technology for you in a before/after scenario.

BEFORE.  You begin with a blank slate made to the size of your own property's dimensions, which you enter upon starting. Choose the house shape that most resembles yours and begin to create!

BEFORE. You begin with a blank slate made to the size of your own property’s dimensions, which you enter upon starting. Choose the house shape that most resembles yours and begin to create!

AFTER! Picture yourself enjoying a lemonade on your porch swing, or a morning croissant under your shady tree.

AFTER! Picture yourself enjoying a lemonade on your porch swing, or a morning croissant under your shady tree.  In our case, we’d be accompanied by a good book to read or notebook to start crafting one of the many stories that wanders through our imaginations.

The technology of this App over the old paper/pencil method gives you more freedom to create, move around and delete. For a full tutorial on how the above garden was created, visit the Garden Sketch site.  There are also great stories coming out of Maija’s and Ian’s own garden, which you may enjoy checking in with on their blog.  Like most gardeners, they enjoy sharing information, tips, recipes, and chatting about horticulture in general.  Join in the community love on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


Video Star : Apps My Kids Use

This is the first post of a new monthly series on Apps My Kids Use, keeping a tune to what’s keep our kids amused in our mobile world.

I will sometimes see my kids using a new App that I have never heard of and the next thing you know, all of their friends are using it and soon after the app becomes a big deal and a household name.  My kids are currently in high school, by the way, for a bit of age context here.  Later we shall get Erica adding to this column with apps that her much younger nieces and nephews use.  Some Apps ignite a strong addiction while others are over and done with and deleted quickly.  One App that has been used consistently in our house for over a year now is Video Star.  It has become a means of creating memories of family vacations and momentous outings, not to mention the great babysitting tool it has been for them to entertain kids!

Video Star

Within the Video Star App you create a music video.  You select a song from your own iTunes account, select a special effect to use for your scene, record a little action and stop when you are done.  When you are ready to record your next scene the App will automatically continue where you left off in the song.  This is amazing, because it allows you to film at different locations, even days apart and not have to do any editing!

Here’s a video that I made for Erica on the occasion of her birthday.  In her honour I was as silly as I could be!

You can see how this would be perfect for travel, as you can take a short clip of each place you go and end up with a music video showcasing memories from your whole vacation.  I feel you could even take this App into the business world. For example, if you are working on a film, TV, or theatrical show, you could use Video Star to get some fun behind the scenes clips to share with everyone at the end of the show.  You could certainly prepare some fun material for presentations, and get students up and active during workshops.

The only downfall with Video Star is that for sharing purposes you need to upload it to YouTube in order to maintain the digital quality.  Sharing with others via email or messaging sends a very grainy low quality version.  I hope you give yourself permission to have some fun and maybe capture a video to paste a smile on the face of your family, friends or staff this Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or other winter holiday! As Erica will tell you, it makes the perfect gift!

In the Online Classroom this Autumn, Teaching Interactive Storytelling

BCIT StoryToGoWe are excited to be starting a whole new chapter of teaching and storytelling for us this Autumn, with our first post-secondary accredited online course in Interactive Storytelling available through BCIT StoryToGo’s Media Storytelling Department (formerly Part-Time Broadcast Studies). This means that anybody can register and take this course from anywhere in the world, on their time, and they don’t have to be a regular student of BCIT. Pretty cool!

It also means for us, that we, ourselves have been experimenting with both new methods of digital storytelling and teaching to better reach our students. So we have created course videos, webinars, step-by-step technology manuals, interactive quizzes, and discussion boards … and that is just been the beginning. We look forward to experimenting with new ways of connecting and engaging with our students as the Course gets underway.  As the Course content has already all been built, we also love that this now places the emphasis in teaching, on engaging with our students, and trouble-shooting with them, as they begin to build their own interactive storytelling projects. Here’s a little of what you can expect from the Course:


Our course is not the only new online storytelling course this term through BCIT StoryToGo‘s Media Storytelling Department. Thanks to Steve Dotto, Marty Strong and I discussed storytelling and the online courses available through BCIT StoryToGo last week on the Dotto Tech Radio Show on AM 650. You can listen to the broadcast here:

The three Courses available online through BCIT StoryToGo’s Media Storytelling Program this Autumn, include:

You can also catch an online course with Steve Dotto, as he launches his own series of online courses in Email Management and ProTECHtivity.

‘Tis The Season-For Back To School!

As summer winds to a close, it’s time to gear up for another school year.  We would like to offer  some helpful advice to make the most efficient use of the time you have to prepare.  The whole family needs work and play together to make the mental and physical adjustment successful.

Yes...It IS that time again!

Yes…It IS that time again! (photo by Quinn Dombrowski)

Begin by slowly moving your sleep and wake schedule closer to that which will be required during the school year.  You don’t want that first early morning to be a shocker!

Play some family games that require thinking.  Fall back on the oldies, but goodies: Pictionary, Charades, Scattegories and trivia related games.  A new personal favourite of ours is Snake Oil, a very creative game that builds strong communication skills.

If your children have not been doing any academic work throughout the summer, it would be a good idea to print out some cummulatative review worksheets from the grade level they just completed.  Have them begin to write compositions by providing purpose driven topics.  For example, ‘Write a review of all the television shows you watched this summer, or video games you played’,  ‘Review and recommend different phone apps’.

In order to avoid last minute stress, start organizing school materials now.  For once, take the time to find out which markers are dried out and which pens no longer work! Start planning for those dreaded daily lunches and experiment to find different options with ‘summer taste tests.’

If your child is a school-age actor, plan to have a meeting with his/her teacher within the first week of school.  Gather the teacher’s contact information and decide on a mutual policy for missing school.  This will save you time when your child books a role.  We recommend creating a set kit that is always ready to go.  Be sure to pack paper, pencils and other miscellaneous school supplies.  Days on set can be long so we suggest  including a good book and educational games.  A mini version of your set kit can be made to take along on auditions.

At Ahimsa Media we are always available to help you with transitions between home, school and set.  We hope everyone has had incredible summers and that all of our past and future students have a successful school year.

Copyright, the Web and SEO

I am constantly amazed at how many people seem to think that in the digital space it is okay to cut and paste other people’s work. They will cut and paste full blog posts written by others onto their site and use photos without the proper permissions, neglecting to credit and link the sources.  I’ve seen this with my students, which results in an immediate ‘0’, but more concerning I’ve seen this in grad students work, grad students who are being paid as editors of online publications. Worse than that I have seen established businesses doing this, even production companies that are trained in copyright law and will threaten legal action the second anyone shares their video content on youtube.  What they don’t seem to realize is pirating other people’s writing and photographs on the web is the same thing.  It is copyright infringement. This is why you need to hire professionals to manage your digital voice and not assume that an intern or your IT person has the skills to be the front line voice for the company in the digital space.

To put this into book terms, this would be like somebody stealing a whole chapter of someone else’s book and sticking it into their book.


Hard at Work Coming up with a Complimentary Solution


Not only is it copyright infringement and shows you lack all creativity, but it also dings you with search engines.  Search engines, like Google, discount your site when they find duplicate material elsewhere on the web. So it does not pay to cut corners in this way.

Professional Photographer, Ralph Velasco photographing Dan & Audrey of Uncornered Market in Egypt

Now if there does happen to be a post by another organization or individual on the web that you wish to draw eyes to on your site, here is how to do it, to be complimentary, meet copyright law and prevent getting blacklisted by search engines:

  1. Write an original introduction of your own introducing the blog article you want to highlight;
  2. Share a quote from the blog article you wish to highlight;
  3. Post a link to the original blog article you wish to highlight; and
  4. End the post with some original writing of your own.

The same goes for photographs.  If the photo you wish to share on your site does not have the Creative Commons license on it, ask the photographer’s permission, credit and link them, and compensate them for it’s use. If it does have a Creative Commons license on it, then you still need to credit and link the photographer, preferably to their professional site.

Remember quality content takes time to create and it needs to be respected and credited.  You wouldn’t want your content pirated, so don’t pirate the content of others.