Monthly Archives: September 2008

A picture’s worth a thousand words

I found ‘A picture’s worth’ on the Learning technology teacher development blog. it’s a wonderful collective version of people’s stories behind their own photos – even more interesting as a kaleidoscopic collection. Starting as a personal project, ‘A picture’s worth’ has developed into a pictorial record of varied experiences and reflections. Submissions of photos and text between 300 and 1000 words are moderated, and copyright for photos and essay remains with the author.

Some authors will include website links, and a map showing where the photo adds to the authenticity of the story. I like this idea for the classroom. Rather than write the usual story about a personal photo, students can showcase to a peer audience, and the shared stories could trigger ideas. It’s always interesting to see what subject matter is chosen and for what reason. Here’s an example of someone who loves photographing little forgotten theatres. Some of these stories are more intimate than others. Here’s an intimate, emotional one about a family coping with a dying grandmother. Here’s a confronting, brave one about abuse called ‘Bruised twice’.

The picture inserted in this post is of my church in Brunswick, Melbourne, on Merri Creek, although it could well be in Russia. This church building houses many stories, from its inception which remained a dream for many decades, including the efforts of many people, some of whom never saw the completed project, to the present day. And it will be connected to many different families and individuals in years to come.

The picture below is the inside of the church looking up at the cupol.

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Filed under Education, photos, Web 2.0, writing

The Sorted Book Project

Here’s a creative and amusing idea – The Sorted Book Project which has run since 1993 in various locations all over the world. The idea is to take books out of a collection, then select titles and organise them in a particular order so that the titles ‘tell a story’ in sequence.

‘The clusters from each sorting aim to examine that particular library’s focus, idiosyncracies, and inconsistencies’.

I think that’s a fancy way of saying, let’s have some fun with book titles. I can see a Book Week activity here.

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What are we telling our students?

I found this on Rob Jacobs’ blog.

What does this tell us as educators?

Think before you speak negatively or label a student. Try to find the best in the student. Encourage students to run with their passions, to have a go, to accept difficulties as challenges, to chill out.

We all ‘fail’ at something sometime. If we help students view their ‘failures’ as opportunities for growth, they’re learning the most important lessons in life. Learning from mistakes – you learn to think/approach things differently, to persist, to empathise with strugglers; you move forward, after a while you realise that’s the path we follow if we walk the path.

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Kids to tell schools what to teach

Calling all students! Edutopia has created a competition asking students to express their opinions about which skills they think their school should teach to help them succeed in life. Recognising young people’s expertise in technology, Edutopia has asked them to submit their opinions in the form of a 60 second video.

The competition closes October 15, and favourites will be published. There is no prescribed format for the answer to the question: ‘What do you think is the most important skill to learn for your future and why?’ – only that it is posted on YouTube and tagged ‘edutopiaskills’. Kids require proof of parental consent and must provide parental contact information. I’m puzzled about the choice to use YouTube, considering that YouTube is blocked by many schools.

I’d really like somebody to supplement this with adults’ guesses about what the kids would say. I’m not sure if I would be able say with any certainty how kids would answer this question, or how they would present it. Would it involve technology, social skills, financial know-how, health issues, emotional intelligence, practical knowledge, or??? I’m hoping that many kids would find transferrable skills and experiences the most valuable. I can’t wait to see the results.

What about learning that would be considered as a waste of time at school? Some might say that their whole school education was a waste of time. Most would isolate learning that they found unengaging or irrelevant. I could certainly make an extensive list of learning that screamed irrelevance: having to look up statistical facts about yawningly boring facts in a Victorian year book; sheep and sewerage; other things that I’ve successfully wiped out of my memory bank.

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Art Education 2.0

Art Education 2.0 is a global community of art educators exploring uses of new technology.

Art Education 2.0 is for art educators at all levels who are interested in using digital technologies to enhance and transform art teaching and learning experiences. The aim of Art Education 2.0 is to explore ways of using technology to promote effective art education practices, encourage cultural exchanges and joint creative work, and support artistic projects, curricular activities, and professional development opportunities deemed important by our members.

When you sign up, you can avail yourself of all the usual socialnetworking options, for example, you can invite friends, upload photos or videos, or start a discussion. At a glance from the homepage you can see current projects, forum discussions and recent blog posts. The format is well organised and easy to read, eg. the post ‘Sir Ken Robinson & creative thinking’ , a post about Ken Robinson’s well-known TED talk, ‘Are schools killing creativity?’, is followed by several clearly displayed comments. I suppose, what I’m trying to say, is that it’s all there, and it’s easy and enjoyable to browse. A late night for me recently while I explored the blogroll – always dangerous to jump into hyperlinks, branching out evermore into oblivion.

New Web 2.0 resources in the right-hand navigation offer such delicacies as Andrew Douch’s video on the benefits of podcasting; Vizu, an interactive poll that can be added to a website or blog; 12 seconds, where you can record and share short videos about what you’re doing or where you are, etc.

On the left, there’s a chat option, featured websites, an option to share photos or videos, a section with a blog called ‘educational paradigms’, which includes posts such as ‘Keeping your teaching experiences fresh’, ArtsJournal , where you can check out daily art news, and more. You can also join groups, such as ‘first year art teachers’, or ‘Voicethread in the artroom’.

Digital art is popular with students, and teachers can get support for this by joining ‘Digital design’ . ‘Teaching animation’ supports teachers in a discussion of ideas, strategies, and tools for teaching animation.

I’ll definitely be telling my art faculty about this supportive art community. Makes me want to be an art educator!

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Can intelligent literature survive in the digital age?

The Independent featured an article with this poignant question – can intelligent literature survive in the digital age? As the article says, ‘Is the paper-and-ink book heading the way of the papyrus scroll?’ This is indeed a question worth devoting more than a couple of minutes to.

The crucial question is – whether all our online reading – the fragmented, stylistically-challenged emails and microblogging – has taken its toll on our attention span? Nicholas Carr of ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ fame has added to the debate by claiming that the internet is responsible for his downward spiral in longterm concentration: ‘Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.’

Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, claims he used to be a voracious reader, but has now stopped reading books altogether. Is the internet to blame? Other people quoted in this article admit that they are now unable to concentrate on more than a couple of paragraphs at a time, and that they skim read, rather than read and think deeply.

A recently published study of online research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London’ claims the following:

‘It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.’ Still, the article does maintain that we are reading more now than when television was the preferred (only?) medium. Personally, I find it difficult not to skip around when links abound and I’m torn between too many tantalising directions.

Carr supports this behaviour with the following observation:
‘When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net’s image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we’re glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper’s site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.’

But is this fear of change typical of the fear each generation experiences?
‘In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.’ That may be so, but in today’s ‘information age’, it would be foolish to try to carry all the knowledge we read inside our heads, especially when access is so easy.

If the internet and Google are wired for quick knowledge-access, then surely, we realise that we don’t just read for knowledge. We read fiction, for example, as we regard art, to enter into a transformed, deeper(?) reality; to savour language and perceptions; to gain insight into the human condition; to gain moral, social and philosophical truths; to experience many things besides.
Are we losing/have we lost something in our move to 21st century literacies? Is it a matter of a lost language or genetic traces that will never be repaired? Even avid readers will necessarily read less traditional, hard-copy literature, if only because they are also keeping up with blogs, wikis and RSS feeds? Are we becoming ‘pancake people’, as the playwright, Richard Foreman, suggests?

Now, according to The Independent, many serious writers complain that challenging fiction doesn’t appeal – “difficult” novels don’t sell. To sell now, ‘books evidently need to be big on plot and incident, short on interior monologue.’ What are the consequences for teachers and librarians, trying to encourage young people to read? Are we trying to keep grandma alive? And besides, if we admit it, our own reading patterns are changing to some extent. And yet, websites that give exposure to books can only increase readership. Just think about all the literature you might be tempted to read after reading somebody’s passionate review or after searching Google Book Search.

If only you had the time or could get off the internet!

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My sister’s art in red, white and black

Just testing to see if I can insert multiple pictures; thought I’d try my sister’s art.

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