Monthly Archives: September 2009

The yeast to activate learning

Jabiz Raisdana, AKA @intrepidteacher, shared an interesting post a few days ago, which he entitled Singing Hearts, in which he wrote about how a group of eighth graders in Missouri connected with his 3 year old daughter in Qatar.

Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning.

After reading The last child in the woods , which spurred Jabiz to increase his daughter’s contact with nature, he and his daughter went outdoors with their cameras to explore their surroundings,

even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse. 

The result of this little expedition was a photo essay which Jabiz shared with his twitter network, and which then resulted in @wmchamberlain sharing the blog post with his class and receiving more than 40 comments which you can read on Kaia’s post.

In this little expedition, Kaia not only connected with the outside world in a physical sense, but also the world of people beyond her immediate environment.

Hello from New Zealand.
Kaia
We really liked looking at the pictures of the backyard and the desert! Amazing stuff, you did a great job with the descriptions. We thought that it must be very hot in the desert, its been raining here in New Zealand today so the desert seems exciting and interesting. (Room 8 Melville Intermediate School, New Zealand)

Those pictures were awesome. You did a great job speaking in your first photo essay. You took ordinary things that everyone passes by and made them look wonderful. I like your blog and I will visit it more often. You can visit my blog at jacob-everybodysbog.blogspot.com Thanks and keep up the good work. (Jacob)

With her father as her guide, Kaia has connected with people in his learning network, people who are interested in learning from others, regardless of location, age or race. A simple photo story has been of interest to others who have contributed their thoughts and a little of themselves.

 Although, at such a tender age, Kaia would not fully understand the meaning of her experience, she has surely felt, to some extent, the power of connecting beyond her home and immediate family.

She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Jabiz reflects on his feelings as a father who has shared his young daughter’s experiences with his online network:

… having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her…

… I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.

Jabiz’s blog reflection on the positive and negative potential consequences of his experiences ends in questions he poses directly to his readers:

What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?

I was amongst the commenters following Jabiz’s post, and so was John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama.

John Strange says:

My response was you will not get the yeast to activate a closed system. They must engage the world. It is so important to energize learning through the techniques you, Mr. Chamberlain and others are using. I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives. I think it is absolutely essential if we are to move forward with true learning, for all of us.

If I hesitate  when reading ‘ I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives’, then I only do so momentarily, because the example of Jabiz supporting his little girl’s learning is an excellent model for us as educators and parent. If we hold the hands of our young and vulnerable students and our own children, and then still go outside of our private little worlds, then we learn to navigate the richness of connections with what is beyond our step.

For me, personally, every day spent reading what other people share online, in the form of blogs, Twitter posts or photos on Flickr, opens up a new window to the lives and experiences of others. There’s no way I could go back to what I had before. Could we even go back to pre-Google days?

I like John Strange’s concept of networking being the yeast to activate learning – it surely is.

Just in reading this one post, I’ve learned so much, and connected with so many people. It’s disappointing when someone contributes a comment and doesn’t provide a link. A blog, for example, provides knowledge of the author, and we can ‘know’ each other through our contributions in writing or pictures. We share what we think is appropriate, while preserving our privacy, and I think this is what we need to teach our students. Their digital footprint can be modelled on ours, and this not something we can do theoretically.

Apart from learning about Jabiz and his daughter, Gaia, I’m happy to have discovered John Strange who shares so much of himself online through blogs, points of contact and photos. Take a look at his page to see an excellent example of the richness of digital identity.

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Random facts I learned from Flickr today

They may be random, but I’m still learning.

Flickr is fun to browse, but more and more, I’m discovering Flickr to be an interesting way to learn. The photos take me into places I’ve never been, to things I normally wouldn’t see, often providing interesting background information.

Here are a few random things I learned from Flickr photos today

This photo was taken in Russia by seriykotik1970

russianbuilding

An art nouveau building near my office that was gutted by fire last week. Sadly it’ll now probably be demolished and ‘rebuilt’. In Moscow fires of this sort are often started deliberately by unscrupulous developers.
Designed by Lev Kekushev in about 1910.
Photographed in 2007

Turkish roosters are very colourful

turkishcock1

turkishcock2

Smarthistory is a group on Flickr which complements the website smarthistory.org. The purpose of this website and Flickr group is to enhance or replace the traditional art history textbook.

For example, you can learn about Matisse’s Red Studio from a short video using Flickr pictures of art collected by group members. 

Redstudiomatisse

If you read About Smarthistory, you will understand the motive behind the creation of this website and Flickr group:  

We are dissatisfied with the large expensive art history textbook. We find that they are difficult for many students, contain too many images, and just are not particularly engaging. In addition, we find the web resources developed by publishers to be woefully uncreative. We had developed quite a bit of content for our online Western art history courses and we had also created many podcasts, and a few screencasts for our Smarthistory blog. So, it finally occurred to us, why not use the personal voice that we use when we teach online, along with the multimedia we had already created for our blog and for our courses, to create a more engaging “web-book” that could be used in conjunction with art history survey courses. We also realized that this content would be useful to museum visitors and other informal learners. We are committed to joining the growing number of teachers who make their content freely available on the web.

Smarthistory is an excellent example of what can be done to create high-quality, free educational resources through collaboration. You’ll understand the scope of this project when you look at the site map which provides a hyperlinked timeline of art history. I also like to check out the discussion in groups.

The best thing about learning on Flickr is that you don’t expect to.  That’s why it’s so enjoyable.

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Don’t bag Facebook

 

Photo courtesy of phillipsandwich on Flickr

This is for all the people who think (and write) that young people use Facebook to waste their time with pointless dialogue, flaunt themselves inappropriately, engage in banal chat about drinking or bully others online.

Here’s a thread started by my 16 year old son who loves classical music and composing. Statistically, you could say he would be a target for derisive comments, and yet, read for yourself:

Maxim is composing his 8th symphony in B minor “Sinister”about an hour ago

good man maxim

cool

Bloody talented composer here. 🙂

I like! I like!! I like how’s already been pre-nicknamed

Maxim Yeah, it’s gonna be really dark and ominous. The very beginning has cello, bass, contrabassoon and bassoon with a dark unison theme. I got the inspiration from Borodin’s 2nd symphony for that.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!! You must send it to me when you’re done!

Maxim Yes, but it may take a while.

can you please send it to me aswell???

YAAAAAY!!

Maxim Sure! Maybe 1 mvt at a time. This’ll take me a pretty long time.

YAAAAY!! It took brahms over a decade to make his first symphony… Take your time

Maxim Not that long, maybe a month or 2 I meant.

cool!

are there 1000 performers?

Maxim Is that a piece of music? Or are you asking whether my symphony requires that many players? Mine probably wouldn’t require 1000 players.

Well it does now!! It will include a huge choir!! And an orchestra at least 3 times the size of a normal one! YAY!!
(there’s a challenge maxim!)
Mahler’s 8th Symphony is also called “Symphony of a Thousand”. One of the best performance experiences I have ever had. Check out the ending: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYM54vhLYTU&feature=player_embedded#t=20
Maxim  Oh, ok. Thanks.

My older son says that his friends often share links and information about new bands or where to get sheet music. They’ll find sites which teach you how to play an instrument; they use Facebook to help each other learn or create.

For those who focus on the negative aspects of social networking, think again. There will be negative interaction online, just as there is in life, but platforms like Facebook have enabled young people to connect in new ways, to learn from each other.

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Can we see the process in the end product?

indoorlanewayproject

Last Saturday my sister (art teacher) and I finally saw the exhibition of work which was the culmination of The Indoor Laneway project. My last post explains the project.

The exhibition space is quite large and the ideas behind the exhibit well thought out. The adolescent bedroom and laneway leading to the main screen showcasing students’ work is effective. We sat on the chairs provided (I felt a little like Papa Bear on Baby Bear’s chair) and enjoyed the mix of styles and perspectives.

As we were going out, I said to my sister, ‘It’s more than it looks’.

That’s not to denegrate it in any way. I thought the exhibition looked professional, and considering the short six-week time period for the whole thing to come together, it was very impressive. It is true about art in general – and many other things too, of course – that there’s more to the whole process than meets the eye, and I think it’s worth thinking about. The Indoor Laneway Project blog solves that problem for students and educators involved, and in this way it holds the valuable stuff – the evolving thoughts, thrown-up ideas and resources, positive feedback, documentation of the process which leads to the final product, but which is almost more than the final product.

I thought I’d pull out some examples of what I mean from the blog:

Eugenia defines the most important part of the experience – collaboration:

Hi Indoor Laneway creators,

I can see you’ve been working hard and exploring the remix idea which is so excellent to see. A big part of this project is about connecting with others even if you live hundreds of kilometres apart and using this blog as a portal – and Terrie and Rebecca it’s so cool that this is the concept you’re using in your portal/portrait work.

Nikita (student from Mooroopna) says:

Hi everybody. I’m Nikita and i was thinking about making a virtual dance video if Daniel was interested…It would be great to have us both filmed in front of a green screen and then all footage is combined here… The most exciting thing about this is it could be the first time that this has been attempted. Hope you guys are really interested in this idea.

Yolander called for a combined effort from the cohort:

We need sounds such as laughter, voices of family and other important sounds that will relate to it, would you be able to assist me in writing this particular way?… Help in researching sounds. (it is easy to spend all day…) We have 8 min of swamp sounds as the birds all wake up for background… 

We would also like to use lots of home bits and pieces from both schools, sporting things and home items and animate them in and out. HELP!!!

Nikita thinks out ideas and process:

I was thinking of the way we could tackle this Virtual Dance video. Firstly we need to find a soundtrack from Jamendo that goes for 3 mins minimum that has an easy beat to dance a simple routine to. Then we should choreograph a simple routine for Daniel and I.

Pros- It will look great when finished.

Cons- It will look a little artifical and the greenscreen size will restrict movement but thats ok.

Kayla and Laura share an idea:

We are working with the other students on this project and we are glad that you like the idea of involving everyone.

We would like to get some Photos and/or short Clips of close ups of eyes or people pointing in and looking from WFS when possible to add to our project.

Emma, Yolander, Tom, Josh, Maddison ask for contributions:

A group of us have decided to concentrate on our original idea of the light beams coming from the computer screen. We would like to have the photos from home going into the computer with Indoor Laneway open on the screen, with the light beams as a way to remix them. We have recorded or sourced sounds that will be appropriate for this project, such as ‘catch it’ when a cricket ball goes into the screen and waves for a surfboard. This idea will incorporate everyones work. Could you please send us HEAPS of high res. photos and if possible with the objects eg. cricket ball, skateboard, guitar, etc. selected out and saved in a .PNG format? That would be really awesome

 These are just some of the extracts from the interactive process at the heart of The Indoor Laneway Project. I think you get an idea of where the strength and value of this project lies.

Will viewers of the exhibition understand the depth of this project? Probably not. If they took time to have a look through the blog on the computers provided in the exhibition, then they’ll have some idea. If they browse the tab ‘Make and create tasks and responses’ on the blog, then they’ll have an even better understanding of the project.

Does it matter? Do viewers need to know every aspect of the process? Well, from an assessment perspective, yes. Surely the entire process would be considered in the final evaluation. This brings me to the question of assessment in general. If we understand that the entire learning journey is valuable, and not just the final product, are we convinced that our method of assessment is appropriate, or should we rethink it?

Clearly, what the kids get out of it is more than the finished product. Their learning experience has been enriched by the challenge of a multi-tasked program, through online collaboration with another school, spurred by a project taking them out of the school to a public audience. I can imagine that the face-to-face meeting would have been fantastic, and building the sets together enjoyable.

Wouldn’t it be good if there were more opportunities for students of every discipline similar to this one?

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Art students collaborate – Indoor Laneway Project

Sometimes things happen in schools. Days and lessons go by and pile up but occasionally an exciting kind of learning takes place. Marie Salinger, art teacher and Director of Learning Enhancement at Whitefriars College (my school), has been a catalyst for this kind of learning. Marie has taken the plunge with her Year 11 Studio Arts class – diving into unchartered waters and taking on the challenge of long-distance, shared learning with Mooroopna Secondary College many kilometres away. Did I mention they had less than a term to produce a show for the public? I’m talking about the Indoor Laneway Project.

Marie talks about how she feels about the project

I am feeling so energised and excited about the Indoor Laneway Project and am especially enjoying the chance to tap into some wonderful, rich resources so easily. Working with Dan West (the Arts Centre) and Eugenia Lim (ACMI) and having access to their wealth of experience, knowledge, technical expertise and creative talents has been a huge incentive and is adding a whole new level of excitement to my work in the classroom. I have also noticed a big shift in how the students are approaching the set tasks. They feel that there is a real purpose to their work and are very aware that they will be addressing a much larger audience than would usually be the case. Normally we might have the opportunity to display their artwork around the school as well as at our VCE exhibition in October. Displaying student work in this way for the school communitiy is great but now we have the chance to show our artwork to anyone, anywhere in the world, who is interested . A daunting but also very exciting possibility.

In the About section of the Indoor Laneway Project’s website, you’ll read this:

Education at the Arts Centre Presents Indoor Laneway – an online collaborative arts project. Its intention is to allow regional and metropolitan secondary school students to develop digital sound and art work.

 Under the mentorship of an established media artist and school based digital media educators, participants remix and re-contextualise each others work and collectively assemble sound and images to explore artistic practice that focuses on key concepts of: 

  • Self
  • Home
  • Global and Local Positioning
  • Connection
  • Exchange 

Over two weeks in September, the Indoor Laneway will establish a virtual space in the Arts Centre’s BlackBox where work generated will be displayed, results disseminated in a public forum and location based performances will take place.

Of all the outcomes listed in the About page, this is one which resonated with me:

  • encourage within participants a community of collaborative creation and a sense of unity working towards a common artistic outcome;

Talking to Marie during the very short span of several weeks before the opening, she spoke of a sense of excitment and engagement amongst the students, and a noticeable increase in productivity and bouncing off others’ ideas. On the day that the two classes met at the Black Box in the Arts Centre to build the sets, I would have loved to be there to witness the shared activity which prepared for a real exhibition in a well known Melbourne Arts space and open to a real audience. I have a feeling this will be something the students will always remember.

Reading Marie’s blog posts, you can sense her involvement in the students’ engagement with the project:

It is so wonderful to see these young students bouncing ideas around. They are so creative and innovative and I am loving the vitality that surrounds the project. There is a lot of dialogue going on about the actual exhibition space and how we might use it to display the very large, diverse and amazing art mountain that has developed from the Indoor Laneway Project.

I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibition this Saturday. Congratulations to Marie, to students and art teachers of Whitefriars College and Mooroopna Secondary College, for your amazing, inspiring work! A real example of authentic learning beyond the walls of the classroom and out of the textbook. Learning from each other, creating together and exhibiting to the world.

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Where the wild things are

 Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak has been a picture book favourite for children and adults since 1963.

The book is about the wild adventure of a boy named Max who is sent to his room without his supper by his mother as punishment for misbehaving. Max wears a distinctive wolf costume during his adventures and encounters various mythical creatures, the “wild things”. Although just ten sentences long, the book is generally regarded as a masterpiece of American illustrated children’s literature (Wikipedia).

wildthings

Particularly interesting is that this picture book has been made into a film. Picture book – film. How do you do that? Where the wild things are is directed by Spike Jonze, of Being John Malkovich fame.

Watch the trailer here.

 You can also view scenes from the film here (from USATODAY)

Max Records, 11, is the boy with anger issues who escapes to a land where giant beasts roam in Where the Wild Things Are, the film version of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 storybook classic.

Jonze describes Max as a special kid who loves books. Well, his mother is a librarian. His father is a photographer. Jonze says Max is ‘deep and thoughtful, sweet and sincere, wild and imaginative and caring’. The film, shot outside of Melbourne, Australia, is coming out 16 October in USA. I’m not sure when it’s coming out in Australia.

I agree with USA Today –

How do you take a storybook that sparks the imagination and touches the heart with a mere 338 words and expand it into a full-length movie?

Spike Jonze, a director whose off-kilter idiosyncrasies were on display in his first two features, Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002), has always been drawn to Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.  “As a kid, I just connected to it. I wanted to hear it over and over,” he says of the 1963 tale of Max, an angry boy who escapes to a mythical land of untamed giant beasts. “It’s like trying to explain why you love somebody. To me, the Wild Things are both cuddly and dangerous. I wanted to climb atop of them like Max.”

 Ten sentences have kept generations enthralled for decades, and have inspired a full-length film. Wouldn’t you like to be able to write ten such sentences?

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are

 

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Great quotes about learning and change – Flickr group

collconnections

Yes, another post about Flickr. This time, I’ve discovered the Group Great quotes about learning and change. The image/quote above has been added by canesinthecup. If you look at the rest of canesinthecup’s photostream, you’ll find more quotable quotes, such as this one:

teachersfailing

 This Schopenhauer quote is a favourite of mine and was added by colemama:

extraordinary

Darren Kuropatwa, an educator I’ve known since my involvement with Powerful Learning Practice Program, and who is a mentor to me, used a powerful Seth Godin quote for this slide:

educationgodin

I like his choice of Jared Klett’s image – very apt. Darren took the quote from a blog post by Seth Godin which has resonated with him.

It was actually Darren who initiated a collaborative slideshow within the PLP cohort. Darren selected the theme Teaching well for the slideshow. PLP cohort members were invited to sign up on a Google Document for a slide. 

We will collaboratively create a 20 slide presentation (not counting the title slide) called “Teaching Well”. 20 slides in 10 pairs of contrasts: “Teaching well is more like < slide 1 > than it is like < slide 2 >.” or however else you want to create contrast.

Each day one slide is added to the deck that builds on those that came before. The final 4-6 slides must bring the presentation to some sort of close.

The final product demonstrated, in its collaborative opportunity, that we are much more than the sum of our parts. It was fun to browse Flickr  in search of an image which would best illustrate the idea expressed. I still hope to do this with a class.

Darren included a few instructional slideshows. One of them is Brain Rules for Presenters. Another is Dodging Bullets in Presentations. And also Taking Your Slidedeck to the Next Level. All excellent guides to visual accompaniment to a conceptual presentation.

In a PLP discussion, Darren recommended his friend lynetter‘s  Digital changes everything on Flickr. She has 3 sets. One of them is Interesting Snippets which she explains is

my personal dumping ground for various cool quotes, the odd stat, as slides to talk around when describing how things are changing online and in media & communications generally.

It’s a great collection of visually supported quotations.

lynetter

So much to be discovered on Flickr. It really is more than just a bunch of pictures.

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