Tag Archives: collaboration

Art is not just pretty pictures: The deep process of artistic creation

My topic today is Art as a subject in schools. I wonder if we sometimes underestimate or misunderstand the role of Art in a student’s learning. It’s so much more than making pretty pictures. Art personifies learning through a transparent process of deep exploration and problem solving – with an end product to show for it. Just as with literature, the end product can be unpacked to reveal the influences which were part of the creative process. Fortunately this is not a purely scientific process but one which invites the exploration and interpretation of the viewer. Art is a model for problem solving in other areas of learning. We should hold onto Art, and not be fooled into thinking that it is less valuable than subjects which are associated with occupational success. We need Art.

I visited a year 9 class today to see the students happily working on large representations of themselves based on their exploration of the unit ‘Home and Place’. My part in this project was the collaboration with Mihaela Brysha, Head of Art, in resourcing the project  in our library website (Libguides). I’m including the project brief:

This unit explores ideas about belonging and is designed to question our relationship and interaction with:

  • Others
  • Pop culture
  • Consumerism
  • Cultural beliefs,
  • Personal histories
  • The natural world

The aim of the exploration is to make and visually interpret personal statements about what home and place means to you and how it shapes personal and cultural identity.

Australian artists Patricia Piccinini, Fiona Hall, Gordon Bennett, and Howard Arkley address some of these ideas from very different perspectives, influences, art forms, aesthetics, materials and techniques. The study of their ideas and studio art practice as well as interpretation and analysis of their artwork aims to provide stimuli for the exploration of ideas, content and techniques for practical explorations.

The online resources were a starting point for further research into these artists:

Fiona HallGordon BennettHoward ArkleyPatricia Piccinini

The art of Gordon Bennett strikes a chord with many of our students whose families come from different countries. Bennett’s art depicts the cultural tension between his ties to his Indigenous roots and his association with Western culture.

I loved the size of these art works, their bold colours and strokes, delicate details, diverse imagery and visual storytelling. I loved the energy and focused activity in the classroom, the productive interaction between students and teacher. I took photos.

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I’m looking forward to the hanging of these in the art show. Well done, boys, and well done, Mihaela.

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What leadership has meant to me

Photo source:

This year, by default, I’ve been head of library at Melbourne High School. At no point have I desired this position, and I’m happy to say that we have a wonderful head of library all set to go next year, Pam Saunders, who is currently head of library at Princes Hill. However, despite the trials and tribulations of being default head, I have to admit that I’m grateful for the new experiences which I would never have deliberately chosen but appreciate retrospectively.

I came across this paragraph about a particular style of leadership which describes the my style perfectly – only I didn’t know it was a style; I was just following my gut feeling –

In teams one of the more effective styles of leadership is the participative style. This style of leader seeks to work with team members and encourages collaboration. The participative leader consults and looks for consensus when making decisions. This style of leadership welcomes suggestions from the team and does not respond by merely paying these suggestions lip service but genuinely considers how these suggestions can be used.

In terms of the participative style of leadership, I’m glad I went with my gut feeling and amazed by the diverse talents of my team. You really don’t know the extent of what people are capable of until you trust them (and thus empower them) to take responsibility for their areas of expertise. I think it may have taken a bit longer for them to trust me, and the time is takes for each person can’t be rushed. At this point, despite the dramas we’re experiencing every day in the midst of our refurbishment and changes to stocktake since we’ve adopted RFID, I’m feeling quietly happy knowing that we’ve had an awesome year, and that so much good has happened as a result of our collaborative efforts.

Next year I hope to focus more deeply on a meaningful use of social media in student learning. I’m also keen to develop my research skills to a stage where I feel qualified to prepare our students for university. I’m in two minds about whether I should contact research librarians at universities or Masters students who would have deep knowledge of the research process. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Do we know what these are and if we do, are we aligning these to our curriculum? Are we making the shift necessary for this to happen?

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a “global achievement gap,” which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future: * Critical thinking and problem-solving * Collaboration across networks and leading by influence * Agility and adaptability * Initiative and entrepreneurialism * Effective oral and written communication * Accessing and analyzing information * Curiosity and imagination

Here are the 10 future work skills identified by The Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

  1. Sense Making
  2. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
  3. Transdisciplinary
  4. Social Intelligence
  5. New Media Literacy
  6. Computational Thinking
  7. Cognitive Load Management
  8. Design Management
  9. Cross Cultural Competence
  10. Virtual Collaboration

For teacher librarians, these skills clearly identify our areas of expertise at a time when some principals are making decisions to reduce staffing in school libraries, or replace teacher librarians with librarians or technicians, indicating their loss of faith that teacher librarians are an essential part of the teaching staff. Our strength lies in working with teachers to embed these skills in student learning, to encourage collaborative platforms and relational learning through the connections made possible by social media platforms, to embed critical, digital and information literacies into student learning.

Read more about the skills our students must have for their future here and here. Please share more if you have them.

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Year 9 Art project on paper, iPad and Pinterest

                              

Our year 9s have been working through a project in art which combines the best in hands-on activity, iPad technology and social media. Mihaela designed a project in which students worked through a process starting with research of patterns from different cultural backgrounds and culminating in the students designing their own patterns using the iPad app, iOrnament, and creating an oversized paper plane decorated with their pattern designs.

The research process encouraged students to dip into a rich and diverse cultural store of patterns before deciding on the designs of their own, and including some of the elements of water, fire, earth, air and wood. They were to select one or more of these elements to fuse with the theme of rejuvenation of the spirit and sense of self.

I relish my partnership with Mihaela, Head of Art at Melbourne High School. Every teacher librarian appreciates the teacher who is happy to collaborate, and in my case the partnership is built on respect, reciprocal interests, love of creativity and experimentation,  a desire for excellence, and determination to create a challenging process leading to a synthesis of understanding and original design. After we chatted, I was clear about what Mihaela wanted for the students and how I could support the project. I created libguides with visual examples and links to further resources to get the students started and hopefully inspired.

patterns2

My research into examples of patterns within a broad range of cultural contexts was a joyful task for me. Pinterest is a rich online resource which allows the discovery and collection of an enormous number of high quality visual examples. I searched The Grammar of Ornament on Pinterest and was overjoyed with the results.  I referred the students to the Symbol Dictionary online for a bit of research on symbolic background. Delving into the how and why is always fascinating, and often informs the direction of research.

I didn’t want to overwhelm the students so I limited my pattern examples to some of the main cultural sources, but also linked to Pinterest boards I was creating along the way. If the students chose to, they could continue to browse collections of general patterns, and also African, Australian Indigenous, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Japanese, Maori, Mexican, Moroccan, Russian and Turkish.  One of the advantages of using Pinterest is that you can continue to add visual examples to the collection without changing the link, so students will be able to view a continuously edited collection with one url. Students can also search within Pinterest itself. Design of online resources presents the challenge of depth without overwhelming the user, and a reasonable number of external links for further research.

The students were also introduced to four artists for whom patterns were an intrinsic part of their art works. I created Pinterest boards for Shirin Neshat, Ah Xian, Ginger Riley Munduwalawala and Sangeeta Sandrasegar.

     

It’s a shame that the quality of the images in the following slideshow is not fantastic. I’ve included some general art study, such as colour theory, amongst the Pattern mix. Although you can’t read some of the text, you get an idea of the type of process journalling they have done.
The best part of this project, as far as I’m concerned, is the richness of the process. This is what I love about art – it is an example of the kind of process which should be embedded in all subjects. I was intent on documenting this patterns project in a blog post because it makes transparent what is most valuable about learning – the process of research (wondering, browsing, getting lost, refining search), working and re-working ideas and techniques, synthesizing found and created concepts and ideas, evaluating and reflecting and much more. Wouldn’t it be a smart world that required all students to study Art?

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Learnist – a bit like Pinterest and a little bit like Scoop.it

learnist

I might be late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Learnist. It looks a lot like Pinterest so I was excited from the start. It combines a few bests, including images, easy collaboration and sharing and educational content. And, as always, what I really like about it is finding people who take the time to curate quality resources. The excitement is in the lucky dip aspect; I like to search specific things but the unexpected joy of discovering something you didn’t set out to find is what makes this addictive for me.

featuredauthorslearnist

Once you start browsing the categories, you’ll realise how open-ended these are. It’s interesting to see what interests people. I’d like to experiment with Learnist as ‘wider reading’ for students. Wouldn’t it be nice to give them time to browse within a general theme or topic to find something that catches their interest instead of prescribing their focus?

attitudelearnist

Learnist is very user-friendly. As with many social networks, it allows you to browse, rate and comment, as well as find out a little about people and follow them or their boards. Learnist has enough statistics at a glance to give you an idea of whether the board has attracted many viewers or commenters. You can add a suggested site to a board or a tag – very similar to Pinterest and Scoop.it. It’s also easy to share a link with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn or email the link. It would be valuable to create a shared Learnist board with your faculty, or even create a cross-faculty board, or better still, one for the learning literacies we should be embedding across the curriculum, for example, digital citizenship or critical literacies.

Basically, Learnist allows people to learn with and from each other. That’s the way I like to learn. And the mix of text, image, video and audio is a great way to engage learners.

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Fingerpainting is back as iArt

I was very excited to find artists using iPad apps to draw, or ‘fingerpaint’, wonderful art. In some cases these projects are collaborative – that aspect always excites me. There are people who are sceptical about technology, in terms of the quality of things produced by apps – and I have to say I was one of those who thought of art apps more in terms of sketching ideas rather than creating a serious art work – or those who rate new technologies for doing the same things they already do only online. I’ve had many conversations with these people, and I feel that there is only one way to change their minds (bearing in mind that you can’t change a closed mind, but you can certainly try to surprise their minds open) is to find amazing examples of technology-enabled projects.

Yesterday I stumbled across (don’t ask me to trace that thread back to its source) fingerpainters – artists who use the iPad and even iPhone or iPod Touch to create art with drawing/painting apps. I have these apps on my iPad and I’ve shown them to art teachers, but without an inspirational example, those apps just sit there in their folders doing not much. Of course, when you find an artist through your Google Reader of from Twitter lists, you know the discovery will lead to many more discoveries, and so I want to share some of these artists and works, their blogs and where they also live on Twitter and Flickr.

I started by discovering the artist Benjamin Rabe and his Flickr sets, including this one of finger paintings he did on his iphone or ipad. A painting on his phone!

Of course, when you discover an artist who has an online presence, they lead you to many more artists. This is how I came across the amazing Cedric Phillipe’s Flickr photostream and his fingerpaintings on his iPad and his iPod Touch. How on earth somebody manages to create an artwork on such a small screen, I’ll never know.

Mojitos

This one is done on his iPod Touch mainly using the app Brushes

This one is done on his iPad mainly using the app Brushes

Cedric has a wonderful Tumblr blog which you must see. This is where I found his stop-motion animation. What a treat!

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An impressive little set that Cedric built for his animation. Have a look at photos here.

The Helen Keller quote at the bottom of the Woven Narratives webpage nicely summarises what I consider the most exciting about emerging technologies – the collaborative aspect. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller. Woven Narratives are the collective works of artists’ collaborations using mainly iPad apps to create their art works.

Most of the works presented here were created and shared using only the iPad as a drawing and painting tool. Recent pieces have developed in three dimensions as small ‘soft sculptures’and the latest round of work has seen the development of a series of paintings on cardboard, which have been shared by post. Each of the works has travelled an average of 40,000 miles during its creation, bouncing back and forth via email or through the international postal system as its individual narrative unfolds.

Particularly interesting is the value-added aspect of this technology-enabled project:

The collaborations have helped both of us develop and extend our image making practice and have pushed our personal work into new and interesting directions. The narratives which develop throughout the process of making the works are playful, intriguing and entertaining. Many of them are hidden by the process of making, whilst others peek through to reveal themselves in colourful and often humorous ways. The result is an ongoing dialogue of signs, symbols, image-making and colour, a series of ‘Woven Narratives’, which engage the viewer in a ‘mesh’ of images and marks which share collective stories and experiences.

I can relate to the idea of process, and particularly collaborative process, resulting in new and exciting learning. Surely the experimental nature of emerging technologies is leading to new ideas and possibilities. If we allow for time to play…

In any case, have a closer look at Woven Narratives and the artists responsible. One of the artists, Jonathan Grauel, has discovered new possibilities for art making with mobile devices since an accident with a table saw left him without an index finger on his dominate hand and limited sensitivity in his thumb. When his wife and friends surprised him with an iPhone, he discovered a new joy in “finger painting.”

A blessing for art students and teachers is when artists share their art work, ideas and techniques. The blog Fingerpainted shares apps used to create art works which you can see for yourself. The About page shares the evolution of the blog. Here’s a link to the posts tagged with ‘apps’ – very useful and full of examples.

UK artist, Fabric Lenny, and US artist, Jonathan Grauel, have teamed up to produce a body of work in iPad despite the distance between them. Sketchshare is a series of 154 images which were painted simultaneously in the iPads.

You can view all these pictures done in real time in their Flickr stream.

Finally, here’s a video game fingerpainted entirely on the iPad. The music was also composed on the iPad.

I hope this post will inspire some art students and teachers. I’ll add an iPad/iPhone apps page in my online art resources very soon.

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4th Melbourne TeachMeet hosted by Adrian Camm at Quantum Victoria

Thank you so much to the organisers, to the presenters, to the participants and to Adrian Camm at Quantum Victoria for the very enjoyable 4th Victorian TeachMeet Melbourne yesterday afternoon. Thanks also to Tony Richards for the live streaming which you can now watch on the wiki. Thanks also to the people who captured the ideas and links to fantastic ways of learning and teaching on Twitter #tmmelb. And thanks to whoever made the awesome and very popular jelly and lemon slice – was it you, Robyne Luketic aka @handsdown?(please share the recipe).

I’ve attended Melbourne TeachMeets before but never presented because this is something I still shy away from. If you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable with public speaking, let me tell you that the 7 minutes is a nice little amount of time, and the TeachMeet audience is not at all intimidating. I would feel much more intimidated speaking to the staff at my own school.

The variety of the snapshots shared yesterday is what makes this kind of (un)conference so satisfying. Further investigation is made possible after the event when you follow links to blogs, and links and summaries of information shared on Twitter #tmmelb. The learning after the event is ongoing.

Of course, meeting new people and catching up with Tweeps is always the most enjoyable and enriching part of these events. I enjoyed the mix of education backgrounds, including teachers from both primary and secondary students, from all faculties, elearning and ICT people, principals and assistant principals and museum educators. It’s nice to connect with different sectors and hear about what they’re doing. The breadth is really valuable.

I have to say that I enjoyed ALL the presentations, but I’m not alone in saying that Mel Cashen’s (@melcashen) moving presentation of her visit to Rwandan schools was particularly inspiring, and enlarged my perspective in terms of what’s important in education on a global scale. Mel has obviously experienced something life changing, and it will be interesting to follow her path from now on. Thanks, Mel. Here’s the link to her blog – well worth reading.

Please also take the opportunity to involve your students in Judith Way’s high-quality Readers’ Cup program which Judith and friends generously organise in their own time and without charge.

Finally, I must rave about the tour of Quantum Victoria’s facilities – very big and very impressive. The programs sound amazing; I’ll definitely share these with science/maths teachers at school. Adrian mentioned something coming up which focuses on literacy so I’m keen to find out about this and involve my own students. I’ve leave you with a couple of photos of the 3D objects which came out of the state-of-the-art printer. Lots of oohing and ahhing at this point.

Yay for collaboration! The face of professional development is changing!!

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