Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Cyber Struggle

Whew! It seems that the last few weeks, if not last few months have been saturated with the discussion of proper language and the fundamentals of being a "good citizen" on and off line, through the many technological venues that our society has created for the "good" and "growth" of our culture. Cyber-bullying is proving to be more common and threatening than the average school-bully pushing you down on the playground, stealing your lunch money and spreading hateful rumors. The difference is that they are doing all of this and more on a public platform, where they don't even have to look the victim in the eyes and everyone in the universe can be jump on the bandwagon to choose sides.
The topic was first broached and brought to the forefront of my mind in this fall's issue of Instructor magazine, an article by Caralee Adams, and then pointed to and discussed again in my NWP Journal Writing Seminar, through St. Ambrose University, a couple of weeks ago, where I shared my own personal encounter with this phenomenon, and now this week in my Integrating Technology class, through AAU.
I have to agree that there is a problem and that not all educators acknowledge the problem within their realms of education, let alone know how deal with it or to add it to the discussion in their curriculum without adding a heavy load to their already busy schedule of meeting state standards.

There is a more urgent call to educators to step up their game and remain in constant focus of the cultural climate of their classrooms and school grounds, now more than ever. This seems to be another avenue where it all comes down to educating social values and good citizenry and including it into the current curriculum. Until we can find a way to help our students relieve the boredom that they feel, therefore lashing out their frustrations on the rest of their student population, we must make a difference in their lives by setting an example as good citizens ourselves.
The problem is that technology has lent itself to a much more impersonal state of being for many born-natives of the era and coping mechanisms have not yet been fostered for our youth to acclimate to the force that is present. They are still our youth, and still need to have their hands held in the proper functions of communicating within a public setting, which the Internet has proven to be. For instance, to point out that they would not cuss out their mother in church on Sunday, in front of the whole congregation, would make a beautiful point that is to say that doing it online is the same thing.
Basically we need to make an effort reinvent the "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" philosophy. The world will thank us later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity | Video on

The education debate that Robinson has delivered here, and in various other talks that I have previewed, stresses the fact that there is a dire need for educational reform, not just in the United States, but all over the world. We have to ask, what is education for? Who is it for? What is important and what can be thrown out?
While mathematics and language are always at the top tier and are of the utmost importance, they can be taught throughout every aspect of education, including art, music, dance and the rest of the arts. Educators must become creative enough to see this connection if we are going to be able to keep our children interested in school, interested in their future, interested in creating a life for themselves where their professional passion takes over and their work seems less a stress as it is a work of pleasure.
Creativity itself plays a significant part in our journey from youth to adulthood. We are born with a beautiful knack for happiness and play, but are asked to throw that out the window for an industrialized education product, through testing that supposedly proves how "smart" we are. Education without creativity, helps the student loose the sense of their own specific talents and helps them to become frustrated with the world around them, lashing out in forms of frustration that include cyber-bullying, because they have been forced to place their divine purpose on the back-burner and made to regurgitate facts and figures without any real life application.
The education debate over the loss of creativity makes me think of people in history such as Christopher Columbus, the Wright brothers, Albert Einstein, Richard Wagner, Abraham Lincoln, Issac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Tesla and Westinghouse. These were all people who made great strides toward a better way of living, but were also laughed at by the creative use of their ideas, or were ridiculed for being different. FDR brought our country out of The Great Depression through an understanding that the arts needed to be supported and cultivated and charter schools that embrace the arts are producing children with higher test scores. Is it just coincidence? I think not.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikis as Interaction

It has occurred to me that photo-editing was required, but I had arranged my image before shooting it. So, not that it matters at this point in time, but here is a cropped, inverted variation of what could have been done to my original image, focusing on line, color and balance of the picture field.

Moving on...this week's topic was to make a wiki page, something that can be accessible to students and add yet another field of discussion for them to participate in and outside of the classroom. This, like the blog, can be added to, edited by and managed by students, however monitored for content postings, as always, by the administrator of the page, the teacher.
I have used the wikispaces website before in my time teaching, but had used it for the English classroom, as a place to post and discuss works from authors/poets that related to the themes we were discussing in class. More often than not, it proved to be more of a chore for the students to complete the tasks listed in the wiki.
However, this being said, and after viewing a few other educational wikis, Visual Art Education, and Research in Contemporary Art, I found that a wiki does not need to be interactive, though it is a helpful tool for discussion, but can be used as any tool needed, like these informational sites offer.
After perusing the ZoHo website, I found that it was just as user friendly as the wikispaces was for me previously, so I jumped in to make another page. With the easy navigation and instructions for use, ZoHo was something I thought thought that I'd try out. Take a look and let me know what you think:
After all, as a visual art educator and visual artist myself, I decided that I wanted to make my classroom that much more interactive about the theory of art and yet be open to the possibilities that each individual artist brings to the table, as a student. My wiki would be used as a supplemental activity, to be referred back to throughout the project being carried out and the materials and focus at hand.
I would also like to, as I add content to the wiki, turn it into something like the Research site, where it can be used as a syllabic overview for the class, and a stepping-off point for research within the classroom. Enjoy! I know that I did.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Should Photography be Perceived as an Art Form?

The conversation in class this week revolved around Photography and the use of it as an art form. Photography is a rather new, expressive form of art and technology has made it readily available to people from all walks of life, not just artists with an eye for composition. Museums, for years, have hosted photographers who have held a distinct vision of the world around them. Their quandary has been about how to now come upon a means of distinguishing artist photographers from the multitude of mass-media photography. So, the argument was whether photography should be accepted as an art form or whether it should merely be left a means of communication outside of the art world. It is an art that is still evolving.
It is true that myriads of people, through the vast displays of rapidly growing technology in the world, have access to one form of camera or another and with the sharing and printing capabilities that the internet provides, through sites such as Flickr, Snapfish, Picasa or many, many other editing programs like Photoshop, the world of photography has become smaller.
Photography was once a novelty, something produced by professionals for an audience. Now, one only needs to point and click and the image is captured. But, there is still an art to capturing a great photo...composition...This week's class, an an art major before I became a teacher, was a brief review of how an image must be composed to convey its message effectively to an audience: balance, simplicity, the rule of thirds, etc. Any visual image must be set up in this way, websites, paintings, prints, and namely photographs. I remain an amateur photographer, though I know how to compose, edit and print these for my own purposes.
Here are the photos that I manipulated for this class
I will remain with the notion that photography is an art form, a rather new one, but all art forms are constantly evolving as time goes on, otherwise the artist would no longer be in existence. When restrictions are placed on an art form, it no longer is art. The field of communication should be allowed to be open and explored. We have not seen the last of this controversy.

Photo Editing

Days Gone By - Original
Emerald Tone
neon sign
shrink wrap
stained glass

Monday, October 11, 2010

Use of Technology Debate

So, this week was a rather burdensome one: weighing positives and negatives of creative license, fair use and copyright along with the good and bad that comes with the use of Power Point presentations as an educator. Sometimes, I see things better from one side of the coin than the other, but this week's topics prompted many high-brow discussions from my artisan friends, causing me to reflect from both sides on the coin.

Take, for instance the idea of my perspective as an artist. For thousands of years our culture has evolved and learned from previous generations through visual cues and ideas. Human beings, especially creative artists learn from those visual cues and manipulate those images to fit their own ideas about how they be made creatively better. But, as an artist I would feel a mixture of flattery and horror if someone were to steal my image and play it off as their own. So, there's the question of artistic license? I create to learn and I share my final product with the world, hoping to help them see things from a different perspective, but not all artist are like that. Most of them are out to make a buck (or two) or make an impact and break into the "art world". But, once that image is displayed for the world to see, it is influencing someone. Right?

And if you ask me about Power Point presentations, I always find myself frustrated and non-interested, as person sitting in the audience, when someone gives a PP presentation. I end up reading what's on the slide (or view the graphics) and then tune out, because my auditory learning skills have never been the greatest (don't tell anyone, but I'm a doodler). It is always helpful if the presenter has something relevant to hand out while they are speaking, that relates (but is not a regurgitation from the PP) to the topic. "Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure," says Edward Tufle's article Power Point is Evil. I know as the educator, since I get bored easily, that my students are probably going to be ten-times more bored by sitting through a PP, regardless of the visual media, but if neither are there and I'm not interacting physically with the material, I'm not paying attention!

Here's a version of a PP presentation for a review of vocabulary words that I feel are important for students to master before they go on to 3rd grade. Enjoy!

So, are there other ways to stimulate student retention, interaction and familiarity with exploring the information that they are learning? Sure. Just ask them and they will show you many avenues that they have found to present the information. Just check out the link of one site that we found in the last couple years. Prezi. It's like a virtual web diagram and it keeps me interested when I see it presented because all of the different media involved with PP can also be utilized there, but the way it moves...well, you'll see... Pretty cool!
What kind of ideas created created this walkway? There are vertical and swirling diagonal lines with horizontal railings and a pathway for pedestrians. It had to come from somewhere...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Evaluating my Learning from an Educator's Viewpoint

I like the idea that I am a life-long learner. Some of my teachers (family and friends included) must have done something right as they were teaching me the ways of the world. Where once I was a teacher, (who never thought I wanted to teach, but loved every minute) here I am, a student once again.
This week our class took a solid look at how to evaluate a website to be used in the classroom and the validity toward the subject being taught in the classroom; at developing a gradebook that utilized Microsoft's Excel program; and also about developing rubrics for learning, used to evaluate student learning.
The first was something I had thought about, because I remember my own English teacher warning us about not trusting everything that was available online or even in print unless we had heard the information from a few different sources. The second was a program that I have been using recently for database information, but had never been forced to utilize in the classroom. The latter, rubrics, was something that I was already familiar with and had already had the pleasure developing, something I also knew what would work and what wouldn't because of my background in education and contact with students.
Evaluation of a website is quite a bit more critical than I had once thought. Finding the intentions of the author and the validity of the site are easy upon a glance, but depending on the content of the site, whether it is historical fact or research-based information, the importance lies in the date that the information was last updated. Is it relevant? Current? Gospel to the world pertaining to its facts? The other importance of the site is whether the site itself is a credible source of information and what other sites trust their information by linking to them. I had always thought that as long as I recognized the name of the organization (Smithsonian, Metropolitan Art Museum, etc.) that they should be a trusted source. I had never considered the other key inclinations toward their content.
As I said, I had experience with Excel, but had not been forced to use it to this extent before now. It was a useful tool to have the knowledge of for future reference, if and ever I come across a school I am employed through who does not have their own grading program. Thankfully, I had been blessed with a fairly understandable program the last four out of the five years that I taught. The first year, it was all done by hand, which doesn't have the perks that an accessible (by parents, administration and teachers) online network has, but we were all learning (the students and I) that year anyway. That was a "Thank God" moment when the school finally implemented that program into our district. It saved so much time and did the same thing that Excel offers now, printing graphs and charts, averages, etc.
Rubrics, on the other hand, can be quite complicated and yet can be very general in nature. I had played around with online resources before when making an evaluation rubric for presentations and projects. The Rubistar link is quite helpful, giving you a template to work with (which makes it a no-brainer rubric), but also affords the teacher the chance to plug in their own information. It was quite easy to use. 
In my opinion:
Like a text book, websites, student lesson plans, rubric evaluations, and projects need to be relevant, recent information tailored to the students you are encountering and interacting with and about the subject it is relating to, so that students researching have truthful knowledge to grasp and hold onto. By keeping everything fresh in your classroom, the students will thank you for it!