Since I started teaching I have always been fascinated as how the visual arts can solve problems. Maybe that is why I felt so excited after reading a small article in Wired called Think Visual. Clive Thompson argues that perhaps the best way to solve complicated problems might be to draw them.
When I take notes, I often draw pictures that relate to the narrative. This helps me recall the information and its context. Thompson used visual thinking while deciding on a new laptop. Using a crayon from his son’s school box, he doodled images and icons that represented the pros and cons. Stepping back to view his work, he was able to see the answer to his dilemma.
Visual thinking is not new. Film directors create story boards to plan out shots and scenes. Web designers might create flow charts to see the sequence and fluidity of their designs. Drawing pictures can clarify what is going on.
The Guru of visual thinking is Dan Roam. In his book The Back of the Napkin, he reasons that our culture relies too much on words. Our schools and government promote people who are gifted verbally. Text encourages narratives and linear thinking of facts. Today’s complicated problems need more comprehensive solutions “not just words”.
According to Thompson to unlock this visual thinking potential, our digital tools need to move forward. He feels that they are still bound by the keyboard. He envisions poster size iPads where you could sketch out ideas, share with others, and ponder them until patterns emerge.
Although we have no fancy tech ware, our teachers at Academy are using this type of visual thinking in our data meetings. As we collect data from our students we are creating a color coded visual map as to how that data reflects in our students’ progress. What we are discovering are patterns in student achievement and learning habits. It has helped our teachers significantly and allows them to focus on particular strategies and develop new ones to address issues that become apparent through our data wall.
We tend to think that new technology will replace the old. As an art teacher my job is to get kids to explore their inner creativity. Sometimes I will use computers and applications like Gloster to create a collage piece. However, I still use old technology and my students interact with it with joy and sheer delight.
Take the paint brush. What a simple and fantastic tool. Many famed cave paintings, especially Lascaux cave paintings, suggest that some form of paintbrush was used. Brushes have been discovered in Egypt, which were made from spilt palm leaves, and it is a fact that brushes were used by the ancient Greek and Romans. Most notably, Asian cultures have a long standing relationship with the brush. Their language and script is largely based on the subtle gestures of a brush. I have been told that to master the brush you must practice a single stroke a thousand times.
Interacting with technology is sometimes as simple as picking up a brush.
Books are my indispensable friends. Ever since I got my new Kindle friends, colleagues, and family have been asking me the question..You have a Kindle? What about your books? Well, I still have my books and yes, I am still collecting them. Being a visual artist and art teacher does not limit me to just reading “real” books. There is no way I will replace the tactile pleasure of holding a book. It has a feel and a smell that is uniquely its own. Beside those attributes, books are just beautiful objects. Objects that have a voice.
I enjoy my Kindle because I love reading. It allows for convenience and functionality that is fundamentally sound in this busy techy world we live in. My Kindle is just another extension of my library. I just now have more space and money to devote to my collection of art books and limited addition series. Kindles rock , but my East of the Sun And West of the Moon is a priceless treasure.
My Kindle arrived today. Of all the technology that I have been exploring this past year, this by far is the one I am most excited about. Let me tell you why. It is simple and straight forward. I don’t have to try too hard to figure out how to use it or what applications will be cool and for that matter distracting. It is a reader.
It very light and is easy on the eyes. What I have noticed about spending so much time on the computer is that my eyes become tried and fatigued. Truly, I find myself losing my vision. Bright screens and colored graphics do take a toll on this precious sense. I need relief from this tacky techy world. My Kindle is a class act. It has a nice matte finish and the text is a deep charcoal grey creating a pleasant visual that makes reading it natural and easy. Nothing flashy or fancy, it is remarkable in its simplicity. It allows the text and the reader to become one. Accomplishing this is a incredible revolution on the development and evolution of the reading mind.
I love scrolling the books that are available and the discounted prices. Amazing how this one little device can hold up to 1500 books..really that is a miracle. You have your very own personal portable library. Ready to go whenever and wherever you go…ahh the Caribbean is calling.
Personal learning environments are what we strive to create everyday in the classroom , but how do we as teachers translate that experience in the digital age? Symbaloo, I came across Symbaloo while reading an art blog and it immediately caught my attention. Symbaloo is a visual way for teachers and students to organize and share their personal learning environments. Teachers and students can search for tiles to their favorite sites and add them to the Symbaloo webmix . It gives teachers and students quick excess to their instructional online needs. I decided to set up an account and began playing around with it during my 20 minute lunch breaks.
Symbaloo turns out to be easy to set up and use. There are 1000s of tiles to choose from and if you need to create one that is simple too. One thing that I truly liked about this organizer is that you can keep it general or develop one that is topic specific. This idea is compelling considering you can develop lessons and organize all your resources in one place for you and your students.
I like the potential here and hopefully I can find some others who are willing to give this a try.
What an exciting week thus far! Our new Teachermates have arrived at my school. These nifty, hand held computers act like a gaming device and will assist in teaching our kindergartens and first graders how to read and do math. The software we are using was especially designed to match our curriculum based instruction that uses Fundations for literacy and Investigations for math. We will be the first school in Vermont to use these hand held computers that have been highly successful in the Chicago Public Schools. I’m not sure who is more excited about their arrival, the teachers or the students.
Additionally, the tech committee decided to utilize Drop Box to collect images for our web site. We are
still struggling to get teachers to capitalize on this great outlet to showcase the amazing work they and
their students do every day. The intention is to make it easier for teachers to drop off their pictures into
the box and allow us techy teachers to edit and crop the pictures for publishing. Let’s hope this will only
be the beginning of exploiting wonderful tools like Drop Box in the school setting.
As for moi, I have been fooling around with Xtranormal, an online movie software that is easy and fun to use. If you can type you can make a movie. Although I have some reservations about some of the material and images, I’m thinking this will be a great little art vehicle for a group of students studying Dadaism. Can’t wait to play with it a little more….can you Andre Breton?
Stumbling on something fun during my research on file systems can really make graduate work pretty enjoyable. Check out this funny and clever video created by Joeri Pruys. This remarkable video Bits and Pieces was created the old fashion way using paper, string, and cardboard. No computer and no digital effects, a charming little piece of work that made me smile during my long hours reading about bits, bytes, and the all too scary but inevitable crash.
I am a little befuddled with Twitter. Perhaps my lack of tailgating and party hopping has hampered my understanding of this social phenomena. I have been hashtagging the stream for a week now and still feel as if I am waiting outside the club door to be let in.
Twitter is daunting and all consuming. I still find that I am struggling with the hashtag concept, #art, #education, and #creativity were just a few I plugged in. What I found were a slew of companies, organizations, and people…lots of people talking. With all that noise and nothing really catching or even piquing my interests, I began to feel dismayed and overwhelmed with disappointment. So, I decided to peer in more closely to see who other people were following. That proved to be a little more interesting and at times intriguing like the art teacher who is completely tattooed , but has to teach at a private school..interesting, but not something I need to follow. Overall I feel my Twitter experience is twittering out.
Between my incoming RSS feeds, emails, posts I am losing sight as to what I trying to say and if I really have anything at all to say at all. But I am not throwing in the towel, creating a PLN is a good idea and good ideas need to be pursued. So to be proactive I decided to experiment and create a local PLN with my district’s art teachers. Using Facebook and Twitter we will begin our little adventure and perhaps we will get beyond the door.
There’s something exhilarating about going on a search. Be it for treasure, a scavenger hunt, or an assigned research paper. The hunt is part of the excitement of the unknown and unexpected. You begin in one place and end on the other side of the world. I liken my search process to the movie “Around the World in 80 Days”. Take an eccentric Englishman and a kooky sari clad Shirley MacLaine and you will get to see and read more than you bargained for. The last two weeks have been just that. My latest quest has taken me to more alleys and side roads than NYC’s Chinatown.
I usually start my search by Googling the words and phrases, simple and straight forward. As I scan through web page after web page, I stumble upon additional words that are relevant to my topic of interest. These terms become a part of a working glossary. Developing a glossary is very helpful. I found that by having a cache of terminology and phrases armors me with a full quiver of arrows that can target and penetrate deeply into the web.
In a world driven by information and no clerics to guide us through the maze, refining and evaluating your search is essential if you want to maximize the web’s true potential. Learning how to work the search engines and use them quickly and effectively is the objective and often than not, the challenge. Internet searching requires patience and ingenuity. The same skills required to read a Chinese menu.
Am I a Gadget?
SixthSense technology is frankly quite amazing. Pranav Mistry has taken a fairly complex idea, merging the physical world with the digital by interpreting our gestures as interaction instructions for a computing device that projects in real time information that is relevant to what we a seeing or touching. What he has developed is something remarkable, revolutionary and maybe just a little scary.
SixthSense technology is more than a gadget it is a device that allows us to have access to all the data and information stored on the internet literally at your finger tips.
Visit Rome…take a photo of the Pantheon by framing it with your fingers, find the reviews of a restaurant by looking at their menu, explore history by touching a tombstone. While these novel applications are interesting, fun and compelling, I also found them a little troubling. In the wrong hands perhaps, couldn’t this technology be used to invade our privacy? Could a man on the prowl use it to identify a stranger and get private and personal information about an intended victim? Could the police use it to randomly identify citizens without knowledge or consent?
To me this is another reminder that all technology seems to be a double edge sword.
Being human is more than just being in the physical world. There is a spiritual or existential intelligence that goes along with being human. It is the inner sanctuary we call our soul. It is a place where we learn to interact with ourselves, with our thoughts and develop a sense of who we are. Spending too much time with our gadgets disconnects us from that inner self and eventually from the real world itself. We need to recognize that our gestures belong to the moment, those hugs, those smiles, and those magical doodles we draw in the sand.