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So, I’ve been thinking about reading and rereading books. How is it that the book is totally different than the last time I read it?

I don’t often reread books, at least books that I am not teaching over and over. There are so many I haven’t read once yet, that I tend to move on rather than review. When I do reread with significant time in between readings, it is surprising how the books change when I am not looking. Why is this not making the news?

A number of years ago this happened with To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it when I was in middle school, saw the movie with Gregory Peck, loved the name Scout, and had vivid memories of the trial and the neighbor saying she would die “beholden to nothin’ and nobody.” And that’s how it stayed in my mind. Then, I reread the book in anticipation of using it in a sample teaching lesson for an interview many years ago. I was shocked to find that the trial parts had shrunk so much over the years. And, why did so much other stuff got added? Where did that come from?

Now the same thing has happened again. The stealthy editing gods have struck while I was busy doing something else. This time the victim was The Odyssey. Again, I read it in high school. I taught Ancient Greece to 5th graders, and read Bernard Evslin’s The Adventures of Ulysses with my 5th graders every year. Now, I am rereading the non-junior version of The Odyssey (Fagels’ translation) and again shocked to find that someone has been messing with the story. The “adventures” have been shrunk and Telemachus has taken over the beginning. Evslin’s retelling highlighted the wily Odysseus’ heroic qualities, making it clear why he was the leader at every turn, while not sugarcoating his responsibility for the loss of his men. The monsters and immortals were a diverse team of challengers who tried every trick in the book to keep him from Ithaca. When he finally got home, the suitors were in trouble. No changes there, although Evslin certainly got to the point more quickly.

Although these particular examples occurred years apart, they highlight just how unreliable memory, or at least my memory, is. I’ve been reading up on the brain and learning and memory recently. So, I know, in my brain, that the more times we recall a memory the stronger it gets, AND every time we recall a memory we also may change it. It’s such a double whammy. If you don’t keep recalling the memory you lose it, but by recalling it becomes less and less like the original memory.

I have some questions for myself:

  • What about the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird made me come back to it again and again in a way that other parts of the book did not?
  • Why did the line “I want to die beholden to nothin’ and nobody” make such an impression, if, in fact, that is even the correct line?
  • Do other people enjoy all that Telemachus bit at the beginning or are they waiting for the adventures too?
  • Did Odysseus always do so much weeping? Why didn’t I remember that?

Anyone else have a book that has changed on them?

 

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So, I’ve been thinking about book art and printing. One of the things I have been doing for a while now if trying to make sets of 5 images/works/whatnot, my taxonomy project works.

Working in multiples has been a great option for me. When I do have make time to sit down and work on something, I know it’s not a one and done. This makes the individual item less precious, and therefore I don’t feel like I have to get it just the way I want the first time. I can, and have to, try out a number of different strategies and combinations. Super helpful. Not only do I create more, I also have an easy way to keep at a project without having to come up with an entirely new idea. Also helpful.

Since I am not really an artist, I tend to do a lot of putting things together, altering, mashup type stuff. Less pressure on the technical art skills. My latest set of images combines art and tech.

I started with an old book that had great paper, font, and feel to it. Do other people buy old books just for the paper and type, or is it just me? I’ve done a lot of different blackout poetry type things, so I wanted to do something different. I also happened to be cooking beets. The color is just too wonderful. I took the top where I sliced off the greens and stamped it on some pages of the book, like beet polka dots. Those images sat around my kitchen for a while. They were clearly not finished.

Next, as I wrote the other day, I have been experimenting with Adobe Capture. I am really intrigued by the pattern option where you can turn an image into a black and white block print looking image and slide the scale on the dark/light balance. I made a few patterns of chairs with the app. I cut the images with the school lasercutter and printed them (not only is my office pretty much in our beautiful new library, but I have a key to the makerspace, and it’s summer so no one else is in there).

I first printed the images on plain paper. But I got to thinking–several of the chairs were in the library at school. Library, books, book images, we sit in chairs and read, words are all around, AHA! I decided to print my chairs on my beet polka dot book pages.

I like the images in general. The beet color has faded quickly and now looks more like rings from a wine glass in some places. I’m ok with things I enjoy being used and showing signs of being well-loved. I use my grandmother’s tablecloth; it’s got some spots from her parties and some from mine. So, the red rings kind of remind me of that sort of familiar use (tablecloth, book, chair) that is part of the living of life and permanently marks objects in the process.

I have a few other sets in mind: one with chairs that mixes it up with the upholstered part of the chair, one with cabinets or containers and what they hold.

Any other ideas for sets and combinations?

So, I’ve been thinking about art and technology. In my fantasy life, I am an artist. In my real life, I an educator with access to a lot of technology and art supplies.

Recently I have been using Adobe Capture (the free app version) to create black and white images that I then cut into wood on the lasercutter and print. First, use the ‘shapes’ feature in Adobe Capture. I can use the sliding scale to determine how much black I want in the image. Below you can see the image I was using and how Adobe Capture transformed it.

Next I put the image into Adobe Illustrator, did the image trace, expanded it and deleted a few stray bits. Then I raster engraved that image onto wood using the lasercutter. I reversed the black and white so that the lasercutter cut away all the areas of white, leaving the raised portions the equivalent of the dark areas in the image. From there, I could ink the wood and print it on paper.

 

The question I have is, although the print is quite nice, I am wondering if it is art. I mean how much did I really do here? I found the chair sitting as is in my house. I did move some junk and maybe a cat off of it. I used the app to take a picture, cropped out what I didn’t want, used the slider to decide the black/white balance, which the app implemented. This is the hard part, in my opinion. I made minimal changes to the image. The lasercutter cut the wood. I inked the block and put the paper on.

I don’t know. I didn’t draw or cut the print image. I made minimal decisions about color and paper. I chose the amount of black and white, altered lighting a bit to get the pattern I wanted.

This makes me think of the picture book Seen Art by Joe Scieszka and Lane Smith. (Our main character ends up in the MoMA in New York and keeps asking if anyone has “seen Art?” Various people talk to him about the works in the museum including the helicopter that hangs from the ceiling, which the other museum patron recognizes for its engineering but admits some wonder if it is Art. Finally, our hero finds what he has been looking for–his friend Art.) As I think about this, I wonder if I can come to terms with this idea be taking into account the lower case or capital a in art. Maybe these prints (I have many more) are not capital A Art (said with deep, serious voice), but maybe they are small a art, which is probably about right for me.

So, I’ve been thinking about summer reading. I’ve also been thinking about my Arduino skills, or lack of Arduino skills.

Learning more and doing some significant practice has been on my to-do list for several years at this point. I keep trying to get back to it, but never really get anywhere. I admit I have never really gone all in. Every time I decide to give it another go, I get overwhelmed by how must there is to know and how much I don’t know. This is probably because I decide to look around the interwebs rather than just getting going. Then, I see all the advanced this and that, get confused by various system and components and run away. I’m not proud.

Time for another strategy. No more looking at all the complex things I could do in several years. Time to start small and just start. As luck would have it, my STEAM department chairperson gave each department member this for our “summer reading.”

There’s a lot of potential for me to be overwhelmed here. However, there is a small project I have in mind that would be a very reasonable start. The small, realistic plan is not my strong suit. I’m really going to try though. I know from working with students that sometimes a kit with a set project is a great way to start. This is not that kind of kit, but I think I can find some simple projects to try. I seriously will feel so proud if I can make some progress here. I took a three-session class at The Hacktory, but the class started too far along for me. I needed a step zero class that gave me some lingo and some basic circuitry review. Things just went too fast for me. My stepgrandmother who spoke many languages used to swear that the way to learn a language in school was to take first-year French, Spanish, whatever three times rather than moving on to the next year. I think that is where I am with Arduidos, at least that’s where I hope I am. I have tried an intro class, read an intro book, and now I have another opportunity. Maybe this will be my third time’s a charm.

My first project is a light and photograph idea that’s been sitting on my work shelf, waiting. I have photos of faces with good freckles. I poked holes in the images at the freckles and have a simple string of Chibitronics lights in the same pattern underneath the freckles. I plan to code the lights to blink the name of the person in morse code in response to sound or light and dark. I can write the blinking code. I started that already. It’s not hard, just tedious. Next step is setting up a test circuit that includes the sensor. That’s harder for me.

Monday is a new week.

CCO Public domain image

So, I’ve been thinking about my own support of students of color, colleagues of color, and a curriculum of color in my school.

I hope that I am an obvious and effective ally and advocate for all of the above. However, as a white woman who is married to a white man and who lives in a fairly white neighborhood, I know I am missing a lot. My regular adventures outside my neighborhood are not enough. My conversations with colleagues are not enough. The books that I have managed to put in my courses are not enough. The articles that I read are not enough.

I read something by a journalist (whose name I cannot remember or I would attribute) who said that he or she at some point decided to be deliberate about having gender balance in his or her sources or quoted experts. Once making that conscious decision, it turned out not to be that hard, surprise, to find women experts; it just took paying attention and not being lazy.I think I can take this example to heart. It’s not hard to expand the voices I notice. There’s been talk about how Twitter is dead or at least passé. Personally, as an educator, I still find it immensely valuable. And, it is another way for me to expand my circle of things I notice. So, I have been very deliberately adding many more voices of color to my twitter feed. My “home”

There’s been talk about how Twitter is dead or at least passé. Personally, as an educator, I still find it immensely valuable. And, it is another way for me to expand the voices in my circle. So, I have been very deliberately adding many more voices of color to my twitter feed. My “home” tweetdeck column is changing for the better, and it’s leading me to other resources.

It’s not an end, but it’s another step in the right direction.

 

This goat has read my post and is wondering if I am crazy.
CCO public domain image.

So, I’ve been thinking about my summer reading. I’m actually kind of obsessing about it. I can’t wait to get started. I already wrote about my literature plan and have started reading two of the books on my list.

I also have a professional learning reading plan.

Top on my list are a few of the Hacking Learning books, in particular, Hacking Assessment by Starr Sackstein and Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. I am a big fan of Star Sackstein via Twitter. And, I went to Ross and Erin’s session about PBL at EduCon in January and was really impressed with their honesty about their progress in understanding and implementing PBL.

This is the summer that I will finish several education reads, including several books that I recommend to people all the time, but may not have quite finished. I’ll admit to Mindstorms by Seymour Papert and Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager being on the list. A few others I am keeping to myself.

I’m also going to brush up on my Understanding by Design background and have already collected a bunch of online resources.

My other big topics are going to be pretty much anything that comes out of Project Zero (especially in relation to Global Education and Global Competencies) and Interdisciplinary curriculum readings.

Finally, I have a lot of reading and learning to do in relation to the class I am teaching next year which is an interdisciplinary course about ‘the fantastics’ (fantastic creatures and fantastic places). I’ve got a growing LiveBinder of resources and book list and a lot of books to read.

Oh, and I have a bunch of edtech things to investigate; I get behind during the school year and have to go through all the bookmarks and OneTab (I love this tool) collections once I have time to review. Currently, I’m thinking a lot about things like Flipgrid, Hypothes.is, and HyperDocs. This may or may not be the summer that I make respectable progress with Arduido and/or soft circuitry beyond the basics.

I can totally do all that, right?

 

So, I’ve been thinking about the final writing assignment in my YA literature elective. Last year, there was a lot of moaning and groaning about the length. I wrote about it then.

Briefly, the students read an article from Slate by Ruth Graham (“Against YA“), several responses to Ms. Graham, and then entered the debate by writing their own article, either supporting or opposing Ms. Graham’s original. Last year, after all that complaining, the students’ articles were pretty solid. However, I thought they could have done a better job of dissecting the original article and either countering or agreeing with specific points. They had the same problem with the response articles–too general, not enough of the nitty gritty. This lead to some arguments that were too simplistic. As they did last year, again, students could take either side but needed to make solid and well-defended arguments, reference the first article, at least two others, and at least two books that we read during the semester.

For several students, this was the most successful writing of the semester in terms of their clarity and level of detail. I’ve been thinking about why that might be.

This year, I made sure that we analyzed the first article and several other examples in more detail. We I used the webtool hypothes.is to annotate collaboratively. For each response article, we looked more closely at the particular points of the original article the author chose to address, the tone of the response, and students’ responses to that tone. Some students liked an equally snarky response; others preferred a more neutral tone combined with evidence of experience or expertise. We spent more time talking about format options, and several students took good risks in that department. A few wrote as if they were YA bloggers, and one attempted the ‘take the argument to the extreme to prove its ridiculousness’ option.

Another important characteristic of this assignment, in terms of having more success for more students, was the fact that this writing did not need to have quite as serious an analytical tone. Although the assignment required significant thought and synthesis, it was not “an analytical essay” in their minds. There was some option for creativity of format and less formality in language. It is this language business that often trips them up. The clear writers are clear writers. The problem comes for the students who equate serious analysis with overly complex sentences and overly formal word choice, both of which lead to awkward writing that gets in the way of itself and any point to be made.

So, the better teaching of the arguments in the article is on me. Although, now I wonder if I went too far in terms of digesting so many of the articles together in class.  The part that I am really thinking about is the significant improvement in clarity of writing in this assignment (for some students).

  • Did they just relax with the less formal style and therefore write better?
  • Did they say to themselves, “hey it’s my last English paper, I’ll ease up on the fancy language I’ve been trying to use.”
  • Did they feel pressured in other assignments to write in a voice that is unnaturally serious and therefore awkward?

I tend to think that the understanding that this piece of writing could be less formal was the key for those students who were more successful than they had been earlier in the semester. Interesting to note though, the final articles were not all that casual. No one took it too far. Good thinking, synthesis of ideas, and integration of quations were all obvious.

What if it was all just the perception that they could write as themselves?

I have a lot to think about on this one.