Posts Tagged ‘Ann Hamilton’

So, I’m still thinking about this idea of the commonplace book reinterpreted. This idea fits nicely with the ideas of slow learning that were highlighted at the Project Zero conference I attended in October. We, as observers, notice things all the time, but how much of it goes in one ear/eye and out the other? Honestly, a lot of it can just keep on going since I know I see and hear an awful lot of crap. However, systems to keep the good stuff and the “it might not be so good but it is really interesting to me” stuff are key.

One of my booksnaps for "How it Went Down" by Kekla Magoon

One of my booksnaps for “How it Went Down” by Kekla Magoon

With my second semester class, I plan to keep the noticing and collecting going, but want to adjust the format a little. This course has a lot of shorter books, rather than a few longer ones. And, comparing and looking and the works in groups is a key component to the work we will do. So, I wanted a more group oriented, public system where we could put a lot of raw data. @TeacherDebra introduced me to booksnaps some time ago. Time to put them to use. I was not a snapchatter myself, but I set up a Snapchat and a Tumblr. We are gong to use Snaphat as a photo editor; I am not going to be sending snaps to the students directly. Students take pictures of passages of text that stand out to them, annotate them in some way with the Snapchat tools, save the image, submit it to our Tumblr page. (Full disclosure, I got the tumblr idea from the amazing Ann Hamilton’s habitus project and the collection of quotations about clothing she solicited through her tumblr: cloth a commonplace. Seriously, I love Ann Hamilton.)

Since we started the semester with several independent reads, it was a great way to share our books. Then, we moved on to a unit of three books we all read together. The students and I took turns leading class for these books. Part of the job of leading class was to share, before or after, a few booksnaps to support the ideas of the discussion. For the independent reading, it was a good option that helped us talk about common characteristics that we were seeing. As we moved on, I didn’t incorporate the booksnaps into class as well. Therefore, the students had a hard time remembering them too. No surprise that when I dropped the ball, they dropped it too.

We are just finishing this unit, and I am going to return to the booksnaps as we move into our next group of texts, perhaps with a little bit of focus.

Anyway, there are several things I like about our Tumblr booksnaps so far. It’s a pretty quick and easy way to collect passages, and the students are so used to the tool that they add comments and notes in no time. Therefore, I get more information about their thoughts about the books. Victory! I really just want my students to think and share that thinking with me. So, if I can find a way that accomplishes both of those goals, I’m happy.

So, I’ve been thinking about commonplace books this school year. Ever since I saw Ann Hamilton’s exhibit habitus at the Philadelphia Fabric Workshop museum, I have been thinking about how this on going habit of collection and reflection. I wrote about it earlier and found others are writing about commonplace books this as well. An art colleague uses Pinterest with her class for their visual commonplace books. She finds it helps students hone in on what they might want to do for their independent projects.

Ann Hamilton's deconstructed commonplace book in her exhibit, habitus, at The Fabric Workshop. Photo by me.

Ann Hamilton’s deconstructed commonplace book in her exhibit, habitus, at The Fabric Workshop. Photo by me.

Well, we are about to begin our commonplace books. I have also been investigating hyperdocs, after the amazing @TeacherDebra featured this tool in her weekly round up recently. As I wrote before, I am trying to get students into a habit of noticing what they notice. Seniors, really any age readers, have their own interests, yet I worry that they have forgotten that they have their own interests around reading if teachers are always directing discussion. While I recognize my role in promoting a discussion that does more than recap plot, I am becoming more and more aware that students must play a more vital role in molding and shaping that discussion. If we are reading even quasi-good books, there is plenty to talk about. The question is not so much what has to be discussed, but what discussion the readers can generate.

As we read our big book of the semester, my goal is to do two things:

  1. to encourage and structure ways for students to notice what stands out for them as they read and to comment on this as they read.
  2. to empower and push students to be responsible for having a discussion that is of interest to them and one requires thinking beyond the plot.

I think these two goals go hand in hand. It will probably also mean some quiet and maybe awkward moments in class. Silence is not bad; I can wait.

We have read the first few chapter of our new book. I had several things I wanted to get out there at the beginning, so I set up a bit with our first discussion. Over the weekend I asked students to look at the hyperdoc below to get acquainted with commonplace books and our project. (I have talked about this in class before, so it’s not out of left field.)

I also asked that they respond to an online question asking what they wanted to talk about in regards to the reading. Could be a passage or an idea. I will see how this goes. I may alternate days between passages and big ideas, because I suspect big ideas will be what students suggest more frequently, and we do need to do some close, slow looking.

I am trying to be very clear with my class about these goals. It’s nothing secret. So far, when I have asked, they have stepped up.

So, I’ve been thinking about commonplace books. However, I have to admit, I wasn’t even sure what they were until recently, which is odd because I have been making my own collections of words and favorite bits and pieces of this-and-that forever. I am a collector at heart. (Doesn’t collector sound better than hoarder?)

I decided that my students need to start their own common place books. But, let me explain the entire thought process.

First, I was at the Ann Hamilton installation at the Fabric Workshop Museum in Philadelphia, habitus. (I am a total Ann Hamilton fangirl. She does amazing work that really speaks to the way I like to think about things. Her the event of a thread installation at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC in 2012 was one of my favorite things.) Anyway, habitus investigates strands of fabric and text. Part of the display included commonplace books as well as fabric sample books, collections of fabric scraps from museum collections. In addition, Ms. Hamilton created a deconstructed commonplace book of her own. She had a selection of passages from various texts (all about clothing) lined up on a shelf. There were many copies of each, and viewers were encouraged to take copies of passages that they particularly liked.

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As my husband and I were waiting to go to move along, I got to thinking about how collecting bits of ideas is such a great habit. It means that the collector is constantly engaging with ideas and should he or she want or need to write about those ideas, so much of the thinking work is already underway. Time to find patterns, be original, and come to some conclusions. However, too often student writers start with deciding on their conclusion and then look for proof rather than really engaging with topic, wrestling with the content, and then deciding on their conclusion. I thought about this same idea two summers ago during my teaching writing course, which confirmed my thoughts that students need to do more looking at the evidence before deciding on their point, rather than deciding on their point and then looking for proof.

The habit of making a commonplace book could help here. Then, as I was wandering around the interwebs and thinking about this, I came across this post about a modern commonplace book-keeper. So, now I’m thinking about how to incorporate this idea into my English class. I have a lot planned for our next book, but our big book (The Art of Fielding) might be the perfect place to give this a try. Because it is a long book, students will really need to keep more notes and thoughts as they read. Also, that gives me some time to make a plan.

I can’t wait.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about big installation type maker/art project. My New Year’s plan is to make some sort of installation myself, or with a little help from my friends.

Here are some of my inspirations:

I have been mildly obsessed with Jie Qi’s work for some time. Her interactive painting is beyond amazing.

 

In addition, I really enjoyed the responsive art in this TED talk by Aparna Rao.

I love her frames quickly standing at attention. And, the way she talks about her work, so serious and quiet, cerebral, is such an interesting counterpoint to the playful and lighthearted work itself.

My personal family went to see the Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread exhibit at the Park Avenue Armory three years ago, and we all still talk about it. Huge swings were hung in the Armory. The swings were also attached to a large curtain that hung though the center of the long side of the space. So, as visitors swung, the curtain undulated. There was also a sound component in addition to pigeons. Not only did we enjoy swinging, but watching the curtain wave was a different and equally engaging action. People reclined on the floor and just watched, mesmerized. (There is a video on the site linked above as well.)

 

 

Recently, my amazing colleague @Mr_Fornaro visited another school’s maker space and reported that they had rigged up a Makey Makey to two flights of stairs, not just a few steps or a few places on the railing. So, as you can tell, I start thinking on a very reasonable scale. This is what I do. It does not always produce good results.

Then I remembered a fortune that I had saved. It said:

If you want good advice, consult your mother.

Putting all of this together, I had a plan to create an interactive experience using a Makey Makey, some sort of bar or rail, a number of old rotary telephones, and recordings of real advice from real mothers. I had thought that there would be a big sign or something on the wall with the fortune/saying. When I met with tired new dad @Mr_Fornaro, he was excited to help and has some experience with Makey Makeys. He also knew of some students who might be interested in the project–more friends! As we discussed, we both simplified and built-in potential for expansion. Fantastic. One of my original ideas was to include the larger school community in advice collecting. Our thought on that: totally doable.

As I was describing this to my personal family at dinner tonight we thought of a few more ideas. (Hmm, is this a family trait to plan big? Perhaps.) Maybe it’s a booth or pay phone box that says “advice from mom” or something instead of “telephone” at the top. Then we thought, maybe it’s an advise station and different phones would have different themes: advice from mom, words of encouragement, etc. Oooooh, so many ideas.

I have to say I am so excited about the prospect of this actually getting created. Plus, my conversations about the plan totally reinforce my belief in the importance of brainstorming with others. Even though I am currently working on a post about the importance of silence and prolonged thinking, I have always been a big fan of brainstorming with other people who are also interested in generating a lot of ideas and talking around the topic. The person who wants to go with the first plan/idea/thought and finish the task is not the collaborator I am looking for. However,the person who loves a good rolling around of ideas is exactly the collaborator for me.

Back to the plan. The space we are targeting is not available at the moment, but we can get stated on our first prototypes.

Any other collaborators out there have some ideas to share?