Sunday, April 29, 2012

Visual Literacy in My Life-Today

http://tinyurl.com/6r836pr
On the first day of Visual Literacy class, Magda talked about "making the invisible visible." Coming into VL, I thought we would be learning about art, about using visuals in the classroom and not really delving into perception and aesthetics as much as we did. I also didn't think of how impactful a lot of the activities would be, or how the movies would make me go AHA! But now, thinking back over the course of our class's experience this semester, I realize that I have learned a lot. Much of the "invisble" has become visible to me.

Aristotelian Aesthetics
I have learned to challenge my judgments, to look past face value and to consider how an object fits into the grander "scheme of things." Everything and everyone in our world is connected (something I learned from Crash), and we have to think about how the way we choose to represent ourselves, and our ideas, may affect others and our world. I also came to understand my own perception, and how perception is SO prominent in the media, advertising and in communication in general. Everyone has their own schema, and each individual's perception determines how he or she interprets a visual. When designing visuals, it is important to consider how the way you choose to represent something might affect different people. I got really interested into perceptual aesthetics during the course of our class, and I will use this new knowledge in my future classroom. Aesthetics is a very puzzling category of philosophy and visual studies, and I am very interested in learning more about this field, especially Aristotelian Aesthetic theory.

The movies and our class discussion was another favorite part of Visual Literacy this semester. Everyone in the class had a different perspective to offer when considering issues and visual theories that we encountered. Now when I watch commercials, I always think of Jean Kilbourn's Killing Us Softly, and I am shocked at how many ads contain subtle messages within the visual choices they make. Thinking about this fact, I wonder how I represent myself with my actions and body language. Non-verbal language, and visuals, say so much MORE than words. You know that phrase "actions speak louder than words,"? Well, it is incredibly true, and now more than ever I am tuned into the way visuals communicate in our society.

I had a great time in Visual Literacy this semester, and I will be able to use my knowledge in my future classroom. I just designed a teaching unit focused on Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. I included an activity that was exclusively about using the visual communicative power of woodcuts in conveying a story. Students have to view different pictures, without seeing the accompanying words, and determine what is happening in the plot. There are lots of resources available out there for connecting medieval literature with art. Thanks to visual literacy, I know I will be more prepared to help students "make the invisible visible," and find deeper meaning from their classroom activities. I want them to look twice, at everything they encounter. Maybe they'll become a famous artist or filmmaker someday, and they can say, "my high school English teacher challenged me to do this." I would be so proud :)


Creating the PBL Learning Lesson

My awesome group (Gelastic) and I decided to focus on another combined project using elements from Social Studies and English. We agreed upon a student news broadcast, that required 10th grade students to create a news broadcast geared toward 3rd grade students. The PBL essential question was: How can we engage 3rd grade students in current events?

We created our GoogleDoc in order to allow for easy collaboration between the three of us. We decided that it would be great for students to be able to collaborate and create some sort of cartoon or animation to convey the news information to the 3rd graders. At first we wanted a 3-5 minute animation, written at 3rd grade readability, but later we cut it down to 1 minute to make it more feasible to accomplish in one, 75 minute class period. We then explored options for some sort of creative medium for the animation, looking at both Xtranormal and Blabberize. We settled on Blabberize, because Xtranormal seems to be no longer free.

For the RWLD, we sent our students out to three different online news sources, including npr.org, cnn.com, and kwwl.com. We had the class fill out a current event form. This form was a way for students to organize the events they researched, so they could concisely formulate their 3rd-grade reading level news broadcasts. The students then were to use the 3rd grade readability calculator to measure whether or not their broadcast script would be comprehensible by 3rd graders. They also had to watch the Jing video that Aric created, showing the students how to use Blabberize.

Our presentation went very well last Tuesday. We started out our lesson showing students an article that seemed very jargon-filled, to simulate how a 3rd grader might feel while watching the news as-is. Then we asked them to share their articles in their small groups, and work on adapting them to a 3rd grade readability level. All of the student groups created a Blabberize video, using an image of their choice that was age appropriate and would serve the greater purpose of the broadcast. Look at all of scripts and their great Blabberize videos here! 

We had a great turn out for Blabberize creations, and it seemed like the students had a lot of fun while making them. My greatest lesson from the project is the importance of communicating and collaborating with your group. Gineal, Aric and I have worked very well this semester within Group Gelastic. For this project, we split up tasks (Gineal made the narrative, Aric made the Jing video, I created the rubric), we all came up with the overall project idea and the RWLDs, and chose the medium that students would use to create (Blabberize). I learned how PBL can really motivate a class to do their best work, because if students know that their creations are serving a higher purpose (helping elementary students learn about current events), they will be more inclined to participate and get something out of the experience. I will definitely look for ways to incorporate PBL in my future classroom!

Creating/Using Podcasts in Education

My group (Gelastic) and I created our podcast around "What to Expect When You're Expecting to Attend UNI." We wanted to offer listeners tips on what to expect in your first year attending the University of Northern Iowa. With this idea in hand, we got started.

Got Podcast?
First, we planned our script, using GoogleDocs (my favorite). We designated different categories that we wanted to talk about, which were: time management, finances, dorm life, and getting involved. Then we had detailed points within these categories. We split the categories up evenly, as well as the transitions, so that each of us could have a chance to speak in the podcast. We also determined what intro and outro music we were going to use, as well as the track that would run softly in the background throughout the podcast. Writing the script was fun, as well as educational for the three of us, because we've all had slightly different experiences in our time here at UNI. Once we had our script in tact, we planned where and when we would meet to do the recording. We were able to meet one day before CCA and record all of the introduction, conclusion and transitions, as well as my lines, and Gineal and Aric met after CCA to record their parts (I had a class after CCA). After all of our recordings were done, Aric arranged and edited our sound clips using Audacity, and uploaded the final recording to Podbean.

Listen to our final podcast here! 

Through this project, I learned how to further use collaborative tools effectively, as well as how to create and execute the publishing of a podcast. I had never made a podcast before, or really even listened to many, so this project called for me to get out of my familiar comfort zone and venture into relatively unknown territory. I really enjoyed working with my group members, especially in writing our tips and witty script! In my future teaching career, I can see myself employing this technology and type of project in the classroom. Podcasts required planning and organization, so it would be a great way to also help students practice these skills (adolescents may benefit from the additional practice!). Overall, I had a lot of fun working with my group and creating this podcast. I've also got a new interest in the media, and have already downloaded several from iTunes U onto my i-Phone!


Visting Lincoln Elementary School

When we visited Lincoln Elementary School, I did not know what to expect. I am not an elementary education major, so my focus has never really been on elementary environments. Usually when I think about using technology and collaborative tools in the classroom, I am thinking of a high school classroom; however, the day we visited Lincoln, my attitude immediately changed.
Ms. Nelson showing us the i-Pods

Students on classroom computers


  
3rd graders reading during stations

The children at Lincoln are very privileged to have Colleen Nelson as a teacher-librarian at the school. Ms. Nelson showed us around the building and high-lighted different areas that are using technology to help students learn and communicate. One classroom of students were using I-pods for vocabulary practice, as well as spelling work. Several other students were using desktop computers to work through reading, language and vocabulary. These were 3rd graders, and they would work through "stations" during the day to practice various skills. I thought the 3rd grade classroom was the most interested, because of these stations. The students would be rotating through different activities, using computers, I-pods, and regular, non-technological activities, to practice all kinds of skills. What I really liked about this classroom was that there was a huge emphasis on using various reading strategies, including schema, questioning, visualizing, monitoring and fix-up, and inferring. As a future English and reading teacher (and I will be endorsed 5-12, so I may very well teach elementary), it is SO exciting to see what real students are doing in classrooms today.

The trip to Lincoln changed my thinking about elementary schools and students. Even though these kids are young, they have a lot of potential for creativity and understanding, and using technology and collaborative tools  is helping them to think more deeply about the subjects they're learning about. I'll think twice the next time before I make assumptions about elementary kids!

This video shows other examples of how technology is changing the way elementary kids do school!

Collaborative Tools

For our first project in CCA, we had to work in groups to make a google doc about collaboration. The rule was that we had to create a complete project without speaking face to face. This might have seemed like a difficult task, because we are so used to live, in-person communication within our classes. However, we did not panic. With all the collaborative tools available out there, we could be in different places and still communicate with each other at the same time! As soon as Dr. Z gave us the go-ahead, we had to close our mouths and turn on our computers.

But I'll focus on our collaborative research project in another post. For this post, I want to focus on the tools. Collaborative tools have radically changed the way we do school, business, and personal communication. Never before have we had such ease with which we may create, edit, share and publish so freely. Being a future-teacher, having a platform that makes communication and collaboration so easy is crucial to making education its best. Let me tell you about a few of my favorite collaborative tools.

First, there is the all hallowed GoogleDoc. In fact, let's throw in the entire suite of online tools that Google offers. The best part is, anyone with a gmail account can access them. With Google, you get GoogleDocs (including Google slide shows, spreadsheets, forms, drawings, tables and collections), Googlesites, GoogleCalender, Blogger, and so much more! I have just included the collaborative tools that I use, but I think Google tools are some of the best available online today. I don't use flash drives anymore, because I just save everything in a GoogleDoc. Just the other day, I was working on composing a professional email to one of my student teaching mentor teachers, and I wanted my mom's (a teacher's) opinion on whether or not my language was coming off as professional. I saved my email into a GoogleDoc, shared it with Mom, and we were able to chat and make changes/ suggestions together. I LOVE GOOGLE.

Another really nice collaborative tool is Skype. I have used Skype for a couple of years now, because we have family in England who we like to see from time to time. I was amazed at how easy it is to use, and the basic service (hosting two people live-chatting with video) is free. You can even have more than two people meet on Skype, with audio only. We used Skype for our collaborative research project, and it was a breeze. We even Skyped with Dr. Z when he was in Jordan!  In a week, my boyfriend leaves for Berlin, Germany, and we have already downloaded Skype onto his netbook, checked out the time difference between Berlin and Iowa, and made a schedule of Skype "dates." Without this technology, I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with a lot of important people!

Other collaborative tools I have used include: Prezi (we're using it for Visual Literacy right now), Just Paste It, Second Life (this is pretty collaborative, in that you can talk to people from all over the world in a digital 3-d setting, and it's fun!), Dropbox, Wikispaces (both in Z's class, Ping's class, Magda's class, and more), and Chatzy. And I know that once I secure a teaching job (fingers crossed people!), I'll be investigating even more tools to use in my classroom!

Here is a table of online collaborative tools available to users for free at Cool Tools for Schools.

And 15 more free tools for Web-based education and collaboration!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crash Movie Review

"It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something." With these words, Don Cheadle's character Graham Waters opens Crash. When I first heard about Crash, I didn't expect it to be about race and perception. I thought it was a movie about cars! But after watching, I realized that the issues contained in the film are more real than I ever thought them to be before.



1. I think the director's message is simple: there is racism and prejudice hidden in the most unexpected of places. Unfortunately, though our world is continually becoming more global and diverse, there are individuals who are resistant to the harmony that our world hopes to achieve. Through exposing how race seems to be such a sensitive issue, and how people often aren't what they seem, I think the director really wanted to emphasize how sometimes we bring these issues to light, just so we can feel human. Just so we can understand that everyone has similar needs, wants and feelings, no matter what we look like.

2. I think that the movie has depictions of minorities that promote the message of the movie. There are very obvious instances of stereotypes that exist within the film, including Sandra Bullock's character, the white, racist woman, as well as the two African American men who are depicted as "tough" and steal a car, the Persian man who is angry, and the white gun shop owner who distrusts him. Several other depictions feel earnest, including Don Cheadle's character Graham Waters and his partner, Ria. The whole movie is organized around individuals applying stereotypes towards others. To support the director's intended message, that we are all interwoven without even realizing it, and we often "crash" into people we don't expect to, I think the minorities were situational.

3. I think the director's professional and educational background played a role in directing Crash. Since this film has kind of a subtle message, and presents it in an artistic way. Paul Haggis was very influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock and Jean-Luc Godard, both notorious for creating iconic, striking films. I think that Crash falls into a similar category. It is memorable, and deals with serious issues in a dynamic, yet subtle way.

4. I would hope that individuals watching this film would understand its message of inter-woven lives, and not be offended by the medium and characters used to convey it. However, I think that African Americans, people from the Middle East, and Asian people might be offended, because some of their minority groups are depicted stereotypically and thus negatively.

5. The movie added to my visual literacy by challenging my perceptive powers. Since so many of the characters' lives intersect throughout the film, (and there are a lot of characters, whose stories all have something to add to each other), I had to continually update my idea of each character, when I gained new information about them. I think we can use this type of perceptive update in our everyday lives, by reminding ourselves that no matter who a person is, we never know when their life might "crash" into our own.

6. Like Jean-Luc Godard and Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Haggis employs subtle visual means to convey the message of how people's separate lives "crash" into each other sometimes. By the recurrence of characters encountering one another, and different events causing "domino effects," this causes viewers to have to recall their initial perceptions of characters and compare them to how said characters are represented throughout the film.

Creating the Collaborative Research Project-Curfew Laws

http://www.peoplesfreespace.org/vision.html
I had the fortunate opportunity to form a group with Gineal Schrunk and Aric Folden. Together, we we Group Gelastic! Group Gelastic (which Dr. Z used to continually butcher until he finally looked up the definition; inclined to laughter), is a group that is devoted to promoting technology use in education in an enriching, interesting way. We also love to laugh and make light of situations! So, this was bound to be a fun semester in CCA.

When we were first assigned the Collaborative Research Project, we knew we wanted to connect both of our teaching major emphases: Gineal and Aric's Social Studies major, and my English major. Of course, Dr. Z being Dr. Z, he threw down the gauntlet and challenged us to complete this project without speaking to each other in person. For Aric and I, this challenge seemed very difficult initially, because we both love to talk, and we're pretty boisterous. So, we knew we had to choose a collaborative technology that would allow us to communicate quickly and clearly, so we could effectively plan and carry out our project. How were we going to agree on a topic that related to both Social Studies and English skills, all without TALKING???!

The final agreement fell on an idea that the three of us concocted together. Teenagers like to stay out and have fun, but often there are city, town, or community curfews requiring those under a certain age to be home and inside by a certain time of night. We wanted to pose the question: are you for or against an age-based curfew for your neighborhood? Students would then have to argue for their side, in a debate video. They would receive feedback from us instructors, and their peers, through a YouTube comment thread. All of this encouraged collaboration as well.

http://www.nlondtwp.com/GenInfo/Ordinances/Chp55Curfew.html
The collaborative technologies that we decided to use were GoogleDocs and Skype. We knew that we were all in possession of a laptop with a built-in web cam, and Skype is very easy to use. It also gave us the ability to "conference call" if you will, which came in very handy because then we could talk to each other just like we might in person. If we had just used a text-based chat, it would have been more difficult for the three of us to be in complete synchronous communication. I liked using Skype because we could hear each other's tones as well, so we could know how each of us were feeling about the different ideas and details we were working with.

During our Skype sessions, Gineal, Aric and I would meet on Skype, conference calling, and we would also have a GoogleDoc open. We shared this GoogleDoc so that we could record all of the ideas that we discussed in our Skype call. If you haven't ever used GoogleDocs before, they are THE GREATEST THINGS EVER! Seriously, I think this semester has made me fall in absolute love with GoogleDocs. I feel like I'm being extremely unfaithful to Microsoft Word. Don't tell Bill...

I learned that collaboration is immensely important, and can be very easy to accomplish. My group and I created a clever project using simple methods of communication. Through this project, I became more familiar with GoogleDocs, Skype, and got to know my group members better. For a list of suggestions when considering collaborative tools to use, visit Six Revisions. I hope my readers get out there and explore the great big world of online collaboration! You might just find a new tool, with a use that really surprises you!


Global Learning Experience-Flat Classroom Project

http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/
Last semester when I was taking Emerging Instructional Technologies with Dr. Z, we participated in the Flat Classroom Project. The Flat Classroom Project is a global collaborative project that connects middle and high school students from local and international schools. It is based on the collectivist view of education, the principle of a "multi-modal learning environment that is student centered and a level playing field for teacher to student and student to teacher interaction," (FCP, 2012). Students were to explore the 10 "flatteners" described in Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat (2005), and create a wiki page devoted to exploring examples of this flattener in different spectrums of our society. These topics included politics, education, science and medicine, and more.

I LOVED my role in FCP. The students I was involved with were in the project to win, or at least connect personally with the project and really put in great effort. Our topic was Web 2.0 and how it has helped to flatten the world, particularly on the social spectrum. I helped to guide my team when they were editing their wiki, through comments and suggestions about information accuracy, organization, and grammar, usage and mechanics. I felt very proud for being an expert advisor to my group, because they really wowed me with how much they knew about how Web 2.0 has played a role in globalization. This was such a validating experience because I got to see how the students responded to my comments, and how they really looked at me as an expert to give them advice and tips on how to make their project even better.

During the judging portion of the experience, I got to judge many final videos (none from my team) and give feedback and comments to the students. This was SO awesome, because the range of approaches that students took in making the videos shows an immense array of creativity. Some groups played it relatively safe with their video approach, simply explaining how the flattener related to the world generally. Other groups used real-life examples of what globalization is accomplishing, like the first place winner here:

First Place  
Title of video: 4.E.3 The Changing Shape of Information: Group Stories 
Emily W Masco, Boxford, MA United States

Judges comments: "You chose an excellent topic on which to construct your video. I was very impressed with the level of editing and organization, as well as the content itself. The focus on the Arab Springs situation was a perfect example of how uploading has become prevalent all over the world today. You really took the global perspective to a higher degree, and did a very good job with your information." and "The student chose to apply her understanding of the importance of uploading to things happening on a global scale. Not only did the student inform the audience of the power of uploading in social media, she informed us of the power that uploading and global connections hold in very dire situations." Alison Leytem


I was a judge for the winning video, and my comment was featured on the FCP 11-3 webpage. You can watch Emily's video, and all the other winning videos from the FCP I participated in here: http://www.flatclassroomproject.net/fcp-11-3-award-winners.html

Flat Classroom Project showed me how enthusiastic students seem to be about the opportunity to collaborate with other students around the world on a collective endeavor. I was so proud of my group, and of all of the students who participated. They showed me how global education is capable of bringing different people together to create a real project, a real movement, and a real change.

Global Learning's Effect on Education

http://borderbuster.blogspot.com
Education has come a long way since the little red school house. In the past, we were limited by our location, our access to hard copies of books providing information, and by much simpler technology.   It is so amazing to think about how far the United States alone has come in terms of breadth of education. Once we could only read about places in books or see them on postcards. Maybe someone's family would take a vacation or trip to somewhere else in the world, but it wasn't very often that people got to see how other parts of the world lived and learned. Today, we have the capability to learn from all different sources and in variety of mediums. Technology has catalyzed our ability to communicate and know about places other than our domestic homes. Globalization may have started in the business world, but I think it is doing the most good in education.

Global learning is connecting us. We are living in a contemporary world, and we live and interact freely within a globalized setting. Instead of being limited to learning about domestic issues in our classrooms, from a single common perspective, global education gives students the opportunity to reflect upon issues within a larger, interconnected society. They can have the chance to understand the relationships of common social, political and economic issues between different areas of the world. To make an analogy, instead of swimming in a kiddie pool, those learning in a global educational environment are swimming in the ocean!

The Maastricht Global Education declaration (2002) defines global education in two ways"

"Global education is education that opens people's eyes and minds to the realities of the globalized world and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and Human Rights for all."

"Global education is understood to encompass Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education being the global dimension of Education for Citizenship."

What global education is doing is knocking down the walls and barriers that used to exist because of distance between countries and areas of the world. By approaching education from a global standpoint, we can create a partnership between different people, cultures, and religions on both the large and small scale. Transformative learning can happen, and students can approach problem solving with more than themselves in mind. They can look at our whole world, rather than their world.

Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay have done wonders in the area of global education with their Flat Classroom project. You can read more about the Flat Classroom Project here.http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/ Davis and Lindsay have students consider the 10 "flatteners" discusses by Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat. By focusing on how the world is becoming further globalized, students can reflect on their own contributions to the global social, political and economic spectrum.

Global learning is effecting education by posing new expectations from students today. In our contemporary society, new technology is placing us only a few keystrokes and clicks away from connecting with someone completely new, from somewhere far distant from us. It is now even more important to understand cultures other than our own, so that we may all work collectively to promote a better world for future generations. Dr. Merry Merryfield from Outreach World (a website for teaching students about the world) notes that global education stemmed from international studies. We wanted to help young people learn about other cultures, and it has just exploded and now we focus on connecting people and promoting a harmonious mission.

I think that global education has enriched my learning experience. Where do you think global education has taken, or will take you?

AHA! The Bro Code

Barney Stinson wants YOU to be a "bro"
While working at my desk job at the Rod Library this week, I discovered a video while I was re-shelving some of our DVDs. The movie was called The Bro Code, and it immediately caught my attention. As a college student, I know there are different stereotypes or groups that exist on campus. One of these groups I classify as  "bros." Now, "bro" is a term that I am sure a lot of other college students, and probably younger students too, are familiar with. Barney Stinson, that notorious womanizing character from How I Met Your Mother, perfected "The Bro Code," a guidebook for men on how to sleeze their way into bed with any women. YUCKERS! To help describe this category, I have consulted the oh-so-helpful contributors of Urbandictionary.com.


As described by Frosty the Flowman, an Urbandictionary contributor, a bro is:

Found primarily in the northeast and deep south, a bro is typically a white male from a wealthy background who enjoys excessive drinking and partying, sports (especially lacrosse), and music (usually underground rap (wiz khalifa, oncue), alternative (kings of leon, DMB), and techno) Bro's dress differently depending upon the region they live in, but the main elements include polo ralph lauren, sperry's, and designer sunglasses (costa del mars, ray bans). Bro's use the college they attend or attended as status symbols and most Bro's post-college can be found in the financial business. Bro's are considered to be extremely success oriented and their aggressiveness in life tends to anger several other societal groups (see hipsters).
Bros can be found in the majority of the male characters in Wedding Crashers, anybody who plays lacrosse, or Stifler from American Pie.
 This is just one definition out of many pages of contributors. While I do not know how to concisely describe my own definition of this stereotype, I do know how to identify the type of individuals within the group. 

The video highlighted the subculture of "bros," and how contemporary culture encourages the creation of sexist men. Paul Kivel, a Violence Prevention Educator, called it "An excellent education tool for classroom discussions about male socialization and the impact of media and pornography on men and women around them." 


When we have websites promoting this cultural group's sexist mentality (sites such as http://www.brobible.com/http://www.broslikethissite.com/), along with reality television shows like Jersey Shore, The Hills, and others that promote wild partying and derogatory behavior from men and women, shouldn't we be concerned? Is humanity really meant to enjoy acting in a way that inappropriately portrays people to be meaningless?

As a pre-service teacher, the well-being of my students is extremely important to me. I don't want them to fall victim to playing into a subculture that makes such offensive behavior towards other men and women seem ok. 

AHA-1 in 4 Homeless are Veterans

When you see a homeless person on the street, what is are your initial thoughts? Do you see the tattered clothes, perhaps dirty faces and weathered signs reading "Homeless Veteran, please help. God Bless" and think, oh they are just trying to get money or food for free? Do you stop and consider what these people may have been through before making a judgment?

Today, we learned about the veterans in America who are homeless. Veterans have fought hard to keep our country safe and secure, yet many of them are without homes, because they are injured and cannot work or keep jobs to pay for housing. We watched a video about a homeless veteran, and it was very sad to watch a grown man who has worked so hard, go without. The group presenters showed us different organizations connected with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and among these organizations, there are many places to help homeless veterans. I learned that 1 in 4 homeless persons are veterans, and this is a very sad statistic. Being those who have worked hard to protect our home, the United States of America, shouldn't ALL veterans be guaranteed a safe and comfortable home?

I decided to research the Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative, a program that helps to eliminate the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans. The program will do this by ensuring that Veterans who struggle with mental illness or substance abuse are given adequate medical attention and services before they are released. A lot of individuals who have fought in wars suffer from mental illnesses, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It makes me very sad to think that some Veterans end up homeless because they needed more recovery and rehabilitation time, and are not given it. The VJO helps ensure that these Veterans get the time and access they need to services, so they have a better chance of re-incorporating themselves into society. My poster includes the organization's name (Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative), the three things that it sets out to do (in white), as well as contact information for the two program directors. I also included the url, in case readers want to visit the VJO site.

This organization will help Veterans by extending extra medical attention and care to those who need mental health services. I think that knowing about it will also help change our perceptions about homeless Veterans. This poster is a visual that was created to spread awareness about a program that is helping homeless Veterans around the United States. I hope that others will reconsider what they think when they see these homeless individuals, because they are not just "some bums" looking for easy money. They fought for us. Now let's fight for them.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Visiting Price Laboratory School for Research & Development

thegazette.com
We visited Price Laboratory School for Research &; Development earlier in the year, to observe the types of technology being used in classrooms. We first visited a physics classroom, where students were working with individual laptops in conjunction with the teacher's demonstration, happening at the front of the room. As the teacher showed students how different heights and lengths of a ramp would effect the distribution of weight when pushing something up the ramp. Using the computers while their teacher ran through the demonstration, students could  calculate their physics problems/equations straight into their worksheet for the day. The worksheet, because it was available to them in digital form, could go directly to their teacher when they were finished. I saw this as a great way for students to keep up with work during class, and also raise their accountability. Everyone had to complete the lab worksheet by the end of the lab, so I think being able to work directly onto the worksheet from a laptop helped students, especially when solving equations.

Even though laptops seem "old school" in terms of tools in school (the One-to-One initiatives have been going on for a while now, and many schools have adopted the program and continue to do so), they can still be seen as an important enrichment tool for the classroom. The students I observed at NU and PLS were more engaged in their lessons because of the computers. I also was impressed by the collective camaraderie between students. There was one student who was having trouble configuring her equations and setting up the calculations on her device. Several other students in the classroom talked her through the steps, in order to help her, and she finished fairly quickly because of their assistance. I was astounded by how friendly and willing to help each other these students were! The visit really made an impression on me, in terms of how technology can make the smallest transformations in the classroom, yet have a really big impact.

Boundless Playgrounds!

My Boundless Playground, created with Google SketchUp
During Classroom Computer Applications, the Reading Brigade team presented their PBL on Boundless Playgrounds. Boundless Playgrounds are a non-profit organization that works with communities to develop playgrounds accessible by all children, regardless of their physical or mental capacity. These play areas are designed with inclusion in mind, so they focus on making sure that the different play equipment and spaces offered can be accessed by anyone. The Reading Brigade introduced us to Google SketchUp, a 3-D modeling program designed to be used by architectural, civil and mechanical engineers, as well as anyone who is interested in creating 3-D models easily and inexpensively. SketchUp is part of the Google package, so its basic program is free to download onto your own computer. The Reading Brigade instructed us to think about our plans for a Boundless Playground, and make them come to life in Google SketchUp.

I focused on equipment that was lower to the ground, with both ramps and stairs so that all children could access, no matter what their mobility status was. I also tried to include activities that were part of the landscape (the hop-scotch area, the swirl path, the sandbox with entrance/exit ramp), so that kids would have other options to play, besides just the equipment. If I had more time, I would work to design some climbing equipment that was low to the ground, with soft foam chips underneath so that if children would let go of the bars, they would have a safe and short fall. Using SketchUp made this project seem more real, which I think could be really effective to use with older students. I think using this software with elementary students would be very difficult though, because it is a little hard to learn at first. The Reading Brigade's idea was awesome, and I think it would be well-suited for secondary students to use, perhaps in conjunction with elementary students. It could be a combined learning effort, where elementary students help design the Boundless Playgrounds, and high school students manipulate the SketchUp tools to make it happen.

Great job Reading Brigade!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Glogster Project-Morgan & Blake

My second cousins Morgan and Blake Mcdermott were both diagnosed with MPS III Sanfilippo syndrome. MPS (mucopolysaccharidoses) III Sanfilippo syndrome  is a genetic lysosomal storage disease. It is caused by the body's inability to produce specific enzymes. Sanfilippo syndrome specifically prevents the body from properly breaking down long chains of sugar molecules (glycosaminoglycans). The disease is typically diagnosed when children are very young, and as they age, learning ability declines and mental status deteriorates. Both Morgan and Blake started out as functional babies and toddlers, but as the disease took hold, both began to degenerate neurologically.

I love my little cousins very much, as well as their parents Mike and Jill. They have been fighting for over 3 years to cope with the disease, as well as raise awareness and connect with other families across the nation who also have children with MPS. There is currently no treatment for MPS III, but we are fighting every day to find a cure.

I made this Glogster in dedication to Morgen and Blake. I hope that someday soon, we can find a cure to help them live out their lives in the best way possible. M and B, I love you guys!
Here is a link to my Glog that I created: Morgan & Blake 


Monday, April 2, 2012

AHA! Happy Birthday Juan Gris!

Google doodle, inspired by Gris
Last week while visiting the Google search page, the Googe doodle dedicated itself to Spanish painter, sculptor, and influential Cubist José Victoriano (Carmelo Carlos) González-Pérez, better known as Juan Gris. 
Gris was part of the art movement known as Cubism. Cubism is a 20th century avant-garde are movement. It was pioneered by artists like Pablo Picasso, who may be the most notable Cubist of the movement. In Cubist art, the concrete images are broken up, they are analyzed and examined, then put back together again with an emphasis on the abstract form, whatever it may end up being. "Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context," (Wikipedia). This emphasis on the presence and persistence of multiple perspectives might be what makes Cubism so unique, and also what makes it more pleasing and entertaining to those who view Cubist art. In fact, it might be safe to say that abstract are is more fitted for interpretation and discussion, because of its ability to be seen from multiple perspectives. I personally enjoy abstract art due to the fact that I can look at different paintings, photographs and images and judge what I see for myself. 



Look at these two paintings:


Whistler's Mother
Violin and Glass by Juan Gris 
The first painting, painted by James Abbot McNeill Whistler, is an example of Realism, a painting style that emphasized making an image out to be as life-like and "real" as possible. What do you see when you look at this painting? Does it allow for open interpretation, or are we forced to see what it depicts because it is so completely realistic? Of course we can ask questions about the subject (who is this, why is she significant, and what is the context of the painting), but we cannot "see" anything but Whistler's Mother, because she is depicted right there, in color, in indisputable profile.




The second is a painting by Juan Gris, the artist to whom Google dedicated their Google doodle. What do you see in this painting? Is there any concrete image that can be deciphered from the Cubism with which the painting has been created? I see a lamp floating over some furniture that has been upset in a fancy living room. Or, I only focus on the jumble of elements that suggest this painting is about music (because of the forte symbol in the center of the painting). Now, the name of this painting is actually "Violin and Glass." Would you have guessed that if you had been given more of a context for the painting? Is there anything in the painting (besides the forte symbol) that suggests this would be about a violin? Where is the glass? Do you see how this painting, in its Cubism, has been rearranged to become something new, yet is still reminiscent of the original image?




Cubism, and abstract art in general, allows for us to look at images from multiple perspectives, relying upon our own perception and knowledge of the world in order to interpret what it is. Something we can learn about visual literacy from abstract art, Cubism, and Juan Gris, is that images sometimes do not seem to be what they actually represent. Therefore, we always need to have an open mind for perception in order to really "figure out" the images we encounter, both in art and in everyday life.



AHA! Life on the Screen: George Lucas on Education

George Lucas
For those of us who are loyal Star Wars fans, George Lucas may be seen as near and dear to our hearts. Even if you aren't into Star Wars, Indiana Jones or American Graffiti, George Lucas is still a notable filmmaker within the realm of cinema. In the Edutopia article "Life on the Screen; Visual Literacy in Education," written by James Daly, Lucas comments on his thoughts about America's changing literacy skills. As a man who is considered to have a creative mind and who values the changing mediums with which we communicate today (film, television, web), Lucas offers his take on what the American education system needs to do to connect better with students, and encourage more visual literacy and communication skills, skills that are more applicable to our current world and students' lives.

George Lucas explains that he was "an average student who daydreamed  a lot," a description that might describe many of the students in our education system today. Perhaps it wasn't that Lucas was uninterested in the things he was being taught, rather, he was uninterested in the way in which such things were taught. This memory of his past has inspired Lucas to promote a new way of learning that emphasizes students' need to succeed in a visual, digital world. Today's students are used to a faster-paced society, and so they are more interested in learning things when they are made more relevant to the things they know. "They need to understand a new language of expression," says Lucas, which means that students want to  be taught in such a way that they are using today's tools, rather than antiquated styles of learning.

Wordle of Media
Mr. Lucas thinks there is a lot of change on the horizon. Today, the language of visual literacy has become more prominent and necessary, because or society has created a visual culture that needs to be learned about in order to be perpetuated and utilized effectively. We have so much contained within the visual culture that to not teach about and expose students to an understanding of visual literacy would be extremely unwise. Lucas remarks "We must teach communication comprehensively, in all its forms. Today we work with the written or spoken word as the primary form of communication. But we also need to understand the importance of graphics, music, and cinema, which are just as powerful and in some ways more deeply intertwined with young people's culture. We live and work in a visually sophisticated world, so we must be sophisticated in using all the forms of communication, not just the written word." I think Lucas really hits the nail on the head (to use a silly cliche) when he comments upon how we need to teach communication in relation to visual literacy. You see so many people who want to make effective presentations and get their points across effectively, in school and business settings, and often times they are very clueless in terms of what an effective presentation (using visual elements) must contain.

In terms of the future, I think that we need to take Lucas's words to heart, and really reconsider how we're approaching the development of our visual literacy, both inside the classroom and out. Do we learn more about visual literacy from our daily lives? For now I think we do, but that may be subject to change in the coming years. If Lucas's hopes are fulfilled, we're going to have to start trying harder. "Nothing is accomplished through conquest. Everything is accomplished through education," (George Lucas, 2004).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

AHA! No Reservations Mr. Bourdain...

Tonight I was watching the Travel channel (as I often do), and after a while, No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain came on. I love this show and I've seen it a lot, not only because I love food and travel, but because Tony Bourdain (the fox that he is) always takes us viewers to the most unexpected, yet interesting places. I never thought of it before tonight, but No Reservations is a show that is about more than just awesome food and a handsome host, it's about going to these different places and learning about them. The people, the place, the culture that has been created and maintained in these places, these are the things that Tony Bourdain shows viewers on the show.
He is just too foxy.


Sometimes the image that we hold in our heads about places like Rajasthan, India; Mozambique, Africa; the Malaysian jungle, or  other areas we might assume to be "third world" and/or unfortunate, or even just vastly different is not as true as we might think it is. Every episode of No Reservations has Tony visiting a different place, and every place he visits I find myself changing my initial idea and perception. He really tries to focus on the people and the way that they do things, the way that they cook. What I like about No Reservations is that Tony emphasizes how beautiful it is to think about things from another perspective. He has said: "anytime you walk in another person's shoes, the world is a better place," and I think that this old adage is one of the most valuable things we can remember about humanity itself.



Now, instead of just looking at the different places on the Travel channel and thinking "I wish I could help those people improve their situations" or that my culture and my experience in life is "better" or more "ideal," I try to see more deeply. I look at the different cultures and customs the people have and I marvel at how diverse humanity is. It may sound silly, but I have learned to put myself alongside Tony and to look for the unique, the unexpected and the things that define a people.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wag the Dog Movie Review

Wag the Dog was a hilariously clever movie about the guise of politics and the measures that some people will go to "spin" a story to protect their public image. Of course, the area of politics  (and in this case, the presidential election) is one that constantly under public scrutiny, especially in the United States where candidates must use their public image to secure votes from the American people. And candidates have to be very careful to depict themselves favorably, because if you do/say something, or act in such a way that the majority disagrees or finds what you do offensive or disappointing, you'll be on your way out! In the film, we see spin-doctor Conrad Bream (Robert DeNiro) and his team (including Anne Heche, Denis Leary, William H. Macy and Dustin Hoffman) concoct a plan to distract the public's attention from their candidate's alleged nefarious sex scandal by hiring a movie producer (Hoffman) to create a fake war with Albania. With all of the smoke and mirrors at their disposal, an effective distraction to the scandal is created, but then things get misconstrued and the movie ends up in a confusing mess of what is real, and what appears to be real.



This film surprised me, partially because I couldn't predict what it would be about based upon the title. Later, after watching the film and thinking about  how the plot could tie into the title, I remembered the caption at the beginning of the film:


Why does the dog wag its tail?
Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.


Now, according to a little research that I conducted on that phrase, it means "a minor or secondary part of something controlling the whole." (Wikipedia). After reading about this, I began to understand the message that I think the director wanted to convey. In Wag the Dog, the minor or secondary part is Conrad Bream's team, who take control of the whole (the American voting public) in order to sidestep a scandal that could ruin the presidential candidate's shot for office. I think the director wanted to show how easily the media can mislead the public, especially because we rely upon and tend to naively trust the media for information. The fake war with Albania was created to distract from another (real) disaster to the candidate's campaign, and people seemed to believe it. At least for a while. The whole film just made me think about how easily I might be convinced to believe something untrue about anything, in this case a presidential candidate. What we perceive to be true may be a complete lie, and the film's director shows us with Wag the Dog just how easily that can happen.


I think this movie means to depict the people of Albania as down trodden and helpless, which they of course had to do to make people think that an actual war was going on there. I suppose one could assume that the few minorities in the film mean that they were irrelevant to the plot. I did not observe any instances where minorities were degraded or deliberately eliminated. The film director, Barry Levinson, however, is Jewish. Dustin Hoffman is from a Jewish family, but he was not brought up in any particular religious orientation, so I suppose he is "ethnically" Jewish, but not religiously. I am not sure if this had anything to do with the role he portrayed; I am just looking for ways to tie in the director's background with movie features. It may also be noted that Levinson has worked with Hoffman in other movies,  such as Rainman (1988) and in Tootsie (1982) however, he was un-credited.


People who are from different backgrounds probably wouldn't have to much of a problem with film, in terms of misinterpretation. Albanians may be offended by the choice to use their country in the ruse of a fake war, which may cause others to view them as helpless and unable to protect themselves.


The movie added to my visual literacy by introducing me to the reality that much of what we see in the media is fabricated and untrue. Now, I know that everything I see on TV is not real or true, but I didn't think about the campaigns I see government officials and hopeful elects as being complete lies. Wag the Dog showed me how it is so easy to spin things in one's favor, and to unfairly cover a mistake up with a bigger story to de-emphasize it. I don't follow politics as closely as some others, but I like to think that I educate myself pretty well when elections are at hand. The plot included details of what kind of artistic means that people might use to generate and carry out their fictitious creation. The movie producer had all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, he was a very powerful character in the movie. Initially I thought Dustin Hoffman's character wouldn't be too important., but as a movie producer, he had the resources needed to create an entire smoke screen using clever distractions and effects to really draw attention away from the presidential candidate's sex scandal. In the end, when Hoffman orders Bream killed and makes it look like he had a heart-attack, that shows how events can be twisted to seem to be what they are not. The movie made me feel like I have to be extra wary with my judgements, to not just think the first thing that pops into my head when I see something about a candidate on television, created by their campaign. They could be "wagging the dog" ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Introductory Preso Experience

For my introduction in CCA, I decided to make a video to show the class who I am, and what I'm all about. I wanted to share with everyone what I find most important, what I like to do, and why I wanted to be a teacher. If they are able to understand who I am and what makes me "tick," we might be able to establish common ground between one another. I learned a lot from my classmates' presentations, and saw many different and creative ways of presenting ourselves. In CCA, we have to work in groups often, and making sure that we understand each other and get to know each other will help promote a good environment for collaboration.





Creating my video didn't take too long, I planned what I was going to say by typing up a script. It wasn't much, just things like where I was born, where I grew up, info about my family, my hobbies, and what I wanted to do as a teacher. I recorded myself speaking, kind of like a "talking heads" idea from The Office. I also recorded other frames of me doing different things, like riding a book cart at my job, the library, running up stairs (for my intro), my sister, and singing. I think I did a good job conveying who I am to my classmates. Some things have changed a little since my video, but overall I am living my life the same way!

For more Youtube videos of and by me, visit my channel!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thank You For Smoking Movie Review

I watched "Thank You For Smoking" the other night, and though I had seen the film before, I was surprised by what I discovered when I watched it again with the knowledge I have gained from Visual Literacy. Besides my love for William H. Macy (he just seems so benevolent! Although not necessarily in this role), I wanted to look at the plot and elements of this movie to see what I could connect with our perception today.


I think the director (Jason Reitman) of this movie wanted to point out how different points of view can really make a topic dynamic and complicated. The character Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for big tobacco, and vice-president for the "Academy of Tobacco Studies." Throughout the film, Nick is constantly defending Big Tobacco and going head-to-head with those opposed, arguing that people have the right to choose whether or not they want to smoke, that it is not the fault of Big Tobacco that smoking is killing, it is the smokers' own problems. Now, for Nick Naylor, being a tobacco lobbyist is "just a way to pay the mortgage." I think this is interested because if you look at a job like Nick's from this perspective, it really is just a job. However, Nick's perception of his job is different than those of people who have lost loved ones to the ill effects of smoking. It seemed like the director wanted to emphasize how everyone has their own personal take on things, and how easy it is for us to put a "spin" on things to justify our actions and our perspectives. For Nick Naylor, he is doing what he's good at (talking) and supporting his son.





I do not recall very many instances where minority groups are featured. It seemed to me that the characters were primarily white. There is one state official present during the end scene that is African American, and he makes the point that Americans need symbols to look at in order to understand a concept or idea. Other than this individual, I did not see many other minority representations.


The director is Jason Reitman, a Caucasian man who is Canadian. I think his background may have played a role in directing the film, because he seemed to have an interest in the story after reading the book of the same title. Therefore, he had to follow the story line of the book pretty closely, with his own interpretation of some of the action. The elements of the book are there, with Reitman's own "spin" on the characters. I think that Reitman did not necessarily eliminate focus on other ethnicity for person reasons; rather, Reitman was just trying to follow Thank You For Smoking author Christopher Buckley's initial descriptions.


Because of the limited instances of minorities in this film, I think people in these groups may be offended simply by the lack of the groups being in the film. I also think that smokers may misinterpret this movie because of the negativity against those who choose to smoke out of their own will. Throughout the film, the emphasis is on the people's choice to smoke (at least that is what Nick Naylor is always saying), and I think that maybe people who choose to smoke would feel offended that smoking is made out to seem so hated and bad. They may feel even more alienated because of their person choices than they may feel in real life, when attention is not necessarily paid to individual smokers.


There are several notable instances where visual means are used to enhance the film and focus our attention. The introductory credits sequence was done with fonts and graphics meant to imitate those on cigarette packaging. I thought this was a very clever way to show how we can be influenced by visual graphics, especially when people are trying to sell things to us. Also, there is an emphasis on how companies, in this case cigarette companies, use catchy commercials and other means to grab our attention. As the senator of Vermont, William H. Macy's character comments 
"they like to use cartoons and symbols to hook our kids," which is sometimes a very true case. Think of the Marlboro man, the great cowboy figure that was bound to interest children in the 60s and 70s. In movies, actors needed something to do while they were talking, and smoking just seemed like a "natural" thing for them to do. 
Advertisement was born inadvertently through movies! Now today, smoking characters have negative connotations, and they probably should have. These different artistic elements employed by the director made the film even more effective in showing us how advertisements can be easily justified, and how important it is to resist falling into the "spin" and to judge things for ourselves, instead of letting others make decisions for us!



Sunday, March 4, 2012

AHA-Propeller Island City Lodge

While watching Travel Channel tonight in my house with my friend Colin, there was a show about the most bizarre hotels around the world. Among the tropical resorts and rustic cabins, there was Propeller Island City Lodge in Berlin. Propeller Island describes itself as:

"Aesthetic sensation for the eye and the ear, Propeller Island is a pseudonym used by the German artist Lars Stroschen to publish his audio-visual creations. Unlimited diversity, repeating nothing and copying nothing are the guiding principles here. The most popular result: the CITY LODGE, a habitable work of art in the heart of Berlin, whose wealth of ideas never fails to attract everyone into its gravitational field and to continue inspiring guests long afterwards. A magnet for creative individuals, those weary of consumption, those who see things differently, philosophers and seekers of perspective and vision. Frequented by personalities from around the globe, this vision machine is a much-desired shooting site for photo sessions and video clips. Is that perhaps the reason these rooms seem so familiar to you?" (Propeller Island website) 

I mean, just take a look at these rooms! All photos from Propeller Island's My Berlin photos.

The "Hollywood" 

The Blue Room

How relaxing, the Tempura room

Caution, this room is wrapped!

Mirrors in every direction

Kids being too loud? They can sleep in a cage!

This room is upside down! A bed and four chairs come out of compartments in the floor!
Colin is going to Berlin in May, and he'll be in Berlin. I told him that he HAS to try and go to this hotel, just to see what other amazing rooms the City Lodge contains. I am so jealous that he gets to go in the first place, but I'm even more envious because I want to see this hospitable house of art for myself! 


AHA!-Sand Animation at Ukraine's Got Talent

I was looking through my Facebook home page today, and one of my friends had posted this video on her wall.



Artist Kseniya Simonova uses a giant light box, fine sand, emotional music and amazing sand manipulation skills to turn simple sand into beautiful art. I thought that this needed to be shared because it just goes to show how the simplest things give way to beauty if the right touch is applied, and the right eye perceives. If you watch the various images Kseniya creates out of the sand, you'll see her interpretation of Germany's invasion and occupation of the Ukraine during WWII. The Ukraine's Got Talent judges are moved to tears, and the audience members are speechless watching Kseniya work. I never thought that something so basic, like sand, could evoke such strong emotions and inspire me like this did.


Kseniya's sand art brought perceptual aesthetics to mind as she exemplified how a simple artistic medium could be used to make amazing images. Now, you might not think that what she's doing is that impressive or interesting. In fact, you might think the images in the sand art rudimentary and unsophisticated, not worthy of being called art at all. But I think they're art, because my eyes and brain tell me that I like what I see in this sand. That's what is so mysterious, yet unique and special about perception and aesthetics; what you might find ugly, I might find beautiful. "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Isn't that what they always say? It's all about how you look at it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!