This cycle we all begun to feel the rhythm and the engagement of “school.” After last cycle’s post I began to reflect more on my process as the teacher and the guide in my courses this year. Last year I felt overwhelmed by the documentation I was doing in the course blog. After each class I found myself dedicating more time than I could reasonably afford to collecting my thoughts, assembling visual documentation and recording this all along with the student’s homework. This year my process has been streamlined. I’ve adopted a new workflow for my own documentation and I’ve encouraged students to use this workflow as well. I take photos of the class with my iPad. I had to resist the urge to always grab my DSLR camera- sometimes documentation is best when it is simple. It looks like this: That’s it. Not all schools will have this technology available to them. If you have it, use it. Saving time in documentation for me led to more time for planning. I’m still sitting at my classroom desk during planning periods and right after class when my schedule permits. I’m sitting amidst the clean up needed from the class that has just ended when I begin writing. The visual remainders of our time together is a helpful for me to encapsulate today’s adventure. I am enjoying the explorations we are engaged in so much as I write the class summaries for the blog I’m also actively thinking about what comes next. The class summaries are my Exit Ticket as the teacher and a published record of my thinking about the course.
The use of a blog allows for draft writing of blog posts kept in a queue. There are many course management software options that also allow this. My drafting of class summaries became an engrossing full bodied engagement with the course syllabus (that I wrote) and material (that I selected) through the lens of thinking routines, multiple intelligences and dispositions. The freeing up of my time from documentation has led to a deeper engagement for myself and my students with the course material.
During this last cycle in CPSR we moved into programming with Logo and revising our personal programs or routines for optimization. Throughout the course we use the model of the design cycle to talk about process. The design cycle is a core of the International Baccalaureate Design Technology curriculum. In class I projected the design cycle on the board and then we deconstructed it using layman’s terms. My goal in this discussion was to unearth the process of investigating, planning, creating and evaluating that we do in our own lives everyday. I asked the students for homework to write down the steps of a routine they use at home. Many students chose their morning routines. The second part of the assignment was to streamline or optimize their routines. The homework and following class discussion were tools to nurture and cultivate a thinking disposition toward wondering, problem solving and investigating.
We used chalk talks a few times in CPSR this cycle as began our unit on game design and programming with Scratch and Makey Makey. We explored the questions- what is a game? what is a computer game (how is it different from a non-computer game)? what variables and details do you need to consider when you are design and program a computer game? When students shared their initial and optimized routines with one another we used a variation of the thinking routine zoom in. For this the students visited each other’s desktop computers, read the routine as written on their classmate’s blog- applying the lens of programming for clarity- then commented on one another’s blog posts. I wanted to gather their observations of one’s another’s programming quickly so I defined an area of the class white board for students to reflect on what they noticed in one another’s programming.
In Photography and Film this cycle we began taking pictures. Admittedly this is one of my most favorite parts of this new course- seeing the world through the student’s eyes as they learn the basic concepts of photography. We we able to use an app on the iPad called SLR Camera Simulator which allowed each student to see the application of different shutter speeds and aperture settings on an image. We are also using a digital textbook, accessible through the Kindle app. In this course I’m consciously trying to cultivate the thinking disposition toward building explanations and understanding and the thinking disposition toward metacognition. the cultivation of slow looking, watching and seeing are my tools.
Learning the basics of photography- the deliberate composition of images combining the photographer’s knowledge and application of shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and composition is in my opinion a sublime exercise in metacognition without ever defining the concept. One of the homework assignments this cycle was for students to do some research and select images that they thought used a specific shutter speed, aperture or created a particular depth of field. We then reviewed their image selections in class. Students used their iPads to project their images on the class white board using airplay to connect to our classroom Apple TV. Once the images where on the board we discussed the specific technical elements. Throughout the conversation and sharing we asked one another what makes you say that? in an improvisational combination of thinking routines including of zoom in and the explanation game. Students approached the white board to mark their images and explain their thinking to their classmates. This series of classes felt the most interactive and effective in our absorption of these photography concepts. Next cycle we begin to discuss the ‘rules’ of composition in photography. There will be many classes where we are taking pictures, sharing and asking one another again- what makes you say that?
Over the weekend I have given a homework assignment called 1000 Words. In my last post I referenced hearing a passage of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck being read on NPR and how that sparked an idea for my class. Here is my application of that idea. As a transition from our unit on basic camera functions into our unit on composition I wanted the students to tune up their observation skills and their creative thinking. In class we discussed the popular phrase ‘a picture is worth a 1000 words.’ In that discussion I touched on an earlier conversation where we discussed what makes a compelling photograph. We talked again about the capturing of a moment that tells a story. In class I read the students Chapter 3 of The Grapes of Wrath where Steinbeck takes great care and detail in the description of a turtle crossing the road. We talked about the vivid imagery that the words invoked. I have given the students a selection of photographs to choose from on the class blog and they are to write the story behind the image in approximately 1000 words. Here I hope to leverage their creative writing skills and experience into a creative imagining lens in which to see the world with the aim of capturing the moments with photography.