Three cycles into school takes us in the sixth week and the start of October. Class are humming and progress reports are around the corner. My advance planning continues but as we finish up the basics skills lessons and move into the first major projects of the year I found that thinking routines were not at the forefront of my thinking. It is difficult to see when a concept or practice becomes transparent.
This cycle in Photography and Film we worked primarily on the rules of composition in photography and camera angles for photography and film. We had a long writing assignment where I gave the students several images to choose from and asked them to write the story of that image. I asked them for approximately 1000 words. This assignment was not about the mechanics of writing but instead about the creative imagination in a variation of the think, puzzle, explore thinking routine I would call look, see, imagine. I stumbled through inventive and creative spelling as I read their stories imagining the context for their chosen photographs.
As a photographer I have a personal catalog of photographs- many not used for any professional engagement. The photographs I gave my students were pulled from my catalog and I have included them in the slider for this post. As the image creator I know what I saw that inspired me to the capture the moment now memorialized in these images. In nurturing my students to become conscious and intentional image creators I wanted my students to exercise their powers of observation to excavate from the images clues that helped tell a story.
The stories themselves were not only wonderfully creative and detailed. The students illustrated they are aware of the moments which make up the fabric of human life. It is this way of being in the world that I strive to cultivate for this is the heart of image creation and construction through photography and film.
The assignments that followed focused on the rules of composition and camera angles. Students were asked to research images as well as create images. Each class we shared images taken or found my students. Images were projected on the whiteboard in class and the student described why that image represented the assigned ‘rule’ of composition. The discussions were rich as students asked each other ‘show me what you see?’ and why do you say that? All of our careful observations and deconstructions are in preparation for their first individual projects which focus on documentation.
This cycle in Computer Programming, Systems and Robotics was focused heavily on documentation and process. The students have been given their first projects of the semester and begun their planning, experimentation and building of games using the Scratch software. Second year students are using Makey Makey invention kits to integrate with their Scratch games. Using the design cycle as our framework the students first wrote a storyboard for their games which defined the setting, the characters and the purpose of the game. Next they spent time drawing a larger game map which define the game screen by screen, the flow of the game, the design of the backgrounds, characters, challenges and results of various game outcomes for the user.
Each student talked through their game plans with me before beginning to build and program. The recurring conversations about the game maps include a variation of the thinking routine claim, support, question. I often ask questions like ‘As the user how do I know what I am supposed to do next?’ or ‘What happens when the character…?’ or ‘How will I know?’ This process is a deconstruction of sequencing and logic that is transparent to students as they have internalized the ‘rules’ of computer game sequencing.
As they are still moving through the building and programming they are asked to record a screenshot and commentary about their progress on their blogs after each work session. In class these are Exit Tickets. For homework these are called progress journal entries. The refining of the game maps happens during their programming. Often the intended design of the game may not be possible due to the limitations of the software or their current programming knowledge. Moving through the programming of games involves a great deal of debugging and refinement of intention and action- what the programmer intended versus what action has been programmed or is programmable. Our debugging is a variant of the Micro Lab Protocol as it involves stepping back from the current challenge and examining the intention and actions step-by-step in small fragments.