Month: March 2016

Technology in Education

Integrate. integrate. integrate. That’s all i hear whenever the words “education” and “technology” pop up in the same sentence. As up-and-coming teachers, we are all constantly told to integrate technology into our classroom. This is supposedly for the student’s and our own benefit. And to a large extent it is. When laptops are available, wifi is on, and the student’s are paying attention, integrating technology into the classroom can be very helpful and eye-opening. Meeting student’s on their own “territory” so to speak and working within the connected expectations of our 21st century culture is necessary to create lasting and working relationships with students and to prepare them to work in a modern, technologically based, society.

But not everyone has access to technology. When school’s can’t afford computer labs, let alone individual student laptops, how are teachers supposed to take advantage of all the learning opportunities that modern technology gives us? Some school’s can’t afford up-to-date textbooks or music programs, how can they justify thousands of dollars for students to be checking facebook or youtube when they should be on a webquest, when the school can’t provide basic educational needs to its students? Though technological integration is important, we must take into account the availability of said technology and set our standards accordingly.

Why Wait?

Waiting is hard. There’s anxiety and trepidation, hope and excitement. There’s not much to do when you’re waiting except to wait, on tenterhooks, breathlessly, endlessly, in anticipation, for some sort of resolution. We all seem to do a lot of waiting, in line, for an answer, for a celebration, for a meeting, a chance, an opportunity to fall into our laps. But no one seems to want to do the waiting. We all want it to work out right now. A text returned, an answer given, an errand run, a chore taken care of, no one wants to wait an extra 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour, a day, a year for their answer. So we make it happen now. We have computers do our long-division so we don’t have to, 1-day shipping to anywhere in the world, cell-phones, texting, and email so we don’t have to wait for time to see our friends face-to-face. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to speed up the process, nothing wrong with wanting things to move faster, for life to move forward.

But isn’t there a certain charm to waiting? The anticipation? Not knowing what will come next and as each moment builds into the next the answer becomes more and more important. The longer you wait for something, the more important it becomes to you. Or perhaps we are only willing to wait for the really important things in our lives. Though we all wish things could get done this instant there is something to be said for enjoying the process. Learning, wondering, thinking, imagining, questioning, back-tracking. These are often the moments where we do our best thinking. In a world that is constantly moving, where the clock is 24/7 and business never stops, appreciate the moments that allow you to wait. In the moments of boredom between happenstances, as the seconds tick slowly by, though you may be waiting, your mind does not have to. Stop and breathe, stop and think, stop and wait. Wait so that you do not have to move, wait so that you can pause, wait so that you can breathe, wait so that when you move once more it is not a matter of habit or necessity. Let your mind and body be shackled by the purgatory of the interim. Let the world move past and spin around you. Wait till you feel comfortable in your new home, wait until your test results get back, wait for the seasons to pass and change. Wait, even though it’s painful, even though it’s boring, wait. Learn to love the moments when life slows down, to love the moments where you have to wait. And when the moment has passed and your waiting is over, you can gather your thoughts, take a deep breath, and charge once more into the fray.

How To Make A Picture Worth 1000 Words

When i embarked upon the Unfamiliar Genre Project journey, i only knew what a photo-essay was as a term vaguely thrown around by people with more artistic inclination than i had. When it came time to pick a genre that i was unfamiliar with i didn’t want to choose something based in prose and sentences. I have been writing for a very long time and consider myself at the very least, a descriptively captivating writer, and at the most, capable of conveying meaning in an eloquent, thoughtful, and sometimes striking manner. As the whole point of the Unfamiliar Genre Project is to challenge yourself, I decided to tackle something bigger than words. They do say an image is worth a thousand words don’t they?

 

As i began to research what a photo-essay truly was i ran into a small problem. There are an awful lot of ways to make a photo essay. As described in the blog post linked back there, i had an awfully hard time finding a definite definition for a photo-essay. And that’s okay. After i got over the initial shock, i realized that this gave me more creative freedom to do whatever i wanted with my work. However in the interest of enlightening whoever is reading this, i will tell you what i learned about the genre. Here are my ten fool-proof and annoyingly vague but still helpful tips for creating a photo-essay.

 

  1. A photo-essay involves two basic components. A story or purpose, and images. That’s it.
  2. A good photo-essay makes the reader think, question, or view something in a new way
  3. subjects for photos can include anything from your family, to architecture, to events, to flora, fauna, and literally anything in-between
  4. Many photo-essays try to capture change through time, emotion, etc. or more technical characteristics like color, size, etc.
  5. photos in photo-essays are often accompanied by captions, but don’t have to be
  6. captions can be words, sentences, quotes, mini-essays, literally whatever you think fits your image best or conveys the right message.
  7. photo-essays can be any number of images, but generally more than three and less than 15. This seems to be the right number to be able to really dig into an emotion or thought, but not overwhelm the viewer.
  8. The content does not have to be serious. I found a hilarious photo-essay documenting the “secret lives” of miniature stormtrooper figurines
  9. Do whatever you want. Seriously. As long as it contains photos and has a purpose a photo-essay can be whatever you want it to be. If you find yourself daunted by creativity, look online for inspiration, there are thousands of amazing photo-essays just waiting to be viewed.
  10. Think about it. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Think about the angle, the color, the position of your subjects and background. Think about where you want the reader to look and the message that you’re trying to convey. Good images take thought and time, but it never hurts to take 50 extra to make sure you captured the exact right moment.
  11. (okay i lied, it’s 11 tips) don’t be afraid to change direction. You might find that your ideas don’t photograph the way you thought they would, or that you suddenly come up with a better story to tell. You might find that a photo-essay found through google inspires you to do something different with your images or captions. That’s okay. Take new pictures, replace old ones, rewrite captions. Change is the essence of creativity.

 

If you need inspiration of help with creating a photo-essay click on any of the links above to be provided with thoughts and examples of photo-essays. If you need even more help i have also found lesson plans here and here which you can read to help you understand what goes into teaching a photo-essay unit. I find that lesson plans will reveal what the important building blocks of a certain skill are. They will provide you with information for understanding the basic components of a certain skill and how to recreate them which will help you to understand how to create a complete final product.
As a wobbled with this project, i found that the best way to flow was to bounce my ideas off of others. Talking with my writing group and with my teacher Cindy was extremely helpful in coming up with new ideas and the internet and google was my best friend when it came to inspiration and motivation. In order to flow through The Unfamiliar Genre Project i had stretch my “writing” muscles in a way i never had before. But, by wobbling successfully, failing productively, and not being afraid to change my direction i was able to make it through the project and learn a lot about myself as a writer.

Taking on Roles

If the goal of the UGP was to teach me how to wobble then it succeeded. I definitely took on a challenge when i decided to create a photo-essay. Of course i chickened out of some parts (i.e. writing my own captions), but i don’t think that makes my essay any worse. In fact i think it adds a certain degree of grandeur and poignancy that i would like my touchstone beliefs to carry. I also made certain parts of the project harder and more interesting for myself, choosing to do cinemagraphs instead of static images was a choice that i was not thoroughly prepared to follow through on but am still excited to carry out.

One of the most difficult parts of the project for me has been trying to capture my words in images. I have visited many site about photo essays and viewed lists of tips and tricks. I’ve even looked at several lesson plans. For those interested they can be found here and here. I have always enjoyed looking at the behind-the-scenes planning that goes on behind everything and lesson plans are a unique perspective that can provide you with a lot of new knowledge and ideas. Despite all my research, i have never been a photographer and have had a terrific amount of trouble trying to put my words into images. I’ve had to go through several phases: first figuring out the best words to communicate my beliefs, then finding metaphors to translate those words into a universally understood form, then finding images to display those metaphors in photographic form. However i’m not done yet because now i have decided to use cinemagraphs i had to reimagine my images in a whole new light. I had to decide which elements should move, which ones i was trying to draw attention to, and which ones i wanted the reader to think about.

As i go through this process i am also thinking about how important it is to experience schoolwork from a students point of view. As teachers we ask students to do so much and take on so many tasks; mentally, physically, and time based, that require our students to put in a lot of creative and logical effort. We need to make sure that the assignments we give them make sense, are doable, actually provide our students with new information, or ideas to work with, that in doing the activities they gain new skills and strategies for future work. It is also important that as teachers we keep learning and growing. By constantly taking on the role of a student we better understand the lives of and demands that we put on our students everyday. Just like taking on the role of teacher as writer, as i have done with this blog, my UGP project, and my own writings, it is important that i continue to take on the role of a student as i progress down the path to becoming, and growing as a teacher.

A Bevy of Quotations

Due to camera and time constraints i have yet to take my cinemagraphs. However, needing to keep moving forward with my UGP, i have moved on to writing captions for pictures i haven’t taken yet. Some would say that this is madness, and to them i would say madness? all together now!

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Does anyone else find it funny that this isn’t even close to the screen-cap from the movie where Leonidas actually says that? The Boromir meme is also the wrong screen-cap. No? Just me? I digress.

I have decided on what images i want to create with my camera, so it will be like reverse-engineering a photo-essay. I will have to tailor my images to my captions, words to fit my images. Some of my images will use quotes and words written by people other than me, in this case the captions are easy. A caption for an image of a cloudy thought bubble will read:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow.

In fact i like the idea of using quotes from famous people, books, and movies, whatever. I think it will be challenging and fun to use other peoples words to make my point. Also there’s no way i’m more profound than Dostoyevsky or Emerson so there’s that too.

For an image of a pen with blood for ink, representing the raw self-expression a writer must use i will use the caption: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway. An obvious quote i’m sure, but an excellent one nonetheless. Rather than reveal all my images i will simply provide the rest of my quotes and leave a little mystery till the end.

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Personally, I believe “Young Adult” to be an arbitrary title that means the book “Can be enjoyed by anyone/Has a main character who’s not quite an adult/Isn’t really boring.” – Shannon Hale

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” – Fred Rogers

“Half of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at.” – David Gerrold

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” – William Faulkner

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” -Erica Jong

“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.” – George R. R. Martin

“Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

I think that these quotes are thought-provoking and are also demonstrate a lot of what i feel about writing and the important aspects of it. In fact i found a ton of quotes that i found to be incredibly insightful into the process of writing itself as well as being very motivational. One that i found particularly poignant and funny was “Put weather in.” – Joseph Hansen.

Cinemagraphs

As i continue to move forward with my UGP i find that i keep changing my ideas and direction for the project. I thought that i wanted to use still images to represent my touchstone beliefs as a writer, but i have recently decided to use cinemagraphs instead. For those of you who don’t know a cinemagraph is a still image which contains a moving element. For exampleLincoln_Cinemagraph_615

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I find cinemagraphs to be thought-provoking and cause the viewer to pause and reconsider their expectations. I think that this better represents what i hope to show with my UGP. I think that a moving image will better represent the process of writing. A static image would have a harder time conveying the motion, cyclical, and never-ending process of writing and learning. Like i mentioned above, i also think that a cinemagraph will do a better job of causing the viewer to stop and think about the images and ideas presented to them.

I know this is a shorter blog, but i’m pressed for time. If i want to create a set of cinemagraphs i have to get moving. If i’m not too lazy i’ll try to post my finished product to the blog.

The Invisible Audience

When you write a paper, article, tweet, etc. who do you write for? My guess is like me, you’ve never really thought about it before. Do we all write for a nameless, faceless mass of humanity, waiting patiently in the void to read your work? I guess i never really considered who i was writing for all these years. In school you always write for the teacher or your classmates. There are clear parameters regarding the information that you are supposed to provide within your essay or speech. I never thought to consider that i might be writing for someone else.

So who do i write for then? Certainly i write for more than my teachers and peers. Do i write for myself? Most definitely, i find writing to be a great way to organize and work through my own thoughts. Getting it down on paper is one of the sure-fire ways to make sure that i know what i want to say and how I’m going to say it. But whether i realized it or not i was writing for more than myself. I write because I want others to listen to and discuss my ideas. I write because i think that i have something interesting and important to say. I write because i’m just so excited about an idea that i just have to tell someone. I’ve never put a face or a name to my invisible audience. If i had to i guess it would be my mother. She is a woman who i know will read for content and for style. She not only appreciates what i have to say, but how i say it. I know that when she reads my writing that she is open to ideas and ready to learn about new perspectives. She is willing to open up a dialogue about my ideas and writing style. That is who I’m writing for. An open-minded individual, ready and wiling to learn and discuss new or interesting ideas about anything from education to the red carpet.

I think that I’m going to try giving my audience a name and a face. Maybe it will focus my writing and help me grow as a writer. Maybe it will give me purpose and reason to say what i have to say. It will certainly be interesting to see how writing to a specific person/audience will change how and what i write. Or maybe it won’t at all. At any rate, it can’t be any worse than writing for an invisible man.