As a small gift from the students to you, I want to share the Caravan blog site link with you. In case you haven't gone, make sure that you attend next year's Caravan show at Yoshi's. It is one of the great Head-Royce traditions and is a highlight of the year.
Below are excerpts from my interview with Alison Frost, our middle school art teacher. She described a wonderful project recently completed by her seventh-grade students.
Alison had a vision to have her students meld drawing and cinematic techniques. Her inspiration was the South African artist, William Kentridge. The medium was charcoal. The method was stop-motion animation film. The vehicle was an iPad.
R.L. What was your vision?
A.F. I wanted to teach students drawing techniques and cinematic techniques. I wanted them to understand how various shots in film are used to elicit emotion. I also wanted them to learn how music affected the mood of a piece.
R.L. How did you start?
A.F. First, I used South African artist, William Kentridge, as a jumping off point. We studied his work. He was a pioneer in using the stop-motion animation film process in his work. I also knew that they had to learn the technique of drawing and developing a concept before even touching the iPad. I wanted to make sure that the iPad was just a tool to help bring their creation to life.
R.L. What next?
A.F. There were five steps to this process. First they learn to sketch in their sketchbooks by hand using charcoal pencils. I had them draw gestures so they got the idea of how people move. Drawing is a skill that can be learned. Second, they watched snippets of classic films -for example, some Chaplin films and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We broke film down into individual clips of human gestures. I wanted to demonstrate how certain shots were used to describe the gesture, elicit emotion, and tell a story. It was like cracking a code for them. Third, I taught them how to storyboard. I gave them examples of storyboards to review, and then I gave them a short story to draw. And then they created their own storyboards. Fourth, they then were broken into pairs of two in order to enhance the collaborative nature of this process. And in those groups of two they drew their picture. Fifth, they then made their own films.
R.L. Amazing. Is it hard to teach anyone to draw well?
A.F. No, Drawing is a learned skill. In fact, it is easier to teach seventh graders who have no confidence and no real background. We start from scratch and it is amazing to see their confidence grow with exposure to simple but effective teaching. It is actually much harder to teach, and mold the drawing of students who come in with a level of drawing and a confidence in their work.
R.L. Why is that?
A.F. Because they come in with favorite subjects, and a proven method that they have gotten a lot of positive feedback for already. My task then is to build on the strengths while also getting them outside of their comfort zone and into new techniques and areas.
Let's face it. The simplistic, Manichaean argument of "on the ground" versus "online education" does not move the needle in terms of determining best practices for teaching our children. Best practices in teaching is far more complex and nuanced.
Furthermore I am a firm believer that in that simplistic debate, the overwhelmingly clear answer is right in front of us. What is more effective, an on the ground class versus an online class? I believe the answer is an exceptional, in person, talented teacher who is inspiring motivated children in innovative ways where they are collaborating, prototyping, questioning and making will win out 100 out of 100 times. That said, a luddite's perspective which minimizes the ability of technology to transform and improve education is simply not facing reality.
Take this video as case in point. In it, my favorite theoretical physicist, Mikio Kaku, describes "The universe in a nutshell." It is a deep, effective teaching tool. It is a captivating and engaging 42 minute lecture.
After watching it, I decided to perform an experiment on my children. To gauge their learning, I will ask them the same questions, before and after watching the video. Of Note: as a teacher, I know that the most meaningful lessons are ones which spark curiosity and further questions on the part of the Students rather than a demonstration of rote memorization. I plan to ask my two sons, (ages 10 and 14 ) the following questions:
1. What is physics? 2. Why do objects move towards the earth? 3. What is E = MC squared? 4. What are some forces of nature and How many are there?
My goal and interest, quite frankly, is focused far less on whether or not they produce accurate answers to these questions. Rather, I am far more interested in whether or not a video can spark their intellectual curiosity about an important and heady topic. I am fairly certain that this will produce a substantive and meaningful conversation at the dinner table or on the way to soccer practice.
I'll let you know how it goes.
by Rob Lake
on Thursday November 29, 2012 at 02:13PM
When I was growing up, I loved to collect records. What a quaint concept now. Music has always been a substantial and emotional part of my life. My first 45 was Hey Jude, by the Beatles. My first album was thriller, by Michael Jackson. My first CD was the double disc set, "The Story of The Clash." My first download was Bob Marley's extended version of Exodus.
This morning I read an interesting piece on music and writing by Steve Silberman:
That got me thinking about the concept of music as muse. What is my playlist when I write? Silberman's article focuses on writers from a wide range of genres. I was fascinated to read it and think about the similarities and incredible disparities between the lists, the writers, and my own list.
I have always thought that the music that moves us is a function of time, place, people, and events.
Enjoy the article.
For what it's worth, here's is my playlist of the top 15 artists (not in order) that I listen to while writing:
Coldplay (early years)
Tears For Fears (early years)
Roderigo Y Gabriela
Who are the top 5 artists on your playlist?
by Rob Lake
on Thursday November 15, 2012 at 03:13PM
The major educational trend facing us today:The Year of the MOOC Massive open online courses are the educational happening of the moment. Everyone wants in. No one is quite sure what they’re getting into.
by Rob Lake
on Tuesday November 13, 2012 at 08:50AM
We are in an information age. Yes. We're also in the age of big data, design, interconnected economies, social media, crowdsourcing, and innovation occurring at a pace more rapid than at any other time in history.
To meet this world, to excel in this world, our kids need the skills that we learned and much more.
One of these new skills is a different form of writing.
I believe that every single highly educated citizen must understand the fundamental logic behind computer programming or writing code.
Every significant field and major human endeavor has been affected and altered by computers.
Wikipedia’s take on computer programming: “It is the process of designing, writing, texting, debugging and maintaining the source code of computer programs. Its purpose is to create a set of instructions that computers use to perform specific operations or to exhibit desired behaviors.”
When you think about the roles that computers and algorithms play in medicine, search engines, GPS navigation, law, law enforcement, military, business, the stock markets, green energy…you realize that our kids must be armed with the fundamental knowledge of the ones and zeros and make our world tick.
Just in case you weren’t watching, the future of education is happening now. The transformation is taking place as you read this. It is exciting, complex, daunting, and above all unclear as to where it will all lead over the next decade.
Education is experiencing a paradigm shift. I believe it will never be the same.
Who is leading the way? The world’s most prestigious colleges and universities are charting the new path by offering online learning experiences for free to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Don’t believe me? Check out this list of 50 free courses from Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Duke, Cal Tech and Johns Hopkins…and the list goes on. These courses are just from September and October of this year.
Sometimes, something so profound and radical happens right in front of your face and it is so audacious that you don’t even notice it. That is happening in education now.
Intro to Computer Programming from a Harvard professor, Free. Principles of Economics, Johns Hopkins. Free. Modern & Contemporary American Poetry, University of Pennsylvania. Free.
Check out these articles. Radical. Relevant. Revolutionary. Real. All of this will change the way we learn.
When I was growing up in the 1970’s, parents and educators didn’t spend much time thinking about how the brain works. You either “got with the program” or you didn’t. Neuroscience was not a discipline that seemed particularly accessible nor relevant to how we raised children.
Thankfully, that has changed today. When I think back to the way my parents, teachers and coaches helped me to develop resilience the recipe was fairly straightforward. Phrases such as these echo in my head, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger, Son.” “Toughen up.” “You need to have thicker skin.” “Don’t feel sorry for yourself.” And of course, “Why? Because I said so.”
Neuroscience, Psychology, and empirical research across a wide range of scientific disciplines has opened doors for us as to how we learn, what motivates us, and how kids learn. Just Google, ”how kids learn” and you’ll receive 2.5 billion results in 0.22 seconds. That is astounding on many levels.
The interesting thing from my perspective is that while the why and how’s of the developing brain is becoming clear, the lessons are the same. Resilience now is just as important as resilience was then.
What strikes me as profound is this: parents and schools don’t need to and can’t social engineer resilience into our kids. That is exactly the wrong approach. Sometimes we just need to get out of the way by letting them fail and recover on their own. The best approach might just be through good modeling of the behavior that we want to instill in our children.