Friday, February 15, 2013

Lil' Thor or Reflection 5

This drawing, which I submitted to the Project Rooftop Blog's fan art friday post about Thor, represents some of my feelings about my students.  I think that this drawing represents some of the energy that they bring into school each and every day.  Also temperamentally I believe some of my children resemble little thunder gods in many ways!  This is about the age of the students that I teach and I often wonder what their world will look like in the future.  Say for instance five or ten years down the road.  I would like to say that their rooms will be more futuristic and integrated with the newest technology.  I-pad technology will be integrated with their learning experiences and they will be reading books on screens instead of in hard copy.  Facts will become much less important as anyone with a smart phone can tell you the capitol of Zaire but the ability to discern between types and sources of information will become much more important.  Research methods are going to become some of the preeminent school subjects.  Information Architect will become a much more important occupation.  Concepts and ideas rather than facts and memorization will be part of the brave new future of American Education.  At least they will in the wealthier places.  
I worry because they recession has hit the urban schools where I teach much harder than the suburban schools.  The other day I was listening to a news story about a new bill extending free and reduced lunch benefits to more kids as there are many places where kids are going hungry because there isn't enough funding.  This year we are worried about financial cliffs and Sequesters.  This doesn't seem like the kind of environment where we are going to make major changes in the technological content of our classrooms.  It seems like a lot of school districts are cutting in advance of future hardships rather than looking to invest in new technologies.  I mostly worry about an ever increasing opportunity gap as students in wealthier schools get to learn new and useful technologies while the underserved deal with worse teachers, facilities and lack of equipment.  That is the pessimistic side of me talking.  I think things will be better down the road but we need to keep looking closely at the choices we are making day to day.  I mean would you be able to tell this guy no?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Learning Log 2 or tall masted ships

This picture is another for the series that I did for my old roommate's son Andrew.  I spent a good deal of time looking around the internet for old poems that engaged my imagination.  I found this poem which was written in the early part of the 20th century.  It engaged my imagination as a thing I might have said to the younger brother I didn't get in my first four chances.  This drawing actually drives me a little bit nuts because the proportions are off especially in the elder brother's right hand.  I like how I drew it but not in the place that I drew it.  I could go back into photoshop and try to fix it up but I'm little bit of a purist when it comes to photoshop and drawings.  I am willing to adjust colors all over the place on photoshop but I never mess with the integrity of the line drawings.  I do love the sentiment of the drawing, the sense of exploration and bright future.  A poem written in this day and age about the same subject would not carry the same hope for the future.  When I think about adding technology to this equation I have some uncomfortable thoughts about the future of my chosen field.  Almost universally I hear from other teachers about the lack of social skills present in their pupils.  Some of that may be due to the particular populations that we are teaching, however I believe that a large part of the problem is due to the large amounts of time that students are spending in front of a tv screen.   Call it an Ipad Iphone or anything else the reality is that it is a tv screen and through the guise of technological advancement we are inviting it into our school.  Large corporations are getting an opportunity to advertise in our schools like never before.  It is a much more difficult proposition to take out an advertisement in a school textbook, than it is to get some product placement in the Channel One news channel we were required to watch in my Jr. High.  The employers of the future tell us almost universally that they are looking for team players.  Students rarely learn to become team players through a screen of any kind.  That is one of the great paradoxes I see in modern education, we require the students to become more technologically savvy while also being more socially acceptable than ever before.  I think it is a large case of unrealistic expectations.  You need to decide what is more important to teach the socialization or the technology.  I come down firmly on the side of socialization, I see technology as a tool that may help socialization but cannot teach the necessary skills of social interaction.  For instance, in my work with special education we have a song time near the end of the day.  4 days a week I sing a variety of songs with the children.  they pick the song, tell me when to go and I generally make a fool of myself singing the songs for the kids.  On fridays we listen to songs off of Youtube, and it is a much different experience, the kids seem to have a much different relationship to the screen than they do to me as the source of the songs.  I think that it is ok to shake up the order of things but I certainly wouldn't want this to be a full time situation.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Learning Log 3 or The Tortoise and the Hare

This drawing is part of the series for the second son of my college roommate.  The Tomten drawing below is also part of that series.  I was illustrating old poems and stories that I found interesting.  I've always found this to be an interesting story and a good reminder, given that I have much more of the Hare's personality than the Tortoise's.  I tend to do things in bursts of creativity and hard work and then procrastinate for weeks on end.  It's maddening for some of the people around me who are Tortoises.  Keeping aware of this tendency will be very important for me as I enter the teaching field.  I know that there are a lot of positives that come with my type of personality however school happens every day, not just the days that I feel like it.  When I think about my ideal educational model, I know that I haven't developed a really good idea of what that will look like.  I want to have a broad base of tools to  teach different kinds of learners.  Things like computer labs, ipads, and smart boards are all good tools that can teach children in a variety of different ways.  Those items coupled with a good variety of hands on objects to increase students understanding of the physical world would make up my ideal tools going into teaching.  The thing that worries me the most is the number of students that there will be in each class.  Our school has 25-28 kids per class, which is too many to give adequate attention to each student.  I mostly worry that I will have it in me to bring my best on days when I would rather take a nap and let the tortoises of the world pass me by.

Learning Log 4 or Jack O-Lantern

This picture was done during the early part of the school year before I started to get in trouble for drawing during class time.  It was around halloween hence the drawing of the headless horseman--A story that for the life of me I don't really understand.  I should probably re-read the original and maybe it would be more clear to me.  This drawing was done durning a time when were were listening to the teacher and the teacher was using the smart board but she was so all over the place that I would get a headache from trying to follow.  I'm very much in favor of smart boards and have found them to  be a very useful piece of educational technology.  However in this teachers hands it was an impediment to learning.  I was getting a headache from following all the information flashing all over the screen.  It made me consider just what kind of teacher I want to be.  I have grown up adopting technology as it comes.  Computers didn't really exist when I was starting school and they were huge by the time I graduated.  Although I wouldn't consider myself an early adopter of any technology I definitely took the time to make myself literate.  I follow the same pattern presently, not trying to be on the cutting edge of anything but instead adopting the technology that has staying power.  I think that technology isn't necessary to be a good teacher but it can certainly be a helpful tool.  One teacher I observed using educational technology in a very useful way was a social studies teacher who would run a youtube video of an event that happened during that particular date in history.  That date happened to be the day of Pearl Harbor and was a period newsreel about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Then the class would think critically about the video and have a little discussion.  It was a very good introduction to the day and a good use of the same technology that I saw misused in the other class.  I hope I will be a good user of my technological opportunities.  Maybe then I won't need to spend my time drawing headless horsemen.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Learning Log 1 or Lamps

This is a prototype of a lamp that I developed while working at James Dayton Design.  Jim had an idea for a lamp and set me to work putting it together.  It was a wonderful project to work on. I learned a great deal about fabrication woodworking, lighting, and the creative process.  I was given a drawing with dimensions and materials and told to figure it out.  I was fortunate to have some master woodworkers to work with in order to get a good idea how to proceed.  Thanks to Tatsu, I figured out how to make an interior skeleton on which the wood panels are attached.  The exterior panels are made out of a very expensive wood which didn't give me a lot of latitude to mess up on the milling of the panels.  With a cheaper material I would have spent more time working on the milling as I couldn't get it quite perfect.  Our table saw was a little too small for the task, a larger saw would have created more uniform pieces.  Where the real sticking point came was with the light source itself.  In the first prototype I placed the light right in the middle of the plexiglass upper quadrant.  This caused a very distinct bright spot in the light area of the lamp.  We were also concerned about the lamp overheating as there was nowhere for the heat from the lightbulb to escape and the integrity of the plexiglass box was important to Jim.  So I went back to create another prototype with the lightbulb placed lower below the lip of the wood.  This solved the bright spot problem but created a very dim lamp.  At this point we were stumped and the project languished and to my knowlege hasn't gone anywhere since.  This work was happening back in 2005 and it was before a lot of new lighting projects were on the market.  I would love to revisit the project with some of the new LED lights that are on the market these days.  A lot of these lights have different properties and none of the heat problems associated with heat that regular incandescent bulbs have.  I'm betting that there might be some kind of material out there with fiber optics running through it that could make the panels a source of light instead of just a diffusing device.  With some things technology doesn't seem to change much but lighting has changed a lot recently and I think recent developments could make this project much more realistic.  Implication: this project wasn't possible in 2005 but in 2013?