Critique Critique

We left off last week all excited about the class critique. Follow up: went great! They nearly all posted in their reflections that the feedback they got was beneficial.

They’re talking more freely and starting to use the language of the discipline. Score!

There was one especially provocative comment: why are we doing this? That’s a paraphrase, actually. The comment came after I suggested using video effects to alter the look of some shots, and they were really questioning criticism in general. It’s ‘art’ after all, and how can it be judged when it’s in the individual beholder’s eyes? Good question, and I had an answer.
pandora_2732043bEven the most objectively introspective seeker has to get outside perspective to clarify their vision – and it could be anyone, not just a mentor, who can give perspective that spurs a person to grow. Growing into one’s artistic practice is not a solitary journey, despite legend and lore to the contrary, and those with caring and wise teachers are the lucky ones! I could’ve used more of them as a student and am thankful to those I have now.

That’s not exactly how I responded in class, however.
Basically, I said that constructive criticism was the purpose of the school setting. Anyone is free to do their own work any way they want; close the studio door and paint and draw and make videos all you want! If you enter school, you are asking for judgement and feedback. Well, maybe not asking, but at the very least, being a student assumes one is open to learning. Passage through the academic wormhole requires listening to words one may not like to hear, as well as adjusting yourself to go in new and uncomfortable directions.

It is said that once a tree is pruned, it must always be pruned. Similarly, things once learned, can never ever be unlearned. I recall the heavy feeling I had coming home from my first semester of college, being slightly amazed and daunted by the shedding of youthful things. It is tempting to reject learning in order to keep the purity of ‘first vision’ intact. Another child’s destiny perhaps, this ship has sailed.

I am learning how to provide some of that feedback in the best way possible. I tell students that they don’t have to think or see like I do, but if I withhold my honest truth then I am cheating them. For better or worse, I have the most expertise (not necessarily the most talent) in my classroom, and that’s what I’m there to share.
You’re hearing me talk myself into it…. It takes more courage and confidence than I have on some days to let them know my real thoughts. They might not like me after they hear some of those. But am I here to be liked? I’m here to give what I have, like it or not.

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October 20, 2016 · 8:57 am

Effervescence

I love that word.

My favorite class is coming up: the critique. The viewing of the student’s video projects, the big ones. There are four a term and this is numero dos, the music video. It’s been so fun to see the favorite music videos they’ve posted in the discussion board along with their vision for their upcoming projects. Some MTV flashbacks.

I am consistently surprised by the work they do. Their weekly skills assignments do not really prepare me for how these very creatively open projects will play out. I usually don’t preview them myself and I wait in anticipation with the rest of the class.

Watching the 7 student’s pieces usually takes the entire 2 and a half hours, even though they’re 2  to 5-minutes long. I guess I’ll have to speed it up bit next time I get a full class, but this pace allows us to talk about each one without a rush.

In the sometimes tentative moments after each “The End”, someone will usually speak up without prompting. They know we’re looking for something we like about what we just watched. I worried how these would go at first, but it turns out people want to say good things. Hopefully it’s not too tall a stretch! Trust in the ability of people to be positive, and the things they notice start to be really meaningful and interesting. In a safe space, we  practice speaking and listening to each other talk about these videos as works of art.

Then we ask: how can it be better? It’s ok to make the assumption that it always can. I sometimes have to do more prompting because this is harder. This is learning to speak critically and kindly. Honest feedback, it’s sometimes called. I was heartened by a student in the first critique who let us know he wanted criticism, and it was delivered! Over time, the group dynamic gets more comfortable and the discussions roll, but I do wonder how to make it a little more edgy. Where to push and question and where to let it lie. My most memorable college art class was dominated by a sharp-tongued professor who we feared and occasionally hated. Also, highly respected. I don’t have to be that guy, but I’m working our way into a happy spot between sweet and sour.

For the most part, our class critiques are satisfying and occasionally enlightening exercises. After the last one, students were mingling after class in a way I hadn’t noticed before. Exciting stuff. I can’t wait for Tuesday night.

 

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October 9, 2016 · 9:18 pm

25 Sentences About Teaching

lonebeeHow much attention should I give to students? (One sentence! that’s one! Here comes another.) In a live class, every word is a kind of encouragement, to listen, to learn, to act, to react, talk and have a moment to understand. In the online portion of class, which is technically half, they’re on their own with the content, reading, discussioning, watching (hopefully) tutorials, practicing the skills. I’m not there for that. Sometimes during the interim, I think I should jump in with a word or video encouraging them, suggesting a next move, throw out some new ideas. I haven’t yet.  (Six sentences so far, not including the commentary.)

In class, there are lots of words, mostly spoken by me. Some words are designed to help  do the tasks, others are theoretical discussions, and some attempt to create a comfortable atmosphere conducive to learning. You’ll know that when you see it! The classroom can be exciting and focused, and disjointedly chaotic. From the drive to presenting something meaningful, great moments rise and then fall again, back to wondering what the heck is going on out there. At the end, it can be hard to tell what just happened. (up to 12!)

At least I was there. Online for the six days between meeting up, there are some messages, some questions, some sidenotes, and between those, a lot of wondering how they’re doing. They’re out making their works, doing the skills exercises, discussion boarding, quizzing. I used to be more active but I’m trying to let them be ‘among each other’ in those spaces, for the most part. My voice is pretty active in the classroom already. Creating active online spaces takes strategy and I am learning slowly. I’m afraid of asking too much, and afraid of not challenging them enough. Striking that balance has got to be the key to success, but how does one provide the right mix for the diverse bunch I see out there? (Just five more to go.)

I’d love to be there right when each student needed encouragement, a special tip, a fresh viewpoint or a little more motivation. I offer extra help, but few are taking me up on it. Call, Skype, email, and I will make time for you! I’m the care-giving type, and it’s slightly disappointing when the very flexible office hours are quiet. Is it intrusive to call them? I’m going to send out that mid-week message, next time. (Bonus sentence this week!)

 

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September 18, 2016 · 9:13 pm

Day 1

These are notes on teaching from Day 1.
It didn’t go according to plan due to assuming they had Gshare access.
I never said get the HDs, but it was strongly implied. Who has one of these? I could’ve asked. Always look for the question!
More questioning, more listening – to open up the class. Less talk
What about opening the program at the outset, and seeing what questions arise, then asking them to show everyone what they’ve learned? That’s day 2.
Need different lighting, to show the students between classrooms in the iTV environment, and for general mood. The overhead is oppressive.
Arrange students in pairs. Work in the program, that’s what they want to do, not be lectured at. Get the hands on.
I should do less directing of attention to a specific person.
Ok, next time.

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August 24, 2016 · 5:14 am

Unsticking the Global Digital Citizen

The clouds passing over the butte have been spectacular these past couple mornings.TBmornClouds

I’m thinking about being a global digital citizen, and the work our class has been doing on this subject. Of the ISTE standards for tech coaches, equal access seems to have been the most discussed. There are people, passion and posts around this subject because teachers see the sneakers on the ground every day. They know that their students do not have uniformly equal access, nor do their schools or institutions have the equipment, infrastructure or personnel to provide it, and without this basic component, how do we even get started? The problem is huge, the reasons are many.

I makes me feel very stuck.

I recall a leader at my college saying to me “you will never have 100% adoption (of technology)”. It was disappointing, it was liberating. I am a perfectionist who wants to solve all the world’s problems. I go the extra mile every day helping students and teachers be their best, get their work done, keep moving forward. I do what I can to influence the leadership to make our classrooms and schools and world better. And there will continue to be waste and failure and inequality. Accepting both facts gets me unstuck for a while.

I play small-ball. I can help as many as I can be more digitally literate, which will make their digital experiences better, which makes them better learners, which makes them able to help a friend be more digitally literate. It can spread. You know the story of the grains of rice and the chess-board.

Of course I’m not throwing out equality, I just can’t stand the feeling of futility and stuckness. Until the mandates are funded, I have to approach the global gulp with the idea that these people in front of me right now are the entire world. Right now I can provide something. The global goals sometimes overwhelm me and I have to put it into perspective or be paralyzed.  I will connect them to the skills and tools to go global, but start by thinking about how these things connect them to each other, the 25 of them, or the 3 of them. How do these things connect them right here in the small town where they live? Let’s start here, with awareness of the great Internet, and then doing it one person, one Skype call, one person sharing, one post, on comment at a time.

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September 16, 2015 · 4:52 pm

Synergyse

>> Check out Synergyse, they said. Looks amazing. I’m not easily wowed by websites, like, when’s the last time we were? And this could be good. If it does what it purports, it could be big. Interesting pricing structure, seems very clear and acceptable. What is YOUR pricepoint?

joinourrr  Google + Community  🙂 for people trying to understand learning in our digital age

 

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Grad School Online: Begin!

Twenty-plus years after finishing my undergrad stint at good-ol’ UW Madison, I am returning to school. There wasn’t much in the way of online learning in the early 90’s, but this degree is entirely by the screen, though the school is strategically located in-state a couple hours North. I like the idea of going to visit the bricks and mortar up at NAU: meeting my teachers in-person, maybe surprising them with a hearty knock on their office door – if they have one. I think they do. That’ll be another reason to visit, though there are expressly NO REQUIRED ON-GROUND events as part of this online degree in Educational Technology. No field trips.

out of focus spiked chainI already work as an educational technologist ( my official title is ‘Instructional Technology Coordinator’), and have resisted taking the next step because I have haughtily thought that I should be given the degree honorarily, due to the 14 years of work I’ve already done in the field. My job has been one long experiential education in online learning. This is a nascent area that’s just barely crawled out of the primordial soup, and it’s still morphing before our very eyes. Technology + education = constant change. I’m riding the edge-u-tech daily and I teach a course in it myself, so why should I go to school for it?

When I finished college in 1993 I was so done. I never wanted to do that again. I enjoyed much of it, but I was ready to do something else, and I felt a little jaded, like, “what the hell just happened?”; jettisoned out of the Red Beast and onto the lonely waters of life without a clue what to do next. I didn’t get a lot of career counseling and I was ready to lock myself in a painting studio and go at it, all the while wondering if those five years up in the tower of learning amounted to anything.

I feel a little differently now, though I still have resistance – I did wait until age 45 to go back to school.  A degree, also known as “the piece of paper”, helps get jobs, but the job and the education are truly different things. I might have accomplished much of the same thing in my career whether I went to school or not. As time passes, however, I see how my time at the U. fed my mind and strengthened my perseverance. I wonder if I could do the same amount of work now? We will soon see. Grad School begins in (countdown) 6 days.

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January 6, 2015 · 6:28 pm