Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sparks

As I sat in class on Tuesday, listening to others speak about their opinions of Illich’s work, I began to wonder about questions brought up in class…what is the point of teaching? What is the goal? Like I mentioned in my last posting, I feel like some teachers have lost their inspirational touch. Many teachers do their job and don’t make learning enjoyable to kids..so why do they do it? For me, I think the best answer to this question comes from taking a step back and looking at the classes I have taken.

Being a Econ/Marketing major, I have had to take courses in accounting, business information technology, etc. These classes haven’t made my semester enjoyable and I really dislike attending them, but they have made me realize something very important. I have learned that in order to flourish, I need to set my own expectations. Like we talked in class about a certain level that we are expected to perform at, I feel like I have a high level that I have set for myself. I realize though that I have set lower bars for courses that I don’t enjoy. But why?! Shouldn’t I have a certain expectation that I want in all of my classes?

I realize that as a learner, I need that guidance and direction that professors give. If a class, like accounting for example, doesn’t give me that leadership role, I tend to lower my personal goals. I absolutely love economics, but I have also had professors who have been willing to help and answer questions. These professors help create a spark in learning. They have helped me realize why I like their course. It’s not that I am better at econ over accounting, it is the fact that my professors have made me curious. They have made me want to learn the material.

We spoke about how in some classes, teachers just simply go through powerpoint presentations that come directly from the textbook that you are supposed to read. Well if they come right from the textbook why should I read it? I feel like if a greater effort was made to relate classes to real-world scenarios, people would begin to realize how a subject can affect them. They then get a spark…they understand how the class can enhance their well-being in the future. We would begin to become so curious, we would want to become experts in the material! I feel like this is the goal of teaching. It’s not to have the class get the best grades or have the class love the teacher, it is about making students comfortable. If a student is comfortable around these leaders, they will ask questions, they will do work, not because they are required to, but because they want to. Do you think that these characteristics of teaching and learning relate to “Deschooling Society?”

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What we learn

How can we depend on self motivated learning instead of employing teachers to bribe the student to fid the time and will to learn?

In “Deschooling Society” Illich talks about how if we change the style of leadership education can change. He says a good educational system should have three purposes: “provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and finally furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.”

Why do so many schools require things? Why isn’t it up to the teacher to determine what to teach? I grew up with the SOLs – the Standards of Learning assessment tests that the curriculum of kindergarten through twelfth grade revolves around. Since the main goal was to make our counties schools seem wonderful, teachers followed the strict curriculum and always reminded us that “This might be on the SOL at the end of the year!” Not once did they have the chance to teach what they wanted to teach. Not once did they seem interested in the material we were covering only for the SOL.

I think that this is an important issue in education today. Students are expected to learn certain things, which is understandable, but when teachers no longer love what they teach because they have to follow guidelines, students start to suffer. I never took a test that wasn’t multiple choice until high school. I never got constructive criticism. I never had to think critically – I just had to circle the little letters beside the correct answer. I never found a subject that I was truly passionate about because the teachers didn’t seem to enjoy teaching me the material. Why would I like something if the teacher doesn’t even like it?!

Why can’t the student figure out what they want to learn about instead of following the guidelines of society? As Illich says, there are four approaches that allow the student to gain access to educational resources that will help her achieve her own goals. I think that if we work to focus on the students, education could be transformed. Children wouldn’t dread going to school. People would find inspiration and creativity that they can’t find currently. Do you think students should have more of a say in what they are learning?

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The Big Picture

Memory is strange to think about. When I think about what I remember, I start to wonder…is this actually a memory? I often realize that my mind plays tricks on me. I may think I remember something clearly, but soon find out that I actually remember the event because I saw a picture of it. Or I heard a story about it. I felt like I was a part of something, but then I realize that I actually never experienced it.

Bill Viola writes in “Will there be Condominiums in Data Space?” that memory gives us “highlights” of certain times in our lives. We have to fill in the spaces that exist in between those parts. We have to be creative, and practically shape our memory into the way we want it.

This is where I believe media comes in. TV shows, movies, newspapers, YouTube…they all give us that extra information that we need to fill in the gap. We can get online and see images, news stories, and videos instantly. Media makes these things a part of our memory, and we remember vividly since media surrounds our lives.

Take September 11, 2001, for example. I was in fourth grade at the time. I didn’t know what was going on and didn’t understand. I did not indulge myself with videos of the event, but the fact that the media constantly played and replayed  footage from those attacks not only makes me remember the event, but I think it made it real and personal for every single individual who watched the footage. From then on, those events became part of our memory. It was inescapable. Sometimes, and in this example in particular, the fact we are intermingled with media on a constant basis can make people feel like they are reliving the event – causing psychological problems for certain individuals.

I feel like media does not always give us the big picture, which causes our memories to be shaped and sometimes biased. Viola writes about holism, and explains through an example of a jigsaw puzzle how important it is to look at the whole picture. He writes that examining the thing in its entirety can help us think from a different perspective and realize how things fit together. Do you think that media doesn’t allow us to truly understand why things are connected and related? Do you think that videos and TV shows make us want to piece things together instead of seeing the entire image? Could society manage to make a change so that people can see the whole picture?

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Capturing the senses

After taking the weekend to try to continue to comprehend Scott McCloud’s artistic explanation of time frames, I continue to realize how interesting time is. On the last page of the chapter, McCloud even admits to the reader that he finds time strange. What is it that we can’t figure out?

He draws monsters, gadgets, gizmos, etc. inside the clock…but the front is so simple. It is easy to understand. Or is it? Does it just seem simple?

I keep feeling astonished that so many different things impact time.  I want to answer this question by mentioning that I feel that every human sense can relate to time in some way:

Sight: you can see it. You can visually see the time rotation of seasons through leaves falling, flowers, weather changes, etc. just as you can see the second hand revolving on an analog watch. As people age and die, you can see how time affects them. Grey hair, wrinkles, etc. You can see movies that demonstrate flashbacks and insight into the future.

Sound: McCloud touches on the subject of sound briefly in his chapter on time frames. He mentions that sound is very important to comics because we know the correct order of things. We know that the WAK! of the baseball sounds after someone has hit it. We understand that things follow each other in sequence. We can hear a clock ticking which evoke emotions like anxiety or impatience. Our sense of sound is so important to our understanding of time!

Touch: This one is probably the hardest for me to explain (because you have to touch in order to experience it)! Think about people. I think I understand time through touch because I was fortunate enough to know all 4 of my grandparents. As a little girl, I remember holding their hand..wondering, “why is my Nana’s hand wrinkly?” I soon began to understand that people change with time. If you closed your eyes and felt a baby’s smooth skin versus a 98 year-old’s skin, you just know. You can feel it. You can feel that time has made an impact. Nurses and doctors for example, feel a person’s heart rate. They can feel when a person’s time is up.

Taste: Time is easily shown through taste. Put a freshly-baked, right-out-of-the-oven cookie in your mouth and you’ll know it’s new. Put a year old potato chip in your mouth..and you’ll know that its old. It’s as simple as that.

Smell: Smell is closely related with taste. Smells can make you understand time very quickly. Take a whiff out of an old milk carton, for example, and you won’t ever let milk spoil again. Smell the pear trees coming out around Blacksburg and you’ll know it’s springtime and that the school year is almost over.

I know that this post just got random, but as I’m letting my mind wander I really do feel like time and senses must have a relation. Do you think this could be how we understand time so well? Because we experience it so often in our daily lives?

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My brain hurts..

Whoa.

I woke up this morning thinking it would be a normal day. I would go to my 8am and then head over to my Memex to Youtube class. There I would whip out all my tricks for facilitating group discussions – I had video clips prepared, comic strips that showed motion and frame, and so many questions about how Scott McCloud addresses “motion” in his comic.

But it wasn’t a normal day and I’m glad it wasn’t. I was thinking completely differently today than when I had read the comic before. By the end of the class period, I realized reading McCloud can just simply make your head hurt. We didn’t end up discussing motion very much. Instead, we talked about one page about “real time” and linear progression. At first glance, the page may look like the artist wanted to change up the design a bit so he drew comic frames in a circle. But wait..then you see another circle within the circle. And a timeline at the bottom of the page. And a question that asks, “..is that necessary?”

What does all this mean?!

We discussed many options and I think we could have continued to talk about these circles even more. Not to mention, I can’t even begin to imagine what our discussion would have been like on motion. I wish we would have had enough time.

Speaking of time…there is one phrase that McCloud writes a few times throughout his comic. Every time I read his words, “Time will tell” I have to wonder…what does the future hold? Why does McCloud keep writing this phrase? Is he trying to trick me? Am I over-thinking this? Probably.

Since the whole chapter is on time and frames, I began to wonder..is Scott McCloud being recursive here? He keeps mentioning how time is portrayed in comics and how time depends on space and motion and sound and directions…by the end of discussing it and reading the chapter through a few times it seems like time is linked to everything! What isn’t it linked to?

So now that it’s half-way through the semester, I’m starting to realize how close I am to being half-way through college. As I am worrying about internships, fall course request, clubs, career fairs, picking a major…the list could go on and on…I am also thinking “what does the future hold” …for me? …for Virginia Tech? …for my professors? …for my friends and family?…for Twitter?…for Hokie Football?…for the world of comics?…for technology?…for education?

I guess time will tell.

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Time Warp

Scott McCloud, in his comic “Time Frames,” instantly captures the reader in a fun-filled educational comic. Wait…comics can be educational?! This reading is simple. It doesn’t just tell you the facts – it shows you. Since I am more of a visual learner, it is understandable that this is my favorite reading by far.

It is interesting that McCloud not only talks about the medium in which a message is delivered (hmmm McLuhan?) but also how time can be represented in whichever medium. Comic strips are very interesting mediums for representing time. As he suggests, speech bubbles, sounds, frame size, etc. can all make an impact on how we envision time. He gives analogies, like thinking of time as a rope – it starts and one end and ends at the other.  Although I find his sense of time and duration in his cartoons amazing, I think the most interesting part of this reading was when he spoke of direction.

We use directions everyday. Whether you know them by heart, such as finding a way to the internet, or whether you need a GPS to get you to a distant location, we always use them. How is it that we can figure some directions out without any direction?

His art clearly demonstrates the complexity of direction (eyes can change direction, storms change direction, future events can change direction based on past events,etc.) while still getting his point across in a simple way. But do we really change directions? Do we like change? McCloud explains that humans think that choosing a direction to read is weird and exotic…why not stick to the normal pattern? For me, I find the tricks and riddles of cartoonists interesting and intriguing. I find that a good brain teaser keeps me on my toes, wondering what the author will do next. Do you find that the design and shapes that comics include are confusing? Do you enjoy them like myself? What other mediums can make sense of direction, while also changing our normal patterns?

 

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Change

Just today, I was sent an email from a marketing professor that I found very interesting in relation to vtclis12.  A professor sent a slideshow called “THE END OF TEACHING (as we know it)” . This slideshow brought me back to what my class had talked about at the beginning of the semester – how we can change education. And , more specifically, how technology can and will change education in the future.

The slideshow (linked above) suggests that many professors and schools are stuck in the past. They teach in the same ways that they were taught. Although we have the world’s resources at our fingertips, professors are not taking advantage. Are they worried about what technology can do to education? Do they think it will make it worse? Maybe, like the slideshow mentions, they are afraid that with technology, they won’t have a job unless they truly are an inspirational teacher.

I thought this point was interesting because I had never though about the implications of technology on the teaching profession. With online classes and constant access to information, what will happen to the school system? The slideshow also gives challenges and drivers of educational technology. It is really intriguing that something so simple as a slideshow can spark so many questions:

How will the drivers of educational technology get adapted to school systems? How will they affect a student’s learning? Will schools provide these technologies for their students? How will the school system be restructured to make sure that learning is centered around the student? How has the world become more collaborative? Hybrid learning models? How will teachers change their teaching style to incorporate real-life issues? What are the new models of education? Why are professors not understanding how technology can change education in a positive way? How can more teachers experiment with technology? What will the effect be on public libraries and databases? Will libraries need to restructure themselves to be utilized? Mobile Apps? Will students want to be connected to education constantly? Will technology make students more excited about learning? How can tablet computers make a difference? Why won’t good content be enough?

…and those are just a few…Now it’s time to answer those questions and decide how we can make a difference.

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The Language of Technology

As I read “The Six Elements and The Causal Relations Among Them” by Brenda Laurel, I find it intriguing that she describes human-computer activity as a play/drama. It is interesting that she can take something so complex and simplify it into different actions and relationships. I feel like the action/character/though/language/pattern/enactment process that Laurel has created to explain is an easy breakdown of human-computer activity. One section that interests me in particular was the Language aspect.

Laurel writes that language is “the selection and arrangement of words” in a drama/play. It is easy for me to think about how language makes an impact in a play, but how does it make a difference in technology and human/computer interaction? Lets think about it.

Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc are all ways we communicate through language on the internet. Each of these sites uses different ways to demonstrate a point. Youtube uses movies – a easy way to incorporate different visual and audio language. Twitter helps us quickly explain something publicly – kind of like a text message over the Internet. Flickr uses photos – something nonverbal that can make a huge statement (almost like facial expressions or props in a play). Even Skype can enhance our human-computer interaction language (in fact, just before posting this I was skyping a friend who lives in Beijing, China)! Through all of these modes of communication, the Internet truly embodies hundreds of languages (computer code too!) that help us understand and connect to technology. What are some more ways that technology expresses language? What are some of the ways you connect with it? Do you think the next trending website will embody a new form of language that we haven’t seen on the Internet thus far?

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