Monday, January 7, 2013

Getting Re-Started

The picture to the left was taken with a .99 app called ToonCamera. It "cartoonizes" photographs or makes videos that look like cartoons. There are a number of different brush styles so that the video or photograph can look like a pastel, charcoal, pencil, ink and many other style cartoons or animations. It looks like it could be fun and cast a different sort of light on things. I fing the detail interesting as well. You can see reflected in my computer screen the poster from the film Dracula that is taped to the cabinet door that faces the computer. In any event, this is the look of my cartoon classroom at the beginning of the second semester of the 2012-2013 academic year. I am trying this year to experiment with different things. I am using a free Blackboard sponsored service, CourseSites, as a space for group quizzes and discussions. It works just like Blackboard and assignments can be set up for groups and individuals and for eveyone to see. I am using iTunesU to provide class materials to students. Apple has expanded iTunesU so that all teachers can set up courses in it that can be accessed using the iPad or smartphone app. This lets me make free copies of the books we read available to all students in iBooks. The app also has a space for the course outline and course syllabus. Instuctional helps like podcast videos, web links, and other student resources can be placed in the app as well. With the app any student with an iPad or smartphone has most of the course materials used in the class available to them on the first day of classes. The student is given an enrollment code that lets them request entry into the class. Once entry is requested the teacher can then accept the student into the class. It is large step towards replacing a backpack with a digital device that is much easier to carry around all day. Might also cut down on trips to one's locker.

Color print of the first day of creation, a blue circle
First Day of Creation (from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle)
The etching is of the first day of creation. The universe is a blank slate and the possibilities are endless. One thing that making choices does is limit the possibilities; to choose one thing is by definition to exclude many other things. One thing a new beginning enables one to do is to recreate the universe, to look at other possibilities. Last year I used Edmodo for certain group activities, this year I am looking at Canvas, though I am not sure which I will use or what the relative strength and weaknesses of each are. That is the purpose of experimentation, to learn about these things. But it looks like it might offer new possibilities. I am looking for tools that will make it easier to assess work privately without having to speak privately with a student (though) that can still be done. I think there are times written feedback is more helpful and I am looking to see if this will make that possible. I am hoping students can still post work publicly but that feedback can be given privately. Time will tell.

The video is of young bluegrass musicians and suggests what practice, hard work, and enthusiasm can accomplish. They are described in the TED Talk summary as being teenage musicians, but the banjo player is ten, not quite a teenager. The goal of most educators is to not only help students achieve mastery over a subject, but develop an enthusiasm for learning that mirrors the enthusiasm of these young musicians. The tools and technology might help attain this goal, but ultimately it is a love of the thing itself that is desired, not love of the tool that is used to access the thing itself. The tool has an important role to play, but ultimately it needs to serve the subject being taught.