IMAV for the K12 Online Conference

Leveling up

I ‘leveled up’ last month when my video presentation for the K12 Online Conference on Trust and Transparency in passion driven learning was published. Please follow the link to view it and refer to my post, Trust and Transparency, for a transcript and links.


Getting noticed

I don’t know which is scarier: That people would watch my presentation or that nobody would watch it. Regardless of how I felt about it, people did indeed watch it, and a few even took a minute to share on Twitter!

Their kindness and encouragement are deeply appreciated.

Self assessment

Partially out of being too busy, but mostly out of trepidation, I procrastinated making my video for far too long. I had a lot to say, and pored over the script for weeks. On the weekend before it was due, I was suffering from a minor head cold. After all, I ended up setting my laptop on a chair and sitting, cross legged, to simply read the script in front of the camera. I did manage to splice in some still photos and screenshots, providing a bit of ‘multi’ to the media.

I have to say I’m rather disappointed with the result. It’s a blog post read aloud without much of the appeal that a video can have.

I think my message was good and clear, but as I reflect on what I like about other people’s videos, it’s their natural mood that captures my attention. Formality is boring! A video recording of a presentation is fine documentation, but a video can be much more dynamic and personal.

The next video

As it turns out, I’m currently preparing a new video, my COETAIL Final Project. The work of the project is finished, but needs to be presented and summarized in a video.

Once again, I’ve procrastinated liberally. However, that’s not necessarily negative. I think this video needs a more improvised, informal, and reflective mood. I’ve worked hard on the project, and now I should feel that it time to relax and ramble on camera to share my thoughts.



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Hanami 2014

Viewing the plum, almond, and cherry blossoms in Japan is a social, aesthetic, artistic, and philosophical activity. Hanami (花見) means ‘flower viewing’, and is a highly anticipated and enjoyed activity here.
Photographing the blossoms is a very serene way to enjoy the warming weather.

Of course, the blossoms mark the beginning of Spring. In the post, Plum Blossom, I started this photographic inquiry and began to bid farewell to the Winter. 
April is the beginning of the Japanese school year, as well as the time during which companies typically reorganize and reassign employees. People tend to relocate and renovate their homes at this time, as well. Renewal is carried by the wind along with the pollen and refreshed demeanor of the people.
Spring is a time for noticing. Whether it’s the change of temperature, smell, mood, or indeed, the apparent return to life of the trees.
I was lucky to visit a few parks this year and continue my inquiry into visual literacy through photography.
Needless to say, the cherry blossoms are extremely photogenic. Being virtually impossible to take a ‘bad’ picture of, I challenged myself to capture images with stories, conflict, and emotion.
Exploring the photo editing suite from Visual Supply Company was another way to enhance the drama in the photos. For more of my work, please visit my VSCO Grid or Instagram Profile.
Thankfully, the overriding feeling of the blossoms is joy. My wife, Yuka, a much more accomplished photographer than me, shared her work in the post, Special Spring Gift, including the heartwarming photo below of a fallen cherry blossom our son gave to her.

Visual Literacy Achievements Unlocked!

My final projects for the Visual Literacy COETAIL course are a slide presentation to inform my school community about our first PYP Exhibition and a video to inspire my Grade 6 students as they prepare their Exhibition, a self-directed and collaborative research and service action project.

Inform

As detailed in the post, Exhibition pre-Zen-tation, I struggled to transform my text-heavy, visually dry slides into a more engaging and thought provoking accompaniment to my speech.

The process was mostly subtractive. I deleted nearly all of the text and replaced it with carefully selected Creative Commons licensed images.

One of my most important lessons from this course has been the importance of audience. With that in mind, I shared the second draft of my slides and received very insightful comments, which led to the final version.

Introduction to the Exhibition


I was very happy with the presentation and meeting, and I believe that these slides inspired thoughtful discourse and discussion, rather than simply delivering information. For the latter purpose, I simply shared my notes on Google Drive and embedded them in our class blog for accessibility.

Inspire

In the post, PYP Exhibition: A Rite of Passage, I detail the process of creating an inspirational video for my students and other students preparing their exhibitions.

As with the slide presentation, I sought critique before completing the final cut.

My favorite step was composing the music. In the ‘remix’ spirit, I arranged samples from one of my class’ collective improvisations into an innocent, dreamy loop. By adding a simple string pad and energetic drum tracks, I tried to capture the mood and drama of the Exhibition from meandering innocence, through cognitive dissonance, and into catalyzed momentum.

Prelude to the Exhibition

My most significant understanding from completing this project is that deeper learning needs plenty of time and freedom. Tinkering and iteration are essential to constructionist learning, and I spent many late evenings and early mornings wrestling with the unfamiliar tools I needed to complete my projects.

It’s important to consider that students need time to explore the technological tools we invite them to use in order to achieve their full potential and quality of expression.

Infographics in the classroom

Who doesn’t love a good infographic?
I get my fix from Daily Infographic, but a quick Google search uncovers many more sources.
I’m often surprised how the layout, color palette, and design of a document draw me into a topic. To capitalize on this phenomenon in the classroom, I started building an infographics section on the wall.
The concept is so simple and fun. Just print infographics, laminate them, and affix them to the wall with magnetic tape. Students are welcome to browse during independent reading and inquiry periods. Having them mounted magnetically means they are portable. Occasionally, they become very excited about a particular graphic and share with each other.
Although it has been somewhat labor intensive to build a collection, the result is an engaging range that my sixth grade students find very inviting. Changing the selection always results in some kind of excitement, and learning with them builds visual media fluency and provokes inquiries in a novel way.
With such an emphasis on digital technology, it’s important to remember that people learn in many different ways. Providing a variety of approaches to learning is always the best application of educational technology.
Why not start your own infographics wall?

PYP Exhibition: A Rite of Passage

Several weeks ago, I began an inquiry into visual literacy. Feeling that visual communication is My Greatest Weakness, it’s been an exciting challenge to spill this can of worms and start stomping. It has been easy to find opportunities to practice and apply new skills and understandings in the classroom.

Purpose

My students have begun preparing their PYP Exhibition. It’s our first in every sense: as individuals, as a class, and as a school. I have researched extensively about elementary school Exhibitions around the world and have been trying to approach the process from a design perspective.

Metateaching

The essence of metateaching is knowing students well and designing an environment in which their learning can thrive.
For Exhibition, that environment consists primarily of independence, yet it is important to introduce the project in a way that helps inform and inspire the process.
When I was preparing the presentation I would deliver to the school community about Exhibition, the Exhibition pre-Zen-tation, I intended to provide information about what we should all expect during the coming several weeks.

I blogged about the meeting in the post, Exhibition Week 0. It was successful, but there was something missing. From the perspective of visual literacy and storytelling, I realized that my efforts could accomplish much more if I aimed to persuade rather than inform, or, to use Seth Godin’s terminology, ‘persuade’ rather than ‘convince’.

The presentation and slides are effective at delivering information and provoking thought, ‘convincing’, but they wouldn’t inspire anyone to join the adventure. They don’t ‘persuade’. They lack emotion.

What I needed was a video.

My own inspiration

To inspire my video, I pondered the Exhibition. The objective is for students to demonstrate mastery of the IBO Primary Years Program through self-directed and collaborative inquiry. It occurred me that it closely resembles a traditional rite of passage, a ritual marking the transition from one state or status to another.
In this case, the students are moving from elementary school to secondary school. They are presented with a challenging task and provided limited assistance and expected to use what they know to organize and take action. They are intended to cause cognitive dissonance, the resolution of which is both the process and product of the experience.
This led to the conceptual framework for the video. It would start with an introduction to rites of passage, then invite the students to engage in the inquiry process through video footage of other schools’ exhibitions.

I do everything the hard way

At that point, things became ugly. Or interesting, depending on your perspective. I was trying to learn several different technologies, as well as visual literacy concepts and skills, all at the same time.
First there was searching for Creative Commons licensed images and video to remix. Next, learning how to use iMovie to organize and edit them, as well as adding the text. Adding text involved searching for an interesting font, a process in which I became totally lost for most of an evening. Finally, I hacked together a scratch music track with audio from one of my class’ collective improvisations for keyboard percussion. Unfortunately or fortunately, I’m really not sure, technological misunderstanding prevented the audio from being included in the uploaded YouTube video.

Without further ado

I decided to share this version of the video because part of my personal inquiry is to be more collaborative. I have always had a very thin skin when it comes to critique and criticism, something I am working to improve. 
Please view my video and tell me what you think!

EDIT 19 March 2014 – View the final video in the post, Visual Literacy Achievements Unlocked!.

Fotomania

Playing at the window after a snowstorm
As part of my inquiry into Visual Literacy, I have taken up photography as a hobby. I think that hobbies don’t get enough credit as deep, informal learning experiences!
In this photo, my first of an artistic nature, I tried to capture the wonder my son expressed as he felt the sunshine and surveyed the snow-covered rooftops all around outside after Tokyo’s heaviest snowstorm in more than forty years.
If you are interested in following my new fotomania, please find my photo feed on Instagram.

Exhibition pre-Zen-tation

My Grade 6 class is currently embarking upon their PYP Exhibition. It is the first event of its kind at my school, and one of my responsibilities is to make a presentation for the parents and school community about it.

The fact is, the Exhibition is a gargantuan task. The event itself represents the culmination of all learning and growth in a child’s life to this point in time. Also, it is not an ‘assignment’, but a framework or set of guidelines within which students pursue an inquiry for several weeks. It has structure and should occur at a particular time, but the nature of the inquiry and how it is expressed is up to the students.

To help myself articulate the goals of our Exhibition, I actually started creating this presentation last summer. I suppose I should call it a pre-Zen-tation, because I was woefully unaware of design principles like those detailed by Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen.

The pre-Zen-tation:



What you see here was not finished. I simply saved a ‘before’ copy before beginning to edit according to my new insights into presentation design and visual literacy.

Add images

Searching for images was easy enough, and I enjoyed the challenge of finding an image to represent each slide visually. Although I searched for Public Domain and Creative Commons Share-Alike images, I added them without saving their sources, which resulted in researching for them to be able to include credits. This would be a good time to express appreciation for Google search by image!

In some cases, I found great images by one well-worded search. In others, one search led to another and another. Some images had the right idea, but didn’t work as slides. For example, the text I wished to include was difficult to read or there wasn’t enough variety when the slideshow was arranged in sequence.

Images added, each slide took on a unique personality. Rather than being a place to put words, they became little conceptual stories.

Delete words

Viewing the slides conceptually, rather than as a means to present information, was my major turning point. It hadn’t occurred to me before to think of the slides as accompaniment, as opposed to background.

Many words I had included suddenly seemed unnecessary, and I considered removing all of the words more than a couple of times. But as the presentation gurus all agree, each presentation has its purpose, and this is a presentation to communicate information, so the words stay.

I did prune, however. The text on each slide are examples of ways we have practiced and developed the different 21st Century Fluencies during the year and what we expect to see during the Exhibition. Some were too vague, some too specific, and I still have mixed feelings about a few others. Indeed, this is the perfect time to put out a call for feedback and critique, so your comments are very welcome.

The post-Zen-tation



Certainly an improvement. I can imagine that, while delivering this presentation, the audience will feel more connection and engagement with the information, and I will be more free to improvise with my speech to promote more interaction and feeling of collaboration that is essential to the Exhibition.

There are a few elements yet to be added, such as a slide about the expectation for a service project and globally-significant issue, and I feel that after those additions, it will be further enhanced.

New problem

I’m not satisfied. Reading so many great presenters’ emphasis on ‘story’ has caused me to reimagine my approach. Why not tell the story as a narrative? Why not introduce some drama? Could an emotional ebb and flow be integrated into what I have already created, or should I start from scratch?

‘…place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.’ Daniel Pink’s words as quoted in Presentation Zen haunt me.
I’m going to use the presentation as it is now, or at least a similar iteration, since this meeting is imminent and there are too many other tasks demanding my attention now.

I would like to continue this inquiry as my final project for the Visual Literacy course, however, with the goal of creating a presentation to capture the essence and complexity, passion and drama of the Exhibition.