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.

My Greatest Weakness

Anticipation for the Visual Literacy Course in the COETAIL program has been both eager and anxious for me. Visual literacy, graphic design, and the language and tools that they use are arguably my weakest skills.

To date, I’ve done literally nothing to spruce up the appearance of Dal Segno al Coda. My own blog of teaching and learning, Symphony of Ideas, is not a terrible eyesore only due to the generosity, patience, and talent of my wife, Yuka. Thank goodness Tumblr has decent default designs! Finally, I have procrastinated purchasing my own domain and establishing a landing site for myself for a myriad of reasons which are really probably just excuses because, after all, I think I’m just afraid to design it.

Time to face the music

Fact is, I need to grow. I’m a composer, or as Aaron Copland would say, an ‘inventor of music’. Need counterpoint for a bebop melody? I’m on it. Want to reharmonize that pop song? No problem! Horn backgrounds for a power ballad? I’ll rock it. String Quartet? Working on it. I’m comfortable creating with sounds.

I am illiterate

Unfortunately, according to one of my heroes, George Lucas, in an interview with James Daly for Edutopia, Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education, I am illiterate! This is a multimedia era, but I am a monomedia creator.

In this course on Visual Literacy, I’ll be bumbling along an unfamiliar road. Coincidentally, an early topic in the Deeper Learning MOOC is academic mindsets, and one mindset in particular is staring me in the face, daring me to act.

My first official published photo (2013)

Growth Mindset

What I have lacked is agency. Just like a student who thrives in literature-oriented activities but recoils when mathematics enter the picture, I have simply been avoiding learning something new and (as I perceive it) difficult. As Eduardo Briceño describes in Mindsets and Student Agency, this is an ‘essential opportunity’ for me to explore and build my Growth Mindset.

Play, Passion, Purpose‘, a model from Tony Wagner that I use to frame independent inquiry in my classroom, will be useful for me in my own inquiry.


Develop visual literacy. Specifically, I need to increase confidence interpreting and creating visual media. Over the years, I’ve experimented with Adobe Photoshop. Recently, I hacked the Deeper Learning MOOC logo to create one for our Deeper Learning in the PYP Google+ community, but that’s about it. I’ve created and shared a Laziness Map, and even a photo Learning Walk and Autumn Leaves ‘photoblitz’. But I need to do more. As an Edcamp Tokyo organizer, I need to contribute to the design of our promotional materials. My blogs and class websites need more personality. I’d like to take better family photos. I should be producing videos! The more I think about how I wish to apply visual media skills, the more imperative this inquiry becomes.
[tl;dr] Learn more tools and take more risks to communicate visually.


Play visual communications with the Walk My World community.


I can envision a future in which I create multimedia experiences integrating original audio and video. However, I don’t yet feel passion for it, and I think it’s because it seems unbelievable that I would master these new tools and literacies. With such a fixed mindset, I can conjure countless reasons and excuses not to try, even though I know I can.

With a growth mindset, it’s my choice to rise to the challenge.