One project down

Completed chakra hearts felt project in my living room

This is a short post to showcase my first finished felting project.

Final work

It did take a bit of a push to finish.

Once the seven hearts were felted, I did a little editing on them, adding a few fibre strands, needling some loose areas, and trimming some stray bits. I couldn’t find clear fishing line, which I usually have in my crafting boxes, so instead I used embroidery thread and an embroidery needly to stitch together the hearts.

I made the mistake of going up through the bottoms of the hearts, and had to do a little needling to get things back into shape. The piece of driftwood I already had. I used some necklace line and a pushpin to hang the driftwood.

Now I am happy to have the project hanging in my living room, next to my work desk.

Reflections

The project had two tricky parts – getting started, even once I had my materials, because I didn’t know how long it would take to learn, and finishing. Other than that, it was really enjoyable, portable, and addictive.

My inquiry question #3 was about using felting in the art classroom, and I think these are useful reflections to weave in. I think it might be important to support students in pushing through initial resistance, and in helping them to complete.

As for this particular project as a classroom option, I will have to think more. One the one hand, it’s a great first project, because it’s straightforward. On the other hand, it doesn’t involve much “voice” and “choice”. There were worksheets regarding each chakra and colour significance, which I haven’t blogged about, and I do think that those could be woven into a classroom for therapeutic value.

Going forward

As I mentioned in my last post, I feel like I am at a fork in the road: I can continue playing around with my leftover felting materials, or I can start doing some research into felt practices over time in this region. I think I will play around a bit more, which is both exciting and intimidating. Stay tuned.

Pacific School of Innovation & Inquiry: Wow

Photo by Orest Yaremchuk on Unsplash

Converted

‘Skeptical’ described me best, before I started to research the Pacific School of Innovation & Inquiry. Was this just a fad school? My conversion began, though, when I researched a couple of things at the school: the inquiry process flowchart, and the Google calendar of daily classes. I would want to go to school there! The classes looked truly interesting. And to attend them for curiousity and to support my own research, rather than for a mark? Amazing. Then we got to visit the school itself, which confirmed that the school is on to something.

Fast facts

  • “Learners”, not “students”
  • 95 students, approximately
  • 7 full-time teachers
  • Learners pay about $7,000 a year
  • The school is independent, but still falls within the BC system, so it does get audited, and the teachers have to convert the learners’ work into standard course grades.
  • Learners use Trello to manage work
  • The school has its own digital portfolio system

What really stood out

  • Learners are liberated. One of the learners, a ninth grader, happened to wander into the room while Jeff Hopkins, the founder and principal, was introducing us to the school. She talked about her former school being like a “cage”. She said that even on a bad day, she learns more here than on a good day in public school. She talked about the excitement of learning from her peers. I think she did a better job of selling the school than any adult could have. It really made me think about the harm that traditional education can do to people. There’s a lot of constraint creating pressure. It’s quite a leap of imagination to consider scrapping it and creating something new, like PSII, but… hey, the current educational model is a made-up social construct, to begin with.
  • Teachers are liberated, too. Instead of spending most time on class prep, “classroom management”, and marking the same work by multiple students, teachers get to support unique inquiry projects. As Jeff said, there is still a lot of work, but it’s very different work. To me, it looks like teachers get to focus on being continual learners, and connectors.
  • Jeff Hopkins is enthusiastic. This isn’t a joke or a dig. He has a quality that reminds me of en entrepreneur or an NGO founder – a real excitement that fuels ongoing work. Sadly, I don’t see this very often with teachers. I see people who are content, or good-intentioned, but also often downtrodden, tired, lacklustre… focused on the constraints of their jobs. It’s refreshing seeing someone bring so much enthusiasm to the field of education.

There is more I could talk about – like the entrepreneurial qualities that seem to be developing in the learners, too – but I want to end with a reflection on a good question that a peer asked of Jeff: considering that most of us will end up in the standard public system, with time blocks and similar constraints, what can we do to advance this approach, recognizing that it does seem to be better? Basically: weave in inquiry and innovation where we can; advocate for a shift (as Jeff says, he wants to go out of business by having all BC schools pick up this approach); and hey, maybe tap him for help in creating a new school like this. He did say they were at capacity, and looking to support new versions. Maybe a forward-looking town somewhere in British Columbia…? 🙂

Jesse Miller on online identity & responsibility: 4 takeaways

Photo by Josh Rose on Unsplash

Last week Jesse Miller of Mediated Reality gave a guest lecture on online identity and responsibility. The talk generated discussion among our cohort later, including critiques and pushback. Here, however, are my takeaways – things that resonated with me.

  1. Kids don’t check their phones while playing soccer. This was an anecdote at the beginning of the talk. My takeaway is that when we are really engaged in in-person, offline activities, then yes, we don’t have the urge to check our phones. In small classes with authentic conversations, presentations, or activities, yes, I feel the same. For example, in my teaching art class of 10 people, I never check my phone during class. But what about big classes? It’s hard to engage a huge group.
  2. Classrooms are an ideal place to engage with questions about online activity. This ties into another takeaway, that expectations and boundaries can empower students. I think we all want to know what is expected of us, and what we can expect from others. Choosing norms and culture around phones and social media, for example, can help support the social “container” of the classroom.
  3. Engagement and entertainment are very different. If students are going online to entertain themselves, especially during our classes, something is missing. If students are going online with intention, to use tools, communicate, share, research, etc., then they are developing themselves. I can feel that difference myself. Entertainment can feel good, but not all the time.
  4. Understand school expectations to avoid being broadsided. This is an ongoing lesson that is coming up in multiple classes – err on the side of clarity. Find out what your district, school, and fellow teachers expect in terms of online behaviour, communication, and communication with parents, and ask for permission from admin and parents when doing new things. This will mean that as teachers we can avoid being broadsided by an unexpected reaction.

The Pearl vs. Semiosis: a literacy leap and a new text

In this 30 minute audio recording (podcast?), I recall the moment of identifying something in Steinbeck’s The Pearl that not even my brilliant teacher had considered, and I introduce Semiosis as a potential core text for a 10th Grade Literary Studies course.

History of podcasting

Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

Key points

Instead of trying to write a comprehensive summary, I’m just going to give you some takeaway points based on a little research I just did into the history of podcasting. You’re welcome.

  • The term podcasting = iPod + broadcasting.
  • 2004 is widely recognized as the first year of podcasting.
  • The precursors to podcasting were radio on the internet and “audioblogging”, in which people were trying to share audio files in a regularly updated way.
  • RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication (and another thing, but ignore that); it’s an automated way to pull updated information, like new podcasts, from websites, so that you don’t have to go looking. It was an important tech development for the creation of podcasting.
  • There’s been a rise and fall in company dominance related to podcasts.
  • The first podcasts and precursors to podcasts seem to have been about technology; it took a minute before they became the domains of all the other fields of life and interest.
  • Podcasting is not regulated the way radio is, which is why the content can be pretty much anything.
  • Podcasting is still governed by copyright law.
  • Some people have made it huge in podcasting, like comedian Marc Maron, who famously interviewed Barack Obama on his podcast WTF.
  • There is talk about the beginning of the “Era of Big Podcasting” in which podcasting culture might become less independent and niche, and more corporate and centralized (with Apple be the central company).

Multimodal, ooh la la

Sources

https://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/podcasting4.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_podcasting
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS
https://internationalpodcastday.com/podcasting-history/
https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/podcasting-history-three-eras.html

And… I’m a felter!

My completed seven “chakra hearts”

The first stab is the hardest

I had so much resistance at the beginning. This is common for me and new projects. There is a period of resistance, after which I’ve decided on something, and maybe even gotten the materials, in which I just can’t start. Finally, late one night, I pulled up Jen’s Facebook videos (Jen of Felt Me Now) to get started with her felted chakra hearts project.  Half an hour later, thanks to her relaxed and competent instructions, I had a fuzzy red heart in front of me.

Jen teaching me to felt with a Facebook video

My first heart!

Once I get going

As soon as I had I mastered the basic technique, I wanted to keep making. So I did. Within a week, I had turned out all seven hearts. Classmates on Tuesday saw me felting in class. Hopefully instructors didn’t think I was tuned out. It’s just so relaxing and helpful to keep my hands busy while I am listening. It’s definitely better for my attention and brain than scrolling web pages or thinking about upcoming assignments and errands.

Felting in class

Cruising

So, what’s it like?

I’m ready to start answering my first inquiry question:

  • What is the practice of felting like? – Is it easy? Hard? Frustrating? Fun? Quick? Time-consuming?

Answers:

  • It’s easy!
  • It’s fun!
  • It can be quick (I got down to making a heart within 30 minutes), but it can also be time-consuming, in that you can keep fine-tuning and fine-tuning forever, or you could choose a more challenging project.
  • It’s possible to start experimenting right away

Experimenting with blending colours, by adding a little orange fibre to the yellow, to make it a stronger colour.

Experimenting with making an all-indigo heart, versus using core grey felt for the centre.

What’s next?

I still have to finish this project, by stringing a fishing line through the centres to make a wall-hanging. Then I might explore making more objects (seasonal gourds?) with the materials I have leftover. I could move on to my other two inquiry questions – What is the historical and ongoing practice of felting among First Nations communities in the Pacific Northwest? / Would felting make for a good medium for the secondary school art classroom? – but I feel like I want some more exploration of the material/medium first.

Hearts waiting to become a wall hanging.

Reasons to be… into podcasts

Ed Miliband, British MP and co-host of the podcast Reasons to Be Cheerful

“Guardian of the interests of future generations”

I was biking to campus one morning this week, listening to the podcast Reasons to Be Cheerful, and I got a little teary. The episode was about future generations being represented in governmental decisions, and the challenges of short-term planning due to electoral cycles versus the long-term planning that society really needs. Anyway, I learned that Wales has a Commissioner position for just this. There is actually a person charged with being the “guardian of the interests of future generations,” as she described it. Her job is to question decisions, including budget decisions, based on long-term costs and benefits. A recent highway build was canceled, due to her intervention. Just knowing that this position exists made me tear up. It’s so obvious (as many Indigenous people might remind me), and yet obvious does not always make it into reality.

The connection to podcasts: unplanned encounters

I also thought, as I got off the bike, about this magic of podcasts – that they can introduce us to things we would never even know to look for. I only listen to the podcast because a British acquaintance recommended it. I didn’t know anything about the hosts, one of whom is Ed Miliband. Turns out he is the former leader of the UK Labour Party. I love that even as an MP now, he makes times to do a weekly podcast, in which he and Geoff Lloyds “talk to smart thinkers from around the world”. So cool.

An author on democracy wrote that for society to support a real democracy, there need to be: 1) unplanned encounters and 2) common experiences. If I remember correctly, he meant both unplanned encounters between people, like “Hey, neighbour!” or “Hey, fellow human who is joining me in public space and willing to connect on something!”, and unplanned encounters between people and information, i.e. learning about things you didn’t go looking for. Otherwise we end up in the death spirals of echo chambers, basically.

In short, I like that podcasts introduce me to things I would never even know to go looking for, by kind of easing me in with a familiar format and host, and providing enough context and depth that I can actually integrate the new thing.

p.s. Ed Miliband seems like a really nice guy, so I don’t think he would mind me using that photo of him. I got it through searching on Google with the “advanced settings” set to filter shareable content only. Here are a bunch more awkward photos from the same source.

Collaboration in learning technology

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

What else can we be practising while we are practising hard skills?

Today in class we learned and practised some technology programs with Rich McCue, an excellent teacher and fellow dog-lover.

Specifically, we worked with:

Technically, everything went fine. I have used iMovie for projects, but I learned a few things, including how to edit green screen video clips. Screencastify I will likely use. Audacity I will keep in my back pocket if for some reason I can’t use GarageBand.

I wonder, though, about the usefulness of straight technology learning, at least if it isn’t paired with something else. Because in some ways, even the ability to use these programs is a bit like “content” in curriculum – it’s something I can Google. Indeed, whenever I run into a technical problem or question, I Google my question and find YouTube videos, instructions, or message boards with the solutions.

Communication, collaboration, collegiality

The teacher/facilitator in me can’t help but wonder what it would look like to do the same thing, but with learning support groups assigned at the beginning. i.e. Here are 2-3 people that you should ask questions to as you go, and with whom you will share your mini products. Maybe add a goal of making your group laugh?

People already started doing this this, but informally, randomly, probably distracting some people and making others feel left out.

I think that the teacher competencies, which are not so different than the core competencies we are meant to develop in students, are better served with some emphasis on those multi-syllabic c-words… community, communication, collaboration, collegiality.

A visit to the felt store

This post is really just photos.

I wanted to share the amazingness that is Knotty By Nature.

Look at this store!

I could have ordered felting materials online, but I prefer to visit places in person when I can. One of the benefits, I find, is that then I have a human connection, a place to go with questions, and possibly the start of some community.

Based on my online research, Knotty By Nature is the only store in Victoria with felting supplies – at least the kind that I was looking for.

The store stocks books, magazines, and products by local artists.

   

The person working there, whose name I now forget, was wonderfully helpful. I was able to get everything on my list below, plus a couple of great tips, including on the proper way to pull apart felting wool – by keeping the hands far apart, so you aren’t gripping the fibres and getting in your own way.

The only mistake I may have made was in failing to get a 40 gauge felting needle. The shopkeeper insisted that a 36 and 38 would be all I needed, but I think the smaller one (higher number = smaller needle, maybe because it’s 1/40th of something?) was the right choice.

Anyway, that’s starting to get into my next post – an update on my first project. It definitely begins to answer the first question I posed in my initial felting post, “What is the practise of felting like?”

I’ll report out soon.

Copyright Conundrums

Photo by Umberto on Unsplash under creative commons CC BY-NC-ND

Where to begin?

I think many of us have had the experience of Googling for an image and just pulling it onto a desktop for use. Grab and go! I have done it. But I have felt weird about it. I have wondered about the most effective and ethical way to go forward with using other people’s images, or any other material, for that matter. This connects to teaching in that teachers are constantly shifting between creating content for teaching and using materials created by others, with varying degrees of adaptation.

The Age of Accountability

I have read that we are entering the “age of accountability” and I think it’s great. People who have abused power, people who have caused harm, and people who have avoided responsibility for their actions, are being held accountable. I would like to carry this spirit into being thoughtful about copyright, and respecting origin and authorship.

The main takeaway from our class today is to pay attention and to err on the side of being extra clear about origin and license.

For example, indicating that a material came from place X, created by person X, and falls under copyright license X.

I have tried to do this with the image above, though it comes from Unsplash and I understand that attribution is not required. Even as it is, I think I could probably improve the attribution by adding hyperlinks.

Open Education Sources

A few resources with open education materials were presented in class:

  1. OER Commons
  2. Curriki
  3. Siyavula

One key benefit is that we can use and adapt these materials without much worry about misstepping in terms of copyright.

Reality check

A classmate brought in a reality check that is on all of our minds, I suspect: With limited time to prepare for courses, how likely are we to spend hours hunting through these websites  in search of a useable lesson plan? Hmm. I would like to talk to teachers in practice and ask them questions about resources: Where did they get their current resources? Where do they usually go for something new? Is there anything they are lacking, or have trouble finding? Maybe this is a cool inquiry project in itself – which are the most generative technology resources teachers use for their curriculum? I imagine it would vary by subject. Interesting stuff!

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