Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Visual Thinking Strategies Workshop: Part 2

Mary Lewis from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts led a workshop with staff on Visual Thinking Strategies.
She began part 2 of the session having us view a clip from 60 Minutes with Harvard professor, John Stilgoe.
Stilgoe pointed out many interesting design components.
For example, have you ever noticed the arrow in the FedEx logo?
Or that if all car manufacturers just put the gas cap on the same side, lines at gas pumps would be much shorter because everyone would line up in a more efficient manner.
Lewis then told us about "The Stages of Looking."
Stage 1: Beginning viewers are looking at the story
Emotion plays a big part of it, and they use their own life experience to relate to the image. "What is it about the picture that made you think of that?"
Stage 2: Constructivist
People apply what they think is "right," and build a framework. "IS THIS ART?"
Stage 3: Classifying
By classifying the artwork, this stage attempts to critically categorize the works meaning and make sense.
Stage 4: Interpretive
Seek a personal encounter with the work.
Stage 5: Specialists
There are probably only a handful of people in the world that are at this stage. They look at the universal truths of the artwork.

Look around! We gain so much information from observation, and start at a very young age. Then we start getting distracted.
Lewis mentioned that she does training in listening and looking for Medical students to help them be better observers to make better diagnoses. So often, they jump to a quick conclusion, and miss important details that patients tell them. Pause and look prior to making decisions. This is called "Mindfulness!"

Finally, she discussed picture selection for VTS
Engagement-help them identify with what is going on. Captivating and expressive, you can use older work and stretch across time
Diverse-Cartoons have one point of view, so avoid those. Use many different cultures to expand students experience
Lewis notes that sometimes it helps to morph it to fit your subject, though some may argue against that.

Visual Thinking Strategies Workshop: The Basics of VTS

Today I had the pleasure of sitting in with staff from South View Middle School as they explored Visual Thinking Strategies with from Mary Lewis from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The curriculum is based on Visual Understanding in Education, developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine. These strategies were developed for beginning viewers.

Basic Visual Thinking Strategies
Asking the questions
1. Begin by asking the question, "What is going on in this picture?"
Staff noted that the process allowed them to "slow down" and think, rather than being told what to think.
The pictures Lewis chose told a story, and this allows for more reflection.
The classes where kids are really struggling is where kids really struggle to focus. She has found that if she says, "take 10 seconds"
If students struggle, ask them "What do you see?"
2. The second question is "What do you see that makes you say that?" What is the clue? "I'm going to ask you a hard question..." "Keep thinking, it will come to you..." Sometimes, 3 or 4 comments later, the answer will come.
3. Then ask, "What else can you find?" The thinking process is infinite, we're never just done! Writing is like that as well. This is where you can get depth. Sometimes you have to wait a couple of minutes!

When you are leading this discussion, it's not about you! As soon as you add your own thoughts, discussion drops dead! VTS is open ended questions, and neutrality is essential. It's important to be conscious of who is saying what, to what depth and detail. With middle school students it's important to get them to dig.
Self esteem is at work here, because it requires the learners to show evidence for why they think the way they do.

Responding to Comments
  • Listen carefully and paraphrase what students say (It's important to "be pure and not show bias!") You don't need to say, "Good Job!" As a facilitator, by paying attention and saying it back, you value what the students say.
  • Point to what they mention, stay neutral and be precise even if it's a repeat comment
  • Use encouraging body language and facial expression "You can say anything you would like as long as you back it up with evidence! This allows students to think out of the box. This is where creativity comes from!
One of my colleagues noted that the opportunity to think deeply and critically like this is a gift.
Why do students parrot back what others have already observed? Some may say, attention and validation, but students process at different rates, and so it may be new to that person.

Finally, after hearing the title, what does that do for you? Some found that it ruined it for them. They thought the comments from participants was more interesting.

Image Source: Remedios Varo 1957 painting the Creation of The Birds

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What I like about BYOD Part II and III

Today I went over to one of our middle schools to take a picture or two for a project I was working on and I came upon this scene:
It's spring, and so the computer lab was set up for students to complete assessments, like it is for 1/4th of the school year. Fortunately, because we allow students to bring their own devices, it wasn't a problem for them to prepare the Language Arts presentations for tomorrow!

Some students used district owned laptops, and others used desktop computers in the library, but without BYOD, the teacher would have been limited.

Another thing I have been liking lately is our New "Virtual Training" option for students interested in bringing their device. 

Students and parents watch the orientation video, complete a survey based on the building they are in, sign the agreement forms, then come to the office to have a sticker put on their device to verify they are "wireless certified."
So far, close to 30 students have taken advantage of this option in the first couple of weeks bringing our total to 483 middle school students bringing their own device.
In the survey, I ask them what they hope to use the device for and how they think it will impact their learning. Here are a few of the comments on what their most excited to be able to do:

I like that I can store multiple books in one and not have to carry around a bunch of stuff with me.

I am most excited to be able to get more work done in class and be more efficient.

I am excited because I like using technology and bringing my own makes it personalized and I feel more in control of what I do.

I am excited that I basically have the world at my fingertips, being able to use the Internet to work on school. 
Given our goals of "personalizing learning, extending learning beyond the classroom walls, and maximizing resources of time and talent, I'd say we're on the right track!