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Thursday, September 30, 2010

QEP insights Links from "Dispatches from the Future of Museums"

1) The End of Education is the Beginning of Learning:

2) Trends Proposed by Futurists Magazine:

3) Interesting Japanese trends of De-ownership, Demonetization, De-materialization

4) Laurie Anderson suggests that museums will be put in the same predicament as record companies by applications like Youtube.

It seems particular to my generation (or perhaps it is ego-centric of us to think so) to be on the cusp, stuck between the old and new.  I am as afraid of and uncomfortable with change as any human being.  I suspect that these exercises in Personal Learning Environments is symptomatic of much greater trends.  I don't know, as much as I like Laurie Anderson, I just love museums.   I always have.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Notes from QEP Workshop 9/29

Critical Thinking Website -- Dr. Rogers
7 habits of highly effective people
Look up CT on Wikipedia.
Defining Critical Thinking  -- Clarification Consensus
Encouraging the right kind of Critical Thinking about the right things.
What does Interpretation look like?
Confidence and Self-Regulation  -- Feeling like their critical thinking is relevant to the subject
Vision Statement
Blogging as a form of critical thinking
Seeing notes
JITT --  Have students formulate a test question.  Ask students to do something creative.
Critical thinking - Thinking for self.  Applying a foundational knowledge.  Making connections between subject matter.  Engaging with material.
Is the "job" to cover material or teach the students.


Today's workshop dealt more with critical thinking, specifically with clarifying or coming to a consensus about what exactly critical thinking is.  Certainly, we should know what something is before we try to measure it.  I got some good ideas from the workshop.  The main one being, as Dr. Rogers pointed out, that Self-Regulation or Self-Evaluation, specifically regarding confidence.  Many students do not feel that their commentary or critical thinking is of value or that it is valuable enough to be included in the academy.  I often talk to students about the idea of invention or discovery.

How many of us can really discover something these days?  If I want to break the land speed record, I better have a PhD in physics or engineering.  To discover things at the sub-atomic level, I need expensive equipment and years of know how to even begin to know what it is I am looking for.   There has to be something pleasurable in just discovering something for oneself.   There has to be joy in research and rediscovery.  Excuse me if I have gotten wordy.  Put simply the big payoff discoveries seem so far removed from the typical student's life that it is paralyzing.  We have to realize that long before the IMac, there was a box of parts taped and soldered in someone's garage.  If not for the joy of finding out what happens next, we would have no IPods, IPhones, IMacs, et al.

I will look forward to checking out Dr. Rogers' Critical thinking link.  I also like his idea about incorporating the 7 habits of highly effective people (probably need to incorporate that in my own life, as well).  I also like the idea of creating a vision statement.  Pat had a great idea about asking students to generate test questions and thinking about that exercise as JiTT.  One thing I have enjoyed about the blogging type writing entries on my site is I can see the critical analysis, if there are crossed wires or faulty logic and where I need to explain things better (perhaps).  My students in my QEP and Online class tend to seek my approval.  It is not just that they want my input; they want to know they are being recognized.  As far as reading 60-80 blogs, I'd say keep it short and simple.

Critical Thinking involves discrimination.  Some kind of judgement or evaluation takes place... a prioritization.  The most important part of it is the ability to assimilate ideas from different sources and make that information relative to one's own life.  Overall, as far as a definition of Critical Thinking, I do not think the problem is whether it is critical or not.  The problem is that we want the right kind of critical thinking applied to the right area.  As stated in the workshop, we want students to figure out the material, concepts, and critical discourse, not how to pass the course.  Clearly, one answer is to devalue the grade.  That is a scary proposition.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

QEP - Just in Time Teaching

Notes from


G. Novak,

Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together.

JiTT web pages fall into three major categories:
  • 1. Student assignments in preparation for the classroom activity: WarmUps and Puzzles.
  • 2. Enrichment pages. Short essays on practical, everyday applications of the course subject matter, peppered with URLs to interesting material on the web. These essays have proven themselves to be an important motivating factor in introductory service courses, where students often doubt the current relevance the subject.
  • 3. Stand alone instructional material, such as simulation programs and spreadsheet exercises.

QEP - Workshop Question for 9/15 - Critical Thinking

I encourge critical thinking skills in my writing assignments by asking students t make associations between the subject matter and their daily lives.  In fact, that is kind of the whole gist of my beta project in its very simple form.  I plan to link more resources and research tools to the Wiki as furthr develop the course as a hybrid, but the crux will always be just that... How does this subject work in and relate to your life?
I feel this involves a great deal of higher level thinking as I am making them view things from multple perspecitves, objectively and subjectively, and I am asking them to draw comparisons across cultural and historical lines and inevitably deaing with the ethical problems of doing so.
I think that the idea of "Appreciation" is critical in and of itself.  We are asking people to discern and discriminate. "I may not like that, but I appreciate its historical context or the work that went into it.  My projects are also designed to reflect traditional rhetorical models.  

PLENK2010 - Notes and Quotes Gleaned from Forums

This is the site, Digital Storytelling that goes into domain names ande web hosting:

Apps I need to look into:
Wordpress, youtube, twitter, flickr, StumbleUpon, skype,,, Elgg, SNAPP, Symbaloo, camtasia, Virtual Goods, Second Life

PDF Educause 7 things about PLEs:

Zaid Learn a list of free learning sites:

Creating an innovation-oriented technology strategy


Web 2.0 glossary

social network pedagogy article:

Balancing teacher control and student autonomy

“Learning just is the process of making something that is unfamiliar to oneself become familiar. It involves doing something that is not 'natural' and through reflective practice making it natural.

Imagine how useful it would be to be able to just do something mechanical - like, say, take notes - and then not only remember, but be able to create all kinds of new concepts and associations. The whole point about learning is not being satisfied with what is 'natural'.”  Stephen Downes

I also liked the quote about the power of the information designer in coming years.  It made me think of Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind.

ICT literacies:

cool mind map about everything to do with learning on line

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

PLENK2010 and the QEP

I fear that many of my students will have similar problems to the ones that I am having.  I never want my students to feel overwhelmed or left out.  I never want to spend half of my semester teaching students about concepts, applications, and theories dealing with technology rather than the subject matter of my course.  I never want a student to miss assignments due to technological glitches, and I hate being in a position where a student is lying to me about technological glitches.  Responses to my Wiki have been limited, and I don't think anyone from class or from the QEP committee actually reads this blog.  I hate that my online students or classroom students would ever feel this way, and I simply do not have the time to teach 85 individuals Art Appreciation and 50 majors their workshops.  I also think it is totally unacceptable to think that students should or can "generate their own content."

The plusses are that this will get students writing something, anything.  In the process of doing so, maybe they will think critically or take a look at what another student is writing.  In writing, maybe they will get better at it.  That's all.  I really don't have much faith in this revolution in learning.  Why are we making such a big deal out of it, anyway?  It's just some computer apps.  It doesn't magically change someone into a great thinker.  Best to keep it simple.  I am excited about that.  I am excited about the possibilities it presents educators and some students, but a lot of students who already are intimidated and overwhelmed by education are not magically going to feel otherwise because they are saddled with the burden of creating a complex assortment of apps.  I would rather spend time building a PLE than waxing philosophical about its educational purpose.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writing Assigment 3 - Compare Ancient or Pehistoric Culture with Our Own

For writing assignment three, I ask the students to write a comparison essay comparing some aspect of one of the ancient or prehisoric cultures from class discussions or the textbook and draw a comparison with some aspect of our contemporary culture.  The comparison should include specific objects or places mentioned in class discussions or the text.

Since I am studying online Personal Learning Environments while teaching this course, I have decided to draw from that experience.  I will compare the Lascaux cave paintings to Facebook.

The Lascaux cave paintings are similar to Facebook in a number of ways.  First it involves some type of social gathering or community. It is theorized that groups of people gathered in Lascaux for reasons that may have been religious, social, and/or political in nature.  To say the least, however, it was obviously communal.  Similarly Facebook is a gathering place.  We essentially create "tribes" of people to participate in communal activities that are reigious, social, and/or political in nature.  On Facebook, for instance, one creates a friend list based on common interests or common history. 

Also, a similarity could be drawn regarding communication.  What is the internet other than a huge virtual cave wall on which to leave ones marks and obtain information.  There is a well respected theory that the drawings in these caves were a shamanistic exercise, it is impossible to deny, though, that they were an expression or transmission of information, and that information was received or consumed by others.  I make the comparison to the internet as a whole, but specifically Facebook involves one putting images on a wall expressing information about one's daily life, likes, dislikes, and beliefs for others to consume, and there is an intent or a belief that that information will have an impact on others.

Now, certainly they differ reagring the "shamanistic exercise."  Shamanism is the belief that a shaman (a religious figure) has the ability to walk in two worlds, the real world and the spirit world.  Many now believe that the drawings represent an ability to capture the essence of the animals depicted in order to be strong, fast, cunning etc.  In shamanism, there is a transformation.  So, what does this have to do with Facebook?  I would argue that when we engage in a social site that we transform ouselves into a different persona.  Some people take this to etremes, of course, and actually pretend to be someone else.  Given that we control the content of our online identity, however, even those whom accurately represent their identities are precisely choosing to adopt characteristics that they see fit, just as the Paleolithic shaman would have adopted the characteristics of a bull or horse.

The obvious contrast that I will discuss involves digital and analog.  The cave painters (analog) actually touched those stone walls and scratched and drew with charlcoal and paint.  They felt the information that they transmitted, and that process also transmits information.   On Facebook (dgital), we type in a code that prompts a machne to simulate markmaking that signifies our intent.  It, in that repsect, is a very different experience.  Still, I don't think we are so different form those prehistoric humans.  We simply have more sophisticated tools.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Thoughts on the Definitions of Art and Design (and Craft)

In our class discussion, we talked about how art differs from design.  We also discussed a third idea, "craft."  Of course, all of these concepts are involved with one another and the lines between them blurred.
Distinguishing art, design, and craft can yield some interesting insights, however.

Some of the differences that we discussed are that the best designers design with an intent not to be noticed (with the exception of clothing maybe).  We generally don't see the designers "hand" in the work.  While the same could be said of fine artwork, most artists would tend to want to create something in which their personal style or vision is more evident.  For our purposes in Art Appreciation, that explanation will suffice.  Designers make things for mass conception.  Typically speaking, an artist makes an object for a limited population or even a single person.  In fact, part of fine art's value comes from its limited availability.  This still holds true despite several artists challenging these notions.  Finally, designers create something with an evolution in mind: even after the prototype and Beta testing which have comparable stages in fine art, the commercial product will have several iterations.  Again, the notion is being challenged by contemporary artists, but we never saw, for instance, a "Starry Night" 2.0 .

In a nutshell, fine art (or the Modern term, high art) perhaps favors form over function in that the enjoyment of form may be its primary function, is created for a limited audience, and is intended to be a solitary and completed object (even if part of a series).

When asked to discuss an object that they own and use frequently, the students objects generally fell into one of two categories with few exceptions:  Students discussed products that involved grooming and hygiene, and students overwhelmingly discussed objects that dealt with the transmission and consumption of information.  One commonality with all products discussed involved portability and transportation.  While this is indicative of the nomadic student lifestyle, this certainly has implications beyond college life.  I think an older person and/or more established person would be more likely to discuss a large, immobile object or a fine art object.  I wonder also about objects related to recreation.  What about golf clubs, tennis rackets, basketballs, hula hoops, horseshoes, etc.?

Finally, I thought again about how most of us buy the things we use.  Things are designed and manufactured by others.  Perhaps, "craft," when used to describe a category of objects has something to do with designing and making our own utilitarian items?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Product Design Assignment - Stratocaster

The second writing project in Art Appreciation asks the students to describe a product that they use frequently in their daily lives or a product that they particularly like.  They should ultimately discuss form and function and hopefully may use some of the design terms we are learning in class.

The object I have chosen is my Stratocaster.  It is not a full on U.S.A. Fender Strat (a valuable and sought after edition).  It is a Squier Stratocaster that was made in Japan.  Squier is a subsidiary of Fender that makes much less expensive guitars in similar model designs.  Because common lore suggests that the Japanese were making guitars better than their American parent company in the 80s (as with many things), some of these guitars are actually collectable.  I wish to talk about the design, however.

A man named Les Paul is credited with inventing the first solid body electric guitar, and the Gibson guitar brand has long produced the signature model Les Paul electric guitar.  Leo Fender designed the Stratocaster electric guitar.  It was initially a democratic design meant to be affordable and utilitarian in that it's standardized parts could be easily disassembled and replaced.  Leo Fender, however, also produced a visually elegant guitar that is light in weight and feels good to play.  This is probably why it was the choice of revolutionary guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.  It is still a frequent and popular choice among musicians today.

The thing I have noticed about the visual design of the slim body is that it is deceptively complex.  There are many subtle contours to its form, and the body is not at all symmetrical.  These attributes are not merely for visual affect, though.  The cut away (horn look) is lower on one side to allow the player to more freely move his or her hand to the higher part of the neck.  The subtle curvilinear contours in the body actually conform to the player's body whether the player is sitting or standing.

There are many aesthetic features of guitars that are particular to different brands and years.  For instance, a particular brand, model or edition may have specific tone and volume knobs, pick ups, fret boards, and lettering.  The famous Fender logo has been slightly altered over the years, but it's most famous version is the "spaghetti" lettering with the curvy, cursive letters.  The Squire logo on my guitar imitates this.  The fretboard on Fender guitars comes in maple (blonde) or rosewood (dark).  The maple fretboard (on the neck) is the traditional, signature look of a Fender guitar, but some players prefer rosewood.

A designer, crafter, and particularly a builder of stringed instruments like guitars is called a luthier, named for the lute, an ancient stringed instrument.  Building an instrument is a complicated, delicate, and precise operation.  For instance, a player creates a specific note on a guitar by manipulating the length of the strings by pressing at an exact location on the fretboard.  This means that in designing the form of a guitar, the designer must incorporate the function.  Each string must be a specific length and tension, and each fret must be spaced exactly.