Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Death of the Free Web?

I read an interesting article about the death of the free web.  Gone are the days of the wild, wild west so to speak.  The article from the New York Times magazine on Sunday  
was intriguing not only because of the subject, but also for the metaphor that the author Virginia Heffernan used comparing the current Internet to blighted, decaying cities such as Detroit and equating the shiny new apps of the iPhone and iPad as suburbia, where everything is cleaner, but the same.  I'm curious what others think about this. 

In the beginning the web was all about freedom and there was very much an almost anything goes mentality.  Some people responded with creativity while others freaked out with all that freedom, sounds kind of like a classroom full of high school students.  Some can handle freedom while others can't.  The web has become corrupt as those who are going to take advantage of people have found many avenues to do just that.  But censorship and controls aren't necessarily the answer.  Perhaps purchased apps and paid sites give some "safe" havens to people who don't want to be out in the great wide open web.

Apple certainly has taken a lead in the web-based world we live in.  Their design is strong and clean.  I think the "apple-designed look" of all those apps and the way the iPad and iPod look has not only influenced the web, but also graphic design.  There is a certain look and feel to the 2000s that is different from the 1990s.  Grunge and retro designs led by Emigre and David Carson were the rage back then.  This included surf culture, California styles and retro colors of brown, blues and beige and even orange.  Now we're seeing a similar look to everything based on the new web, which Apple has certainly led, but so has Twitter.  The colors, fonts and look of things are all coming not from print design, but web stuff.  I don't know if this is good or bad, but it's certainly happening. 

Going back to the metaphor in the article:  Are the new web based apps making design into this generic "suburbanized" look and feel?  Curious what you think.

Friday, May 21, 2010

AP ART Next Year: I Think We Will Blog Our Journey

I am thinking that I should have my students develop a blog here to track their own artistic development through the AP Art process.  I would love to be able to have students writing regularly and avoid all the endless piles of paper that I have to look at.  I am on the computer all the time and it would be easy for me to read their updates.  I also like the possibility that they could upload images and videos of their work.  I think using the blog in connection with Flickr for doing image slideshows would be sweet!  I may not use it for the entire school year, but I'm really likin' the idea to have them set up blogspot blogs to track their summer progress. 

I meet with my students on Monday and I know they'll be excited for their AP journey to begin.  My classes up to this point have been somewhat computer resistant, but I think with the students I have for next year they have all had some sort of computer course.  I already have a NING network for them and could use the blog feature there, but I sort of like the personalized approach of individual blogs.  I will have to be very clear about the parameters of what gets posted.  It is a journal of course but not about everything in their life.  I think weekly updates would be good.  It will also help me track their progress throughout summer.  I would have to do more grading and time in to read the posts, but AP already requires a lot of my time during the off season.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Final Thoughts; But Not The End of the Journey

I came into this class hoping I wouldn't be bored. I know that sounds sort of presumptuous, but I had a lot of experience and knowledge of many of the web 2.0 tools that we discussed. While the web tools were part of my kitchen drawer of junk, I wouldn't say they were organized in any fashion and they also weren't being used regularly.  This class forced me to go beyond the flickr, wiki, ning comfort zone and try other things.  I think the rediscovery of Twitter, Voicethread and blogging will be the 3 most useful things I learned along with a better understanding of RSS feeds and the way to follow them.  I want to TWEET, TWEET, TWEET and follow more people who can help me learn new things.  I think the fact that we have school accounts for Voicethread will be very powerful and exciting.  I didn't know we and the students did.  I will incorporate Voicethread even more.  I considered possibly using it as an exam tool for digital portfolios.  More to come on that.  The other part that I loved most about this class was the time to try things.  Because it was assigned I was more likely to carve time out to try and to explore and to experiment by building new ways to complete old concepts. 

Some of the challenges for the future will be to continue to carve out time and take risks as a teacher.  There are a lot of time constraints on us and each time you throw your class a curveball with learning to do something new it adds time onto the process of how to learn a concept.  I don't have any issues with student engagement in any of my digitally based classes.  It is rare that students are "goofing around" while surfing because there is a novelty to what it is they are being asked to do.  I keep changing it up adding new things to their web 2.0 repetoire including wikis, nings, voicethreads, animotos, moodle and more.  I wonder if they will still be engaged in 2 or 3 years when we're all teaching online, the mac lab is old and slow (sadly that day will come) and it is rote and ordinary to use the internet to learn.  It will again come down to teacher risk taking and reinventing the way that we hook the kids and get them to stay with us.  Curiosity and creativity will always be the driving force in education regardless of the tools we use to learn and develop our students.

Digital Story Telling One More From My Garden

I was having fun while showing students how to do a Voicethread. Here is one based on some of my garden images. Instead of uploading images from my computer I used the option to upload from my Flickr.com account. It was really easy since I already have my images saved into sets in Flickr. I like the way that so many of the web 2.0 tools are allowing for this seamless movement between each application.

Here it is!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How Would You Shape Teacher Education Programs?

I am passing this one forward.  I saw it on the teach paperless blog.  What a great idea...creating a  grad class for 21st century teachers.  You can visit the wiki that he's set up and join in the conversation.   

A 21C Education... for Teachers.

Here's the question: If you had the opportunity to create your own graduate program in education for 21st century teachers, what would it look like?

I've started a brainstorming wiki: http://21cedgrad.wikispaces.com/ and I'd love folks to contribute ideas. The wiki is open and may be edited by anybody, please share among friends and colleagues and don't be afraid to think way outside the box!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Self Promotion! Sorry But I'm Excited

I know this is just pure unbridled self promotion, but I really am psyched that I have work in an art show coming up soon. I shared the postcard with classmates during class, but I am also going to share the link as well. Stop by the reception on May 22nd if you want to see a really awesome art exhibit by Milwaukee Area Teachers of Art.

I am the web master and president elect for this fantastic group of artist educators. We exhibit as a group 2-3 times a year. The current Spring exhibit is in Milwaukee at the 100 East Wisconsin Building. Check it out if you're looking for something fun to do!  

If you can't make it to the opening reception the exhibit will be up through June 18th.  The lobby is open 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Digital Story Telling

I tend to wait until the last minute (day before class or day of!!) to do these posts because I feel like I need to think about things, play with them throughout the week and then decide what it is I want to say. I am also a typical artist, deadline driven and using every minute of the time I've been given with wet paint right up until the critique! I think of all the things we've learned so far in this class digital storytelling could be the most powerful and meaningful for students to learn and use properly.

Our human society is based on the ancient ability to tell stories. The circle of people around the fire imagining images as they flickered across cave walls is not so ancient if you look around a theatre some weekend while the film and video images reflect off the rapt faces of the 21st century patrons. It is basically the same thing- a good story. The difference is that films have a director and cinematographer and many others to help tell the story. Musical scores and more cause us to feel a certain way, to emulate with the protagonist or to despise their every move. Cavepainting was the first form of visual story telling with oral language and images coming together in crude form. Flash forward to Thomas Edison in the late 1900s and his invention of the moving picture and there a whole new way of telling stories was born. Kodak gave us the super 8 movie camera and allowed people to make movies at home. Stories for the masses...our stories.

Now in the 21st Century anyone can make a movie using the wealth of web 2.0 free digital storytelling sites or some of the fancier more expensive varieties available on a Mac or PC computer. These tools have one thing in common: they make story telling via moving pictures available to everyone. This is powerful stuff.

I am planning to use this information in many of my classes. The project I'll be presenting later will involve a Voicethread and I believe so strongly in the idea of digital storytelling that I've made my exam for all of the tech-based classes I teach a form of this. It is a REAL authentic form of assessment and provides students with skills that will travel with them and take them far.

Our goal as educators is to help our students find their VOICE and join the larger society of humans. By being able to help that voice include images we are empowering kids with an amazing repertoire of tools for the future.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Digital Story Telling in 3D!

Since we were just talking about digital story telling in class I thought this site sounded pretty cool. I have always been a huge fan of pop up books. I love the way they allow for the reader to interact with the story in a low tech, artistic way. I was checking out the http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ and found this link to Zooburst.  It "is a digital storytelling tool that is designed to let anyone easily create their own customized 3D pop-up books. Click on some of the pictures below to check out books created by members of the ZooBurst community."  It was fun to look at the books that members created.  To set up my own account I have to wait for approval by the site.  They accept new members on a rolling basis, so I'll keep you posted when I hear more.  There is also a blog that gives more information about zooburst.  I hope I'm approved!! 

Video Freebies From the Web

Here's the Animoto test video that I made of a few of my students' paintings.

Here is a link to a Voicethread I created last year to document a mural project and partnership that the PHS Art Club participated in.

Here is the voicethread I just created tonight with some images from my flickr Tile A Mile Collection.

Twelve Essentials For Technology Integration

In reading the article "Twelve Essentials For Technology Integration" I was struck by several things. Coming from an art and graphic communications background I am excited by the "design for the masses" web that we are experiencing and learning about, but I am also alarmed and concerned.
  1. Are the generic web templates, animoto-ish movies and voicethreads destroying the sanctity of high quality graphic design.  If everyone can do it themselves then why would they hire a graphic designer?
  2. Is this the end to high quality, unique web design?  Will all design be this generic web 2.0 for the masses look and feel? 
  3. Is this the McDonald's-ization of Design?
  4. Will companies like Adobe, who earn their money making expensive products to create web design and edit imagery and video survive in an atmosphere of free-design-for-everyone?
  5. Will free design and image editing make the masses better consumers of high quality design? 
  6. What I've taught all along is suddenly of value to the masses. As an art educator my knowledge of design principles is important in teaching students how to decipher and communicate visually, so why are so many visual arts jobs being cut around the country?    
 Ok before this post goes off the deep end...let me just say I have been pondering this a lot, visual communication is what I teach after all.  

I decided to experiment with what's out there.  I have already used a number of the highlighted 12 included:  Google docs, Zoho Show, Animoto, Wikispaces, Voicethread and Schooltube.  So I wanted to try something new.  I decided to go with drop.io.  I have never tried it before and the ability to link to files out on the web that might normally be too, large to embed into moodle or email was appealing.  I have had special needs students whose IEP requires that I share my Powerpoints with them, but to do this via email or moodle is way too, big and requires far too, much time on my part to compress and convert.  So drop.io allows you to drop any file, image, video up to 100mb and share the link with anyone.  This is cool as it allows me to give students access to presentations from home or in other classrooms.  The issue of viewing my Powerpoint as my creative property and putting them out there on the web for all to see and stumble upon and use is a discussion for another post! ;)  You can subscribe to the drops as RSS feeds or download them to iTunes if they are video or audio content.  My powerpoint as a file didn't work in iTunes, but if I'd saved as a movie file it would've.  This is cool since it would allow students to view it on their ipods.  If I had more time I'd experiment with this, but I'm in the middle of AP Exam crunch time with kids!  Here is the link on my drop.io for the powerpoint on abstract realism.

The second site I tried is one of the do it yourself web design ones called weebly.  It features the ability to easily design a website for yourself and have it posted and uploaded immediately.  You need very little knowledge of design or html to be able to successfully do this.   (sort of disturbing to someone who has an advanced degree in graphic communications and design!!!)  I've already tried Yola and so Weebly sounded similar.  I created a onepage website that is really more like a blog since it doesn't have anything but a journalistic post and an image, but it could grow into something.  I am actually thinking I might make it my official artistic site with links to my images and purchasing info.  It was really easy and intuitive to use this site and the templates were customizable.  I didn't experiment with everything that was there, but I'd like to.  Knowledge of Adobe products like Photoshop and Illustrator can help one create better looking images and graphics to add to the template, taking it to truly unique, although the layout is still somebody else's design, not mine. (yes that bugs me!)This may become my project for the rest of class.  I've always wanted a professional artistic website with my images posted and contact and purchase information.  I'd also love to list exhibits I am in and maybe someday if I teach adult classes, include a schedule of these.  Again using software like Dreamweaver allows you to start from scratch and create whatever you want, but if you're willing to accept someone else's basic template you can be up and running in more time than it takes to sign up for a Dreamweaver class!

I am still pondering a lot of the questions I posed at the beginning of this post.  It is a philosophical discussion to be had over the next few years as the Internet evolves and dictates the visual communications needs of generations to come.