CEP811: Maker Experiment #3

This week I am reflecting on my experiences in my CEP811 class and the Maker culture. The emphasis on Maker culture fascinates me because I teach in a discipline that is and has always been about making. Art and specifically graphic design involves creating or making whether for personal pursuits or for clients. My students create almost every week in the class. I have struggled a little with making my Graphic Design Survey class more interactive than a traditional art history type class. This course has provided some thoughts about how to better incorporate making into this course that really doesn’t lend itself well to interactive activities. I chose the Makey Makey kit because I saw several artistic experiments on the site and felt it could be a good tool for use in my classroom. I still see the potential and plan to spend my break exploring it further beyond my past experiments. Additionally, I did try a few new things this semester including having the students create animations using GoAnimate based on researching art movements discussed in class. Some were successful and others were not. In general, the students respond better and learn better when actively creating as opposed to just sitting and listening.

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Example of Maker Culture in my Classroom – This week in class my students created a design for a letter that they then carved into a linoleum block. They were then able to print the design using a letterpress.

Design is also based around on the creativity and problem solving Paul Gee believes is key to the next incarnation of education. (Gee) Students are given problems for assignments where they must work through a process to solve. We do not provide step-by-step instructions. Student must come up with their own original solutions and often these solutions involve problem solving such as answering a “How do I ….” question. My education was also oriented around this same methodology and I think it makes me better at problem solving and approaching new and unfamiliar situations. I can quickly make a plan to attack the problem and find the resources I need to solve it. It has also taught me not to view a solution not working as failure, but as a chance to grow. This skill serves me well both as a professional designer and as a teacher. I was able to my problem solving skills to work in class by finding a topic to unite my group of seemingly unrelated teaching disciplines. Art educators take great pleasure in this new focus on creativity because we have been advocating the importance of the arts and their role in developing these very skills for decades (should be STEAM instead of just STEM). The arts lead the way in developing creative problem solvers.

Grant Wiggins talks about how educators shy away from assessing creative thought. (Wiggins) I will admit it can be a challenge. It is difficult to explain to a student that an idea that them deem original may be an obvious solution to the problem or done before. This is why it is important for them to start reading about both past and present artists and designers just like CEP811 and the MAET program encourage us to further expose ourselves to past new ideas about teaching, education, and the use of technology. I try to show students examples of work similar to their solutions to provide support to my critique as well as point them towards artists and designers who push the boundaries. Creative thought can also be assessed on the outcome of it. Did it succeed? Was a problem fixed in a new or more efficient manner? How effective is the solution? There is a whole range of ways to evaluate creativity routed in objectivity. I use rubrics with my students like Wiggins advocates for in his blog. (Wiggins) They better assist students in understanding why they got a specific grade and on how they can improve than the typical “Good Job” or “Needs Work” comments I got in my undergraduate education (and they speed up grading). They provide specific, actionable feedback. Parts of the rubric focus on following directions, which is important in design, and parts are focused on the more subject part of creativity and execution. Great ideas also needs follow through. I tend to value the same thorough feedback on my own work. I want to be pushed to improve even when awarded a high grade.

While some of the material was review, the readings for the course provided confirmation of my own believes from a pedagogical standpoint and also often got me to think in new ways. Overall, the MAET courses continue to provide support for my beliefs and challenge me to push even further.

References
Gee, J. P. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games . YouTube. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JU3pwCD-ey0

Wiggens, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. Granted, and… ~ thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/

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CEP811: Maker Experiment #2 – Universal Design

This week the focus of our efforts was to explore UDL, Universal Design for Learning. Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn (http://www.cast.org/udl/). This is important in the classroom because educators want all students to be successful no matter what physical or learning disabilities they may have. The goal for this week was to revamp my Maker Experiment #1 to meet the guidelines provided for UDL (View guidelines here: https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home).

I have the advantage that the college I teach at has a whole department devoted to disabilities. The disabilities services department provides any resources that students may need in the classroom or at home. They also facilitate communication with instructors so that the instructor knows the specific challenges a student may have and what resources the student needs. In the case of deaf students, ASL interpreters are provided for deaf students in the classroom.

I currently make all lecture materials available to my students in audio format, written format, and provide images or examples. The written format is pdf, which is accessible for text readers (Find out more: http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf). This allows all students to have their choice of method to view the information. Additionally, students are provided with a weekly reading sheet each week that focuses on what vocabulary, people, and other highlights are important for the week. I would add an electronic resource that would include written definitions of important terminology along with images and audio files to support all learning styles.

In general, I believe the activity I designed meets most of the UDL guidelines. However, I would make some key adjustments to better facilitate learner success.

  1. Add more explanation of the Makey Makey including hands on demonstration in class and showing a completed project from start to finish.
  2. Break the project into four stages: initial concept, planning, production, and final presentation. This will help make the task more manageable and allow them to have smaller success along the way. It also allows for more self-regulation.

The activity itself was flexible enough to allow customization for each group’s individual skills and abilities and was designed to be hands on. By working in groups chosen by student interests and skill levels, the students have the ability to choose a solution that interests them and perform the tasks they excel at while having group members to perform the tasks they may not enjoy or excel at. Students will receive feedback from myself along the way as well as assistance at the level and frequency each individual group needs.

Reflection
The biggest change to the activity was to add additional resources at the beginning of the activity to better introduce the Makey Makey in order to increase student success. The activity itself was already flexible enough to tailor it to individual students and groups based on their interests and skill sets. Design assignments are generally open enough for students to tailor to their own perspective. I encourage students to pursue solutions that interest them. However, we do discuss the role of clients and having to work within constraints.

Overall, the exploration of UDL has triggered some thoughts on how to better work with the students that are extreme outliers on the low skill set end. The high performers were always easy for me to work with, but the other extreme pose quite a challenge. I identify better with the high performers than the other so I am better able to adjust for them. It was good to see that many of the tools I use with my students by providing multiple ways to get the material are actually beneficial from a pedagogical standpoint. Unlike many others in my class, I do not have the same pedagogical training. I do follow my instincts and actively seek feedback from students to help improve my classes. I evaluate what is working and what isn’t. It also helps that I have department on campus to support me when dealing with students with disabilities. I look forward to putting this to work in the future.

References
“CAST: Universal Design for Learning.” CAST: About UDL. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cast.org/udl/>.

“UDL guidelines examples.” UDL guidelines examples. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <https://sites.google.com/site/udlguidelinesexamples/home>.

“Using the Acrobat XI Pro Accessiblity Checker.” Adobe.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. <http://wwwimages.adobe.com/www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/accessibility/products/acrobat/pdfs/acrobat-xi-accessibility-checker.pdf>.

CEP811: Reimaging my Classroom for the 21st Century

This week we explored the possibilities for creating a 21st century classroom. Teachers across the country are rethinking how the spaces students learn in impact the process of learning and developing solution to address these changing needs. The classroom I chose to reimagine is the main graphics classroom in our building. The room serves many purposes from allowing traditional hands on learning experiences and creation, serves as a place to lecture, a computer lab, a place to conduct critiques of student work, and a open lab for students to work in when class is not in session. The other challenge is that 3 to 5 faculty members and the lab assistants share the classroom each semester. Each faculty member has their own needs from the classroom which means the room needs to be flexible. I also had to consider the fact that some equipment simply could not be moved to another location, like the screen-printing press in the corner. There are a few rooms off this room that serve as storage and one will serve as a washout sink for screen-printing shortly. There are two other classrooms used but this one is used the most.

Photos of Current Classroom

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IMG_0656 IMG_0665 IMG_0655 IMG_0654  IMG_0658 IMG_0657In past weeks, I have talked about the fact that most graphics classes follow the learning theories of Constructivism and Experiential Learning. Students are given a problem and some foundational knowledge, but it is up to the student the find his or her own path to his or her own individual solution. The instructor and the classmates offer feedback along the way. My goal with the redesign was to facilitate the exploration process, to allow the students to have access to anything they might need to create their solutions. I also wanted to ensure the room was flexible enough to allow each faculty member to configure the room as they may need. The biggest issues with the room are the lack of storage and efficient layout. The instructor can’t see what the students are doing while demoing. There is not enough room for critique without laying all over the computers. There are two rows of desks that do little and offer little to the students. The equipment the students need like the Xyron machine, the button maker, the screen-printing equipment, cutting mats, book making equipment and everything else are scattered all over the room where ever they can fit. Bulky flat files and cabinets are also scattered throughout. Basically, there is a lot of stuff that works, but could work so much better.

My first goal was to set up zones in the classroom based on the main usage. At the very end of the room, I allowed for more room to conduct critiques. I also added these touch screens for looking at student work that Adobe is developing called Project Context (http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2013/a-year-before-the-max-keynote-envisioning-the-context-project/). These screens would eliminate the need to print things out all the time and allow for more productive critiques. I also reoriented the classroom to face that wall and put the instructor behind the students so that the instructor can see what is going on. The instructor has easy access to the front of the room and the whiteboards while going over material. The instructor station could also be used to run the third touch screen on the wall in the work area. I put all the printers and scanners along one wall with storage and corkboards for those wishing to pin work for critique. I eliminated all but the portable light tables because they can be moved to where ever they are needed. The main workspace features moveable tables with storage underneath and stools that can be reconfigured as needed. The very end of the room features tables for cutting, a variety of storage solutions, the smaller equipment like the Xyron machines, and the screen-printing equipment. The tables here are also moveable and feature cutting mats on top. I think this new layout opens up the space and allows for the flexibility for each instructor to meet the needs of their class. I tried to reuse as much as possible to reduce budget issues that may prevent this becoming a reality. This would most likely be done in stages and much of the new storage and tables could be built on site in the woodshop.

Proposed Classroom in Sketch-Up (All items at actual size)

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classroom_workstation2 classroom_workstation classroom_work_area3 classroom_work_area2 classroom_work_area classroom_whiteboardclassroom_critiqueclassroom__computer_stations References

“A Year Before the MAX Keynote — Envisioning the Context Project.” Adobe.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://tv.adobe.com/watch/max-2013/a-year-before-the-max-keynote-envisioning-the-context-project/>.

Architects, OWP/P , Bruce Mau Design, and VS Furniture. The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching and learning. New York: Abrams, 2010. Print.

Bill, David. “8 Tips and Tricks to Redesign Your Classroom.” Edutopia. N.p., 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-tips-redesign-your-classroom-david-bill>.

Kahl, Melanie. “4 Lessons the Classroom Can Learn from the Design Studio.” The Creativity Post. N.p., 9 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://www.creativitypost.com/education/4_lessons_the_classroom_can_learn_from_>.

Kahl, Melanie. “Remake Your Class: 6 Steps to Get Started.” Edutopia. N.p., 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://http://www.edutopia.org/blog/steps-to-redesign-your-classroom-melanie-kahl>.

“Remake Your Class – The Third Teacher +.” The Third Teacher +. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013. <http://thethirdteacherplus.com/remake-class>.

 

CEP811: Maker Kit Experiment #1

For this week, we were tasked with exploring our chosen maker kits further. Then, we were supposed to connect it with both pedagogy and make use of it in an actual lesson plan for our classroom. My chosen kit was the Makey Makey because of some of the art related experiments I saw on their website. The Makey Makey is basically a circuit board that can be connected to your computer and that you can connect it to other objects like bananas. It can be used like a controller or programmed to do more creative things like use bananas to make a piano. (Find out more at http://www.makeymakey.com/) The Makey Makey seems like the perfect tool to teach students about experimentation in art using programming and other technological devices.

Art and design classes are typically centered on learning theories like Experiential Learning and Constructivism. Experiential Learning, developed by C. Rogers, tends to be self-driven and self-motivated allowing users to make better connects to the material and its value (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html). Constructivism, developed by Jerome Bruner, also involves user centered learning motivated by the specific student’s interests and encourages explorations of a hypothesis actively gain knowledge (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html). Both methods encourage exploration, evaluation, and essentially involve problem solving in some form. Design has always focused around problem solving. A typical assignment or activity involves the student being presented with some base knowledge to frame a problem and then using a given problem statement, like create a logo or develop a social campaign, that they solve individually in some manner. Even when given very limited and specific criteria, solutions tend to vary widely as students employ their own perspectives and backgrounds in their problem solving. These methodologies also allow for far more student centered learning where each student guides their own understanding of the material.

I teach a Graphic Design Survey course that is similar to an art history course. I find they learn little from straight lecture and continue to find ways to put what were are talking about to hands on use. Most of my students do better with the hands on activities over rote memorization and lecture. I believe the Makey Makey can assist with this task when talking about experiments in art and design that cross over and make use technology and programming. I end the semester with a two week exploration of contemporary design and the boundaries being pushed as a result of technological advances. In some cases, it seems like an obvious connection like using html to create websites or computer software to do what used to be done by hand. However, in others, the lines of between art and technology get blurred. One person in particular I like to cite is John Maeda who started as more of a scientist and programmer and now is President of Rhode Island School of Design. His work shows the possibility that exists between blending art and programming (View Work). There are a number of people who have come after him, but he really pioneered this blending of discipline.

After discussing artists/makers like John Maeda, I would then present the students with Makey Makey kits and explain the basics of how to use them as well as guide them to some electronic resources to aid in their projects. After assigning them to groups, I would task them with the open ended problem of combining the Makey Makey with their own art in some meaningful manner. I would provide the below examples of others making use of the Makey Makey  in a similar fashion to give them a jumping off point for the possibilities. The students would then have to use problem solving within the constructs of Experiential Learning and Constructivism to explore the kit itself to figure out what they could create and would want to create. The experience would demonstrate the process of experimentation that the other artists and designers explored while also helping them to connect with the material on a meaningful and personal level thereby increasing the likelihood of mastery of the material (Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. & Cocking).

Makey Makey Artistic Experiments for Reference

≡ A MACHINES SKETCHBOOK ≡ from Philippe Dubost on Vimeo.
This installation allows you to control drawings of machines that generate words and poetry under your eyes. Technology: vvvv.org, makey makey, projection, hand drawings
Done within the Moment Factory LABS (http://www.momentfactory.com/)

Makey! Makey! from Wolff Olins on Vimeo.
It’s a simple piece of electronics based on an Arduino Leonardo micro controller that lets people from all ages explore new ways to interact with computers. We thought it’d be neat to toy around with the idea of an interactive poster, and Jody has just created a lovely one for the do the green thing campaign. Borrowing a bit of tin foil from the kitchen and a projector, the idea here is that a print based poster gets layered with a video graphic. By touching the poster, you control which movie is playing.

makey makey – fonk and cats 1920×1080 from FONK on Vimeo.

References
Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.), How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (pp. 3-27). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

“Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner).” Constructivist Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html>.

“Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers).” Experiential Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/experiental-learning.html>.

Maeda, John. “Selected Works by John Maeda.” MAEDASTUDIO. N.p., 16 July 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://www.maedastudio.com/index.php>.

CEP811: Thrifting – Creating a Quiz Buzzer System

This week we were tasked with visiting a thrift store whether virtually or physically to come up with ideas for re-purposing materials. This is something I’ve done for most of my life. Artists are masters of re-purposing whether it’s using old jars as paint containers or finding a tackle box to store art supplies. It’s a great way to save money and to reuse materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill. At first I was a little perplexed because I teach adults not children, so it didn’t seem like there were as many possibilities to do this. However, the perfect answer came to me when I was thinking about playing Jeopardy to review for exam. I have done this in the past, but fighting always ensues when relying on my judgment to see who raised their hand first to answer. I saw a system of lighted buttons that locks out after the first one was hit. It was perfect, but cost $250 for the system. As usual, necessity (and cheapness) is the mother of invention.

After a little bit of play, I realized the Makey Makey kit would be the perfect tool for creating a buzzer system. I went in search of possible ways to do this online. No one had directions for using the Makey Makey, but I did find a variety of directions for other homemade buzzers. I wanted to figure out what might work for buzzers and what I else I might need before shopping. I typically approach projects in this manner. I figure out what I might want and what might work and then hit the store. I have more success when I have a better idea of what’s needed. Luckily, I found some Staples Easy Buttons at a thrift store. There were a number of them, but I only needed three. It seemed a little serendipitous, but I’ll just be thankful that no one else was interested in them. Based on my explorations, my other idea was plastic bowls. The remainder of the items were gathered from Radio Shack as I did not locate them during my shopping trip. I figured that would most likely be the case. If I wasn’t using the Makey Makey, I would have looked for a USB keyboard to use for the processing. I found several sites that mentioned that was an option.

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At this point, I went to talk an electronics instructor that I know to make sense of the electronics part it. I am not an expert on the electronics. I understand the programming part, but needed a better idea of how the electronics worked to reconfigure it to the materials I wanted to use. I showed him some of the examples I found and he drew out the below diagrams to explain how it worked. This helped me better understand some the flaws in my initial thinking and to work out how everything needed to be wired to each other. I’m at the point where I’m ready to start creating the physical parts, but need a little more time with the programming. I would like to have the ability to use this soon with my class.

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Electrical Wiring Drawing courtesy of Terry Taebel

Materials
3 Staples Easy Buttons
Red LEDs
LED Holders
Project Box
2 conductor wire
Drill
Glue Gun
May need a soldering iron w/solder
Arduino Software

IMG_0604

Directions

  1. Remove the pads on the backs of the Staples Easy Buttons to get access to the screws. Unscrew the screws to expose the wiring of the buttons. I can disable at the sound at this point either by removing the connecting wire or simply remove the batteries. The batteries are unnecessary for making this work. I will also need to drill a hole for the alligator clip to run to the button when the button is reassembled.
  2. I then need to connect the buttons to the Makey Makey via the alligator clips included in the kit. When the button is pressed, it should generate a feed to the program written for the Makey Makey to process the information.
  3. The Makey Makey then needs to be connected to the LED that will light up indicating which buzzer rang in first. (I realize this step may be unnecessary as I may be able to program it to just put a message on screen, but I think the light may be more beneficial with students.
  4. The LEDS than need to be secured inside the project box. I will start by drilling three hole the LEDs in the top of the box. I will feed a LED holder into the whole. Then, I will place the LED inside. I will need to also make a hole in the side to feed the wires back to the Makey Makey. It was suggested that glue be used to secure the items in the box.
  5. Write the program for the Makey Makey. You will need to download the software posted here: https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/388. This software will give you an editing window to reprogram your Makey Makey for a new purpose. The site also breaks down the basics of working with the console. It will be helpful to have some understanding of programming for this step.
  6. Continue testing your program as you go until the pressing one of the buttons causes the corresponding light to light up and locks out the others.
  7. Test out in class and enjoy the fun.

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At this point, I’m still testing the specifics. The electronics instructor thought I was crazy to try to get it done in a weekend and it looks like he may be right. I will update with more specific instructions once it is completely worked out. I think this would be a great tool for teachers of all grade levels. In my past experience, Jeopardy is a great tool for reviewing for an exam. My hope is this project can help others teachers implement this into the classroom and eliminate disputes about who “rang” in first while still being affordable. Right now, the project is costing my under a $100, but I would like to reduce the price further.

Resources
Arduino – Learn the basics. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage>.

“Cee’z Blog.” RSS 20. N.p., 25 Sept. 2008. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://my.opera.com/ceez/blog/buzzerlockout>.

Chrétien, Philippe. “public pchretien / quiz.”GitHub. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <https://github.com/pchretien/quiz>.

“Electronic Games.” Game Circuits. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.techlib.com/electronics/games.html>.

“Game Show Buzzer System.” uosuıqoɹ ɯoʇ / projects / easybutton / buzzer.php. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://tlrobinson.net/projects/easybutton/buzzer.php>.

Hoover, Dan. “DIY Game Show Buzzer System.” DIY Game Show Buzzer System. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://http://danhoover.net/dh/index.php/diy-stuff/diy-game-show-buzzer/21>.

“MaKey MaKey Quickstart Guide (Part 2) – SparkFun Electronics.” MaKey MaKey Quickstart Guide (Part 2) – SparkFun Electronics. N.p., 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/388>.

“Quiz Show Buzzer System using Staples Easy Button.” Instructables.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.instructables.com/id/Quiz-Show-Buzzer-System-using-Staples-Easy-Button/>.

“Quizshow buttons on the cheap – Intro.” Quizshow buttons on the cheap – Intro. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://hackadayhttp://spritesmods.com/?art=quizbtn&f=tw>.

Robinson, Mark. “How to Create a Lockout Buzzer System | eHow.” eHow. Demand Media, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://www.ehow.com/how_12112065_create-lockout-buzzer-system.html>.

Szczys, Mike. “Building a Quiz-show style buzzer system.” Hack a Day. N.p., 1 June 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://hackaday.com/2012/06/01/building-a-quiz-show-style-buzzer-system/>.

“basbrun.com.” basbruncom. N.p., 30 May 2012. Web. 3 Nov. 2013. <http://basbrun.com/2012/05/30/quiz-buzzer-system/>.

CEP810: Final Reflection

As the course comes to an end, our instructor asked us to reflect on the course and what we learned. I have to admit it’s been quite a journey since September. I started the program with a general idea of what to expect, but it has been so much more. In some cases, the program forced me to get outside my comfort zone. In others, it simply pushed me to think beyond the obvious. Finally, perhaps the biggest benefit to me, I was exposed to a whole new world of thinking about teaching using technology. The course definitely expanded my horizons as promised.

Like so many people, I have a bad habit of wanting to stay in my comfort zone. I have no good explanation for why because past experience has taught me that the most rewarding things tend to lie outside of it. This class forced me to do things I did not consider beneficial in the past. I lead a very busy life and tend to resist anything I don’t directly see the benefit in. The course forced me to start blogging and to join Twitter. I have considered blogging before, but never found the motivation to follow through with it. I’m happy to report that I enjoy the process and might consider incorporating it in my classroom in the future. I was also reluctant to join Twitter because I felt like it was just one more time suck to my day and offered little in terms of value. However, after being forced to join, I must say I kind of love it. I am able to follow designers and educators that I admire. I am exposed to even more information that I would not otherwise come in contact with including numerous articles that I turn around and share with my students. I must say that I am a convert. Twitter helps me expand my PLN in ways I never thought possible by shortening the distance between me and the people I’m most interested in learning from. It really helps eliminate the barriers that prevented access to leaders in the field. I can now see exactly what they think and are interested in on a daily basis. It’s an excellent tool for growing your PLN beyond the network of people in your geographic region. I am again glad to say that leaving my comfort zone was for the best.

The course also focused on the use of technology in the classroom. I must say that I originally felt this part would be more like review for me. I teach a subject that mandates the use of technology, graphic design. I have been hooked on computers since my father first exposed me to programming at eight (monumental at the time). I spend most of my day tied to technology in some form. However, the course really forced me to think more about how the technology was used. Typically, technology is used just because it is available and sometimes as a matter of convenience. I really didn’t think about the why or how it could encourage student learning in a more meaningful way. Now, I am looking not just for new technology to use, but also evaluating on a deeper level the why and the how. I think more about how it contributes to what I want them to gain a deeper understanding of. Some of my experiments with it have proved successful; others may need to be rethought. The course inspired me to challenge how I approach technology and how to use it as a more effective teaching tool.

Finally, the course exposed me to new learning theories and other new approaches to the topic. I’ve explored several more traditional theories about learning in my quest to be a better instructor. However, this course often challenged the very notion of what learning meant and how learning occurs in the advent off technology. I have pondered the massive changes at the hands of technology. In fact, I even lecture on it in terms of how it impacted graphic design as a discipline. I also realized from my own classroom that students push the boundaries of traditional education. As instructors, we too often view it from a negative light as we view it more in terms of enabling cheating and lowering the bar for academic standards. However, the material in this course really pushed me towards further embracing a radical change in looking at education. TPACK forced me to consider what role technology plays in the classroom including exactly what defined technology. Dr. Mishra’s Keynote address highlighted that even a simple pen and paper can be technology depending on how it is used (view lecture here). The chapters from “How People Learn” introduced concepts about how race and other culture factors impact not just the learners but also instructor’s perceptions of the learners. It is a topic I now want to explore further as I teach a population with a very different background than my own. Furthermore, reading work by Will Richardson, Mizuko Ito, and James Paul Gee challenged deeply held ideas about defining the educational system and how it would work into the 21st century. Overall, the material helped challenge and define my views of technology in the classroom and the future of education.

To conclude, the course meets to goal of expanding my thinking about technology in the classroom and helped reassure me that I’m on the right path for the future. It helped me grow personally and professionally as well as expand the dialogue about technology’s role in education. I am excited to see what is to come as I travel down this new path.

CEP810: Final Networked Learning Project Blog and Video

For my class Networked Learning Project, I had to learn something by using only YouTube and help forums. After consulting friends and family on Facebook, I chose to learn to play the guitar. More specifically, I planned to learn how to play “1, 2, 3, 4” by the Plain White Tees on the guitar. I purposely chose something out of my normal field of interest. I have no musical background and I am deaf in one ear, which makes anything sound based difficult. I wanted to use this task to give me a better idea what students feel like when they are trying to learn something that they too may not be able to connect to their existing knowledge. My hope was that I could use the project to also explore the frustrations of a new learner, something we often lose touch with once we are experts.

I encountered a number of difficulties along the way. I was able to use help forums and YouTube to fix most of them. I did require an app in order to tune the guitar as I was unable to do so just by listening. Help forums provided a solution to my problems with finger pain and with stretching exercises to help improve my ability to play chords. However, learning tabs, the format guitar music is written in, proved elusive to me. I tried several videos on YouTube and at least a dozen help forum sites before researching what other tools might be available to assist with the task. I ended up downloading an app called “Guitar for Dummies” to try to assist with the task. The diagrams and animated fret board proved to be far more useful in learning tabs. With the YouTube videos, I couldn’t see exactly where they were placing their fingers in most cases. The help forums typically did not have images to accompany their written descriptions. The app brought both together and I finally started to make progress.

I started the process of learning to play guitar by learning scales and basic chords. For me, it seemed important to learn the basics first before trying to learn the song. I looked at a few videos of people teaching the song, which further emphasized the necessity with starting at the beginning. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying or doing. I found a series on the Howcast channel that offered quality videos and broke the learning process into nineteen simple steps. (View the first video here) In general, they provided quality instruction on the basics. However, as the series progressed, I found it harder and harder to follow along. I definitely was not following tabs and it seemed like he started with the hardest possible chords. I grew frustrated with my lack of progress. I tried several other videos with no luck in making a break through to understanding the concepts. I downloaded the “Guitar for Dummies” app and finally started to understand. The interactive features seemed to help me with the learning process.

Unfortunately, I did not accomplish my initial goal. I tried very hard to make progress towards it, but just couldn’t get to that point in the six weeks. I also think it may have been an unrealistic goal. I talked to the guitar teacher at the college and she told me it is one of the hardest instruments to learn for some of the very reasons I encountered during my efforts. I have to say I felt a lot better after hearing that. I was able to play the beginning of “Silent Night” which you can see on the video. I’m still having issues switching between chords, but at least it resembles a song.

I don’t think YouTube and help forums are the ideal way to learn guitar. I think working with an instructor and getting feedback would be far more beneficial to the learning process. The instructor could offer tips to help with finger placement and could tell me whether or not I played a note correctly. I think there are things that both YouTube and help forums can assist with learning. I know eHow comes in handy every time I spill something. I also find help forums beneficial when I have specific question like “how do I set up the drivers for a networked printer”. However, I think this is a case where feedback is important to success and you can’t get that from watching a video or reading a post. My past experience with YouTube supports this. Students often find tutorials on YouTube and become frustrated when they can’t follow. The tutorials are often missing steps or have unclear instructions. I do use videos covering basic topics that are beneficial.  I use them as additional support to the classroom instruction. However, as with learning guitar, feedback can be far more beneficial than struggling to try to find answers. I think the success of this method depends both on the person learning and what the person is learning. Certain activities can be learned successfully this way as demonstrated by my classmates. Others really require more interactive or instructor led teaching methods for success. Likewise, some learners may be able to interpret what they see and find to learn while others may not be able to do so. Successful learning needs to be tailored to the learner and the task.