Fergus1s’s Weblog
I hope this blog is somewhat educational.

Mar
31

My best friend and I took a trip out to BC last year and drove. It was quite the experience. Having not been in cramped quarters with one person exclusively certainly was something new for me. Along the way, I learned about western Canadian wildlife, fed deer, swam in the lake, walked on beaches and camped in tents, instead of hotelling it. Neither one of us had a ton of money but we survived! I got a chance to visit my father in Victoria, and of course had the trademark BC ferries clam chowder. It was awesome. So here is a map of where we went. Its pretty basic, but you get the idea. If you get the chance, DO visit Waterton National Park…its one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and I fully intend on going back someday.

http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid

Mar
30

still getting caught up here…I put together a pictoral summary of myself via powerpoint, then downloaded it to slideshare. Here it is:

Mar
26

One aspect of being a student is always having to contend with the fact that you are broke. Which means you usually have to contend with a part time job. I work with cell phones. And even though I do not get nearly enough time to explain how much I enjoy technological aesthetics, I decided one day to try and think of all of the devices that I have played around with over the past while that I find quite revolutionary.

When I am not teaching, I do have a part time job working for a local cell phone company. I have troubleshot cell phones for the past 4 years of my life. Full time before I came back to school, and part time now that I am back in the saddle…working with cell phones has certainly helped me to overcome any phobias having to do with technology. I have also watched cell phones develop over the years, having worked for AT&T before I went local. Troubleshooting these devices used to be a nightmare. You would end up with some poor innocent senior citizen at the other end of the line who had no idea how to even turn the darned thing off…and the instructions involved for simple tasks like restoring factory settings on a phone, or browsing were ridiculous. Now, phones are becoming increasingly easier to use…and more common. I would say that most of the students I address on a day to day basis have cell phones. I usually have to tell at least one student to put their phone away per day…

Phones have become browsers and mp3 players as well. They also, because they are so power packed, can drain a battery very quickly. So in spite of their fancy applications, they arent always practical.

One of my favorite new devices is the itouch, which is a modified version of the iphone by apple, without the phone aspect. The navigating in these devices is amazing. They are tactile, intuitive machines…you can sync them to other devices, including your car. They function based on what appears to be a technological understanding of physics…and you can store images, imformation and just about anything else on them. Too bad they’re outside of my meager student budget. Apple are very mum about their products, but often use an element of artistic design in their devices that other companies do not.

I also am a fan of the new sony reader, which is a virtual book you use to store ebooks in. It flips pages just like a real book does, and seems to be a great idea to save space and paper in the long run. Perhaps someday we will have these in our classrooms! One can only hope.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=6sKBsp77PY0

My big indulgence online as of late is the deviantart website…packed full of glorious images, that all viewers have access to, and very artist friendly. I personally like to post my prose and writing on deviant art, and have developed quite a following…its great to have access to such a broad audience, and even better to dialog with writers and artists as well. In this day and age, we really are in charge of our own creative developments. Its very exciting. A lot of the images on deviant art will appeal to students as well…although there should be some caution exerted as well…some of these pictures are not suitable for children.

Mar
24

Here is the link to my priceless video, as it does not want to embed. I am working on getting this resolved…in the meantime enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XC0CbOoXm-E

Mar
23

As an educator, I am always looking for new sites to add to my arsenal and teaching. One site that I came across is campaignforrealbeauty.ca, which is actually Dove soap! They have many tools and resources on this site, for building self esteem in young women, and girls. There are quizzes, opportunities for discussion and a lot of positive messages on this site that can be integrated into a health unit, or possibly even psychology classes…the idea is of course, that the media promotes and bombards girls from an early age, and of course we are not aware of it. Often, because of the immense amount of bombardment by the media, and the access to information, children are forced to grow up faster these days, and have seen much more than those of us who grew up pre internet… I urge educators to check out the dove site. It is one of the most uplifting experiences to see a corporation rebel against the mainstream, rather than blindly promote a damaging value system.

I will leave you with this video url….. I tried to embed it here, but it doesnt seem to take for some reason…

http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.ca/dsef07/t5.aspx?id=7985&filmno=0

 Still hoping to have my photostory done today, and the rest of my narration caught up. My final project is about graffiti art, and I have the powerpoint in the works, almost done…I will be using audacity to get the sound on there properly.

Mar
20

For those of us in the arts who have a bit of a phobia about technology, I will share with you my experiences over the past month while working with troubled youth in the alternative education system. I have been helping out over at CAS (Cornwall Alternative School) as part of a community project, between my lessons at O’Neill. It has made for quite a hectic semester, as many of these children do not conform to stereotypical ways of relating in the classroom. Some people may not appreciate the fact that they cannot relate in a formulaic way to the children, but I enjoy the fact that we have been allowed to step outside the box, and try new ways of relating.

As I was responsible for the art strand of the project, I had to pick a subject they could relate to, first of all, and then find a way to relate to them, and get them engaged and interested. Many of these children have a variety of behavioral problems, and personal issues. They give up easily, and get frustrated, so it is important to take any new subject on, in small steps. Showing these students elaborate works of art often leads them to shut down, and they give up on themselves. Many of them were not interested in drawing at all.

I chose the subject of street art, and graffiti. Because many of the children were interested in hip hop culture, it seemed like a natural fit. I gave them the option of relating to traditional means of artworks: pictures, mostly. This was met with skepticism. But then, we decided to take it to the computer based environment. I have been doing some research online, and came across the program graffiti creator. (http://www.graffiticreator.net/)

This program allows a person to create a graffiti “tag” (signature) by simply entering ones name, and then altering the colors as required. The kids took to it like fish to water, and many, if not all were engaged, and enjoying themselves. We came out of the lesson with a product that the students could feel proud of. “Tags” could then be hung in the classroom, as a group. It was probably one of the most successful lessons I have ever taught.

Many of the children at school do not have access to computers outside of the classroom, but the great thing about computers, as well, is that you eliminate the judgement call of “talent” when it comes to art. Our culture tends to judge art this way, but the digital environment is a great place to develop ideas. I am also a fan of photoshop, though I am still learning about it now….critics of technology should consider the fact that in the classroom, we try to find ways for our students to express themselves, and for those not attracted to traditional mediums in art, the digital environment can be a great alternative. It is so important to keep open minds. Art, like the rest of human pursuit, has been affected by technological advancement, and integration. We would do well to embrace it.

Mar
20

Even though I have not been on here to update in quite sometime, I figured now that things have slowed significantly, with a bit of breathing room, I am going to transpose my observations from the last few weeks of teaching and discuss them on here. The reason why is because I have used technology in every lesson I have taught, with the exception of today, because the powerpoint projector could not be booked as it was being used by other teachers.

My favorite technological tool, besides the internet, is Powerpoint. It is like a slide show with extras, and I hope to prepare many of these types of presentations in the future, to relate art fundamentals, characteristics, and to introduce artistic concepts to the students. I had a great deal of success last week with a presentation on Pop Art, and today’s powerpoint was about Paul Cezanne. I find the powerpoint presentations are great springboards for discussions in the classrooms, and they have become a fundamental part of my lesson planning. I find the presentations are great for discussing art pieces, especially when dealing with art in a historical context.

 I plan on getting caught up on here in the next few days. I have another four to five posts that I am going to transcript from notes relating to classroom management, and my subject matter, as well as technological discoveries I have made in my environment lately. I’ve been invisible on here for a while, and I need to make myself visible. I am glad to be taking an online class that allows more flexibility as far as deadlines are concerned.

This was a brief presentation about seeing, and was used as a leeway into one of my drawing lessons. The only thing I didnt like was the Kandinsky painting I decided to use. It makes things hard to read. Still working out the bugs 🙂

Feb
13

I listened as closely as I possibly could to three of the presentations regarding the online conference that we had to look into last week. Mostly I found these presentations thought provoking and creative when it came to initiating technology into the classroom environment. I listened with genuine intent to the Why’s and Wherefores by Brian Crosby. I really liked his emphasis on applying the concept of technology to his classroom in a cross disciplinary way. He really put an emphasis on balancing the human aspects of the classroom with technological elements.

Brian talks about using technology to include one of his students in the learning of the classroom, while she is ill and cannot attend class directly. I thought this application of technology in the classroom was very practical, and also a very good example of how we can be benefited as teachers, to keep our minds open, in case our students’ needs shift and change. He also emphasized the idea of community projects and video: his award winning presentation entitled “Don’t Laugh At Me” was a really good idea, as it addresses bullying, something which is being taken very seriously these days in the classrooms. My only complaint regarding the video was that I wasn’t too keen on the aesthetic quality of the singer’s voice. Sorry, Arts Ed part of me coming out here!

I listened to the Audio of “Creating A Paradigm Shift in Technology” by Shawn Nutting as well. I was attracted to the title, as I feel that Technology does create an exciting paradigm shift in the classroom. Mr Nutting has a great sense of humor, and still retains a high degree of professionalism in his discussion. I loved his idea of asking the staff and students what they need, technologically speaking,  rather than just assuming that good computers and computer access are all that is required for technological advancement in the schools.

I finished off my listening experience with a blurb about Cell Phones as Learning Tools in the classroom. This subject was interesting, as well as a tad controversial. I do believe, however, in incorporating as many learning tools and opportunities into the classroom as possible. I do find the concept of incorporating cell phones into the classroom as utopic, because they do represent an element of power and control, traditionally. We are supposed to turn phones off while in discussion, and students like to text their friends during classes, so it might be hard to change what a cell phone signifies to students. However, it could be a hit in the right context, particularly for picture taking or video making in my art classroom, so I feel it would work for my particular subject.

The online conference idea is great. I learned a great deal, and plan on going over more of the presentations when I have the time over reading week.

Feb
07

I was going to write about the arts and technology in classrooms last week, but have been extremely busy. Nevertheless, the topic was discussed extensively yesterday in class, and I will add to the thoughts I was already going to discuss…

A lot of artists who have been schooled traditionally are afraid of what technology represents, and hesitate to address it in the classroom as well. However, we cannot deny that the majority of students in our classrooms are going to be technologically literate, and by the time they enter our rooms, they have been exposed to a myriad of messages, as well as subject matter, images, verbal dialogs and communication options that involve technology. Therefore, to not educate ourselves about it, is I feel, not beneficial to our students. We need to step outside our comfort zones. We must address the technological issue in society today, because our students need options.

If we see art of any kind as a by product of the body’s need to express itself, then we can see technology as an extension of that. Which brings up the question, why even bother divorcing ones self from the body to begin with? Many of these communicative devices and options that we have in the classroom are indeed, a buffer for human contact…and the arts are about humanity…so what is the answer here? I really don’t have one, but I treat technology as simply another medium for expression. Whether you draw with a pencil, or draw with a 3D animation program such as Maya (often used by the famous Pixar studios- wasn’t that short about the aliens great?) or whether you draw with your hand or with mathematical equations that the software is composed of, you are still expressing yourself. That is the most important thing we need to remember. It isn’t about what we prefer. And some of our students who have lovely ideas may not really be into drawing traditionally, and still have wonderful notions that need to be expressed…switching gears, and putting the philosophy away for a moment, sometimes working with video or photoshop can be really enjoyable.

I was schooled in the traditional arts throughout my BFA, and I drew until they introduced Intermedia to the department. It was in video that I found a new kind of voice, and found new ways to explore how to express that voice. It should be noted that a quiet artist run gallery on Scarth street called Neutral Ground often has wonderful alternative artwork on display that usually does feature technology, and that they often offer workshops on new kinds of software that can be incorporated into the artmaking environment. I plan on brushing up on my technological vocabulary by learning as much as I can about the new stuff. Sure its uncomfortable at first, but its also exciting to try new things…your students will thank you for it. Trust me.

Jan
28

Today we had a guest speaker in my EPS 225 class. This teacher was from Balfour, and was discussing the notion of ESL in the classroom. The children she works with are from war torn countries, and have had to get by with very little, other than the most basic of needs, as well as their lives. I decided to write about this today, because we do take a lot of what we do in this culture for granted. The politically correct term for this is ethnocentric. It means we focus exclusively on our own cultural mores and values, while ignoring those of other nations.

Computers are a fact of life here in Canada. In school, it is taken for granted that the buzzwords that fly around regarding technology and computer usage are already understood. But for people who have endured brutal living situations, the mere fact of holding a pencil is difficult. How do we address these issues in classrooms where perhaps computers are not always taken for granted? What would it be like, to come from a place like Sudan, where food is scarce, never mind technology? Where guns do the lawmaking, rather than negotiators? And if we are to teach in such classrooms, how do we approach the idea of technology, as no doubt, these students will be eager to fit in, and learn as much as they can? How do we introduce it to these students? What can we do to facilitate learning in such environments?

For me, there are no straight answers, as the idea of communicating in the virtual environment may appear to be a very abstract concept outside the realms of North America, Europe, and wealthier nations. Essentially, technology is often used as a way of communicating, uniting the world, making it a smaller place. However, through technology, learning can become a broader experience, and one based on breadth and depth of knowledge, rather than regurgitation. Still, the idea of culture shock is something we need to address in such settings.

On a broader scale, we must be aware of our biases when dealing with our students, taking the time to assess our limitations, and our beliefs so that these are not projected onto the lives of our students. As teachers, we do have a great deal of power when we are dealing with our students. We must be always aware of how we come across, and measure our words and actions wisely, with utmost care, striving for, and keeping in mind the needs of those we teach. We must not assume that everyone we teach will automatically understand the nuances of technology, or even share the same view of life. It is always important to stand outside yourself when you are working with others.