"The teacher is the chief learner in the classroom."
- Donald Graves

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First Animation

The assignment this week in EDLD 5366 was to create an animation. I have a fascination with animation. Not to the point of dressing like a Japanese anime character, but I appreciate the effort, patience and attention to detail necessary to make an inanimate object come to life. This week working with scratch allowed me to dabble in animation and create a short multimedia presentation that I plan to use when leading professional development.

I dove right into this assignment and soon was confronted by the steepness of the learning curve for this application. Scratch is a powerful tool with many variables. Furthermore, it's a programming tool, so the sequence of commands is absolutely essential to achieving the sequence of events and actions in the characters. For someone who remembers having little success inputting Microsoft DOS commands, this development almost brought out a quick, R-rated stream of commentary. However, after a little research to find a user guide and some more trial and error, I soon began creating. To view the animation click on the scratch logo above.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Impressions of the Bible from Ethiopia

What struck me immediately upon viewing the Bible from Ethiopia was how innate the principals of design are to human communication. As I clicked through the pages, I could see examples of contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity on nearly every page.

I immediately noticed the use of contrast to add visual interest and vibrancy to the images. On each page complementary colors were used to create detailed illustrations that drew my attention. Shades of orange, red, yellow paired with opposite shades of green and blue to convey the mood and feeling of the text. This was especially noticeable on the Crucifixion page. The colors spoke loudly as they told the story of the Jewish people and Christianity from Abraham through the life of Jesus and on through His disciples. Contrast is also evidenced in the text through the use of red to highlight passages.

This image of the 12 apostles from the Bible of Ethiopia shows
the use of contrast, repetition, alignment and proximity.
image http://kootation.com/british-library-add-ms-59874-ethiopian-bible-jpg-wikimedia-commons.html
I also immediately noticed the repetition of certain visual elements not only in the design of the book but the structure of the text as well. In each illustration, repeated visual elements and colors are used to carry the story forward as well as identify characters.

A two column alignment is used throughout the text to break up the text and make it more readable. The illustrations also evidence alignment through the use of symmetry. Symmetry is visually predictable and helps focus the eye on details. The illustration shown on this page shows how symmetry works to focus on details. Even without being able to read the text, it is clear who is being portrayed in this illustration and, possibly, identify each disciple.

Finally, proximity is used to link the text to the illustrations and within the illustrations to effectively communicate the message. More importantly, the concept of proximity is used to convey feelings about what is occurring on the page. I believe this is especially true in the background colors. As the story progresses, color is used to unify the illustrations and generate emotions in the viewer. Dark backgrounds are used in illustrations depicting sadness, grief, strife; light backgrounds are used to depict joy, enlightenment, hope. Using these colors in proximity to the message creates a relationship between words and pictures that creates emotions in the person viewing the text.

It is fascinating that the principals of design still used today are rooted in the 15th century, when this bible was first written.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time for Action (Research)

After five weeks of fairly intensive study (it is summer vacation after all), I think I've got a handle on what action research is, why it's an important part of growing as an educator, how to go about developing a project, and when to begin my project. Over the last few weeks, I have come to understand action research as a necessary function of an administrator; and the importance of administrators becoming "role models for the teachers and students in their building. A critical belief about learning is ownership. Learning must be something teachers and students do, not something that others do to or for them."1 Engaging in action research is imperative in order to prepare for the "crucial role of the principal as head learner of the schoolhouse."2 I think I'm ready to take ownership of my action research project and get started.

As I worked through the exercises and developed my action research plan, I realized that taking on the role of lead learner wasn't all that difficult. I have always been curious about education and the role of educators, primarily due to the fact that education is not my first career field. It has always struck me as odd that the enterprise of education allows policies that affect it to be largely dictated by outside sources. The more I learned about action research, the more I realized how this process of inquiry and developing studies based on "wonderings" puts the impetus for change in the hands of those most connected to the effect of the change being proposed. It just makes sense to have the person responsible for the myriad of challenges present in a school be the one leading the inquiry and, by extension, the learning, instead of waiting for someone outside of the enterprise to come in and solve problems. Action research doesn't have to be difficult to be meaningful, but leading without meaningful action research would be a challenge.

During this course, my concept of research changed. I previously thought that research was based solely on the data - and then only on statistical, numerical, quantifiable data. I now understand that in action research the most important word is not research but action. As Dr. Johnny Briseno said, "numbers don't tell the whole story." It's also important to look at "how student environment affects learning outcome." Engaging in action research is important to the growth of an administrator because it requires attention to the "soft" data, and in doing so grounds the administrator in what is truly important - what is best for creating an environment dedicated to student learning. Conducting research as a precursor to action or adjunct to implementing a program contributes to my growth and development as an educator.

Contributing factors combined with inquiry lead to developing an action research project. I found that when I initially began thinking about what to research, I had an unrealistic idea about what I was going to prove. As the course continued into the final weeks, I realized that less is more and the process of conducting action research may, in many ways, be more valuable than the product. I came to this realization after listening to Dr. Steve Jenkins discuss the purpose of action research and read about Quality Indicator 2 in Leading with Passion and Knowledge. Both Dr. Jenkins and Nancy Fichtman Dana talk about the importance of developing a study that is focused yet flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions and sufficiently feasible and reasonable to be completed. These two resources convinced me to scale back my research and focus not on proving my hypothesis, but on implementing a program focused on student learning.

Now it is time to begin my action research project. I have reasonable, feasible plan set on a realistic timeline. I have anticipated the obstacles that may lay ahead and elicited the help of colleagues to overcome them. My project has a purpose tied to student learning. While I haven't developed the data collection instruments yet, I now have a good idea of what they should contain and how to collect data that is meaningful, applicable, and transferable. For me, the past five weeks defined and clarified my new purpose as an educator - an agent for change through engaging in action research.

1 Fitchman Dana, Nancy (2009). Administrator Inquiry Defined. Leading with Passion and Knowledge: The Principal as Action Researcher (12) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
2 Barth, Roland (1990) quoted in Leading with Passion and Knowledge: The Principal as Action Researcher (186) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press