Reflection: Visual Literacy/Arts in Education

One of the main takeaways I took from these articles/videos is that arts and visual literacy should be taught in school not as a separate subject but as an integrated part of the normal core subjects. In the 21st century, students need to learn how to use the right-side part of their brain just as much as the left-side. With the emergence of cameras, television, computers, etc. has also come the emergence of all different kinds of literacies, and it is important the students have the chance to grasp all of these literacies while at school. When using the arts in normal subjects, students are not only learning the content they need to learn but also other crucial skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. Integrating the arts allows students to approach content from a different perspective, and ultimately think about the content in a more meaningful and expressive way.

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I never went to an “arts integration” school or one that specifically focused on using the arts in education, but I definitely have had some experiences where teachers did use arts or arts-based assignments and projects to help teach the content. In my U.S. History class in high school, the teacher assigned a group project in which we had to discuss the culture of a certain decade (mine was the 1970s) through creating video clips, posters, powerpoints, and whatever else we wanted to symbolize the decade. One of the main requirements for the project was that we had to decorate the classroom with items representing our decade. This project took a lot of time and was a lot of work, but I remember feeling so accomplished and proud of our work, and I definitely remember so much of that content. If we had just learned about the culture of the 1970s through taking notes off a powerpoint, I would never have learned and retained as much as I did by completing this project.

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“Our wall for the 1970s decade project”

The photo blog is not necessarily challenging for me, but instead of thinking about what pictures I could be using while I am writing, I tend to write my whole reflection and then go back and see what pictures I could get to fit with what I wrote about. In the end I feel like this doesn’t really help me to learn the material better or think about what I am saying more because I am just adding pictures at the end. However, going back and looking at my reflections, I do really like having the pictures there. It helps me to remember the big concepts and have a better idea of the main points I was trying to make. Using “visual literacy” does not come across as naturally for me as it may for others. As an educator, I hope I can help all students realize the benefit of applying visual literacy on an every day basis. 

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“2013 K-12 Horizon Report” Reflection

This report examined the different facets of technology that are likely to have a big impact on K-12 education over the next 5 years. I thought it was extremely interesting and helpful to read this report, because it is obvious how much classrooms are already changing as a result of technology, and the change is bound to continue at an increasing rate. As the report mentions several times, the world in which our students are living is changing, so our approach to educating them needs to change as well. Technology provides so many different ways to do that, especially in that it makes things more open and accessible, and gives more opportunities for student choice and freedom. As a future middle school teacher, I hope that I keep my classroom open to all the possibilities provided by technology; I want my students to be able to learn in the best ways possible. 

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I definitely agree with all the trends discussed in this report. One that I have recently seen an example of is the trend that “as the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices.” The report mentions BYOD programs, or Bring Your Own Device, in which students are encouraged to bring their own device to school. The middle school that I am doing my teaching practicum at – Oconee County Middle School – just became a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) school this year. Students are allowed to have their phones, laptops, and other devices with them while at school. The use of the devices is still restricted to certain times, but many students bring different kinds of technologies with them to school every day, especially cell phones. This is completely different from when I was in grade school. I also strongly agree with the trend that “social media is changing the way people interact, presents ideas and information, and communicate.” I see evidence of this everyday in my observations of and conversations with family, friends, students, or educators. Social media is changing the way our world functions. 

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The challenges listed in the report are certainly evident, and they are problems that I am sure educators will be dealing with for awhile to come. I hope that these challenges are recognized on a more general level, and addressed by both schools and educators. Most of the challenges that the report discussed either had to do with teacher access to tools/skills or teacher willingness and openness to more non-traditional forms of schooling. I think the access to tools and resources will be a bigger challenge for me than having an open mind about how to educate. I would love to work in a school district in which professional development is highly valued so that I can always be learning about new technologies and about how to effectively implement them into my classroom. The report also mentions how there remains a gap between the vision and the actual tools for things such as differentiated instruction. I hope that I am able to find the resources and skills needed to fill that gap and provide my students with what they need. 

Video Reflection: “Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century”

http://video.pbs.org/video/1797357384/

1) Which project do you like the most or which project is the most impressive?  Why?

I really liked the project where the students walked around downtown Middleton learning about its history. I want to teach history, so this project especially stuck out to me. I would love to use this project in my future classroom. I would have enjoyed this project when I was in school because you are getting to learn about your own town and can therefore relate it to your own life. The use of the GPS is a really smart way to get the kids using Imagemedia while still being active. I also thought it was really cool how the students researched an actual issue in the town (parking space) and even talked to the city planner about it. This kind of learning is real and authentic. Not only were the students learning about the history of Middleton, but they were also learning about how the town functions now.

2) Do you think you need to sharpen your digital medial skills?  What are some challenges for you to use the digital media in your own learning/ teaching? 

I know that I have lots of room to learn more about digital media. I am not an expert with any sort of media, and the tools/resources are constantly changing so I know I am not up to date with latest trend. In my mind, I often still relate digital media only with fun and entertainment, and not with schools or learning. The problem here is that learning should be fun and entertaining! That is exactly why digital media can be such a beneficial resource in the classroom. I do think, though, that digital media should only be used at certain times and in certain ways. It is not always the appropriate tool to be using. This certainly presents a challenge in knowing when and in what ways to use digital media in order to most benefit your students. There also comes the question of how much media your students have access to, and this also can present challenges.

3) Do these projects remind you of some ideas you learned from your reading (meaningful learning with technology chapter 1)?  What are the ideas?  How did you see the connections?

One connection I made between the video and the reading involves the depth to which technology can be used in the classroom. The reading talked about learning with technology, an idea that the video definitely displays in multiple different ways. All of the projects involved students working with technology and digital media to accomplish a larger goal. While they were using the technology, they were learning all other kinds of content and skills. The projects also showed a wide variety of the different kinds of technologies that can be used. This reminded me that our definition of technology needs to be wide-ranging and flexible.  All of the projects also emphasized critical thinking and problem solving, which is an idea that the reading discussed as being extremely important when using technology.

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4) How do social networking sites or virtual communities broaden and/or otherwise change your students’ sense of community, and/or interaction with others? How do students communicate differently using technology than they might in person? What benefits do these digital tools offer, and what challenges might they present?

Social networking sites can allow students to interact with communities and people from anywhere in the world. These sites make students’ sense of community much larger and broader than they could have ever imagined without the use of the Internet or phones. Sometimes students may be more willing to talk or interact over technology because they are not actually seeing the person in real life. Over texting or e-mail, students have as much time as they want to think about their response and exactly what they want to say. In a classroom, this is really cool to help students open their eyes to the world and get a bigger picture of the realities around them. Students can learn about and “experience” another place without actually having to go there.

5) Did you have similar experiences or did you know any teachers/ schools doing similar things?  Describe your experiences or the teachers/ schools you know.  If you don’t, try to think about one think about one digital media project that you want to do with K-12 students or your friends.

Throughout my time in school, I have never done any projects that were this heavily based on using technology. I have used technology here and there for different things, but never as a basis for an entire project. Most of my experience with using technology for school has simply been the use of my computer to research information or maybe to make a video.

One digital media project that I have learned a little bit about in one my education classes and that I would love to do either with friends or in a classroom is digital storytelling. With digital storytelling, students can make or transfer pictures, and then record their voice reading a story that they have written. This would be such a fun way for students to practice writing, but also to make it come alive. 

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Shani, who participates in Chicago’s Digital Youth Network, claims that this experience has offered her “a voice,” while her peer Malcolm claims it helps him “stay out of trouble.” Can you identify other possible benefits this kind of afterschool programming might have for children?  How will the influences in after-school programs impact formal learning at school?

One of the obvious benefits for all students participating in this after school program is that they are learning how to use digital media that they may have otherwise never gotten the chance to learn how to use. Additionally, some of the students may know how to use the media but simply do not have access to it at home. This after school program provides a safe place where children can have access to the resources they need to pursue something they are interested in. Another benefit is that it brings children together. Working with digital media is fun and engaging, so students enjoy sharing their work and getting others involved with what they are doing. 

When learning how to use these digital medias, students are also learning lessons about problem solving and critical thinking. They are becoming better learners in general, so this will automatically be reflected in their normal schooling.