Archive for February, 2011

My Holga

This is the Holga camera that I picked up over the holiday in San Francisco, in an Urban Outfitters store.  I bought it for $50USD – today I saw one in Typo in Brisbane for…$149.95!  I’m so glad now I decided to impulse buy my little red Holga in January…

I first became interested in Holga photography when I saw photos that my friends were taking using apps on their phones. Apps such as Hipstamatic and Retro Camera allow you to use a range of cool ‘filters’ when snapping to give your pictures an antique feel.  Here’s one that first caught my eye, which my friend Sarah took with Hipstamatic:

The story of the Holga camera is one that particularly caught my interest.  From wikipedia:

The Holga camera was designed by T. M. Lee in 1981, and first appeared outside China in 1982 with its appearance in Hong Kong…The Holga was intended to provide an inexpensive mass-market camera for working-class Chinese in order to record family portraits and events.

Within a few years after the Holga’s introduction to foreign markets, some photographers began using the Holga for its surrealistic, impressionistic scenes for landscape, still life, portrait, and especially, street photography. These owners prized the Holga for its lack of precision, light leaks, and inexpensive qualities, which forced the photographer to concentrate on innovation and creative vision in place of increasingly expensive camera technology.

The most striking feature of the Holga and toy camera movement in general is the sense of counter cultre that is fostered through the rejection of digital photography technologies.  Many users are adamant about this.  Personally I like to swing both ways. The sheer novelty of taking a photo of someone and then telling them that no, they couldn’t see a preview of it on the screen (*shock*) made me an instant analogue camera convert.  But waiting to develop whole rolls of film before I can work on an image…just for this reason I would never turn away from digital.  That and the joys of super close up macro work.

Interestingly, when I went to develop the three rolls of film I had used, I found that only Big W develops film onsite anymore – Target, KMart and Camera House all send 35mm film away to get developed, usually to Melbourne which takes a week to come back.  That can’t be encouraging for people trying to get into this wonderful technique/hobby :(

I was really happy with the prints that came out of my first rolls of Holga photography.  I used some hooks, string and mini pegs to make a disply for some of my favourites:

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The Blender

‘The Blender’ is the nickname for the Faculty of Education’s blended learning room at QUT, B.240

Our blended learning space is designed with six movable group hubs, each with an egg shaped table (really great design imo), movable chairs and a digital electronic workstation.  There is also a store room containing a trolley of 20 laptops.  Yesterday I went in to take some snaps:

The question is: Will it Blend?

One of the features of blended learning is that it uses a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous instruction.  To this end I have already created a unit blog and twitter account that will be used by activity groups in all lessons.  Now comes the hard bit – how to change my pedagogy so that more than one thing can be going on in this room at once.  This will involve considering:

  • how I position myself in the room (which table do I sit at?)
  • how to control group work noise (a struggle with year 9 anyway)
  • how to create discrete ‘learning spaces’ (I want a cave and a campfire, but will work in a room shared by other teachers?)
  • whether this room is as massive as it seems (the tables and chairs aren’t easily removed making the table/group setting an unavoidable focus).

My ideas so far include:

  1. students starting each tutorial at a table with their ‘reading group’ to reflect on the scholarly materials set for the week
  2. moving to whole class activity or teacher-lead discussion/screening (we could all come sit on the floor/roll our chairs into a theatre style for this)
  3. students all breaking away at some point into ‘activity groups’ (different to their ‘reading groups’) to engage in collaborative and connected learning activities
  4. having at all times a range of individual tasks (housed on the blog?) for students to work independently on (so no-one ends up sitting around doing nothing while one group member writes discussion notes on a blog etc.)

I love this room so much, and can see so much potential in it.  I’d love to hear any ideas that other teachers have for using this space effectively…there’s a movie of the book already, lol:

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My PLN: working with Bianca

Part of the re-vamp I’m undertaking of English Curriculum Studies 1 to ‘make it my own’ is to use the first tutorial as time to:

  • get to know each other and form reading groups, and
  • start the students building their online PLN, or personal learning network

I have also been picking the brain of my friend and colleague Bianca Hewes as I prepare materials on project based learning, or PBL.

Bianca is a key node in my personal learning network, and her thoughts, arguments and resource links pervade my personal learning environment – we follow each other on Twitter, read each others blogs and are connected as friends on Facebook.  For me this illustrates two important elements I have found to be instrumental in building my PLN

  1. that learning happens everywhere (even in ‘personal’ spaces like Facebook)
  2. that a good learning environment is ‘personal’ in a very literal sense – friendly, generous and warm

It’s worth recording some of the building blocks of our collaboration thus far.  I’ll pick up the thread where I saw Bianca’s tweeting away while she prepared English lessons for Term 1 at the end of the summer holiday and started asking questions, to which she replied:

I had heard about PBL, but hadn’t used it well so far myself.  So I asked Bianca for some help because…well, that’s one of the lessons of this story really.  She’s in my PLN.  I know she’ll send me what she can, when she can.  As a learner, I’ve had an opportunity to personally ask her though about what it is I want to know.  And because I want to teach PBL, I know I need to learn more about it, and draw on the expertise of others:

SUCCESS! A willing expert!

To maximise Bianca’s willingness to let me pick her brain, I emailed her some more specific questions about what I wanted to learn:

Now Bianca is back at school and has preparing materials for her ‘Innovator’s Workshop’, while I’ve been busy working away on thesis corrections and planning the learning sequence for my English Curriculum Studies Unit CLB018.  This has included making a blogging ‘hub’ for the tutorial groups to compliment the QUT Blackboard resources and a twitter account for unit related tweets.  She’s created a Prezi with the information she would like to share about PBL with my class (yesss!) and now even if we don’t get a video interview or link of some sort as I had originally envisaged, I feel like I have enough material to move forward and teach this concept to my pre-service teachers.

Bianca’s Prezi includes a Common Craft video about personal learning networks, which links to the website for bie.org , so now I also have two killer links to refer people on to who are new to PBL.  Are you?  Why not watch the common craft video now, you’ve come this far:

So, THAT is the story of how having a PLN that you love and put energy into building pays back in spades.

If nothing else I hope that giving my students this path and these tools for expanding their personal learning environments will encourage them to look forward to learning again.  If they read this post they will see that learning done well doesn’t limit itself to one space, one person, or one network.  I won’t be able to teach them everything I think is important about English Curriculum in nine weeks, and that’s why equipping them with the motivation and capability to keep learning beyond week 9 is priority number one.

Thanks Bianca for being in my PLN and for being part of this story :)

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Bookfuturism

I was very interested late last year to learn the term bookfuturism.

And I think I may be a bookfuturist.

It was a link from Kirsty Burow that first put me onto this.

Kirsty declares herself a ‘bookfuturist and book lover’ in her Twitter bio, and her pro-digital musings were refreshing coming from someone in the publishing industry (UQP), most of whom I have found to be die-hard bookservatives.

‘Bookservatives’ and ‘technofuturists’ are pitted against each other in Tim Carmondy’s Bookfuturist Manifesto, the post that had first influenced Burow.

In light of this weeks big news story about Australian book stores Borders and Angus and Robertson going into receivership and the simplistic ‘video killed the radio star’ style beat up about how iPads and Kindles are essentially to blame for putting Tim Winton out of business (anyone else notice the journos struggle to find another popular Aussie author to cite?) it’s worth remembering that radio is still around.  Why?  Because people still want it…the same is the case with books.  Books are not analogous to vinyl records, a technology made difficult to sustain as it requires a specific machine to play it.  As long as people have eyes, the paperback will be a difficult technology to eradicate.

(By the way, is anyone else having a Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail kind of moment?  When big book store chains take over the book buying market by using their size to buy big, slash prices, and force themselves right in front of our face in every major shopping mall, I do find it hard to muster sympathy when they are pushed right back out by that same market…)

This afternoon Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has rejected calls for a review of Australia’s book importation regime, which is well and good for those arguing that this protects Australian authors.  But where does this leave book lovers…and book futurists?  For those who do delight in bookshop browsing, is it just a matter of time before the inability of industry to adapt to a BOOKS ARE ONLY THE BEGINNING climate of reading leads to more book store closures?

Publishers, readers, book sellers, authors, teachers, librarians…your thoughts?

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Franco and Hathaway

James Franco *swoon*

After seeing John Stewart interview this guy, who I had only known from Pineapple Express (classic) I am psyched about the Oscars host for the first time in…ever.

Did you make it to the bit in the interview with Stewart when Franco talks about doing a PhD in English Literature?  What a hero!

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