4 George – Playing in Public

Remember those days when the snow first fell and the streets froze and you just couldn’t wait to get outside and play?

 

 

The first snowfall usually happened at night and, if it was early enough in the evening, you got to marvel at the many-colored flashes of tiny crystals fluttering to Earth and the multihued sparkle of snow twinkling in the building drifts.

 

 

Or maybe the first snow fell during the day and you inhaled upon seeing big fluffy white pillows sprinkling toward Earth, some melting but some also blanketing the yard or field or grove of spiring trees.

Perhaps it was long ago? Perhaps it was this year? Perhaps you were only a child or you rejoiced into adulthood?

Either way, you know you wanted to play.

Playing in Public

George Couros recently challenged his PLN to sketch people, particularly children, Playing in Public and document the process of sketching in a video.

The first to respond to this challenge (actually her response resulted in the challenge going public) was Malyn Mawby. Her terrific sketch and video set the bar high for future responses.

It also inspired my sketch.

 

 

This sketch features children playing in the snow: building snowmen, sliding on the frozen river covering the pavement and throwing snowballs from behind snow forts.

medium: pencil – HB2
time: 2 hours (draft and trace)
digitizing: 6 photos – 6 minutes
editting photos: 6 hours (see below)

The Concept

In the Northern Hemisphere, Winter is approaching and snow is beginning to fall. I found this in stark contrast to Malyn’s sketch of her girls playing on the beach. I also recognized that Malyn lives in Australia where Summer is just about to begin. What an opportunity, I thought, to illustrate that play is an all-year activity!

 

 

I was inspired also by the recent first snow that we experienced this season and my desire to build a snowman with my nephew. It will be too cold and the snow too dry to build a snowman when he does visit his uncle. So this sketch expresses a dream as much as anything.

I also recognized that sculpting of sand castles and snowmen and snow forts was similar enough to deepen the parallels between Malyn’s sketch and mine.

The children in my sketch are generic, pulled out of my head. I did not have anyone in mind, nor did I sketch from any photographs. I liked Malyn’s illustration of distance and collage in her sketch and tried to emulate these. However, unlike the children in Malyn’s sketch who are her girls over several years, the children on my sketch are contemporary. I think Malyn’s use of time to sketch her girls is personally nostalgic to her, so I did not want to replicate that effect and affect.

My decision to design the sketch as I did was strongly influenced by my own nostalgia: my memories of building snowmen and forts, of throwing snowballs and of sliding down an icy road, all in the name of play and fun. I remember also making snow angels, skiing cross-country and downhill, tobogganing, building quinzees, playing tag and hockey, and snowshoeing, but the sketch had only so much room.

Play is engaging in an activity to gain a state of flow. It does not necessarily need to be outside nor involve many people. Sketching, like the sketches Malyn and I produced, are also play, as is engaging in some work, such as wood carving or even math problems.

I write, paint and learn for fun. Everyone does something different.

The Process

The Sketch

I drew my sketch in three drafts. The first draft was just a small ghostly outline to develop my concept and place and frame subjects. My second draft was a full-page (8.5″ by 11″) sketch that probably was the better draft. It was more freehand and wispy, much like Malyn’s; however, I sketched it on a scrap sheet and the type on the opposite side of the sheet was clearly visible. I inked in the second draft and traced it systematically to produce the final sketch.

I am a mediocre drawer at the best of times and often rely on paint (oils) to bury my sketchy drawings. This time I did not have that luxury and, in Malyn’s words, my sketch is naive. (Yeah, there really is such a style; I was astonished when I learned this.)

Like Malyn, I have trouble with faces and hands. In my case, mitts served to bury hands. But my faces were a problem. I wanted to show enjoyment, so I needed to draw faces.

 

 

Yet, all the noses I sketched are gigantic. Additionally, the faces are masculine. Look closely at the girl sliding on the road. If she didn’t have hair, she would be another boy in a male dominated sketch! Insincere political correctness aside, I wanted to show girls and boys playing together, so I wanted some girls. That slider was a nightmare to sketch. It took some heavy editting just to imply she was indeed a girl and not some guy with a strange toque or wig on his head. Notice, no one else on the sketch has hair!

So sketching was definitely a fun and often comic challenge.

The Photographs

I took pictures of the third draft of the sketch at various intervals during its creation. A tripod and frame to place the sketch in would have helped with squaring, leveling and maintaining the same height for each photo. The photos I took came out with my sketch crooked and even trapezoidal. I ended up editting each weird product of my photography with Windows Paint, even though it took hours to do so.

In hindsight, I could have taken one photograph of the final sketch and deleted objects as I saved the editted sketch. This would have made an even smoother video, but it rang of cheating to me. I was rather enjoying sketching, photographing, sketching and repeating the process.

The Video

Below is the final video of my sketch. Enjoy.

 

I used Windows Movie Maker to create the video. The audio was clipped from Play in the Snow, a 1945 education film in the public domain and presented by Encyclopedia Britannica Films on Prelinger Archives. I used RealPlayer to trim and convert the film’s MP4 video into MP3 audio clips, so I could use these in my video.

The sound is a bit crude and out of step, but it carries the spirit of kids enjoying the Winter season.

Troubles with George

In his challenge, George forgot to mention that he wanted a silent video. So I spent hours adding audio to my video, only to get a tweet that silence works best. Fine, I can do that. George then also asked for a video in MP4 or AVI format. Okay, I’ll see what I can do.

It was not as obvious as it looked!

I was only following Malyn’s lead.

How do I convert RV and WMV into MP4 or AVI on my machine? I searched RealPlayer. I searched Windows Media Player. I searched Windows Movie Maker. Hmm! This was a problem.

I finally did discover how to save my original Movie Maker project as an AVI. The option was not as obvious as you might think. I also removed all the sound from the project. So, this is easy. Save. Check and test to make sure the new format took.

213 MB!

Are you kidding me? That is 40 times larger than the RV and WMV versions with sound. This is six photos stitched together in a video folks. What went into that 213 MBs?

Okay. Upload the silent video into George’s dropito.me box to go with the RV and WMV versions, with audio, that I already uploaded.

Forty two minutes later, the silent video is finally uploaded!

Watermark? What watermark?

I replay the silent video on my computer. No watermark! Perhaps it is a dropito.me thing?

So, I upload the 213 MB video into my Teaching Resources webspace. Another 42 minutes later, the silent video is ready again.

It works!

Troubles with George!

Reflecting on Fun

This was a fun project, even the part regarding the enormous silent video. Playing is engaging in any activity that leads to a state of flow. In this case, humour also played a big part. George can ask me to create another video for him any time.

What happens when whiteboards are removed?

Adding technology to the classroom

When applied and implemented thoughtfully; in the best interest of learning; and with student growth in knowledge, comprehension, skill and curiosity in mind, technology can liven just about any learning experience.

Technology provides boundlessness or openness in learning by removing the walls of classroom-restricted resources, such as textbooks and teachers. It removes the box … the confines of the text, the pen of the classroom, the limits of the options of approach and the hem of the single-referent teacher.

It should be used judiciously to maximize impact, exploration and retention, and to minimize dilution, dramatization and flaunting. Simply put, it should be used to learn from and with. Learning about it should be secondary.

I attended a webinar offered by John Scammell about the new high school Mathematics curriculum being implemented in Western Canada, particularly Alberta. His emphasis that over the years we learned FOR problem solving, then ABOUT problem solving and now THROUGH problem solving parallels this notion that technology is a tool to learn with rather than the reason or goal to learn about or to show off.

Technology provides one facet of great learning. It has the best potential, in my opinion, to make learning and doing boundless for those whose willingness and imagination drives them, both broadly and deeply, to explore more to learn more.

Removing technology to make room

Yet, technology has drawbacks. As a substitute teacher, I experience a few that on the surface are not obvious. For instance, this year, I noticed more Smartboards in the classroom. This is great. What I could teach if I had a class and a Smartboard.

However, Smartboards take space. They can also be used as small whiteboards at a pinch. So Smartboards naturally replace whiteboards. This not only doesn’t remove functionality from the classroom (it increases it infinitely), it encourages teachers to use and practice using the Smartboards daily.

Then the problem: the substitute teacher. In my school district, the substitute, not being part of the staff or student body, has no access (userid and password) to computers in the school, so locking him or her out of those Smartboards.

The following result has happened to me on more than one occasion.

This comic has been cross-posted in Educational Comics.

Drop censorship of Internet access

There are many reasons that school boards should adopt open Internet access. Overarching these though is the fact that teaching and learning are hampered and put back into the nineteenth and twentieth Century box by this censorship. As a substitute teacher, I find myself even more censored than my contract colleagues. When my students have more access to technology than I do, there is something wrong. We should at least be equal!

What restrictions do you face where you teach? Are your students or you “falling behind” because of these restrictions, or does it matter? What would (do) your students gain if (because) they had (have) free rein on how they can learn and what they can learn from or with?

Anthems & Apathy

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Comic: Do students care? Two panels. Two perspectives.
This cartoon is cross-posted to Educational Comics.

With Understanding, Pride

What thoughts play through your head when you listen to your nation’s anthem? Do you listen to your anthem? Do your students?

As a substitute teacher, I see students who don’t listen to my nation’s anthem, who don’t stand at attention, or who even talk or fool around while my anthem is sung. Sure they have heard it every school morning for x number of years, but they seem to forget that my nation has soldiers deployed out of country defending that anthem and what it stands for. They forget that very few of these valiant soldiers return home unscathed in some way. I know; my father was in the service, thankfully during times of peace, but domestic terrorists were around while he served.

Lately, as I more deeply invest myself in my students’ welfares and futures, I have grown concerned about this apparent apathy, this disinterest, this boredom my students present over my anthem. I think more than just apathy directs their behaviors. I actually think they hold a “it can not happen to me and my country” taking-it-for-granted attitude. Under this premise, my nation’s anthem is just a song with no more meaning than a teacher’s preaching. No wonder they do not respect it as I do. I am not sure most of them even understand it. That saddens me.

I was taught my anthem when I was a kid. Because of this, I hold it with great pride. With understanding comes pride. So I would like to bring meaning to two lines of my anthem, the way I was taught them. I imagine that a class can be best taught this through query and discussion.

Into and Out Of the Canadian Anthem

The Canadian Anthem and its history are described on the Government of Canada’s website (http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/symbl/anthem-eng.cfm). The lines I wish to explore are:

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

When I was a kid, these lines read:

O Canada, glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

(There was a recent suggestion to return to this version, or to at least drop the mention of God.)

I will explore the version I learned, because I think it holds deeper and more identifiable and call-to-action meaning.

“O” is an address, such as the address Shelley makes to the West Wind in his Ode to the West Wind. It implies an addressee capable of understanding it is being addressed.

Canada is obviously the addressee, but “Canada” is a concept. Here students need guidance, for once they comprehend “Canada”, the rest of the Canadian anthem takes on nuances of meaning. What is Canada? It is of course territory, but it is also tradition, culture, values, history and perhaps most importantly the network or Nation of Canadians. This is what I think students today do not comprehend.

The national anthem addresses not only the territory but the people and values of Canada. It addresses the students! It is a song sung not only by the students to Canada but by Canada to the students. Furthermore, it is sung simultaneously about Canada and the students.

Every school morning in every school across the nation from sea to sea to sea Canada sings to the students. What a concept.

So what is it singing? “Glorious” means full of glory. “Free” is another tough one; a whole course can be spent on it with little more than a cursory introduction to all its implications. But can you see, when applied to the territory, the values and the students, how strong, how empowering these words really are?

The next line, particularly “we stand on guard for thee”, is significant since “we” and “thee” apply again to the territory, the values and the students. And “guard” carries more weight. How many different ways can each of the three “we” stand guard over each of the three “thee”?

The Strength of Meaning

In just two lines, the Canadian anthem captures its strength as an anthem worthy of Canadians. When understood the anthem is meaningful rather than meaningless. It ceases to be boring, ceases to be drill. The students own it. And through owning it, they own their land (the house) and their Country (the home).

Regardless of where we are or what anthem we sing, should we not all care about where we live and the values we hold dear? What thoughts play through your head when you hear your nation’s anthem? Do you listen to it? Do your students?

One day maybe, if I finally had enough of kids talking and slouching and fooling around during our national anthem, I might throw my teacher’s lesson plan away and open instead a discussion about meaning behind the national anthem. I wonder if they would even hear?