Thursday, April 18, 2013

Top 10 Ideas on the Nature and Design of Compelling Experiences

This course has truly been an intense journey that has challenged me in many areas of learning. Despite this, the overall knowledge I have gained has proved to be very worthwhile on a personal and professional level. Below are my top ten ideas related to the NDCE. Enjoy!

10) Collaboration among colleagues is a crucial means of learning

Each student in the course provided different background knowledge based on their individual experiences. Even though the course was online,  collaboration played a major role. Throughout our discussions, I learned so much from my peers. It has been amazing to gain new insights from the blog entries and module projects as well.

9) One must observe and analyze in order to understand

For each assignment I found myself being pushed past my comfort level and into a new realm of thought. The projects required several parts. First, I had to read and reread the articles in order to gain more understanding. This took time. Then, I had to be observant as I searched for something in my own world to relate to as I worked through each module project. This required patience.

8) Technology is a tool to be implemented with a clear goal in mind

I think it goes without saying that I am an advocate for technology when used to enhance the quality of learning experiences. Each module was carefully crafted with the proper use of technology in mind. Our course Facebook page was a great resource used for discussions that added to the overall learning environment.

7) Always keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas

The assignments and projects in this course led me to view everyday experiences in different ways. For example, during my module projects I was more aware of significant occurrences in life to capture and use in my work. In addition, for the 2MM videos I had to examine my personal interests in order to evaluate the impact they had on my own life experiences. 

6) Teaching is a form of art in more ways than one

There comes a time during the school year when I seem to hit a plateau. This is when I turn to professional development or my colleagues for inspiration.   This course served to inspire me with new teaching ideas to incorporate within my own classroom. The assignments and readings kept me motivated to think outside of the box in my lesson design and instructional practices.

5) A space shapes your environment and overall well being

The architecture module really opened my eyes as to how a space plays a major role in an individuals' overall experience. The project for this module was interactive and fun to complete. It was a definite challenge, but a positive one. I find myself constantly thinking about the layout and design of my surroundings and how they relate to my experiences. 

4) Fresh perspectives spark new ideas and innovative thoughts

There were times where I felt compelled to redo projects or rewrite posts (not just for the 2MM 1). At first, this frustrated me. Then, I took a step back and realized that this was all just part of the learning process. Often times the second try was where my most significant thoughts surfaced. I made sure to really think about projects and discussions before just jumping in and participating.

3) You have the ability to transform the ordinary into something more

Each module caused me to experience and relate to the arts in ways that I have never thought of before. For example, something as simple as a  photograph was transformed into a beautiful piece in a few steps. First, one must have a clear goal in mind. Then, with the right tools and vision, this feat can be achieved. 

2) Creating compelling experiences in the classroom is key

Students become bored and disengaged quite easily. Taking into consideration the ideas I have learned in this course have helped shaped my outlook in the classroom. I think it's beneficial to be back in school myself, because I can relate to my students with more ease. Reading can be a dull task, but creating these unique experiences for students can be highly rewarding in nature. 

1) Challenging your own personal creativity can be a positive thing

At times I have found that there is a stigma surrounding creativity. Everyone has the ability to produce original, artistic work. No matter what profession you are in, you should do this to the best of your ability. This course channeled my thought process and allowed to me take my work to a new level. It also provided me with background knowledge into the nature and design of compelling experiences. As I am writing my plans, I think- "Okay, this has been done before. What could be added or changed to cause my students to really feel the topic or experience what I am teaching?". This is an ongoing and worthwhile process! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Two Minute Moment Project 3

The focus for my final 2MM video is culinary experiences. I do not mean dining out on the run or simply eating in for comfort. For me, the act of having a meal is far more compelling and goes deeper than just meeting nutritional needs. Furthermore, there is a vast difference between throwing together some ingredients in order to make a dish and really taking the time to craft the dish. There is also a stark contrast between going out to eat at a chain restaurant, or finding an authentic spot to dine at and delight in. These points are mentioned in order to add greater insight as to my line of thought on this important activity.

In my project, I place a specific emphasis on the diverse cultures one can encounter while enjoying new foods. If you push past your comfort zone, you may learn to enjoy foods you never thought you would ever be interested in before. In order to gain from this exercise, one must have an open mind and be willing to try new dishes and cuisines. For example, instead of sticking to a tried and true favorite on the menu, select something a bit more daring. Try discussing your choice with a friend. What did you like about the dish? If you had the chance, what would you change? Go into the city to dine, and stay away from chain restaurants, if possible.

I will say that I am someone who "lives to eat". My experiences have been heightened since moving to the East Coast. Four years ago I left Michigan in order to take a teaching position in Maryland. This is when my love of food took a different turn. Since seafood is fresh and plentiful in Maryland, this became my new food of choice. It was a group of new friends who introduced me to "picking" crabs on the dock on a summer day. Delighting in good company and learning about a different culture is another way to make a culinary event worthwhile. Heading into Annapolis or D.C is also a way to expose myself to new ways of life and various food choices. I can discover something as unique as a duck fat burger in a dive bar, to something as delicious as a chicken shawarma wrap from a food truck.

Cooking is another way to add something extra to your food experiences without blowing your budget. Trying out new recipes for close family members or friends is exciting. You do not have to be an expert, simply revel in the experience. Select fresh ingredients from a farmer's market. You may even opt to choose a specific cocktail to coordinate with the meal. Play music to fit with the choice of cuisine. It is about creating an experience that is unique and different. With a little effort, you can still enjoy yourself just as much as if you were out at a restaurant.

In all, food is my passion. It is something I really enjoy and spend a significant amount of time researching. The act of eating is just as much about the taste as the experience that is created when dining out or cooking in. Each of the ways outlined above can be incorporated into a dull routine in order to challenge your taste buds through diverse culinary experiences.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thoughts on Fashion

I must admit that these readings have proved to be some of the most thought provoking thus far. I could easily make several connections between education and fashion, but also found myself making more personal connections to these texts too. Fashion is always changing and never stagnant. Education is always changing too. For example, we discover new practices and varied methods for our work. All the while new models are constantly being developed. Just like a talented designer, a fantastic teacher has the ability to take a regular idea and transform it into something far more compelling. In this entry I am trying to zone in on the key ideas related to fashion as a "form". These ideas have the potential to aid teachers in shaping an authentic learning experience for students.

In his piece, Postrel states that "Function, not form, creates legitimate value". It took me some time to wrap my head around that thought. Here, the author was referring to a product in terms of usefulness. It is not about the way something appears, but what purpose it serves. In education, it should not be about adding unnecessary extras to our lessons. As teachers, we need to focus on the actual content of what we are teaching. On the other hand, with the rise of technology students have become much more visual learners. We still need to motivate and engage our students in some way. Postrel further states that  "Our love of sensory delights is crowding out more cognitive pleasures". I feel that teaching experiences should be filled with creativity along with a balance of hands-on/minds-on experiences. Each of us are unique individuals and harbor a "desire to be different". This is why we should strive to treat and teach each student in this manner.

Continuing on with my thoughts, there was truly a lot for me to learn from the "If Ideas Were Fashion" piece. Integrating these thoughts related to the experience of fashion into education is an innovative way for teachers to shift their thinking. In order to learn from this though, one must be willing to be open minded. Much like fashion, teaching is all about fresh perspectives and new takes. As teachers, we should let our students explore while helping to spark their curiosity in diverse areas. Supplying students with new avenues for learning can be a useful tool for teachers to employ. I carefully read over the points in this piece to create my own imaginative bridges. The ideas within "teaching as advertising, learning as shopping" captured me in a positive way. I agree with many of the points. Of course we want our practices within the classroom to be more than a mindless exercise for our students. We need to create the "buzz" that attracts students and ignites a desire within to learn. With hard work, careful planning, and dedication to the craft, this can be achieved.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Music Module Project

The song I chose to focus on for this module project is appropriately entitled "Eternal Dawn". This piece was carefully selected from the first Contra album which is named "The Epic...". This first album was released in 2010, and the band is currently working on their second. As a whole, Contra can best be described as an instrumental progressive rock band based out of Annapolis, Maryland. There is no singer, and this is one aspect of the band that makes them really stand out. I have seen the band live countless times. Each concert is a new experience. The group reaches a wide variety of listeners, young and old. Their music is diverse and varied. Fans keep coming back for the unique sounds and the wildly entertaining stage presence this band creates. 

The original sound the band showcases in their work serves to tell an interesting story. That is the main goal of their songs. Each song unfolds and progresses to create a tale. The band uses various guitar arpeggios, along with intense bass to generate their sound. Stimulating percussion and active accompaniment among members is evident on stage. This band's sound enthralls listeners as it takes you into their world. Through their work, Contra allows the audience to envision their own diverse worlds within the realm of song. For the purpose of this assignment I have analyzed "Eternal Dawn" to the best of my ability. The song is very lengthy, but in order to be specific I kept my analysis concise. I also conducted a brief interview with the band via Skype. I did this in order to gain greater insight for my module work. 

Enjoy the experience that is Contra!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thoughts on Music (Part II)

The readings for this week led me to make more specific connections to language arts and music. Both are forms of art which incorporate writing. I appreciate the comparisons in the "Music and the Imagination" introduction piece. The words used created a very stark contrast for me. In his work, Copland references an expert who is well versed in the field. Auden states that "A verbal art like poetry is reflective; it stops to think". Yes, I feel that this is a true statement. I try to teach my students this point when we analyze lines and stanzas. In contrast, "Music is immediate; it goes on to become". Music and poetry are related. I emphasize this when I teach my poetry unit. I try and explain to my students that they can use what they know about lyrics and songs in order to provide a basis for their knowledge of poetry. A good musician is also a natural poet. Poetry requires imagination, just like the lyrics of a song. The difference is that song adds the element of instruments and voice to create a unique piece. How can I create a similar experience for my students? I often play music for them and let them feel the rhythm. I allow my students to move to the beat of the tune. We then work to identify rhyme and repetition in the lyrics. We analyze various songs using this process. It is a wonderful exercise which serves to expose students to the art of poetry through music.

Creativity and imagination go hand in hand within the classroom setting. This is why I agree with most of the points Copland makes. In both of his pieces I can find similarities among the professions. As a teacher who is under intense pressure for proficient and advanced test scores, the art of teaching is a flame that can be easily distinguished. I must be original in creating experiences that are more compelling for my class. Students are easily bored with the same dry texts and basic enrichment sheets. I need to think more in terms of their personal interests. I always feel the need to devise more meaning from my lessons. I strive for rich discussions and worthwhile activities in my language arts classroom. One example of something different that I have done in the past can be found above. With this said, I feel the "gifts" that are needed by a talented musician are also needed by an excellent teacher. Educators must be good listeners and be analytic. We must also work to compose our language in a way that reaches our whole audience, just like a musician does through song.   

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thoughts on Music (Part I)

Music has always been a passion of mine in one way or another. I dabbled in guitar and voice lessons all throughout middle and high school. College was filled with crowded concerts and loud outdoor music festivals. Each of these memories and experiences have followed me throughout the years to come. Like most, my favorite tunes have helped elevate my mood during rough times, gotten me through otherwise monotonous car rides, and more. I agree with the thought that music is an "emotional narrative". This point was referenced in "Over the Rainbow, From Kansas to Oz". The breakdown of that song was very interesting as it provided me with greater insight on the feelings. Yes, it also made me think and feel a different way about the song in general. Music is truly an art form that holds the great power to transform the ordinary to the extraordinary with a few simple notes.

 As this course continues on I began to see myself making abstract connections among these artists and teachers with a bit more ease. The readings for this week really aided in my overall understanding of how musicians think and work. "The Art of the Opening Notes" piece really did open my eyes as it allowed me to ponder many imaginative bridges. Listening to this discussion compelled me think about how an opening note can be a lot like the "engagement" portion of a lesson plan. In music, the piece needs to grab your attention from the beginning, while the teacher needs to attract the attention of the students from the very start. Without doing so, all hope might be lost! There are a few different ways to go about doing this within the classroom. The teacher can simply use his or her words, employ a variety of technological tools, or utilize other useful visuals. In comparison, the musician has a variety of tools that they can chose to selectively use to their advantage. 

Furthermore, in the discussion between Kapilow and Child it is noted that the "quiet and restrained" can be effective as well. Just as there are many approaches to an opening in a song, there are also many approaches to an opening of a lesson (or even in delivering a lesson in general). Once the appeal is there, it is noted that the artist has managed to "pull you into their world". Don't we wish to pull our students in as we strive to allow them to be part of our realm of thought? I know this is what I aim to do as I think of new ways to craft my lessons. Just as there is a relationship "between composer and audience", there is one present between educator and student. The student trusts the teacher to deliver the lesson in a way that fits their interests and varied needs. I could really continue writing more, but I will wrap up my thoughts as I close my entry for this week. In both professions, it is about the "kind of journey you want to take the audience on". I found this to be compelling in nature because I thought about my own work. I want my students to be as excited and enthusiastic as me. Music has the ability to create this type of experience within the audience, and so do we.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two Minute Moment Project 2

I chose to focus on physical fitness for my second project. I feel that this is a topic that should be important for everyone to consider. For some individuals, time spent at the gym is less than compelling in nature. This does not always have to be the case. My rationale is that not every activity is created equal. Sticking to the same routine can become very dull and boring over even a short period time. This leads to a lack of motivation as you tend to stray away from the less than desirable experience. Some choices you can make at the gym are more intriguing than others. In order to demonstrate this, I went about comparing and contrasting two varying types of exercise scenarios. 

First, I want to discuss our less than compelling and typical fitness machines. We have the basic elliptical, the simple treadmill, and even the dreaded stair master. Each of these can be manipulated to provide the optimal workout session. You may even opt for a personal trainer. In order to do this, one must have a strong sense of self control and will to push themselves further. I can speak from personal experience when I say that this does not always work out for the best. At this point, you may become even more fatigued after another spiritless round at the gym. Just going through the motions can prove to be tedious. If you are a person who needs active engagement combined with a challenge, the options above may not be the best selections for you. What can turn a less than compelling workout session into something more powerful and often times irresistible?

In order to spice up your fitness regimen you might want to try taking a group class with an experienced instructor. Most gyms offer group classes and Zumba is one of the many options. Zumba is a captivating class that lends itself to some very compelling experiences in the studio. I was not granted permission to film my interview with an instructor, so as an alternative I created a video myself. For the purpose of this commentary, I will discuss some key points we touched on during our discussion. The instructor has an important role in creating the experience. Participants are not professionals by any means, and possess limited background knowledge related to the dances involved. Regardless of this, everyone can enjoy themselves and still have fun during the class. The instructor provides a concrete visual as the group works to mirror their actions with her unique steps. Each routine is simple enough for a beginner and easy to follow. If participants choose to, they can even push themselves to do the high impact moves if they wish to burn more calories. Furthermore, when one does not know how to do a particular move they can use their imagination and just keep their feet in step with the rhythm of the beat.

With the addition of these Zumba classes ordinary time spent working out can become something much more worthwhile. Participants feel invigorated and energized from each new routine taught by the instructor. The combined qualities of intensified movement to the beat and visuals from the instructor are vital to overall success of the group. The groove of the sound adds to the overall involvement of participants during each class session. The instructor takes an experience that is normally less than compelling in nature and through dance transforms it into something exciting for everyone involved.