What classifies something as being a creation? When are we allowed to take ownership of something we make? Are true "creations" only composed from raw materials? Or is it the idea and design decisions regardless of the source of materials which makes something a "new" creation? These are the thoughts which ran through my head after watching Kirby Ferguson's TED talk on "remixing."
Let's look at some of my favorite contemporary artists. Several of Félix González-Torres pieces are piles of candy in the corner of a room which viewers are invited to take from. The candy represents the process of dying as the pile slowly disappears. Gonzalez-Torres did not physically arrange the candy at each location, nor did he make the candy himself. In 2005, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates opened in Central Park. The 7,503 fabric and vinyl gates were installed by 750 employees and the fabric was sewn in several locations along the east coast. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were the minds behind this endeavor and footed the bill, but never actually made the materials. Daughter, Sept. 13, 2001, by my sister, Colleen Mulrenan (MacFarlane), was featured alongside the work of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an art exhibit entitled, riverrun. This powerful piece paired her own captured video with audio from FDNY film footage of Ground Zero. She did not capture the audio; she edited it, and made a mash-up with her video footage. While these four artists displayed enormous creativity, not one of them used entirely original or raw materials. It is how they used their content which elevated it to "Art."
So how does contemporary art relate to education? The answer can be found in David O’Brien’s article, “At-Risk” Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation. In this piece, O’Brien describes a student archetype I have come to know all too well, the struggling reader who is labeled “inept, unresponsive, lazy, obstinate, and lacking in intellect.” In an age when educators have so much information regarding multiple intelligences and learning styles, I find it abhorrent that so many of the tasks used to measure student achievement fall back on the good ole reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic. His description of Dan, a struggling reader and reluctant learner who was able to create a multimedia documentary by remixing photos, text from magazines, and narration, is proof of the need for an expanded view of what quantifies student learning.
As Ian O’Byrne says in, Online Content Construction: Students as Informed Readers and Writers of Multimodal Information (2012), “The nature of literacy is rapidly evolving as the Internet and other communication technologies emerge. These changes demand an expanded view of “text” to include visual, digital, and other multimodal formats.” O’Byrne also claims the “Internet has become the dominant text for their (students’) reading and writing activities.” I agree with these statements, but I feel they can apply to any content construction which draws upon technology and multimedia sources, not just online content construction.
For the upcoming school year I would love to have my students blog, but teaching elementary school students means I face a lot of red tape when it comes to online publications. Therefore, instead of OCC (online content construction), my students will create MCC (multimedia content construction). A program I like to use with struggling or emerging readers and writers is Clicker6 Find Out & Write About. These computer-based programs offer three levels of text, and sentence constructing grids which allow students to build paragraphs on non-fiction topics. Students are essentially remixing the information presented in the text using the sentence grids to create their own knowledge. Last year I used Find Out & Write About - The Human Body in conjunction with Chatterpix Kids, an iPad app by Duck, Duck, Moose to create multimedia presentations. After creating a brief paragraph about an internal organ, my students searched the web using an iPad to find a picture of their organ. Next, they imported their pictures to Chatterpix where they created talking cartoon versions of their organs using their own voice! Rather than upload online, they were shown on loop at the entry to our school’s literacy night celebration. I hope to complete a similar remixing project with my future first graders.
Screenshots of Clicker6 Find Out & Write About - Dinosaurs
Mark Twain professed, “All ideas are second-hand.” Henry Ford stated, “I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work.” Could we think of these two visionaries as remixers? If so, we should certainly accept as such from our students. I leave you with a slightly edited version of George Carlin's thoughts on innovation, “If you can nail together two things that have never been nailed together before, somebody (edited) will buy it from you.”
A Look at Online Reading Comprehension Through the Eyes of a Special Education Teacher (ED7710 Week 4)
In the 2012 article, Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Texts to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning, Michael Manderino, discusses the need to support disciplinary texts with multimedia components. He suggests students should access multimedia sources such as audio, video, pictures, and animations though information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, as they are already used as sources of information by today’s students. This requires teachers to change their definition of text from printed words on a page to multiple presentations of information. In short, educators must be open to abandoning black & white boxed-in thinking, and dive into the amorphous “gray” a bit more.
The idea of using multiple presentations of the same, or related information to support a challenging document/source/topic is nothing new to special education teachers; we call it multisensory learning. It is my job to find ways to expose students to content through multiple formats until it finally “clicks.” This is similar to utilizing online reading comprehension skills in the general education setting where students have access to content through multiple multimedia presentations of information. However, in this model students are also making choices regarding the information they use. This requires students to take ownership of their learning. Allowing students to have some control over their content makes the experience meaningful, and is a proven motivator which leads to greater success (see RSA Animate's video featuring Dan Pink). This also allows special education students a chance to participate in a classroom activity in the same manner as their nondisabled peers, which in and of itself is a tremendous motivator for inclusion students.
In the Handbook of Research on New Literacies (2008), Kuiper and Volman describe teachers as support tools during the learning process as students interact with ICTs. Too often students are left to interact with ICTs unaided because they “know how to Google.” As with all things, there is a difference between knowing how to do something, and knowing how to do it well. Most students today know how to navigate the internet and multimedia sources for personal gain, but are not as adept at using it for educational expansion. Educators must realize this and provide students with instruction rather than assume they know how to find credible sources and search with a purpose.
There are also pitfalls in using the internet as a source of information. In Watch IT. The Risks and Promises of Information Technology for Education (2000), Burbules and Callister group the negative side effects of using the internet under the headings: Misinformation, Malinformation, Messed-Up Information, and Mostly Useless Information. I think these heading can be applied to printed texts as they also display variances in credibility. For example, The National Enquirer and The New York Times share a shelf but are certainly not equals. Lawless and Schrader (Handbook, 2008) bring the discussion on open- and closed-media into the mix as well. While closed-media sources cannot be altered and have some governing body prior to publication, open-media is ever changing and anyone can alter the information. Again, there are pros and cons of both. Closed-media is already dated once it is in the hands of the reader, where open-media has the potential to stay current. Closed-media is often a physical object which can be manipulated. A book with missing pages and crossed out text, or a scratched CD-ROM which skips could cause both to fall under one of the headings described above.
While planning lessons and IEP goals and objectives for students in my life skills class, I had to consider what educational skills doubled as functional skills. Online reading comprehension is one of these crossover skills. Whether it is locating an owner’s manual on a website, filling out a job application, finding a bus schedule, or ordering groceries, my students needed to know how to navigate to the correct place and retrieve the correct information using the internet. People with disabilities also have talents and interests which need to be developed. The internet is full of options for them provided they are given guidance and support through instruction in online reading comprehension skills. I would also advise educators and caretakers of people with disabilities to employ filters and use safe search engines such as www.kidrex.org while monitoring their time online.
Despite the potential negative side-effects, the necessity to teach proper search and evaluation skills, and requiring teachers to change their views on “text,” online reading comprehension is the way of the future. In my opinion it is a cornerstone of modern education and has the potential to greatly impact the teaching and learning of students with disabilities.
Autonomy, Inquiry, and a Visual Thinker: How Choice and Technology Affect Academic Performance (ED7710 Week 3)
This week I attended a four day Responsive Classroom workshop. Each day of the conference had a different focus, but the importance of academic choice resonated across all four days. Bottom line: Children perform better when they have some say in how or what they learn. This relates to RSA Animate's video featuring Dan Pink's keynote address, The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others where he claims autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the best motivators (more than money!) for tasks requiring conceptual and creative thinking. While Dan Pink's words were settling in my brain, I read Stephani Sutherland's article When We Read, We Recognize Words As Pictures and Hear Them Spoken Aloud. This got me thinking about how people process information. For example, I often say inside my brain must look like Photoshop's interface. When I am trying to construct knowledge from new sources I think in terms of graphic design. Information becomes pictures and like a hand with a mouse, my brain moves the images around until I have a representation of the content. This image gets saved to my "cloud" so I can easily "download" it whenever needed.
The process described above was taking place in my head as I read The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension: New Opportunities and Challenges for Students with Learning Difficulties by Castek, Zawilinski, McVerry, O'Byrne, and Leu (2011), and Online Collaborative Inquiry: Classroom Blogging Ventures and Multiple Literacies by Judy M. Arzt, Ph.D. (2012). After completing the readings, I had an image in my head (and some doodles on napkins) which I was about to begin translating back to text when I decided to exercise my autonomy! For this week, I am forgoing writing my response to the readings in order to show you my thoughts via an infographic made using Piktochart (free!). This is a glimpse into how my mind processes information and what keeps me motivated as a student.
How can I use this in my classroom?
When I envision my ideal classroom, I see every one of my first graders blogging away on iPads. This is not my reality. While I would love to have my students blog, I don't know how feasible it will be. As of right now, my classroom will have one iPad mini thanks to the generosity of family, friends, former students, and total strangers who donated to my Donor's Choose project. I have big plans for that little iPad, but not a lot of time to get them all done. I would like to attempt a class blog and feature a different student blogger each week. However, until I have more resources and a better handle on my daily schedule, blogging will remain a goal for the future.
1st grade teacher, former special education teacher, Zumba Fitness instructor, graphic designer, cupcake baker, wife, and pet mama working towards a 6th Year Certificate in Instructional Technologies and Digital