Archive for September, 2014

As the day of reckoning draws close I am living, breathing and positively obsessing about my presentation for Learning 2 in Bangkok.

Photo Credit: CODYody via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: CODYody via Compfight cc

As I mentioned last week in The Power of Visuals, I am preparing to present a 5 minute Keynote at Learning 2.014 and it is taking every waking hour to tweak and change each aspect of the presentation; from twiddling with animations and transitions to reworking the beginning and ending. I wonder if some people may be asleep during the middle part having enjoyed far too good a night before, so I must ensure I wake them up at the end to hear my closing words of wisdom!

I will make this post short, or at least shorter than normal, and without visual note for the first time in this course, to allow me to put all my thoughts and hours into preparing for not only the presentation but the conference sessions as well.

As I was preparing my self mentally, I think back to when I have had to present publicly in the past and how nerve wracking it is. How does one calm themselves so the nerves dissipate? How do we remember what we have to say without it appearing too scripted? And how on earth do I sleep the night before?!

Photo Credit: mattyeo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mattyeo via Compfight cc

I do not recall speaking on stage as a child, apart from the random appearance as an Oompalumpa or the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland, but certainly never a major part – I just could never remember lines. As a dancer I was more than happy performing on stage and nerves as a teenager seemed less in this role. Now, as a teacher, we “perform” daily to our classes, but with prompts and interactions and in a friendly relaxed situation.

I would dread interviews despite hours of planning and preparing, and more often than not I survived, sometimes even feeling proud of my “performance”. So why does this feel so BIG?!

I wonder if it is that for the past 3 years I have watched and marvelled at the calm demeanour and inspirational approaches by the likes of Patrick Green (The Relevant Teacher) and Paula Guinto (Ink) at the Learning 2 Talks. I remember the first L2 conference I attended back in 2011 in Shanghai and the naturalness that oozed from Kim Cofino, and Jabiz Raisdana, from whom I learnt so much and who helped to shape my ideas and direction following that very first conference. George and Alec Couros seemed to revel in their time on stage, dare I say loving it, a thought so far removed from me right now I am intrigued to know how to develop it! The bar is set so high that I dread letting myself down, yet I know I have an important message to share and something that I believe in.

The first major presentation I made in recent years was for my application to the Apple Distinguished Educator programme back in 2012, and I remember spending hours trying to work on incorporating and demonstrating the way I used technology in art. I look back now and see the clumsiness in places and the music not CC, but at the time it showed my style and my developing style as an educator fusing traditional with the new. I know it packs far too much in and whizzes far too fast in places but I wanted to show the breadth of my work. For a presentation that had to be under 2 minutes I spent way too much time on it, but I guess I will never learn!

The last time I had to present to a panel was last April at an interview in my school for Head of Grade. We had to prepare a presentation on “How would you reassure parents that we meet the needs of our Middle School students?” with the audience being the parent body. As always I prepared scrupulously to determine my own take on the content and how to put it across. I wanted to use a zen technique and Haiku Deck fitted the bill. The slides that took the most time were the slides showing the child/parent and Head of Grade where I used existing a teacher who was a parent of a daughter in Grade 7 and the existing (soon to retire) Head of Grade. I asked them to pose for me so that I could blur out each one in turn on an app called Adjust Focus to emphasise the subject. All the images were my own, school taken or Creative Commons. Here is the finished presentation that I presented live in the interview (this is a recorded version):

Karaoke

I liken the experience of presenting to karaoke.

Photo Credit: apdk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: apdk via Compfight cc

I am not the world’s best or worst singer but when you see others enjoying it you want to join in too! When it comes to the crunch, you take the mic and start tentatively, finding your way through your nerves and before you know it you are singing. Before the song ends you have forgotten how bad you thought you were and just enjoyed the moment.

Could the talk be similar to this? I will definitely not sing, that is for sure, but I hope that I will at least enjoy it, having taken that step to share my story. The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding!

I leave the judgement of this unit therefore, up to you, the viewers.

Wish me luck!

Photo Credit: sarahluv via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sarahluv via Compfight cc

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The Power of Visuals visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

The Power of Visuals visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Once upon a time……

Ever since I was a youngster I have been fascinated by images. My father worked in the design business long before I was born and was a descendant of Sir John Tenniel, who created the original illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. He was approached many many years ago by an author to illustrate her book, entitled Alice in Starland. So I guess you could say Art was in my blood!

Alice in Starland by Fay McGregor, illustrated by Adrian John Tenniel Lovegrove

Alice in Starland by Fay McGregor, illustrated by Adrian John Tenniel Lovegrove

Before I became a Teacher of Art, I worked as a Graphic Designer following my degree in Design for Communication Media at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. At the tender age of 13 I knew I wanted to study Graphic Design and my passion has led me inevitably to what I do today.

I cannot imagine a world without images and my daily life is populated by the icons on my phone, emojis on messages, logos, adverts and so on. Our lives are literally flooded by images and we translate and interpret emotions and ideas and knowledge through them.

Writing this week’s blog post about how I will use an image in class is slightly ironic, as I do it all the time.  Images are the bread and butter of my day, my teaching and my inspiration. Just a flick over Pinterest or google images and i am lost in the wonder of the web and where it takes me. A few hours later and i have gone down many journeys of visual discovery yet have I found the image I set out to find? Often not, but I will have stumbled on many alternatives instead! Images are incredibly powerful in evoking emotion, assisting understanding or communicating emotion or an idea. The article last week about eyes darting over a page confirmed my feeling that we scan and scroll pages of text until we see something recognisable or interesting to us.

Learning 2 Spoiler Alert

The Power of Visuals

The Power of Visuals

I am preparing for the hardest task of my current career, a dreaded 5 minute Keynote at Learning 2 in Bangkok, in less than 2 weeks time presented in front of 300+ leading educators from the region. It is on The Power of the Visual and I am desperate to connect to all delegates, from the hardened visual note takers to the sceptical art-phobics. It is during these preparations that I question my reasons for using visuals and why anyone should listen to my laments. But it is through dissecting my passion that I whittle it down to a singular indisputable concept – that visuals are fundamental in helping us remember. It’s that cognitive process that occurs when we commit an idea to paper through words and images. I recall the image of the Vietnamese girl that encapsulating the consequences on the innocent during the war and how powerful a feeling it can evoke. Do we use these triggers in our classroom to start intellegent conversation or tease out ideas and opinions? and do I do this effectively, with meaning?

Does it make a difference or change thinking?

Visible Thinking- using images to inspire thinking

Visible Thinking with Emma Freedman at UWCSEA

Visible Thinking with Emma Freedman at UWCSEA

Some years ago I was introduced to Project Zero from Harvard University and in particular to Visible Thinking. Thinking is difficult to track and even harder to see. The Visible Thinking project helps us to visualise thoughts and ideas and my favourite of the Thinking Routines is “See Think Wonder”. In Art we use images every day to inspire ideas or learn about techniques and skills, but images can go further in helping us to understand the world around, emotions, interactions or to trigger questions. It is this aspect that the Thinking routine comes into its own. Whether using students images to reflect on practice and to interpret intentions or famous and contemporary art works to develop thinking and questioning skills there is no doubt that there is a wealth of resources out there.The problem is to select the best ones for the job, and this can take time. I often find that searching for what I think I need leads me down a path of new discovery and occasionally to a gem of a find.

Recently Grade 6 were looking at ephemeral art to inspire them before their trip to the Malaysian island of Pulau Tioman and a week in pristine rainforest, living on the beach. Andy Goldsworthy captures his land sculptures using beautiful black and white photography and it was through the See Think Wonder routine that we were able to tease out their questions about his sculptures, what he might have been thinking and why he did what he did. This in turn helped them to think through what they might create using the Elements of Art to inspire direction.  For our students living in a predominantly urban environment it was crucial we helped students transfer their experience to something tangible when they returned and it is through the work of others that we can inspire and transform their own thinking and inspiration for meaningful ideas.

Stats, Sticks and Stones

A particular gem of discovery that encompasses both my passions of art and environmental issues is the work of Chris Jordan. Chris Jordan uses the power of visuals to change thinking and inspire action. He uses mathematical data and statistics in a powerful way that goes beyond an Infographic – it can truly shock or surprise us. His series Running the Numbers is not just an average Infographic of statistics and graphs, he uses repetitive photography to capture an image viewed by zooming in that connects thinking directly to American consumerism. For example the number of disposable plastic cups used every day on airline flights or the number of breast implant surgery procedures using 32,000 Barbie dolls. I urge you to click the link and see this phenomenal work and not be impressed, shocked and inspired. I intend to use this project and to connect statistics to inspire work with our young Grade 7s, following my attempts last year to integrate environmental and global issues into their studies. As in the previous year, where we tackled the problem of food sources and sustainability through sculpture and video, so too will this year’s students look at using Photography, Photoshop and augmented reality to share their findings.

Each line, One breath

I cannot finish without returning to my favourite passion: Drawing. When we draw we focus on the mark, the feeling of connecting to the paper and the wish for it to represent what is in our minds eye.
Just last week my students were learning about line variation and looked at the work of John Franzen. In his Each line One Breath series, he uses simple repeated lines to focus his mind on the present almost in a mediative state. As the students took their breath and breathed out, they took their pencil on a downward journey on the paper surface, just as John Franzen did, to disconnect all their worries, their troubles, thoughts and focused just on the tip of the pen. In our busy lives when do we live in the moment? I am very into mindfulness yet find it tough to switch off. Yet when I draw, time is lost, I look up and hours may have passed without my noticing. I am hooked into its process. Did the students get it? On average yes. Some said it was one of the weirdest things they had done but they acknowledged the time out from thinking, from their heads in their laptops and the constant banter of talk.
…….and so in the run up to Learning 2, I too must breathe and clear my mind.

Images and Memory

 

Returning to my stresses over the preparation for the L2 talk, I centre on how images trigger memory and I start to build a Keynote of some 65 images to help me to remember what I want to say. It may seem excessive, even a little insane for a 5 minute talk but it feels like it may be my only way to survive. Images are my comfort blanket, the link to my brain’s recesses and hopefully will prevent me from dying on stage.

Being a fan of the British cult series Sherlock, I dabbled with the thought of memorising my “speech” through the techniques of a Mind or Memory Palace. This technique uses strong visuals travelling and connected to a journey through a Mind Palace in order to solidify memory. In this video, Maddie Moat shows us how she visualises in order to remember the wives of Henry 8th!

Has anyone tried this technique before? Is it difficult to create?

Well if it’s good enough for Benedict Cumberbatch then it’s worth a try!

Design Matters

Posted: September 14, 2014 in Course 3
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Design Matters Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton

Design Matters Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton

Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc

Confession Number 1: I have not looked at the actual layout and design of my blog since Course 1.

Confession Number 2: I tried 7 different themes out before I settled on this one.

Confession Number 3: I will never be happy with its design.

 

 

 

This is how a designer thinks. As a perfectionist I am likely to alter, change and tweak a design multiple times and still not be happy.

When I was at school I would worry over a drawing or a painting, always seeing the faults and the mistakes. As a Graphic Designer I worked on multiple designs to please the client – a design based on their idea, one based on my idea and a combination of the two. More often than not the client would pick the combined one. That’s how design works. We are hard to please. WordPress templates are akin to being in a sweetshop to a designer – so many gorgeous themes and designs to choose, but which one? As a homeowner you would think that, with an Art and Design background, my walls would be awash with colour, rich with pattern and texture, right? Yet, online, I love the clean, uncluttered look: simple and elegant and easy to view. The design should complement not distract from the content – that to me is crucial, no sparkly bits or flashing fonts, sans serif all the way.

Front page of thisisallaboutart.blogspot.sg

Front page of thisisallaboutart.blogspot.sg

My class blog I launched last year has taken a back seat since starting COETAIL online, but it was a place I could play with and express my art side and share work and visual information for the students. Even though there is no fish tank, hamster on a ball or virtual dog to pet, it served its purpose well – to share ideas and update students on the arty goings on in my classroom. The theme was bright and cheery (to match my sunny nature!) with swirls to express my creative side. I did not design it but I still like it now. I spent many hours messing with the widgets and embedding my Youtube playlists and recent Pinterest pins – all useful to the students and only a click away. At the time, Google Reader meant that all the students blogs could be added to the side bar for quick access but since that finished, there has been no alternative to embed in a group at the side. This is a shame as it was such a cool feature.

I digress, so back to the COETAIL blog design.

CRAP design

Having trained in Graphic Design, and with a natural eye for layout, I was not surprised to read the original book “The Non Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice” by Robin Williams first published back in 1995. Our eye understands design even if we are not a designer. We feel comfortable with order and balance, yet thrive on change and variety.

I teach this everyday, whether looking at the beauty in Carravagio’s compositions or in awe at the landscapes of photographer Ansel Adams. We discuss arrangement and choices when planning a still life painting – the point of focus, the lines that draw the viewer into the artwork. Currently I am working through a complex list with Grade 6 so that they can understand the vocabulary and practical application of the Elements and Principles of Art and Design. They are using photography to capture their natural and manmade environment to illustrate examples of the words: Line, Pattern, Emphasis or Balance. These are to be used as posters in the classroom to visually assist them in considering this fundamental backbone in the teaching of Art.

Grade 6 Photography to capture the Elements and Principles of Art and Design

Grade 6 Photography to capture the Elements and Principles of Art and Design

So too are the ideas behind CRAP Design focussing on the 4 Elements of Design: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Keri-Lee Beasley changed the acronym to CARP to make it more kid-friendly and her Digital Literacy team over on our sister campus have designed some minimalistic posters to help all curricular areas to become better designers and to use these principles when working with text and image.

CARP: Design Principles by Keri-Lee Beasley

CARP: Design Principles by Keri-Lee Beasley

You can download them for free from her website.

She also has a phenomenally intuitive and delicious ibook available entitled Design Secrets Revealed that expands these ideas seamlessly and beautifully.

Design Secrets Revealed by Keri-Lee Beasley

Design Secrets Revealed by Keri-Lee Beasley

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 21.17.50

All change

As I look over my blog space with a critical eye, there are several things that I can change, and many that I would like to change but cannot.

The first is the most easiest yet the most difficult – the banner. I know the shapes currently do not express me or my concept and certainly not the fusion of traditional and technology. Early during Course 1, I dabbled with some drawings – an infinity shaped symbol linking the 2 words together or perhaps a double helix interlocking the 2 words Traditional and Digital, spinning off from a drawing I made for Jeff Plaman’s iBook on Coaching and then a more simpler piece of typography. I am still not convinced either will work so I am working on other elements.

pencil drawn image for Coaching ebook

pencil drawn image for Coaching ebook

 

Tradigital logo idea

Tradigital logo idea

It would be cool to add a slideshow of images to the banner, as I have seen on many websites, but I am not sure of that possibility with the limited themes available to us. Keri-lee explains how to makeover google sites in this informative post and there are ideas there that many of us can take note of when redesigning our own spaces online.

So I am working just on the banner image currently, to capture the fusion of traditional and digital. Recently, I found a clean looking theme available with a birds-eye view of a desk and started to experiment with similar photos of my own. There was a similar image on wix.com looking down at hands working on a laptop that could also work to show my “hands on” approach and use of digital and traditional media side by side.

Navigating the blog is important to me for my readers so there are several things I would like to work on: clearer and easy search, and viewing previous posts. If you compare Joe’s or Melissa’s designs, the posts and categories are easily viewed down the right hand side. I would ideally like them viewable on the side bar, with a thumbnail of the accompanying visual note to attract interest and for easy understanding, clarification and choice. I would like a tag list or popular subjects and for it to be generally more visual but not cluttered. Melissa uses the Graphene theme but on inspection in the appearance tab it doesn’t seem to be available, nor one called Inkhive that Pana uses. In fact several that others are using do not seem to be listed within the 16 themes I see when clicking Appearance. My frustration is mounting so I eventually resort to designing a fake front page on Pages so that at least I can show what I mean.

Makeover

Here is the blog as it currently looks:

current blog page

current blog page

and how it could look with a new banner, thumbnails in side bar and easily clickable tag list:

Blog Design makeover

Blog Design makeover

I would love your advice and suggestions if you are able to take the time to add a comment.

Wish List

What if you could roll over the banner image and it took you to other relevant places, eg, the iPad took you to my visual notes on Flickr, the eye drawing to my Twitter feed, the books to my Goodreads etc? I saw a fun app Thinglink that makes images interactive that could do a similar effect, so maybe it is not that impossible, but currently with the COETAIL templates it is, which is a shame.

On my wish list would be a subtle transparent backdrop but still leaving enough white space around the body of the text. White space is important.

And the heading, sub headings? Don’t get me started on fonts……….