Visual literacy in the information age

ching-chiu1Ching-Chiu Lin is a founding member of the Youth Community Informatics project. Her work with Timnah, Lisa, and Karen at the Urbana Middle School integrated art, music, story-telling, cultural heritage, and multimedia in an after-school program. That’s one of the models for our current work.

michoacanChing-Chiu’s dissertation, A qualitative study of three secondary art teachers’ conceptualizations of visual literacy as manifested through their teaching with electronic technologies, analyzed similar arts and new media projects in three schools. I’ve learned a little while ago that it was awarded second place for the 2008 Eisner Doctoral Research award. This was officially announced at the National Art Education Association (NAEA) convention in Minneapolis this month.

Congratulations, Ching-Chiu!

Creating opportunity through new media

clay_animationOne of the most impressive set of projects I saw while in Dublin, Ireland last year was the Community Links Programme out of Dublin Institute of Technology. It was established in 1996 by DIT lecturer Dr. Tommy Cooke to help individuals and communities reach their full educational potential. Programs include psychotherapy, music, and courses for mature students.

One important component is the DISC Programme, which operates in 38 inner-city disadvantaged primary and secondary schools. DISC installs computer resources in schools and community centers, and trains teachers to integrate the use of computers into the teaching/learning process in all curricular areas. Projects include the use of comic creation, clay animation, video production, class blogs, podcasting, video game making, 3d design, and robotic Lego.

Staff such as
Ian Roller and Riona Fitzgerald bring knowledge of pedagogy together with skills in video and computers to help teachers and youth leaders do amazing projects. More importantly, they do it in a way that empowers teachers as creative agents in the education process.

You can see DISC publications, including their very useful monthly newsletter online. Here’s the April edition.

Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL)

accueil_biblio1 I was very fortunate to hear Elizabeth Pierre-Louis speak yesterday.

Elizabeth was on campus to accept the 2008 Young Humanitarian Award. As Director of the Library Program at Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète (FOKAL) in Haiti, she helped to set up 45 community libraries across the country. She coordinates the training and management of these libraries, which are improving the quality of live for the people there. Elizabeth described a wide variety of programs of FOKAL, including projects on supplying running water, developing basic literacy, supporting the visual arts, dance and music, debate, and economic education.

Throughout these many programs, there is an emphasis on participatory democracy, including organization and responsibility of citizens, leadership, financial and technical management, resolving conflicts, and collective decision making. Elizabeth’s work is just part of an amazing organization helping people work together toward common purposes.

The photo, of the Monique Calixte Library in FOKAL’s Cultural Center, and this text below are from the FOKAL site.

The Fondation Connaissance et Liberté / Fondasyon Konesans Ak Libète (FOKAL) Cultural Center, built in 2003 in the center of Port-au-Prince thanks to funding from the Open Society Institute (OSI) and support from George Soros, is designed for meetings, training, reading, debates, recreation and discovery.

The center is comprised of a public library, with a membership of over 5,000 where children and youths from the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince have access to reading materials in optimal conditions, a small auditorium, a café-terrasse and a cybercafé. The UNESCO auditorium is a hall designed for conferences, debates, meetings, audio-visual presentations, films, concerts and theatre. The center also includes a large atrium where one can discover the works of both Haitian and foreign painters, writers, and sculptors; and a sound and video production studio, a training hall and gardens…

FOKAL’s cultural center offers a place, eminently rare in Haiti, where peasants, women, children and youths from poor neighborhoods have a chance to interact with each other and with representatives of all sectors of society on subjects which concern education, the environment, culture, and democracy…

RiseOut: “Defining Our Own Education”

I’ve been reading the articles on RiseOut, an online “news center focused on deschooling, youth activism, and other related issues concerning the rights of youth in the U.S.” There are entries on deschooling; unschooling; youth media; racism; the Highlander Folk School in New Market, Tennessee; Dr. “Patch” Adams; a review of the book, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, How to quit school and get a real life and education (by Grace Llewellyn); critiques of school segregation (and recent Supreme Court decisions that support it), credentialism, and military conscription.

Most of the articles on RiseOut are well-researched, thoughtful, and provocative. They remind me of the wonderful book, Letter to a teacher by the schoolboys of Barbiana, in which youth in Italy present a searing critique of their education and the unjust society it supports.

Both the Barbiana book and RiseOut address the question that Earl Kelley asks: What is real in education?. Kelley answers that the bedrock reality is the the actual life of youth.

The Obama administration’s proposed “Cradle to Career” education plan, has many good components, but education reform will never accomplish much if schooling continues to be separated from actual life and fails to come to terms with the issues raised in RiseOut.

From the RiseOut site:

We provide a diversity of alternatives to education that are self-directed and decentralized from standardized schooling. We support a young person’s choice in dropping out of school, free of social stereotypes and biases. We aim to provide a plethora of alternatives from a 12-year prison like sentence of state schooling, while staying vigilant of abuses against young people through diagnosing, segregation, ageism, adultism, sexism, and other assholisms.

A message to those who have decided to quit school:

Instead of dropping out, we applaud you for your courage to “riseout” from a nightmarish disposition of compulsory schooling. We hope RiseOut can be a resource for sharing your stories and providing choices towards regaining control over your own education.

Exploration kits

Martin Wolske has written, in Technology is NOT the focus:

we need to be developing community technology centers (CTC) differently. Right now, they are developed with the idea that people are coming to the CTC for the technology. As such, traditional desktop or tower cases and larger LCD monitors dominate. Maybe the CTC of the future instead needs to be a place with lots of tables and chairs that can easily be rearranged, and laptops for checkout.

One step in that direction is to think of a CTC as a community media lab (CML). The focus then is on the community and communication, not technology. A CML is an excellent way to promote and learn about digital media use. It also provides a venue for people from a variety of organizations and with diverse technological interests to work together.

logitech-backpackHow about complementing the CML with exploration kits? These would be available to individual youth, or to organizations such as community centers, after-school programs, boys and girls clubs, 4-H, and so on. They would allow youth to take tools into many different settings, thus promoting ubiquitous learning.

Lisa Bouillion-Diaz from Extension has suggested that the kit might take the form of a backpack, which could be easily transported. It might contain things such as:

  • GPS receiver
  • camera
  • video camera
  • audio recording equipment if higher quality is needed than on the cameras
  • physical maps, images, texts, …
  • activity guides to support community mapping, journalism, history, …
  • hands-on STEM learning objects, such as magnifying glass, weights, compass, magnets, …
  • possible: distant measuring tool (electronic or mechanical), temperature probes, motion sensor

All of this would be linked with a website, showing how to make your own kit or to modify the standard one(s) for specific purposes or groups. What else might go into such a kit?

I see kits as intermediate between the indigenous media experiences youth have through mobile phones, Facebook, video games, etc. and the formal learning that occurs (or not) in classrooms. We’re working on them for the Youth Community Informatics project, but their scope could be expanded to include learners of all ages.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

On June 12, 2005, Steve Jobs, CEO of both Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, delivered the Stanford Commencement address on the theme of “You’ve got to find what you love.” You can see both the text and the video of the address below. It’s an excellent talk in its own right, but I thought it gave a good account of inquiry-based learning as well.

In the first part of his address, Jobs talks about dropping out of college, then taking a class in calligraphy, not because it was required, but simply because it was “beautiful, historical, artistically subtle.” He didn’t envision it as preparation for the future, but as something that had deep meaning in the present. Later, his study of calligraphy bore fruit in the design of the first Macintosh computer. As Jobs says, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” This is closely akin to a key element of inquiry-based learning, captured in Dewey’s famous statement that “only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future.” Continue reading

the informal education site

Here’s a vote for infed.org on a big election day in the US: When needing to investigate the topic of multiculturalism recently, I was reminded again of the site, a great starting point for “exploring the theory and practice of informal education, lifelong learning and social action.” The articles are well-written and have good source lists. For example, see ‘race’ and difference – developing practice in lifelong learning, a recently updated piece by Mark K. Smith.

infed (the informal education homepage) was established in 1995 as an open, independent and not-for-profit site.

Put together by a small group of educators, it is now accessed around 6 million times a year.

a space to explore

Our aim is to provide a space for people to explore the theory and practice of informal education, social action and lifelong learning. We want to encourage educators and animateurs to develop ways of working and being that foster association, conversation and relationship.

via about us @ the informal education homepage