Teaching Visual Literacy: Media Studies Before the Internet

media studies demo

I thought I’d share this recently rediscovered relic from my early days as a teacher.

Back in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s I started teaching a high school “Media Studies” class. (Pittsford-Sutherland HS, Rochester NY). It was one semester, social studies elective that examined the impact of media on society (mainly TV – and all very McLuhan).   Duane Sherwood, our building edtech specialist, was inspired by early TV pioneer, Ernie Kovacs to shoot this 1 minute video. I used it after my first few introductory lessons. That day, instead of their teacher, my students found a TV / recorder in front of the class. The sign instructed them to “watch this video.”   The shot took “forever” to set up. I attribute my bad acting / missed lines to sitting sideways and trying to keep a straight face. It’s just too bad I wore red flannel and khakis that day….     Hat tip to Stan Merrell for digitizing this one

Twitter: Who are the Best Bands at SXSW 09?

I'm an educator who loves innovative technology and music. In my last post, I showed "How to Stay Home and Use Twitter Tools to Network a Major Conference." That turned out to be a great way to meet many of the attendees and Twitter followers at the ASCD Education conference in Orlando. 

Well I didn't  get to go to Austin for "South by Southwest 2009", either. But I 'm using Twitter to help me find out what bands are generating a buzz. I 'm using two Twitter tools – "hashtags" and the Twitter Cloud Explorer to track the SXSW bands that are generating the most Tweets. I'm using the search string #SXSW + Band + Great. The size of the word indicates the number of #SXSW tweets using that band's name with the word "great."  

Sorry: As of 4/26/09 the TwitterCloudExplorer seems to have disappeared. 

First Google Map Discovered – Created in 1652

I enjoy looking at historic maps and other visual displays of information. I was browsing online images from the National Gallery of Art’s current exhibit “Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age” and was startled to see  “A Bird’s-Eye View of Amsterdam” painted (around 1652), by Jan Micker.

Micker’s work certainly parallels the Google Map satellite view. Especially noteworthy are his realistic depiction of details, shadows of clouds and the large key with drop shadow in the lower right corner. Not bad considering he lacked an aerial perspective. He was inspired by a similar work (minus shadows) from 1538 by Cornelis Anthonisz. 

Below is a current Google Map of Amsterdam for comparison. 
Note: the Google maps faces north. Micker’s view faces south.
Click map to enlarge or go to Google map of Amsterdam 


Student Teacher Evaluation 1971

I recently found my student teacher evaluation. It’s nearly thirty-eight years old – an interesting prediction about what would eventually emerge as my teaching style. At the time, I was a senior at Hartwick College in Oneonta NY. I student taught at very small rural school in South New Berlin NY. It was a K-12 central school of about 300 students with a senior class of about a dozen.  You can download my first evaluation here. (348KB pdf)  
I’ve included a few comments from my college supervisor:

You have no problem with class control when you wanted it. – I suggest you get it as soon as you are ready to start.
Learning cannot go on to any great extent, if half the students are talking.

And I especially like this one – what an image!

Climb on them and let them know what you expect.

[Ironically, I was teaching a lesson on Ghandi and civil disobedience!]
I suspect my college supervisor was hoping to see a well-organized lecture with attentive students busy taking notes. At the time, I was just stumbling along trying to figure out how to engage my kid in their learning. After teaching few years,  I realized it involved shifting my role from information dispenser to designer of learning environment. For example, I had to learn not to reply to every student response during a whole group discussion. That teacher-dominated discussion was only teaching my students that none of their comments had any value, until I “approved” them. As more experienced teacher, my classes were filled with student discussion – the difference was, I had well-planned formats that encouraged all students to reflect and contribute. Unlike my college supervisor, I do believe learning can go on with all the students talking!
BTW: I did see one positive in my student teacher evaluation. In the space for “Chalkboard Work.” He had written “used overhead.”  Guess I was into cutting-edge technology from the earliest days of my career.

Teacher Workshop Evaluation of the Year

As my presentation year draws to close I have to look back on one teacher's evaluation of my workshop that beats them all. The teacher wrote: 

I think the most valuable thing I got out of this was to change the perception of my job from "information dispenser to "designer of learning environments." I really enjoyed it. I usually get  online to look for jobs in other fields during inservice, but I didn't do that once during your workshop. I am actually exited about using this information.

As a 25+ year teacher who sat through many dull inservice workshops, I know what it's like to feel that PD is a waste of time (I usually brought papers to grade.) My nonnegotiable rule is that quality staff development should model what you expect to see in the classroom. "Sit and get PD" emulates what you don't want to see in the classroom. It is essential that the presenter models the instructional technique they are advocating, thus giving the teacher attendees the chance to both experience the technique (as student) and reflect on its use (as educator).

BTW – Here's the basic form I use for workshop evaluations. Pappas-evaluation (68 KB pdf) It usually provide very useful feedback. I might add,  it's been developed over the years with input from teachers who were invited to not only evaluate the workshop, but the feedback form. (Special thanks to Stephanie Malin, Beaverton OR, Literacy Coach for her valuable input on the evaluation prompts.)