On Creativity Gaps

Ahhhh, the beginning of the year.  The time where I use my time wisely and try to become all productive and stuff.  Well, we’ll see how long that lasts.

I have decided that one of my resolutions this year will be to write more, to create more, but this doesn’t come without its challenges.  I recently re-listened to a quote by Ira Glass with my class where he talks about the initial gap that creators face between their early works and the works that they see others do.  If you haven’t heard the quote, it is pretty amazing and someone did a nice little piece of Kinetic Typography to go along with it:

I think I’ve been feeling like this for a while.  While, I would consider myself a strong technical person — I am not necessarily the most creative person.  I am one that can do a task well, if it is laid out for me, but coming up with something from scratch is difficult. I think a part of that is I have felt that gap between my own work and the work that I see in others.  I feel like it is one thing for a 20-year old to see that gap and have a few years to produce some work that makes up for that gap.  But here I am 32-years old, and I still find myself lagging behind — am I too old to produce good work in time?  I really feel that I have the ‘taste’ thing down.  I am able to recognize work that is good, cutting-edge, and inspiring.  And I’ve even made a few pieces that are inspired by these works that I see, but like Ira, I have felt that the pieces that I have made are still crap — that they aren’t where I want them to be.

So here I am, starting out a new year.  I have energy to boot and I am eager to get to work.  I love making films — I love creating, but honestly that gap is the biggest thing that keeps me from moving forward.  I guess here is to working on closing that gap.

Any thoughts?  What have you done to keep yourself creating work when you felt that what you made isn’t up to snuff?

EDUC 216: Assessment of Learning Reflection Paper

Ed Note: You know that it’s been a tough quarter for blogging when your last blog post was a reflection paper for your last professional development class. I’m still trying to find a way of balancing my multiple streams of output (facebook, twitter, multiple blogs) and I hope to put more attention onto this blog in the future.

Additional Ed Note:  By creating this post I just learned how to wade through a database to find an old version of the post.  As a nearly finished version magically disappeared from before my eyes.  Experiential learning if I’ve ever seen it.

Assessment of Learning

This quarter I have been privileged to be a part of Jo Nelson’s class on the assessment of learning. For those of you who are unaware, these classes at Lake Washington Technical College are a part of each instructor’s professional development process. While they are often challenging to incorporate into your schedule, I have found that they have been immensely useful in two important ways 1) providing instructors with ideas for content and 2) allowing instructors to interact and commiserate with one another — oftentimes delving into the struggles of dealing with a particular student population. This class was focused on the way in which we can measure whether or not learning is taking place.

As part of this final reflection paper I would like to highlight 3 major takeaways for me from the class:

  1. The importance of proving clear directions to students
  2. The importance (and difficulty) of teaching Global Outcomes to our students
  3. The role of Elluminate in facilitating and online class

Clear Assignment Directions

One of our first assignments in the class was to provide an example of an assignment that we used in the classroom. Our discussion in the classroom at the time was focused around why and how we assess our students. I’ve been using a rubric in my classroom since the first quarter that I taught here (a habit that I picked up from Marie Wilsey’s “Teaching and Facilitating Learning” class), but I have come to feel that I often rely on that rubric to provide assignment expectations for my students. What I have learned is that I need to provide clear directions in multiple forms. I need to provide examples of successful assignments from the past as well as assignments that haven’t been so successful. I need to make sure that students know how much each part of an assignment is worth, even if it is a small assignment. I need to provide adequate instruction for a student to be able to complete the assignment. This is something that I will continue to struggle with — oftentimes I use assignments as both an assessment process and an exercise. I seem them as an opportunity to let my students struggle through a process to help reinforce some things that I have taught them in the classroom. What I need to make sure to do, however, is give my students clear instruction for every step of the process or to make sure that they will have the adequate tools required to complete the task.

The question that this begs however, is whether I am spoon-feeding my students. In class we have discussed a few times whether or not we are providing our students with things that we were not provided with as students. I remember a few times in college where I had to struggle through an assignment, often because my instructor did not give me all of the answers along the way. I think about how one instructor gave me an assignment to strip a movie trailer of all sound and replace it. I was pretty unfamiliar with how to do this and I don’t think that the instructor gave me detailed steps to complete the assignment. But I struggled and eventually figured things out and those things that I learned, I will never forget. I just wonder if there is value in letting our students struggle a little bit. Thoughts?

Global Outcomes

The last portion of our class was devoted to the discussion of Global Outcomes. Global Outcomes are 5 critical skills that each of our students should have before they graduate from the college. They are skills that transcend individual programs and are required for our students to be good, employable citizens in the community. These Global Outcomes are:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Teamwork
  3. Intercultural Awareness
  4. Information and Technical Literacy
  5. Communication

While the class discussions gave me some good ideas for potential assignments that I can use in my classroom to assess each of these globals, my more important takeaway is that these globals are something that really need to be taught and not just assessed. During class one week we were discussing Critical Thinking and the entire class had a collective brain freeze in trying to come up with ideas of how to teach critical thinking. I also realized that assignments that I had created to promote critical thinking in my students was failing to do so — but rather just creating opportunities for my students to parrot things that I had taught them. I immediately went and revamped one of these assignments, this time with more exploratory questions aimed at eliciting some reflection from my student. I need to evaluate the process of critical thinking, in the same way that a math instructor wants to check their students “work” and not just their answers.

Elluminate

I think one of the best lessons that I learned this quarter wasn’t about the content at all, but rather the delivery of the class.  The class was fully online.  We met every Wednesday to discuss in a face-to-face environment via Elluminate.  While I have been a participant in an Elluminate session before, it was interesting to see how an entire quarter long class played out through Elluminate sessions.

 

Jo did a great job of keeping us all engaged with the content and making sure that we were all participating in the session.   She asked us by name what we thought about a certain topic and allowed us to fully use the tools that come with Elluminate to fully participate in the class.  That being said, I’m worried about integrating Elluminate into my classroom for a few reasons (many of which we ran across during the quarter):

  • The technological hurdles of making sure that everyone can connect to the session and get their audio and video running
  • Students who participate need to be willing to participate.  Elluminate really requires discussion, and it may be difficult to produce from some of my students.
  • The problem of keeping everyone on track when they are on their computer — I found myself doing a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally do in a face to face class (eating, holding babies, looking up stuff on the Internet) — and I can see how it may be a struggle to keep everyone on task in the classroom.

That being said having taken this class, I know what good can come from an Elluminate session and I am willing to try it in the future.

Closing Thoughts

I’m grateful for the experience that I had this quarter.  Once again, these classes are great for the mere fact that it allows us to peek into each others classrooms to see what teaching techniques we can implement.  It has been a great to get to know some of the faculty that I didn’t know as well as learn some valuable lessons about how I can be a better instructor.

EDUC 206: Reflection Paper

For my final paper in EDUC 206, I have been tasked with reflecting on the past quarter and the work that I have completed in the course.  For those of you who don’t know, the EDUC series are classes taught at Lake Washington Technical College that are aimed at developing instructor’s abilities.  I took the first part of the course EDUC 201 my first quarter as an instructor here and it was a lifesaver for me in helping me navigate the student population that I would encounter here.  EDUC 206 has not been the same eye opener, but nonetheless it has been an important refresher in my instructional career.  To help me evaluate those things that I have learned, I want to compare my knowledge before and after in a few areas that we have discussed in the class:

Multiple Intelligences

As mentioned in a previous post, over the course of the quarter we have been discussing the idea of multiple intelligences.  And while I didn’t know who Howard Gardner was at the beginning of the quarter, I was aware of different learning styles that we encounter in the classroom.  What was new to me was how many of these learning styles there were.  The class has opened my eyes up to such intelligences as “Musical” and “Naturalist”.  And while I may not necessarily be turning my editing classes into full scale musical productions — it is nonetheless important to recognize the varying ways in which my students learn.

Copyright

One great in-class discussion that we had was on the topic of copyright.  To be honest, previously I had used kind of a “no holds barred” approach to incorporating materials into my classroom.  In looking at the pre-assessment that I took for the class, I thought that you could copy any chapter from any book as long as I only did one chapter at a time and didn’t try to sell the material.  What I have learned is that copyright is not so easy — however, it is not so complicated as well.  As I discussed in a recent post about using open materials, our librarians here at the college are well equipped to handle copyright questions.  I’ve been thinking about trying to run a whole class using readings culled from these resources.  My hesitation for this doesn’t spring from my reluctance to use the technology, but rather the fact that I still struggle to get my students to read the resources that I give them.

What I have learned overall about copyright is that it is a complicated issue, one that make me grateful for trained librarians that are on my side as I confront these issues.

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Another topic that we covered in the class was the Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT).  I think I remembered this term from my first time through EDUC 201.  CATs are small ways that we can gauge the learning of our students.  These may include small surveys that we give our students at the end of class to make sure that they have an understanding of the lesson material covered.  While I had learned about this method before, it has not been something that I have really implemented in my classroom, instead relying on more informal assessment techniques.  I think one of my hesitations has been that I don’t want to get burdened by the paperwork that comes with the CATs.  I would love to find some technological solution that easily gauges my students learning without creating a world of unnecessary paperwork for me.  Or maybe I am just taking too easy an approach to this topic — overall I think I am pretty casual in truly trying to gauge the learning of my students.  It could be worth it for me to kill a few trees and spend some time reading the feedback from my students

Final Thoughts

This quarter has been a great opportunity to revisit some of those topics that I need to refocus on as an instructor.  Previously, I have treaded lightly in the three areas that I have discussed above, instead getting bogged down in the nitty gritty of my classroom.  I think as an instructor, it is easy to get too focused on what is going on in your classroom, considering yourself too busy to really change anything.  However, if you take some time to step back and invest in some of these new techniques, you will be repaid as your students will learn better and appreciate the role that you take in their learning.

 

Disneyland and Storytelling

Let me just put this out there and let everyone know once and for all that I am a total Disneyland nut.  And while I am not ashamed of this fact, I will also be one of the first to say that I know the reasoning behind this is deeply psychological.  Disneyland holds a great amount of nostalgia for me (as I think it does for many people).  Trips to Disneyland were associated with memories of my family — and somehow those memories are always stronger when they are from a vacation.

I think that anyone would agree that the real draw behind Disneyland is storytelling.  Walt was a master storyteller and it really shows in his park.  I have taken trips to other theme parks (Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Chessington World of Adventures) and while each had thrilling rides (Chessington, not so much) anyone would agree that their storytelling is sub-par.  Before my most recent trip, I read David Koenig’s Mouse Tales.  Probably the thing that I got most out of that book is the fact that good storytelling takes effort and preparation.  Disneyland is willing to pay the big bucks because it know that money is necessary to fill in the holes in the walls of storytelling.  In the same way that extraneous details can ruin a story (think about your aunt going on and on about something), Disney knew that he must keep those details hidden.  Nothing should be extraneous.  Everything should support the plot.

Anyway, here is my most recent video from a trip that my entire family took to Disneyland, and while I may not have captured the stories of Disneyland, I hopefully captured the story of my family and our experience with that place.

 

Integrating Open Resources into the Clasroom

This week for EDUC 206, we were assigned the task of integrating copyright free or open resources into one of our classes.  The class that I decided upon was my Film Studies class.  Right now in the class, I do not use a text book.  Film Studies text books can be dense and expensive, and for that reason, I didn’t think most of them were appropriate for my workforce-focused class.  Instead, I have put together a series of lectures pulling from a variety of resources.  However, I would like to have some better materials to use that would allow my students to explore Film Studies on their own.

For the purpose of this assignment, I wanted to find resources to support a lesson in the Film Studies class about editing.  One thought that I had was that I could use a chapter from Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye. I met with one of our librarians, Heather Davis, and she checked if the school had copyright clearance to use a chapter in my course.  After checking, she found out that we didn’t have clearance and so I had to look elsewhere for content.

Fortunately, Heather introduced me to a couple of other resources including LWTC’s ebrary.  The ebrary is a collection of published books which are also available in electronic form.  The books can easily be placed in our Angel shells and used as a part of our course.  After a quick search through the ebrary I found a great resource which rivals the book that I had wanted to use.  It is a series of interviews with Walter Murch about film editing titled Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Film Editing.  I will hopefully put this into my lesson content starting next quarter.

I think that I learned from this experience that using copyrighted and open resources is an exercise in flexibility.  While you may not be able to use your first choice, looking for options that have flexible copyright restrictions will ultimately save money for your students.  I think that is also a good opportunity to fully use the resources that library has available.