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Pen and ink drawing class at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

Fig.1 Chair and shade

It was like being back at school: though the ratio of 15 women to 3 men felt like I’d gate-crashed the girl school’s class down the road; I was educated in all male schools from 4 to 19. Of the 15 two were under 20, two were under 30 and the others above 60 and 70. No difference. Just like school. I recognised this swimming with Masters that given any opportunity to be the child that we were we are.

My relationship with art is an odd one: a mother who taught art, had an MA from Durham University in Fine Art, but who discounted at as a career for any of her children. I took it as far as A’levels (under her tutelage).

In 90 minutes we has some history, so thoughts on kit, then we got on with it. I found a secluded spot in the central courtyard (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings). And picked first on the climbing plants on a wall, and then the chair I’d taken out of the class. My challenge was to look at different ways of adding shade. Eventually I found that changing from pen to cotton balls and ink would differentiate between the object and the shadow. This’ll take further work.

Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:

Power Boat II (Refresher)

It is eight or more years since I did the course and seven years since I’ve been in a power boat. A bit of it came back. And new stuff was added. I need this so that I can operate a ‘rib’ during ‘racing week’ at the local sailing club: laying the course, keeping an eye on the fleet to rescue and assist. The sea can be choppy, the winds strong. Dinghies go over and their mast can pin them to the shallow sand and grit of Seaford Bay.

How to train a pigeon

In her wisdom my daughter has rescued a pigeon with a broken wing. The RSPB and animal sanctuaries aren’t interest. ‘Ralph’ is now accommodated in a garden shed; shits everywhere but is eating from my daughter’s hand. Muggins will be looking after it shortly of course. The volume of pebble-dash shit is impressive as every shit is onto a fresh patch of shed floor – it will be one shit deep, like a carpet by the weekend.

Graphic Design

The exhibition on the designer Ivan Chermeyeff at the De La Warr is so good I’ve been back three times. There is no book on this exhibition, though many of his books are nailed to a table to admire (the page it has been opened at), with a few books you can browse. There is an insightful video too – an interview with the designer talking about how he got into fine art and graphic design from an inspiration father. One of the things he talks about is ‘learning to see’. Had photography not been banned I would not have got out a pad of paper and looked more closely at his collages. Had I not taken such a close look I wouldn’t have seen, with magical surprise, that one was made from ephemera collected at the inauguration of JFKennedy as US President on January 20 1961.

Don’t make it easy

Fig. 1 Some ideas from the Ivan Chermayeff ‘Cut and Paste’ exhibition at the De La Warr, Bexhill

As photography isn’t allowed instead of moving from the gallery with my iPhone or camera clicking at everything and anything that caught my eye I was obliged to get out a sketch pad. Just as Ivan Chermayeff says in a exhibition video ‘most people don’t know how to see’.

We risk making everything too easy with e-learning: photos, screengrabs, instant research, transcripts of video, video as audio only or highlights or summaries thanks to others.

The above ideas were for:

a) A School of Visual Arts talk he was giving with a colleague

b) Arthritis – with letters torn from a type font catalogue and jumbled around

c) Mother and Child in modern art – a signal Magritte or Matisse like cut out.

What I would have missed entirely, and I do it no justice here, is a collage of tickets and seating allocation to the inauguration of John F Kennedy on the 20th January 1961. (Before my time, I’d been conceived a few weeks before at a New Year’s Eve party. Not even I can remember that far back).

Fig.2 Sketch of an Ivan Chermayeff collage/poster using bits and pieces from attendance at the inaugurations of US President J F Kennedy

Expressions of learning

Think about your own learning – the resources and tools you use, where and when it takes place.

Early mornings from 4.00am, weekends, mornings only ’til 10.00 or so.

Occasionally some reading in the evening.

But vicariously too, in a conversation, or going for walk, say looking at pebbles and shell washed up on the shore, or the layers of deposits in a chalk cliff.

What is your experience of being a learner?

If I’m not learning something new or building on my knowledge I am bored. I’m staggered I survived formal learning, I found the Oxford approach tedious, skipped all lectures, and relied instead on libraries and Blackwells which could between them supply every book or journal I wanted.

I failed to get far with a correspondence course on writing.

I learn best with a mixture of doing, reading/workshops and further application. I can be inspired or frustrated by my peer group. They can be a vital part of the mix, a course I did across Europe having the most refreshing mix of people.

What tools and resources do you use?

I’m slowly getting it all down to the iPad for its speed to the web, then grabbing and pasting into websites that I use as folders, eportfolios, writer’s journal as well as open blogs. I also chuck things into my email folders to collate, aggregate or check through later.

What are your views on different technologies?

I make the time to try most things and will become temporarily hooked. Currently fixated on Linkedin, WordPress blogs and Stumbleupon.

Likely to read most content as an eBook putting notes into iWriter. This is in stark contrast to printing everything off a year ago then filing it.

Forever grabbing screenshots or taking pics that go from Picasa to Picasa Web and then into blogs.

Can you think of examples where technology has made a significant difference to the way you learn?

When I started the MAODE I fell back on methods I had used during A’ levels snd quickly filled several files.

A year on and I hold the iPad in my right hand and manage a kind of touchtyping with the other. I try not to rely on harddrives and memory sticks instead putting it online, increasingly as private or password protected entries in a number of blogs hat act as themes or categories.

I would worry about learning away from The OU and finding the VLE not up to scratch or being cut-off from fellow students.

Can you think of counter examples where you had a bad experience of a particular technology?

I hate Outlook and Excel.

I both instances I feel the nerd has taken over, that my mothball of a mnd is being shoe-horned into a match-box. Worse, My unregimented, freefalling, excitable mind is being containerised, my best thoughts quaterised. It disables some minds and enables the petty. These are to me like walking in crocodiles to the school dining hall; they are overly prescriptive.

I am starting to hate Word 2011 in favour of an iPad App, iWriter which is less like trying to write while dressed as a Morris Dancer and playing the Great Whurlitzer.

Interested in the potential of computers I joined an undergraduate group in 1983 but found having to learn programming was akin to sticking stamps onto envelopes with my toes.

I used interactive DVDs successfully to learn AdobePhotoshop, FilemakerPro and Dreamweaver.

Simply a voice talking through the screen shots then getting you to do the same. The next best thing to having someone sit at your side and be your guide.

All self-paced, vital as I might prefer to do 20 intensive hours in one shot rather than nibbling at it.

What did this do to your motivation for learning?

There must be intrinsic motivation.

How did you deal with the situation?

Giving up. Which I know now was unnecessary. Thinking my mind isn’t suited to a thing instead of tackling it.

Support is vital.

Some formal training, then support at your shoulder. Time to figure it out. Understanding as you get it wrong. Those expert at these things can be unsympathetic to new comers, assuming their knowledge, rather that helping or nuturing.

Had the motivation been there could I have found my own way into the technology I do wonder.

I love the intuitive, where the learning is self-directed and incremental. Anything that needs an instruction manual or behaves like the off-side rule will put me off.

I love the Sony flip. IT just does video. Like Google ‘just does search’.

Excessive bells and whistles should be offered as Apps to add later rather than being offered up front.

Visualing metaphors I use to explain learning online:

It is like the letter a …

  • A dandelion in seed (Content online)

  • The solar system (Social Media Networks)

  • Drops of ink in water (Content online)

Akin to my ever changing Personal Learning Environment mindmap:

  • Lichen (How your knowledge grows/links)
  • Ball-bearings (Dependency and interaction)
  • A map (layouts, representation)
  • The water-cycle (Binary code as water molecules)
  • A Catherine-wheel (Spinning beautifully then falling of its stand!)

  • A glider riding a thermal (Personal development)
  • Delibes, Lakme. (Music as metaphor. Dance. Entanglement. Rising)
  • Learning to sight read music
  • Soaring and bound

  • Swimming pool (coaching/training)

Each might emphasise different aspects of the process: –

  • What is being learnt
  • Contexts
  • Audiences

Ways of expressing yourself

  • Empathy
  • Shared experience

What artifacts (tools, resources, etc.) are being used?

Where and when things are happening

  • IPad
  • Photoscspe
  • Picasa
  • Artpad
  • Bubbl.us
  • Wordle
  • MRI scan
  • Engestrom’s activity systems
  • Google Images
  • David Mcandless

Learning Activity Systems as pans of vegetables competing for space on the hob

1). What kind of theory of learning is offered by classic activity theory?

A single activity system unit that works upon an object and delivers an outcome

2). What are the five principles of current activity theory? According to Engeström:

  1. A collective, artifact-mediated and object-orientated activity system, seen in its network relations ot other activity systems, is taken as the prime unit of analysis.
  2. Multi-voicedness of activity systems. A community of multiple points of view, traditional and interests.
  3. Age and history
  4. Contradictions as sources of change and development – accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems.
  5. The possibility of expansive transformations.

3). What is the problem with the ‘standard’ theories of learning that expansive learning addresses?

Standard theory equates to lasting behaviour change whereas expansive learning considers a sideways shift of the entire activity system.

created using Art Pad

I was thinking in terms of trying to boil two pans on water on one hob; the flames between the pans cause more conflict than harmony. Shift both pans to the left or right and the heat is under each activity rather than between them.

I’ll get out a pad of paper and try some more of these.

4) What is the criticism that Engeström makes of the apprenticeship model of learning?

Doesn’t permit the development of original thinking. (I disagree. It depends on the person you are apprenticed too. Think of the many great artists who learnt their craft under a great master, then broke loose).

In relation to e-learning or are we calling it technology-enhanced learning here I fully recognise the value of participation, letting go of your thoughts and therefore being one of these ‘activity systems’ so that a shared ‘third object’ (Engestrom, 2001) as it were, moves forward.

The best colloborative work is like this, my experience being those video production, often drama based, that require multiple inputs from people with very different, and specific talents.

I’ve gone on to try and express the Engestrom diagram in 3D, and drawing six activity systems … i.e creating greater complexity to begin getting closer to the highly complex reality and in turn a different diagram/illustration entirely.

REFERENCE

Engeström (2001) article, Expansive learning at work: toward an activity theoretical reconceptualisation

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