#edblognz Challenge: Learning with Media

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Arc du Carousel, Paris 1975

At the GAFE Summit in Auckland this week there was a lot of interest, in fact more than interest – fascination, excitement, an insatiable curiosity for VR in various forms.  Jim Sill‘s sessions on the Google Cultural Institute and the VR experience through Google Cardboard were well over-subscribed and there were at least three other sessions on 360° photos and Streetview.

The opportunities that being able to see the world in 3D offers for education are undeniably huge. We can send our students on virtual field trips – indeed LEARNZ already

“assists New Zealand teachers to provide online experiences for their students that are

  • interesting
  • relevant
  • real
  • flexible
  • safe
  • 21st century”

Geography teachers can enable students to immerse themselves in the volcanic landscapes they are studying and see the impact on landforms without leaving the safety of the four walls of their classrooms, history teachers can visit archaeological ruins, battlefields, museums, and sites of significant historical importance, English students can put themselves in the shoes of the characters of the books they are studying and walk down the streets of the novel’s setting, and art students can visit galleries, see artworks so close that they can explore the brushstrokes and details of the colour they couldn’t possibly see even in real life.

But where am I going to here? The Edblognz challenge for April is;

THE LOVE-HATE RESOURCE: Re-evaluate an old resource in your subject area.

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Champs de Mars from the Eiffel Tower 1975

As a language learner and teacher being able to immerse myself and my students in the culture is a key element to successful language acquisition.  Capturing the curiosity and fascination of a country, its people and its culture is what engages us to want to learn more about the language.  My first memories of learning French in the early 1970s were at the age of 9 when our teacher showed us grainy black and white images of Paris via a manual filmstrip projector (can’t for the life of me find an image of one!) but I was hooked. I wanted to go and actually see what those blurry buildings really looked like in colour. My desire to travel was sealed then and there. Likewise in geography, our teacher showed us slideshows of his travels – snapshots where the scenery looked so far away but a glimpse was tantalising enough to whet my appetite.

In the mid 1980s as a new teacher, I remember winding similar film reels on to the bobbins of the projector and showing photos of France – by now in colour – to my students. Over the years slides gave way to videos, videos gave way to DVDs, DVDs to Youtube films and now we have 3D and Virtual Reality.

The power of images and especially moving images to capture the imagination and excitement of learners is not in dispute. However, my wonderings last week as we explored what the Google Cultural Institute offered, and the “surround sound” experience of Google Cardboard went like this;

  • Are we taking the “comfort zone” out of field trip experiences? Much of the learning happens when we are outside our comfort zone, when we have to “mind the gap” and adapt to new surroundings, new experiences – are we sanitising exploration too much?
  • Can we really learn about culture, language, history without being able to touch, smell, hear, connect, communicate and build relationships with the people and the place?
  • Are we taking so much of the mystery out of the world around us that our young children will not seek to travel and experience the “real thing”?

A while back I wrote this in a blogpost called the Blimage Challenge:

“We can learn about the world from books, from the internet, we can “see” the world through the millions of photos , videos and TV documentaries and we can learn about cultures and people. But travel offers the chance to touch and feel and smell and taste and hear.  How do you transfer those tangible aspects of knowledge to a machine? These are the things that give understanding and compassion to knowledge.  …….  A sense of belonging to the world, of having your place in the world, interacting with people , the culture and the environment.”

Grainy black and white photos inspired me to learn languages and to travel but for some of my classmates it was enough just to see the pictures.  I loved being able to show my students photos of France and Spain and other places I had visited – images and videos, used appropriately, are a powerful way of engendering interest and engagement which leads to deep learning.

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Google Cardboard 2016

Google Cardboard and the Google Cultural Institute are the natural next step on the continuum of media use that has underpinned my language teaching. My latest “thing” is taking 360° photos, uploading them to Streetview, exploring photos that are already there and looking at them through my Google Cardboard. I love the sense of “being there” that they provide. I know that for many VR experiences maybe the only way they can “be” in these places and I certainly wouldn’t deny anyone the chance to have them as there is so much we can learn from them. But, like any resource, beware the way you use it in the classroom. It is a bright, shiny, exciting, tool so keep learning and the learner at the heart of how you use it and it will send students into another dimension of learning.  Hopefully, they will still have the opportunity to connect with people and touch, feel, see, smell and taste the world around them and let those experiences inform who they are and make a difference to their lives.

 

PS – just because I can ….. check out my 360° photo of Mount Thomas in Okuku, Rangiora and this one of Mount Eden , Auckland.

All images used in this blog taken by Anne Robertson- CC BY-NC-SA

My Passion Project

I am a bit of a photograph nut and always have my eye out for an interesting subject, odd angle, quirky perspective and tricky bit of light.  I have always had cameras – my Dad got me started when he bought me my first camera – an Olympus Trip – for my 18th Birthday.  Before that I was allowed to borrow his camera occasionally and I remember having a  little Instamatic camera to take away with me when I was lucky enough to visit Berlin when I was 12 years old.  I still have all the photos in albums. Some are rather faded now but they still prompt memories.  

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Berlin 1975
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From top left anticlockwise: Paris Zoo 1975; Family on holiday 1975; Noel and Grandmere, Siran, 1975; Christine, Andre and me, Siran, 1975

I have most of the negatives too, all collated in envelopes and numbered according to month, year and which photo album the prints are displayed in. I started with the albums that have sticky pages and the cellophane leaves that hold the photos in place as well as protecting them but soon found that I couldn’t fit enough in them and they were bulky to store.  So I turned to scrapbooks.  The size of the pages also allowed me to create collages with the photos.  I rarely got the perfect shot but every picture told part of the story so I would cut around the bits in focus or smiling faces and put them together to form a pictorial story of an event.  Real cropping, cutting and pasting!  Later on I got a bit arty and started to take panoramic pictures.  Of course, the light and the varying height as I turned around as well as the curvature of the land meant that the individual photos never quite matched so I ended up with semicircles of pictures that were too long to fit in the album.  I would carefully sellotape them together so that they would concertina together when I closed the book.

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Caucasus Mountains, Georgia, USSR 1990
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The Kremlin, Moscow, USSR 1990
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Torridon, Scotland
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Family Holiday in the Jura, France

In those days I also had to be careful about how many photos I took – after all a film reel only held 36 photos. Remember the anticipation when you sent the reel away to be processed and waited for the envelope to arrive back in the post? How many times was I disappointed when what I imagined were going to be amazing photos turned out to be not up to expectations?  

By this time I had a fancier camera; as my Dad replaced his cameras I would be the grateful recipient of his old ones.  I now had an SLR and I also moved on to slides rather than prints.  Slides are difficult to display in an album but don’t you just love slide shows?  I think the magic for me stems from when we were kids and Dad used to show us slides of our holidays. We used to love it when there was a photo of us; very narcissistic, but I used to wait in anticipation of the photos of me and be very excited when there was one!  A few years ago when I inherited my Dad’s books of slides I excitedly set to and scanned them all and shared them with my sisters – delight and embarrassment in possibly equal measure!

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The Hodgson Family on an East Coast Beach: Kate, Anne, Mum (Shelagh) Steph, Paul (cousin), Jo
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Me, collecting flowers behind our house (33 Coal Hill Lane, Farsley)

I think by this time I was seeing myself as a bit of a photographer – I had a couple of lenses and spent time taking photos of plants and landscapes. I also had time pre-children to stop and compose a picture, fiddling with f-stops and apertures and focus.  My Dad still criticised the technical shortcomings of my photos (his were always technically excellent) but I reckon mine had more interesting perspectives and had more “soul”.  

So there is a period in my life missing from the photo albums when I search through them as it is represented on slides tucked away in boxes.  Slide boxes were a bit like how we stored digital photos originally – hidden until we had the means to look at them.  We had to get out the slide projector and screen and load the slides into cartridges, close the curtains, switch out the lights and enjoy the magic.  For photos stored on our computer we needed to connect to a projector or all peer around a small screen. Not as easy as just whipping out the albums.  Although, of course, all the photos were in one place and certainly much easier to carry one computer around than a box of albums!  But now with mobile devices and easy to share to sites like Flickr, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook our photos are so much more available an visible.  We can share across continents to family and friends and get instant feedback, we can also edit and create so much more easily.  And did I say I was also an Instagram nut!  I have my phone in my hand all the time, just looking for a photo.  My Instagram account is linked to FB and Twitter and the notifications “Anne-Louise has just uploaded a photo” that my husband receives several times during a day have become a standing joke in the family.Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 15.46.34.png

Once children arrived the focus of my photos was people – well my children to be more precise!  And we have a comprehensive photo history for us and them to pore over.  My eldest son was 21 last year so I spent a few evenings taking photos of old photos and making them into a digital slide show and video with WeVideo which I then uploaded to You Tube.  

There is something about those old albums, though. The tactile nature of them is so much more in the present than the collection of digital photos. Maybe it’s the time and effort it took to put the book together, the story they tell, the fact that there are only a few photos rather than the hundred I can take with my phone or a digital camera.  Who knows?  But my plan for this year is to organise my digital collection more efficiently and put them into albums or slideshows that tell a story.  I will also create some picture books like the one I create to mark our very first year in new Zealand so that we have books to pick up and thumb through. 

 

 

Playing with WeVideo

So, I have been quiet for a while on this blog but have been busy on my personal one. I have spent the last 4 weeks in Costa Rica and Nicaragua with a group of girls from school on a World Challenge Expedition. Authentic, real world learning. We kept a blog as we went to keep parents in the loop; internet cafes are all over the place and almost all the hostels and cafes have free wifi (New Zealand could learn a thing or two!) Of course, I took hundreds of photos too and so decided to try out WeVideo which is a Google App.  The free version is fine but you only have a seven and a half minutes per month and my two videos of 5 minutes and 10 minutes exceeded that!  So I decided to go for the cheapest paid version which gives me an hour a month.  It is relatively simple to use, very similar to Microsoft’s PhotoStory but infinitely slicker!  There are lots of editing options that I haven’t used – more experimentation to do!  You can link your Youtube account to it so that you can export videos to your Youtube Channel. Here is one of my efforts;