And we’re off…

Interestingly, our Creative Technologies studio class is structured much like a digital literacy research project I am co-facilitating called Reimagining Futures at TC’s Community School (TCCS) on 126th Street and Convent Ave.  A project of TC’s MASCLab, our workshops are also facilitated by the school’s theater teacher and our approach is grounded in participatory methods which research bears out as providing the space and opportunity for students’ direct involvement in the “co-construction of meanings” and creates “opportunities for…knowledge to be communicated to others” (Clark 2011, p. 311). Students are allowed to play as they practice becoming digital creators. These 5th and 6th graders are given an unusually wide berth for exploration and learning using digital tools compared to students in most public schools which are typically organized around standardized tests. TCCS frequently schedules large blocks of time for test prep, often bumping our workshop.

Besides using their knowledge from past instruction in theater, the students are free to create the digital artifact of their choice. And likewise we are afforded an open canvas to create the project of our choice. An important difference however is the quality and variety of our materials and facilities and our access to these new media and ‘maker’ tools. At TCCS we make use of Macbook Air laptops, video cameras and as much media-making software as we can muster from free downloads and pre-loaded apps. Occasionally a savvy student will gain access to software not available on their computers.

I can empathize with the students who struggle to create when presented with near limitless options or little direct guidance. Faced with so many interesting choices, however, it’s hard to settle on a singular focus. I am juggling a number of ideas in my mind.  I appreciate the freedom to explore ideas about which we are passionate, and not being confined to adhering to a set of any particular thematic constraints. The themes of social justice and activism, the science of learning and mechanisms for systemic school change – are themes in which much of my course work and research on technology integration has been grounded, and these themes will likely inform the project I create for the class.

Thinking in terms of:

  1. Pure passion project:  Body sensors a dance instructor might be able to use to teach dance steps, combinations and routines.  I love disco and hustle dancing so I would like to think about whether I could develop a useful way to burrow through this idea and make something useful and fun.  If the Library of Congress can present a disco program, I’d say there are elements that can be mined for scholarly pursuits in this context. The very first book I laid eyes on and borrowed from the Teachers College library was The Art of Disco Dancing by Dennis Fallon who was an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A few days after our first class I took the book out of the library again to use now (to my delight) as research material for this project.
Photo by Caroline DeVoe

I also borrowed Body, Movement and Culture by Sally Ann Ness. I didn’t realize the book was an ethnographic account of the cultural inscriptions from movement and ritual dances practiced by communities on Cebu Island in the Philipines. The first paragraph elicits so many visual possibilities with its vivid lyrical prose:

From Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philipine Community by Sally Ann Ness, 1992, University of Pennsylvania Press (p. 1).

2.  Interactive Church and State Separator: What kind of device or system can help us think about whether or not the Constitutionally mandated separation between church and state is being eroded?



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