Project-based Learning

Photography techniques that help create more impact-sample photo gallery.

A few weeks ago we worked with several classes from Clay, Lee and Owsley County schools exploring basics of photography to creatie pictures with a purpose.  Students are working on various projects involving landscapes, portraits and stories about their communities.

Exercises are designed to get the student thinking about how they can help the viewer engage with the image and understand what the photographer is trying to communicate.

During the individual classes, we covered common techniques used by many professional photographers – Basics of Photography.   Each student then created images demonstrating those techniques.  In the tradition of any good project-based lesson, we shared our photos and spent time critiquing the work so we could all benefit from the examples of what worked and what didn’t.   Mistakes make you better.

Students got hands-on experience using light, leading lines, patterns, unique angles, rule of thirds, framing, and negative space to bring interest and focus to their images.  Students spent time thinking through the process to make an impression with their viewer.

You can view the Basics of Photography video and download the PowerPoint for your class.  These techniques are clearly illustrated and will help your students improve their work.

Teachers, mark your calendar for the Western Kentucky University Mountain Workshops October 24-27, 2017.  Dataseam is once again sponsoring a select group of educators for this year’s Dataseam Teacher’s Track to be held in Morehead, Ky.  This is a once in a career opportunity for teachers to work with photo and journalism professionals from across the country to better understand how to help students enhance communication skills using images, text, video, and audio.  Official application should be available as soon as you get back to school in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master Communicator – Nine Rules for Success

Effective communication is a requirement.  Your students’ professional successes in the 21st Century will depend largely on their ability to use collective communication outlets, a.k.a. MEDIA.  They must master media both as a consumer and creator.

Communication is not only sending and receiving a message.  It is not defined by consuming a few broadcast news channels or a local newspaper.  It involves sorting through text, images, video and data from dozens of sources and sometimes publishing or broadcasting what you have to say across the globe.

While we do not know exactly what jobs in the future will be, we do know successful people in the 21st Century will be those creating products and services using the latest technology, and those communicating concepts, products and processes affectively.  Students with both talents stand to win big.  Bright students are shocked when I tell them, “if you can not explain your great idea it does not matter.”IMG_3794

Understand media platforms.  Netflix, YouTube, HBOGO, iHeartRadio, Shazam, Spotify, Hulu and other sources put vast amounts of content at ones fingertips.  Social platforms Snapchat, Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook, Skype, Twitter help instantly put your message in front of thousands of friends, strangers, customers and business associates.  Then there is the old fashion phone, face-to-face, presentation, email and written correspondence.  Even a simple personal email may now get shared with millions around the world.

You may not care what Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga send across multiple media platforms, but they reach more people then most television shows or publications.   Lady Gaga by-passed traditional recording industry channels (record stores, radio stations, major concert venues, traditional media) to build one of the world’s most recognizable brands and media outlets in addition to selling millions of songs, albums and concert tickets.

Building your brand like any other product.  Yes, in this modern media world your students need to think of themselves as a brand.  What are their “customers” going to think of them and expect from them?  Customers may be employers, potential investors, collaborators, other media outlets, social and professional groups or voters.

Target your audience.  Successful users of any media first understand their customer (audience).  Master communicators appreciate who is listening and how the audience wants to receive information.  Communication is modified to meet the needs of their audience.  Successful communicators work to deliver messages where and when the audience is best prepared to listen and react.

IMG_6647Create a clear message and give your audience a reason to care.  While there are differences in each media, good story telling has similar elements.  Even if you explain how you engineered a bridge, there are still characters, a setting, a conflict and a resolution to this tale.  We learn and retain best through good story telling.

Use a complete media toolbox.  How are you communicating?  In the recent past we taught written prose.  Those that excelled at language might create poetry.  And those that mastered “multi-media” became minstrel storytellers combining poetic prose and music to enhance the power and memorability of their story.

Students use photos, memes, video, music, mashed up video, emoji, re-broadcast messages, and live communications to convey thoughts and feelings.  What is their picture saying?  How can it be changed to make a point more clear, powerful and affective?  Did I make the audience care?

Learn what you don’t know and critically challenge what you think you know.  A flood of information, half-truths, data and opinions make it harder for your students to keep the facts straight.  With their increased ability to communicate, I would argue their communication takes on a heightened importance.  This makes it even more important to understand the subject.

Your students’ ability to quickly analyze data and apply it to a situation is critical.  As a creator of media, students have the power to spread truth or fiction.  Relying on and passing on bad information can rapidly destroy one’s brand.

Making a strong statement based on limited information is a dangerous action for a modern communicator.  With regard to data, fact checking and truly understanding an issue, I often pass on these pearls of wisdom.

  • Statistics don’t lie, but statisticians do.
  • 87% of statistics are made up on the spot.
  • Two seemingly opposing opinions can both be true or false.

Listen to your audience.  Student may work hard to craft a message using videos, images and words that represent the truth and their point of view brilliantly.  They may target their audience masterfully.  They may still fail by not listening to their audience, because at the end of the day it matters more what your audience hears then what you think you said.

Practice with a purpose.  If you want to be good at something you have to practice.  If you want to be great, practice a lot.  Write, talk, record, review, take pictures.  Look back on your work and ask yourself how to make it clearer, more impactful.

Nine Rules for 21st Century Master Communicator

  1. Effective communication is a requirement.
  2. Understand media platforms.
  3. Build your personal brand like any other product.
  4. Target your audience.
  5. Create a clear message and give your audience a reason to care.
  6. Use a complete media toolbox.
  7. Learn what you don’t know and critically challenge what you think you know.
  8. Listen to your audience.
  9. Practice with a purpose.

 

Professional Level Performance is the Result of Professional Level Practice.

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People who get better at any skill, do so through carefully designed purposeful practice. Purposeful practice focuses students on their learning zone, and develops a life-long learning attitude-a different way of learning.
We had the  opportunity to work with small groups of students in recent Governor’s School for the Arts, photography ArtShops. The challenge was, how do you help the students improve their skills in just a few hours? More importantly how do you enable the students to take this short workshop experience and run with it the rest of their lives?
The four step design of our  GSA ArtShops target the goal of purposeful practice . Let’s consider the details.
 
Establishing Current Capability
The first step in designing purposeful practice was to identify specific skills the students needed to take better photos. Our students brought portfolios of their current work for evaluation. We set benchmarks of where the students were so we could decide where we wanted to take them.
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Setting Goals
Three learning zones were considered when designing the student goals.
  1. Goals that were already mastered would have been in the student’s comfort zone.
  2. Goals too challenging would have put the students in their panic zone.
  3. Knowing where the benchmarks were, we set some goals just beyond their current performance levels. This was that magical zone where students push forward and learn best. Their learning zone.

With our goals in mind we introduced a discussion of concepts in lighting, composition, camera angles, leading lines, etc., that the students could use to improve their photography.

Our “Basic Photography” video, and Keynote presentation (a Powerpoint version is also available) can be downloaded.

Hands on practice
The students were given a photographic assignment in their learning zone. We asked them to produce purposeful images, using the concepts and techniques we discussed. They were asked to be prepared to show their techniques later in a critique session. We accompanied them during their hands on practice, looking for teaching moments. This way we could observe and identify points of difficulty, gently providing guidance.
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Critical review
Feedback was so important as we reviewed the work that the students produced. More importantly, the review included how to continue improving the images. Where to get help and what to do next.
Specific questions helped the students analyze what they saw in the images. What do you like? What captures your attention? Were specific compositional/lighting techniques used to create the images? Where do your eyes focus? Is there a mood captured? How will you use what you have observed in this image to improve your future images?
At this point, the students began to design their own purposeful practice. We stressed a model of deliberate, highly structured practice, with specific goals for each student to take with them. The discussions were carefully guided to enable the students to become “their own best critic”.
See images created by our GSA students on our FaceBook page.
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Review of purposeful practice
Purposeful practice starts by identifying what you want to accomplish.
Set goals that are just beyond current performance levels.This is your learning zone.
Don’t work in your comfort zone, or your panic zone.
Work in your learning zone until you master the goals.
Seek feedback from experts. Blogs, podcasts, videos, classes, coaching, etc.,  are great sources.
Be your own best critic.
Never give up! Be a life long learner!


Hands-In Learning

henry-hunt
Henry Hunt

(Pikeville, Kentucky) – You can see the process unfolding when a child’s mind is operating – when they are learning to think.  You can read it on their face; see it in the interaction with their classmate; watch their body move differently; and feel the heat coming from genuine, THINKING.

Traci Tackett’s Pikeville Elementary students are “all in” with their hands, brains and stomachs when it comes to their School Fall & Winter Garden Program.  We had a chance to see students in action building homes to attract pollinators, enriching their soil and learning how to think.  I don’t always subscribe to the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the images below may help you experience the student’s learning journey.

IMG_3611Teacher, Mrs. Tackett, and Cathy Rehmeyer, project mentor, recently shared their experience creating School Fall & Winter Gardens during an online workshop.Watch the video for several tips to get your school up and running so students can enjoy the education and dietary benefits.

These bright and engaged students worked with Mrs. Tackett as she led them through a whiteboard session on worm reproduction and pollinators.  They knew they needed pollinators for their school garden to flourish.  They discussed the basics of why plants needed pollination.  They listed potential plant pollinators.  A list of pros and cons of Honey Bees and Mason Bees drew conversation and debate as students started to connect concepts.

Wheels were turning as students broke in to groups to attack the main activities for today – collecting worm castings and constructing Mason Bee houses.

According to the students, collecting castings is simple, and to most, fun.  You just open your worm farm and separate the worms from the dirt-like castings (poop).  Put the castings in a can so you can mix it in the soil to help the garden grow.  Put the worms back in the farm so they can make more castings and more worms.  Or as one young man said, “…it is kind of simple; they eat, they poop.  They make more worms.  That’s about it.”

IMG_3617The second main task of the day involved power tools, so you know it has to be good.  Under the supervision of Mrs. Tackett and district technology administrator, Neil Arnett, students carefully drilled holes in the blocks of wood where the Mason Bees would put their larvae and small amounts of nectar.  Hung near the school garden these small homes will help attract Mason Bees to pollinate their crop.

Mason Bees were selected primarily because they don’t tend to sting.  According to Mrs. Tackett, they also tend to be “messy” and thus prolific pollinators.  One of the students commented during the session comparing Honey and Mason Bees that they would not want to be a Mason Bee, “…because they don’t live as long as Honey Bees.”

I bring this up not just to get a laugh on how funny kids can be, but more importantly to illustrate the level of detail students were absorbing, thinking and drawing conclusions.

When asked what he would tell his mom and dad about this project he said, “I would tell them I would rather do this than study in our classroom.  This is more hands-on experience and class is just learning out of a book.  It is more fun…then reading a book and I learn twice as much as just reading that book.  The book gives the main details, but none of the smaller details…it may tell you that agriculture is planting a garden, but it is not going to tell you, you have to have pollinators … and get into the small details.”

I am not here to argue the merits or role of books (they are good), but I do want to use this to illustrate the excitement and value students place on experience.

At Pikeville Elementary they are hands-in and minds-on with the process.

 

Today At School, We Traveled To Mars, And Saved The Earth.

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henry-hunt
Henry Hunt

(Hazard, Kentucky) – Three teams from Clay County Middle School visited the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky at Hazard recently as part of the Kentucky Space Movie Project.  Students from Sheryl Bowling’s Multi Media class had created short science fiction movies and were visiting the campus in Hazard to showcase their movies and participate in space engineering based projects.

Over the last few months, students developed a concept, wrote, directed, acted in, shot and edited their films.  The project helped the students work on their writing skills and learn more about engineering and space related science.  They identified “teamwork” as the thing they learned the most.  In order to complete the project they had to communicate and work together like never before.

In addition to seeing their movies projected on the big screen at Hazard Community and Technical College, the students worked to solve several engineering challenges organized by Challenger Learning Center’s Joe Collins.  Using an array of materials, the student teams had a limited time to design, construct, test and report on machines they built to accomplish specific goals.  One mission was to move a nuclear bomb (soda can) to a safe area without touching the bomb with their hands.  Another was to build a tower to hold power sources at least six inches apart.  Still another had students launch a projectile twenty-five feet across the room to hit an incoming asteroid (coffee can).

Yes, they hit the asteroid.  We have video to prove it.  Also take a few minutes to watch the science fiction movies.  Kentucky Space Movie Project.

So these students used their imagination to travel and explore our universe.  Then just for fun they stopped an incoming asteroid in order to save the world.  After watching these young people interact, think, test, fail and make corrections, I feel a little safer about the earth’s future.