Archive for March, 2012

March 20, 2012

ON-DEMAND AMNESIA AT THE SELF-SERVE WINDOW OF EDUCATION

Plato, the smartest man I know, is often credited with having said something to the effects that “if I know anything, it’s that I know nothing at all.
Was he alluding to his own philosophy of ideal form and the fact that he considered himself a perpetual student of life-unformed, unperfected and still in the processs of attaining to perfection-perhaps. Could it be that he was genuinely suffering from some sort of senile dementia that had robbed him of his intrinsic capacity for memorization?
I think that it was a little of both. To understand this we need to re-visit history- both Plato’s history and the phenomenon of history itself.
The historical narrative as we know it in the west today underwent tectonic changes in the period leading up to and beyond the time of Plato.
Traditionally, a people’s history, it’s myths, customs and secrets to survival were encoded and transmitted through a rich mix of media forms that included image, song, dance, story and elaborate eulogies and rituals. This mix of media was used as a mnemonic device to facilitate burning the shared narrative into the collective conscious.
Attending to this legacy of collective wisdom required a collective response and all members of early societies were compelled to bear the burden of the cognitive load of their history by committing some or all of it to memory. This titanic feat of memorization was facilitated through their participation in rituals designed to replicate the DNA of their narrative. This form of the shared burden of memory was highly codified and participatory in nature and constituted a significant drain on the resources of early people’s and may well have been the impetus behind the shift from hunter gatherer societies to sedentary agrarian modes.
The birth of the sign, be it a hand on a cave wall, a hieroglyph or cuneiform impression in clay, “marks” a major shift in media that allowed history, narrative and collective memory to be externalized. According to seminal theorists like Harold Innis, Erik Havelock, Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, the shift to writing revolutionized the manner in which we were able to organize ourselves and, in the end, our systems of thought. With the embrace of writing, ideas could be disembodied and travel through time and space to reshape the power constructs that shaped our social contract and its associated value systems.
The move to embrace the technology of writing, for all it’s promise, was hotly contested by the Greeks of Plato’s time (It has been contended that Homer and the Iliad was a collection of oral stories that were shaped into a collectively celebrated and performed oral chorus that were eventually canonized into an official text under the aegis of a single author) An early Egyptian account of Pharaoh’s rebuff of the god Toth’s gift of writing also speaks to this issue. Pharaoh contended that writing one’s history would invite sloth and forgetfulness in his subjects. Aristotle pushed writing as a means to establishing standards, verifiable facts and officially sanctioned versions of events-a singular perspective over a mosaic-the very things that make empires and institutions possible. Historical narrative and identity went from being a living, shared legacy to a lifeless, static disembodied archive that had to be retrieved and reconstituted, often without the crucial keys of context. The complex data set of living history was no longer participated in by those who had lived it. If one’s experience was deemed to be valid, it would then be recorded, re-framed and redacted by a singular author. This created a world view that had shifted from composite view to a one point perspective.
The advent of the internet and social media has once again invited a composite and participatory narrative where we can upload testimonials to the banal and the sublime dimensions of our existence. What is interesting to note is that while we are immersed in this participatory narrative, the repository of our experience no longer exists embodied within us in the same way as it did in pre-literate societies. In our state of what Walter Ong refers to as “secondary orality” we have dispensed with the burden of memory. The fact that we use the cloud as a mass-repository of our collective data set allows us to forget. With a simple Google search (Scholars portals for the more academically rigorous) we can conjure up that entire data set on a whim. In short, technology—like spellcheck—has rendered memorization culturally obsolete!
I have observed this phenomenon first-hand in the classroom. Often, when I give a lecture or demonstration, it is painfully obvious to me that few students are paying attention to what I am saying or doing. Performance aside, the fact is that they have access to multiple channels of information through the internet, cell phones, neighbours, etc. and despite prefacing my musings with “THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT IGNORE AT YOUR PERIL!” They continue to push and pull information on demand from these sources. Clearly, I am in direct competition with a staggering array of alternative channels of information. It is not that my students are neglecting to pay attention, they are opting to attend to other priorities at that particular time. It is not that they don’t value what I have to offer either. Invariably, after providing my demos a student will ask a question that I had directly addressed in my presentation. On repeating the demonstration the process frustratingly repeats itself until each student in their own time and on their own terms has what they need from me. At times it feels like I am working the drive-thru window at a burger joint!

What has become obvious to me is,  given that I podcast many of my lectures and that so many similar podcasts abound in places like Youtube, a student can gain access to information if an when THEY need it, NOT when I think they need it. It is truly an ON-DEMAND phenomenon that challenges our assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning. So, despite my frustration at their seeming inattentiveness or inability to memorize I have to remind myself of the environments that they inhabit and the rules of engagement that those environments tend to promote or curtail.
Like it or not we have entered an age of a technologically-induced culture of amnesia and instant gratification. To argue whether or not this is culture has validity vis-a-vis our old teaching and learning ecosystems and their associated methods is not a profitable one, rather, we should be exploring how can we reshape the arena and methods of discourse to facilitate deep and meaningful activity for those who have assumed these new technological milieus as the ground conditions of how they access and use information.

I am still working on the answer to that question!

9:18 PM Permalink
March 13, 2012

Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Connect Pro

Adobe Connect is still a solution in a major snow storm.  Rio and Judy can still collaborative even in a major snow event.  Safety, saving fuel, and the ability to re-watch a lesson are real advantages to Adobe Connect.  The ability to make some hot coco, put another log on the fire, and watch my son learn graphic arts while the snow falls out of a gray sky is a real blessing.  The next magical application is Adobe Photoshop Touch.  We are planning to download it this coming weekend for the iPad 2.  Rio is extremely excited to practice lessons on the go from Judy via Adobe Connect using this new kinetic application.  The next blog entry will be about Rio discovering Adobe Photoshop Touch.

Dave Forrester

1:45 AM Permalink
March 11, 2012

Extraordinary work from NSW Art students

In New South Wales, Australia; students who study art in their senior high school years have the opportunity to have their assessment submissions displayed at a number of prestigious galleries, notably the New South Wales Art Gallery and other galleries such as the Armory at Newington, Hazelhurst Gallery, Newcastle Art Gallery, University of Western Sydney, Wollongong City Gallery to name a few. The exhibitions are chosen from selections of works that were at the top range of the marking scale. Students whose works were pre-selected are then placed into a pool of works from which gallery curators make their selections. The Arts, and in this case Visual Arts are a valued part of the educational curriculum in NSW. Out of the approximately 80,000 students that sat for this years HSC (Higher School Certificate) 10,000 or so chose Visual Art as one of their HSC subjects and submitted Bodies of Work as part of their assessment. Of those 10,000 about 200 were chosen to have their works exhibited across a number of Galleries and exhibition spaces in Metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW. There isn’t anything comparable to it anywhere else in Australia or on the planet. This is certainly a model for Art education that should be looked at seriously by any country that wants to give their high school students a rich and immersive experience in Visual Art. As an art educator and an AEL it’s so pleasing to be a part of this extraordinary process and; last but not least, spot where Photoshop and Illustrator feature in the student works.

“ARTEXPRESS is an exhibition of bodies of work by secondary school students submitted for the Higher School Certificate examination in Visual Arts in New South Wales, Australia” @Board of Studies NSW.

View my post at R.E.W.I.R.E.D

Images courtesy of ArtExpress @ Art Gallery of NSW

8:41 AM Permalink
March 6, 2012

Worth vs. Work Transforming People and Organizations for The Knowledge Economy

Labour, as its name would suggest, has shouldered its own burden through the ages. Elevating its noblesse or reducing its worth has pitted politicians, social engineers, economists, Marxist theoreticians and capitalists in a titanic ideological struggle that has resulted in labour being commoditised and reduced to the lowest common denominator. Clearly—the dominant western view enjoys a pan global embrace—putting labour, as we once knew and loved it, squarely at the bottom of the Darwinian food chain.

It stands to reason that value or worth inheres in something other than the proverbial “sweat” of our brows. Value now accretes around our ability to build and leverage connectivity and the accumulated  social capital that is measured not in dollars and cents, rather in clicks and likes. Social platforms provide us the ability to form a vast and persistent wake or  train of links to a constituency of people who maintain an ongoing interest in us and provide us with a basis of worth in the emerging economy. The prudent investor seeking to increase his or her “worth”  in this environment, then, would be wise to invest in being highly social and joining the conversation around the water cooler.

There are many, and I would include myself in the many, who stubbornly cling to a sentimental notion of “work” and who view the “Social Thing” as a waste of both time and money (two very familiar friends from the old paradigm of work). This group sees internet use as a form of play at its best and distraction at its worst. We fail to see “traditional” value in it and many of us in law, finance, markets, advertizing, education struggle to wrestle this round peg into the very square hole we created for ourselves over the years.

Walter Ong asserted that the wired generation would enter into what he termed “Secondary Orality” Where being interconnected to the degree that we are forces us to be highly participatory and involved rather than isolated and detached. If you consider traditional organizational schemas pertaining to work, it was mechanistic and hierarchically and linearly structured with each cog doing a very specific job (valued in years of experience and levels of education) performed in relative isolation. It was the age of specialization.

We must then ask, what are the competencies for thriving in this new economy? Learning the Art of Conversation seems to be a crucial one. Connecting and conversing through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and WIKIs and the like are a good start. Knowledge in this arena seems less proprietary and more of a multi-valent narrative much like going around a campfire circle improvising the lyrics as we move from one camper to the next. For this to work well you need to develop expert listening skills so that you can take what is offered to you, add to it, and pass it on—classic IMPROV theatre techniques that can be gleaned from the works of Sages such as Viola Spolin or Keith Johnstone. A good conversationalist needs to be a generalist so that you can engage with people on their own turf and terms. A good generalist should, naturally, be willing to assume a variety of roles. This ability to switch roles not only confers an adaptive advantage on the individual and the entities that they provide worth to it also helps to build a deep sense of empathy for others in similar situations—especially when you assume new and unfamiliar responsibilities—you understand firsthand what it is like to walk a mile in the novice’s shoes and gain an experience at a grassroots level that older, structured organizational forms cannot  accommodate.

While most organizations recognize the sea changes that are washing over and around us, few have a clear vision of what they need to do in order to engineer a successful transformation that can effectively leverage the emerging paradigms of value. Part of the problem is the inability to wean the organization from traditional rubrics of valuation and organization. Most consider integration as being a scheme aimed at embedding a new technology into an existing structure with the least amount of disruption. The irony is that it is the disruptive aspect of these technologies that should be leveraged NOT mitigated! Often in these circumstances the irritation caused by the “integration” is grudgingly tolerated by decree. The points of contact in the organization are not in alignment with the natural tendencies of the technologies adopted and they often fail or fail to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Few storied organizations are flexible enough in their thinking to consider that a radical restructuring of the org chart is necessary in order to allow these technologies to revolutionize the way they do things. The real innovation, interestingly enough, is in the capacity to consider the sweeping cultural, organizational and economic changes that might be required—the technology simply acts as an accelerant.

I have been working for approximately 8 years on driving cultural change vis-a-vis technology in an applied education context and have encountered the tensions between maintaining the status quo and driving innovation. I can assure you that simply acquiring the latest greatest technology simply does not work without exporing new forms of organization that reflect the inherent tendencies of these technologies and the environments that they help to shape.

I have attached a dossier of illustrated PDFs that detail some aspects of the knowledge and media ecosystem, the competencies and relations between people working in these environments as well as a series of snapshots detailing moves that I have been making away from linear, factory models of organizational efficiency toward models that are more organic, self organizing, agile  and adaptive in order to facilitate RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) and effective engagement with emerging technologies and environments.

knowledge_economy_package

3:14 AM Permalink
March 3, 2012

Photoshop Touch

I’ve just spent a few days taking Photoshop Touch for a serious run. Touch is only recently available for IOS users, a long wait, but a worthwhile one. Obviously Adobe have done their homework. Photoshop Touch performs well beyond what one would normally expect from an image editing app designed for tablet use. My only wish list (not really connected to reality) for Touch is a modest increase in the output file size and the addition of some functionality that mimics ‘add structure’ as opposed to ‘sharpening’.

I found being able to work with most of the layering capability of Photoshop a real pleasure, not because it replaces what I would normally do in my editing workflow but because I can work on ideas in ‘abstentia’ and make editing decisions on the go, then refine and finalise them for either printing or uploading to web galleries at a later point. The ‘scribble tool’ is a stroke of genius and the ability to refine the selection without stepping out of the tools functionality makes working with selections a real pleasure. Last but not least (amongst a host of features) is the ability to add and edit a layer directly from the camera. This means that I can paint directly into an image with a light source; combine that with the ability to paint that into a selection and blend via ‘layer modes’ and one might be able to do some light painting aka Peter Solness without having to step out into the bush in total darkness armed with only a torch. Aggh…. at least I can dream

I did some comparison tests converting a colour image to black and white using Touch and Nik’s SilverEffex Pro 2 plugin for Photoshop. Photoshop Touch performed admirably. You can read the post and see the images here

 

11:20 AM Permalink