Fabulous 2 days

June 6, 2010

Yah! So great to have unexpected events that add so much to your work!

This past Thursday, I had an interview lined up with, Darren, a teacher from A.S.E. 1 alternative school in Scarborough (ON). I asked for an hour of his time and I was prompt about finishing exactly within one hour. Just as I finished packing away the audio equipment and leaving his office, he said “hey, why don’t you speak to these guys” –he was referring to two students who had just walked into the office/admin area. Cool! So, I began asking these two guys what their experience with education has been and shortly thereafter, Lynda, the office administrator interjected and said “oh, you must interview Cassy!!”… whom she directed my way.

I offered the guys to control some of the audio equipment and a Flip cam while I continued on asking Cassy a few questions. Wow, she had a lot to say about how ASE helped her to believe in herself and enjoy school again. Prior to ASE, Cassy dealt with emotional struggles which added to her lack of motivation to attend school. Now, she’s pumped!

The three students led me over to a ‘chill’n’ room where a group of students sat. Some shared some of their own thoughts about the benefits for them of alt. ed. over industrial school too; in reference to those industrial schools, one young man said “…they just pump [students] out like hamburgers!” as oppose to ASE where the teachers actually care about their students.

So, lots of unanticipated media recorded, and, I’m lov’n the experience of documenting with audio rather than video… although it’s a bit hard to get use to as I’m often aching to have everything I’m experiencing recorded visually. That intimidation factor that can happen with a camera, however (especially when you are a newbie in the space), is so drastically reduced.

Now, I’m all about investing in a less intrusive device than the Marantz PMD 660, which might seem rediculous. I know it’s a reliable product but I’d like to have something I can keep with me at all times. Also, a mistake I have made thus far is not consistently taking out the same mic from the ‘cage’ (school equip. depo) for ever recording. The problem is, the same equip is not always available. Some of my sound is great while other recordings have too much noise… this is where needing your own, reliable equipment is so helpful and will probably save a lot of time in post-production.

Hence, this Lady (of sorts) went out on Friday and bought an Olympus LS-10.

Not sure it will do the trick so I’m keeping it in the box until I’ve tested one other similar device, the Zoom H4N with XLR inputs. I’m not convinced that the product will really produce radically improved sound over the LS-10 but we’ll have to see (even though I spent hours listening to tests others have online to listen to).

Next Tuesday, a young man named Freddy has invited me into his music studio for an interview. He chuckled when I asked him about his experiences in school.  Can’t wait to discover his extra-curricular hang-out and talents!

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Why, for the love of god am I planning an installation? Why can’t I just chose someone I’m curious about and make a film about them?… Because I’m stubborn.

OK, so here’s a half drawn sketch of an installation setting (at least I know for sure that I can’t draw). I was toying with having an old NFB film screening in the industrial side of the room but if the Montreal shoot goes well then the personal angle I’m ‘shooting’ for might be more …powerful.

And here is a little mock up of a few shots I’d like to get at my old high school:

Hopefully one slow, intense take up the long path beyond the school gates past the grand building at the top and toward the dark, side entrance where the students enter, and where the rows of lockers were.

I might not feel good about the drawings but I’m looking forward to the media ‘collection’.

Some new developments:

  • Meeting Freddy at music studio next week. He’s a 19 year old rapper/musician & music teacher who has a thing or two to say about how he was taught in school. I’m looking forward to hanging out with him for a while that day, see what he does, hear what he has to say and capture the visual and audio experience.
  • I’ve contacted most of the alternative ed secondary ‘schools’ in TO
  • Signed up to volunteer at the STLHE conference in creative teaching and learning @ RU at the end of June. Business card printed. A gazillion teachers will be there.
  • Finished one John Dewey book, Experience and Education

Now, since I’ll be in Montreal for the better part of the summer the equipment I will need will be the following:

  1. Video camera: HMC-150P (hopefully)
  2. Sound kit (incl. AKG C568B)
  3. mic stand
  4. tripod I’ve got
  5. Lighting… if needed I’ll rent in Mtl
  6. Olympus LS-10 (an investment to make)

Now, what about a website? I’d like to use the expertise in the new-media class to settle the dilemma I’ve had with my previous website and see if anything can be salvaged in case I chose to use it for the project down the road.

Media objective for next Monday?: the workings of an audio podcast with Andrew, an English teacher from Mtl who has been actively using digital photography to teach his grade 7-8 students grammar and story telling, Jason from the Pathways program in T.O who mentors students from the Regent Park neighborhood, and me.

Eureka moment!

May 30, 2010

Phew… I was hoping that would happen soon!

I awoke the other day with a vision of the installation that I’d like to produce for the thesis project. I knew that I wanted to have a space set up that would depict two learning environments: one, a traditional industrial school set up and the other, an ‘alternative’ setup. But following that, I was trapped. What would be the point of these settings? And, would these settings be designed strictly to be observed for their aesthetic differences and as an accompaniment to all the other media I want to produce on the issue? There were way too many ideas and media to produce!

Now, the installation is the place for all of it.

Within each space there will be media that mirrors the environment. So…in the alternative space:

Some hidden media (ex. a projection buried under the sand in a sandbox. Here, Jonathan Ingham, an RU grad, designed a projection device that would sense touch; once the projected image  is touched the image alters…We spoke at the opening of the Digital Media Zone and I was thrilled at how he really understood my motivation and media ambitions with the issue of alternative education and expressed an interest in collaboration. Let’s see where that goes.) Randomly placed headphones with sounds to be identified by the listener and something that the audience can leave behind is another thought… too much to write here!

In the traditional setting, there could be an old NFB film about something a grade 9 class could be learning projected on the black/white board; open  the desks and there is a old school book, a test, an old audio cassette player that has a recording of students describing what they wish they were doing in school or instead of school; teachers describing there opinions of the ‘system’ in a recording on the teacher’s desk…

Hm…perhaps as a little homage to NFB I should include something about their modern projects on the alternative side…

The ideas are flooding but what I feel good about is that the media does not have to be overwhelming to produce (I had too many ambitions that were freaking me out!) I can be as creative and as collaborative on this as I want and feel I have the time for…

Now to draw up a more definitive list of the media I will produce for this over the summer.

Sir Ken, once again

May 26, 2010

It looks like Sir Ken was invited back to TED recently. Big inspiration all over again!

He adds that it’s time for “new-media”/techies and teachers need to collaborate today if the educational environment wants to keep up with the contemporary and future creative landscape…

OK… I better get on that.

I’ve also just discovered Scott McLeod on Dangerously Irrelevant who is not as entertaining to listen to as Sir Ken but drives the issue home re: educational reform needs nonetheless.

I just met Matt…

May 24, 2010

I was sitting under a tree in High Park, reading John Dewey, when I met a guy named Matt who was removing a camera & sign hanging from a nearby tree. The sign read “take a picture” & “don’t” remove.

He wanted to make more of this project than simply the one year worth of images collected in this way from around the world and an accompanying website takepicturedontsteal.com, but when I asked him “why?” he wasn’t sure.

There’s a lot to be gained from an accumulation of testimonies. This has me thinking that a productive move/assignment at this point in the project could be to develop vox pops in schools to learn what is working and what isn’t by the students themselves …& perhaps the teachers… OK, the politics of making this happen might be a problem…

Tak’n it slow

May 19, 2010

OK, I’m panicking… and that’s not helping anything. I want to get too much done over the next year/during this program and if I keep this up it will back-fire. So… I’m going to try and visualize what I want to achieve, today, in simple terms:

My issue of interest: Education

More specifically: The way institutionalized education systems do not respond to every students’ needs.

Why is this of interest?: Because I was one of those students, and education as I experienced it was more damaging to me than it was nurturing of my talents.

My thesis project plan, as I’ve been suggesting in reports for this program thus far, has been to develop an advisory group of students who will help to shape a class project that they would find appealing and together with a teacher and new-media creator, develop a class project for a grade 9 geography class that would offer a ‘hands-on’ approach an assignment.

In addition, I would be harnessing opinions of education by students that would end up on a website. This site would a portal of alternative educational practices, and podcasts with students regarding their stories of how they interpret education, what they love learning, what and/or who inspires them to learn and personal anecdotes.

Now, I’m beginning to think I’m nuts.

The idea is exciting but might not be practical a this stage. I need to address my interest in the problems of systemic education–at this moment–from a more personal angle.

Collecting personal stories of education and what (and who) inspires teenagers to learn etc… is a keeper. I need to hear this and I’d love for students to discover this from each other.

Now there’s a twist. I need to go back to high school and face my daemons. This visual, is a recurring one … and documenting recurring visions in my mind have proven quite successful so far.

I also need to produce an assignment for that grade 9 geography class in a way that would have made sense to me when I was 14.

So there’s the ticket; I need to direct more attention on me… for now.

This blog will be my sidekick as I contemplate, develop… and contemplate the development of my MFA thesis project in Documentary Media @ Ryerson University.

  • Subject under scrutiny: Alternative education; the value & need of art and new-media practice in the classroom.
  • The people I wish to collaborate with and/or interview: high school students, teachers, new-media artists, web developer
  • The voices I wish to hear from primarily: high school students, teachers, mentors
  • The medium I wish to use to document project: audio, video, photography
  • The medium I wish to concentrate on and develop my skills in: audio — audio-documentary
  • How do I envision the final project appearing?: as an installation
  • Framework of the installation: … need to develop media first
  • Media to start addressing: audio recordings of students, classroom ‘sounds’ in both alternative and traditional settings.
  • Goal(s) of project: 1) to produce an interactive teaching module for a grade nine geography class that would incorporate video and sound/ audio tools

Project
 Timeline

May/June

• Contact
  teachers 
in
 Toronto 
& 
Montreal; 
line
 up 
interviews
 and 
discussions 
of
collaboration 
possibilities
• Research
 
experiential 
learning 
practices
• Research
 
local 
alternative 
educational 
practices
• Visit
 alternative
 schools
• Interview
 students 
& 
instructors
• Visit
 OISE
• Meet
 with 
new‐media 
programmers
• Discuss
 curriculum 
for 
fall 
semester 
with 
1‐2 
teachers 
and 
new‐media
collaborator

July

• Record & edit
 interviews
–
experiment
 with 
audio 
documentary 
editing

August

• Finalize 
curriculum 
for 
fall 
semester 
with 
1‐2 
teachers 
and 
new‐media
collaborator
• Edit
 interviews
– 
experiment 
with 
audio 
documentary 
editing

Fall/’10

• Conduct 
pilot 
project 
with 
students
• Document
 class 
project 
in 
video

Project 
Budget:
 2010‐11

Travel:
Mtl‐T.O – 1500.00
Honorarium:
Web
consultant, 
new‐media
 developer – 1000.00
Equipment

 – 500.00
Food 
(crew
 & 
subjects)
 – 500.00
Hard
Drive
  – 400.00
SD
 card 
for
 camera
  – 100.00
Final 
installation: 
rental
 of 
monitors,
 audio
system, 
earphones
 – 500.00
Miscellaneous
 (supplies)
  – 200.00
Research
 (books, 
media, conferences…)
 – 400.00

Total – 5100.00$

Inspiration from Sir Ken Robinson