Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning Creative Learning - Week 5 - OPEN LEARNING

Open Source typically refers to software development and programming language that is open, free and available for multiple users to work with, store, copy and improve.   Wikipedia is a popular example of an open source software.
How can open source apply in other areas of learning?  Blogging was offered as one example - the ability to create a blog allows learners autonomy and agency as well as the ability to connect with a network of practitioners in different settings.  Blogs by students at Art at the Center have been a great tool for reflection on learning stories, sharing experiences in the studio and developing habits of observation and personal voice.  It is a way to celebrate the creativity we see and set an example for others of the sort of relationships and experiences possible in the studio.
Below are links to Art at the Center student blogs:
Art at the Center
Making Art with Children
Art at the Center Internship
Dara's View

Many of the values of open source learning are particularly relevant in the art studio as well.
One is the idea that sharing is good and that technology should be under the control of the users.  This is very relevant to a studio practice of teaching skills as they serve student ideas rather than as prescribed assignments.  Learning to make a pinch pot is that much more relevant when it serves a student's idea to use the form to create the shell of a turtle sculpture.  Clay hand-building techniques are a very basic technology; different ones resonate with different sculptors.  Having menus and guides available to support user ideas is key to development of skills on the way to creating personally meaningful work.  So often the sharing of technical skill comes from peers rather than from the instructor.  Again, this is a great example of how the skills and process are owned by the children using them.
Agency is a key word in open source because learners choose how to participate in the setting.
Finally, I think the way that open source resonates most for me is the idea that things should be transparent - we should be able to crack them open and see how they work.  This is key to what I value in the studio.  It should be a place to de-mystify the artistic process and materials.  As much as possible we choose everyday materials over fancy art supplies.  We find ice cube trays work better than artist palettes for young painters mixing color.  At the same time we are modeling for the young artist and his/her parent that what is important is the place to explore color - it is not about fancy tools.
Art is open-source.  Artists love to share techniques and ideas with other artists.  The studio should be a space to help introduce newcomers and beginners to this language of sharing so they have that many more places to look for inspiration and ideas.
Learning Creative Learning - Week 4 - BIG IDEAS

This week felt more conceptual and less hands-on than the focus on Maker culture last week.  What I most enjoyed was the ways of thinking about how to design environments and tasks that lead to engagement with powerful ideas.
One idea that really resonated with my work was that of building micro-worlds.  In the course of building things powerful ideas emerge.  I felt like we saw this with our work with electronic environments.  Creating circuits in the context of environments and stories led to thinking about things more systemically and seeing connections between technology, design, tinkering, inventing and de-bugging our creations.  I noticed some students were more confident with building environments while others were more focused initially on getting the lights and motors to work.  Either way they came to a place where a balance had to be reached between a reasonable circuit that could work reliably on a small scale and a representative environment.  Story became a strong component in many creations as well.
See videos of some or our electronic micro-worlds below:

The other BIG IDEA that really resonated for me was the one of having learners participate in both the form and the content of learning.  The example given was from that a child hunting a squirrel is copying both the form and content of his father hunting an antelope.  A girl in a nurses uniform holding a stethescope is mimicing the form of nursing but not the content.  She looks the part but is not participating in caring, the content.
This really resonated for me with art education and highlights why student choice is key.  A student in a classroom painting with a style and topic prescribed by the teacher may have the tools and look the part of an artist but it is not authentic participation in the content of the role.  A student needs to engage in idea formation, choice of subject, material and expression in order to participate in both the form and content of art-making in a studio.  This is why TAB Choice classrooms are so rich - they offer children the opportunity to practice both the form and content of the role of an artist in a studio.
Read more about TAB Choice here:
Teaching for Artistic Behavior - Choice-based Art Education focuses on helping children develop the habits of artists in their authentic engagement with materials, techniques and ideas.  Part of this is the challenge of sometimes getting stuck.  Through making things students explore ways to get unstuck in different situations.  Powerful ideas emerge from deeper thinking about one's artistic process.
This also led to rich discussion of learning communities and the interchangable roles of teacher and learner.  One can learn a great deal through teaching and you develop a relationship by learning from another so that in rich learning communities the learning experience is much deeper than just the topic taught.  The amount I learn from students is one of my favorite things about my work in the studio.