Saturday, 28 April 2012

Downs and Ups

If you've been reading this blog from a macro point of view you may have detected something of the ebb and flow of the project. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned the cycle of 'overwhelmed-ness' as a result of encountering new ideas, followed by a sense of accomplishment as a structure to incorporate the new ideas is developed, followed by the introduction of new ideas . . .

Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft describe a similar experience in their excellent book Make Space, based on their experiences with the Stanford University They outline (pg 176) an 'emotional arc' as moving through the following phases:  

Up - "A sense of excitement and limitless possibility" as the project begins
Down - "Overwhelming complexity" as the project's participants realise how much they've taken on
Up - "Unifying insights" as breakthroughs to solutions are achieved
Down - "Complete loss of confidence" during periods when it seems as if you won't achieve the goal
Down - "The brutal realities of implementation" as things take longer and cost more than you imagined
Up - "Completion"

At the end of last term we'd come to a bit of an impasse as a group, when it seemed that we had a short period of time to sell an unreasonably large amount of advertising to fund the printing of our project's magazine. Everyone (including me I have to admit) was pretty down in the mouth about it.

When we returned to school after the Easter break we took some time to review what we've achieved so far, and what we had left to complete. We also looked over the feedback that students had provided in the 'How I Learn Best' box and discussed how these suggestions could be facilitated (more structure; tasks broken down more; less things to do at once; more affirmation of successes, among other things). This morphed into a series of 'what if?' questions, which resulted in a small change of focus for the production side of the project (more web-based, less in print) and a request for some new quotes from the printers.

And now, to quote project member Jeremy Healey's in our Facebook Group
Well, everything is starting to come along. Things feel achievable now. Much better than last term.

And by the way, if you are interested in advertising in a magazine that targets young creatives (16 - 19 years) in New Zealand, please feel free to contact me (s.cunnane AT Seriously!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Natural outsiders: Thinking about Jonah Lehrer's 'Imagine'

I've been making the most of my non-teaching time recently to get a bit of reading done, in particular Jonah Lehrer's Imagine: The science of creativity (which also seems to be sub-titled 'How creativity works'). 
The world is full of natural outsiders, except we don't call them outsiders; we refer to them as young people. The virtue of youth, after all, is that the young don't know enough to be insiders, cynical with expertise. While such ignorance has all sorts of obvious drawbacks, it also comes with creative advantages, which is why so many fields, from physics to punk rock, have been defined by their most immature members. The young know less, which is why they often invent more. - Jonah Lehrer

This issue of what young people have to offer (and in my particular case, the young people who are part of the Curriculum Integration Project) is one that I've been reflecting on a bit recently. While it's nice (well, sometimes nice, and sometimes incredibly challenging or frustrating!) for them to be part of an 'authentic learning project', if all we're doing is re-producing a 'real world' experience in an educational context is that really making the most of their potential?

Is a paper and web-based magazine about visual culture the ultimate product that 20 'natural outsiders' can produce? Or can they/we produce something that is properly innovative, that moves beyond the bounds of our current experience, and really connects the visual culture of their world with their colleagues? How can we best help them take advantage of the 'virtues of youth' to create something new rather than reproducing a version of something old?

In five years time when we look back at what they invented you'll be mentioned in the credits Jonah. And in the meantime, when we're cursing the idea of taking on such a big project, you may also get a mention!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Impact of Kickstarter, Creative Commons & Creators Project

Here's an interesting video (from the PBS series Off Book, produced by Kornhaber Brown) that challenged my thinking about the world we're preparing our students for (and the world they're already operating in). Thanks to Idealog magazine for drawing my attention to it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Teamwork and Target Audience

Several weeks back Charles Riddle, Mark Liu and Simon Nicholls from the Media Arts Department at Wintec (our local Media Arts School, and a strong supporter of this project) spent a Friday afternoon with us sharing some insights from their experiences working on similar projects (including Village on the Hill and The Waikato Independent).

Here's a short video with a couple of excerpts from their talk.

(Please excuse the less than ideal audio! A good interview mic that works with DSLR video is on my list of things to buy for the project. If you have any suggestion of a good brand and model for this, please leave a comment)