All my photos from the recently concluded SITE2013 conference at New Orleans. These include photographs from multiple sessions (chronicled here, here, and here) as well as from all the fun we had (at the MSU dinner, just hanging around in Burbon St., as we as other miscellaneous things such as Ann Thompson’s talk on the history of Ed Tech, award presentation ceremonies etc.)
There was a recent query on the PhD-Design-List regarding sources for designers on how to make good info-graphics and data-visualizations. I am collating the options being put forward by people here, just for the record. Read the rest of this entry »
Our family has a Christmas-break tradition. Over the past 5 years or so, every winter-break, we work together a create a video new-year’s card. And of course, we made one this year as well. As you can imagine, coming up with original ideas has become increasingly harder, and the set-ups increasingly complicated. What has not changed is just how fun they are to make. Take a look at the video below, and let us know if you think we managed to pull it off this year as well…
Have an out-standing 2013! From Shreya, Soham, Smita & Punya
Just to let you know, these videos always have a few common elements. First, they are usually stop-motion videos (though this year is an exception). Second, they are always typographic in nature, having some kind of play with words and their representation. Third, they are usually animations of inanimate objects, synchronized to music, rarely, if ever, including us (or any other humans). Finally, we try to sneak in some kind of an ”Aha!” moment— something that surprises the viewer in a nice kind of way.
Speaking of videos made in the past, you can see them by following the links below:
Every Christmas-break our family creates a stop-motion video new year’s greeting card. We have been doing this for 4 years or so and it is an incredibly fun way to spend time together. It has become a “signature” thing we do as a family. Anyway this year was no exception – though it took us much longer than before to come up with a good idea – and then to execute it was another challenge. Anyway, here it is (on Vimeo).
A very wonderful holidays and a very happy new year to all of you,
from Shreya, Soham, Smita & Punya
Just a few comments on the making of these videos. First, all our new-year videos are stop-motion videos. That’s how we made the first one and it has stuck. Second, all these videos are somewhat typographical in nature – playing with words and their representation. Third, these videos rarely feature us either individually or as a family. A hand or a still-frame may show up once in a while but for the most part our videos are made with inanimate objects.
This year I tried to change all three of these, suggesting that we make a live action video, with us as actors – and have some kind of a puzzle that was not related to words. After spending days thinking about this, working with various ideas, this whole line of thought was vetoed down by both Soham and Shreya. It was interesting to me that over time we had not only become a family that makes videos but a family that makes stop motion videos! How cool an identity is that! Of course, this meant that we then had to start over from scratch to come up with something that fit what we had done in the past.
Speaking of videos made in the past, you can see them by following the links below:
Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with using my iPad as a drawing/painting tool. The sketches below were created by tracing on an existing image – usually a photograph. So this is not “freehand” drawing per se – but given my limited talents that may not be such a bad idea.
Education is always about leadership and leadership has always been about tensions—navigating through them and seeking to find the right balance between them. Leaders often feel a tug from individuals with conflicting interests or needs, with ideas that often tug in different directions. Often these tensions are conceptual and abstract. Have you ever wondered how could you represent these tensions in a visual way? What would that look like? We, in the MAET program, set out to find a way to illustrate these conflicting viewpoints. Read the rest of this entry »
The Hindu god Ganesh (the elephant-headed one) is celebrated across India, and the world, around this time of the year. The Hindu community in Lansing is no exception. A couple of days ago I was asked to take pictures of a music program at the local temple. Read the rest of this entry »
I have, for a long time, been interested in the Droste effect – a “specific kind of recursive picture… [in which] an image exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear. This smaller version then depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on” [from Wikipedia] Read the rest of this entry »
I had posted earlier about the paper presentations I was involved with during the recently concluded SITE conference at Nashville. Matt Koehler and I were co-Program Chairs for the conference, and sadly Matt was sick and had to miss the trip. In the photo below the space between Gary Marks and myself, is where Matt would stand, if he had been there. (And of course, Gary would be making rabbit years over his head!)
As program chair I had the usual responsibilities, shake hands with everybody, smile a lot, make announcements, introduce speakers and so on. I tried to make these tasks (particularly the announcements) interesting and fun. Below are some examples of some of some of the things we did.
The first is a presentation in which I introduced our first keynote speaker: Yong Zhao. Yong and I go back a long time (almost 17 years!) so I had lots of stories to share, including one of my son when he was three years old! [See the slides here, PDF].
A few days later, I was asked to announce the poster award winners, I had some fun with that as well, particularly in creating, what I called, a “sting” video, revealing nefarious activities that occurred every SITE conference. Of course this was all good clean fun… You can find the video embedded below and the slides here PDF.
I also took some pictures during SITE. You can find them here
Finally you can see a music-video I created for the closing day reception as well as the final set of slides (once again in PDF format)
The International Conference on Indian Education: The Positive Turmoil. is being held at the India Habitat Center in New Delhi. This Habitat center is a rather cool building and, apart from academic conferences (I saw two different conferences going on at the same time), it also hosts open-air sculpture and art galleries. One of the galleries right near where the IEPT conference was being held was a photography exhibit by Sanjay Nanda. Sanjay is a graphic designer by profession and a passionate photographer in his spare time. He also runs IndiPix Gallery, what he described as “a space for contemporary art photography.” I can’t find an easy way to embed any of his photos here, so you will have to visit their website to check out Sanjay’s work. Trust me, it is will be worth your time.
I spent a two days a couple of weeks ago with the faculty and leadership of Bloomfield Hills School District. The first day was a workshop on teaching, technology and creativity with the faculty of Model High School and Bowers Academy. Leigh and I had been invited there by Bill Boyle, the principal (read his blog). We spent the day exploring ideas of TPACK and creativity and it was great fun (see poems and images below).
Two days later I was back again, this time invited by the district Superintendent, Rob Glass, working with the entire school leadership on issues related to social media and what it means for schools and school districts. The morning was led of by Social Media guru, Shel Holtz, who talked about how social media was transforming the world of work and learning. [You can download his presentation here, though I must say that it is a 175MB download.] Building on Shel’s presentation I facilitated a series of brainstorming activities with all the administrators about specific things they could do in their schools and classrooms to meet these challenges. At the end of the day we had a series of key action items (short term and long term) for a range of different contexts.
All in all it was an extremely productive and fun day.
I am including below some of the stuff that emerged out of that meeting. The first is a slideshow of photographs from these two days.
Around 2 weeks ago I posted a note about a “pentagon” I saw in some boiling lentils in my kitchen. There have been some interesting responses to this… but before I get to that, here is the original image, if you missed the original posting:
Interestingly enough, a few readers questioned the very presence of the pentagon! They saw paws and hands and soccer balls … rather than a simple geometric shape. My first response was, “you must be kidding me, how can you NOT see a pentagon?” But as I thought about it a bit more, I began to “see” their point of view. I think, now, that I was too quick to latch onto the “pentagon” rather than consider other shapes. Whether this is a cultural matter (as some people suggested) or an individual quirk (as some others did), I am not sure.
That said, the fact that some kind of a 5-sided, pointed figure was visible was not in doubt. Whether a pentagon was the best way to label it maybe a fair question to ask. The “fiveness” of it, however, is not really under question here.
So… what caused this “five-based” shape? To cut a long story short, those of you who predicted this pattern had something to do with the heat source below were right, pretty much. I must add though that the lentils had NOT been stirred, and that this pattern emerged because they had not been stirred. Anyway, here is a photo of the heat source. I tried to take this picture from approximately the same location as the first one…
The first thing you notice are the five prongs that hold the pot up. And these five prongs align quite perfectly with the lines of bubbles that come inwards from the other edge of the vessel. The five prongs that hold the pot up prevent direct heat from hitting the base of the vessel and I suppose lead to less “boiling” activity in these areas, making them ideas spots for the bubbles to collect.
As to why we get the lines between these prongs (what I called the pentagon) is still not clear to me. My suspicion is that the convection currents that move through the water move the bubbles as they form to points where there is less “bubbling.” That explains the lines coming from the side towards the center – but does not fully, at least to my mind, explain the lines that join these prongs together – the pentagon that I first noticed.
Some more experimentation may be in order… I will keep you posted as and when opportunity arises for me to study this further
I was recently invited to present a keynote address at the 21st Century Instructional Technology Conference (titled Elements of Technology) at the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clark County is the 5th largest school district in the country with over 300,000 students and it was a great privilege to be invited to present there. I was invited there by the Instructional Technology Department (led by Loretta Asay) and my contact person was Project Facilitator, Sherwood Jones. They are a great group of people and I truly had a wonderful time there.
Apart from the Keynote I also conducted a workshop on Creativity and Teaching with Technology. I had anticipated having around 25 people for the workshop but the room was overflowing (at least 15 more than I had anticipated). That did throw a few kinks into my routine but nothing that was unsurmountable. I am sharing below some of the things that people created during this two hour workshop.
I explained my idea of a creative idea or product as being Novel, Effective and Whole (the so called New NEW)! This led Terra Graves, Thomasina Rose and Kristina Ernest to create this acrostic poem.
Outside the Box
Here are a few more from Lisa Widmer, Katie Jones, Brent Mesenburg and Robert Jackson
The first two are limericks that summarize some of the things we had talked about in the first half of the workshop.
Creativity is our goal
Make it Novel Effective and Whole
When in doubt
Turn it about
And satisfy your soul
A second, funnier, version is as follows:
Creativity is our goal
Make it Novel Effective and Whole
When in doubt
Don’t Freak out
It’s quite alright if you stole
The same team wrote another poem, synthesizing some of the ideas we played with in the second half of the workshop.
Being creative is like heaven
Mimic the great Magellan
And fear not missteps
Just use the five steps
And crank that knob to eleven
The “crank the knob to eleven” of course being a response to the (in)famous scene from This is Final Tap.
A couple of other pieces that emerged from this team (can you tell this was a prolific group) was the quote:
“Tweak it to Teach it”
Somewhat along the same lines was Patrick Whitehead who suggested the following two:
Thinking is tweaking your mind
Think better… TWEAK your mind!
Apart from this display of verbal dexterity, the participants also completed a “letter search” task where they looked for letter that spell out the word “Relax, Repose, Reteach.” I had done a similar activity with students in our MAET program a year ago in Plymouth. Essentially what I did was create a somewhat awkward problem scenario the solution to which were the words Relax, Repose, Reteach. So these were the letters students searched for… and this is what they came up with.
Now for the twist! As it turns out one of the themes of the keynote (and the workshop) were the three words “Explore, Create, Share.” Students watched each of the three videos that we had created (see them here) as well as the mashup that had inspired us to begin with (see the original and the mashup here).
What the students didn’t know was that the three words (Relax, Repose, Reteach) could be rearranged to read… (surprise, surprise) the words Create, Explore, Share!! Here is what that looks like…
I must give a shout-out to High School Freshman Bryan Jones who I “volunteered” to help me out. He had a tough job, collecting all the pictures since there were multiple cameras (from regular digital cameras to iPhones), missing cables, a mac that was running Windows (which mean iPhoto wouldn’t cooperate)… and he had to pull everything together in around 25 minutes while the workshop was still going on… And he managed it without fuss and stress. Thanks!
Finally, we all watched the new Steven Johnson video “Where good ideas come from” and created demotivational posters based on what they heard and saw. Below is the video (just in case you haven’t seen it already) and below that the posters the students created.
As you can imagine this was a hectic workshop for all of us. We covered a lot of ground and the participants also created some interesting artifacts that can have a life beyond the immediate workshop. What fun!
A véjà du experience is about looking at a familiar situation but with fresh eyes, as if you’ve never seen it before. It forms the basis of an assignment I give in my CEP818, Creativity in Teaching & Learning course. The assignment is described in greater detail here, but the core idea is to take multiple photographs of some everyday object in such a way that the viewer cannot easily determine what the object is! More here.
Today, I spent some time with my kids re-doing the assignment. My son suggested taking pictures of his X-Box 360 but we finally went with an object selected by my daughter. Here are the pictures. What do you think it is?
France is being attacked by alien beings! This summer in France I noticed characters from 80′s video games in the strangest of places. For instance, see this one, that I found while walking somewhere near the Latin Quarter in Paris.
And though I took a picture of just one, I noticed these pixilated, bit-mapped graphics (from some Space Invaders type of game) all over the place. I was intrigued but not enough to research it in any way.
Just a couple of days ago I was reminded of this when I saw some stickers of similar characters on Kristen Kereluik’s laptop and told her about the sightings in France. Well, she did the requisite Google search and sent me a few links. As it turns out these are the artistic creations of an artist named (no surprise here), Invader. As Invader’s wikipedia says:
Invader (born 1969) is a French street artist who pastes up characters from and inspired by the Space Invaders game, made up of small coloured square tiles that form a mosaic. He does this in cities across the world, then documents this as an “Invasion”, with maps of where to find each invader.
I love finding interesting faces. I am not speaking of the ones on people (though I like interesting ones there as well) but rather the unexpected faces we find in things around us. I have been doing this for a while now and have a flickr set devoted to this. Here are some interesting examples from my set, you can of course see all the of them by going to my set titled Faces We See.
A face in an auto-rikshaw
A “scream” in wood,
Kinawa Middle School, Okemos, MI
A row of scared concrete faces
Outside Salt Lake City airport, Utah
A nice smiley face in a vending machine
Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris
I have been a big fan of Despair.com and its quirky, dark humor. I particularly love the demotivational posters, with their beautiful inspiring photographs coupled with some deeply cynical or depressing message.
Today students in my MAET summer program completed a unit on motivation. They read the standard Ed Psych motivational literature (Dweck etc.) and also watched the RSA / Daniel Pink video (that I had linked to here). And then, they created a series of demotivational posters. These posters were created in Google Presentation, with images from Flickr and most importantly they had to use their ideas from either the readings or from the Pink video. [Incidentally the video was not created by Daniel Pink, nor by RSA, but rather by Cognitive Media.]
Here is what they came up with, click on the words to see the posters. The names of the students who created them is provided below the titles.
My friend and colleague Leigh Wolf forwarded me this article on Edward Tufte: The Many Faces (And Sculptures) Of Edward Tufte. I have been a fan of information design guru Edward Tufte’s work for years (decades?). I love his emphasis on clarity and simplicity in presenting information. I love the fact that he designs and publishes his own books (so that he can have full control over each and every aspect of the presentation). What I didn’t know of was his playful artistic side. It turns out that ET (as he is known) is also an artist, crafting giant metal sculptures in his “back yard” (if you can call the hundreds of acres that stretch behind his house a “back yard!”).
Over the past few years I have been thinking quite hard about the idea that creative people are not creative in just one area but rather tend to play within and across multiple disciplines or areas. Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein have in their book Sparks of Genius often talked about how the most creative scientists are polymaths, often having artistic and other interests that go beyond their immediate professional interests. In fact they argue, and I would tend to agree with them, that creativity cannot be forced into one box or domain. Creative individuals are curious about everything and often engage in creative activities in multiple areas, though they may specialize in just one area (usually the domain they are most known for).
This is true for the most creative people I know. For instance, consider Douglas Hofstadter (best known for his book Godel, Escher & Back and is work in Artificial Intelligence) dabbles in everything from mathematics to music, wordplay to art. Similarly Scott Kim (best know as a puzzle game designer) creates ambigrams and composes music, plays the drums and teaches mathematics using dance!
In my own way I have tried to do the same. Everything I do, from creating ambigrams to teaching, from photography to developing keynote presentations, from being a parent to advising students on their research, seems to me to be connected and inter-woven. I think my success as a researcher and scholar (to whatever extent I have been successful) derives from this “dabbling” across disciplines.
What is sad, however, is how much such “dabbling” is frowned upon. Through high-school and college, through graduate school and even as a faculty member, I have been advised, always by by well-meaning people, to focus, to find my niche, to become an expert on one thing. I have resisted it, mainly because knowing just one thing, seems, at least to me, such an impoverished way of being.
And I understand why I have received the advice I have. We live in a specialized world. A world where expertise is valued. And an expert, after all, is someone who knows more and more about less and less. There is no space for dabbling in this world of.
But I wonder about that. I have a friend who is a successful professor of civil engineering. Turns out, that as he was growing up, what he really wanted to be, was a chef! I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about this but I wonder how his vision of being a chef influences what he does as a researcher and a teacher? Does it contribute (in some subconscious manner) to his work? Or has he suppressed it completely?
Either way I see it as a tragedy, in the first case because we haven’t developed a way of speaking of these influences, and in the second case because a possible, fruitful career was nipped in the bud.
The sad thing is that I am seeing school do the same thing to my kids, in fact to most kids I know. NCLB has not helped either. Don’t get me wrong. This is not an argument for some form of dilletantism (dabbling for the sake of dabbling). Not at all. What I am recommending (thanks to the Roob-Bernstein’s for this term) is polymathy. One of my students, Danah Henriksen, is currently working on a dissertation on looking for polymathy in teachers. As she says:
“Polymathy” may be thought of as an informed enthusiasm for more than one field of knowledge or expertise, or excellence in several realms that might seem distant from each other. It has been suggested that what makes polymaths so successful and fluidly creative is an ability to cross-pollinate ideas and information. People who open their minds to, and who learn from, multiple knowledge areas can apply new information and unique ways of thinking from one discipline into another.
This for me is the biggest reason for supporting such playing around in multiple areas. These experiences at the fringes (so to speak) of our professional lives, provide us with newer ways of being in the world. They allow us to see the world in new ways. They allow us to question things the field may have taken for granted. Just as Tufte says at the end of the piece, my goal, is to “make people see a little differently.” Turns out one of the best and easiest ways of doing so is by seeing through different disciplinary eyes.
We need to provide better opportunities for our students to do the same.
I have written earlier about the idea of veja du (which ended up becoming an assignment in my creativity class). To recap:
… if déjà vu is the process by which something strange becomes, abruptly and surprisingly familiar, véjà du is the very opposite. It is the seeing of a familiar situation with “fresh eyes,” as if you have never seen it before. So if déjà vu is about making the strange look familiar, véjà du is all about making the familiar look strange!
I was, this morning, provided and excellent example of veja du by one of the participants in my CEP817, Learning Technology by Design seminar. Steve Wagenseller pointed us to the photograph above, Excusado by Edward Weston and also linked to an essay by Marco Bohr on this photograph. I would strongly recommend looking at some other photographs by Weston (the tight closeups of vegetables are fantastic) and reading this essay “Excusado by Edward Weston“. A couple of key quotes. In this first quote Bohr places Edward Weston’s work within the broader context of art (and art movements) particularly drawing attention to the similarities and differences between his picture of a toilet and another (more famous) toilet that featured in the history of 20th century art.
Just like Marcel Duchamp eight years earlier, although this stands in a completely different context, he gave character to a toilet with his own recognizable ‘handwriting’. Duchamp had said that the perception of his urinal instillation was transformed by putting it in a gallery and calling it art. Weston transformed the perception of a toilet by capturing its pure aesthetic value in his defined style…
The next quote (and this is how Bohr finishes his essay) captures, for me the essence of the veja du assignment and takes it one step further, to comment on all that we do.
‘Excusado’ means to look at your object from different perspectives. For me it also means to get closer to the center of interest. It means that the light shapes the form and the form shapes the light. ‘Excusado’ means that there is no excuse for not making a beautiful picture even if it is toilet.
Think about that last sentence for a moment:
Excusado” means that there is no excuse for not making a beautiful picture even if there is a toilet.
Wow! What does that mean for me as a teacher? As a parent? As colleague? There are no excuses …
I had them (as one of the mini-activities around half-way through the day) write a poem capturing their understanding. Here are the poems they came up with (with the names of participants at the end). Sadly no one took me up on writing a poem in Dutch!
It’s good to be back at Twente, meeting old friends and making some new ones. I had a pretty light day yesterday, which was good because I had gone around 30 hours without any sleep. After checking into the hotel and getting a short but much needed nap, I took a walk around campus. Though I don’t have my trusted D70 with me I did manage to get some pictures. One of the first things I did was go back and catch up with my “man with his head in the water” photo from last year (see him here), though this time his condition seems a bit more critical due to the snow. Here he is.
You can see more photographs by clicking in the image below
Our family’s stop-motion animation festival continues with our latest offering: Finding Nemo, the sea-quel!! This movie was conceptualized by Shreya and filmed by all of us over a couple of days. What was interesting about this movie was just how many technologies got utilized in creating it (a complete list comes at the end of the movie) – and just how seamlessly these different tools could be integrated together. As we have been making these movies I have seen a greater level of sophistication and thinking from both my kids about the possibilities of stop-motion animation in particular and the visual aspects of telling a story through film. I can pretty much step back and let them do it. That has been fun to watch.
Anyway, before the movie, I need to give a shout out to our family friend, Amol Pavangadkar, who made all this possible by helping us create a really cool animation stand. We were inspired by this design and here it is, in use, by Shreya’s friends, as they made their animation movie.
So using this set up we have already created three movies. You can see the first one here, the new year’s card here and the third one below. Enjoy, Finding Nemo, the sea-quel!
Students in my CEP 818 (Creativity in Teaching and Learning) have been using digital photography to explore a variety of topics related to trans-disciplinary creativity. I hope to showcase some of their work on this blog once the semester gets over. In the meanwhile, I received an email from Michael Hughes, a former alumnus of this course, and a teacher in Jakarta, Indonesia. In his email he provided some links to some really cool work his students have been doing.
The Lansing temple recently organized a special Diwali program. My daughter Shreya participated in a dance and I, as always, took photographs of the event. Click here or the image below to see all 161 of the photographs I took.
As readers of this blog know I love examples of seeing things in new ways. That to me if often the crux of creativity. Anyway here are two examples. The first curtesey of Leigh Wolf is a new advertisement from some credit card company. The ad is actually pretty average but what is really cool are the visuals. Read the rest of this entry »
Leigh Wolf, my partner in crime as far as the MAET program goes, recently presented at Ignite Lansing. She talked about her two passions, teaching and food (not sure which order to place these). Specifically she talked about food photography and the connections she sees between what she does there and her other life as an educator. It is a lovely presentation, and the video is now available on YouTube. Take a look.
This weekend I completed my sixth Capital City River Run. I participated in the half-marathon and completed it at a 10:10 pace, a total time of 2 hours 13 minutes (and 2 seconds, but who is counting). Interestingly this pace was actually better than my pace the last two years, even though I had much less time to train this time around. It was a beautiful day and I had a wonderful time. Here is a photo
I am always looking for examples of looking at the world differently – of making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. This is of course connected with the veja du assignments I give my students.
I just came across a couple of very interesting video examples of this on the site LikeCOOL. This site has everything from after-office neckties, to inflatable boxing gloves… but in between these crazy things are some cool videos. Here are three (in increasing order of coolness):