Monday, March 28, 2011

Look at the Edges

Photography continues to simultaneously expand and focus my vision, frequently bringing insights that are applicable to other areas of interest.

Yesterday, my husband and I spent an hour or so near - but not on - frozen Lake George, NY. We both needed some fresh air and exercise, and I wanted a subject for my 365 project.

Some of the most engaging shots I found were on the edges: a transition from sunlight to shadow, the line where ice became water became shore.

Contrast, change, the tension between opposing concepts, all present the opportunity for perceptual growth.

At the edge, there is challenge, sometimes even danger. But that is where the excitement lies, and that is where new understandings photography, and in life.

"Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew." -Guillaume Apollinaire

"On the Edge" by dmcordell

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Come Play With Us At ISTE!

Learning is serious stuff, right? Well, not entirely. Add some fun to your ISTE 2011 experience by attending the Learning Tools Family Feud: Crowdsourced Edition...

A favorite 70s game show with a fabulous 21st century twist. Listen in while our lively panel illustrates the results of a learning tools survey.

The "lively panel" is composed of Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, and Shannon Miller for the Gals; and Chad Lehman, Nicholas Provenzano, and Matthew Winner for the Guys. Steve Dembo will serve as emcee, while Paul R. Wood and I have volunteered to certify survey data.

This event is scheduled for Monday, June 27, 2011 - 12:45pm–1:45pm More information can be found on the TLSmackdown wiki ; the survey itself is here.

Even if you're not able to attend the conference or session in person, please take a few minutes to make your opinions known (submissions close on Friday, June 17).

“It is in playing, and only in playing, that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.” -D.W. Winnicott

Come play with us, at ISTE!

"Learning Tools Family Feud logo" from TLSmackdown wiki
"Learning_Tools_Family_Feud70s" by The Daring Librarian

Monday, March 21, 2011

Never a Vacation from Learning

Here are some random experiences and reflections from our recent trip to Puerto Rico:

Jane Stern Dorado Community Library

As I did last year, I visited the Jane Stern Dorado Community Library. While my sister-in-law registered as a seasonal borrower, I took the opportunity to chat with some of the staff members. I learned that the collection was begun by American professionals, relocated to Dorado for their jobs in pharmaceutical companies, who donated their personal libraries to the town when they returned to the States - hence the preponderance of English-language books.

Young people throughout Puerto Rico receive a bi-lingual education, but the library is currently building its stock of recreational reading materials for older, Spanish-speaking, users. There is a computer room, with a nominal fee for Internet access. Members of the Community Library are given passwords which enable them to use personal laptops within the building, free of charge.

Interesting sounds lured me to a pre-school mother/child session, where tiny tots were happily banging away on an assortment of musical instruments. The mom in charge assured me that I'd be a welcome volunteer for story time, if I happen to return again next year.

Dorado Academy

Before leaving home, I had contacted Mrs. Nancy Escabi, Headmaster/Director of Dorado Academy. At her invitation, I spent some time touring the school and learning a bit about education in Puerto Rico.

Dorado Academy is a private institution, originally founded by American ex-pats ("continentals"), but now maintained and supported largely by local families. Since the school is totally funded by tuition, the budget crisis plaguing the U.S. is not a factor here. All core subjects are taught in English, with some leeway allowed in "specials" like art and physical education. The only mandatory non-English courses are Spanish Language, and the History of Puerto Rico.

Students wear uniforms (as do all children that we saw, whether in public or private schools), in this case navy skirts or slacks, white polo shirts, and black shoes. More casual attire is allowed for gym classes and special dress-down days. Although the school is not air-conditioned (electricity is very expensive), an interior courtyard and louvered windows, help maintain a comfortable temperature. The gymnasium is constructed like a garage, with doors that can be raised to allow air circulation.

Mrs. Escabi, a native of New York City, is of Pueto Rican heritage. When I described where in NYS I lived, she reminisced about taking a ride on the Lake George steamboat, Minne-Ha-Ha, which docks just a few miles from my home! She is very attuned to current trends in education, and hopes to acquire eReaders for her two libraries. As with the public library, the school library collections are mainly in English: families recognize that their children's future depends on language fluency and the academy responds accordingly. The students I met in the hall were friendly and well-behaved, a credit to their school and their community.

Again, should I return to Dorado, I have an open invitation to volunteer. Perhaps there will be opportunities to connect online, as well.

Kites and Whales

Sometimes the best vacation memories are unplanned. While on a visit to El Morro, in Old San Juan, we saw hundreds of children flying home-made kites. The steady, strong breezes off the ocean were perfect for this outdoor activity.

Then, at the local Saturday beach party, someone alerted us that whales were jumping offshore, a rare occurrence for Dorado. Although I wasn't able to capture the event with my camera, it was a thrilling experience to see the huge splashes, knowing what they represented.

People, Language, Culture

Once again, we were warmly welcomed by the year-round residents of Dorado. They invited my husband to watch boxing matches on a projection TV screen, outside, under the stars. We sampled local food and agreed that rum and coke is a proper beverage for tropical climates. There was the traditional Friday night poker game, passionate domino competitions, and stunning sunsets to share.

I don't speak Spanish, but I'd love to learn how. It seems to be a language made for conversation and laughter. It suits our Puerto Rican friends. I will miss them.

Animoto of our trip to Dorado, Puerto Rico

Flickr slideshow

"Reflections by the Sea" by dmcordell
"Popular fiction, Jane R. Stern Community Library" by dmcordell
"Courtyard sculpture, Dorado Academy" by dmcordell
"Flying kites" by dmcordell
"Playing on the beach" by dmcordell

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Soldiers

The Young Warrior:
Traveling in uniform, upgraded to First Class as a courtesy, recognized and applauded by airline staff and passengers.

The Old Warrior:
Humiliated, by being selected for a random body pat down, angered that his combat service in Viet Nam did not ensure dignity and personal freedom in his retirement years.

What is the price we are willing to pay for "security"?

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Roar and the Splash

Reflections by the sea:

The sound of the ocean is twofold, the splash of waves on the shore, with a powerful, constant background roar.

Is there a parallel in education? Does reform more closely resemble the steady energy of the roar, or the flow and ebb of the splashing tide? Is the normal wearing action of the waves enough or is a tsunami necessary, to sweep away old systems so that we can begin again?

I gather shells and contemplate the future.

"Reflections by the Sea" by dmcordell
"Tsunami warning sign" by dmcordell
"Conch curl" by dmcordell