Monday, September 19, 2011

Considering New Perspectives

On Thursday, I'll board an Amtrak train in Fort Edward, NY, with a final destination of Atlanta, GA, where I'll participate in Reimagine: ED.

Our purpose will be "exploring the future of learning in K-12 education by identifying ideas, places, and professional roles that would benefit from new perspectives...[to] bring together diverse voices and use the design process to develop shared understandings and action steps for change."

With this goal in mind, I've been considering some recent personal experiences which have contributed to my life as a learner.

Open Studios Tour: Enchanting Art
This self-guided tour offered an opportunity to interact with artists in their working spaces, permitting a glimpse of some of the underlying structure that is necessary to a productive creative life. Photos.

Raptors in the Park
Community members dropped by to learn about native birds of prey. The audience was diverse and multi-generational, and information was delivered in an entertaining manner - a perfect blend of facts and fun. Photos.

Yaddo Mansion Tour

The public was allowed a rare glimpse of this private retreat, which has hosted artists from around the world since its founding, nearly 120 years ago. The guest rooms are spare but functional, each with a well-lighted desk (and dictionary); studio space offers a "blank canvas" for artists to utilize as they choose. Yaddo provides two meals a day, during which artists-in-residence can choose to interact with fellow guests or eat in a quiet area, where they can continue their thinking, undisturbed. Extensive grounds and beautiful gardens present other opportunities for reflection and conversation. If I could select the perfect venue for creativity and collaboration, Yaddo would be my choice. Photos.

Locating sites for en plein air painting is just a first step for my husband: both he and I track down sources that gives his artwork context and adds other levels of meaning. We became "citizen journalists" of a sort, when a local landmark burned down. Tim's painting, and my photos, were the most recent record of the building. And the facts he had gathered, from a railroad expert in his network, key facts about the purpose of the structure, gave some news reporters important background information. Photos.

My love for photography has resulted in some very interesting connections. When I recently posted photos of my mother's family on the Troy, NY Memories group in FaceBook, I was immediately contacted by relatives (of whose existence I was unaware) who provided genealogical information about the family dating back to 17th century France. With their help, I identified our mutual great-great-grandparents in a scanned image. This not only inspired me to learn more about a previously-unknown group of ancestors, it also triggered a rich storytelling and resource sharing burst that still continues. What better way to learn history than through exploring your roots? (I've blogged about my Italian heritage: In My Grandfather's Voice and Inquiry, Search, Results, Applications. Now I need to learn more about the Irish branch of the family tree). Photos.

But to get back to my original point: I've found that, for my learning experiences, I like a variety of spaces (intimate and expansive, interior and out-of-doors); opportunities for interaction but with an option for quiet self-reflection; informal exchanges of information; multiple modes of input and output; access to tools (typewriters, notebooks, laptops, etc.). I'm comfortable online but equally value face-to-face communication. I need motion as well as rest. I want to learn about topics that are of personal interest.

I look forward to participating in Reimagine:ED and will certainly share my experiences in future postings. If we truly desire a better educational system, we need to consider, collaborate, create, communicate.

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -John Dewey

"The eternal conflict of good and the best with bad and the worst is on." -Melvil Dewey


Carolyn Foote said...

well-said Diane. I love the examples you share which show all the different types of learning spaces we create. I interviewed a few students (for case studies for Reimagine:ed) and maybe you'll see them, but they talk about their different needs, and it was very interesting the diversity of needs.

You write so eloquently here, too--design is in your writing.

diane said...

Thank you, Carolyn. The conference was a fantastic start, but we found a need to break away from the structure to follow a passion. True learners can't be stopped!