Sunday, September 17, 2006

Those Who Can, Also Teach

I have been mulling over a comment that was made last week in one of my classes. After doing a brainstorming activity, we sat down to have a discussion about all the things we came up with to write on the large post-it notes that had questions like: What does a dance therapist do? What does a dance lighting designer do? What does a dance historian do? What does a choreographer/artistic director do? What does a dancer do? What does a dance critic do? Etc. I was amazed with the amount of words and phrases we came up with to describe these jobs. The point of the exercise was to show us how much each of these areas does individually, and reveal that as dance educators, we must find a way to do all of them!

The discussion that ensued was lively and the professor allowed for everyone to express ideas. At one point, the discussion moved to questioning why some professions included on the list are more highly respected than others, and the place of the dancer herself in the “hierarchy of dance.” Then came the comment that I should have responded to with more than an audible gasp of horror. It was a comment that dance critics are just people who can’t dance, so they write about dance, and those that comprise dance audiences are not dancers, that’s why they are in the audience. Seriously, I gasped when these statements were expressed, and the professor did not address them, and I remained silent for some strange reason, I think, because I had already spoken twice during the discussion and didn’t want to appear to dominate the remarks. And yet, I have seriously been stewing for four days now.

There is a stereotype that critics are just dancers that didn’t make it, so they have to criticize, and this may spill out into other dance-related fields as well. Then there is the statement that, “those that can, do, those that can’t, teach.” You could fill in a number of things to take the spot of “teach” in that statement, such as “criticize,” etc. At one time I thought that that stereotype was the truth about the bitter dance critic who wants to have power over dance companies, but I’ve grown past that. I am a dancer. I love to write. I would love to further develop my writing skills to write about dance. There are many other aspects of dance that I would like to experience. That’s what drew me to want to develop myself as a dance teacher, not because I couldn’t make it as a dancer, but to enrich myself as a dancer and add dance teacher to my definition of myself as a dancer. So, although that kind of negative thinking may exist, I refute it wholeheartedly, and think that we collectively must think the same way, or else we are shooting ourselves in the foot becoming teachers. I am not a frustrated dancer that didn’t make it in the real world of dancing, rather, I am a dance artist that wants to continue to improve in all areas of dance so that I can be the most effective teacher possible.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

In Retrospect: Final Project Evaluation

I found the group project to be extremely rewarding. When it was first mentioned that we would be doing a group project and presentation, I admit it, I cringed. I have had poor experiences in the past where not everyone in the group contributes, they don't make themselves available, or the work that was promised just doesn't get done. All of my fears were put to rest almost immediately. First of all, although I'm sure I would have been satisfied with any group configuration, I was thrilled to see the members assigned to my group. At our first meeting we agreed on the focus of culture and the arts based on something from our own background. The beauty of this idea was that we were able to focus on an area of individual interest and meaning while contributing to the collaborative whole of the project. We also decided to set up individual project.html pages right away, and I offered to set up the main page for the project so that we could all link to that as the culture.html page. The visual configuration of the main page shows each individual's culture choice as a separate cell, but they are joined together to show the relationship of our group members coming together to share what we learned during our research.

Posting these pages on the Internet in a timely fashion proved to be a great decision because we were able to look at our group-mates' pages as they were developing. This virtual check in on the progress of each page was helpful in many ways. It inspired me to make my page better, reminded me of things I should include on my page, and reassured me that each person was doing their part. Technology was definitely to thank for this aspect of the project. In another group situation where technology was not involved, you would have had to wait until the next meeting of the group to see the progress. Another way in which we employed technology was that we could email each other at any time to give a comment or spelling correction to aid in making each page the best it could be. Because of the short time in which to create a web presence and complete the project, we had no choice but to come together quickly with ideas and content for our site. Every in-person meeting became a brainstorming session which went very smoothly. We met before class on several occasions to work intensely on our own part of the project, saving time to come together at the end of each session to discuss ideas about the presentation of the project. This made it possible to solve problems and assist each other in a variety of ways. We were successful in maintaining a dynamic interaction both in cyberspace and in person.

Each member had substantial input to the final product, and even came up with an additional contribution in the last 24 hours of the project: virtual teacher introduction video, embedded YouTube video, presentation content, and group interview video and photos. The technology class itself served as a lab for creating our website, as we were able to test our webpages on both PCs and Macs. Among the group members we had a variety of web browsers, so we were able to test our pages to get everything on our site to look as we intended in as many situations as possible. When presentation day arrived, we were ready to go. We started with our virtual teacher, via a QuickTime Movie, giving us our assignment, then we presented each member's contribution to the website. I am thrilled with the results of our preparation and our subsequent presentation of the material. As a celebration of the project culmination and a continuation of the process, our group went out to a Korean restaurant where we shared food and arts discussions. Thank you Andrea, Bomi, and Kanika for a delicious end to an intense project.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dance is Language

I made a PowerPoint presentation for my Tech Resources class where I had to research how literacy is acquired through the arts. I specifically tailored my presentation to be geared towards dance, but the principles are transferrable to any art form. In one of the articles I found particularly interesting, there was mention of the concept of treating each art as a language. Dance is one of the disciplines that can aid in developing and acquiring literacy. Dance is a language, and as skills are developed in the dance framework, they translate into other literacy skills. Through the medium of physical and emotional expression, students will experience another facet of themselves and make connections with other knowledge. Developing a common language with which to discuss and create dance will allow for new experiences that will enhance literacy among students. As you acquire skills and comprehension in any language, you are also making links to literacy areas you already possess. I began to understand English grammar for the first time when I took high school French. While learning the new language, somehow I was making connections that gave me a framework for the language I spoke fluently.

Fluency is the ability to communicate in a language easily and quickly, like a native speaker of the language. So it is with dance; as you move towards fluency, you make connections to your native language, and it enhances your knowledge in both languages. I can gear my lessons around some of the grammar that is used in dance, including:
  1. Dance vocabulary: steps, movements; a descriptive way of speaking about movement
  2. Dance phrase: incorporating a number of steps or movements in a sequence
  3. Story: complete dance piece made up of many dance phrases
  4. Rules of grammar: order, how things go together, what makes sense
  5. Techniques for generating ideas: brainstorming, found movement, improvisation, inspiration from personal experiences, photos, or poems, etc.
  6. Structure: form (ie.: ABA, ABBA, ABCDEBC, etc.)
  7. Editing: objectively viewing the work, openness to appropriately given criticism, and then being able to cut, paste, delete, and rearrange as necessary
There are so many parallels with conventional language learning that it is an obvious advantage to give students many crossover language acquisition opportunities and resources. Dance, as a physical, expressive form, has the unique ability to allow the dancer to experience visually and kinesthetically. By learning how to discuss and write about observations and activities in the dance class, students will be supplementing literacy acquisition in all areas of study.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Final Countdown

The group project has been an interesting process. We have not had any clashing of ideas or personalities. (Whew!) We were able to agree on our focus of culture and the arts during our first meeting. We decided right away to make an individual project page that would link to a central group project page. I designed that main page for the group. I had an idea for a two-column/two-row table grid. Inside each cell is another table: one for each member of the group. Inside that individual table is another two-column/two-row table with an image link to each member's project page. We also made sure that we included links to the other group members' individual project page from our project page. In this way, we are creating a mini website using NYU as the server for all of our linking needs.

For my contribution to the project, I researched Hawaiian culture. It allowed me to be reminded of my childhood. Some of the details I found were new for me, and I was inspired to do more reading about hula and mele. I look forward to a smooth presentation tomorrow night in class. We will be presenting our project as if it were an assignment we were given in a class or at a workshop. We are hoping to have a video of our virtual teacher giving us this assignment on researching culture and the arts. If that doesn't happen for some reason, I will probably act as the teacher and tell the students the parameters of the project. Then flash forward, and each of our group members will navigate through and talk about their research and webpage design. At the end of that, we will conclude with reflecting on our group process. Learning about an aspect of our own background, sharing that with the group, and gaining knowledge about the other group members' processes and ideas has been great. Everyone is doing their part to incorporate the technology lessons of our course into the final project.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Learning Teaching/Teaching Learning

What kind of teacher do I want to be?

Today I posed a question to my Tech Resources professor, "How do you teach an overview class to primarily beginner-level students term after term?" I am beginning to realize that my Dance Education degree is about more than each individual course on its own:
  1. Each course is essential to my degree.
  2. Each course encompasses subject matter that is essential to my field.
  3. Each course will be taught by a professor whose teaching style I can observe.
This third point is equally as important as the course content, or maybe more so. Over the past three weeks I have been observing teaching style, class organization, availability of teacher, patience with questions, presentation of course material, and assignment progression. I suppose at some point it comes down to teacher expectation. You expect that students will understand, gain more knowledge, and stretch their abilities. I have witnessed novice computer users whose technology experience consisted of word-processing and Internet surfing prior to taking this class emerge with projects including: writing html code, altering photos, working with sound and movie editing, posting blogs, and creating group projects that employ all of the afore-mentioned skills. The class is geared toward allowing students to accomplish all of this while keeping their specific educational field in mind. For me, the terminology was not foreign, but I did not have prior experience with most of the programs I have been introduced to in this course, nor had I considered including technology in my classroom.

I am excited to continue to learn to be a teacher and to use technology in my future classroom setting, as well as in performance. This will be one tool that will assist me in creating a dynamic learning environment. What an amazing collaboration is dawning in my life. The links are infinite.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reflection on Tech Course

During my technology course we have learned some basic html and started a website for our class projects. Those projects have included: altering images with filters in Photoshop, uploading an audio file, working to edit sound with Audacity, creating animated gifs, blogging, a PowerPoint presentation, and using the web as our library research tool. We are soon to enter the world of movies, sound collage, and group presentations. If you told me before the course started how many projects I would accomplish, I would have laughed and said that it would be impossible. Yet somehow we are all doing the work of a 15-session/15-week course over the span of an 11-session/3-week time period. It is fast-paced, exciting, and a lot of work. The payoff is that we are being exposed to a multitude of technological resources and putting into practice some basic computer skills.

You can tell someone all about technology. You can feed them all kinds of terminology and describe processes, but unless you actually sit down and do it yourself, it will only have a surface meaning. I have found that this Tech Resources class is a model for the methods it is teaching. I'm learning about technology in a variety of ways, but I'm also learning about teaching techniques. I'm learning how I might teach a course with technology as one of the tools; the subject matter also happens to be technology, but the method could apply to any subject area. I realize that every class I take for my Dance Education degree is twofold: the subject matter and the teaching style. Learning by example to in turn be a good model for my students.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Still Photo Animation

I was recently looking at a popular blog, called Boing Boing, which referred me to a great movie uploaded onto You Tube entitled, "Between You and Me," by Patryk Rebisz. This film is made up of digital stills taken in burst mode on the camera. In other words, instead of a video camera, a still camera was used so that it becomes a photo animation, an incredibly smooth one at that. I was blown away by it because the storyline is so intriguing that you forget it's not a traditional movie. I highly recommend checking it out.

In technology class we are in the midst of editing a movie utilizing the "Ken Burns Effect" in iMovieHD. I am an amateur movie maker and have put together some home movie footage into an edited form. I have used iMovie and am learning some of the new features in iMovieHD, but I really want to become comfortable using Final Cut Express. I just need to add an extra chunk of time onto each day, and then I could accomplish that goal. Perhaps I need to allow time for editing practice and give myself a deadline to get a small project completed. (Or maybe give up sleeping?)