Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deja Vu-It just keeps happening....

Yes, for some reason...don't know why...I didn't blog in week 11.  The articles are highlighted and marked up, but I never made it to the blog site.  And I had things to say too...I noted them in the margins : -)  But today I'd like to talk about Resnick's comment that really struck home with me since I just filmed my last class session observing the Fine Arts class engaging with CT and yesterday was their computational textile critique session.  Resnick was talking about Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in 1999 when he said: 

"Digital technologies need not be seen in opposition to the physical world. Rather, digital technologies can be integrated with physical objects to create new types of dynamic materials that react and respond to the world around them.  And these new materials, just like more traditional materials, can serve as the basis for new types of craft activities."
For me, his insight was quite profound, because this is how I view computational textiles. There are so many ways to use these sewable/washable microprocessors and some of these I saw at the critique.  The projects ranged from a tennis shoe w/an accelerometer that lights up more LEDs that faster you run, to a bobble head that lit when it bobbled, to a dance glove with a temperature sensor (the hotter you get the more lights come on), to an adorable stuffed fabric star that lit up a constellation pattern when in a dark room and plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, to hugging monkeys responding differently to the type of hug depending on where the hands are placed, a sweatshirt that lights when the arm is moved rapidly and a shirt (and soon pants) used in a performance piece with cloth switches. These projects all fit within Resnick's prediction 10 years ago.  It really makes one wonder what will be available and in use 10 years from now?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Returning to my happy place...

     Okay, I've read as much of Bauerlein as my heart can take and I need to return to my happy place...the Ito et al paper.  (At least this paper encourages me to think about something productive) Reading this piece only strengthened my awareness of the importance of the child/student to be motivated in their learning experience.  
     Like Mike, through out the Bauerlein article I kept thinking this is boring to them, they don't want to learn history, math,'s not important to them.  They can look up facts on the internet, who needs to commit all of this to memory? many times can you be interviewed on the street by Leno?? (Unless you set up camp outside the CBS studios in Burbank) Then I thought of an earlier conversation and how much of this is necessary to learn?  Do we need to learn every fact, since more history is made every single day?  This is a bit insane!  It seems more productive to teach children how to look up and sift through information so they can find it, analyize it for authenticity, than to commit to memory every historical event.  Afterall, they have the world at their fingertips...or through their peers.
    Which leads me to peer-based learning...a topic I'm really interested in that kept reappearing in the article.  In both of my research studies, QA (informal setting) then CT (college setting), I've come across this in both and I'm always amazed at how easily & naturally this can occur and be taken up by all of the participants, yet it seems it's rarely mentioned in studies although it yields wonderful results.  Both of the settings situations could be termed as "geeky", the first had to do with expertise in how to maneuver and explore areas of QA outside the formal storyline and game they were suppose to be playing : -)  The 8-11 year old boys decided it was more fun to create their own clubhouse in Qville above the clouds (where they could fly), and explore Egypt than to stay on task and read the text based storyline.  They set up their own social norms and would share their coordinates with others, tell them where & how to find the secret passage ways, then someone else would make a discovery and share it, they would exclaim when they discovered the moving vehicles or the space ship!  An interesting aspect was the expert changed to whoever made the discovery and alerted others.  This wasn't a competition, just cooperation and fun exploring and learning about the new space and the affordances of the game.  There was more interaction with one another and excitement in the days they could play and explore than in any other time during the observation. When we made them return to the task at hand (the "do this, read this, then this" instructional model), I felt as if we were the ones putting up a barrier to their motivation and enthusiasm.
     The second time, in my current observation project, one of the Fine Arts grad students had experience in Arduino, so he taught other grad students on multiple days about electricity,  sensors, resistors and pure data programming.  This student prepared & presented talks then helped them trouble shoot as they tinkered and explored the program or part. Others would input their expertise and again it was as if everyone was equal, even though one had more expertise.  There were no power plays, no authority figure, just open sharing of information.
     I would have to admit the second experience did learn more "facts" than the first, yet both were learning how to engage with one another socially, explore a medium, both were definately interest-driven and I would guess the club boys may have been more friendship driven. Yet, some would say the first group was wasting time...why?  I have to wonder sometimes if an activity is labeled as "wasted time" if it looks like the children are having too much fun...if they are at play?  Because play means the child is engaged and motivated.  And who can learn anything under those circumstances?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deja Vu it's week 3 again

     Okay...I missed blogging the week I presented, so here we go for those that want to step back with me into the 650 time machine. I really want to talk about the Resnick piece, I'm finding he's one of my favorite authors.  I remember when Tony and I were planning for that week's presentation he asked me Resnick's question: Which of these things doesn't belong: Television. Computer. Paint Brush.  I immediately said television which he seemed surprised at since most people say the last.  I explained my background since I worked in television I know it's a very passive medium, while you can create with computers and paint brushes. (Although I do have a friend who would argue this since he yells at the tv during sporting events like his tv transmits to the athletes ears : )
     So what can we do so children can create and explore?  I went to the toy isles, as I often do, looking for craft ideas for my granddaughters.  My oldest Amelia, just turned four, and needs help with her numbers.  So I saw this peal and stick mosaid kit that would make a flower design if you put the little colored squares on the matching number (e.g. purple=2, red=3, etc.) like a paint by number but with mosaics.  When she picked it out of the bag to work on over Thanksgiving break, she immediately placed the gem like looking flowers on it, and the blue sparkles for the eyes, and one mosaic on the number and she was done.  This was too much like work for had numbers on it and she didn't want to think about numbers. Which reminded me of something Mike told me about the kids at the B&G Club...if it smells anything like school (e.g. homework), they won't do it.  Well my granddaughter has only been to nursery school, so those concepts are unfamiliar to her, yet she knew she didn't like it.  So it could possibly link to Csikszentmihalyi's comment that maybe the activity was overwhelming to her or Papert's finding that if it was difficult, it just didn't connect deeply to her interest/passion.  So we tried the child painting by numbers...she LOVES to paint.  Turns out she only likes to paint when she can decide what color goes where...which I must say I'm a little happy about! So instead she decorated a christmas tree doorhanger placing the decorations anywhere she wanted without numbers ever being mentioned again.
    I'm wondering if these crafts, which weren't really about creating and exploring, were really about?  When I thought about it, they were both more like: do this here, then this there, then this here...the old instructional style disguised as craft materials!  Is this at the root of what even a 4 year old doesn't like?  Yet, instructional style is exactly what Amelia will have to endure for the next 14+ years! (I use the word endure because I don't forsee traditional school as being an option for productive learning experiences in this case) So what can be done?  Ahhhh...the words of Resnick are being channeled: playful learning = (designing + creating + inventing) x (personal interest + variation + familiarity).  None of these were even touched upon in Amelia's two number activities...back to the freestyle painting board, where they are all evident : -)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

“She saw things we couldn’t see.”

This Thanksgiving was a blessing in many ways, with many family visits, but we suffered a tremendous loss within 12 hours of the holiday. My Mom’s only living sibling, Aunt Joanna, slipped into another world in her sleep the morning after we visited her in the hospice.  We were told she had 4-6 months to live a few days ago when she was moved from the hospital to a hospice, but when we arrived at her new serene room, noticing her frail body had lost quite a bit of weight, her boisterous voice was soft and her words staggered, my lively aunt, who just weeks ago was raking the leaves for hours, was vanishing. All we could do was hold her hand, stroke her head and listen to her words as she closed her eyes and passed back and forth on the brim between two worlds.  She said she was tired of struggling (to stay alive) and reassured my Mom she was ready to leave (this world). She spoke of the angles all around her (Mom thought we (my cousin Linda, Mom & myself) were her angels, but I wondered if perhaps the morphine might have influenced their appearance since there were "many"). Aunt Joanna always wanted to teach others and I could see & hear she was still on that quest by telling us everything she was experiencing and thinking. I asked if she’d send pictures from the other side via the Internet and her dry lips stretched into one of her few smiles (she was an ardent internet user), then she spoke about things that she saw but we couldn’t see.

Aunt Joanna’s last comment reminded me of the Hetland article and arts education.  Many feel there are benefits to the arts, but do to our limited view of what education is (e.g. grades and test scores) the benefits are difficult to see, document and connect. Or maybe the lens we are looking through don’t allow us to be on that brink and value the benefits? Perhaps the benefits are invisable because we don’t test for humanity or what it even means to be human, since that response goes well beyond a check box. Or the things that we value, like our culture, are often missing from the school experience.  Through the use of the eight studio habits, the dispositions: craft, engagement, envisioning, expressing, observing, reflecting, exploring, and understanding; we connect with ourselves, we question what is important, what we value, and how that relates to our family, community and culture. For me, once you know what is important to yourself, the rest will flow naturally and you can connect purpose in everything that you see and actions that you take in your daily experiences.    Perhaps then we can all see (and express) what others may not see.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Media Literacy Experiences...what makes it enjoyable?

Kylie asked me a question that I would like blog about since everyone could input their Scratch experience (and now their textile workshop) as well.  The question asked was: How do I see my experience in the Computational Textiles (CT) workshop at MIT in Boston (see for the one day workshop blog) as compared to my engagement with Scratch. 

As I reflected back I realized each workshop was quite unique experiences. In the MIT based CT workshop our tasks included 1) learning the elements of a simple circuit, 2) sewing a simple circuit (switch, LED, battery) and test it, and 3) Download Arduino and program the LilyPad then test the programming with alligator clips.  The workshop was held in a relaxed community oval table setting in a large room with helpers standing in the wings to answer any question we had. The grad student helper to participant ratio was 1 to 3. Additionally, the environment was set up so learning could easily be shared.  For example Yasmin, who was sitting beside me had sewn a + pole to a – pole with conductive thread, thus breaking the circuit connection. When her LED didn’t light a helper was there immediately to help discover what went wrong.  Her lesson learned made all of us aware to verify the symbols on the elements before sewing.

Probably the most complicated part of the workshop came at the LilyPad programming stage, especially since Mike and I missed the introduction, as we were a bit late returning from the MIT bookstore.  When I arrived I quickly realized I needed help since I couldn’t access their Internet and one of the helpers, Emily, immediately came to my aid.  When she couldn’t help me, David, another MIT grad student, assisted me in connecting.  Then Emily walked me through where to find the Arduino software and download it to my laptop.  Next she helped me navigate to the Leah’s programming page where the code was available to copy and paste.  (Leah has all of her programming code on her website, which is extremely helpful.) I then hooked up the LilyPad and she watched as I successfully tested it.  I was then caught up with the group and remained so for the rest of the workshop.  As you will see this experience was quite different from my last Scratch experience.

I must first set up a disclaimer for Scratch, which many of you know, is a multimodal animation programming software.  The amount of programming options are immense, which is wonderful for building a wide variety of projects, however the basic skill levels needed on other programs to edit elements before importing can be a hindrance if trying to build a more complicated design.   I believe this was my downfall…my choice of meaningful projects (one for a grandchild) was too complicated without first having the proper basic skill set or in-house support (either online or in person) to accomplish it.

The 650 Scratch training started with viewing existing projects as a class, followed by a short round robin of building like adding a simple background, changing a sprite characteristics (e.g. color, motion), and adding text.  We played a short time then the class ended. The next lab we were to work on an animation with a partner and I needed to do my name project. This was when I learned the most since my partner, David, was quite versed in Scratch due to his time spent building his name project out of class. It was suggested for additional training we could search for an existing project and examine how that person had programmed it…which I found could be quite time consuming. (time is something we don’t have…hence the frustration in learning a new multimodal software, without easily accessible instructions starts to build)  According to Csikszentmihalyi  (1996) one way to help creativity in a domain is to have knowledge structured, central, and accessible. 

...a trapped Mickey Mouse

For me, accessible knowledge was lacking in trying to build a Scratch multimodal project.  For example my current Scratch project has been littered with roadblocks, each taking time to research and problem solve, sometimes needing to go through several attempts.  (again there’s that nasty T word!)  These are a few of the problems I encountered and #2-4 am still perplexed with:
1)    sound file types: When trying to find out the type of sound files I could use, after searching in the program and online I couldn’t locate the types of files supported, so I finally guessed the type I thought it would support. 
2)    How to edit out the character background before importing: When trying to cut out the background of an imported character cartoon (like Mickey Mouse), the in-program editing cut off the character’s head.  Therefore, I need to use Photoshop, which I’m not familiar with…more time needed.
3)    Why do sprites stay on the stage?  After locating my Mickey Mouse Club characters, I imported the 6 sprites (with backgrounds) but they were automatically placed on the stage and I couldn’t remove them.  I found the only way to remove them was to delete them, which then erased the 7 audio files I had just imported for each one. 
4)    Programming sound file: After searching for existing Scratch files with behaviors that I wanted, unsuccessfully I might add, I logically tried to program the sound file actions (a counting song), which I had edited into 7 pieces.  The action was programmed to play the next part after clicking on the proper number key, however the song doesn’t play past the first segment even after pressing on the proper key. 

So Mickey and Friends are currently held captive in the multimodal underworld with a few seconds of working sound and a frozen Mickey trapped in a white rectangle on the Clubhouse stage.  Amazingly I’m still motivated to finish this project since it’s for my 2 year-old granddaughter Katie, who adores the MM Clubhouse and is learning her numbers. 

While I will continue to work on my Scratch project, I’m really curious about everyone’s experiences with Scratch and/or the Computational Textile Workshop.  If you attended this weeks workshop, do you favor one experience over the other?  If so, why do you think that is so?  Or do you LOVE Scratch and found your experience wonderful?  (If so...I really need your help : -)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A True Epiphany or Simple Delusion?

I have to say I’ve been remiss about blogging.  It’s a new skill that I need to develop in this age of New Media.  One brick wall I constantly face is the feeling that I need to have something substantial to blog about, which means time is spent reflecting and we all know how time seems like a slippery commodity in your grad student years!   However, as I was drawing my concept maps on the Kress Multimodality paper's margins (yes, I’m now drawing arrows connecting cloud shapes in the margins instead of my usual bland text based scribbles) an epiphany hit me at the top of page 41 (sometimes I need to be hit really hard in the head with an epiphany before it sticks : -)  In switching from text driven abstracts to drawing concept maps filled with transformations, I feel I have changed from the Learning/Psych concepts model-where creativity is rare and inert acquisition takes place to…(this is the Ah Ha moment)…Semiotics/Sign-Making where creativity is “ordinary and normal” through mapping!  So, if anyone thinks they are not creative…look at your concept map and let your self-efficacy blossom!

Are others experiencing this…or should I really hit myself in the head?

My epiphanies always include smiley faces.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Yesterday I tried something that I had always wanted to do, but hadn’t formally done, learning how to mob flash dance. (Okay, truth be told, I really wanted to learn to dance since childhood when my cousins took tap dance lessons, but there was never enough extra money in our household for this.) This past summer dancing came to the forefront of my mind when one of my LA girlfriends and USC Cinema classmates, Lynne Oropeza, directed me to her performance at the Hollywood & Highland Thriller mob flash dance, via Facebook. (of course, Lynne, in the red hat, has years of ballet training and I have two left feet : -)

Mob flash dance (Thriller) @ Hollywood and 
Highland mall on July 25, 2009.

The dance looked like so much fun that I really wanted to try this, if given the opportunity…then fate dropped this in my lap when P650 classmate Nancy told me about a group that was teaching Thriller two times a week in BLOOMINGTON as a fundraiser for The Middle Way House and to break a world record! The big question is: I know I have severe limitations, since my sequential limit appears not to be 7 but more around 4, so could I memorize the sequence of steps? Could I learn the dance by October 24th to take part in a mob flash dance that evening at 8:30? (And will I be able to dance after a long day at the Arduino presentation/workshop and being with our MIT guests?)

At the dance studio I soon realized I had good company during the lesson: Nancy attended with her daughter (see her pre-dance blog: and Tom joined me for moral support, which he found quite enjoyable (it was at that challenging but not frustrating level)…YEAH!! (Yes, Ellen…we are patiently waiting for you to join the mob! ; -)

What I learned during the FREE lesson (my favorite word as a single grad student : -) was the instructor used chunking, that is putting sequences of movements together for ease of remembering. She would first demonstrate, at a slow pace-with her back to us while facing a mirror, the moves along with auditory cues like: right, left, right, left, back, left, right, along with teaching us the names for certain steps like Bootie Bounce…(who could forget that name?!), then we would try it with lots of repetition eventually picking up the speed to go with the actual soundtrack pace, then adding it to the previously learned steps for continuity. For me, it was exciting to see how I was picking up many of the steps, meaning that new connections/webs were being formed in this brain that’s over a half a century old (did I REALLY just admit that?!). Being a visual person, I’m finding the combination of kinetics, with the auditory words, the visualization of the dance, and of course my personal interest to learn the dance, has greatly increased my sequential abilities. To me…that’s time well spent!

The burning question is: can this transfer over and enable me to dance my way through Joshua’s P544 class? I think a musical version of Socio-Cultural Theory may be needed : -)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Sunday, September 20, 2009

It’s the morning after attending a one-day event labeled “Whirlwind Textile Workshop” at MIT’s Media Lab and my mind is still racing as I’m trying to synthesize and make sense of my experiences. This was my first hands-on introduction to computational textiles and circuitry in general. Yes, I already knew about the two poles, and that circuits must remain intact (I had thrown circuit breaker switches) and even replaced a lamp switch in a favorite bedroom lamp via instructions, but in my undergrad product design classes, circuits were not on the syllabus. So I went into the workshop with little understanding of the materials I would be working with.

Leah Buechley, the workshop leader not only designed the LilyPad but heads up the High-Low Tech Group at MIT. (see ) Her passion & exuberance for computation textiles is abundantly apparent before, during and after her presentation igniting the room into constructing their first circuit, while a bevy of Leah’s students: Hannah (aka Plusea on Instructables) Emily, David & Bonifaz Kaufmann, a visiting student from Austria circled the room to lend their expertise when we faced a brick wall (or in this case a tiny light consumed by darkness).

After gathering at a large oval conference table, introductions were given be each member, including attendees: Yasmin Kafai, Mike & Quinn from Penn State, Nichole Pinkard from University of Chicago, and Kylie Peppler & myself from IU. Leah then presented an introduction to a wide variety of computational textiles like designs on the runway, fabric screen projecting pillows, and a shirt that could gather medical information to be analyzed. Next we looked as some other CT designs, like Leah’s lighting design activated by a breeze, a harp that activates a pyramid of lights, applications embedded into stuffed animals, Hanna’s design using a white body suit and a website entitled “Tentative Architecture of Other Earth” illustrating a knitted white sweater that seemingly breathed by reacting to the wearer’s mood and the ambient temperatures. (It reminded me of underwater sea plant movements – very subtle.)

Next Leah discussed the elements of and layout of a simple circuit: a power source, LED with a negative-shorter pole and the positive-longer pole, and a switch. However Hanna showed us hand made switches, that could be used on designs, like the beaded pendulum (see ) which enables a random pattern of sensor responses (which may work for my “twirling” design project). Then it was time to play! Each workshop member designed and constructed a working circuit. Kylie had brought two things to work on, one a cardigan she wore at IU and another a pair of purple fairy wings, both perfect for the circuits. I recently came across a term in a fabric store for the re-purposing of both articles: fashionology. The magazine defined it as “the simple science of transforming purchased clothing and accessories with easy embellishments.” In looking at my closet, I found a number of items that could be redesigned or re-mixed with embedded computational textiles (e.g. a colorful hand-drawn-type graphic Woodstock t-shirt). Therefore, I would go one step further and strike the words: purchased (e.g. you may decide to transform a handed down grandmother’s garment), simple (e.g. science is far from simple), and easy (e.g. CT does involve a learning curve).

Kylie ended up focusing on her sweater so she passed the wings onto Nichole to embellish. I brought a patch to embed with electronics and connect it to a surface with Velcro so it could be placed/removed from anything. I thought it would be best to stitch the electronics on a layer of material behind the patch, or as Hannah pointed out, if I didn’t the stitching would show through the front of the patch…oh yeah! So I used the fabric crayons (yes…we had crayons!) to draw a road map of where the three elements needed to be sewn and a connecting path to sew with conductive thread. This helped me plan it out before I started and layout the parts in the proper direction the terminals were needed to connect properly (e.g. plus or minus) in the loop. I learned this from Yasmin, sitting beside me, when she sewed (quite beautifully!) a positive and negative together. She had to rip the stitching out and flip it. (I noted from her difficulty that the conductive thread is not easy to cut out.)

In my design, the most difficult part of my process was the placement of the light under the patch. I started to cut a hole in the patch, however, now I realize I should have simply used an LED light on the front of the patch (which I will probably change out.) And I may add more lights, although I don’t know if that is possible without using a LilyPad. (As you can see I’m still sketchy on how it all works together and need much more hands on play time!)

Due to the open nature of the workshop, conversations were happening instantaneously. We were learning from one another as we were all constructing our design. At one point in the conversation, Nichole responded to Kylie “You gave me wings!” We all laughed at her response, yet her simple statement was so poetic at the same time. Since we want all children to have wings to explore the possibilities that we were experiencing: to work in a community of learners, in a rich positive environment, be introduced to programming and design while learning valuable skills. In my opinion, the entire world needs to be given wings to experiment and participate as a lifetime learner.

COMING: Part 2:textile fabrication & workshop reflections

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pre Dawn

Welcome to my P650 Blog...

I'm a second year Learning Sciences graduate student at Indiana University, with a background in documentary work (BA from USC) and a MA in educational technology. One of my tasks for this fall's Learning in New Media class is to construct a blog and fill it with my studio work and reflections...hence the title of the blog: Glimpses of Light. I've realized my journey through graduate school, is at a pre-dawn stage, as I find myself at times grasping in the darkness, attempting to connect bits of information that will light my way through this maze of knowledge. With that said, I can see bits of light emerging as the darkness of the first year makes way for the dawning coming forth.

If you wish…join my adventure as the light unfolds during my exploration the arts in new media.