Van Gogh’s Arles in Second Life

After searching for a bit, I have found the 19th century Arles, France in Second Life.  This was one of the places where Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted.  The SL replicated town has several paintings of Van Gogh recreated in 3-dimensions through which you can walk and explore.

A possible project came to mind while I was exploring this place.  I’ve thought about having students visit this place, with the task of taking photos [screen captures] with their avatar in several of the replicated paintings [like mine above].  Students would then need to blog about these paintings.  Their blog posts would need to include an image from second life, an image of the real life painting[found online], and a brief researched write-up about the painting and its background information.  This would be a way for students to deepen their knowledge about one of the master painters and at the same time, interact with their findings in a virtual environment.  This would be a great supplement project to viewing videos about Vincent Van Gogh [like the one playing at the IMAX right now], and also attempting to create their own Impressionist works.

Students Thinking about Sustainability

My students have been thinking about the sustainability of our planet, and our ways of living on it.  I’ve had my English Language Arts students [grade ten students] working through a unit that I’ve called The Necessary Revolution.   The title is not very original, as I’ve lifted if from a great book by Peter Senge, but it works.  Students

Chris Jordan

began the unit with an introduction to Chris Jordan  and his work and message.   They watched short videos, viewed much of his artwork digitally, and read from his blog.  They were asked to respond to Chris’ message in writing by posting their thoughts and opinions as comments on my blog.  They also began to study a list of essential vocabulary; words like unsustainable, sustainability, necessary, revolution, citizenship, etc.  Next, the students viewed the documentary The 11th Hour.  While viewing, student took notes of important facts, information, and viewpoints, and we stopped the film constantly having good discussions.  After viewing, my students were expected to write a written response to the film.  Follow the link bellow to read their responses (please leave us some feedback).  

Another activity I’ve had on the go, is a small-scale tree planting project.  I’ve had students in three homerooms in the school planting white spruce tree seedlings.  We’ve planted them in small pots to keep in the room for the winter, to care for them, and then eventually move them to a more permanent home in the spring.  My students have been measuring, and watering their trees.   They’ve even tagged and named their trees. 

All of this is just a start, yet I feel that we are heading in the right direction.  

Follow the links below to read my students responses, and please, leave us some feedback. 

Student responses to Chris Jordan, his work and his message. 

Student responses to the film The 11th Hour.

Understanding the Visioning Process

   At first, I was caught completely off guard by the expectation of creating a visioning statement.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept.  From the little that I knew about a visioning statement, I thought it was a term used mostly in the corporate world of companies and businesses.  When I first mentioned the visioning assignment to my wife, she was also confused, and questioned why we would be doing something so corporate in an education curriculum class.  I vaguely remember the term from a course in organizational behavior, and I initially had to agree with her that it seemed rather odd in this setting at first.

   After digging a little deeper, it began to make a lot of sense.  It only took a small amount of searching and reading for me to realize that the goals and ideas that I have been thinking about, were in fact a part of my vision statement.  From what I understand now, a vision statement is simply a description of what you are aiming for, working towards – a description of ideal goals or dreams.  As I searched, I found that (as suspected) many of the definitions of a vision statement do in fact come from a corporate world of organizational behavior.  However, I found a couple of definitions that were key in allowing me to understand that visioning has much broader applications than simply being used by business leaders. 

   The first definition that was important in aiding my understanding of the process was that “A vision statement is a vivid idealized description of a desired outcome that inspires, energizes and helps you create a mental picture of your target” (Constandse, 2008).  Visioning is a process that applies to anyone who sets goals or who seeks to achieve something. As such, visioning is certainly transferable to paths in education.  The second piece of information that cleared the fog for me was that, “most successful people have written vision statements.”  Reading this allowed me to understand that visioning is a process that ultimately applies to any person or organization with goals of being successful.  Visions statements are linked with the achievement of success, as they allow people to picture their goals clearly and concisely.  Visioning allows individuals to keep their goals in sight and sharply in focus.

   I also have come to understand the visioning is about thinking ‘big picture’, or about thinking about ideal outcomes.  Visioning is about clearly stating the ‘what’ that is desired, not necessarily even thinking about the ‘how’. 

   In hind-sight, it seems somewhat funny that I was confused about something that now seems so logical.   After the first day of this class, I changed the banner at the top of the introduction page to my web space to read the following quote that has been translated from the words of Mohandas Gandhi.  The quote reads, “Be the change that you want to see in this world.”  Simple, yet profound. 

   In many ways this has been the mantra through which I have been viewing this course, and much of my own teaching this semester.   In many ways, this quote sums up my visioning.   I want to inspire change.   I want to awaken students to the understanding that change is inevitable, that change is necessary, that the needs are immediate, and that change is already happening.   I want my students to understand that they have the ability to create change; to be change.  I want this for myself, for my family, my children, and for my students.

On my rock… writing to… myself…

A portion of the assessment of my current graduate course is on the completion of an analysis journal.  Dr. Pickard has asked us (the students of EC&I 871 – Sustaining Wellbeing through H.O.P.E.) to find a space at least once a week to sit and reflect upon the readings, presentations, and activities that will be presented throughout the class.   Basically the premise is to “get on your rock” and reflect upon and analyse your development through the class.

In the past, I have found blogging to be a useful method of reflecting and analysis.  I have blogged as part of a network in which each member would regularly read and respond to eachothers’ blog entries.  Although there was much value to the presence of a network and an audience, much of the value of blogging was in the ability to communicate, develop, and articulate thoughts and ideas as they developed in relation to the readings and other course materials.  It is most likely that this most recent blogging activity will not have any audience (one is not intended).  I suppose in a way this is a sort of disclaimer to say that I am really writing to myself, journaling, in order to further develop my own thoughts.  Yet also this is meant to say that an audience is certainly welcome, as I do understand that there is much value when discussions arise.  So if you are reading any of my posts, and you are inclined to respond, please do.

At some point, as this develops, I may intend for this blog to reach and audience… perhaps my classes of high school students.  That is something I have not yet experienced.  We’ll see how this goes…