Tag Archives: Creativity

Peeling Back the Layers: Frida Kahlo Exhibit “Looks Can Be Deceiving”

This weekend I attend Frida Kahlo: Looks Can Be Deceiving at the Brooklyn Museum.  The exhibit is packed with rooms of clothing, artifacts, and of course art, based upon both last year’s Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the original exhibit curated by Circe Henestrosa at the Frida Kahlo Museum in 2012.

Even though attendees are not able to take pictures throughout the exhibit (and my daughter requested that I not nerd out with my writer’s notebook) the clothing, art, photographs, and personal items are ingrained in my mind. There were two rooms that were the most powerful.

The first featured a series of Kahlo’s changing medical orthopedic corsets and casts. Kahlo contracted polio at age six, which left her right leg thinner than the left and left her with a limp, which she disguised by wearing long skirts. When Frida was 18 she was in a horrific bus accident returning home from school. “An iron handrail had impaled her through her pelvis, as, she would later say, piercing “the way a sword pierces a bull.” Kahlo’s pelvic bone had been fractured and the rail had punctured her abdomen and uterus. Her spine had been broken in three places, her right leg in 11 places, her shoulder was dislocated and her collarbone was broken. These experiences and events contributed to Frida Kahlo’s long term health struggles and her art.

Kahlo wore supportive corsets and casts throughout the remainder of her adult life — and she painted almost all of these while they supported her body. The room also showcases medical devices, shoes with different heights to adjust for her limp, a prosthetic leg, glass prescription bottles, and a note outlining her conditions in a plea for a doctor to understand and treat her ongoing physical pain.  

clipboard55-horz-1024x663

Plaster corset, painted and decorated by Frida Kahlo, Museo Frida Kahlo. © Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Archives, Banco de México, Fiduciary of the Trust of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Museums.

Walking through the room room you wonder at both Kahlo’s endurance and ability to continue producing art in spite of and perhaps even because of the physical pain. In one of Kahlo’s many well-known quotes from a 1953 ink on paper, she asks, “Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?” Even here, just a year prior to her death, Kahlo’s resiliency is palpable and inspiring.

Whereas many would see this as a disability, her voice and social ideas about disability are shown through her writing, painting and dress. She, in fact, dressed in traditional dress from Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, not only for the socio-political symbolism and alliances she wished to forge; no, in fact she also opted for unrestrictive clothing that would conceal her limp, leg, and corsets.

9fca24ed933c082898cdaac69ccea59f

As curatorial advisor Gannit Ankori notes in her 2013 book Frida Kahlo, “any attempt simply to (re)construct a linear biography of this fascinating and innovative artist inevitably encounters a complex maze of conflicting information, documents, and memories — a weave of overlapping objective and subjective facts and fabrications.”

The last room of the exhibit showcases many of Frida Kahlo’s clothing that allow us to view of Kahlo and her many lives, incarnations, and selves. In the “From Fashioning Gender” section, the wall text addresses Kahlo’s bisexuality and famed works like Self Portrait with Cropped Hair or her family photographic portrait featuring Kahlo in a men’s suit: “In today’s terminology, we would say Kahlo rejected binary categories and embraced gender fluidity. But the language and the choices of identity available to her regarding gender and sexuality during her lifetime were vastly different from today’s.” 

self-portrait-with-cropped-hair

Self Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)

As The New York Times reports, Frida Kahlo used her body as a canvas for both art and political statement. The fabrics that she chose for her dress were vibrant and gorgeous. It is evident that Frida Kahlo took great care and pleasure in her dress. Frilled shirts, heavy necklaces of jade and coral, and pinned flowers all directed attention where she wished it to fall: “The adornment is concentrated from the torso up,” Ms. Henestrosa, curator of the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London said. “The beautiful headdresses and jewelry distracted you from her legs and her body.”

frida-950x534

There are many connections that teachers can help students make throughout the exhibit beyond a biography about the artist’s life. Aspects of creativity, disability and ability, fashion as political statement, and the role of culture shaping our identity are all ideas that can be addresses while experiencing this exhibit and learning more about the life and art of Frida Kahlo.

Tagged , , , ,

The Mindset of Grit: Learning & the Brain Conference Fall 2018

Learning and the Brain Conference in Boston this weekend examined the science of human potential, passion, talents and grit. Bringing together researchers, authors, and experts in their fields, the conference states:

By studying child prodigies, savants, and great innovators like Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, scientists are trying to answer the complex questions of human potential: What makes a person a “creative genius”? Is “greatness” the result of innate talent or practice? 

The conference kicked off on Friday with sessions on personalized learning, problem based learning, digital learning, mindfulness, the science of innovation, and personalized learning. Keynotes included Scott Kaufman, PhD addressing Personal Greatness and Gail Saltz, MD speaking about the power of difference, Robert Sternberg, PhD spoke about teaching for wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and success and Ransom Stephens, Phd addressed Your Pursuit of Greatness. Sunday’s keynote, Sir Ken Robinson, PhD was titled,  “You, Your Child, and School: Teaching to their Talents, Passions, and Potential.”

My mind is spinning with the amount of greatness and learning buzzing at the conference. Here are a few key take aways to reflect and act on based on this experience in Boston.

“Outliers in the distribution of human achievement, they are not just a bit better than most at their chosen vocation, but dramatically so. . . We are not born knowing how to write a sonnet or flip an omelet. On the contrary, human expertise, at all points in the distribution—including the far-right tail—is acquired.” – Scott Barry Kaufman and Angela Duckworth

“Attaining a certain level of expertise in a given domain gets you in the door and starts your career. It puts you on the playing field among others who have put in the time, effort, and commitment to building up the necessary exper- tise base. Yet to rise to the very top of a creative domain — to achieve true greatness — seems to require even more (and average of 10 years more).  – Scott Barry Kaufman

The availability and use of technology has impacted student attention, working memory, and thinking.

“Personalized learning to me is student inquiry and investigation guided by teachers who carefully craft the learning process.” — Angela Townsend

“In personalized learning, a teacher defines and establishes clear learning objectives but provides students a variety of way in which to achieve these. It requires a teacher to relinquish control and expectations for linear, and uniform learning.” — David Ruiz

“The power of teachers isn’t in the information they share, but in the opportunities they create for students to learn how to learn, solve problems, and apply what they learn in meaningful ways.” – Katie Martin

The testing culture has soaked up billions of taxpayer dollars with no real
improvement in standards. Achievement levels in math, science, and languages
have hardly changed, and neither has the international ranking of the United States
in these disciplines.

By most criteria, Finland has one of the most successful education systems in the world.
Much of its success is due to the commitment and expertise of its teachers. Teaching is
a highly respected profession in Finland, and there is intense competition to join it. What
Finland shows is that rather than tempt those with the highest academic qualifications
into teaching, it’s better to design initial teacher education to attract people who have a
natural passion and aptitude to teach for life.

Sir Ken Robinson

Failure is where the new knowledge comes from, if you fail, you will keep going and ask different questions and get better. Keep pushing. Failure motivates people to be great. – Xiaodong Lin

“Our job as teachers is not to “prepare” kids for something; our job is to help kids learn to prepare themselves for anything.” – AJ Juliani

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Trending EdTech at #ISTE18

One of my personal highlights ending the school year is attending ISTE – The International Society of Technology in Education Annual Conference. This is my third ISTE conference and with the tens of thousands of people attending, you are sure to meet edufamous authors, edtech companies, friends, and teachers who are excited by technology and teaching, just like yourself! This year ISTE has taken over Chicago and the learning is nonstop from workshops to playgrounds, to parties, and demonstrations. I most likely burn the battery on my phone and laptop within the first two hours of getting to convention center before I take out my Rocketbook and start jotting down notes in an old school way.

My first two days attending ISTE I have noticed some common themes running through the conference among presenters and edtech companies worth noting as we reflect on the future of schools and educating young minds.

IMG_1776

  1. Let’s Play: Gamification and Game Based Learning are Thriving. Don’t confuse the two. Games for learning or game based learning is using games to meet learning objectives. These are the companies that are putting out games for skill knowledge and mastery like science based Legends of Learning or a new company Go Go Brain, a new startup, who offers free games online that build metacognition and executive functioning skills. For Game Based Learning think Quizlet Live, Quizalive, Plickers, and Kahoot. Whereas, Gamification is using elements of games to engage students.  As my friend and amazing teacher, Tisha Richmond @tishrich, presented a workshop “Game On: Adventures in the Gamified Classroom” on Sunday, “gamification is a framework to layer over curriculum.” With gamification there is a story, theme, and game mechanics. In her own culinary arts classes she has gamified her culinary arts class with three different semester long thematic games: The Amazing Race, Master Chef, and the Amazing Food Truck Race. Gamification is immersive. To read more about Gamification and my own adventures in Gamifying my 8th grade ELA classroom you can check out my previous posts on gamification.
  2. VR and AR are more than just a Trend – I am talking augmented reality and virtual reality, Merge Cubes, Google Expeditions, and more. After meeting and speaking with 2018 ISTE Virtual Pioneer of the Year, @mrshoward118,  I am imaging so many more awesome scavenger hunts and learning experiences that I can create for my students using AR and VR to promote literacy. Here is a great beginner’s guide to using Merge Cubes in the classroom. There are so many ways that you can use this technology across content areas and grade levels. In my new book Personalized Reading I talk about Virtual Reality for building background knowledge but it is also a vehicle for storytelling and teaching content like with Story Spheres. Story Spheres allow users be the authors and creators of interactive experiences using 360 images and sound.
  3. Creativity needs to be taught, it’s not innate. It was about six years ago that Sir Ken Robinson stated in a TED Talk, “schools kill creativity” and since then there has been the Makerspace Movement and Genius Hour. These are two vehicles for promoting creativity in the classroom but in actuality, creativity should seamlessly be embedded within content area classrooms and across grade levels. The ISTE standards even require students to be Creative Communicators. Our students are in school preparing for jobs that have not been invented yet and for world problems that need solutions. We need students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers to help repair our world and the growing problems — social, emotional, economical, and scientific, including health and environmental. Teachers can foster creativity in the classroom by including play, problem based, and project based learning that are meaningful and authentic. I had a meeting with the CEO of EdgeMakers, Chris Besse and their new curriculum that promotes innovative thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship. I was excited to see some of the lessons and pieces of their middle and high school curriculum because its objective was to cultivate creativity, growth mindset, collaboration, and problem solving among teachers and students.

4. Meaningful Makerspace. Makerspace and DIY is huge right now as we continue to fuel student creativity, curiosity, and failing forward thinking. The concept is to be a spark students and help them to ignite a passion for making, creating, tinkering, and problem solving. But maker space and STEM Labs must be not for the sake of creating a kitchy 3D printed key chain but more thoughtful in the use and purpose. For example, The Hand Challenge  was born of a desire to help anyone with access to a 3D Printer be able to be a part of work that can change the life of a child. Or having students who are working on Genius Hour projects that help the community in some way. Makerspace and STEM should not just be for the sake of a trend, but incorporated in authentic ways that are community based utilizing 21st Century Skills: collaboration, digital literacy, global connections, problem solving, and more. Thoughtful objectives and planning need to go into creating Makerspace and STEM labs with proper training and support for teachers to be facilities and support design thinking.

44E61AEA-B697-4E1D-B084-35F9F887C9C9

5. Party Like a Rock Star Teacher – Teachers and EdTech companies really know how to party and hopefully you continue to party when you go back into the classroom (make learning fun, playful, and social when teaching). Evenings are filled with lots of PARTIES and events that allow teachers to connect and unwind and this year #ISTE18 was no different. Everyone is hosting a party and the hottest ticket is Edtech Karaoke if you are able to get a VIP pass at the House of Blues but there are also smaller social events going on like Alice Keelers’ #eduCoffee at 6AM for early risers at the hipster coffee house The Spoke & Bird or Edmodo’s party at the Field Museum after hours. Every tech company has something going on so just ask – or if you rather have a bite to eat of a Chicago hometown eat, get a bunch of people together and enjoy. ISTE is about connecting, learning, and celebrating teachers of course. As @theTechRabbi mentioned in his keynote, We have to cultivate passion and creativity in ourselves if we are going to expect it from our students.

6. UDL – I wrote in my book Personalized Reading, “Learning is blended, personalized and digital.” Universal Design for Learning or UDL is a framework that is at the forefront of education today. UDL is a framework for designing instruction that meets the needs of EVERY learner. UDL is not about technology but it is clear that technology is powerful for the options it provides. When teachers plan and facilitate learning with all learners in mind, offer flexibility in the methods of presentation of content material, student participation and expression increase along with high achievement for all students, including those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Alongside of UDL, assistive tech can make learning awesome for all. It’s about offering multiple means of engagement and empowerment, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tee Shirt Book Reports & Other Pin-spiration

Today my students brought their summer reading book reports on a tee shirt. The idea I found on Pinterest earlier this summer and cataloged with my “Must Use This” pin board. The shirts that my students designed were amazing.

The requirements of the assignment included the title and an image that represents the book on the front of the tee shirt. On the back, students were to write a summary about the book and include key quotes. I had students wear the shirts to class and then they each shared a 1-2 minute book talk about their book. I said fill up the canvas any which way they design: sharpies, paint, rhinestones, iron-ons. The outcomes were truly creative and unique.

We have decided to auction the tee shirts online in October and use the money raised to donate to the non-profit organization Give More Hugs. GMH strives to bring basic school supplies and resources to schools in need around the world. The auction link will be posted soon.

The concept for the tee shirt book report originated from The Polka Dotty Place Blog and Teaching My Friends blog. Even though both these blogs are elementary school level, my middle school students LOVED the project.

Tagged , , , ,

A Book List for Budding Artists

For Chris, Andrew, April, Jenna, Carly, Raquel, and all teachers who inspire creativity among young people.  

Here is a list of a dozen picture books that celebrate visual arts, creativity, and making something from nothing.  These books are not about famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, or Jackson Pollack. Rather, this list is based on characters who celebrate art and originality as in The Art Lesson by Tommy dePaola, create rocket ships and skyscrapers from empty boxes in Antoinette Portis’ Not A Box, and that anyone — even a squirrel living in Central Park — can be an artist as described in John Lithgow’s Macawber.  Read, share, and enjoy!

Tagged , , ,