This Week in ds106: Alan Levine on Photography (4.1)

In Tuesday’s face-to-face class at UMW I had the good fortune of Alan Levine presenting to my students in the flesh. I have to take a moment here to recognize how much better ds106 has gotten since I started constantly reflecting on my teaching with Martha Burtis in the Spring of 2012 and now Alan this Spring. Teaching a class alongside someone else like this has proven unbelievably crucial for trying to experiment and find some kind of grove for the in-class teaching, as well as for designing and collaborating on reading and engaging the students beyond the classroom. And this is not even to mention the parallel work and learning we are doing with Scott Lockman (Temple University, Japan), Michael Branson Smith (CUNY: York College), Cynthia Sarver (SUNY Cortland), and Bill Genereux- (Kansas State University) and soon to be more–all teaching some remix of ds106 at their own schools. It has been an amazing experiment in cross-campus collaboration, and makes me think the current incarnation of ds106 is quite similar to what Matt Gold had envisioned with the Looking for Whitman project back in 2009.

All this to say that in my last class I felt like I had really started to figure out a way to manage the time together effectively, and it has taken me a long, long time to feel like I got it close to right. Here is how it went:

First 5-10 minutes: I introduced visual section of class, laid down requirements for the week: doing 10 stars worth of assignments, doing a Daily Create everyday, wondering why many still not using twitter, and reminding them to comment. The usual.

The for the next 20 minutes I borrowed a page from Alan Levine’s teaching book and borrowed his plan for the night before 🙂 I asked them all to walk around the building and film three things:

  • Make an ordinary object look more interesting, almost supernatural.
  • Take a portrait of a person; have them display an emotion.
  • Take a photo that makes use of converging lines.

Allow enough time to take the photos and upload them to your flickr account. Tag all of your photos ds106photoblitz

Alan Levine spent the next twenty minutes engaging them in a discussion about some basics of photography such as lines, angles, the rules of thirds, and more. That is where the video above begins, and it was simply awesome to have CogDog here in Fredericksburg sharing his unbelievably generous and understated way—sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask is this really happening? He is a freaking natural!

And we spent the last twenty minutes pulling up all the photos that students took during the 20 minute photo blitz and did a quick class critique. This was amazing on many levels. First, I still marvel at how easy it is to use something like a flickr tag (in this instance ds106photoblitz) to look at all their work on the fly for a critique. Second, I had both open online students and online UMW students sharing their work during the class using the #ds106photoblitz tag even though they weren’t physically present. This element was made possible by the fact that we are live streaming as many in-class sessions as we can for just that reason. So special thanks to Linda McKenna, Tyler Crump and Michael Branson Smith for sharing their awesome remotely—that was magic for me. Third, the raid prototyping of creating and critiquing during a class session continues to be the most rewarding way to experiment with contact time in ds106. I need to do more of this!

In short, this course period just seemed to flow beautifully because we broke up the activities from me keynoting for an hour—which has happened often before and I’m afraid to say will happen again, and that is not entirely bad ;0 —to making the class more exploratory and community driven. Still far from perfect, but I like the fact that patterns of effective practice seem to be emerging out of all the experimentation. But I also have to remind myself to ask the class what they thought of that class, and what they think a successful class would look like—I’d be very interested to see if our ideas correspond on this.

Anyway after all that, enjoy some of the phtotos from the ds106 photo blitz:

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