Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wrong Design

I read a really interesting article in Wired magazine last week about the concept of “wrong design.” It began with a story about the artist Edward Degas and his work Jockeys Before the Race. The painting has three beautifully rendered horses with riders preparing for a race. What apparently made the painting radical for the time, however, was something seemingly very simple--the addition of a pole running vertically through the foreground of the painting and right through one of the horses. Degas did this to purposefully create something that wasn’t pleasing to the eye, and because of this, Degas was basically a laughing stock in the art world for a period of time. But it turns out that Degas knew what he was doing--his work soon caught the eye of other artists that wanted to do something unconventional. The author of the article explains this concept of “wrong design” much better than I can, so here it is:

“Degas was engaged in a strategy that has shown up periodically for centuries across every artistic and creative field. Think of it as one step in a cycle: In the early stages, practitioners dedicate themselves to inventing and improving the rules—how to craft the most pleasing chord progression, the perfectly proportioned building, the most precisely rendered amalgamation of rhyme and meter. Over time, those rules become laws, and artists and designers dedicate themselves to excelling within these agreed-upon parameters, creating work of unparalleled refinement and sophistication—the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, the Goldberg Variations. But once a certain maturity has been reached, someone comes along who decides to take a different route. Instead of trying to create an ever more polished and perfect artifact, this rebel actively seeks out imperfection—sticking a pole in the middle of his painting, intentionally adding grungy feedback to a guitar solo, deliberately photographing unpleasant subjects. Eventually some of these creative breakthroughs end up becoming the foundation of a new set of aesthetic rules, and the cycle begins again.”

So how can this idea apply to the work that we do with students every day? I think the message is that when we think we’ve got something down--something we’ve done for a long time with our students, something that people say is the “right” way to do things, something that we think is perfect just the way it is--maybe that’s the time to mess it up a little bit. Maybe it’s time to make things a little bit imperfect and see what happens--you never know when you’re going to find the next great trend.

Lessons we loved

This year I'm going to try to continue to highlight some of the great work that is taking place in our classrooms thorough our blog.  Here are a couple of examples of some outstanding lessons from HMS:

From Ms. Johnson--I’ve seen a couple of different classrooms use a Gallery Walk strategy for various reasons over the past couple of weeks. As you may know, a Gallery Walk allows students to explore multiple texts or images that are placed around the room. Teachers often use this strategy as a way to have students share their work with peers, examine text, or respond to a collection of quotations or images. This strategy requires students to physically move around the room, so it is often appealing to many of our kinesthetic learners. Erin James, 7th grade language arts, had students respond to each others Word Snap projects through leaving sticky notes next to each others journals. On the sticky note, the student wrote a question and/or comment for their classmate to consider or think about in terms of their project. Peer feedback is a big part of the Writing Workshop model, that Erin uses in her classes. This activity allowed students to start to practice providing feedback to their peers, while walking around the room, looking at each others project. I saw another version of a Gallery Walk in Monique Faruque’s 6th grade history class. Monique has many images placed around her room. During this Gallery Walk, she had students look at a section of images quietly, while taking notes, and writing comments and questions about various themes and characteristics they noticed. Again, students were up around the room, thinking and responding to what they saw and later they were able to discuss their thoughts within a group.
For more information and ideas about a Gallery Walk, paste this link into your web browser: http://bit.ly/1uG1tcD

From me--I stopped by the spark space last week and ran into a great lesson being taught by Todd Rooks and Pam Koury. Todd and Pam were co-teaching an activity on global citizenship. Students were working together in small groups at different stations to learn more about our world and its diverse people and cultures. At one station they were exploring this through music videos, at another they were researching another culture on-line and creating a Venn diagram comparing it and contrasting it to life in the United States, a third station had them taking a global awareness “ignorance test” and learning about world conflicts, and a final station had them researching world geography. All of this was set up through their blackboard sites and it created a highly engaging lesson for kids who likely don’t realize just how different things are throughout the world. Pam and Todd are going to be building on this lesson this year with the start of their “Global Nomads” club in which students will partner with school kids in either Afghanistan or Pakistan to develop relationships and learn about each others cultures and customs. This was a great learning experience for the kids and one that can help us build some strong relationships in the future. Great job, Todd and Pam!