With each photo I take with my cell phone, I spend more and more time thinking about how to frame the picture I see. I’ve learned that using the zoom feature on my phone helps me see the object clearly in the moment, but degrades the quality of the photograph when I go to edit. I can reframe in the editing process, pulling the image in closer, eliminating some of the background noise. If I shoot too “big” I often find myself with a nondescript landscape. Finding some kind of focal point makes the photo more interesting–and often evokes the curiosity of viewers.

This article in the New York Times on July 2, 2013 also has me thinking about frames and framing.  The author plans an outing for his 6 year old nephew based on both his budget and his nephew’s interests and personality.  A focus on Grady’s interest in art and low-key, meandering pace in life creates a day filled with drawing and art museums punctuated with opportunities for Grady to interact with working artists, study a variety of art forms, and enjoy a leisurely day with his uncle.  Framed in another way, Grady could have been disenfranchised, alienated by having to hurry here and there without the time to study and try out what he found interesting along the way.  Uncle Seth’s focus created spaces for Grady’s curiosity to blossom.

This has me thinking about ways I can use this idea of framing in my classroom and in my work with teachers, foregrounding student interests while keeping the skills and processes needed for learning success in mind.  I’m wanting each of my students to feel like Grady did on his outing with his uncle: like learning is what you do when you’re enjoying what interests you.  That’s what happening with my photography.  I’m learning as I play around–and through connections with others with a wide variety of interests and skills that relate to what I am doing.  My photography (and the photos themselves) are not framed in a permanent shape with a single focus, I am continually exploring frames and how they work with the images and ideas for each shot.

School curriculum often feels like it exists in the noun “frame” rather than used flexibly with the verb “frame”–ignoring students’ strengths, challenges, and existing interests and knowledge.  Does the frame/framing metaphor work for teaching and learning?  I’d love to know what you think!

11 thoughts on “frames

    1. kd0602 Post author

      Thanks Kevin! A first blog reply is very exciting! Now to keep things going… I do like bringing visual and other literacies into the mix of the readings and writings we do. Print is great–but it’s not the only way to read and write!

  1. Fred Mindlin

    Thanks for this interesting reflection, Kim, and for pointing us in #clmooc to the NYTimes article. The challenge for a classroom teacher in allowing for each student to frame their experience according to their interests and learning styles is orders of magnitude greater than what Seth has to do for Grady. That’s why “differentiated instruction” gets so much more lip service than meaningful implementation.
    I wonder if the challenges are illuminated or obscured or just “complexified” if we add a couple of other photography-related terms to the discussion: lens and focus. I’ve heard “lens” used in a very similar way to how you are using frame, except that the attention goes to the observer’s mindset rather than to the material being examined. Focus is more about an interaction between the two – the rule of three asks us to reflect on how the eye is more intrigued by being led off the frame, to have what’s excluded by the frame be implicitly acknowledged.

    1. kd0602 Post author

      Thanks Fred for adding more to think about. I like keeping things complex and not looking for easy answers (seems like the easy ones are generally a waste of time and effort). Differentiated instruction–definitely a term bandied about without a lot of substance in the educational community. I work hard to differentiate…and there’s still so much more to do. I believe that differentiation begins before instruction, but that isn’t often what I see in practice.

      Lens, focus, and frame…I’ll be coming back to these…

  2. Bart Miller

    Thanks for sharing your thoughtful reflection. As a less-than-novice photographer, in terms of the learning metaphor, I say there’s no harm in using a wide frame and cropping later!

  3. Carol Schrammel

    Your two posts–the one from the zoo this week and the other about Grady’s trip with his uncle–makes me think of a recent Spring trip to SeaWorld with relatives. My nephew, a Marine captain and father of 4, had a planned itinerary in hand before we even entered the the park. While his intention was to make sure his three daughters (JohnRyan was only a few months old at the time) got to see as much as possible that day, the day manifested in a rush from one exhibit or show to the next. What was lost was the opportunity to educate and inform along the way. There were myriad opportunities for constructive, interactive learning about everything from the animals we observed, their natural environments and habitat preservation, to commentary on the crass commercialization and anthropomorphism of the experience. The opportunity for education, observation, reflection, and discussion was largely missed.

    I think back more than 25 years to my own attempts with my two young boys to engage them in a learning experience when we trekked to the zoo, or the park or a museum (they never got to go to SeaWorld). And it really made me think about what kids today are experiencing as learning in classrooms today. WIth so much focus on tests and test scores we are missing the opportunities that present themselves for engaged and authentic learning.

    My work with the SD Area Writing Project makes me appreciate the educators I have the privilege to work with and happy that there are teachers out there who are continually engaged with a mission and a vision of providing exciting and challenging learning opportunities for all of their students.

    1. kd0602 Post author

      Thanks Carol. Learning opportunities are everywhere, but real engagement for deep and sustained learning takes time. Thanks for adding your stories to those I shared here.

  4. Pingback: Playing With Frames | Thinking Through My Lens

  5. Sheri Edwards

    Kim, Look at your years of framing your walks and photos to learning, in the classroom and out. What a treasure. As I read the second to the last paragraph, especially “ play around–and through connections with others with a wide variety of interests and skills that relate to what I am doing.” I thought about the new documentary “Get Back” about the Beatles— and how they framed their songs with their experiences and their conversations with each other, playing around together. You play with photography and words and the learning for yourself and your children. What a life and what a teacher you are, playing around — “ not framed in a permanent shape with a single focus, I am continually exploring frames and how they work with the images and ideas for each shot.” There’s a focus, but its flexible according to the best choice for the moment. And this blog and it’s explorations are treasure. Best to your continued learning and sharing! ~ Sheri


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