Monthly Archives: February 2014

Do You Selfie?

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge on the Daily Post is the selfie–that ubiquitous self-portrait, usually taken on a mobile device.  They highlight the National #Selfie Portrait Gallery, an exhibit of the art of the self-portrait or selfie.

I’m not much of a selfie taker.  I don’t love to post photos of myself on social media and there are just so many other interesting things to take photos of that it doesn’t occur to me to turn the lens on myself.

But when I saw the challenge, I realized that I do have a small collection of selfies.  This one, taken in the Natural History Museum in Denver, is one of my favorites.  I couldn’t resist the multiple mirrors…and then I used some editing apps to transform the image into an artistic interpretation of me.

museum selfie

I had fun playing with the colored light at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, creating a refracted light selfie.


A mirrored wall at the Getty Museum created an opportunity to catch a selfie of myself…with my son, and a little of the marble surfaces of the buildings and walkways.

getty selfie

And since so many of my photo are of landscapes and the natural beauty of the place where I live, I do snap of few shadow selfies.  (Is that a selfie sub-genre?)  This one was taken on an exercise walk…you can see my sweatshirt tied around my waist.


And then the classic shadow couple selfie…my hubby and I out on one of my picture taking expeditions.  I was loving the long and lean shadow here.


On social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) I see some people who document their actions through selfies.  They snap pictures of themselves at landmarks, with friends, eating and drinking…  It seems to be a way to create a scrapbook of sorts of the moments they want to remember.  And as you can see, I do a few of my own.  Most of my selfies come from moments where the picture of myself (or my shadow) emerges as a way to play with photography–to try something a bit different and maybe even to prove I am physically present in some way.  I do capture the occasionally accidental selfie–standing in my own light and causing a shadow, shooting a reflective surface and surprising myself with a picture of myself instead of the image I was after.

Do you selfie?  Do you have a signature style or a classic pose?  Do you favor using your front facing camera on your phone, shooting into reflective surfaces or capturing shadows?  Do you post on social media or just share privately with friends?  What do your selfies say about you?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

Here’s the week 4 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 123, and 4 if you want to look back.)

Every year Pantone, a company that describes itself as the authority on color, selects a color of the year.  This year’s color is radiant orchid (it’s a pinkish purple), last year’s was emerald.  The color they select shows up in fashion, interior design, and other places that color matters.

I notice that I am drawn to certain colors in my photography.  In the warm fall, I couldn’t resist the oranges and yellows of the sunset over the ocean.  I took many, many photos trying to capture the intensity of color as the sun sunk into the sea.


And I love trying to capture the colors in flower petals.  Using my macro lens, I got a close look at this orchid…and the beauty of the purples and the contrasting oranges.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

So this week’s photo challenge is to explore color. What colors are calling to you?  Do you have a color of the year like the Pantone company?  Share a photo that represents your exploration of color.  Post either the photo alone or along with writing inspired by the photo.  I also invite you to use others’ photos as inspiration for your own writing and photography.  I often use another photographer’s image as “mentor text” for my own photography, trying to capture some element in my own way.

I like to share my images and writing on social media…and I invite you to share yours widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #intersection and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy.  You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602.  I’d love to follow you if you share your handle.

You can also share your photos and writing by linking to this blog post or sharing in the comment section below.  I am excited to see how you express color through your lens!

Integrating Digital Learning

Today was Digital Learning Day.  And I’m all for focusing attention on digital learning to cast a spotlight and encourage more widespread participation.  But I’m also thinking about the ways digital learning doesn’t fit in a day.

A glance at my Twitter feed today showed students blogging, making movies, writing arguments, voicing opinions, speaking out against bullying, creating digital stories, exploring stop motion animation, using QR codes, tweeting 6 word literacy memoirs, having silent discussions on digital discussion boards…and lots of collaboration, experimentation, and students and teachers learning together.  I’m excited that so many of the examples of digital learning I saw were about students creating and producing rather than a passive use of the digital.

But I’m wishing for an “Integrating Digital Learning” day or week or month or year.  I feel like we need a push for districts and schools and educators to think carefully about the ways digital learning can and should be integrated into the overall school curriculum,  We could still have a “try something new” with Digital Learning Day to encourage experimentation and push educators and students to continue their learning about the possibilities of digital learning, but also focus attention on intentional integration of digital learning…which would also highlight the very real needs related to digital integration.

It’s hard to integrate digital learning when you don’t have access to digital devices, or when the internet is spotty…or sites you need access to are blocked.  When the digital devices can’t be depended on, it’s hard to make plans to seamlessly integrate their use into the day to day plans for learning.

As we talked about Digital Learning Day with our students this morning, they reminded us of ways we use digital tools that have become so commonplace that we take them for granted. They pointed out that we (their teachers) use our computers (and printer)  to print their math “sticker problems” and we depend on our Apple TV devices to allow us to share work wirelessly from our laptops…and our students to share their work from their iPads.  We use the document camera to display song lyrics and share poetry and computers for showing digital video clips.  My teaching partner and I also regularly use our phones to snap photos of students in action, documenting and highlighting student learning.

And then there are the iPads.  Many of our students gather in the classroom before school to work on programming with Hopscotch, continue a blog post, or practice math on a district-wide digital math program.  They love this informal “workshop” where they share discoveries and support each other in this unstructured learning environment.

We aim for our devices to become as invisible as pencils and paper.  Today we needed to count the money we had raised for our micro loan.  We suggested that students use the whiteboard function of Educreations to keep track of their calculations as they counted a portion of the cash.  They document their process…and we don’t need paper.  (Although we did have one group who found that they needed paper and pencil!)


We also embarked on our digital story project…an opportunity for students to tell the story of our micro loan project.  Students examined an example of a digital story, noticed the parts, considered potential tools, and set to work. In teams they will develop a digital story, so today was all about the planning…figuring out what story they will need to tell in their finished product.  They are already talking about the iterations they will need to go through…and can’t wait to draw pictures to digitize!  This is not a one-day project.  We hope they will be done by the end of next week!

The biggest difference for us on this Digital Learning Day was that we highlighted, both in class and publicly, the ways digital learning takes place in our class.  Digital learning is becoming routine in our classroom, and we often don’t notice whether we are using digital tools or not.  Some of our most successful digital projects often include more traditional classroom tools like pencils, paper, paint, and books as part of the digital process.  And I think that is what we want with digital learning.  Digital is another option.  Sometimes it’s the best option, sometimes it’s not necessary…but it’s nice when we can choose to use what works best, not what is least expensive.

Although Digital Learning Day has come and gone, our students will continue their digital learning.  What will learning look like in your classroom tomorrow?  How do you integrate digital learning in your teaching and your students’ learning?

Digital Learning Day

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day. It’s meant as a way to draw attention to the need for digital learning in our schools, to showcase the potential of digital learning, and as a way to highlight what is happening in places where digital learning is taking place.

But I like some of the other conversations that take place because of the emphasis on digital learning. In some places we are talking about issues of access and equity. And we must go beyond buying the device when we think about access and equity. What are students doing with their digital devices?  How is access to the digital transforming the learning process for students?  What  expectations come with the devices?  What are student s expected to do outside of school?  Even though many of these conversations take place on a small scale, they are important.  And we need to have more of these conversations and keep equity (not just hardware) at the forefront of our thinking.

There are still many places where students don’t have regular access to digital tools.  Or they are doing things on digital devices that simply replace what they were already doing without those tools, without changing the task in any significant way. Or teachers have a single computer or other device for use with a class full of students.  Or teachers have a class full of devices without the background and professional learning to help them put them to effective use.  Or they have devices and a lack of infrastructure…no way to work out the technical issues that inevitably plague working with the digital.

I’m lucky at my school. We are in our second year of 1:1 digital devices in my classroom and we have technical support available. I’ve been fortunate to work with many inspired and forward-thinking educators, especially my colleagues from Writing Project sites all over the country and throughout the state, who have modeled the potential of digital learning.  My teaching partner is a willing risk-taker who will learn as she goes…and we support each other moving forward into the digital world that isn’t yet mapped out in the educational landscape.

That doesn’t mean that things are flawless in their operation or that moving toward digital doesn’t increase demands on my time as a teacher.  It doesn’t make planning easy or learning effortless…my teaching partner and I spend precious time learning and relearning and helping our students navigate the inevitable technical difficulties that go with this digital territory.

And even though tomorrow is Digital Learning Day my students are doing digital learning every day.  Our forty-plus six, seven, eight, and nine year olds have been working at getting their blogs designed and posts ready over the last few weeks.  We discovered some new wrinkles in the way the Edublogs app works on our iPads this year…different than last year.  You have the love the third grader who discovered the “back door” fix to uploading media to posts when the app says it won’t do it!

I’m more convinced than ever that “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” are simply the wrong terms to describe my students and their teachers (my teaching partner and me).  But we are digital learners…together.  And our students need and appreciate the guidance they get from us just as we appreciate their enthusiasm, effort, and ingenuity.  As soon as I can get back to our class blog (maybe first thing in the morning), students’ first posts for this year will go public…I hope I can get to them all for Digital Learning Day.

And, we will launch into some digital stories tomorrow…in honor of the spirit of trying something new on Digital Learning Day.

What will you and your students be doing on Digital Learning Day?  And how is it different from all the other days in your classroom?

The Rule of Thirds

I woke up this morning thinking about where I wanted to go today to take some photos.  I wanted to stay close to home…and I didn’t want to head to the beach since I take a lot of beach shots.  I finally decided to head up near a golf course not too far from home, thinking about some greenhouses I pass every day and never take the time for a close look.

For February’s #sdawpphotovoices, we are playing with photography techniques and spending a week on each of four different aspects of those techniques.

I headed out this morning specifically thinking about the rule of thirds–the technique of placing the focal element of the photo off to the side rather than centering it in the frame of the lens. This is a technique I do pay attention to, and sometimes it creates spectacular shots.  I notice that when I move the focal point off the center, I also allow something else interesting into the shot.


In the case of this watertower, it also allowed the beautiful flowering trees and the mottled clouds to enter the stage.  In some cases, moving into the thirds also works to simplify the scene and allows the viewer to see what you are looking at and not everything your lens might otherwise see.

windmill on golfcourse

As I was thinking about the rule of thirds in photography, I was also thinking about the value of applying that rule to instruction.  Sometimes the best approach to learning is coming at it from the side, letting context take center stage.

We saw evidence of this at the end of last week when we asked students to reflect on the service learning project we’ve been working on.  While we did revisit the importance of some kind of introduction and conclusion to a piece of writing, as students wrote about something they were not only intimately familiar with but also something that they were engaged and invested in, the writing flowed.  And we even had that wonderful experience of having students beg for more writing time!

Sometimes you barely notice the rule of thirds being applied.  You might remember that I mentioned greenhouses at the beginning of this post.  The area where I live used to be covered with flower fields and greenhouses.  Development has pushed much of the agriculture out of our area, fields and greenhouses now replaced by million dollar (or more) homes.  As I explored this morning, I captured some shots of one of the remaining operations–surrounded by a suburban housing development and across the street from the golf course.

Greenhouses with bird of paradise

In this case my focal point was the bird of paradise in the foreground.  The greenhouses and the sky serve as a beautiful backdrop.  I was wishing for the sides of the greenhouse to open. There are many days when I drive by and notice the plastic walls open, offering a peek at the colorful flowers within.

And finally, it’s sometimes the simplest of things that makes for a beautiful photo.  This tree and fence and clouds taken from the back of the golf course seemed a perfect candidate for a black and white application.  I think the white fence and the white clouds create the kind of contrast that is needed with black and white.

Black and White from behind

I had a lot of fun playing with the rule of thirds and exploring the local community.  It’s interesting to drive down side streets and behind the places I see so often only from my car window as I commute to and from work.  I’m thinking that a month focused on photographic technique may offer me many new ways to play…right here, close to home.