Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Day Three: First Projects:

I find that a day or so before the first projects are due I become a bit anxious. So much doubt, so many questions. Was the project prompt set up to generate interesting responses? Did I provide too much information up front? Not enough?  Will we have enough time to discuss them all? Or, what happens if we have nothing to talk about? Will the students take the project seriously? Will they create provocative and interesting pieces? Unlike a traditional class where the teacher may control the content of a particular lesson, these classes are wide open. It is both terrifying and exciting. And, as has so often in the past, the students never fail to amaze me. So many interesting projects, so much to discuss. In taking a cue from Lois Hetland’s process we started the discussion just by looking at the pieces in front of us, just noticing the basic elements of each piece. The trick is to try and hold off judgment or conclusions until we have talked about what is in front of us. It is hard not to jump right to meaning, but if we can hold off on this for a bit we tend to see deeper into the projects.

As these were about juxtaposition, the whole point was to spin out on how we as a group were reading the elements. Often I find once we get started that students see a great deal more than intended. Occasionally less, but then that is typically because we don’t recognize all of the pieces – personal or otherwise. Some great tensions created with the pieces today – some funny, some, frightening, some just odd. It is always interesting which ones stick – which ones I come back to again and again – may be the simplest, may be the most complex. The projects then become the content of the course – ideas and techniques we can point back to as the class develops. Not only juxtaposition, but how the tensions were created, personal meanings, interpretation, etc.

It is with the first projects that the two sections begin to pull away from each other in terms of tone and ideas. The first section was a bit more somber, more contemplative, quieter pieces in intent and presentation – far few media driven pieces than section two. In addition section two had a few more performative aspects. Having to watch and then discuss always takes more time than looking and talking. I did apologize to Bob for hijacking the critique role, but it was mainly to try and get through all the presentations – which we did in section one but were two short in section two. We have enough time if we need to spill over beyond Thursday – but not by too many presentations. This is where we get into a time crunch based on the number of students in the class – 25 and 28 – probably 10 more than the subject can hold comfortably. So – this may affect how we structure the next few projects – more focused, limited by time constraints. Looking forward to Thursday – this is the first time I have broken the project classes into two different groups. Bob and I both wonder what impact this will have on those who present second.

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