Monday, January 5, 2015

Ma(r)king Major and Minor Holiday Projects

Welcome to 2015! I had a restful and yet still productive holiday - it must have been due to waking up after 10:00 am most days! I wanted to share some of the projects I worked on while I was away and how many of the non-school tasks actually helped me educationally.

Project #1 = Dad's Personalized Equalizer DVD Cover

My parents are notoriously hard to buy Christmas gifts for, but this year, my brother inspired us. We pre-ordered a Blu-Ray copy of the Denzel Washington film, The Equalizer. However, it wouldn't be ready until after December 25. I decided to use my rusty Photoshop skills and re-create the cover with my father as the star instead of Denzel. It took about an afternoon to complete and although it wasn't perfect (because I didn't add the rain effect to match the background), the reaction was pure gold.

I DISCOVERED that even though the final end-product might not be as up-to-snuff as I would like, the intended audience was extremely appreciative. (If it was a class media project, I would have given myself a B+ and I'm sure my incredible former yearbook editor would be more critical of the integration of the photo into the cover.) Having an idea to work with and shape helped a lot. If we can see the recipients of our work (like the senior citizens who got holiday cards from our students), it may help to make our work more meaningful.

Project #2 = Marking 

This took three days to complete, and technically, it's not completed. (I didn't do my kindergarten classes as I had intended.) Who would have thought that five classes of media, drama, and dance would take so long to evaluate?

I DISCOVERED that I need to devote at least half of my prep periods during the school day to marking so that it doesn't pile up. (I also need to devote half the time to keeping the library clean and half to catching up on all the media interview assessments I wanted to accomplish, but I don't think the math adds up there!) It's a goal of mine to be more timely in my assessments and feedback - I'm pleased with the mark summaries I've created to send home in student agendas. I do like examining the assessments I give to ensure that they are fair, differentiated, and evaluate what I intend. Deciding on what weight each assignment merits in the overall scheme of things is quite the challenge - I think I"ll be experimenting more with safe online tools or making my own with GAFE tools.

Project #3 = Daughter's Superhero RPG Covers

About once a month or so, we play a role-playing game with the Peer family at their house. I've written about it a lot more on my Family Gaming blog. Because it's a super-hero game, my artistic daughter had the brilliant idea to immortalize each of the RPG adventures in a pretend comic book cover recap. She pencils and I ink and then colour a scanned reproduction. I have to say that it's very relaxing to trace lines and colour pictures. These three covers took about two evenings to complete. You can see the other seven "issues" here and here.

I DISCOVERED that making something with my hands is very satisfying. I know this because of the baking I did over the holiday but this project had a much more artistic feel. This project also demonstrated positive interdependence. Each person plays a part. I can't colour if my daughter hasn't drawn the cover. We can't create any more unless Morgan leads our adventure. It becomes tricky in school, especially if someone on the team does not do their part. It also takes time and good tools to make something good. The notes on what colours go with what character help a lot too.

Project #4 = Son's Minecraft Book Trailer

My children received some nice presents for Christmas, including some Minecraft mini-figures as well as the novel Descent into Overworld  by Liam O'Donnell. This book is special to us because we had a chance to be "beta-readers" before it was published. My son and I decided to make a mini-video promoting the book using our iPad's StoMo software. It took a bit longer than usual because we accidentally filmed upside down and used Windows Movie Maker instead of iMovie to assemble the final product. It took a half-day to finish.

I DISCOVERED that in projects, some people are more committed to certain portions. My son loved the filming but was not interested in the editing, especially when we hit snags. There's always a little bit of yourself in every project you do, especially if you care about it. My husband saw the initial clip and said that the iron golem double-take looked very "Diana-esque". There are always ways to overcome technical difficulties, even thought it may take a while to figure out.

Hopefully, all of these projects will help me as I get into the final designs of the huge media restaurant project my students will be undertaking in January. We've got two teams with their restaurant names determined (Pizza Power and Sugar Shark - the Grade 1s love alliteration!) and three others who know the type of restaurant but have not voted on the name. I'm hoping that my upcoming Teacher Performance Appraisal will be an observation of one of my media lessons dealing with the restaurant, because it's been a source of reflection and learning for both me and the students.

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