1 Story – 4 Icons

Assignment: Reduce a movie, story, or event into its basic elements, then take those visuals and reduce them further to simple icons.

That’s my attempt above. I tried to stick to a three color scheme. The first image is supposed to be a parking meter. My wife was unable to ID it. It needs work. Hopefully the other three are at least identifiable.

I don’t use vector drawing tools very often. I clearly need to spend some more time with them to get some skills but that was half the reason I attempted this. My learning is now public, fairly messy, but most of all not really what I want. That is ok. It’s fun. It isn’t a contest. I’m enjoying it. I do not fear Jim Groom’s red pen.

You might also notice that I’m doing assignments in and around the #ds106 course but not necessarily all the ones that are assigned, nor am I necessarily doing them in the order they are given. I’m doing extra “work” with the interest and energy moves me1. I may go back and do some. I may not.

I like the MOOC idea. I find it valuable to have a group of people moving through the roughly same ideas at roughly the same time. I like the freedom I find in the structure. What worries me is how just calling something a course seems to bring a ton of baggage with it. People worry about not completing every assignment, being compared to others/graded and, most depressingly, being found wanting. I’ve seen this in the blog posts of participants and the comments of people I know in “real life” who’ve opted not to participate.

I see this mentality as a direct result of our educational system – adults, scared to try new things, as a learned response. I don’t blame the people. I think I see how this point is reached systemically. It’s just a pretty depressing legacy for a system that claims to produce life-long learners. It’s going to take an enormous amount of time and work to fix something buried this deep.

So, I’m inviting you to take part. If you’ve wanted to play along but haven’t because of lingering fears or doubts, come on in. The water is fine. The people couldn’t be nicer2. Jim couldn’t grade you if he wanted to3. Hey, there’s even a rather bizarre participant-run and -created streaming internet radio station.

Inspired by Colt Rane who ought to be making a huge number of English teachers happy with this image. He’s got one for the Great Gatsby as well but I don’t remember the book well enough to know if it’s good or not.


1 Clearly animated gifs got under my skin for some reason.

2 Even an odd Nazi photoshopping (by a non-class member) incident seems to have been settled fairly amicably.

3 Grades are for paying customers. All you might get is helpful feedback or compliments.

Comments on this post

  1. Cris said on January 29, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for the insights on MOOCs, Tom. I’m trying to “open up” a university course (for English teachers) right now and finding that so much initial interest is dampened when would-be participants don’t see the course trappings they’d expected. I’ll have to play around with the name so maybe it’s more like a “professional development opportunity” or PDO.

    I will make these English teachers very happy with the “Icon Story” activity though. Thanks!

    • Tom said on January 29, 2011 at 9:11 pm

      Cris – I’m considering doing something similar for teachers in my division but focused on multiple subject areas.

      I’d be very interested in seeing what you end up doing. If you want to bounce some ideas around for English teachers, I’d be game for that. I was one once upon a time and I’ve been storing up ideas for a long time.

      • Cris said on February 3, 2011 at 3:05 am

        Once an English teacher . . .

        Thanks so much for offering to share that mother lode you’ve been storing up. I’d love to create a resource for helping English teachers learn to include new literacies in their teaching. Not that visual literacy is new but it is new to the English curriculum. We create bookcasts (digital stories inspired by aesthetic responses to books) in my class and I think that activities like the icon story and others in visual metaphor would be really helpful to help the linguistic-bound begin to think and create with images.

  2. Tim Owens said on January 29, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Nice Job! (Though I have to admit I haven’t seen the movie so I wasn’t too worried with figuring out a meaning). You might have more luck with the parking meter if you zoom in the top, but that is a difficult shape to iconify.

    I completely feel you on the strange compelling need and want for restrictions, guidelines, grades, and rules. I have to fight this internal monologue already that says “Tim, if you don’t have time to complete an assignment just don’t do it. Even better if you want to skip to other ones go right ahead.” It really is a part of this “course culture” we’ve created from Kindergarten on up.

  3. Jenny said on January 29, 2011 at 6:33 am

    I had no trouble recognizing the parking meter (and I’ve never seen Cool Hand Luke – I assume the third image is an egg).

    At the opening panel for Educon last night Truong Le talked about the idea of the power of language in education. He designs schools and suggested that we stop using the word classroom. It suggests a specific idea/feeling/constraint. Course does the same thing. We’ve used the terms for so long they have a very set idea in our society – they carry a lot of baggage.

  4. Clix said on January 29, 2011 at 9:12 am

    I’m going to disagree thoroughly based on wandering through fanfiction.net recently. It’s not a course, but the behaviors and attitudes you mention are still very present. I do think there may be less concern about finishing than there otherwise would be. That’s hard to measure; I’m guessing, somewhat, based on the number of stories that are unfinished and haven’t been updated in months and months. Then again, many of those include author’s notes with apologies and/or excuses, so it seems the concern is still there.

    • Tom said on January 29, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      First- Jenny and Tim, you need to see Cool Hand Luke. Seriously. That’s Paul Newman when he was the man. Your feelings towards his salad dressings will be change forever.

      Clix– I don’t think that just because similar unhappy thoughts also happen in fanfiction.net that the whole idea is wrong. Sure, it’s not a course but writing is one of those things that is tied into school oh so very tightly. It’d make sense to me that there’d be a lot of lingering school feelings.

      Granted, I haven’t done any studies, nor looked for any. My ideas are totally based on anecdotal evidence. But with a number of people, the word “course” seems to over focus people on the idea of assessment and that some task master will be punishing them if they do something wrong. Maybe it’s not the word “course” at all. In a way that would be worse. It’d mean that those things were associated with any sort of guided learning. I’ll have to play around with this at some point and use different language. It’ll be interesting to see if it makes a difference.

  5. Graham Wegner said on January 30, 2011 at 1:28 am

    Tom, I haven’t been following ds106 at all beyond knowing of its existence and having the incident you refer to in Footnote No 2. come through in my Reader. But I’ve seen the Colt Rane ink come through from my FFFFound feed, and was going to use it a starting point for my first week back at school with my class. My twist is that the kids (11 and 12 year olds) use four icons to tell “their story” in the same format. I can see numerous soccer balls, iPods and DS consoles appearing aplenty.

    • Tom said on January 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      Graham– I saw it in FFFFound as well. I love that site.

      DS106 has been interesting so far. The course, itself, isn’t as interesting to me as how the various participants have been taking things and running with them. I think that’s worth looking at and trying to figure out the mechanisms which helped cause that degree of freedom and involvement.

      I really like that idea for students. I Imagine you could do the same with character analysis for novels or historical figures. I might have to play around with that. Seems Catch-22 is bouncing around in my head with the four icon idea. We’ll see which itch I have to scratch first.

      • Jim Groom said on February 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

        Listen jackass, the course rocks, and you know it.

        • Tom said on February 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

          Courses are courses. This one does, of course, rock but I also want it to be more than that. I’m looking to build a bedrock of ages on principals and ideas.

  6. Clix said on January 30, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    There are a LOT of things that are tied in to school. If that were the case, there’d be the same sort of antipathy toward balancing a checkbook or reading the newspaper. I think it’s more likely that it’s human nature to be nervous about being judged.

    • Tom said on January 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Clix-
      I may very well be wrong but I don’t think those two examples are good ways to prove it.

      Our society is packed with antipathy towards math and reading in general. I know many, many people who despise math in its entirety (“I can’t do math,” “I hate math” etc. etc.) and also hate reading.

      There are some communities online that are friendly and give constructive feedback minus the judging. They are safe places. I’ve been in some photography groups like that. I was nervous putting myself out there but never felt compelled to participate in every aspect nor did I fear a grade being assigned to me.

      Basically, I think/hope there are ways to create environments/structures/communities where people can participate in a fairly freeform way without fear and external competition being driving forces. I think language plays a role in the construction of those types of places. I’m just not sure what the language is and what should be done to help get people out of the traditional school mindset as quickly as possible. I’m pretty sure calling opting to call it something other than a “course” would be a good first step.

  7. Jabiz Raisdana (Intrepidteacher) said on January 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Could prove useful:

    http://www.thenounproject.com/

    • Tom said on January 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

      Jabiz – Yeah. I like that whole idea. I wonder if some of the projects for #ds106 ought to have people making things that others need. I have a dream about creating a Google moderator type media request service for teachers where their requests would be answered by internal teams and external good samaritans.

      • Cris said on February 3, 2011 at 2:54 am

        I think you’re onto something with the special text support for teachers, Tom. I know in my classes and from my own experience that a newbie can only take so much frustration before they throw in the towel. We don’t have the resilience that seasoned tech users have. I’m on call practically 18/24 as students learn to use VoiceThread, WallWisher, Google Docs (the most challenging), and video tools like PhotoStory, MovieMaker, and iMovie. Just in the last 24 hours I’ve save two PhotoStory projects because someone was downloading the icons from MorgueFile and another had not selected her external mic. These are simple problems, at leas they seem simple now, but overwhelming when you have no one to ask.

        I’ve proposed a Twitter hashtag for our state that teachers can post to for help. Will start small.

        • Tom said on February 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

          Cris- If you’d like to share the tag, I’ll add it to my searches and try to help out when time allows. Many hands and all that . . .

          • Cris said on February 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm

            That’s very generous, Tom. I’ll let you know when we get rolling with this teacher Twitter tech support group. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Cris said on February 3, 2011 at 2:56 am

      This is quite a find, Jabiz! Thanks so much!

  8. Cali4beach said on February 7, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I love the Romeo and Juliet one! 🙂

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