The Festival of Lights
Nov 27th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

TMA Lighthouses, a set on Flickr.

My daughters and I built a lighthouse for The Maritime Aquarium’s Festival of Lights. It is amazing to see the talents of the local artists. The lights are on display until mid January. If you go, vote for #15!  Feel free to click on the link above to view the set and see the full pictures!

Now to some thoughts on education, creativity, and expertise .  .  .

I’ve heard of the lighthouse competition before, and thought it might be an exciting project for my daughters and I to participate.  We love the water and lighthouses and the kids have been to the aquarium. (One of the perks of the contest was a year-long membership to the aquarium.) There were several pictures of “past winners” both on the aquarium’s website and in the promotional flyer.   We elected to build one of our favorites: the Black Rock Lighthouse on Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport.  I decided we would do a scale model and we were pretty precise with measurements, angles, colors, dimensions, and the lot.  It was a challenge to decide what materials to use, how to best represent the light, and how to incorporate all of the subtle details.  We did make a few minor changes, mainly to the top portion of the light due to our inability to make certain objects with the confines of the materials we used.  Nonetheless, if you look at a picture and look at our model, it looks extremely similar. Our model is clean, representative, and majestic.

What I learned, from looking at the other models, is that ours doesn’t really tell a story.  Some of the other lights have an underlying story in their model – a scene, an imaginary sense of wonder, a connection to the viewer.  I can make a connection to those lights on an emotional level – I am drawn in to explore the story and examine its details.  This speaks to the idea of creativity and expertise.  With experience, levels of expertise develop more, and, in turn, increase the creative potential of the artist (or insert other domain here). My children and I have already begun brainstorming ideas for “next year.”  No doubt, our experience building our own model coupled with opportunities  to view other high quality work has inspired us, but also provided us with relevant background knowledge that will make us better producers on the next go-around.

We can’t underestimate the importance of giving students opportunities to produce – whether it be writing, science, music, or whatever . . . When they are producers, they increase their creative potential because they add to their experience and that expertise makes their work more innovative, higher quality, and more imaginative.

Pics and WordPress
Nov 21st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Managing your own site can be quite a challenge.  Recently, my learning management system, moodle (http://moodle3.labanca.net) crashed and I spent hours trying to rescue the database and reinstall the platform.  It eventually worked on the third iteration, but the entire database did not transfer.  However, at $7 per month, versus the $3K my organization pays for web-based operations – there’s a difference in service.  I’ve always argued that good instructional technology should be about the content, not the form – teachers are teachers, not web designers, and therefore should spend their time sharing good content.  However, sometimes it just becomes the case that you have to spend time on form – making that darn system work.

This WordPress account also has some technical difficulties – for some reason the system locks up when I try to upload a pic.  Long time readers might have noticed that I haven’t put a picture up in a long time (unless it’s embedded media).  I’ve been anxiously awaiting a WordPress update, because I’m pretty sure that it’s this installation, not the WordPress software. I guess I’ve been able to live without pics here, but I would really like to see some again soon and after my moodle debacle, I am hesitant to make an aggressive move.  Time will tell . . .

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