Using technology to make use of an analogue trick

The idea of making a panorama photograph using a modern camera, even the one on your phone, is simple. Select the panorama setting press the button and sweep round the 180 or 360 degrees that you want to capture. The teenagers I teach are only too familiar with this possibility. So when I suggest that we are going to have a go at creating composite panoramic photographic compositions using maybe up to fifty photographs, there is a certain amount of ‘unlearning’ to be done.

Talking our way through a number of David Hockney’s ‘joiner’ collages of multiple Polaroid photographs certainly helps open the teenage imagination to the possibilities on offer. Preparing the pupils to head out to take their series of photographs is an important point in the process. Young people are not to used to the idea of stopping to consider their photographic subjects too much, the instant and endlessly free nature of the digital image has changed that. Yet for this assignment finding an interesting, complex and maybe above all, spatial subject is crucial.

Once the photographs have been made, what Hockney would have done, puzzling through all the hard copies of his images spread across a large table is easily done digitally and without expensive or time consuming printing. Although, having said that, I am regularly surprised at the difficulties experienced by my digital natives in getting images off their phone and onto a desktop computer! Once that is achieved though, the photographs can be dumped into a single PowerPoint slide or MS Publisher document and resized to an appropriate format. After that the enjoyable part to putting the photographic puzzle together again can begin, experimenting with the layering and overlapping as they go. At this point I can normally sit back and wait for the final pdf documents to be made and handed in.

This year was the second time I’ve tried this assignment with the 15 year olds that I teach. Maybe I’d learnt a few things from last year, spotted and alerted pupils to potential problem areas when explaining the process perhaps, maybe they are just more creative pupils than last year’s group…..who knows! Either way, the results are, generally more ambitious and successfully worked out than the first time around.


Street art, but just outside the classroom door

img_0138It’s been a while since I’ve done this wall drawing project, but a new addition to our school year has been two dedicated ‘project weeks’. The aim of the project weeks was to try and get some of the interruptions that regularly come along during regular weeks (and disturbing the lessons) out of these weeks and into one compact session. This has worked to a degree, but has also lead to new projects being dreamt up or activities from previous years being revamped and inserted somewhere into the five days. My ‘street art/wall drawing project’ was one such example.

For the second year pupils (aged 13) that I was working with, this was an opportunity, albeit a rather short one (about two hours) to have a go at creating some large scale images, a welcome change to the A4 or A3 sheets that we seem to spend most of our time working on. The other challenges we worked on were creating three dimensional appearance in the taped objects and also plenty of overlapping. Both points were aimed at creating a more spatial illusion in the drawings.

An interesting and very useful reference point we’re the wall drawings of British artist Micheal Craig Martin.

The documentation of this project from a number of years ago can be found here.

The Image conference Brussels – has a conference ever fitted me better?

Two days in Brussels, the first ‘Image’ conference that I’ve had the chance to attend and I return home with educational batteries recharged, perhaps also feeling a bit physically and certainly mentally drained! But I don’t think I have ever attended such an event that has felt like it fitted me quite so well.

The thrust of the conference content is focussed on the role of imagery, in its various forms, and how it can be integrated into the language classroom. Most of those present seemed to be language teachers who were enthusiastic about art, film or photography. I arrived kind of from the other direction, an art teacher with a rather heightened interest in language.

Added to this there was an extra strand of presentations relating to refugees and immigration, a subject that I also explore in some of my lessons.

Highlights? Too many to name, but my colleague and I return with plans to place the medium of film more centrally into our schools teaching. Also extensive resources for the language classroom relating to refugees and other pressing world issues. Further there were keynote presentations relating to the use of art in the classroom setting for purposes of narrative and cultural identity and reasons to celebrate multilingualism in the classroom.

I’m sure that in the coming months elements of what I have seen and heard will find their way into my own lessons and maybe also onto my blog. My only regret really is that this relatively small conference doesn’t have a wider public. From my own perspective as a bilingual educator in the Netherlands absolutely everything I have participated in in Brussels this weekend is utterly relevant and useful to the Dutch bilingual context. It is such a pity that only me and my colleague were representatives of this particular educational stream.

So when and where is the next ‘Image’ conference? Well that is as soon as the spring of 2020……what will make it a little more difficult for me is that it is in Vancouver, Canada! Although for the North American readers of my blog it could very well be of interest. The conference after that? Well, I hear whispers that it may be the UK, a chance to take a few more of my Dutch colleagues perhaps.