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May 14, 2008

The last day...


Today was my last day volunteering at Minnesota Internship Center and I have to admit... I am rather sad to leave. The students were just finishing up their animal projects, so it was cool to see their posters (which they have been working on for several weeks now) finally coming together. I helped them put on the finishing touches, gluing and cutting, and listened while they rehearsed their written lines. They start their final presentations on their research tomorrow and I am disappointed that I won't be there to see them in their moment in front of the class.

I am going to try to volunteer again at MNIC, but it is sad because I do not know if I will ever get to see these kids again. Chances are that I won't ever be in the same classroom as any one of them. There is still so much that I don't know about them and am so anxious to discover, so much beyond what their names are and what homework they need help on. I have been fortunate to have a few outside conversations with a few students, but there was not much time to do so. And in those short, fleeting moments, I have uncovered so much about their personalities, characters, and the diverse backgrounds that they come from. My service learning at Minnesota Internship Center has truly been an awesome experience...one that I can't wait to continue next semester!

(Image from http://www.davidfairhurst.com/more/goodbye_files/goodbye.jpg)

May 7, 2008

Quote o' the Day

"Take a small but varied company to any convenient viewing place overlooking some portion of city and countryside and have each, in turn, describe the 'landscape' to detail what it is composed of and say something about the 'meaning' of what can be seen. It will soon be apparent that even though we gather together and look in the same direction at the same instant, we will not - we cannot - see the same landscape. We may certainly agree that we will see many of the same elements - houses, roads, trees, hills - in terms of such denotations as number, form, dimension, and color, but such facts take on meaning only through association; they must be fitted together according to some coherent body of ideas. Thus we confront the central problem: any landscape is composed not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads."
-D.W. Meinig, "The Beholding Eye."

Problematic Posters


Volunteering today at MNIC was good as always. As soon as I came into the classroom, the students were anxiously asking me questions about their animal projects. After they have gotten all the information about their animal group (what they have been working on lately), they next have to visually present what they learned on a poster. That was the task before most of them today.

It is hard at times because it seems that all the students want to ask you questions at once. I will be trying to help one student but there will be another student standing right next to me calling, "Teacher! Teacher!" What most of the students want to know is where to find a specific answer or what they "should write" for a specific question. For example, today, I was helping one student work on a question about describing the life cycle of his animal group (arachnids). He kept pointing out sentences in a book about spiders, but I kept trying to explain that he could not write just about spiders, but had to include other creatures from the group. I told him to read some of the pages and then summarize what he read. He looked at me confusedly, and then asked what sentence he should write. I told him that there was not an exact answer written out in the book, but that he had to create his own. He did not seem happy about my response and kept searching for the answer, asking me if certain sentences were correct.

I was talking to the teacher after class and I told her about students looking for one specific right answer in the text and she also voiced this observation. She said that in another of her classes, they were given a similar group project. Some students worked well, she said, but others decided that they didn't know what to do so they just sat there and did no work. When the grades came out, and those students received low scores, she said that they complained to her. They told her that they would rather just do book assignments instead so they could look and find the answers. They just wanted to see the question and look directly for one sentence from the text to answer it.

She said she wasn't sure if it was laziness on the part of the students that drove them to avoid the higher level thinking required by the group projects or if it was just a lack of understanding of the English language that pushed them to pursue the black-and-white questions and answers. I guess I am not really sure either. To some extent, I think it is both. I think the students are often frustrated with the confusion and just want to easily do the assignments correctly. I am not convinced that the students learn much this way, however. When I think back to my childhood, I know I probably did this. I am sure I asked a million questions because I wanted to make sure that I did the problems right and did well on the assignment. This is the same scenario, except these students are not young 7 year-olds - many of them are older than me.

I sympathize with them because I know how difficult it is to learn another language. I took Spanish for a few years in high school, and am starting up again next fall. I am sure that I will be inquiring quite often on conjugations and pronunciations. But I feel like by at least attempting to develop "higher thinking skills" in Spanish, I could learn so much more than I ever could seeking out answers plainly stated in a text.

(Image from http://www.eskimo.com/~lsatin/images/triangle_fire_medium.jpg)

May 6, 2008

Reading #15

"The Search for Form in Art and Architecture" by Eliel Saarinen
pages 11-48

Discussion Questions:

1.) How can the search for form be insincere and dishonest? Why?
2.) How would you define something as having strong or weak form? What qualities would you look for?

1.) "form follows function" - This is the idea that if the form of something is practical and functional, it is beautiful already for that sole reason. Aesthetically pleasing form takes a back-seat to functionality.
2.) "realistically imitative form" - This form is brought about from the near replication of something else. Saarinen looks down up this process of "clever reproduction" through the use of style, color, etc.

In this excerpt, Saarinen goes into great depth to elaborate on nearly all issues and details concerning the concept of form in both art and architecture. He discusses threats to form in our present day and principles for effective form analysis.

Reading #19

Earlier in the semester, I mistakenly blogged on the the wrong readings, so I am going to report on them now!

Discussion questions/keywords/summary from/of:

"Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology" by Neil Postman
pages 3-39

Discussion Questions:

1.) Do you believe that we are the "tools of our tools?" What is your argument for or against this?
2.) What is an example from your life in which a radically new technology has created new definitions of old terms. Can you think of any direct example now? Or do you think this will only be evident years dow the road?

1.) Technophile - A technophile is someone obsessed with technology, who will only see what new technologies can do and are "incapable of imagining" what they can undo.
2.) Technophobe - A technophobe is someone who shuns all technologies and believes that they will cause the downfall of civilization.

In this reading, Neil Postman presents his opinions on technology in our culture. He explains that he is neither for nor against technology, but I get the sense that he has a somewhat negative feeling towards it from his connotations. He discusses the impact of technology on places like the classroom and explains that technological change is neither additive nor subtractive, but ecological. One significant change can generate total change on all levels.

May 4, 2008

Technology + Architecture


Technology and architecture. Architecture and technology. In today's world, both are interwoven. Some of our newest architectural feats rely heavily on cutting edge technology while some of our newest technologies are designed specifically for architects. They coexist and complement each other. But is technology all "good?" And if indeed technology can be "bad," what does that say for architecture?

In the Postman reading (which I have yet to put up discussion questions, etc. for I have noticed...), the idea of a Technophobe and Technophile are discussed (-phobe = afraid and skeptical of technology, -phile = one who is obsessed with technology). I have to say that I, personally, am somewhere in the middle; I believe technology is beneficial, but I have my doubts. I really can't say that technology is all good or all bad. Nor can I say that one certain technology is good or bad. I wish I was passionate about either the benefits or downfalls of it, but I honestly am very unsure. For example, it is one thing to say, "Stem cell technologies are evil and wrong!" But what if I had a child dying in the hospital that could be saved from such research? Would I still be so inclined to call it "the work of the devil?" The issues surrounding technology are what makes it a difficult situation.

I am not saying whether or not I support stem cell research, but am merely pointing out that the usefulness and value of a technology really depends on the morals and perspective of each individual person. I could say that the toothbrush is a good technology and that the atomic bomb is a bad technology. However, to a five-year-old, the toothbrush might seem completely awful while the idea of an atomic bomb blowing stuff up could be “awwwwesomme!? Until the day we are all android clones trained to think in the same manner, I do not think we will ever have one definite answer as to whether or not technology is good.

I do, however, believe that the advancement of technology is key for the future of architecture and our society. Since the dawn of time, technology has been a catalyst for progress. Few could argue that we would not be where we are today if it were not for the invention of the wheel and stone tools. In our reading, Postman, in short, also argued that technology simply does what it has been designed to do. I disagree with this. Though "writing" was designed for communication, I don't think it was ever meant to spread hate literature or racial degredation. Technology is what it is, but people are constantly finding new ways to use it. They are constantly reinventing it and finding their own uses for it. Technology is not inherently evil because of it's design. Technology can be good or bad, all depending on how it is used. Similarly, the practice of architecture can be good or bad, all depending on how it is performed. In response to that, I can only say that all technology and architecture should truly be used responsibly and all consequences should be thoroughly considered.

(Images combined on photoshop from http://www.unknown.nu/futurism/images/architecture.jpg and http://www.cnq.ca/Page.asp?PageID=749&SiteNodeID=160&BL_ExpandID=1391)

May 1, 2008

Today was the day. Presentation Response/Blog Prompt 8 and 9

So..today was our presentation. And I have to say, I am rather sad about it. Our video, which set the scene for the presentation, would not play. That really threw us off because we made such an effort to make sure everything worked properly. We uploaded the video to youtube. Then, I posted everything on my blog. Then, I burned it to a disk. And just in case that didn't work, I saved it to a flash drive. And, after all that work...it didn't work. I was a nervous wreck and I know that it showed. It's frustrating when you know what you want to say and you can't get it out because your nerves jumble everything up and will not allow it (a.k.a. I was a babbling mess). I don't remember much of what I said, but I remember saying something about everyone "wasting time playing games"...(??? I did not mean to say anything like that...) So I am pretty disappointed in myself. Mostly because I know we put so much work into it, and worked so hard to emphasize the importance of reducing child mortality, but it didn't feel like it translated as I stuttered through the information.

I was really impressed by the other groups, however.

Broc and Kelly - I thought they did an excellent job presenting. If they were nervous, it was not obvious at all. Their information was extremely thorough and their layout was awesome. I wish I had their Indesign skills! One thing I found especially interesting from research was the role of text messages in the farmer’s markets, allowing prices to be sent to sellers days away from town. It’s amazing to think about how much this technology has impacted their lives, while in our lives it is something that we may take for granted. I think that the laptop was also a very nice addition to the presentation. Having something physically present as an example of the technologies being implemented in Somalia and across Africa gave a face, in a sense, to the initiative and to your proposals. I was wondering, though…what happened to the Marshall Plan? I know you talked about wanting to discuss it in the planning stages of the project, and I was curious to see how it played in. ☺

Angie, Anthony, and Laura – Wow. You guys did an awesome job. You could definitely tell that there was three people’s worth of hard-core research in it. I think that because you chose to focus on the Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside in particular, people found your lecture presentation to be relatable and even more understood. In addition, I think all the work you did on sustainability will only help you to become better architects in the future. Congrats!

Michelle and Byron – Once again, wow. Another awesome presentation. It was nice to have a few presentations on Somalia so we could get a perspective on the country through the lens of two different Millennium Development Goals. I thought that everything was very cohesively and that the graphic layout you used was very successful. I really liked how you had some images "greyed" in the presentation, but a few were clearly visible. It was interesting how you changed the highlighted picture as your presentation evoloved. Very good research!

Alyssa and Heidi - I thought that it was great that you guys came up with an actual titled plan to promote gender equality and empower women. At first, I wasn't sure if this was an actual project taking place right now in the Central African Republic, or if it was a new propoal. At any rate, that took a lot of thinking and research on your part. Way to go!

I really enjoyed having the chance to finally see all presentations today. Congrats once again to everyone on a job well-done!

This is it. Today is the day.

This is it. Our research project. And today is the day. The day we are presenting it in front of our entire lecture. In T-minus 2 hours. This is a back-up in case things go wrong.

I'm so nervous I can hardly type this. Talking in front of people is not my forte, and being this nervous makes my speech go down the crapper. Please, Lord, help us.

Millennium Development Goal 4 - Reduce Child Mortality

Research Document PDF - Download file

Research Class Presentation - Download file

Research Project Video -