Thursday, 27 December 2012

ModPo is over, long live Modpo

I have caught the Coursera virus. In fact, Coursera is one of the reasons why I haven't been updating this blog for a while. As I browse among many subjects I could learn about (that I never even dreamed I would ever be learning about), from Gamification to World Music to Computer Science 101, I feel my mind grow and expand in different directions. And I am grateful.

Coursera is based on a very simple model. Every course comes with a set of  lectures broken into small chunks and rendered as short videos. The videos are followed by quizzes/exercises and sometimes by essays. If you do all the quizzes and the essays, you will get a certificate of attendance. Each course includes forums as well, but those are optional, an add-on. In most of the courses I attended before ModPo, I never bothered to participate in the forums. More often than not, I didn't even bother to do the minimum I needed for the certificate. I was mostly happy to just watch the videos.

Maybe this was my fault. Coursera can't be blamed for my decision to lurk. Yet I lurked because I could. And then ModPo happened to me.

ModPo is short for Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. The course was run by Professor Al Filreis and his gang from Penn. The course was a MOOC if I had ever seen one. It was certainly the most massive online course I had ever attended. We are talking about 35,000 people here.

If you have read my blog before, you will know that I am addicted to online learning. You will also know that I have been a part of Moocs and online communities since 2008 - think no further than Electronic Village Online sessions and DS106. As for communities, just look at that Proud to be a Webhead badge in my sidebar. Or read this.

But I need to tell the story about this particular course from the beginning.

As the date for the beginning of ModPo approached, it was becoming clear that it was going to be a different kind of course from the ones I had got used to on Coursera. Yes, there were going to be videos, but these videos were going to be different. Here's the introductory video that appeared a few days before the course started (and I don't expect you to watch the whole thing, but at least look at the first minute or two):

Here you can see Professor Al surrounded by his TAs (or "Al and the gang", as they were later known). The way they taught poetry was to sit in front of the camera and discuss each poem round table style. They disagreed occasionally and sometimes made mistakes. They drank coffee and laughed. They were human and approachable. And that's exactly the way they were in the forums as well. What they modeled in these videos was what they expected us to do. Here forum discussions were central to the course. They were one of the requirements for the certificate and the main learning tool.

"Al and the gang" went an extra mile for us. There was a Twitter feed and a Facebook group. And there were live webcasts on YouTube accompanied by Twitter chats. Everybody had an open invitation to Kelly Writer's House. As the course progressed, people started showing up on their doorstep at the time live webcasts were being filmed. Personal stories were exchanged. And, bit by bit, the ModPo virtual community was coming to life.

As I write this, I feel doubly blessed. First I was lucky enough to find my Webhead family. Now I have found one more online family - the ModPoers. We are no longer 35,000, but we are numerous. There are various things to do within the community. We still share and read poems together. Some of us write poetry and I am glad to say that my poetry blog Summer Blues is once again live.

I know I have neglected this blog. During the 10 weeks of ModPo there was little time for anything else. And now there is this new community to cultivate and care for. It is still young and we are all a little afraid that it will just disappear overnight if we are not there to watch and protect it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Activities for the First Class

Photo on Flickr by Night Owl City

For me, classes start tomorrow. I will meet several groups of new students for the first time. That's why I have decided to republish some of my last year's warmers and first class activities.

I find those first classes very important for the rest of the course. Ideally, by the end of the first two weeks, everybody should get to know everybody else. The students should get to know each other and some sort of group spirit should emerge. The teacher should get to know the students and adapt the course to their interests and learning styles. Last but not least, the students should get to know the teacher. Students will relate better to your subject if they get to know the real you.

In no particular order, I am going to share some of the activities I use during the first two weeks.

When I attended CRELL three years ago I learnt the following two warmers that I have been using ever since:


Here is the original description of the activity from the CRELL lesson plan:

1. Tell students they are going to introduce themselves by sharing something about their first, middle, or last name. If you have a large group, you may want to have students work in small groups to share the story of their names. Begin the activity by modeling it and sharing something about your first, middle, or last name.

2. After each student has shared with the group, lead a whole class discussion using some or all of the following questions.

This is what I shared in the CRELL forum:

"My name is Natasa. The name was derived from Latin “Dies Natalis”, which means Christmas Day. It is really strange, but my maiden name, Bozic, means exactly the same thing, only in Serbian. So my name and my surname are synonyms. I like the idea of being protected by these Nativity symbols. I was named after my maternal grandmother. Her name was Natalia, but my parents shortened it to Natasa, which was more popular at the time. When I was a little girl, I didn’t like my name (I guess that’s usual for little girls), but now I am glad I was called after my grandmother. She died when I was nine and she was an important figure in my childhood. She was a truly good person. When I got married, I added my husband’s surname to my maiden name. I wanted to keep “Christmas” with me and I felt that by that time the surname was a part of who I was. I also did it because I am an only child and my father was no longer alive. My married name is very rare – I have never met anyone outside my husband’s family called Grojic. We believe that somebody made a mistake at the Registry Office a long time ago and wrote Grojic instead of the very common Grujic. I always have to spell it to people and they usually get it wrong – they write u instead of o. My husband says that with time I’ll stop paying attention and let them write whatever they want."

I always share this story with the students first before I ask them to do the same. It helps them understand what I want them to do. It is a great way for everybody to learn everybody else's name.


Here is what the CRELL lesson plan says:

"In this activity we would like you to think of a way to represent yourself to the other participants in our session by drawing a symbol. You can use Word Drawing or another program to draw your symbol. You can also hand draw your symbol and scan your picture, then download it to the correct folder. Please create an original drawing instead of downloading clip art or a photo. Below your symbol, please provide a brief explanation of how this symbol represents you."

This is what I did:

The Candle

"I chose the candle as my symbol. When I was a student, I used to draw candlesticks on the margin of my books. Maybe it had something to do with burning midnight oil, or maybe (and I prefer this second explanation) it had something to do with the quest for knowledge. Candle represents light, as opposed to darkness. It represents knowledge and wisdom. It shows us directions when we are lost and, if we leave a candle in the window, our dear ones will find us. We light candles to remember both the living and the dead. Our lives might be “like candles in the wind”, but if we live them with passion and if we bring some light into the lives of others, we will live forever. The flame is eternal."

Again, I would share the story with the students first, maybe even try to draw my symbol on the board. Then I would ask them to do the same. I teach adults so I usually wouldn't ask them to draw their own symbol in one of our first classes (they are scared enough even without me asking them to draw). I usually share a ready-made lesson plan instead. It is a lovely little lesson plan from the Inside Out website and it is called You In Pictures. A whole collection of these plans can be found here and You In Pictures is the first one. Please allow the time for the booklet to download.


I learnt this activity from my colleague Zorana who teaches German at my school. Students sit opposite each other in pairs and they have five minutes to talk to each other. After the time is up, everybody moves one seat to their left, so that they talk to somebody else. The goal is similar to speed dating - to find out as much as possible about their partner. Before the students start talking to each other, I ask them to write down five or six questions that they are going to ask everybody in the class, although, of course, improvising additional questions on the spot is most welcome. At the end of the activity, I ask each student to share the most interesting question they were asked.


clock montage
Photo on Flickr by Rocket Ship

Students are given some time to prepare a one-minute talk about something they are passionate about. It can be a hobby or simply a topic they are very interested in. After each student has delivered the speech, others ask follow-up questions. At least three questions should be asked.


In pairs, students talk about what sort of questions they hate being asked, then they share the questions with the rest of the class and they explain why they hate talking about the topic. Those can be typical 'taboo questions' like asking about somebody's weight, or simply the questions the students find boring or intrusive. Very useful feedback for the teacher.


This is a writing exercise. Students are asked to write something about themselves in 150 words. I would share my own Twitter bio (mother, wife, EFL teacher, Webhead, blogger, writer lifelong learner, daydreamer, geek, insomniac) as an example.


I borrowed this from a blogging challenge I participated in. Here is my original post on what an elevator pitch is. An elevator pitch is similar to a Twitter bio, but it should be delivered orally. Students should introduce themselves to others in no more than 150 words.

I like to do this as a mingle activity. Students circle around, delivering their elevator pitches to each other. They should listen to other elevator pitches carefully, but they shouldn't write anything down. Afterwards, I ask them to recall anything they can remember about the people they talked to.

One of my favourite photocopiables is Group Work Intermediate. Activity 2 (Get to know your group) contains 64 great icebreaker questions that can be exploited in different ways. I often use those during the first two or three weeks of the course.

Please let me know what you think. Your opinion is, as always, very important to me.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Movies by Numbers - Number 5

For my third video assignment this week, I chose Movies by Numbers. My task is to artistically present a single number through visuals and relevant music. There is to be no narration and only the visuals and the music should tell the story.

I used Compfight to search for CC licenced images that have the word "five" among their tags. The music I chose is Take Five by Dave Brubeck. I used Animoto once again, so I added Animoto's own videos to my story. Animoto lets you determine the beginning and/or the end of each video, so I stopped the countdown videos immediately after number 5 and I did the same with the clock.

Here is my video.

The most complicated thing in this assignment was creating a full list of images used so that I could give attribution where it is due. Here it is:

Creative Commons images used:
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Tabsinthe: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by woodleywonderworks: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Lst1984: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Pink Sherbet Photography: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Javier Volcan:
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Jon Matthies:
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Michael | Ruiz:
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Amrit...:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by ncracker (Boyan Syarov):
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by christing-O-:
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by { pranav }:
cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by ginnerobot:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by flyzipper:
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Pandiyan:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Leo Reynolds:
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by jenny downing:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by bara-koukoug:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by YanivG:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by gonzalo_ar:
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by bitzi ☂ ion-bogdan dumitrescu:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by bobbygreg:
cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by marfis75:
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by tochis:

My DS106 Compilation

cc licensed ( BY NC ND )  flickr photo shared by zachstern

For my second video assignment this week, I chose to make a video compilation of some of my digital stories. At this stage in the course, it is logical that I want to look back and reflect on what I have done so far. This  compilation consists of visual and design assignments and some of my Daily Creates.

I used Animoto to create the video, which is, I suppose, a shortcut. Animoto does the boring, repetitive part of the job for you and it even gives you a large choice of video styles and background music. It also lets you upload your videos to YouTube, which is what I did this time.

And here's the final result:

Saturday, 14 July 2012

"I Am No Man"

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by Dunechaser

I am back at Camp Magic MacGuffin after I was absent last week. This is the second week of video and it took me a couple of days to go through last week's materials and pluck up the courage to use Windows Movie Maker for the very first time.

The assignment I chose is Return to the Silent Era. The goal is to take a scene from a modern movie and render it in the style of the silent era.

I chose one of my favourite scenes from LOTR - the one in which Eowyn kills the witch king. I had just watched Return of the King for the thousandth time and it struck me that this scene would look good in black and white. I was lucky enough to find a clip that already had subtitles, which made my task of turning it into a silent movie much easier.

I was surprised at how intuitive Windows Movie Maker is. I had wanted to learn how to mash and edit videos for some time, but had always put it off. I was afraid it would be too hard. I have only made this one clip so far and the task was relatively simple. I just added two effects ("black and white" and "old film") and I added some Bach. I didn't remove the original audio, but I muted it instead. 

Here is my clip:

I Am No Man - Return To the Silent Era from Natasa Bozic Grojic on Vimeo.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

No Letter Home This Week I'm Afraid

Not a Toy Car
The Daily Create 171 - An object that's hard to find or recognise

I am running out of time before I start packing my suitcases. I am afraid I haven't got time to record a weekly letter, so instead I will just share this week's Daily Create assignments.

Above you can see a toy car that is not really a toy car, but my favourite USB stick.

This creepy crawly critter is what I would be terrified of if I saw it in my bunkhouse:

Scary Spider
The Daily Create 172 - Sketch the creepiest crawly critter you can imagine

By the way - to create the web-like lines I used Scribbler 2.

Finally, the sound of summer rain after a long period of very hot weather:

The Daily Create 169 - record 30 seconds of ambient sound in your environment

And now I will say goodbye to my friends from the camp and everyone else who is reading this. I am going to a spa and I promise I will come back with a lot of photos and stories to tell.

See you in a week's time.

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My Five Minutes of Fame

cc licensed ( BY NC ND )  flickr photo shared by ~FreeBirD®~

As I said in my previous post, we are expected to collaborate on a group radio show project within our bunkhouses. In Slaughterhouse 4 we chose travel as our main topic and the title of our show is A Tourist's World. I chose a story I often tell - the one about how I visited India and saw the Taj Mahal.

cc licensed ( BY NC )  flickr photo shared by betta design

I am not sure whether I am supposed to share my part of the show on my blog or not, but since I am travelling on Sunday and will not be here next week when the show is broadcast, here's my five minutes:

Looking forward to your feedback.

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Your Magic Carpet Is Here

cc licensed ( BY NC )  flickr photo shared by Heart Industry

It is Week 6 in Camp Magic McGuffin and I am running out of time, since I am travelling on Sunday and will be away during Week 7. Still, I have managed to finish my main assignments. I have created a radio bumper for the show I am collaborating on with other members of Slaughterhouse 4. I have also finished my 5 minutes of the show. I wish I could have worked more on it, but there was no time.

At my bunkhouse we chose travel as our main topic and the title of the show is A Tourist's World. That's why I decided to play with the magic carpet metaphor. I recorded my voice in Audacity, then used sound effects to make my speech faster and my voice deeper. My idea was to sound a little like a British butler. Then I uploaded the Audacity files to Myna and continued editing the bumper. I chose the tracks from the Adventure section in Myna and I almost happy with it. At least, I like it much better than my last week's bumper, but then that means that I am learning. Here it is:

So, fasten your seat-belts and listen to Slaughterhouse 4.

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Monday, 25 June 2012

Week 5 - Stepping out of Comfort Zone

cc licensed ( BY NC )  flickr photo shared by LarimdaME

Since Week 5 in Camp MacGuffin is all about audio, we are sending audio messages home instead of letters:

This is not so different from leaving a message on an answering machine and I felt it was OK to improvise rather than read from a paper.

As I have said in the recording, Week 5 was about stepping out of comfort zone. For one of my Daily Creates I had to sing. I mean, I didn't have to do it, but I did. I don't want to repeat what I said in the recording, but the atmosphere in the Camp is such that singing felt quite OK. I will even go so far as to embed the recording right here:

The Daily Create 165 - Share a campfire song on audio. Sing of bang drums.

Two days later we had to draw. I am terrible at drawing and I said so:

Geometric Shapes
The Daily Create 167 - Draw a person using only geometrical shapes

Today's Daily Create wasn't difficult. We took a closer look at where we spend a lot of free time and photographed something we had never noticed before.

The Daily Create 168

It is not that I don't notice Leonardo, it is just that I don't notice him enough. Placed behind my back while I work at my desktop, he has kept me company through all my web adventures.

So, that's all folks. See you in Week 6.

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Taking Back Spam

I Hate Spam
The Daily Crete 166 - Take a picture of something that makes you sick

I connected one of my Daily Creates with an audio assignment here. Partly to save time, but mostly because I had a hard time remembering something that makes me sick. Because I was working on Audio Assignment 351, I thought I could take a screenshot of the spam I was reading and post it as a photo. A good idea, except that the screenshot didn't look very nice, so I decided to edit it using Pic Monkey. Then I got carried away a little.

And here is the recording:

Bonus track - Reverend Connor Strikes Again

Spamming is a sin

I couldn't resist this. It only came yesterday, otherwise I would have used that one. It somehow tricked my Spam Guard. Maybe Google now thinks I love spam?

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Time to Wake Up

cc licensed ( BY NC )  flickr photo shared by Gnu2000

For Audio Assignment 466 I created my own alarm clock. The goal was to use sounds around us (no music, no voice). I am not one of those people who wake up easily and there are very few sounds that don't irritate me early in the morning. However, I remembered the recording of nightingales I made last spring when I was in my holiday house in the country. My first idea was to use them to help me fall asleep, but instead they just woke me up even more. So, reassigning them to their new role was a logical thing:

cc licensed ( BY NC ND )  flickr photo shared by Sergey Yeliseev

A DIY Ringtone

cc licensed ( BY )  flickr photo shared by aussiegall

For Audio Assignment 152 I created my own ringtone. I used Roc by Aviary, which lets you create your own music. The drums I chose all come from the African Percussion section:

Roc is easy to use, especially if you watch the tutorial first. If you decide to play with Roc (it is highly addictive), you will find out that, due to its repetitive nature, Roc "music" is suitable for ringtones and alarm clocks.

I like this assignment because of its practical purpose. Whether you decide to actually use the ringtone or not, you will have good fun.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

DS106 Week 5 - The Sound Effect Story

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by John Carleton

In this assignment, we were supposed to tell a story using sound effects only. I decided to create a ghost story. Here it is:

I used FindSounds to look for the effects, then I pasted them together in Audacity.

I like the way this can be used in an EFL classroom. It is great for practicing past tenses, or simply as a creative writing assignment. In pairs or groups, students could first discuss what they think is happening in the story, then write their story. The accent should be not on "getting it right" (i.e. what the teacher wanted to say), but on the students' creativity.

What do you think has happened in my story?

DS106 Week 5 - Radio Bumper

cc licensed ( BY ND )  flickr photo shared by Andrew Morrell Photography

Here we are in Week 5 in Camp Magic MacGuffin and now we are working with audio. I was afraid I would find the tasks too difficult by now, but I am still coping. What I learnt in my podcasting EVO course last winter has come in really handy here. I did have a lot of technical issues with the first assignment and I still don't understand why.

This assignment is about creating a bumper for DS106 radio. I recorded my voice in Audacity and exported the file to LAME. This part worked fine. Then I added some music to it. When I tried to export the new file, Audacity reported an error and couldn't export the file. I ended up with Audacity's own .aup file which was completely useless as I was unable to find any other program that would convert .aup to .waw or .mp3. What I did in the end was use Myna to create a new bumper. I still don't know why I have this problem.

Anyway, here is my bumper:

When it comes to the radio, I am a complete amateur. I don't know whether a radio bumper is supposed to sound like that, but I kind of like when people on the radio talk to me in an honest and simple way, as if I were one of them. That's why I didn't use any effects to alter my voice.

I hope I will have better luck with other audio assignments, but this problem with Audacity is still puzzling me.  It seems to happen every time I try to export audio that is a mixture of music and speech (could it be the fact that it is also a mixture of mono and stereo?). The problem is new, but it seems to be here to stay. Any ideas what might be going on?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

DS106 Week 4 - Wrapping Up Loose Ends

Original photo on Flickr by Paul Bica

If you have been following this blog lately, you know that there has been a lot of activity here ever since I joined Camp Magic McGuffin. I am a little tired, which is why I have decided to send a postcard home instead of my usual letter. I believe it is the right thing to do after a week devoted to studying design.

I would also like to share with you three of my Daily Creates.

In this Daily Create task we were asked to draw an object with our eyes closed:


I am terrible at drawing and my flower wouldn't have looked much better if my eyes had been open, but this way at least I have an excuse.

This is a recording of street noise:

But my favourite Daily Create this week was mood inversion - reading something banal and making it sound profound. Here is my modest contribution:

See you in Week 5.

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Monday, 18 June 2012

A Design Safari

Different Points of View

The poster above was created to promote a book called "The Point of View". It uses metaphor to show that we might all be looking at the same thing, but our points of view will differ. This was one of the many pictures I took on Friday while I was on my Design Safari.

I had a great time walking around the centre of Belgrade with my camera. I looked for examples of good design (or at least the design I think is good) and this photo is my own personal favourite:


It is a bookstore sign. I don't know how well you can see it, but there are two people hugging and one of the people is... well, a book. It is a great metaphor once again, of course, though it is also a good example of unity. Colours work well together - the black and white of the book and the indigo blue of the "real person".

Looking at shops and banners in my neighbourhood, I was assaulted over and over by flashy fonts that just screamed at me. Private shop owners seem to believe that the louder your font is, the more customers will notice it. Which is why I like this one:

Bread and Rolls

It says "Bread and Rolls", which in itself is an understatement, since inside you can find pies, sandwiches, cakes... "Bread and Rolls" is a brand name for a chain of bakeries. I love the simple black and white sign, the modest little name and the font used. Above all, I love their bread and rolls. And sandwiches. And cakes.

This is a poster for a theatre play:


The photo is my example for balance. I mean, just look at them.

I have been planning to take a picture of this for some time:

Anti-Trafficking Action

It says "Children are not a Commodity" and there is the Anti Trafficking Action SOS phone in the corner. It conveys a very strong message. If you zoom in, you will see the faces of the children on the right. And these will haunt you.

This is the door of a Swarowski shop:


There seem to be all colours of the rainbow blended in this star and the final result looks great.

The arrows in the following theatre poster replace the eyes and the mouth and they point at opposite directions, so I am using it as my example for good rhythm:

Suspicious Character

This poster advertising an international comic festival uses photos of real people to create the effect of a comic:

International Comics Festival

And I'll finish with the poster for the Belgrade Design Week. Not a very successful photo of mine, but I really like the poster:

The Belgrade Design Week

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Sunday, 17 June 2012

Alternative Book Covers - Cat's Cradle

For me, DS106 seems to be revolving around Kurt Vonnegut. First, there was that task in Week 2. Then, my bunkhouse was named Slaughterhouse 4. So, I just had to do Design Assignment 366, which was to create an alternative book cover suggesting that the book is about something entirely different. I know I am being mean, but I just couldn't help it.

Here it is:

Cat's Cradle
Original image used: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Sergiu Bacioiu:

By the way, since this is primarily a TEFL blog, I believe there is a great lesson plan here, especially if the students are all reading the same book. Then they could compare the cover story to the original, or even develop the story from the cover further. Or they could create their own book covers. It would be fun to create the cover and leave out the title. Then they could try to guess what book the cover creator had in mind.

Word: Lullaby (And How It Was Created)


For this design assignment we needed to pick a word and, using one single typeface, communicate our word. What is happening in the picture above is that the baby is gradually falling asleep and the song fades off into silence at the end. I believe images like this one can serve as a picture dictionary, so they can be very useful in an EFL classroom.

This assignment was easy to do (in PicMonkey) and I created a short tutorial as well. Something happened to the sound at the beginning, but the rest is OK.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Week 4 - My Autobiography Cover

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by blmiers2

Still not able to devote as much time to DS106 as I would like. I have managed to do a couple of  design assignments by now and I have uploaded them to Flickr, but I am running late with blog posts. I will try to keep these posts very short and let the images speak for themselves.

In this design assignment I designed the cover of my "autobiography", choosing the picture and the title that shows off who I really am.

I used Compfight to search for CC licensed images. I wanted my cover to have a lot of red in it, so I used "red" as my search term. As soon as I saw the robin, I knew I had to use it. It took me some time to think of a title. Finally, I came up with this:


No rational explanation for choosing either colour red or the robin. Not to mention the title. Some things are hard to explain, but they just feel right.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Week 4 - The Creative Commons Poster

cc licensed ( BY NC SA )  flickr photo shared by WadeB

We are very busy this week at Camp McGuffin, with design assignments, the Design Safari, the research on Creative Commons and all the readings we need to do.

I am also really, really busy at work, so I'll keep this post short.

The picture you see above is the one I chose for my Creative Commons Poster. In this assignment, our task was to use a Creative Commons licensed image to design a poster about how cool Creative Commons is.

I started with the image above and, using Pic Monkey, I created this:

Creative Commons Poster 2

I tried to make that outer frame similar to the inner one. I hope the message is clear - this is what I feel Creative Commons can do for you if you CC your images or lesson plans. If they appear on other people's blogs and Facebook profiles and the attribution leads back to you, more people will see your work. Isn't that what the internet is all about?

Thank you, Creative Commons, for being there for all of us. And big thanks to everybody who decides to share their work with others through a CC licence.

Monday, 11 June 2012

A Letter to Mom - Week 3

The Daily Create 154 - Take a picture featuring rope or knots

Dear Mom,

This is my second week in the camp and I am having a lot of fun. I am learning about photography and I believe I am getting better at it. The picture above is the first one I am posting exactly as it is - no editing. I took a lot of photos of this rope until I was satisfied with the result. What I am proud of is that I had a clear idea about what I wanted my picture to look like before I took it. I set the scene, then I experimented with light and position. This is a start and I intend to keep practicing.

This is a group picture of the Slaughterhouse 4 bunch. I went inside because it was nice and cool in the old house. I know it doesn't look like much, but it is really comfortable inside. See for yourself.

This week we read about photography. I know you love photography too, so why don't you look at some of our resources here and here.

We also had a lot of visual assignments for homework. This is where I did mine. I also did most of my Daily Create assignments.

As you can see, we are having a great time. Still, there are some things that I am worried about. Kag1715 says there is a monster in the lake. She also notices that people have gone missing. Personally, I haven't seen the monster, but I am worried about the people who are no longer in our bunkhouse. I don't know where they could have gone. And then, there's Zazzy's post. I am telling you, Mom, there is something strange going on here. Everyone is so kind and everything is for free. Now, there's got to be something behind that, hasn't it? I know, you warned me and I wouldn't listen. Still, I don't want to come home. I am happy here, I'll just be extra careful, OK? I will have my camera with me at all times, just in case. No, I am not going investigating, you needn't worry. And I will not wander off on my own. We've been through this before and, no, I am not coming home. I am curious about what Week 4 is like. Aren't you?

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Sunday, 10 June 2012

My Eyes Are Wide Open

The Daily Create 150 - Monochrome

After reading this week's resources on photography I have only started to realise how much I have to learn. I never considered myself a great photographer and I am quite happy to let other people hold the camera. Whenever I wanted to express myself creatively, I used words. This shows in my Daily Create activities, especially in the first ones, where I felt the need to supplement my photo with words:

The Daily Create 146 - a photo that represents destruction

If I wanted something to be in the photo and it wasn't there, I used words to conjure it up:

Stone, Water and Clouds
The Daily Create 147 - a picture containing stone, water and clouds

But I persisted. I took a photo a day, often after I had come home from work. I worked with what I had and what I didn't have that late at night was natural light. So, a pattern started to emerge. Minimalistic and mostly monochrome.

When you rely on what you have, you start using metaphors and then you realise that telling a story through photography is not that different from using words. The Daily Create 149 gave us an impossible task - to take a photo at six minutes past the hour for an entire day and to share only one picture. I decided to take a photo at six minutes after the day had passed:


I recycled the above image and used it as a CD cover ( you can see the relevant post here). I am grateful to Chad for this idea.

This picture shows envy:


 I do envy people who can eat cakes and not put on weight, so I recycled this picture and used it as a demotivating poster. You can see it in my previous post.

I also envy people who would have done a better job with this photograph than I did. I took the photo through a shop window and it shows. I tried editing it and it got slightly better, but I am still not happy with it.

While I am not particularly good with the camera, I am quite happy to use picture editors. Ever since Picnik got invaded by ants (rest in peace, Picnik), PicMonkey has been my faithful friend. I used it to edit all of the above photos, but it really came in handy here:

The Daily Create 153 - the oldest building in my neighbourhood

I have to be honest with you - this building is from the 1980s and it is, in fact, the building I live in. It was really hot outside today and I was too lazy to leave my air-conditioned flat. So I took a picture of what I could see from my balcony and aged it artificially using PicMonkey. I can't tell you exactly what I did - I kept clicking on different effects until I was happy with the result.

I experimented with different types of focal effects here:

The Daily Create 148 - Out of Focus

To sum up: What have I learned this week?

1. That I am slowly beginning to get addicted to photography. That I don't care whether I am producing art or just fooling around. As long as it is fun, I will continue doing it.

2. That I want to learn more about photography and that I will continue learning.

3. That looking at the world through the lens is not distracting. On the contrary. It makes me more aware of my surroundings.

4. That ordinary things and everyday objects have their own beauty.

5. That this is my life. Whether I am manipulating an image of myself until I look like my grandmother did 70 years ago or taking pictures of yesterday's shopping list, this is who I am.

See you in the next Daily Create.

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Saturday, 9 June 2012

My Day in Pictures

What Is This?
Visual Assignment 107 - Common Everyday Object

I admit, I am not one of those people who wake up easily. It usually takes me a while to focus and at first my surroundings might seem strange and unfamiliar to me. Is it a wonder, then, that the object you see in the picture above appeared to me exactly as you see it? It is one of the first things I see when I open my eyes every day. Can you guess what it is? Though, I have to say, I am notorious for giving tasks that are too easy. See my previous attempt at being mysterious.

It took me a lot of coffee and tea and good music to wake up properly:

One Shot
Visual Assignment 42 - One Shot

I should have read the task more carefully, though, since I missed an important point here - this set of photos doesn't really tell a story, nor does it create tension, unless you are worried about what I might write into that notebook after all the caffeine that I am about to consume.

By the way, the above set of photos were created from a single shot which looks like this:

My Favourite Things

The photo was taken in front of my holiday house in the country last spring and it shows some of my favourite things, including a Kurt Vonnegut book. As I am a proud resident of Slaughterhouse 4, I chose this picture on purpose here.

If you are wondering what music my ipod was playing at the time, wonder no more. It was my favourite group, Experience Rating. Their new album The Spiritual Equivalent of Oxygen is something I warmly recommend:

Visual Assignment 44 - An Album Cover

Then I spent some time thinking about people who really matter to me:

Love: In Three Frames
Visual Assignment 357 - Love: In Three Frames

After that, I was ready to face the world. And this time I faced it with a camera in hand.

The school where I teach is in the centre of Belgrade and the day was lovely, so I decided to attempt Visual Assignment 376. I was also influenced by several of our weekly readings, particularly by Photography as Mindful Seeing and the advice that we should take photos of ugly things and constantly search for the odd angle. What this meant for me was walking down the street and quickly shooting random photos at some really weird angles. Some of the photos were terrible, some barely usable. I chose ten of the barely usable ones and kept them just as they were. So I produced this:

Visual Assignment 376 - Mission Defamiliarize

After school, I listened to Experience Rating some more and did my Daily Create assignment. I also wrote a blog post.

It was getting rather late at night (or, shall I say, early in the morning) and I was beginning to feel hungry, so first I demotivated myself:

My Demotivational Poster
Visual Assignment 191 - Demotivate Yourself

And then I opened that fridge...


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