Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Thinking Object’

Malice is in the Eye of the Beholder

July 8th, 2009

We all know the story of Cinderella, the classic fairy tale of rags to riches. But I’m sure most of us have never stopped to think about why this story continues to be read to children around the world, the complexity of the characters, and the social messages that you can extrapolate from it. The illustrations alone in Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story retold by Lynn Roberts and illustrated by David Roberts, tell a compelling story of a battle of class, gender and belief systems.

The social themes underlying the art deco version of Cinderella are important to take note of in analysing the characters, because it is the underlying socio-cultural themes that reveal their complexity. In interpreting the characters motives and actions, it becomes clear that Cinderella and her step-family are far from moral opposites because they are ultimately pursuing the same agenda by the same set of cultural rules and norms.

Briefly speaking, Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story is set in a society in which women are objects whose value is determined by the men in their lives. They are not valued for their hard work or intelligence, but as a physical manifestation of a man’s material wealth. Therefore women are concerned with men, beauty, and fashion, as they play an important role as signs of class distinction and social status. The material objects in the illustrations are important signs of this relationship.

This thinking object evolved out of a previous thinking object based on Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story, titled How much is Cinderella’s father to blame for her situation? which provided students with a framework to analyse the moral ambiguity of the father character.

Because of the complexity of the imagery, it makes rich material for students to analyse as an exercise in visual literacy. The resource we have developed allows them to critically explore the subjective truths we are presented within the story of Cinderella, of a narrative of good vs. evil,  by asking ” How malicious is Cinderella’s stepfamily?” and “How much is Cinderella to blame for the bad situation she finds herself in?

A framework for the analysis of the images is provided. It allows students to address these questions and look at the ambiguity of Cinderella and the stepfamily’s characters – characters whose morality is usually assumed. Life is never as simple as good vs. bad. The question is why and what makes them behave the way they do, and how is this information conveyed in the imagery and constructed through interpretation.

I’m aware that is this is a visual analysis thinking object – without the illustrations – (for some reason copyright prohibits me putting the book online). But due to the pervasiveness of the story of Cinderella I hope that it provides you with an interesting idea of how to critically analyse imagery with students, in encouraging a subjective interpretative process.

Please feel free to post any feedback you may have regarding this thinking object as a resource. And if your work at NZCER you are welcome to borrow a copy to look over with the thinking object.

Shifting literacies , , , , , , , , ,

Responding to change and uncertainty

June 24th, 2009

In a recent Teachers Work project we provided a small group of teachers with a professional learning experience that aimed to encourage them to become more conscious of their existing tacit beliefs about education. In this project we noticed that despite the similarities between what the different teachers said about this professional development,  the teachers seemed to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity in a  range of ways.  This made us wonder about  the personal and biographical factors that influence how different individuals respond to change. We tried an activity with the teachers based on the Thinking Object: Change and Growth.  When reflecting on change in their own lives most of the teachers mentioned a “sense of belonging” or at least the support of others (both within and outside school) as being important factors that influenced how easily they coped with change.

It seems to me we talk quite a lot about the importance of students feeling a “sense of belonging” to school but maybe this is just as important for staff. Do we create learning environments where teachers (as well as students) feel they belong – so that they are secure enough to be able to take risks, try out new things, be open to new ideas? What are the factors that encourage risk taking and innovation? What are the best ways to support teachers (who after all have been conditioned by 20th Century ideas about schools) to try out new ideas and model the sorts of learning behaviours we want for our students?

Teachers' work , , ,

Participating and contributing: a new thinking object

June 19th, 2009

I’ve just uploaded a new thinking object. It’s a “scenario card” from NZCER’s newest KickStart on Key Competencies resource series. (The full resource is available on the NZCER website )

The KickStart resource is designed to stimulate conversations and discussions in staffrooms and classrooms about the meaning of “participating and contributing” – one of five key competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum. Among other things, the resource pack includes a set of 14 “Scenario Cards”. Each contains a small story designed to elicit  discussion.

The stories are fictional, but many are based on things we have seen and experienced ourselves in schools we have worked or researched in. There are stories from both primary and secondary school contexts. Many of the stories contain some kind of dilemma or “twist”. The idea is that by discussing these stories, people will start to see both the complexity and opportunity inherent in a key competency like participating and contributing, as well as how it could fit into school life in different ways and times.

Guess what! We’ve chosen one of the 14 scenario cards to give you, lucky readers, as a freebie!

This particular scenario card tells the story of a teacher who asked two year 10 students  how they think they participate and contribute in their school.  The students begin by talking about various things they do at school, like helping to clean up rubbish, but end up having an interesting little debate about whether or not the subjects they learn have anything to do with participating and contributing.

At the end of the story, we’ve put some questions to discuss.

Would you like to discuss this thinking object with us? Yes? Great!

You can view the scenario card here.  Please post your comments below. (And if you’ve already used the full Kickstart on Participating and Contributing resource in your school, we’d love to hear how you used it and what happened!)

Shifting schooling , , , ,

The Good, the Bad, and the Ambiguous

May 12th, 2009

For a long time I’ve been thinking about the fiction read in primary classrooms – in particular about characterisation. Overwhelmingly, if characters are morally ambiguous in any way they tend to have come right by the end of the story – “I used to think my brother was a bit of a loser but now I realise he’s kinda cool” sort of thing. But what is there to say about a character like this? The “reformed character” theme has been spelt out for the reader; there’s no work left for them to do because any indeterminacy present at the beginning has been neatly removed by the end – presumably because the writer and/or publisher thinks kids can’t handle moral ambiguity. Our research, in contrast, suggests not only can kids handle indeterminacy, but their thinking becomes deeper and more complex as a result of engaging with it.

Our research (The Lifelong Literacy project funded by the Cognition Education Research Trust) includes an exploration of kids’ meaning making of morally ambiguous characters. One of the teachers we are working with chose the father in Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story because in this version of the story he doesn’t just have “goody” or “baddy” status – he has both. We have provided a brief outline of the teacher’s first lesson in the Thinking Object: How much is Cinderella’s father to blame for her situation? In this resource we briefly describe the support given to the teacher prior to the lesson, and the teacher’s and researchers’ thinking about why the lesson was so successful.

It’s our hope that you will take a look at the Thinking Object and leave comments about how useful you think a resource like this might be for classroom teachers and teacher educators. In effect, your comments will provide an informal review and will help us to refine the design of future resources of this type.

Click here for a pdf version of the Thinking Object.

Shifting literacies , , ,