Friday, June 12, 2009

Liveblog: Marco Torres at the New Media Consortium conference

This morning I'm live blogging a talk by Marco Torres called "It's Not about Clicking and Dragging! It's Not about Blogging, Podcasting, Web 2.0'in." Again, as with the Kathy Sierra talk (see previous post), I'll be taking notes and reporting during the talk, and I'll be adding notes later.

Torres starts with a demo. Rule 1: Randomly hit black keys and you can't mess up, as long as you stay with a rhythm. He does this using a small keyboard in GarageBand.

The area of media we talk least about is music. He said he was in Australia recently, and 80 percent of the (independent?) films he saw had copyright violations with their music.

(He plays some notes.)

Torres takes a very mathematical approach to teaching, meaning he prefers the GarageBand keyboard view instead of the musical staff view.

Torres uses an oscilloscope on his iPhone to see the waves of notes to demonstrate dissonance. He plays a perfect fourth ("That's Free Willy!) and then the half-step interval of Jaws. One says "Climb aboard, I'll take you there." The other says "Swim away NOW!"

Torres created a really nice demo on Garageband, mixing grand piano, orchestral strings, and Mexican guitarron, then switching these out with with some Chinese zither and Chinese erhu violin. He then adds some beats, copies the earlier grand piano track, moves it up an octave and switches it to Chinese guitar and adds some hip-hop beats. It sounds pretty awesome as the opening soundtrack for a movie. Impressive! I'll definitely have to play around with GarageBand later.

Torres's mother was an accomplished photographer. He talks about how difficult photography, especially large-format photography, used to be, and yet how cool it felt to actually create something. Photography became very important to Torres.

Another important part of his past is two uncles who creates some of the worst movies every to come out of Mexico--movies about Mexican wrestlers solving the world's problems, incuding vampires and drug cartels.

In movie making, the people involved often have no idea what the other people working on the film are doing. He began to think about the value of a story, especially in education. Stories make stuff have a purpose, rather than making stuff the purpose.

Visuals are powerful. People tend to remember powerful events in images--the Kennedy assassination, Rodney King beating, Challenger explosion, etc. In talking with teachers, he's never had anyone remember something powerful in terms of something they read--it was always in terms of sensory data--what they saw, what they heard.

Torres asked students (age 14-16) what they need to receive, create, produce, and broadcast information. Principals are influential in what students can receive, create, produce, and broadcast in schools. But when the average principal (average age late 40s to early 50s) was in school, there were far fewer ways to receive, create, produce, and broadcast information. Are we limiting our students to pen and paper when there are so many more rich channels?

Torres cites times in his life when he knew the content and context of the subject he was presenting really well, but he was nervous or uncomfortable with their delivery.

We let IT people write policy in education. They often determine which technologies teachers will use and to which technologies students will have access.

The learner is more than a recipient of information.

A student's preferred receptive and productive modalities may not be the same. You can be an auditory learner/receiver and a visual or kinesthetic producer.

We have easy access to information that it used to be difficult to access (he cites the iPhone app CongressPlus).

Torres asked the social studies teachers at a school what makes them an expert. After listening to each of them speak in turn, he asked if he could learn all the information they knew by using Google.

Story: Torres was listening to people debate whether Jeremiah Wright hated white people. Torres downloaded Wright's talk, hooked up a splitter to his earbuds, gave each women a pair of earbuds, and let them listen to the talk. One of the women later turned around and said, "Remind me never to debate anyone with an iPhone."

Ask 9th to 12th graders what they think of school, and the overwhelming answer is "boring."

Torres cites Alton Brown (of Good Eats) as someone who does a really good job at reaching this group. The develops the math, science, and history behind something, and he delivers it with emotional impact. Torres asked Brown's people how they develop a show, and they said, "Oh, we do it just like you educators do." And Torres sighed and said uneasily, "Yeah, sure we do."

(Graph coming soon. (Note to self--red, blue, and yellow))

Mythbusters is also about watching people learn. They're not teaching; they're learning. That makes a huge difference. Ninth graders want to see the process, not just the results.

The learning part is easy. The thing that gets in the way is schooling.

The demand for skills has changed. Schooling gets in the way of developing the higher cognitive skills. Schooling is linear; learning is networked.

Games today, like Call of Duty, can take a kid 30 minutes to explain. Torres: "It didn't take me 20 minutes to explain Frogger.

Fans have changed how Lost has been written. With DVR technology, online forums, wikis, interactive maps, blogs, etc., the viewers are able to analyze the show very carefully. People are debating each other in their native--and different--languages (e.g. Dutch vs. Spanish). Lost is really difficult to explain to a nonviewer. Fans are participants and learners.

Can we get this same kind of learning environment in the classroom and at schools? Lost's writers aren't having curriculum meetings.

When today's principals and educators were growing up, Gilligan's Island was a pretty typical show, and the kind of testing is similar: "Was there a scientist on board?" "True or False: Maryanne and Ginger were best friends." Lost viewers don't care about these kinds of questions.

Torres tells a story of one of his students, David, who was pulled out of school at age 11 by his father to play in cantinas in Mexico for additional income. David is back in school and can play five instruments and sing. Torres: "David, you're your own mariachi band." Torres called on David to provide soundtracks for documentaries and films he was making. David remade the Star Wars songs--after watching the movies for the first time--as mariachi songs. Torres played some clips--they're awesome. (Just imagine the Star Wars march, the Cantina song, or the Imperial March as played by a mariachi band--it's terrific.)

Torres: If I had given David just the option of text or numbers--that wasn't his medium. That's not how he produced information. In fact, David wasn't even allowed to play in the high school orchestra because he didn't play the music the music director. John Williams send the hand score from the original Star Wars film to David, saying he liked David's version the best. After hearing him play, George Lucas even hired David.

Torres's links:
Challenge-Based Learning
Flick School
student films

1 comment:

Bardiac said...

Wow, lots and lots of information in these talks.

Sounds overwhelming to process.