Foundation of Building a Community of Learners

Flag  The majority of participants in RRR program are veteran teachers.  Most of them are master teachers, as well.  Preparing a conference for master teachers can be a daunting task.  We always keep the learners in mind as we prepare.  We always try to model best practice.

Believing that everyone in the group has something to teach the others is a foundation  block for building a community of learners.  As a member of the design team for the RRR Summer Institute 2008, I try to base my sessions on that belief.  In a traditional beginning to the session on photography,  the presenter might focus on themselves.  The presenter might show his/her own photographs, cite awards won, and dump everything known on the participants.

Instead, each participant wrote the best piece of advice for taking photographs.  They wrote with magic markers on a 3" x 4" peel and stick paper. Participants read the response, and then posted it one of two tag board sheets at the front of the room…one for camera advice and one for photographer advice.

The size of the paper is important, because it limits the amount the individual can write.  Peel and stick paper is important, because it eliminates problems with tape.  Using markers forces participant to write big.  Walking to the tag board to post is important, because brain-based learning teaches that the act of standing sends 10% more blood to the brain, helping the participants to stay alert and facilitating their learning from each other.

Here is the complete list of the responses:

Advice to Ourselves

FOCUS, Grasshopper

Take a lot of shots and don’t “fall in love” with any picture

Your best shot isn’t always your first one

Look at the entire image within the frame

Always look at the entire picture to make sure you have the result you want

Pause before you take the picture to make sure the shot looks as you expect

Frame the picture

Consider the background

Look at texture, contrast, vague detail in the background

What is your intention?

Lighting, lighting lighting

Watch for back lighting.

Keep the sun behind you

Keep your finger off the lens

Keep your thumb out of the way

Hold your arms from pits to elbow at your they are glued and don’t breathe until shot is complete

Do not pose your subjects

Picture should tell a story

Remember the composition of thirds

Put your subject slightly off center

Center your subject begin sure that you have not cut off heads

Know how to work the zoom

Want a better picture?  Get closer.

Select one subject to focus on.  Do not try to cram multiple things in your picture

Many, many shots will be ho hum.  1 or 2 will be WOWWEEE

Operating the Camera

Take the lens cap off

Make sure batteries are charged

Take extra batteries with you

Make sure you use the flash in a dark area

This structure did not give the presenter the opportunity to share award-winning photographs.  Instead, each participant reviews what s/he already knows about taking a good photo.

In second half of the 60 minute session I showed work of famous contemporary photographers.  Participants saw work of William Weggman, Sandy Skoglund, Robert Mapplethorp, Annie Leibowitz, and Lauren Greenfield.  They learned three steps of art criticism: Describe, Interpret, Criticize.



Off they went to capture an image on the Case Western Reserve Campus that reflected their own personal landscape. 

You can see those images and what they wrote on the Tumblr site.