Learning Process: Art, Yoga, and Programming

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and a lot has happened.  I plan to write a few posts about my plans for next year, especially regarding assessment and PBL. But first I have to write about a project I’ve been working on and some connections I’ve made.

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DAY 54

So I’ve been making sketches like the one above using the programming language Processing every day for the last 54 days. I started it as part of #the100dayproject (follow that tag on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and you can check out lots of people’s awesome art projects) and I tag everything #owenprocess if you wanna check mine out.

Many connections between art and programming have become super obvious to me.  I think a similar project will be a great way to lead students to make these same connections for themselves. The simplest example I guess is the connection between the tools you are best at using (or like the most) and the art that you produce. As I learn more about what is possible in the Processing language, I make more interesting sketches (to me anyway 🙂 ).

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DAY 26

But the connections to my yoga practice have been way more striking and came as a complete surprise. Ok so, a few months before I started this art/programming project, I started learning the Ashtanga primary series. I started going to classes with two amazing teachers who showed me the first part of the series and I also started practicing on my own outside of class more often. Doing the same series of poses each time I practice feels right to me. It’s like I am starting from scratch and building something. This is the first connection. Every day at some point, I go to my computer and look at this:

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Then I start by writing some of the code I’ll need to draw something on the canvas:

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This also feels right to me. It feels like I am starting from scratch and building something one piece at a time. And it is exactly the same comfortable feeling I get when I come to Samasthiti (sama = same, equal / sthiti = to establish, to stand).

Tadasana_Mountain

Pictured: not me

In both of these states, I usually have an idea of where I am going next. In Processing, I’ll create the canvas and then start choosing and adding colors to it. In yoga, I’ll complete 3 cycles each of sun salutations A and B. In both cases it feels like I am building a base, a foundation on which to build more. And so I do. I learn more functions and methods in Processing and then I can make new types of sketches and interactions. But I try not to implement anything if I don’t understand what it is doing. The same goes for my progress in yoga. With the help of my teachers, I add new asanas only when I am ready for them, when I feel like I understand the purpose of the posture (what it is intended to do).

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Image credit: samasthitistudio.net

Another connection I see is abstraction. My computer performs billions of operations per second, so there is no way I’d be able to keep up if I had to pay attention to all of them. So in my interactions with the machine I need to be at a higher level of abstraction to get anything done. For example, I can type in size(600, 600); and the machine knows I want a canvas that is 600 x 600 pixels. I don’t have to tell it every step involved in how to do this (there are a lot); it already knows and it just does it.  In yoga, I am also moving to higher levels of abstraction by memorizing the postures and the sequence. For example, say I want to move into upward facing dog. There are lots of things my brain needs to tell my body to do. Feet pressed into the mat, legs up, shoulders back, chest forward, … But now that I’ve been doing it for a while I just do it. It’s like I’m calling the “upward facing dog” function and it just runs.

There is definitely more I need to write about, but I am at a training for the computer science course I’ll be teaching next year so I have homework to do! Here’s one more before I go, and don’t forget to check out #the100dayproject to see tons of really great stuff being created every day!

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DAY 20 #owenprocess

 

I’m Terrible At Following a Design Process: Why It Matters

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I just got back from my first Project Lead the Way (PLTW) training so I can teach the Intro to Engineering Design class in the fall. It was an awesome experience! A full 2 weeks of draining 12-hour-day, dreaming-about-3D-models kind of awesome. 😉

I learned way too much to talk about in one post, but don’t worry I plan to blog weekly this year so I’ll get to everything eventually. For this first reflection, I wanted to talk about one of my big takeaways. I learned that I’m bad at following a design process and it’s kind of a big deal. First, here’s the design process we used (we’ll use this one in the class too):

1.) Define the problem

2.) Generate concepts

3.) Develop a solution

4.) Construct and test a prototype

5.) Evaluate the solution

6.) Present the solution

So, why am I bad at following the process? Seems pretty simple, right? And what am I even basing this evaluation on? Lemme explain.

One of the first design challenges was to design and build a machine to fling a cotton ball as far as possible. We only had about 15 minutes, so my partner and I went right to work prototyping. We made a catapult-like thing (because duh! the challenge is called “fling machine”, how else would we make it?). Here’s a sketch we made and our completed masterpiece:

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Turns out our design was THE WORST. I mean like by a lot. Our cotton ball hardly went anywhere. The clear winner in the design department was the slingshot.

And that’s why it matters that we skipped the brainstorming and concept development that we were supposed to do first. We thought, “no big deal, let’s get this thing done” and “that group over there just talking is never gonna finish”. But those groups were the ones that came up with the slingshot idea and won the challenge! Stuff like this:

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But my lesson learning on this topic was not done. Oh no! Our last project was a virtual design challenge, so called because we were each paired up with another trainee from Kentucky (I’m in Louisiana). So my partner and I met up through Skype and we decided to design a locker organization system for high school students. Now, had I learned my lesson in the fling machine challenge I would have insisted that we brainstorm ideas and then sketch several concepts before deciding on a solution and beginning to develop a product. But I had not. And I guess she hadn’t either because what we did instead was immediately decide on a design and split up the parts to be modeled. While this division of labor proved to work nicely in terms of getting things done, and our end product was actually pretty good this time (as opposed to the fling machine disaster), we missed an opportunity to innovate! We could have made next generation locker organization products that change the world. Instead we made a shelf and some bins (booorrriinngg!!!).

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And that’s why the design process matters. Using it as a guide, you can see where you might make improvements in your workflow and/or problem solving. For me right now, it seems I can improve on the first few steps. I need to learn to brainstorm better and to slow down and let ideas simmer for a bit before rushing straight to the prototype.