Archive for the ‘literacy’ Category

wonders of the modern world

August 12, 2012

I have always been interested to find out more about Otto Neurath, creator of the international picture language Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education) and one of the fathers of is called visual communication today. He was a central member of the Vienna Circle of philosophers. Almost a century ago, in the 1920s he started developing ideas about visualizing social facts, such as statistics on labour and economy in order to make complex ideas about social economics more accessible to all. Read more about Isotype and Neurath here and here.

Like so many other talented Austrians in the 1930s and 40s he had to leave the country ultimately escaping to Britain. He collaborated with designer Marie Reidemeister, who later became his wife Marie Neurath. Just as with other coupes – Paul and Ann Rand and Charles and Ray Eames come to mind – this seems to have been a very creative relationship. After Otto Neurath died in Oxford in 1945 Marie Neurath carried on with the work of the Isotype Institute. Otto Neurath started working on books for children in the 1940s, and the Isotype Institute under Marie Neurath produced many more books for children, notably several series of informational children’s books such as ‘Visual history of mankind’, ‘Wonders of the modern world’, ‘Visual science’, ‘The wonder world of nature’ and ‘They lived like this’. Marie Neurath’s work shows how Isotype, language and presentation can work together in reducing complexity in order to clearly  comunicate ideas to children, putting  ideas for visual education into practice. All materials of the Isotype Institute are now housed by Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading.

The books show Marie Neurath’s remarkable contributions: her ability to identify unusual relationships between things and ideas, and to analyze and then synthesize complex information into bite-sized chunks. Her approach to making child-friendly visual explanations included teamwork, consultation with readers, and iteration between experts in a particular field and those making visual decisions.” Read more here

 

Marie Neurath and the Isotype books.

Read also Austin Kleons blog post on The Simplest Expression of an Object.

icon poet

August 11, 2012

Icon Poet – Alle Geschichten dieser Welt | Slanted – Typo Weblog und Magazin.

36 cubes to use for storytelling or as creative writing prompt. Unfortunately they are not cheap. There are similar smaller sets available from Amazon, such as three different sets of Rory’s Story Cubes with nine cubes each.

isotype man loves the smell of napalm in the morning

August 11, 2012

Isotype Man loves the smell of napalm in the morning .

I love this use of Isotype to tell fiction. There are lots more on Timothy Donaldson’s Flickr site.

kids against clip art

August 10, 2012

Girl by maureencrosbie

language by maureencrosbie

I was so pleased when I found this collection of NOT CLIP ART illustrations posted by maureencrosbie.

“Aren’t you sick of the overuse of Clip Art? I work in schools and have always thought that children’s illustration would make a better visual contribution to posters, newsletters and council and governmental publications. Help me convert. Add your contributions. And feel free to use these for yourself copyright free . Look up “Kids against Clip Art”.

Yes, I am absolutely sick of clipart, also as it is used in hundreds of worksheets for children, used especially in Germany and Austria, and shared online by many well-meaning teachers. I understand the desire and need to create your own teaching material, but high quality illustrations are important too!

The Flickr group “Kids against Clip Art” features lots of children’s drawings, but unfortunately not many are just simple b/w drawings which can be used for photocopiable teaching resources. I have been thinking about ways of creating better clip art as educational resource for a long time, just waiting for the right time making the ideas into proper project.

baby words

August 10, 2012

A simple and sweet idea: Rainer Hoffelner created a notebook with mostly blank pages to serve as “baby dictionary.” It is meant to be used by parents for tracking the development of their child’s language and recording original and funny expressions. It must be fun to read this book together with the child once she starts getting interested in reading and writing, talking about how much she has already learned. The child could then start noting down words by herself. Published by Langenscheidt, Germany’s most prominent publisher of dictionaries.

isotype & literacy learning box

August 10, 2012



Sometimes I create teaching materials for primary school children. Usually they are in German, so not very interesting for this blog here. But this picture domino can be understood and used by all people who know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The domino follows the events in the fairy tale, based on the Grimm version. The idea is, that every child has to narrate the next bit of the story, before they put the next domino piece down. Sometimes essential details have to be filled in such as the wolf devouring grandma and the little girl, but these story elements will rarely be left out anyway. So it is an exercise in sequencing and story telling. But I think it could be fun for grown ups too.

The graphics used are mostly from http://www.thenounproject.com or in the public domain. These images have been designed in the tradition of ISOTYPE and other signs, which are forming an international visual language in their own right. (Think of the signage on airports or the Olympics.) The image of Red Riding Hood is by Emma Pelling and can be found among many other educational resources at http://www.earlylearninghq.org.uk.

I am very much interested in developing Isotype-like icons for children, to be used in the context of literacy, or rather for developing multimodal literacy. I believe that abstracted and well crafted icons can be a stepping stone to alphabetic reading, as the reader has to make inferences. They also could help to communicate very efficiently to children of all languages, for example, in games or websites or other places. Of course this is happening already to some extent – children learn to read emoticons, icons and symbols in contextual menus of games. But I am sure there is more to be achieved.

The pdf is in German. The last page is meant to be a cover for a DVD storage box. I have been thinking a long time about the most practical and efficient way to store and organize learning games in the classroom. I have come to the conclusion that empty DVD covers without the DVD tray are the most simple and elegant solution. They can be stored on a bookshelf, next to books or with other DVDs, so they can be associated with both books and games. This way they can be easily retrieved and put back to where they belong. They are cheap. The boxes shut tightly, so hopefully cards and small game tokens will not be lost too quickly. The instructions can be written on the back cover and as they are protected, they will not be lost or torn. Where appropriate, a booklet or a game plan can be included (often DVD covers have little clips to hold the booklet down). For example, the story of Red Riding Hood could be provided with this game.

I am happy to borrow, steal and promote good teaching ideas and ideas for classroom organization from wherever they come from. However, I claim to be the first to use DVD covers for literacy learning boxes! Here is the printable pdf. You are free to use it. CC: BY-NC-SA

ROTKÄPPCHEN ERZÄHLDOMINO

alphabeasties

August 9, 2012

E is for Elephant

O is for 

Great twist on the animal alphabet book.

type tales

August 7, 2012

In contrast to the previously posted rendition of Little Red Riding hood this one by  Lauren Kaiseris entirely done with stunningly expressive lettering.

little red riding hood

August 6, 2012

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge via Little red riding hood (Warja Lavater, 1965) 

This is a great take on the traditionale tale of Little Red Riding Hood  by Warja Lavater. The story has been mapped out mainly with with simple geometrical shapes, providing a new – bird’s view – perspective.

white out poem

August 6, 2012

Ich male mir den Winter by Lena 9 – Collage

This is such a sweet project from a primary school in Germany. The children used a poem  about winter by Josef Guggenmos as inspiration. A copy of the poem was glued onto a piece of paper and painted over with water colours. The poem was partially covered with opaque white. It gives the impression of snow softly covering the poem. The children only left those words and sentences they liked in particular. This reminds me of Austin Kleon’s blackout poems, these, in contrast are whiteout poems.  You can see the entire series here: “Ich male mir den Winter”

a house of dust

April 27, 2012
A house of dust
on open ground
lit by natural light
inhabited by friends and enemies
 
A house of paper

among high mountains

using natural light

inhabited by fishermen and families
 
A house of leaves
by a river
using candles

inhabited by people speaking many languages wearing little or no clothes

Here are some stanzas of a poem I came across when looking for poetry which may inspire young children to write. The simple structure of the stanzas could be used as a model, offering endless possibilities for new poems.

Then, to my surprise I realized that this may well be the first computer-generated poem. Artist Alison Knowles (b.1933) and James Tenney used programming language and word lists for a poetry project  in 1967, creating a poem of the following structure:

a house of (list material) (list location) (list light source) (list inhabitants)
in which combinations of the variables were randomly generated.

Alison Knowles’s A House of Dust is an early example of computerized poetry that plays on the unlimited possibilities of the random juxtapositions of words. To create this work, Knowles produced four word lists that were then translated into a computer language and organized into quatrains according to a random matrix. Each of the four lists contains terms that describe the attributes of a house: its materials, location, lighting, and inhabitants. The computer program imposed a nonrational ordering of subjects and ideas, generating unexpectedly humorous phrasing and imagery, such as “A house of dust, in a hot climate, using all available lighting, inhabited by all races of men represented, wearing predominantly red clothing,” or “A house of broken dishes, on the sea, using natural light, inhabited by vegetarians.”

Printed on perforated tractor-feed paper common to dot matrix printers of the time, Knowles printed out numerous pages of these phrases in the form of a long scroll. She then created a book of sorts by tearing off a block of approximately twenty pages at a time, folding it in the manner of an accordion, and placing it in a plastic pouch. Hundreds of variations of houses are possible, as every version of the poem begins and ends with a different set of quatrains. Knowles’s collaboration with the computer highlights the underlying arbitrariness of language, demonstrating how words acquire different meanings through structural relationships and shifting contexts.

via: Reinhard Döhl Computertext zur Netzkunst. Vom Bleisatz zum Hypertext. More on it in English here on Calarts, here at Kemper Art Museum and here Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities.

A couple of years ago I found some of this green and white perforated paper with some kind of “computer art” among my dad’s things.  It gave me such a weird flashback. All over a sudden, I was transported back to those days when computers and photocopiers were new and people started experimenting with their affordances. Remember the many photocopied hands and faces or other stuff, like … cats? I am digressing. Way back then, the computer paper stood for everything that was ugly, in my eyes. I like the poem and so I am reconciled with the computer paper. Now its retro.

fantastic flying books

February 8, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore 

 

Dick and Jane

January 6, 2012

Innuendo Set | Flickr – Photo Sharing!.

These Artist Trading Cards have been made by StephanieCake apparently using pictures from a 1960’s hairstying book and the words are from a 1930’s children’s reading primer. I have been researching reading primers and so I find these very funny.

 

organized crime

November 6, 2011

Many people, of course, have been aware of this for a long time, and I am not talking about conspiracy theorists. However, until recently this was never discussed in mainstream media: the fact, that real power today lies not with democratically elected politicians, but with global corporations. Here is an article regarding a recent and highly interesting study about the “the capitalist network that runs the world” published in the New Scientist.

And today Andrew Rawnsley from The Observer writes about the powerlessness of world leaders facing the economic crisis: The failure of the G20 summit has dramatically advertised the incapacity of the political elite to rise to the crisis.

Well sure, they could use the power that people have vested in them for enormous changes, if they decided to. But that would mean taking quite radical steps most politicians, I fear, are not prepared to take.

Here is a small collection of cartoons. Political cartoons, of course, are some of the most long-standing ways of using words and images combined to deliver a strong message. There is plenty more to be found in the Facebook group TRAP – The Real Art of Protest.


This one is for our son and his friends, facing difficult career choices, that is, if they have any choices, once the have left school.

missing – needed – wanted

November 6, 2011


“MISSING” “NEEDED”“WANTED” Limited Edition Screenprints”.

I have been collecting new takes on Little Red Riding Hood for years. These posters are great fun, especially the wanted poster for Mr. B.B. Wolf! The screenprints can be bought from The Yellow House on Folksy.

art and maps

November 6, 2011

“Where We’re From”

TerrorDome custom creates images of people cut out from maps mounted inside a wood shadow box. What I love about the idea is that every person is cut out from a map from the place where they spent their childhood, and the exact location will always feature just above the heart of each figure. They can be ordered through Folksy, the UK based art and craft community similar to Etsy. This reminds me of other memory maps of childhood places, Sara Fanellis My Map Book, and especially of Margaret Mackey’s inspiring work on Space, Time and Literacy, as presented on UKLA conference 2010 and 2011, where she mapped out her childhood experiences tying physical places and texts. This is from her abstract:

The concept of literacy is often represented iconically in a schematic drawing of a head, a book, and perhaps a pair of hands. But literacy is always grounded, located in a particular place and time. At the same time, our literate behaviours are suspended in a network of multiple texts and other readers. Our interpretive lives are plural; the texts that we read, watch, hear, play, create, and exchange impinge on each other; we do not interpret a single text in cognitive and affective isolation from all the others that we encounter. Often we are also affected by other interpreters of the same material.

Where are we when we engage with a fiction? We enter an imaginary, interior world – a cognitive achievement we still do not fully understand. Actively or passively, we gain membership of a community, virtual and actual, of other interpreters of this text. At the same time, we remain “earthed” in the daily lives of our own senses, our own two hands and feet, our own political position and awareness. All of these factors are woven into the ultimate achievement of interpretive understanding. This presentation will offer a rich and complex two-part picture of situated literacies: a 360° portrait of a single literate child, and a broader look at the mental and physical spaces that affect contemporary literacies.

more writing magic

October 14, 2011

by Arturo Carmassi via gramatologia 

writing is a form of magic

October 14, 2011

Anthropologist, philosopher and sleight-of-hand magician David Abram:

“Everything that we speak of as Western civilization we could speak of as alphabetic civilization. We are the culture of the alphabet, and the alphabet itself could be seen as a very potent form of magic. You know, we open up the newspaper in the morning and we focus our eyes on these little inert bits of ink on the page, and we immediately hear voices and we see visions and we experience conversations happening in other places and times. That is magic!

It’s outrageous: as soon as we look at these printed letters on the page we see what they say. They speak to us. That is not so different from a Hopi elder stepping out of her pueblo and focusing her eyes on a stone and hearing the stone speak. Or a Lakota man stepping out and seeing a spider crawling up a tree and focusing his eyes on that spider and hearing himself addressed by that spider. We do just the same thing, but we do it with our own written marks on the page. We look at them, and they speak to us. It’s an intensely concentrated form of animism. But it’s animism nonetheless, as outrageous as a talking stone.

In fact, it’s such an intense form of animism that it has effectively eclipsed all of the other forms of animistic participation in which we used to engage — with leaves, with stones, with winds. But it is still a form of magic.

….

I’m not trying to demonize the alphabet at all. I don’t think the alphabet is bad. What I’m trying to get people to realize is that it’s a very intense form of magic. And that it therefore needs to be used responsibly. I mean, it’s not by coincidence that the word “spell” has this double meaning — to arrange the letters in the right order to form a word, or to cast a magic. To spell a word, or to cast a magic spell. These two meanings were originally one and the same. In order to use this new technology, this new play of written shapes on the page, to learn to write and to read with the alphabet, was actually to learn a new form of magic, to exercise a new form of power in the world.

But it also meant casting a kind of spell on our own senses. Unless we recognize writing as a form of magic, then we will not take much care with it. It’s only when we recognize how profoundly it has altered our experience of nature and the rest of the sensory world, how profoundly it has altered our senses, that we can begin to use writing responsibly because we see how potent and profound an effect it has.”

from /www.scottlondon.com

love poem

October 14, 2011

by Marian Bantjes via  gramatologia: 

global revolution

October 8, 2011

I’m all for it. Joining in on 15 October 2011.

(again I could not locate the original source of the picture, sorry.)

better letters

September 26, 2011


better letters…in 2011

My grandfather (may he rest in peace) fell in love with a younger woman, back in the late 1940s, early 1950s – while being married and father of four young children. My uncle found out about this only a few years ago – through serendipity he got hold of some 40 passionate love letters, written by my grandfather to this young woman, who was well into her eighties by that time, and still heartbroken. I only learned about this a few days ago. There is something to be said for letters written with pen and paper. Is it likely that fifty, sixty years from now a family secret like this will be revealed, through the unexpected discovery of some cached facebook postings?

If you want to get in touch with people fond of analog letter writing, envelope stuffing and stamp licking go to Make Every Day a Good Mail Day.


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