Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Article: Global Cal Poly Pomona 2007 - 2008

April, 2007

Images of Peace: A photo essay

In 2000, the Seeds of Peace CD-ROM won the silver CINDY award for educational interactive media. Nearly eight years later two members of that original team, Karen Brzoska and myself, April McKettrick, continue to create dynamic, multimedia projects as Instructional Designers in the division of Instructional and Information Technology (I&IT).

The Seeds of Peace Project touched our hearts for many reasons but for me it is always the visuals that stay with me not only in my archives but etched in my memory as well. This project had a humanistic approach that, when combined with technology, reached the teens effectively. Working with those who have experienced generations of hatred, fear, and preconceived ideas of “the other side” was a challenge. Our approach to finding solutions was visual and interactive, breaking down barriers by showing kids how alike they were, not how different they thought they were.

Our experience began in 1999 with a trip to Maine where the camp for Seeds of Peace is located. Each year like the swallows to Capistrano, over four hundred and fifty teenagers from all over the world find their way to this remote location. Our team met up with the Seeds of Peace team to create the educational CD-ROM called “Peace in the Middle East: Empowering the Children of War to Break the Cycles of Violence.” The title alone was indicative of the challenge lying ahead of us in ‘Teaching Peace in the Middle East.’ Nevertheless, we were up for the creative challenge before us and jumped right in.

We met up with ten of the most amazing individuals that I will never forget. These children, wise beyond their years, had been raised in fear and witnessed atrocities that you can only hope your children will never have to experience. Yet here they were at this camp in hopes of finding peace, some with desires to become leaders, but all willing to create something completely unknown with strangers and all with the same goal of making a difference.

It is no surprise to me that eight years later I can still recall vivid memories of the Seeds of Peace kids and write about a project that touched my life in a way that most projects do not. As instructional designers we assess each project based on a series of criteria - but this one proved to have many obstacles. Not only did we have to gain the trust of our subject matter experts, we had to constantly keep in mind the delicacy of the content, respecting every word said with the sensitivity that was so deserved. We brought the ten teenagers to Cal Poly Pomona for the next phase of the project and engaged in sixteen dynamic days of content gathering, storyboard development and intensive multimedia workshops where Karen and Dave began to formulate the CD’s structure with the Seeds of Peace project leader.

Next, the entire team headed for the Middle East for three weeks of filming and photography. The team traveled to each of the teens’ homes where we had opportunities to meet with their families for interviews. This was an incredible time because not only did we get to experience the various cultures, but we were able to see the pride that these families had in their children and in their accomplishments.
360-degree Quick-Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) interactive movies proved to be some of my favorite elements of the finished CD-ROM because they gave the teenagers a chance to experience each other’s spaces. By using the mouse to navigate, the teens could move around each other’s bedrooms and check out elements like posters, photographs, school uniforms, and furniture. Clicking on embedded hot-spots would activate a video pop-up and the teen would talk via video about special things like a popular music group on a poster, or a school uniform being the “ugliest uniform in the whole wide world.” It was great because every kid thinks his or her uniform is the ugliest uniform in the whole wide world. Now the walls began to come down and kids started to see likenesses where before they could see only differences. The learning objects were achieving the outcomes we were hoping for as communication tools. We were beginning to break down the barriers because the kids saw their commonalities and they began to think of each other as fellow teenagers and fellow humans.

Headquartered in Jerusalem, we arranged to have the teens pair up and visit various historical locations that they chose to see and discuss, as well as take us on individual tours of some of their favorite spots. Some of these places included the Western Wall, the Masada, the Holocaust Museum, Gaza, Hebron and Petra, Jordan.

Many of the pictures in this photo essay have never been published and are some of the favorite images of my career. I hope you enjoy.

Peace doesn’t begin with deciding who is right or wrong, but with respecting one another’s views and understanding why someone else feels the way they do.

Once there is respect, there can begin to be peace.

Article: Global Cal Poly Pomona 2006 - 2007

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since our team spent eight days in Abidjan working on the Electronic Learning Network (ELN) project. Designed for participants in Winrock’s African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment program (AWLAE), the CD-ROM and internet based curriculum was designed to provide women scientists with the skills necessary to assist and educate rural women farmers.

Incorporating methodologies of storytelling, poetry, fable and song, scenarios exist within modules, allowing participants to become active learners. The users are able to follow characters as they are faced with decision-making challenges based on case studies presented throughout the CD-ROM.

Lead by former Instructional Technology and Academic Computing (ITAC) Dean, Dr. Lev Gonick, the project team consisted of Karen Brzoska, Dr. Liliane Fucaloro, Rodney Azarmi and myself, April McKettrick. At that time in my career I was campus photographer for Cal Poly Pomona and primary photographer for ITAC. My roles and responsibilities for the ELN included visual communications - all still photography to be used on the CD-ROM illustrating digital storytelling, poetry, fable and scenario.

Perhaps it is the amazing people you meet, for such a small moment in your life, that you know you will never see again. Their hospitality, their stories, and their images become etched in your memory. Or maybe it is the look in the children’s eyes. They don’t have to say a word, their eyes tell the entire story, and you realize that your life will never be the same just for meeting them. Lastly, there are the stories that you and your colleagues share that still make you laugh and reflect years later. I’ve come to a conclusion that it is the combination of all of those experiences that stays with you, year after year. Fortunately, as project photographer, long after the memories fade I will still be able to revisit these locations, the people and the experiences each time I look at my images...

Abidjan, West Africa, is very close to the equator. The extreme vivid colors, so pervasive throughout the region, still remain etched in my memory. Blue skies more blue than any I had ever seen. Greens in the landscape were saturated and lush. Plants, flowers and trees abounded with flowering rainbows of color. It was almost too much for the senses to comprehend. As a photographer trying to document the area and create a collection of images for the project, it was difficult deciding what to capture on film; every object, person and place was a candidate for an artist’s canvas.

This photo essay is from one of our many destinations - Yamoussoukro, the capital of the Ivory Co

ast. There we saw the only “wildlife” during our entire stay in Africa – crocodiles. These particular ones are kept in a lake and

just outside of the main city, situated on a large parcel of land is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.

The basilica is the largest and tallest place of worship in Africa. With a cross atop its massive dome, at five hundred and eighteen feet tall the basilica can be seen for miles. In the outer regions before entering the basilica, two of the locals stopped to have their photo taken while the structure of the basilica and its elaborate fencing served as backdrops. A very weak fence gives you a false sense of security, but I did manage to get close-ups of these massive reptiles.

From an artist’s perspective it is an amazing architectural structure. The inside is breathtaking; when the sun hits the stain glass windows at just the right angles, rays of colored light dance across the deep, dark wood pews that radiate in circular patterns from the center. Doors open out leaving more natural light in, creating depth and perspective.

On the particular day we visited, the voices of young children practicing in the choir echoed throughout the basilica. As with everything else I experienced during my short journey in Africa, the moment was overwhelming. The outside is impressive with domes, ornament, arches and crosses, while the inner structure is vibrant, alive with colors, shadows and shapes. Sculptures, carvings, columns, arches and Italian imported marble fill the interior of the church with a surface that totals 30,000 m².

Yet in the midst of something that is so beautiful and architecturally grand, an underlying controversy exists. The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is built in a location where many in the society live in poverty. Despite the conditions of the people, the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, had seemingly wanted to create the greatest church in the world. In 1989, at the cost of three hundred million (US dollars), he achieved his dream. The cost, doubling Côte d'Ivoire’s national debt, put the basilica into the Guinness World Records as the largest church in the world.

Article: In Celebration of Teaching and Learning

January 28, 2000

Earlier in this decade, my role at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona as the University Photographer, began to expand into project management. This first project that I was assigned to project manage was a table-top type book that incorporated photography of our technology savvy faculty. Using a Hassleblad camera, I took black & white studio photographs of selected faculty incorporating into the photographs a secondary element that was reflective of who they are, their teaching style, or a technology component. An unveiling ceremony was held to celebrate the book, the faculty who participated in the project and the staff involved in the production of the showcase piece.

Article: Industrial Photography

April 1, 1993

During the nine years that I worked for the Lockheed corporation, I had amazing opportunities to photograph some of the most prestigious aircraft in the world. Some of my most favorite moments included photographing the record breaking flight of the SR-71, the homecoming of Desert Storm’s F-117’s, and the debut of the F-22. Many of the photographs that I captured were published in aviation publications around the world, but occasionally I was given the chance to write articles to accompany my photographs.

In April of 1993, Industrial Photography published my article on “Lighting at Lockheed.”

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Video as an Educational Tool

We all know how video contributes to the entertainment industry.  Movies can make people laugh, cry, scream and yes, even learn.  It used to be that “learning” movies were only found on Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS).  Nowadays the quality of those educational videos has changed with the times.  Multiple channels now exist for the mere purpose of learning.  Home and garden, food networks, and history channels are just a few of the varieties of learning channels that are geared toward the recliner learner.  With their feet up, snacks nearby and a remote to surf the many channels, populations are gaining knowledge in their pajamas as filmmakers produce informative, engaging videos. 

If the television wasn’t a sufficient medium for viewing the world’s content, the internet filled any existing need.  You Tube brought a whole new way of sharing video content to the global community.  With a simple upload anyone with video capturing capabilities can now be a producer of video content.  As with all internet resources, content found on the world wide web needs to be viewed with discretion and reviewed for validity. 

In the university setting, videos are an integral tool for many educators.  Often a teaching concept is captured best through a visual medium such as video.  Some classes are dedicated to the production of educational video content.  In GED 575 - DVD Production, a Masters in Education elective course, students are paired up and given the assignment to create a final project video during the ten-week quarter.  My class partner and I had an opportunity to work with the city of San Dimas to create an educational video dedicated to the topic of “properly planting trees.”  The beginning process to our video production was scripting, storyboarding, and scouting .  Next we used high-end professional video cameras, to capture multiple scenes on mini-DV tapes.  Capturing and editing in

 Apple’s Final Cut Pro, the many hours of video were cut down to nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds since a You Tube video posting must be under ten minutes. 

“Trees Please” effectively conveyed the message of tree importance, city commitment, community involvement, and proper planting of trees.   

With a successful video project and an “A” grade, my video partner and I were honored on March 10, 2009 during a City of San Dimas City Council meeting with a Certificate of Appreciate for the creation of “Trees Please” an educational video for the San Dimas Parks and Recreation Department.  Local school children featured in the video production filled the audience with their proud parents who thanked us following the presentation for including their children in the city’s new educational content. 

The video can also be found at sandimas.net. 


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Virtual Field Trips (VFTs)

Virtual field trip? If you’ve never heard the term, you might be wondering just what exactly a virtual field trip (or VFT for short) is all about?

Imagine having an abundance of topic related resources contained and accessible in one space.  These resources could be teleconferencing with subject matter experts, videos, images, scholarly web links, text documents, graphics, animations or a variety of learning objects.  The commonality of these resources is their relationship to a specific topic; for instance, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park,the Aurora Borealis, the solar system, rainbows, etc… Get the idea? The sky is the limit for VFT topics. 

Elementary and middle schools are finding VFT’s to be especially effective classroom tools.  A recent article on virtual technology reports that middle school students at Hadley-Luzerne Central School, “learned about segregation by connecting with members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of blacks who in 1957 were prevented from entering the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School. The group was in Little Rock, Ark., when they met over the Internet with the Hadley-Luzerne students.”  This is an excellent example of how students can interact with the world without ever leaving the classroom.  Students are given opportunities to interact and exchange dialogue, questions, concerns and commentaries with researchers, personalities, and subject matter experts (SMEs) worldwide. 

Aside from the advantages that are opened up through virtual travel, today’s economy is yet another incentive for creating virtual field trips for the classroom.  Expenses of traditional field trips including bus rentals, drivers and rising fuel costs has already eliminated the field trip experience for many school districts.

Students at a Palm Desert elementary school are exploring the tide pools and marine environment of Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach without any freeway travel. "It's just really expensive to go on field trips," says Desert Sands Unified's technology project teacher Cyndi Furr. With growing budget cuts affecting field trips, “the Park’s Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORT Program) allows students to explore a variety of state parks for free.” There are no entrance fees to parks and museums and no fuel costs.

The budget in Fayette County, Pennsylvania hasn’t stood in the way of their students traveling the world through video conferencing. “As recession-strapped school districts trim their budget, virtual field trips are becoming more and more popular,” reports Amy Crawford of the Pittsburg Tribune-Review in an article on virtual trips for students.

Higher education is finding effective usage through VFT’s in multiple disciplines.  At the University of Arkansas virtual field trips are improving undergraduate education.  “Despite their educational value, economics and logistics have greatly reduced or eliminated the ability of instructors of greenhouse management and controlled environment agriculture to use field trips or on-site visits as educational tools…VFT's will provide a cost-effective alternative to field trips and improving learning with results of this project being enhanced learning for students in greenhouse management and controlled environment agriculture” (Evans, M. R. Cavins, T. J. Kuehny, J. S. Harkess, R. L. Greer, R. L.).




Thursday, May 28, 2009

Virtual Reality (VR)

Often when you hear the term "virtual reality" visions of helmet clad, gloved individuals interacting with multi-dimensional objects comes to mind. While that is one version of immersive virtual reality, I would like to focus today's discussion on the desktop version of virtual reality (VR).  

To create a VR, a series of photographs are stitched together.  The photos can be taken either on film or in digital format, but if film is used the negatives need to be scanned and then saved in a digital format.  Digital is much easier - trust me! I have created them both ways.  

I first started creating VR's a dozen years ago when I came to Cal Poly Pomona as the University Photographer.  The technology was extremely new. In fact, Apple had began developing QTVR's only three years earlier.  The first QuickTime VR (QTVR) was created in 1994. Apple is the forefather of panoramic technology.  Apple's QuickTime Authoring Studio was an early software used to stitch together images creating a panoramic photograph that would then be exported to a .mov format.  This interactive movie allowed users to move about within a 360• environment by using a mouse or directional keys.  Embedded "hotspots" allowed users to explore an environment, watching for the mouse to change shape indicating that something special might occur if they clicked the mouse to engage the content.  

VR technology has evolved in many ways through the years and the VR has found it's way into many facets of our lives.  Hotels and cruise ships utilize VR's to show their future patrons what their rooms might look like.  Realtor's began using VR's to better show the homes of their clients to potential buyers. With a "next best thing to being there" feel, the VR has served as a substitute, a surrogate of sorts, for those who wish to see something, experience something or travel without traveling.  

In education, VR technology presents a potential for experiencing the world without ever having students leave their computer desk.  The impact for such technology is tremendous.  Given the economic crisis that the nation is currently experiencing, VR's incorporated into virtual field trips (VFTs) significantly reduce costs of traditional field trips but offer engaging opportunities for students to be in charge of their own exploration and learning.  

VR's in a Higher Education Environment

At Cal Poly Pomona VR's have been implemented in a variety of projects:

In 2002, a team of Instructional Designers at Cal Poly Pomona were selected to work with faculty from the College of Science and students and from iPoly High School.  The resulting learning unit, Science as a Catalyst for Lifelong Learning, was featured on the new Apple Learning Interchange.  A key multimedia element on this project was the innovative use of 360• VR's.  The VRs  were linked to videos that were taken of students and faculty in the class discussing key elements.  

In 2003, the Instructional Design Studio at Cal Poly Pomona created a recruitment CD for the University called Choosing the Right University which incorporated a series of VR's into the content.  The VR's were designed to give potential freshman students an idea of what the campus looked like from an interactive perspective.