#1133 Education Information through Daydreaming

My wife found me standing motionless on our back deck staring at the half built tree house in our back yard. “What’s going on?” she whispered. I was absorbed in the creative process of the design/development of the tree house.

While I have a loose plan in my brain, the design process consumes a lot of creative energy and time to develop the next stages of the project. The process is influenced by research, engineer friends and serendipitous time that allows ideas to percolate.

I’ve used meandering mind process throughout my life while creating:
• stock imagery for the photo stock market
building cameras and developing art projects
• developing lesson / unit plans for students
• exploring my passions and path in education.

treehouse design

Creative play = new ideas

Quiet time with freedom to wander in thought has allowed for many breakthroughs in history.

I often spend time roaming the forest on skis, bikes or on foot and magnificent ideas often present themselves. Sometimes internet meandering opens doors, too. Below are some recent web wanderings in education:

Democratic Learning
People learn well when they are interested in what they are learning. Often I see students in class acting out or staring at the ceiling because they aren’t remotely interested in the lesson on the board. Last week I taught a challenging class with many characters who did not want to be there. In gym I asked what they wanted to do: “Floor hockey, basketball, hula hoops…” So that’s what we did. It was the easiest class of the day – students were engaged (and learning) because they had input and interest.

The Power of Outdoor Learning
I teach, part time, for Chelsea Forest School. We’re outside almost all the time. Students are learning at their own pace in ideas that interest them. It’s magical. I’m sometimes surprised at the learning that takes place when the students lead the learning – my job is to build the curriculum around their interests… I recently asked a traditional kindergarten teacher if she saw any changes in her students after they visited Forest School once a week for six weeks – “Oh yes! Their creativity grows…”

Better Behaviour Management
I often see “undesireable” behavious in elementary students. Understanding and changing the behaviour effectively takes patience and big listening ears. A year or so ago a Grade 4 boy refused to go out for recess. With lots of listening and gentle questions the real reason for his misbehaviour became clear – he was feeling uncomfortable around an overbearing boy at recesses. Connecting with the school support team, parents and addressing the boys’ actions helped resolve the situation while helping everyone save face.

So much to learn!
Our tree house grows, slowly, as I daydream the design. My teaching practice (and photo projects) continue to flourish as my mind wanders…

#1128 – Recent Photo Teaching!

I changed directions a few years ago – more toward traditional teaching but I still get requests to teach one-on-one or small photo classes.

This fall I taught my most popular classes to individuals who came knocking. I spent a half day with each person covering Creative Fundamentals and Natural Light Portraits.

portraits

Portrait photography course © Chris Payant.

Creative Fundamentals began inside a beautiful building and we ventured outside to explore some of central Ottawa’s visual appeal.

For Natural Light Portraits Chris practiced on the teacher preparing for an actor to come and “model” for her camera.

portrait photo class

Portraits © Chris Payant

I cannot thank you enough for the session yesterday.  I learned so much and I had fun! You certainly know how to challenge me just enough and you are a gifted teacher. I sent some sneak peaks to [the model] and she is thrilled!

Smiles all around!
A big thanks to everyone for the fun!

#1127 Curiosity, Passion and Learning.

I have vivid memories of my early schooling days.

I worked hard to get on the school honour role…  but never achieved it. I took courses because they were a “good idea,” not because they interested me. My first university degree was in finance and economics – a good career path – but not for me. Every day was un-inspiring. I obtained my first degree in a lack-lustre way.

The schools I attended and the courses I took were well respected. The problem, I now realize, was the approach I took to education. I did not look to my passions for guidance.

passionate learning

Passion leads to learning – if you enjoy what you’re doing,  it’s easy!

Passion
Once I started pursuing what actually interested me I performed at a much higher level. A trend emerged when I pursued my passions:

Arts/photography. I didn’t go to school for arts / photo but as far back as I remember I loved drawing, photographing, creating. I started a business.
I worked crazy hours producing commercial art. It didn’t feel like work. Before technology transformed the industry success developed through enthusiastic hard work. My best photo sale? A car driving up a city street in a Go-Pro style (before Go-Pro existed) licensed for $32,000 – and that was almost 20 years ago. Not bad for a self taught career based on passion.

• Creative/Innovation. I got excited about two interesting photo processes that required acquiring a big camera that I could not afford. I built the camera instead and needed to learn math/physics of focusing to make it work. Math and physics never excited me before but I loved the whole camera design/building process including the math. Math became important to my art! Watershed / Sunstreaks continue to flourish.

large format camera

Learning math and science through art – building a large format camera.

• Teaching. I went back to school in recent years for a Bachelor of Education. Taking a year to go back to school in my forties with a young family was an expensive luxury. I focused on learning as much about learning/teaching/development as my head could hold. I told myself I didn’t care about marks. That didn’t seem to matter. My passion led to Magna Cum Laude (high marks.)

I recognized a correlation. For me, success depended more on passion than blind perseverance. Passion led to knowledge that led to success in some form.

Learner-Led Learning
I’ve been investigating different ideas in education. One that speaks strongly to me (and supports passion in education) is “Emergent Education” or the idea of leader-led learning.

In traditional schools, students are presented what to learn. Current practices urge teachers to develop engaging ways to teach so that all students will consume the knowledge. Engaging all in direct or deductive learning can be hard to do with a large group.

In one of my elementary English classes students wrote a standardized exam. One of my very capable (and spunky) students had no interest in the creative writing component of the exam. What she did write earned her a failing mark on that part of the exam… despite her capabilities. If she had been allowed to produce a language assignment that interested her for the evaluation, her marks would have been better!

inquiry based learning

It’s easier when it’s interesting! Intrigue and inquiry based learning make learning easier…

In an inductive (learner-led) learning scenario students are supported, guided and evaluated based on their passions. Music? Computer coding/web development? Horses? The curriculum is built around student’s interests.

Criticism
Some opponents to inductive learning suggest that the students using this approach will miss important aspects of a well-rounded education. Remember my mention (above) of building a camera while I pursued my arts passion? To succeed I had to design and build the box camera using physics (focusing) and math (geometry.) When my goal was an arts project the math learning became more successful because it was interesting for me.

All-encompassing
• Music involves math.
• Learning about coding and web incorporates syntax and language skills.
• Horses can pull students into reading, writing, science, math, physical education.

In my classroom, when facilitating a lesson that draws on more than one core subject (cross-curricular teaching), I sometimes abruptly stop the class and ask “Is this math… or art?”

Deductive vs Inductive Learning – Summarized.
The traditional school approach is often based on a deductive or direct approach to teaching. Material is presented and students are expected to learn through different activities and platforms. This approach works for many students and can produce excellent results.

A new (but very old) approach is growing and supports people in different ways. The “emergent” or inductive approach to education differs in that students lead the learning and the curriculum is built around their passions.

More organizations are using this learner-led model to teach. The theory is old. Historically, people learned by pursuing what interested them. People are naturally curious and naturally seek the appropriate skills to succeed. This usually involves concepts of math, language, science and arts that fit their passions. With the right steps and support, that leads to a satisfying life.

Learner Led Learning

Positive Mentors

Time with Positive Mentors
Another factor that is important to successful learning is time with strong mentors. Interpersonal connections can make or break learning opportunities. We’ve all had teachers or mentors with whom we’ve connected. Spending time with them is fun and easy!

One boy in a class I was teaching came from a tough place. He had challenges and his academics suffered. At the beginning of the school year he was reluctant to come to school and reluctant to share his work. He asked “What happens if I make a mistake?…” I looked at him and, with a smile, announced “… It shows me you’re learning.”

By the end of the year his family sent a lovely letter saying how the boy had thrived during the year. He was also closer to meeting expectations. His biggest success was that he was coming to school and learning. That happened because he enjoyed it. Positive mentors make a pivotal difference.

Options for Different Students
I’m curious about learning. I’ve explored different options for teaching/learning and realize there are so many good options – it’s heartwarming!  Many students thrive in traditional schools. Some students perform better with different models of learning. Below are a few alternate options I’ve explored:

Forest School
Forest School caters to younger audiences and builds learning around children’s natural curiosity. They follow the Emergent Education Theory of Leader-Led Learning. Math, arts, language and science are all built around student’s discoveries as they explore the forest and nature around them.

Compass Centre for Self-Directed Learning
Compass supports youth’s learning passions through Leader-Led Learning by first investigating student’s passions and collaborating with community experts / organizations to access relevant learning for the individual’s goals.

Astolot Educational Centre
Astolot places emphasis on connecting teachers to students. Classes are very small and I saw a strong connection between the learners and teachers as they navigated the individual’s learning.

My life path has not been a traditional one but it has been exciting and (mostly) enjoyable. Looking back helps me navigate moving forward in positive ways. Seeing more options and ideas available for all learners makes me excited about the future of learning.

#1124 Laurentians / Tremblant Photo Safari and Adventure

Early mornings and a deliberate, casual pace marked this week’s photo adventure in the Tremblant area with long-time photo student Margaret.

photo adventure

Tremblant photo safari

I’ve been travelling to the region that many associate solely with the mega ski hill and village run by Intrawest. The ski hill is impressive but the surrounding hills, rivers, forests and lakes are what keep me coming back.

Like the slow food movement, I prefer observing and shooting with purpose rather than the speed of a fast trigger finger. Margaret finished the day with a manageable number of quality photos that made editing easier.

Tremblant photo safari

© Margaret A. – Laurentian’s water – learning about flow

We shot throughout the day. Yes, there are two magic hours per days. J David Andrews once told me “It’s always perfect weather to shoot something.” Likewise, there’s always something to shoot, no matter the time of day.

Tremblant region photo workshop

© Margaret A. –  Early morning calmness – a perfect time to observe and learn.

Days flew by. One day we visited a segment of waterfalls and rapids. We arrived at 11am and after what felt like an hour Margaret approached excitedly “It’s five o’clock!” When you’re excited and engaged time vanishes.

Margaret’s photos improved and her confidence grew. We both smiled, a lot! We spent evenings reviewing concepts, ideas and photos. See some of her work… Well done Margaret!

Laurentians photography adventure

© Maragret A. – We explored possibilities when shooting a scene – motion, composition, depth-of-field.

#1116 Free Online Photo Program

A while ago I started our Online Photo Program. Every month we offered a new challenge with support and critique. Members loved it…
We’re looking for more members for the new, free format!

Online photo challenge

Portraits
© Sara Hendrix

With some changes in direction over the last couple of years, (read past blog posts ) I’ve turned the program into a small, community managed, friendly, free, monthly photo challenge based on a private group on Facebook’s platform.

Online photo program

Online Photo Program
Portrait and Photojournalism Challenges – “Cooling off on a hot day behind the arena…”

Senior members of the group take turns developing the monthly challenge and posting links and information pertaining to the month’s photo adventure. Members offer real critique and questions that guide the discussions. I offer support, critique and tips to the group.

The group wants more members! We’re looking to attract supportive photo people of all levels willing to participate, contribute and support the community as we all try to interpret the month’s challenges. It’s not a competition. And members are looking for genuine feedback rather than praise.

Online photo challenge

Night Time Shooting
© Christine Payant

What members have said:
• ” I really enjoy the positive and constructive feedback. I know when posting that those who participate are likely just like me, wanting to learn and grow. The group has typically been diverse, with people of varying levels of experience which has been great to push me to try different things. I realize that I have some ¨Harryisms¨ that come to mind: ¨get closer¨, ¨what are you exposing for?¨, ¨triangles¨, etc.

Motion in Landscapes © Al Garner

Motion in Landscapes
© Al Garner

• “The program challenges me to get out there and photograph improving my skills as a photographer. It provides some focus. Without it, I would probably not photograph as much and I would not learn and grow as a photographer. It has helped me tremendously and gets me out there shooting and enjoying life!

Landscapes and Sunsets © Maisie Ismail

Landscapes and Sunsets © Maisie Ismail

• “… having the close group to help out and provide critique in a “safe” environment really makes a difference. It helps get over the shyness of… ‘maybe this is not good enough to post.’ What a great group to belong to and get great feedback! Thanks Harry and everyone!

To join the group you need to request to join the group and befriend me on Facebook so I can add you to the Facebook group.

Hope to see you on the other side!

#1114 Summer Photo Adventures

Summer started well for groups of photo students who recently enjoyed Custom Photo Courses. We’ve been taking people out to extend their photo limits using their existing equipment.

We’re also preparing a Laurentians Photo Adventure for early summer 2016, below, for people wishing to challenge and explore their skills behind the camera.

Custom Photo Courses
Join us for individual attention or as a small group for our custom courses. We’ve been offering custom courses for many years. Read a recent review.

Photography Lessons

Custom Photo Course
Chelsea, Gatineau Park

Locations include central Ottawa, Gatineau Park. We use other locations, too.

Our most common course is a four hour, individual session for $350.
A two person, four hour session is $550 (or $275 each).

Material covered depends on your needs.
We’ve covered:
• beginner basics
• portraits
• advanced creativity

Contact us to book your summer photo adventure.

Photo course Gatineau

© Christine P.
Heritage cemetery.

2016 Laurentians Photo Adventure
Join us on a relaxing but immersive photography learning session next summer.

We combine a tranquil and comfortable base in the Laurentians bordered by a bike / walking path and the Rouge River.

Date:
Early July, 2106

night photography course

Night time Teepee Photography Laurentians Photo Adventure

We’ll be choosing from locations to best suit the weather and the group. Shooting locations and subjects could include:
• Tremblant Village
• Horses
• Gardens
• Rivers and Waterfalls
• Night time Teepee shooting
• Parc national du Mont Tremblant

Throughout the day you can expect:
• early morning shoots
• evening photography
• critique sessions
• time for relaxing & meals

Tremblant Photography Safari

Laurentians Photo Adventure

More important than the locations will be the support and creative stimulation you’ll receive on the adventure.

Accommodations
We are teaming up with a quiet Bed & Breakfast close to the action of Tremblant but a universe away. Our hosts provide a limited number of gorgeous B& B accommodations and attractive camping. You may choose your own accommodation when registering for the Laurentian Photo Adventure.

My family has stayed with them many times and explored the area for years.

Laurentians photo safari

Our hosts’ patio for post shooting relaxation and editing!

Meals
Breakfast is available at our base B&B. We will take care advantage of local restaurants and available eateries for lunches, snacks and dinners. Mid-day meals may include packed picnic lunches.

Transportation
We will be traveling short distances – up to 30km to different photo sites. Most people will travel by personal vehicle or share driving with other participants. No transportation is included in the cost of the Laurentians Photo Adventure

garden photography

Our hosts’ gardens in the Laurentians

Costs
Costs include:
• photography instruction fee – early bird rate of $500 for 2 days on the adventure.
plus
• accommodation for two nights. 2015 rates range  from camping @ $14/person/night or lovely B&B rooms from $99/night (single occ. Lover’s Loft) to $154/night (double occ. Garden Retreat); Other rates exist for different rooms.
• meals
• transportation
•extras that you wish to undertake

Booking
Photo Adventure spots and accommodation are limited as this is our hosts busiest time of year. Please contact us for more information and booking your adventure.

#1112 Summer Photography Adventures – Custom Course Success

Recently, a past photo student called looking for help:
I understand technical photo elements but am struggling with compositions and creating photos that show what I feel when I see the scene.

A photo before her custom course:

Custom Photo Course

Photo before the Custom Photo Course – technically fine but lacking intimacy.

She booked a Custom Course and we met along the path of the Watershed project.

Within a morning session of pointed direction and gentle coaching, her photos improved quickly. They went from broad generic landscapes to alluring photos that pulled the viewer in:

Custom Photo Course

Photo taken during the Custom Photo Course.
Technically good but with more impact than before.

Her comments after the session:

What a fun morning I had in the Gats working my photographic edges with Harry.  He so brilliantly and sensitively identified my next edge to work so I could move closer to where I’m longing to be with my photos.

Bit by bit I began to discern the difference between when I’m hanging out ‘back there’ and when I ‘step in’.  I also began to see a difference in my photos, after just one session.  I learned so much in one morning.  Thank you Harry, and also for what I’ll use as mantras when I’m out there on my own practicing –  “step in”, “embrace it”.  “touch it”.”

One-on-One learning

Custom Course – Learning to see and build feeling into a photo.

Coming soon I’ll be announcing summer photo options including more custom courses (when, where and how you wish to learn), safaris and an opportunity to go on a Laurentian photo getaway.

Stay tuned.

#1107 Photo Workshops and Private Courses

Spring is coming!
Flowers are preparing to burst into colour.
Bears are starting to stretch, ready to come out of hibernation. Sleepy photographers are starting to stir, too!

Photo Class

Push your photography limits this spring!

We’re offering two options this spring for photographers to improve their skills:

• Our classic Creative Fundamentals photo workshop
Learn in a traditional format taking advantage of live theory, practical and critique. All camera styles welcome.

• Private classes for individuals and small groups
Learn what you want, when you want.

photo course Ottawa Gatineau

Improve your Smart Phone photography!

Background – Harry Nowell
Harry Nowell has  worked for 20 years providing imagery for clients like Carleton University, Canadian Senate, Royal Ottawa Hospital, Canadian Geographic and others. His imagery has been licensed all over the world.Harry Nowell has taught photography for 15 years. His students are his best advocates!

YouTube!
In the age of YouTube there is a lot of free advice and “how-to” related to photography. There is also a decline in the quality of photography. From the Financial Post:
“When it comes to image quality, the real problem is that consumers no longer care.”
And there is frustration!

Photo Workshops

Improve your photography!

If you are frustrated or have a passion for quality in your pictures, we can help!

Creative Fundamentals
May 7 (evening classroom)
May 9 (practical shooting)
May 14 (evening classroom critique)
Central Ottawa/Gatineau
$375.

Private Classes
Offered as schedules permit.
$Cost depends on session:
• One person / half day = $375.
• Two people / half day = $275 each.
Prices may change without notice.

Contact us!

#1104 Alternative Approaches to Education

I’m in my last semester of the Bachelor of Education program at Ottawa U. It feels like the home stretch!

I’m in the intense On-SIte program that condenses six months of lecture material into two and a half months to allow for an expanded six months of practicum placement.

For me, the hands-on learning directly in the classroom offers me the best educational learning experience. I am a hands-on learner and never excelled at traditional sit-in-the-classroom schooling. Most traditional schools cater to verbal-linguistic learners (read: book-learner).

Risk Management

Play Based Learning & Managing Risk – Much can be learned in alternative classrooms. Above was  my own weekend classroom of fun with my friends.

I am curious about the alternative and holistic approaches to education and how related practices can be incorporated into traditional classes. My elective this year explores the world of holistic and alternative education practices.

In my current placement I am lucky enough to witness a teacher who brings many elements of holistic practices into his classroom. In my last placement I was fortunate to witness a teacher who incorporated much play-based learning (although she disliked the term “play-based learning” because of the erroneous connotation that “play” and “learn” are very different things.)

Play based learning - incorporating drama to teach math. Captain Barnacle uses his treasure chest to teach about counting coins.

Play based learning – incorporating drama to teach math. Captain Barnacle uses his treasure chest to teach about counting coins.

I’m learning lots and love some of the readings – Ron Miller and Alfie Kohn resonate with me!

Stay tuned.

#1102 New Directions – Education

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all those celebrating.
We’ll be laying low over the winter break. Catching up, settling in and skiing!

It’s been a big year at HarryNowell.com that started on New Year’s Eve, 2013.
Merry Christmas!

Last New Year’s Eve I was inspired by a friend to apply to Teacher’s College. I had applied twice before in the 1990s. This time they let me in.

I’m halfway through Ottawa U’s Primary/Junior Bachelor of Education. Their On-SIte Program condenses six months of lectures into two and a half months and allows for a six month practical placement working directly in a classroom.

I’ve just spent three months working in a Kindergarten / Grade One classroom in a central Ottawa school. Our class has students from Burma, China, Russia, Hungary, Bosnia, Iran, Pakistan, Australia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mexico, far-northern Canada. It’s a diverse, challenging and amazing class.

Teaching in the primary grades attracts me because I get to teach more than math and language – I get to help little ones develop as people using drama, arts and engaged play based learning. I love it – where else can you get so much impact dressing up as Captain Barnacle, the pirate, to teach about number sense & counting coins with treasure? The students gobbled up the lesson.

I’ve always loved teaching – it’s been a big part of my business for the past 20 years. Teacher’s College is a good next step for me. My marks from the lecture hall have been… excellent. My classroom evaluations have been… excellent. I feel very fortunate to have met such good people this fall!

I start in a new Grade Six classroom with a similar demographic in January. I’m excited.

And I’m excited about my new direction. Seeing the possibilities available in traditional teaching has me smiling.

Harry teaching

Harry teaching

But what about photography?
The business will continue as Harry Nowell Photography and I will continue aspects of the business that I enjoy. I’ll continue to offer a few workshops, some stock assignments, some editorial and interesting artwork related to Watershed, SunStreaks and the big camera.

Thanks for your support over the years.
I can’t wait for 2015!