The event went really well – here’s some images from the day. Thanks to Wayne Brown who brought a wondeful set of exhibits!
Today I taught a class live to the Origami USA convention in New York!
As their first ever live webcast teaching session, things went really well from my perspective, a “big up” for Marcio who prepared and tested the technology. Clearly, OUSA can now invite any folder in the world to their convention, at zero cost!I’ll certainly be passing this experience on to the BOS.
The webcast we had arranged was scheduled for an hour later than I expected (mixups in time differences) and it wouldn’t let me log in, so we reverted to good old skype, which was fine – I could both hear and see everyone. My webcam is a really cheap model, so the colours and sharpness may have been lacking, I’ll invest in a higher-res model if I do this again.
The class itself was scheduled for 4.15 although I was expecting it at 4 – there was just the one enthusiastic lady there, but we chatted amiably for 15 mins and several others joined us. Great to see Tom Hull pop by to say hello, but I fear the class was a bit advanced for him 😉
I taught three designs, “Sue’s Flapper”, “Mad Dog” (I loved someone’s suggestion of “Rabid Dog” – I’ll rename it immediately!) and a “Dodecagon Dissection” unit from a work-in-progress book to be called “Geometric Origami”. The audience were much more polite than a typical British group, I suspect my Brit humour didn’t *quite* come across as intended, but everyone seemed to finish the models, which was a great relief.
The class departed and Marcio logged off at the end, but somehow a small video screen remained on my screen and a young boy I hadn’t seen before came into view, waving. I think his name was Thomas, from Viginia, so we spoke a little – see the image top right.!
For the last couple of years I’ve been working for a company called Rotherham Open Minds Theatre Company. Formed by two disillusioned teachers, they began to take their own drama classes into schools. On success, they expanded the range of classes they offered to include subjects like street dancing and African drumming. Seeing their advert for free-lance artists, I thought I’d give it a go. I had to do a micro teaching session at the interview and managed to secure a place with them. I found out later that one of the directors, checking through the applicants, saw the word “origami” and promptly short-listed me!
So, it was back to the “coal face” of teaching origami, after many years of sitting at a desk, illustrating books. I had to get a CRB check, which came back clean, proving that excruciating puns and crimes against origami good taste don’t count. Many of us have taught a model one to one, but there are few more humbling experiences than teaching a group of eight year olds! Where adults will overlook mistakes or poor explanations, children will say “I don’t get it”! I ask questions to enhance the learning experience, such as “what do you call it when something looks the same on both sides”, when some tiny cherub will say “Lateral symmetry, of course!” Never, ever, underestimate your students…
Working with children is an immensely rewarding experience – you are constantly reminded that they are just little adults. One child told another to “shut up”, the response was “that’s inappropriate language!” They respond with enthusiasm and excitement – I’m constantly reminded of the pure joy origami was for me before I became a cynical, jaded, “expert”. Your linguistic skills and assumptions are constantly challenged – I asked them to tuck a corner under a layer, but one child looked completely puzzled. I rephrased it before they admitted they didn’t know what a “layer” was. My teaching is coming on in leaps and bounds as I learn these small but important lessons.
I’ve built up a repertoire of teachable designs, including many from A4, that being a format easily available in skools. I bring diagrams, partly for follow-up folding sessions, but also because there’s nothing worse than forgetting the sequence – this happens more often as you get older! I’ve also learned that younger students get as much pleasure from decorating a model as from folding it. Crayons have become an integral part of my tool box. It may be that they feel more “ownership” after decorating it, but it means you need fewer models for a given time. I usually do 90 minute classes and we get though between three and five models.
One of the many benefits is that your success rate with adults will undoubtedly go up. You learn the best words to use, the way to hold the paper, which steps may need more careful explanation and many more subtle but useful tips. You also get lots of creative ideas, since many children will say “it looks like ..” and you think “Yes! Good point!” and file the idea away for the next time you teach the model.
Some of the classes are repeated over 6/8 weeks, meaning I have to prepare lesson plans, always a good idea but often overlooked. They all fill in a “learner evaluation” form I devised and some comments are priceless. I urge you all to give it a try sometime!
I recently completed some classes at a school in nearby Whiston (where, coincidentally I found that headteacher Maggie had been in my year at school!). Since Easter was coming up, I taught them a simple 2-piece rabbit. At the end of the class, one of the little charmers presented me with the present shown below. I’m a sucker for gifts like this – my wall is covered with them.
I’m increasingly delighted with the artwork that my young students are adding to the models we make. Once you give “permission” to get creative, swans no longer need to be white, nor penguins black. What happens is a cascade of colours to delight the eye. I thoroughly recommend all origami teachers to relax any prejudice they may have and try this out. The students feel even more proud of a model after they have personalised it.
When you see children folding too quickly, not holding the paper properly and not making proper creases, it’s easy to assume this is all you can expect. Yet some individuals clearly have a gift for precision and “get” a model very quickly. With these students, I introduce another challenge, that of scale.
We divide a large square into quarters, I cut it with my magic cutter (alias an “envelopener”) and challenge them to make it from that sized paper. When they succeed (as they inevitably do), I repeat the process. Just when they think they are really going places, I rustle up a relatively tiny one to show what can be done. Cue dropped jaws and “woooooooahr – how d’you do that!”
Now and again, a student will rise to the challenge, as shown in the photo – mine is the larger of the two examples! The model is the trad “bench”, a highly flexible and useful design to teach.
I turned up to a school yesterday for the first of my Spring term classes and had two delightful surprises.
1) There were 25 children for me to teach, with no teaching assistants. I usually feel 20 is an absolute maximum. They asked if I could take the reserve child as well, since he’d turned up. Since he was there waiting for my answer, I couldn’t really decline.
2) The students ranged from 7 to 11. During those years, you can see dramatic differences in ability. The danger is that if the folds are simple enough for the youngest, they are uninspiring for the oldest and vice versa. I tackled it by arranging each table with two elder children (thankfully, there were enough to go round), so that they could help the younger ones. This added responsibility made the class more enjoyable for them.
In the end, we completed a couple of simple models and the standards of behaviour were exceptionally high. Next week I’ll be better prepared, but it really isn’t an ideal way to run a class! If you have any bright ideas, do share them!
Here’s a fairly random video compilation from the Didaktiks conference in Freiburg, thrown together with no regard for cinematic principles, accuracy of captions, visibility of captions, choice of colours, audio fidelity or respect for those featured within. It’s just for fun.
As if that wasn’t enough, here’s a link to my report (under “pages”, top of the right hand column) from the conference…
My mate Wayne and I are putting together the Model Collection for the BOS spring convention. One idea we thought we’d try is to indicate a level of difficulty for each. We both feel the current systems don’t do the job wonderfully. So what options do we have?
The standard used by Origami USA is to one assign from the following list; simple, low-intermediate, high intermediate, complex and super-complex. The latter is “anything that takes over three hours”. Whilst this is a laudable attempt, it’s still very hard to decide what about a model determines its complexity. Clearly, the experience of the folder is a key factor, since what is tricky to one is childs-play to another. We don’t know in advance who will fold the model, so is this one variable we should exclude from a classification?
Perhaps we could count the steps, factor in how long it takes someone to fold it and produce a formula? Maybe each technique should be assigned a number and once again, a formula could determine complexity. Another possible variable is how many times do you need to fold a given model to produce an excellent example?
Some Yoshizawa designs, for example, can be completed relatively quickly, but never really look impressive until you have made them many, many times. Other designs, like many of those of Komatsu, are sequenced so that you can produce a clean, neat example far more readily.
I’m not sure that the OUSA five-tier system is capable of covering the whole gamut of origami complexity, but alas, I have no better alternative. In previous books I have used 1/2/3 flapping birds, airplanes with 1-5 on them and several other devices which only give an indication of relative complexity wihin the book. Maybe a number rating of 1-10 might allow greater accuracy? Another alternative is to say “if you can fold this, then you can fold XXX”, so if the student can make a flapping bird, they are ready for a waterbomb. But are there standard models that everyone knows to use as a practical reference in this way? Probably not!
So, we have a problem on our hands. Your thoughts and input would be most welcome!
I’ve just attended (virtually) an origami meeting in Munich, at the house of Susanne & Oliver. I taught two folds using a webcam (via skype) and could see onscreen that at least one person understood and followed my instructions! OK, the video pictures weren’t brilliant, but this could be a really good way of broadening the international attendance at origami meetings. The chap standing on the right is Klaus Deiter Ennen.