The graceful world of Giulia Pex

I reconnect again, after the long summer pause. Admittedly, I got a bit tired of social networks and all. My travels to Italy and my closeness to my mother during that time helped me see a nice perspective. I could not post, period. And I visited a blogger friend!

Anyhow, I’ll talk later about the traveling. Now I just want to go ahead and just publish a little bit of things I like. I begin with this.

The graceful world of Giulia Pex. I saw her work on a Corriere della Sera double page from the la Lettura supplement.

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~ je est un autre #illustration #graphicnovel

A post shared by Giulia Pex (@giuliapex) on

With this one I hope to inaugurate a new category/thread of posts here, the shorts.

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Teaching, Learning–and Studying: The Road Less Traveled.

A book review on reminds me of a singular issue in the teaching & learning community: Studying, the road less traveled. In it, studying is compared to a sort of rebel passion.

Studying is disappearing, writes Paola Mastrocola, author of the essay “La passione ribelle” (The Rebel Passion), while she “tells about the importance of the long hours spent reading and of the need to disconnect and go back to thinking”. she concludes that today book reading is “revolutionary”.

In her pamphlet she seems to denounce the “disappearance of studying: teachers don’t study any longer”, and so do politicians and even researchers. She hardly considers school a temple of study but a temple of study-fiction instead.

Perhaps Mastrocola equates too much the verb “to study” with studying on books, but if we take it metaphorically and replace “book” with “written text”, then we may arrive at similar conclusions.

I have been studying the disappearance of the verb to study in English usage in the popular media. Substituted by the much more appealing now–learning. Why do our colleges and higher ed institutions talk so much about learning but not –almost never– about studying? Because learning happens, period. It may be facilitated, guided, inspired, structured, formal or informal, but it is an act without agency on the student’s part. Studying, on the other hand, cannot be informal, because in order to study you need to want to do it. Volition is a crucial part of the act of studying. And it’s easier to deal with non-volition, in school. The fact that you may learn, provided you study well, is a corollary hardly appearing in higher education parlance. It’s easier to assess learners’ learning than to educate students to studying. And most importantly, we omit teaching students it’s their responsibility, they need to own their own learning.

I think there needs to be a resurgence of a willingness to sit down (metaphorically), concentrate yourself, immerse yourself, surrender yourself to something, which is not at all easy to do. Reading may be the first step, but one needs to considered all media that allow one to be alone with oneself. And that is a lot of people. Social learning happens even when one thinks for himself, or meditates, or lingers on a passage, be it a formula or a complex literary formulation.

Surely, studying has more aspects than just reading or mindfully watching media. One is creating stuff, and the other is solving problems, and still another is lab research/work. Creating is however a very important part of studying, one higher ed students are not usually encouraged to pursue. Especially writing is a creation process at the very core of studying, in my opinion. The Web and its tools allow for free creation and make thus a fantastic environment to inspire studying and learning. Why then academic use of the Web is often limited to closed structures that operate as isles unconnected to the main land and encourage consumption and little creation?

Our institutions of learning ought to reflect more on such issues. But they choose to talk about teaching and learning instead of “teaching, studying and learning”. This is a bit of a manipulation on youngsters. So people believe that by coming into a classroom they will magically learn. Sure, they always do learn something, but they think that’s probably enough: they’ll likely just check “the material” when test time comes. Students only have their name to remind them they are those who study.

[Featured mage: Flickr photo by Michael Hall. CC-Licensed BY-NC-SA.]

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Blue is the color and the movie: A review for the Web and myself.

Rarely, sometimes, I feel compelled to write down a film experience. And curate, together  with the writing, videos and GIFs and links. The movie I watched yesterday–a three-hour-long session– is doing that. Not only, it reminded me deeply of the love for another previous movie I saw a few months ago, Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. That was a powerful, deep and pathos-filled love story that happens between two men, actually an adolescent and a man. The boy’s father, close to the end, says to his son that the experience he lived–then over–must be treasured even though the pain may seem unbearable. I like Guadagnino’s movies (remember my review of his wonderful A Bigger Splash) and this, his last, is sweet and profound.

The movie I’m talking about now is also a love story between two persons of the same sex, two women–or better, a girl and an almost grown-up woman. It reminds you of Call Me By Your Name. Or perhaps, it should be the opposite, since it came out in 2013, before Call Me.

Adèle’s Life (La vie d’Adèle), or in the English title Blue is the Warmest Color, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is the product of director Abdellatif Kechiche. I’m reading he spent one year training one main character, actress Léa Seydoux for her (very difficult) role.

I surprised myself smiling during the seance. I enjoyed every one of the 270 minutes of a long love story and story of life. I hadn’t watched the movie before perhaps because I was a little biased with the many, long and realistic lovemaking scenes. I was very surprised to see beautiful camera work and very generous, gorgeous acting. Not one minute over the lines.

Adele the girl is played by Adèle Exarchopoulos (left), with a child face and a grown-up body (the rites of passage), used by her lover as model. Emma, the young woman, the art student, is the blue-haired one. Her eyes and her smile are just beyond words. She is played by the exceptional Léa Seydoux.

What is there in the film that captured me?

Well, there is youth, of course, and playfulness. There’s literature, many references from Marivaux’s The Life of Marianne novel to Euripides and destiny’s role to Dangerous Liaisons. Follow the color blue in the film… the “dangerous” encounter is coming.

There is the passage from adolescence to womanhood, the defining moments, the questionings, the uncertainties, the embarassment smiles. The moment when a woman her senior seduces her with wit and looks–and her blue-colored hair.

There is teaching–and learning: only when teachers engage in their lessons, that’s why Adèle’s grades swing. She herself mutates from high-school student to kindergarten teacher.

And there is philosophy. Sartre: existence comes before essence, so there’s a responsibility in action (Emma’s words, more or less).

Emma: I was big on Sartre in high school.
Adèle: Really?
Emma: It did me good. Especially in affirming my freedom and my own values. And the rigorousness of his commitments. I agree with it.
Adèle: Sort of like Bob Marley. Almost.

An Allen-esque dialogue, right? But without the cynicism or neurosis, and all the youth and naiveté and passion in beliefs.

The two women’s looks are unique. Emma’s smile is much more savvy than Adèle’s, with some complicity. No such thing as chance! Destiny? Or neither.

There’s protest, too. A happy time after all, in the midst of school.

There’s lot of nude female bodies and lovemaking. The two actresses are just amazing at their lightness and (acted) spontaneity. Says The New Yorker:

When Kechiche films Adèle and Emma making love for the first time, he does so with one of the most jolting cuts in the recent cinema—from the women sitting together on a park bench to the two of them naked together in bed, tangling erotically. The immediate continuity from public to private life[…]

Both actresses underwent serious moments of embarassment when filming such unconventional and long scenes, another reason to applaud their performances.

And there’s the homosexuality, of course. But, as in Call me By Your Name, this is not a story about it. However, Emma came out with her parents, perhaps more sophisticated than Adèle’s, and she and her lover are accepted for what they are, no question asked. Not so on the other side, and some lies are exchanged.

Look at this fantastic scene of bolognese eating at a party, with a B&W movie playing in the background (more on that later).

Now, the movie playing in the back intrigued me and it seemed there was no reference to it on IMDB. Google didn’t answer. But in the final credits I found it. It is Georg W. Pasbst’s Pandora’s Box from 1929. Interesting stuff, apart from the visual effect. I’m always curious of movie citations within other movies, and IMDB and YouTube come to the rescue. Look:

Interpreted by mute-film superstar Louise Brooks, this is the story of a prostitute who “unwittingly inspires evil”. Hmmm… perhaps Kechiche alludes to Emma’s flirting back with her previous fiancee, much to the anxious looks of Adèle?

Blue is a wonderful movie, no doubt. One that lingers beyond a blog post. So, I needed to do a couple more GIF’s.

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Facebook vs Open & Free Expression and Blogging

That a defense of Facebook et al come from a blogger–a Cuban blogger– has some effects on me. I’m talking about Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban disruptive blogger who taught blogging while being persecuted by authorities. So I read with some surprise her defense of FB on El País (De carnes rojas y redes sociales), last 4th March.

Los promotores de esta actitud obvian la importancia de estas plataformas para la denuncia, difusión y protección de innumerables movimientos y personas en este planeta.

Escapar de las redes sociales porque en ellas se comparten noticias falsas, abunda la frivolidad, los mensajes de odio y hasta peligros más graves como el acoso sexual, es una forma de dejarle el terreno libre a quienes promueven esas prácticas y hacen de Internet un lugar cada día menos seguro. Es una actitud similar a la del ciudadano que no va a votar.

Sure, I can understand that Facebook, like other social networks, are of huge help for expression everywhere… except where they are prohibited or censored, which is awfully a huge lot. And no, Yoani, it’s not similar to the right people have to not vote, because that, in a true democracy, is a choice.

‘s Why Facebook’s news feed changes are bad news for democracy (The Guardian, 21st January) makes a counter-argument.

Last year when Facebook experimented with its news algorithm changes in six small markets – Guatemala, Slovakia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Cambodia – news organisations saw their reach tumble by more than half. The Serbian journalist Stevan Dojcinovic wrote a stinging op-ed in the New York Times blasting Zuckerberg for treating fragile democracies as laboratories for his products.

Helpful for expression??

Facebook’s use and misuse in the Philippines, Myanmar and Russia, among others–China, with which it stroke a censoring agreement, like Google did– show FB has no will to control its use, and it lets regimes abuse the lack of structures to enforce its own rules. Of course, what strikes me most is that Yoani forgets that our worry with Facebook’s monetization (awful word, I know) and abuse of our own data actually helps dictators and caudillos in their profiling and tracking people. A STASI we all contribute to, voluntarily. This is why, by the way, in Iran and Russia people use Telegram, which offers “true” privacy, but of course not Facebook). And their respective governments are trying to outlaw it

There is another motive to shift our attention from Facebook and focus it onto the open Web, instead. It’s not so much a matter of ditching FB, but to understand its (possible ephemeral) role in our communication. Better use the open web, like Yoani did and taught to do before and I believe still does, to create stuff and share it out of the silos that endanger the Web.

I do use Facebook, though not frequently, and appreciate communicating with a few friends whom I wouldn’t be able to connect to elsewhere. And I appreciate people who have a well-curated feed that help them make sense of news and rumors. I simply got bored of that, and of the seemingly randomness of the feed I get, piloted by an algorithm I don’t see and minimally control.

I even get to understand those who setup a “page” within Facebook as their primary Web identity, forgetting or not knowing that you can actually create, practically for free ($), a free (freedom) webpage with WordPress or similar environment. It escapes me why some people prefer an address like to or No idea. Some people prefer the initial convenience Facebook gives them to the real freedom of controlling and owning their work and digital identity.

I can’t stop quoting Cole Camplese’s excellent post My Internet: One Course At A Time, –the bold is mine:

Why I always insist on using a course blog as the hub of the teaching and learning experience. I think I know why based on that reflection tonight — for the duration of the semester I get to create the Internet I love.

Go extend that semester to the whole year, people.

Enjoy and defend the (only) “online space that we co-own, co-create, and co-engage in“. And which does not get monetized fraudulently by anyone and which does not track anyone.

I teach with this well in mind, every time. I know I’m helping youngsters take ownership of the Web and appreciate its open nature.

[Featured image: Flickr photo with no title, by régine debatty. CC-Licensed BY-SA.]

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Seminario Virtual de innovación educativa / Online Seminar on Innovation in Education

The past 14th April Bernabé Soto organized and moderated a great opportunity to share on Education innovation: The Seminario Virtual de Innovación Educativa, an online videoconference with a few friends and students as speakers (including myself). Below is the full video recording (over 3 hours, in Spanish). The program was:

Jorge Colón JusinoGamificación: El arte del juego en el aula
Gamification: The Art of Gaming in the Classroom.

Antonio Vantaggiato (that’s me)–Innovación en la universidad: de vuelta al futuro con Web & educación abierta
Innovation in the University: Back to the Future with Open Web & Education.

María Esther Cabral Torres (Paraguay)–El desafío de emprender con la Marca Personal
The Challenge of Making with a Personal Brand.

Sahyly Santo BarbosaSistemas de hipermedia adaptativos: alternativa tecnológica para el aprendizaje adaptativo
Adaptive Hypermedia Systems: Technological Alternative for Adaptive Learning.

Daniel Navarrete (Peru)– ¿Cómo es una experiencia formativa docente para una sociedad digital?
How must a teacher training experience be for a digital society?

I enjoyed being part of the Seminar very much! Jorge (a student of the MA in Edtech & Instruction Design and a student in my course of  “Learning Environments“, did very well and his talk sort of matched mine when I asked why our courses don’t open up spaces for students’ creation, like it happens with fanfiction or self-generated documentation-producing forums like those of World of Warcraft?

María Esther was impressive in her story about the entrepreneur culture in Paraguay as it is connected to education (they held teacher training for over 20,000 people!!), while Daniel, part of the movement known as Knowmads (initiated by pioneers Cristóbal Cobo & John Moravec of the Knowmad Society) talked about design thinking, disruption and edtech, showing an impressive project for teacher training in Peru.

Last, my friend Sahyly talked about her PhD research in adaptive hypermedia and showed it is time we invest some serious efforts into it at our university. It’d be nice to end up with one collaborative project uniting all or some of these ideas.

Bravo Bernabé (now head of Distance Education at Interamerican University, Aguadilla) for a great organization and of course, the initiative.

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