I’m so happy today to introduce Lisa Rivero, the thinker, writer, educator, former homeschooler, and inspiration for much of my own early homeschooling work. I first got to know Lisa through her amazing book Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Families, which helped me tremendously in my early days. Since then, I’ve met her in person at a gifted education conference, and then more recently read her book The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When it’s Right for Your Family, which I particularly enjoyed for its take on homeschooling through the high school years.
Lisa and I are connected on Facebook, and recently she’s been posting a crazy series of photos. These images are famous works of art that have been photo-bombed by her beloved pet fish named Floyd. I laughed at the first one, the second, and the third. They’re really hilarious, and I enjoyed her sense of humor and her dedication to her pet. But as she continued to share these insane images, I began to notice how well Floyd was photo-shopped in. He wasn’t just there, he took on the hue and lighting of the surrounding image. I dug a little deeper, and discovered that Lisa was using Floyd as an exercise. She wanted to learn how to use Microsoft Word for photo editing and, following her own lessons with her children from her homeschooling days, she created a project-based assignment for herself. Textbooks? No way. Lisa decided to combine her fascination with Floyd with the humor of fine art photo-bombs. Each new self-made assignment taught her new skills, and in the process, she spread Facebook happiness far and wide. She agreed to talk with me today about her Floyd project.
What inspired you to learn more about the photo-editing capabilities of Microsoft Word? How do you plan to use the software?
First, Gwyn, I’m very pleased to be here, and thank you for such generous words about my work! I love keeping up with your activities through the STEAM-Powered Classroom.
After I upgraded to Microsoft Office 2013 recently, I saw a reference somewhere online to its ability to edit photos–not to the extent that a program such as Photoshop can, but more than most people are aware of. Since I try to be careful about what photos I use on my blog in terms of copyright and permissions, I wanted to learn more about how I could use software I already have to manipulate some of my own photos.
Did you first look for other resources to teach you how to use Word? How in the world did you settle on Floyd as your photo-bomb star, or did you know right away that Floyd was in the “picture?”
The idea of using Floyd for this project is a bit of a story. Last fall, our son (Albert) and daughter-in-law (Jamie) moved to Boston, and Jamie asked if I would take care of her Betta Spendens (aka Siamese fighting fish) named Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd had been with Jamie while she was a dorm RA, so had made the rounds of her residents and had lived a good, long life. I got in the habit of texting a photo of Pink Floyd to Albert and Jamie each morning as a way to stay connected with them half a country away and to show Jamie that he was still alive! Early in the fall, however, he died, and very soon afterward I knew I wanted another fish.
Enter Floyd (aka Floyd II, Floyd Too, Floyd.2). I continued to text morning photos and started using a phone photo app that would insert Floyd into fun frames and holiday-themed situations. But that got kind of boring, and at some point my husband suggested that I “photo bomb” Floyd into famous historical situations and artwork. Since I wanted to explore what Word could do in that regard, the next step was obvious.
What all have you learned during this process? Are you simply repetitively practicing, or are you exploring unique concepts with each image?
I set some guidelines for myself. Since I wanted to post at least a few of the results on Facebook, I used only public domain images so that I wouldn’t have to worry about copyright. I began by learning how to remove the background from photos of Floyd and then place him into another image. As time went on, I also learned how to diminish the white outline that often surrounded him, manipulate the historical photo by removing background elements so that Floyd could appear to be behind certain items, and tweak the colors so that he blended in better. I don’t have a detailed plan, but I am trying to learn something new with each attempt. A lot of it depends on the historical photo or painting that I’m using. For anyone who is interested in using a tutorial, however, this one from GCFLearnFree.org is very good.
Tell me something unexpected that happened during your Floyd project.
While my goal was mainly to learn some very basic photo editing skills, what I didn’t expect was the benefits of paying such close attention to Floyd, whom I’ve become quite fond of. He gets very excited when we approach the tank, and it’s hard to get a clear photo because he moves around so much, so I often spend several minutes watching him and waiting for the right moment. I have noticed nuances of color in his fins that I never saw before and how the colors can change from day to day. I can pick up more quickly now when his water needs to be refreshed because of the way he looks or moves. He also seems to like looking at human faces close up. If I put my nose up to the glass, he “bumps” me and stays there for quite a while, staring.
Both my husband and I now see how quick he is to learn. When I bring his food jar from across the room, he immediately looks to the area outside the tank where I usually set it, and it only takes a couple of days if I change that spot for him to look to the new place.
How much of life we take for granted simply because we don’t look closely and quietly!
One more thing that surprised me was the response on Facebook to the photo bombs I posted. Floyd even inspired one of my friends to get her own empty nest betta, named Diego!
How does this apply to kids, both in and out of the public school setting?
I firmly believe that we learn best when we have a mission or sense of meaning, when we are are having fun, when feedback is fast but not punitive, and when failure is built into the process rather than something to be avoided. My earlier attempts are much worse than what I can do now with this project, and what I’m doing now will look much worse than what I can do in the future. If I waited until I could do it perfectly, I wouldn’t do it all!
As parents and teachers we can look for ways for children to practice skills that are part of something larger, especially something in which they have some say in choosing, and ask ourselves how we can reward rather than punish the missteps that are part of the learning process. And, of course, leading the way by example is fun and rewarding for us, too.
It’s these philosophies of yours that so captivated me in the beginning of my own homeschooling journey. It all makes so much sense – finding projects that resonate with our kids, using mistakes as building blocks rather than classifying them as something “bad.” In this way, we make education personal, positive, exciting, and life affirming. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and experiences with us today, Lisa!
Want more Floyd? Check out the photo gallery below!
And here’s Floyd in his element.
You’re definitely going to want to learn more about Lisa, her education philosophy, and her work and publications. Here’s her complete bio from her website.
Lisa Rivero is a freelance book indexer and the author of several books for readers of all ages, including the award-winning The Smart Teen’s Guide to Living with Intensity and the children’s historical novel Oscar’s Gift. She also works as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where she has taught technical writing, humanities, speech, creativity thinking, and psychology.
Lisa’s writing career began with a food and cooking column in a Milwaukee-area food and wellness magazine, the Outpost Exchange, and, from there, grew to include newspaper and magazine articles, online articles, books on education and parenting, and fiction. Her topics are eclectic and evolving as she writes about her current passions as a way to understand them.
One of her current areas of passion is the Hattie Project: transcribing entries from and writing creative non-fiction based upon the Great Plains diaries, 1920-1957, of her great-aunt Hattie. In the process of doing research about Hattie, Lisa discovered Oscar Micheaux, who, before he became a filmmaker, homesteaded on the same Rosebud Indian reservation where both Lisa and Hattie grew up. Learning about his life led to the children’s historical novel Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux.
When she is not writing or indexing books, Lisa enjoys speaking across the country about intense personalities, education, homeschooling, and creativity, and she writes a blog on these topics for Psychology Today. You can also read entries from Aunt Hattie’s Diaries, and connect with Lisa on Twitter.
Please feel free to continue the conversation below! What projects are you and your kids excited about?
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