Artist Experts on iPads

One of the highlights of the 5th grade art curriculum is our trip to the Art Institute of Chicago.  While at the museum the students become art docents, presenting researched information to their peers while standing next to the original work of art.  Prior to our trip, the students spend six class periods working in collaborative groups researching one of eight artists and prepare their information for presentation at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This past year was especially exciting since we had access to iPads as our presentation tool instead of just reading from a typewritten report as we have in the past.  Keynote was used on the iPads to display images of the artist, other artist works on display in other museums, and even show video footage such as Monet in his garden or reference Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.Traditional v. iPad Keynote The success of this learning experience is dependent on careful attention to detail. But believe me, it is well worth all the effort! Here’s a look into how I organize this great learning experience: AIC painting choices1. Painting assignment: I start by showing my students eight different paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago and briefly share a couple of details about each. (*Note: paintings chosen based on availability of research material appropriate for 5th grade.)  Students then rank their favorite painting based on the one they are most interested in learning about.  (Tip: use a different color paper for each class to stay organized.)  Next, I go through and sort the completed rankings by preference and create research groups of 2, 3 or 4 students.  After lots of shuffling, I have close to equal numbers of students researching each of the eight paintings.  For example, of the eighty students in 5th grade, I had ten students researching eight different artists. 2. Begin research:  Although I have a variety of books on each artist for student reference, most of the research is done online.  Instead of setting the students free to roam the Internet, I have gathered quality and age appropriate multimedia resources into Livebinder for students to access.

The students are asked to work together gathering basic artist information.  Research roles are assigned to engage all the students in the collaborative learning process:  information recorder, word definition researcher, fact checker, and group progress monitor.  Students are encouraged to find and record only useful information – content important for understanding or something others would find interesting to learn.

Slide in Picasso Keynote

Keynote slide of Old Guitarist X-Ray

3. Presentation Creation: Since the iPads at my school are shared across grade levels, I have my students use Keynote on a Mac to create their presentation before loading onto an iPad.  (This can also be done using PowerPoint that is easily converted to a Keynote on the iPad). Essential Keynote requirements: Each Keynote must include full screen images of the artist and/or artwork not found at the Art Institute of Chicago.  (A great resource for finding images is Wikipaintings.) The presentations must also include accurate information about the artist, the painting featured, and concluding open-ended questions for the audience. (See student checklist here) Here are a few finished student examples in Keynote: Pablo Picasso Keynote Georges Seurat Keynote Claude Monet Keynote Vincent Van Gogh Keynote 4. Museum Preparation: You will need to separate students into new groups for the museum.  For example, a research group of three students learning about Picasso at school will all be split up into three different museum groups.  In the end, each museum chaperoned group will have all researched artists represented . . . one student representing Picasso, one student Monet, O’Keeffe, Cassatt, etc . . . Next, find out exact room location of paintings and prepare a rotation map for each group.  5. iPad Preparation:  Upload all student Keynotes to a wiki or Dropbox.  You will need one iPad per museum chaperoned group. In my case, I had 10 iPads (10 groups of 8 students).  Just use iPad to link to your Dropbox or Wiki, then click on each Keynote to load onto iPads. (Tip: Students should save Keynote with all group member names to make it easy to find correct Keynote to upload) Grant Wood6.  On location! Students rotate throughout museum taking turns presenting at each painting along the map route.  For example, group #3 starts at location #3 and then moves in rotation order.  I usually add in a few fun stops along the way if there are fewer artists studied than museum chaperoned groups (such as the Thorne Miniature Rooms or a St. George and the Dragon activity) Check out the video overview to see what our experience looked like: Since the Keynotes were uploaded online, I just had to share the link so the students could download it at home and share with family.  I have even had former students return and tell me that they visited “their painting” over the summer loved feeling so smart as they discussed it.  I can’t wait to do this project again!

Theresa McGee

Hello! My name is Theresa McGee and I am a National Board Certified Art Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator teaching in Hinsdale, Illinois. My curriculum is structured around creative thinking and technology integration into the learning process. I have authored eighteen articles for the Tech4ArtEd Column in SchoolArts Magazine and several iTunes U courses for professional development. I've presented at the state and national levels including several online webinars for art educators. In 2010, I was awarded Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year and in 2011 I was awarded the national PBS Teacher Innovator award. I love to share ideas that contribute to the art education profession!


  • February 2, 2013


    Wow! What an inspiring post!. Your students did a great job with their artist presentations. Although we won’t be going on any field trips to art museums, I think we could do this by pinning up a bunch of famous art posters in our auditorium and having a ‘mock museum visit’. Thanks for sharing your resources.

  • February 2, 2013


    This is such a great idea! And so empowering for your students!

  • February 4, 2013

    Beth Carter

    Wow! What a great experience. You really did a fantastic job organizing this. I wish I was a student in your class.

  • February 5, 2013


    thats a great idea and its and art and a tech lesson in one!

  • January 28, 2014


    Fantastic project!

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