The following is a guest post written by art education advocate Charlie Schofield.
There are a lot of things that I remember doing as a small boy whenever I teach inside my third grade classroom. Growing without any siblings in downtown London, I found company in my toys – my Batman action figures, those little green Army men, a cabbage patch kid that I cleverly named ‘Veggie.’ My favorite was Michelangelo Etch-a-sketch, which I used every afternoon to draw Veggie’s clumsy face. That was the beginning of my love affair with the arts.
I regret one thing though. I quite distinctly remember a small box right behind my Etch-a-sketch masterpieces. If only I played with the contents of that small box before, I would’ve been this generation’s Michelangelo by now. That’s an exaggeration of course. But it is a valid hypothesis I presume. Fast forward two decades, I am new putting that theory into practice. What’s that super amazing creative toy inside the small box I failed to utilize?
Let me give you three reasons why I think this toy is a great creative tool for art teachers.
Lego teaches kids to use their hands.
It seems like moving your hands and using them for different purposes isn’t necessarily a skill that needs to be taught. But you’d be surprised. It’s more than just common sense; motion and cognitive cognition is more closely linked than you thought. By exercising kid’s physical movements, especially in the hand and arm area, they are simultaneously activating the right side of their brain – image perception, intuition, and music adeptness. Stacking Legos doesn’t merely exercise the hand muscles, but also subconsciously enhances creativity.
Lego teaches kids to imagine.
We can all agree that grand creations start from little things. Here is a fine example of what a kid can do with Lego blocks.
Try and do this little exercise that I do with my students. Have them create something out of a limited number of Legos. Watch how these kids use their imagination to build something out of six, five, or eight blocks. This is great to ignite the childrens’ passion for building and creation. Who knows, these tots might be the future engineers, sculptors, and landscape architects of the future?
Even further, integrating the creative process with new media is a great way to boost the kids’ imagination. If you’ve been reading this blog before, then you know that there is an app for everything. Lego is no exception, and you can download apps made by the Lego group in the Google play app store.
Some of my personal favorites for the purposes of art education are:
Let the kids’ imagination run free with these great games.
Lego teaches kids that the box does not exist.
Imagine a bag of small blocks of Lego scattered all over the floor. This is chaos, and the process of making a defined structure with all of the fallen pieces – that is order. What’s great about Lego is that kids are trained to create order in any direction that they choose. There is no best way to create a Lego fortress. There is no proper sequence of blocks for a cool alien ship. There is no limit to how high a tower should be. There is no box. Lego teaches us that there are a million things that we can do, and a million more ways to do it.
About the author: Charlie Schofield is a tech writer for Techie Doodlers, geek dad, and educator. He is currently traveling Southeast Asia as part of an edTech campaign to teach kids about the wonders of technology. He is a painter and a supporter of education drives such as Lowe’s and Verizon.
The following guest post, written by middle school art teacher Chris Grodoski, focuses on the consequences of high stakes testing and his inventive solution to restore the rightful place of creativity in American schools.
20 years ago, I would not have imagined the challenges that face education today. Teachers are viewed as non-experts. Powerful groups make decisions about student learning and financially benefit from these new directions. What is most upsetting is the way students are being forced into route learning and fanatically tested.
The wide-spread mania of standardized testing has minimized opportunities for students to develop creative thinking skills in schools. This has been reported by 81% of elementary teachers, 62% of middle school teachers, and 54% of high school teachers. A narrowing curriculum has minimized instruction that would have otherwise developed creative thinking in students. And yet, 85% of college-educated, employed people report creative thinking as a critical asset for their careers. 99% of school superintendents and 97% of employers view creativity as important in the workplace.
This is a huge disconnect! Socially, we want creative outcomes but nothing we ACTUALLY do in education is moving that way.
As an art educator, one strength of our field lies in fostering creative thinking through learning activities that we determine. Importantly, these learning activities based on our students and their context. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues are being evaluated according to their school’s reading and math scores. According to the Kennedy Center, the percentage of these scores on art educator evaluation runs from 10% to 90%. This is beyond unfair – it is absurd – and needs to be contested.
Some talented educators and I have been considering this problem and how to combat it. We are all practicing educators and realize we cannot adequately advocate from the classroom. We also felt that such advocacy efforts should:
- Demonstrate the value of authentic creative learning in schools in a way that administrators and legislators can value
- Empower teacher expertise in judging student learning, and
- NOT standardize teaching practices.
Last fall, we developed rateCreative as a means to do this. rateCreative offers a means to revalue creative thinking in schools. Our online tools statistically validate creative thinking skills by compiling the expert judgments of teachers.
As an art teacher, I wanted our first audience will be my colleagues, all of whom have been hit the hardest over the last decade.
Although the site has not launched yet, we have put together an introduction for your review and knowledge. Education is big business, but our feeling is that learning and community trump all. As a result, we will need the help and support of art educators in getting the site launched. Our intention is to make it a free resource for educators.
Here’s 4 ways that you can help:
1. Watch our introduction video
2. Like us on Facebook to get updates on our launch
3. If you like what you see, SHARE with others!
4. You can follow us on twitter @ratecreative
If you have any direct questions, please contact us through our website .
We look forward to advancing art education, teacher expertise, and creativity in schools with you!
Chris Grodoski is a Middle School art teacher at Franklin Middle School in Wheaton, IL and has received several awards including the Illinois Art Education Association Middle Level Art Educator of the Year in 2012 and the NAEA Middle Level Art Educator of the Year 2013.
This post was written by Suzanne Dionne a Visual Arts Teacher Pre-kindergarten – Grade Two at Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School in Waterbury, CT. Suzanne recieved the Connecticut Art Education Association Outstanding Art Educator award for 2013. View her blog Visual Arts Events by clicking here.
Are you looking for an integrated art project that covers all areas of 21st century learning? Shadow puppetry can combine the core subjects of English, Reading, and Language Arts with the Arts. All 4Cs considered to be essential skills for success in today’s world can be incorporated in a shadow puppetry program: critical thinking /problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity/innovation. Life and Career Skills that can be taught through puppetry include: adapting to change, be flexible, manage goals and time, work independently, be self-directed learners, interact effectively with others, work effectively in diverse teams, manage projects, produce results, and be responsible to others.
Shadow puppet theater offers a wide range of educational potentials. Puppetry can be used effectively as curriculum based class projects to teach historical events, stories, world cultures (multicultural) and more. Using one’s imagination is an important part of the educational process. Puppetry breaks down barriers, invites participation, and leaves students with a long remembered educational experience. It lends itself to rich integration: writing, literature, design, craft, acting, drama, art, music, dance, movement, technology, school themes and more. Puppetry is easy to do. It can be done economically. There is quite a bit of research on the values of puppetry. Based on many reports what was found was that: drama improved reading readiness, reading achievement scores, oral language skills, story understanding, development of independent thinking, problem solving, collaboration skills, putting creative ideas into action and more.
Shadow puppet theater meets all nine standards of what qualifies as a “Best Practice” defined by the CT State Department of Education: A clear and common focus; high standards and expectations;strong leadership; supportive, personalized and relevant learning; parent/community involvement; monitoring, accountability, and assessment; curriculum and instruction; professional development; and, time and structure. Shadow Puppet Theater also fulfills National Standards for Visual Arts. All six content standards can be included.
Our school has a yearly theme that, whenever possible, is integrated into curriculum. The school theme for the 2012-2013 school year, beginning in the summer academic/enrichment program is “origins”. I decided to implement shadow puppet theater for the visual arts class. I became very interested in this, after attending a workshop at the NAEA Conference in 2012. Shadow puppetry originated in China. Therefore, I chose the Chinese story The Four Dragons by Tom Daning.
The first week of class (approximately four hours) included an introduction of shadow puppets and theater. Students watched 5-10 minutes of the Tangshan Shadow Puppet Theater on the Smart Board. Next, the story was read and the pages were shown to the students. A list of characters was already in place and students were randomly chosen for roles. They were shown how to draw outlines of the figures and were given assistance as needed. Once these sketches were completed on drawing paper, they were sketched over onto oaktag. The shapes were carefully cut out. Next,the movable parts, such as, arms and legs were drawn and cut out. These were joined by using hole punchers and paper fasteners. We also used thick yarn craft hair, doilies and pieces of colored cellophane. Skewers were used for the rods and attached to the puppets with craft straws and tape.
The second week of class the puppets were completed. A script was written from the story and narration parts were written on cards. Special effects were being researched, developed and tested. Students learned how to move their puppets. They were beginning to learn their narration parts, the story, and the performance. EVERY student had made a puppet(s). EVERY student had a narration part(s). I was fortunate to have a high school student assistant who helped tremendously with assisting and organizing the students with the narration. During this time, I was working with special effects. The classroom assistant helped with organization tasks.
By the end of the third week, we were in the recording studio. Our video technician taped and edited the four performances. Music was inserted. Adobe Premiere was the software used. Each student would receive a DVD of their performance.
Our performances were shown at the end of the summer school program at the end of the fourth week. The remainder of class time included a written assessment and two art activities: crayon resist painting and scratch art.
Currently, during our integrated art periods, our five kindergarten classes are working on shadow puppet theater performances. We have selected five different stories that will be taped and shown to our school and parents. These performances will be posted on www.schooltube.com by the end of this school year.
Professional Example Video
Student Example Shadow Puppet Theater by Rotella Interdistrict Magnet School
- Worlds of Shadow Teaching with Shadow Puppetry by David Wisniewski and Donna Wisniewski Shadow Puppets & Shadow Play by David Currell
- Four Dragons Script 1
- Four Dragons Script 2
- Four Dragons Script 3
- Four Dragons Script 4
- Four Dragons Script 5
- Four Dragons Script 6
- Four Dragons Script 7
- Four Dragons Script 8
- Four Dragons Script 9
Production & Puppets Materials Used
- Skewers or dowels
- Paper fasteners
- Masking or scotch tape
- X-acto knife with extra blades
- Black Cardstock/Oaktag
- Craft Straws (to connect dowels to puppet)
- Craft Hair
- Light Source - Overhead Projector (s) * Bulbs
- Special Effects – various materials depending on effect(s) Refer to the book Worlds of Shadow Teaching with Shadow Puppetry.
The following is a guest post written by Bo Gorcesky, a Middle school Media Arts teacher passionate about sharing educational technology findings. Once an independent filmmaker, Bo now touches lives with technology.
Minecraft is a $7 app that I use with a class set of iPads during my media arts class. (There is also a free version, but you can’t save on it.) If you don’t have access to iPads, Minecraft Edu is another option. When I first started using Minecraft, I had no idea what this game was all about or why it was so addicting to my students. What I did know was that I had to capitalize on my kids’ interests while also creating the perfect opportunity for me to do a Flipped Class Project.
Since I was new to Minecraft, I asked a few students to lead class demonstrations. We started the project by just letting the students play in the “creative mode.” In “creative mode” the player has unlimited resources to build any three-dimensional form.
Minecraft Project #1: Convert a drawing to a Minecraft
I started off the project with my students creating a grid drawing on Drawcast. They would then re-create that drawing out of Minecraft blocks in the form of a dilation. The students got to experience the world of Minecraft with no worries of losing or messing up – it was all about stretching the limits of their creativity.
Minecraft project #2: Connect architecture with other subject areas
After about three to four days I felt the majority of the students had a firm grasp on the Minecraft material – I was ready to move onto the next part of the project. Inspired by some resources at Minecraft in Education, I connected careers in architecture with other curricular areas.
My 7th graders were studying medieval castles in their social studies class, so I thought it would be an awesome way to collaborate with an interdisciplinary plan. To help my students get started I used a great web site that showcased blue prints of castles. Then, I gave my students five days to build their castle in the Minecraft environment. Other grade levels made architecture connections with colonial homes (8th grade) and Pyramids integrating the study of Ancient Egypt (6th grade).
Minecraft project #3: Play together using virtual structures built by students
In a Flipped tradition, one of my students suggested that we capitalize on the use of the Minecraft server (which allows up to five players to play on the same world at the same time) and do a mock version of the Crusades where we have to invade each other’s home. Everyone loved the idea, including myself – so a tournament started up. Server set-up tips here.
I didn’t want the students to just go crazy playing Minecraft every day; instead I wanted them to reflect upon what they were learning and share their findings within the small group function on Edmodo.
Want to try Minecraft in your art curriculum? Here are a few tips and observations:
I was AMAZED to see the collaboration between students as they started to build their structures. One person would be the main builder, while the others would gather resources. However along with some great teamwork, I also ran into some difficult management issues. In one situation there was a student who just liked to cause trouble in the game by killing their own teammates. In another situation a student would just go off and fight Zombies and Creepers (not to mention other enemies that attack you during Survival Mode of the game).
Did I forget to mention “survival mode”? Unlike “creative mode” mentioned earlier, “survival mode” gives you a health bar and you have to actually mine for resources. For example, If you want to build tools, you need a crafting table – if you want a crafting table, you need wood. You also want to get to a shelter by night time or monsters come out to get you. If you die, you lose all of your resources. After the five days were up, the students would then go into “attack mode”. Basically, the King/Pharaoh/Plantation Owner would host the Minecraft server, and four people from another team would invade and attack. My point system was pretty messed up, as some times they could find each other and fight, some times the King would just hide and others – the monsters or the team mates would kill each other.
When I do this project again, I will make CLEARER guidelines and expectations. Surely there is the chance that somebody could accidentally “hit” their teammate, but I was getting into issues where students were just wasting time. I would encourage teachers to be constantly roaming around and talk to the students. If somebody complains that a partner is killing them, I would send them out for a time out. ANY time that a student is taken away from Minecraft seems to be one of the harshest punishments. When a student is sent out, it hurts the team but I think it shows them that they must all work together at all times in order to succeed.
Overall this was a GREAT project. Students that never played this game soon found out how addicting it was. I had students come into my room to record a tutorial for future players and others that were eager to share their findings with the program. We still have “Make Up / Free Time Thursdays” where the students still like to battle and brag to see who is the best crafter around.
Ultimately, by introducing the Minecraft project into my art curriculum students learned:
- basic programing skills, tools and principles for creating interactive digital art in an engaging environment.
- how to work in a creative collaboration and the consequences when collaboration fails.
- how to take two-dimensional drawings and turn them into three-dimensional digital forms.
Watch additional video footage from this Minecraft project on this YouTube playlist.
The Art Institute of Chicago’s guest blogger Carolina Kauffman was kind enough to let us republish her excellent article about the use of technology to enhance and extend the museum experience. Read the article below and the original can be found here.
Is There an App for that Brushstroke?
In deference to the safety of the museum’s collection, painting in the Art Institute has traditionally been restricted to a limited number of students and professionals. But thanks to creative uses of mobile devices, the museum has been able to extend that artistic experience to a wider audience without spilling a drop of paint. In a recent Teen Studio Workshop on Experimental Painting, museum education staff—using an iPad app that simulates painting techniques—provided teens with a digital canvas and virtual brushes and paints. Inspired by artworks like Gerhard Richter’s Ice (1-4) shown below, participants “squeezed” virtual paint onto their simulated canvases, blended and smudged colors with a palette knife, and built up layers and textures, all through touching or dragging their fingers over iPad screens.
Museum lecturers also use iPads as virtual portfolios to show images that supplement understanding of artworks discussed on public gallery talks. Digital images on the iPads permit the audience to view sculpture from different angles, and to explore related works from the collection not on display, or comparative artworks from other museums or collections. The speaker below, for instance, shows the image of an ancient coffin to help convey the original purpose of the Egyptian funerary objects in the cases behind him. Lecturers use them to zoom in on minute details, some not detectable to the naked eye, and the highly visible backlit screen gives iPads an advantage over their paper analogues.
Lecturers have even begun to incorporate audio and video into their tours. During a gallery talk, for example, visitors might listen to the atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg and compare it to the abstract compositions of Vasily Kandinsky; or they might compare movement, rhythm, mood, or repetition in an artwork to that found in an example of jazz or classical music. A lecturer might invite visitors to explore Richmond Barthé’s bronze sculpture The Boxer and watch an archival video showing the artists process and sculptural techniques in his studio. Most recently, children were introduced to the illustration exhibition Animals around the World: Picture Books by Steve Jenkins in the Ryan Education Center both literally and virtually. First, students looked closely at the dynamic paper collages combined with amazing facts about inhabitants of the animal kingdom. Then an educator showed videos on an iPad of the animals in their habitats, enabling some of our youngest audiences to see examples of where an artist drew inspiration for his work.
Mobile technology is increasingly demonstrating its potential to connect museum audiences of all ages with the artists and their works and to provide opportunities for creative experiences through dynamic interaction with the collection. Stay tuned for more ways in which the Art Institute of Chicago will engage 21st century visitors with mobile and touch-screen technology, bringing them closer to the collection in new and exciting ways.
—Carolina K., Education Technology Manager, Digital Information and Access
The following is a guest post from Suzanne Tiedemann who teaches art at Brunswick Acres School in South Brunswick, New Jersey and Tricia Fuglestad who teaches at Dryden Elementary in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
Tricia: In late 2010, I wrote a grant to receive an iPad for the art room. I hadn’t any experience with one at the time, but thought that they may have a use in the art room some how and I was curious to explore the possibilities. I imagined that students would publish a collaborative book, record their voice for video, or access the Internet. The iPad 2 hadn’t been announced yet with camera/video so my thoughts were mostly on apps for exploring art and making art.
I asked my building tech assistant to allow me to play with an iPad over winter break.
That’s when it happened. That winter I was completely smitten with the touch- swipe-pinch-zoom-undo-ease of the iPad. I loved the “tweet this”, “email that” simplicity of use.
I started to play with the Brushes app with layers, transparencies, textures, and playback mode and thought…this is transformational!
For years I’ve been trying to do technology based lessons with my elementary art students and found that they needed a great deal of instruction in how to use the tools, where to click, and how to troubleshoot issues. This meant that I was more of a tech teacher than an art teacher during class time.
Since those days my school purchased 100 iPads that travel throughout the school one grade level at a time each month. This means that I have the opportunity to create a digital art lesson with every grade level on the iPads in my K-5 elementary school. I jumped right in with uncertain expectations. I didn’t know how much my students could accomplish, how many issues we might have with network connectivity, and how I would deal with image management.
Some of the things I’ve learned:
- Find a way to project the ipad as you teach (I use Apple TV to wirelessly mirror the iPad through my projector. View my blog post to learn more)
- Learn the vocabulary for the ipads (home button, settings, wifi, share button, swipe, pinch, zoom, undo, double click, tap, shut down, mute, etc.) Manual
- Teach students to respect the iPads as learning devices (not for playing Angry Birds and filling the camera roll with silly pictures)
- Teach what you would have normally, but digitally if you can. Don’t let the ipads disrupt learning, but rather transform. Here are some examples.
Suzanne: Over the past four years, I have been taking steps to acquire touch screen devices for my students to use as art making tools. In 2009, I took photos of my family and friends with my iPhone and created silly portraits of them with bulging eyes and very lopsided features using the app, “FaceMelter”. Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” popped into my mind, and I thought that if I was having this much fun creating images in this style, my students might like it too. I found myself lending my iPhone and iPod Touch to my students. It was both hysterical and inspiring for them to learn about surrealism by creating “Melting Self Portraits” . Their excitement about using the touch screen to create made me look past the possibility that my devices could suffer any casualties. Fortunately, students took great care of my technology. The administration in my district believes in demonstrated practice; therefore, I was determined to prove that my students needed touch screen devices in the art room. At that time, I began uploading student work to their online Artsonia galleries and printed others to display in my school.
In 2010, I invited my supervisor to observe a lesson where my students were using my iPod Touch to create digital collages using the app Faces iMake. To this day she recalls how amazed she was that first graders were all completely engaged and in awe when trying to watch a demonstration on one tiny iPod Touch. She was equally impressed with how intuitive they were when it was their turn to create digital collages on such a small screen.
At the end of the 2011 school year, my district acquired iPads through a grant. Select classroom teachers and a couple of specialists, including myself, were invited to be a member of the iPad Pilot Program. I was given one first generation iPad to use with my students. We explored digital storytelling, augmented reality, graphic design, photo and drawing apps and more. Each week, I was required to submit a form to my technology leaders that described how I was infusing the iPad in the art room. It was a super exciting time, but only for a select few. Students wanted to use the iPad, but only having one iPad for 550 students meant that the odds of using the iPad were pretty slim for most.
Some of the things I have learned along the way:
- Publish your students’ digital work online if possible and share the work they are creating with your administrators and technology leaders. Demonstrated practice could possibly go a long way. Read about how the iPad has been infused in the art room B.A. Art/iPads and see my students in action by viewing our B.A. Vimeo iPad Library.
- Download and install Dropbox on your computer, iPads and iPhone. I cannot imagine managing and uploading my students’ digital files without it.
- Talk to your students about your efforts to acquire technology for them. My students seem to appreciate that I include them in on the process. This could possibly be part of the reason why they take proper care of the technology when it arrives for them to use.
- If you do not have a class set, create an iPad station where students can cycle through and take turns using the iPads while others are using traditional tools at their tables.
- If you do not have a class set, provide time for students to work in groups. They enjoy solving problems together and are less frustrated when navigating tools for the first time in apps like “Brushes”.
- Apply for grants when possible and look for opportunities that may help you acquire more iPads and perhaps a class set. Having an iPad station makes it possible to offer basic digital lesson extensions. A class set will allow you to teach digital lessons to an entire class on some days while using traditional tools on other days.
Suzanne Tiedemann and Tricia Fuglestad spent the last year exploring uses for the iPads in the Art room. They presented on their findings at the National Art Education Association on Saturday, March 3, 2012 in NYC. Fnd their resources on their iPads in Art resource site.
Posted on 06. Sep, 2011 by Guest Author in All Posts, Challenging Students, Clean-up and Transition, Clssrm Mgmt, Conflict Resolution, Off-task Behavior, Organization and Preparation, Positive Reinforcement
The following is a guest post written by Scott Russell about his classroom management system using visuals. Scott teaches at Ball’s Bluff Elementary in Leesburg, Virginia.
My classroom expectation system has evolved in connection with our school-wide PBIS framework. As the Ball’s Bluff Tiger we ROAR = Respect, On task, and Always Responsible. So what does that look like in my art room? Here are my expectations communicated visually:
Respect – A hand in the Air will keep art fair. – We all have important ideas and questions, the only way to let everyone share in the knowledge is to be fair and respectful to everyone in the class. Download PDF
Respect – Success comes to those who try, failure comes to those who “can’t” – I despise the “I can’t” phrase! I discuss with my students how they are all learning (even me) and what happens when we say “I can’t”. What if one day I said “I can’t” teach you”? What would they learn? So I set the expectation – no “I can’t”; we always try our best. Download PDF
On Task – Busy pencils mean Artists at work. I don’t mind if students are talking. I encourage the sharing that comes in an art class. I do discuss that while they are in class the artwork needs to be worked on—so they can talk as long as their pencils are moving. This way the discussions tend to stay on the art and they develop the correct work habits. Download PDF
On Task – Show creativity. What would the world be like if all art were the same? What would the class be like if all the student art looked exactly like mine? The goal is to develop their ideas through the lessons and skills we experience together. Download PDF
Always Responsible – Van Gogh knows. Use your ears. Listen and learn. Then you hear the directions and the questions of others and have the most time for YOUR art! Download PDF
Always Responsible – Safety First. No running with scissors! And this connects to so many things – ultimately – making good choices. Download PDF
My class learns like the Mona Lisa. It is great to talk about Mona and use her memorable pose as a model for daVinci. The mystery behind her intrigues the kids so much and we can learn a lot from her for art class too! We discuss how her eyes follow you (just like their eyes should follow the speaker), her mouth is a quiet mysterious smile (because what teacher wants to look out at frowns?), and how her hands are still (hold them still just until you can dive into your artwork)! When I need the student’s attention I say “MONA” and they reply with “LISA” and the students immediately stop what they are doing to make their best Mona-pose. I “look for my Mona Lisa’s” as they come in to class, etc. And it hits home – I’ve had students count the Mona’s in my class (I apparently have over 35). One student said, “Thanks, a lot of eyes watching me!” I think he got it! Download PDF
There are so many others, I welcome you to take a look at my other management visuals and share your own. These work for me!
Art teachers are always on the lookout for creative ways to reach their students. From museum field trips to outdoor hikes to search for still life subjects, art teachers have learned over the years that the more interactive the lesson, the better student engagement. However, with the invasion of smartphones, it’s become increasingly difficult to engage students. While this is generally not an issue those who teach at an online school, teachers at brick-and-mortar campuses are trying to figure out how to engage students who would rather spend their time texting and updating Facebook. The answer, if you have access to smartphones for your classroom, is surprisingly simple: there’s an app for that. Teachers can take advantage of a wide range of applications that can be used in the classroom, integrate them into lesson plans, and lasso reluctant students into engaging in rich learning experiences.
How to Introduce Smartphones to Your Lessons
The problems with smartphones in school are generally thought to outweigh the benefits, leaving many teachers leery of allowing them in class. However, it’s important to remember that while cell phones might be the bane of a teacher’s existence when student phone use in class is a distraction, the devices are only tools can just as easily be used to help rather than hinder classroom activities.
One option for incorporating smartphones into the classroom, is introducing school-purchased smartphones that can be properly monitored rather than regulating students’ use of their own smartphones. For instance, in 2007 Qualcomm issued smartphones to 3,000 students in four North Carolina school districts as part of Project K-Nect. The study, detailed in Education Week, shed light on how smartphones can be used in school. In addition to continuing training to develop smartphone-based science and math lessons, the teachers were given considerable power over students’ devices. Teachers could see what students were doing on the phone at any time, monitor instant messages, report misuse, and even shut the phone down if necessary.
However, school-issued devices aren’t the only way to use smartphones in class. With good direction and supervision, students can usually be trusted to use their own devices productively if given the opportunity.
Teaching Strategies for the Smartphone Classroom
For art teachers, there are tons of ideas worth considering, from straightforward museum tours and art history lessons to modified lesson plans developed by teachers in other fields.
Liz Kolb is the author of the book “Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education” and an associate researcher at the University of Michigan. She provides a database of ideas for teachers looking to meaningfully incorporate smartphones into lessons. While the suggestions aren’t specific to art classes, a quick perusal of her ideas and the ideas of other teachers who post to the site will yield plenty of lessons that can be adjusted for the art classroom. Among them:
• Use wiffiti.com, which will display text messages sent to the teacher’s account, to have students write short opinions of a famous work of art. The teacher can display these for students to discuss.
• Use phones to take photos of art in the community and send them to flickr.com. Students can use the compiled photos to create a classroom definition of art.
• Have students utilize a teacher-established account on a site like polleverywhere.com to gather real-time feedback when asking multiple choice or true/false questions. Instead of just one student’s response, teachers get feedback from every student.
• Have students create podcasts in which they describe a painting in detail. Each student will then listen to another student’s podcast and attempt to draw the painting based upon the description.
Of course, Kolb doesn’t have the market cornered when it comes to smartphone integration in the classroom, and a number of websites discuss how art teachers can integrate different apps into lessons. Teachers can find such a list in one of this blog’s previous posts, which is a great resource for those with access to iPhones in the classroom and also provides plenty of search ideas for those without.
The study in North Carolina cited above found students taking an active role in creating new course content and assisting one another improved their test scores and understanding of course material. Granted, Project K-Nect studied how students engaged in math classes using smartphones, but you can bet that art classes will show equal enthusiasm given the opportunity to use familiar technology meaningfully. Educators need to revise their thinking about the presence of phones in the classroom and develop ways students can engage in lessons that go beyond classroom walls. Why not let art teachers, with their enthusiasm for creativity and willingness to think outside the box, lead the smartphone charge?
Parent communication is a very important job for art educators. It is our job to educate, inform and communicate with parents about our discipline. Too often, parent communication can be difficult when you are a specialist. The classroom teacher inevitably has more contact with parents. Why do we feel so disconnected with the families of our students? Maybe it’s because we see so many students in one week. Maybe because we don’t see our students every day or perhaps because the parents are not making the effort as much to be involved in the arts education of their students by reaching out to their art teachers. However you look at it, the amount of parent contact and communication can easily be zero to none if neither party is making the extra effort.
Why is it so important to foster parent / teacher relationships?
- It’s the parents who will advocate for you, support your program and the arts.
- Parents will help to make those home connections with the arts that support the teaching and learning going on in the art room.
- Over time, parents will begin to see all of the important learning that is going on in the lives of their students and they will start to enrich that learning at home.
- They will begin to see that an education without the arts would be very dull.
- They will begin to enjoy and remember why they enjoy the arts and help instill this in their kids.
So, how, you might ask, do we accomplish all of these wonderful great things when the reality of most of ours situations looks something like teaching at two or more schools with 500 or more students and contact time that seems to creep lower and lower each year?
The Itty Bitty Papers! One of the most important ways I communicate with parents is very simple, but yet very effective. I call them the “Itty Bitty Papers.” Put very simply, I glue a little piece of paper with a message to the back of the artwork that explains the concept or standard we are studying. It might also contain how the project was assessed or what specific standards were graded during this grading period. It could also talk about the artist we studied or how the concept connects to other disciplines. Anything to prevent parents for looking at the artwork and saying “This is pretty” and quickly dismissing it. I want them to realize – Something really happened while your student was making this! They learned something! They went through and artistic process! If I can open up this window for families even a little bit more, I feel I am doing my job.
Another great thing about putting messages on the back of artwork is it helps the students to remember what they learned. My elementary art teacher did something similar, and knowing I wanted to be an art teacher, I kept all of my elementary artwork. I still have most of these pieces and could remember what I learned and why it was important in my artistic development. Someday all of the little kiddos you teach will pull out a tub of artwork to display at their high school graduation. With your help, they just may have a nice little memory about elementary art because of your message.
To prepare the messages, I simply type out the message I want to convey and copy and paste over and over onto one sheet. Then, I slice them up on the paper cutter and put them in a little basket. Each basket goes on a grade level shelf ready to go on the back of artwork once the project is completed.
Maybe you have seen this idea, thought of this idea or are already doing something like this. They key here is consistency and to have them on as many projects as you can! I use glue sticks to attach the messages because it does not make the art wrinkle up like runny glue does.
If starting this task seems daunting to you, don’t worry. Start small. There are many different ways to accomplish putting message on the back of artwork.
- Have students glue the messages on the back of their own artwork when they finish the project in art class. This is the method I use the most, and my students are very well versed in doing this, although it does take some time.
- Have a volunteer glue messages on the back (works great for the younger grades)
- Make this a station for any students when the finish early-They can sit down with a pile or artwork and glue away.
- Have students glue them to the back of artwork on the day you pass back all of the artwork before you take it home (I call this portfolio day) It keeps hands busy and gets the entire job done in one shot.
In one simple step, that takes a matter of minutes, you can more effectively communicate with parents and make those important connections home! They next goal for me is to create mini-rubrics, self-assessments and reflections to go along with these messages. These glued to the back, I think, would provide an even richer experience for my art students!
I would love to hear more about ways you all communicate more effectively with parents in the art room!
The following is a guest post written by Kathy Douglas. She is a retired art teacher from East Bridgewater, MA public schools, Massachusetts College of Art and Stonehill College. You can also follow Kathy on Twitter.
Budget cuts are everywhere these days and schools have to tighten their belts. Many art teachers report that this has had a big impact on their teaching conditions, with shrinking supply budgets and expanding class sizes. In some schools teachers now have classes that are doubled up, but with shortened class time. Under these difficult conditions it is a challenge to offer a quality art program and we are expected to do more with less.
All art teachers offer their students a time structure, space to work, materials, and inspirational instruction. As a young teacher in the early 1970s I was motivated to do this, but had class sizes up to 33, some half hour classes, a small art room and a smaller supply budget.
Through trial and error I discovered that not everyone had to do the same thing at the same time. I began the year with whole group demos of entry level “dry” media (drawing, collage, simple cardboard construction) one each class period, adding something new each week but keeping the previous options open. I was pleased to note that children sorted themselves out among the choices and worked much harder when they had a choice.
When it was time to introduce paint, I found to my delight that I could limit painters to 8 at a time, while the other students continued independent work. Set up and clean up (which I taught the students to do instead of me!) was a breeze. I was also able to offer a large variety of paintbrushes and high quality paper, as I needed only a few of each type. This benefit extended throughout the year, as I could make a dozen weaving looms useful in several classes for instance.
As the years passed and I became more experienced, we were able to add elaborate and/or expensive materials and techniques to our course of study. For example, because I could work with a few interested students at a time, I could introduce the complicated silk screen process to eight students, who subsequently became printmaking coaches for other students. With only eight screens and a very small sink, I never would have attempted this technique with an entire large class! We could afford small amounts of lovely 24″ by 36″ 90-lb paper and better quality brushes for students who were committed painters. In a typical grade three class you might see a group of six students using the silk screens, four or five children working on plaster gauze masks, several at the drawing table (one or two using pen and India ink in spill proof containers) and always, several children at the construction center building with found objects such as cardboard, plastic caps, small boxes, etc.
Why Choice-Based art curriculum’s work:
1. Students had more time to work as they set up and put away materials as needed.
2. I did not have to have enough of any one material for everyone.
3. Students helped stock the studio with their material finds and the search for these materials extended their interest in the art class.
4. I was able to work closely with small groups of interested students trying new techniques or materials.
5. Because students in large groups could spread out or work standing up, the space in my small room was used more efficiently.
6. The opportunity to move around in the room, or to find a quiet corner, helped the students cope with the large numbers.
Over time I realized that my adjustments for large groups had actually improved art learning for my students, as they took on more responsibility and became engaged in work that was important to them. I taught this way for nearly 35 years and every day the children and I learned from each other. Small class sizes and huge budgets are wonderful, but we don’t have to wait for that bounty to make it work for our students.
For more information on choice-based art education:
Teachers College Press has published Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom, co-written with Diane Jaquith.
Visit our Facebook page, Yahoo listserv, and website