Friday, March 27, 2015

Facilitating Individual Learning Synchronously

This semester has been a very busy one. As all teachers know, each group of students and each student we teach is different from the last. Last semester I had a very independent class as a whole who did not generally find synchronous sessions to be necessary to attend. This semester, I have a group that finds my synchronous sessions to be the ideal place for them to complete work and I have many students who attend once or twice every single week.
In general, I would say that online education encourages students to be more independent than they would be asked to be in a brick and mortar setting. Students need to be able to find and access lesson material independently and need to take steps to ask for help when they don't understand something. This can be particularly difficult for students who special needs or who just learn better with structure facilitated by a teacher and direct instruction. I have students on both ends of the independence structure this semester and I have been able to create a synchronous environment that students who need more structure seem to enjoy and depend on each week.

I have written about my Open Art Room before, but this semester is has been used more than any other! I now have step-by-step powerpoint presentations of every single art project in my Art 1 class and students are eating it up. I put my slides on "roam" so many students can access different pieces of the content at the same time as needed. I have also been able to employ students' webcams for them to show me their work in progress and once it is complete. Open Art Room provides students a space where they can get the lesson content in a different way than reading the classroom pages and get individual help along the way.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Video Feedback

After a bit of a rough semester due to lack of attendance in my live sessions, this semester I have decided to re-focus my efforts on rapport and community building in my classroom. I have several new techniques I am trying in order to do this, but I wanted to share one of these today.

This school year, I have been using a screencasting tool called Screencast-o-matic to provide snippet lessons to my students (more about that here). This semester, I have also been using this tool to provide personalized feedback to my students about their artwork. Below is a sample:

 Video feedback allows students to hear what I have to say in my own voice. It also allows me to draw on the screen in a more animated way than I have been able to before-see here. See below.

I have found that about 80-90% of students watch these videos (something I was not able to track before) and students seem to be more willing to make a revision and resubmit than they are with written feedback alone. I am enjoying giving students feedback in this way and hope to see even more improvements in their work throughout this semester as well as improved rapport!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Course Building

As I continue to learn about the various best practices for creating curriculum for online learning, I have chosen my Art 5 course as the curriculum that I am going to beef up in my University of Cincinnati course on curriculum design for online learning.
I have revised this course several times since I began teaching it 3 years ago. At first, I set up the course in an independent study style where I expected that students would be able to design, plan, and create their own art projects. I assumed all of my students had enough experience in 4 levels of art before my course that they would feel comfortable being autonomous with a coach or guide giving feedback. What I found is that students wanted more direction.
The second version of Art 5 included more conceptual direction for students with parameters for them to follow but freedom to choose materials and make compositional choices. For several years this has worked but I have noticed that students are not putting forth their best work technically or spending the time required on these projects. This is a challenge when working with students online because they do not have idle studio time to fill like they would in a brick and mortar classroom. They choose how long they work on a project and many times they do not plan for long enough when left to their own devices. This, along with the motivation from class has caused me to create a course overview page that explains to students what I expect of them.
I am also working on altering a few of my weaker lessons to include some technical demonstrations and challenges for my students. Other advanced/AP art teachers, how do you push your students to give you their best work? What kinds of projects would you offer for a portfolio development class? Any ideas are appreciated!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thinking About Instructional Design

I am excited because this week I began a class at the University of Cincinnati all about curriculum design for online learning. Though I have created my own curriculum before, I have not had much formal instruction on how to plan with the online learner in mind. I have been learning and working through trial and error. For my first assignment in class, I was prompted to design my own instructional planning model based on research and existing models. Here is what I came up with.

What does your model look like? Think about the steps you go through when planning instruction for your students. What do you find most effective?

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Blank Space" Art Teacher Verison

Today I got a little crazy and made a new welcome video for my semester 2 classroom. I cannot wait to hear what they think!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Whatever it Takes

I have hit a little bit of a static time within my classroom these past few months. I haven't had many new teaching strategies I've been trying as I have been focusing much of my time leading my colleagues in completing the Ohio 5-Step Process as Teacher Based Teams. Leadership is also the focus of the 4th year of the Ohio Resident Educator Program which I have been working on as well. It feels refreshing that this week I have finally been able to focus more on helping individual students.
As I have said before, one of the strengths of an online environment is being about to work with students on an individual basis, in fact it is much more rare for me to work with students as a group. This week I have been focusing on engaging students who have not been successful on their own as of yet. Previous to this week I sent out letters, made calls to parents and students, and sent countless emails to attempt to engage these reluctant learners.

This week, I tried putting my money where my mouth is so to speak and invited these struggling students to one-on-one synchronous sessions. For these sessions I prepared slides that walk students through each step of every project in my course. I invited students to attend via phone calls and individual emails (with their names in the subject line!). Once a student entered the classroom I would direct the students through each project step-by-step using the slides on the board and demonstrating each step over the my document camera. These sessions did get pretty lengthy but students were willing to stay, with the goal of passing the course at the end of our time working together. I'll be honest, until this week I have had lackluster attendance in my synchronous sessions, but these catch up interventions are working their magic on some of my most difficult to reach students.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Using Video Snippets in the (Online) Classroom

I have always been a proponent of video in my classroom. They offer great demonstrations of both vocabulary and techniques in a way that visual learners benefit from. Here is a link to some samples the videos I have created that fit into the demonstration category. 

Recently, I have started using videos in a few new ways due to the ability to pull in videos from sources like YouTube and embed them into my classroom pages. I use short, fun videos that I find to spark discussion via reflective questions. I have had a weekly discussion board in the past where I use articles from Scholastic Art to generate discussion, but I have found it is fun to mix up the sources that students are viewing, and it can lead to some great creative thinking! 

This is the first video I used in my discussion board. I looked for videos that were less than 5 minutes long and that could be used to prompt students to think about the big question, "What is art?" I asked them to reflect on the following:
1. Which definition of art from the video do you most agree with?
2. Do you think “bad” art still art? Why or why not?
3. At this moment, what do you think is the most important function of art?
At this point in the course, students have had a little bit of exposure to different styles of art but have mostly focused on drawing techniques. I really enjoyed reading their responses, especially from the third question as it prompted a great range of ideas from personal expression to visual communication and everything in between. 

The other more recent use of videos in the classroom is a variation on recorded live lessons I have used in the past. I have always recorded my synchronous lessons for students to watch at a time which is convenient for them (check out this post for more information on how that works). However, due to a shift in focus this year in my live instruction schedule, I haven't had a high attendance rate for my lessons each week. With this change and the availability of a new tool called Screencast-O-Matic I have begun to make lesson snippets: an overview of lesson content for the week summed up in 5-10 minutes. This week I am out of my office for much of the day due to state testing, so it is especially important that I was able to post a short lesson video into my weekly announcements for students to access this week while they are working.