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. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shifting the Focus of Live Instruction

At the beginning of every new school year, we return to the classroom with new focuses, technology, and challenges. Attendance has always been a struggle with live instruction in teaching online for me. In the past it has been offered as a structured lesson once or twice a week which for many classes focused on direct instruction. These sessions have always been optional for high school students as the online environment attracts students who prefer or need flexibility in their education. Because the lessons were optional, it was common that we would only get 5-10% of our students attending them. I have always enjoyed teaching these lessons and I believe my students have gotten a lot out of them in the past.

This year however, my school is trying something new and emphasizing more activity-based instruction in the live sessions and more hours of availability for one-on-one help. I am available for students 3 hours a day, 3 days a week to help students one-on-one in an open live lesson. So far, I have discovered the following pros and cons about the new arrangement:


  • Students no longer need to make an appointment or call to get one-on-one help which should increase the number of students getting assistance they need.
  • Because I have so much live instruction time, I find myself inviting individual students to work with me on assignments they struggled with (previous to this year, I invited students as an entire class to come work with me if they needed help rather than personal invitations).
  • Helping students in a live session environment (instead of on the phone) is much more effective in the art classroom because I can employ visuals like my document camera or slides when working with them.
  • The switch has encouraged me to make intervention lessons and target the students whose quiz and project scores are low.


  • Attendance for traditional live lessons is down quite a bit even though the lessons are still offered to students. I'm not sure if students feel like they need a structured lesson but I miss the community I feel it created.
  • The switch to live sessions as a main form of help doesn't seem to have caught on completely with students yet so I suspect not all students are attending when they need help

As the year goes on I'm sure I will learn the most effective ways to use this new arrangement to help students and hope to increase achievement and engagement.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Video Game Connections

I am going to admit it, I am a big video game geek! And this week in my classroom I am using video games to build rapport with students and help them connect their learning to the world outside the classroom.
This week they are learning about the foreground, middle, and background. So, I began the lesson with a slide showing how video game artists employ the element of proportion when creating a fictional world. For this example I used my own character from World of Warcraft. The example seemed to catch student interest. 
When I teach this lesson, some of my students have difficulty drawing a room from their own point-of-view for the first time (their assignment for the week). I receive drawings that look like blueprints or where the furniture looks flat or as if it were drawn from several different angles. I decided I wanted to emphasize the idea of drawing what they see by sharing some video game screen shots. The first displays the character, followed by what they see, and finally what a sample drawing could be from that scene.

This week I also included a short writing prompt which I found in Scholastic Art Magazine about video games. The article is called "Is There Art in Your Xbox?". Students read the article and reflect on the questions, "Do you believe that video games are art? Why or why not?". So far I have gotten some great responses and I am excited to help students make connections to different forms of art they already interact with. Later this month, my students will be invited to a field trip at a local art museum to see "The Art of Video Games" an exhibition that focuses on the emergence of video games as a form of storytelling. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Online Professional Development for Any Art Teacher!

I am no stranger to online PD as my school occasionally offers it instead of face-to-face PD. However, the awesome website The Art of Education now offers online PD for any art teacher several times a year. Today was the first AOE conference I have attended. In previous years, I have attended several NAEA national conferences as both a presenter and attendee and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. However, high cost of travel and registration are preventing me from going this year, but the low cost of the Art of Ed Summer Conference makes it reachable for practically any teacher! Here are my observations from today about what it is like to attend an online conference:
-The first 1000 art teachers to register for the conference received a "swag" box in the mail full of the samples one would normally obtain in the vendor room at NAEA. This is a big perk to me as though it is fun to run around the giant room and create art projects with different supply companies, I always feel I need to spend more time there than I want to. Also, the swag box offered many full samples such as a set of 25 oil pastels, lesson plans with sample materials, block printing ink and block, sketchbook, an issue of Scholastic Art with discount code (great common core resource), re-usable color mixing palette, drink koozie, and an "Art to Remember" mug. I am really impressed with the amount and quality of items in the swag box!
-You might not think you'd make many connections when attending an online conference. However, I had so much fun today connecting with art teachers from all over the world via social media. Using the tag #aoeconference I could see what everyone was saying about the conference in real time. Also, the Art of Ed community offers the ability to discuss the presentations any time after the conference. This means I can ask questions to the presenters after the fact all in one easy place.
-Wow, what a wealth of information! The topics today ranged from incorporating contemporary art, use of tech, specific clay techniques, organizational tools, to breaking down barriers between students and colleagues...etc. There were so many great pieces of advice from art teachers with all different experiences. I felt like each presentation brought me an idea or two that I am excited to incorporate into my classroom.
-Dynamic, fun, and quick presentations! Each presentation was about 10 minutes long and were shared via video that was prepared prior to the conference. This allowed for the most important information to be highlighted (and expanded upon in handouts) and the video format allowed for demos, views of classrooms, and even guests (children of several presenters helped with their videos). As a video-nut myself, it was fun for me to be able to share snippets of videos I've made and screen recordings of my classroom in my video.
-Holy handouts Batman! The conference offers an Afterpass which allows attendees to watch all of the presentations and download handouts from each presentation for 6 months after the conference. The handouts and blogs posted in this resource are so great! I will surely be using them for this coming school year, and of course I have started following all of their blogs!

Today was a great day and I am so honored to have been a part of it. Thanks Art of Ed!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reflecting on the 2013-2014 School Year

Wow! What a year it has been. It is hard for me to believe that it is once again June and that this weekend, 2,560 students from my school have graduated. I couldn't be more proud. I feel so lucky to be a part of their lives and help them be successful. Every year at graduation I get to personally congratulate many of my own students face-to-face for the first time and this year was no different. I received hugs and smiles and I cheered each of them on as they proceed to their next stage of life.
Much like our students, the school year is full of learning for teacher as well! This year, my third year of teaching, I have learned so much and experienced many new challenges and celebrations.

I began the year armed with a new tech tool: Google Glass! I used it to make demonstration videos for my students and also to make videos explaining art concepts like linear perspective and getting inspiration from the world around you. The students responded positively to my videos with a higher engagement rate than I've ever had before and better quality work. These videos have become a permanent fixture in my art classroom and I continue to use Glass to make new resources for students. Hopefully next year I will be able to try out a virtual field trip! Also tech related, many of my students received tablets to access and complete their school work. Though I didn't have much time to implement tablet lessons this year, next year students will have the option to complete some of their art projects on their school tablets in order to give them more exposure to digital art and solve supply and scanner issues. Students will also be able to use them to photograph their work so 3-dimensional media is finally possible in my classroom!
This year, I experienced a training about Formalized Instructional Practices where I was reminded of the value of measuring student learning through all parts of the instructional period and also how to help students set their own learning goals. I have now implemented FIP into several of my lessons and the majority of my synchronized instruction. I am excited to further implement these strategies next school year.
I also learned how to best prepare my students for Student Learning Assessments so they meet learning targets. This new practice of evaluating student learning in the art classroom was very challenging for me as my students barely met the minimum growth the first time I gave the test. For the second time around I used study guides, review games, and increased the number of motivated students taking the test. Because I teach online, students are able to choose to take my SLA rather than being required to. This was a tricky issue to combat but a much higher percentage of my students hit their growth targets the second time around.

I implemented a discussion board in my classroom for the very first time this semester and even though it was extra credit, I received extremely high engagement. I asked students to reflect on contemporary and relevant questions about art. I used Scholastic Art magazine to start the discussions. I learned that some of my questions were more text-dependent than others and not all of the questions inspired high quality responses. I also only tried a handful of assignments where students needed to respond to each other. Next year I would like to implement more responses that encourage student-to-student interaction and improve the questions to be more text-dependent.
It has been a fantastic school year and as always, I am excited to take what I have learned and make next year even better. To close this entry I wanted to share an email I received from one of my graduating seniors this year. I feel incredibly lucky to do what I love every day and to make a positive difference in my students' lives. This is why I do what I do!