Friday, December 30, 2011

Valuing the Artistic Process

As an art educator I believe that making art is not simply completing a beautiful product, but the process that students go through to create the product. Sometimes the product does not come out beautifully, but the process should still be one that encourages problem solving and critical thinking. My job as a teacher is not to guarantee that all my students become artists, but that they gain an understanding of visual concepts and an appreciation for art. For myself, making art is always an adventure where I often learn about myself as well as the subject matter that I am capturing. I hope to create this experience for my students. However, many students come in with the idea that their artwork must be perfect and are worried I will grade them based on perfection and copying cookie cutter examples. This is not the way I teach art, and encouraging students to create identical products would rob them from an experience where they use their individuality to create and learn through that creation. Thus, I have always been more invested in the process of art making, rather than in the product that results. This belief leaves me with a challenge in my online classroom. I assign students a project, and then they submit it when it is complete. I rarely get to see an in process piece of work. In a brick and mortar school, I spent most of my time supervising students working through their artistic process by circling around the classroom. Even in my experience as a substitute teacher I was granted the pleasure of watching students work on extended art projects throughout the year as I would see them during different stages of their process. I do miss this experience in my online classroom, but this experience is not all lost. In my own class I watch students grow throughout their various projects and critiques that they complete. My students have noticeably improved their use of art vocabulary, knowledge of art history, skill in creating art, and (my favorite) they have become more comfortable with creating personal, unique artwork. Though I could not walk around the classroom and watch them each create the artwork that I see every week, I am still able to appreciate the process of growth in my students. As students progress through the different levels of art at my online school, they will be encouraged to write about each piece of art they create, as they do for some assignments in my class. Students are asked to write about the process they used to create their work, how they feel about the result, and if they would do anything differently. I believe reflection is a powerful tool for students and sheds some light on their process for me. At the end of each semester students complete a final exam that requires them to reflect upon their new knowledge and experiences. I will be sharing student responses in the coming weeks. See below one student’s growth process in my Art 1 class:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin: Accelerated Students Online

I have spent a lot of time writing about my at-risk students because they are the majority of the population in my class. However, I have students from all kinds of backgrounds and there are many different reasons that students choose an online education. In my own classroom I have a student who chose an online school so she can attend college and participate in community service while in high school. She has college classes all day and then returns home to complete her high school classes. She is a senior in National Honor Society and has been recognized for her academic achievement by the College Board. Her artwork is always creative and well done. Another student of mine is a successful musician and has a busy schedule because of performances, tours, and recording. He chose to finish up his high school career online because of the flexibility it offers and he will be graduating in January. My school also caters to students who are professional actors, dancers, and gymnasts. These students are generally very self-driven and goal oriented. I push them to do more with their assignments and encourage them to continue taking art classes or join art club (yes we have an art club!). There is a belief that students who choose online school have all dropped out or are underachieving, but that is not the case. This type of environment supports the flexibility that many students need.
Here are some examples of work done by these busy students:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Never Quit

I am spending this week focused on calling all of my students who aren’t engaging. This is a difficult task, and unfortunately I have a big number of students on this list. A student emailed me this week explaining that she is so sorry for not completing any work yet this quarter. She says the transition between the brick and mortar environment to online has been difficult for her when it comes to keeping herself focused. Online education requires a majority of independent work that students must push themselves to complete. As a teacher, I am always there for their questions and when they need inspiration and ideas but one of my biggest obstacles is breaking through to them that they need to pick up the pencil and begin. I emailed the student back to give her encouragement to take control of her learning. I let her know that I believe she can be successful, and that she will be a stronger person for it. In an educational environment where students are required to work independently, I truly believe they will be stronger as a result. They won’t need to depend on authority figures to schedule each part of their day, instead they will have time management skills that prepare them for college and other situations where they must self-direct and take responsibility for their actions. However, this is extremely difficult, especially for the high population of at-risk students that I serve. So, I call. I relate to them. I leave voice mail messages encouraging them and send emails. When they turn in projects, I give praise for work and push them for more. There is a student I call every week just to remind that I am here, I care, and I want him to succeed. But it is not all rosy and I do not reach them all, but that doesn’t mean I ever stop trying.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Video Overview of my Classroom

I made this video as a preview for my semester 2 students to see as well as for my NAEA presentation in New York this spring. It gives a nice visual overview of what students will experience in my Art 1 class. Isn't technology fun?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Face-to-Face Interaction: It Happens

A photo from our glassblowing demonstration at the Toledo Museum of Art

Tonight I had the very unique experience of Parent-Teacher conferences at an online school. “Do you just talk to them over webcam?” you might ask. Actually, twice a year, the school that I work for holds face-to-face parent teacher conferences during professional development. Parents and students are invited from all over the state to meet with all of the students’ teachers in person. The student and parents sit down at tables and all of their teachers come to meet them, in many cases for the first time. In this environment, parents and students get the opportunity to talk to all of their teachers at the same time as a group about their performance in school. It is a big, exciting event that provides the face-to-face interaction familiar to a brick and mortar school. I was able to meet with two of my students tonight and talk about their experiences in my class. We have many opportunities during the year to interact with students in person. Last month I traveled to the Toledo Museum of Art for a field trip. Students came from Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo for the trip and experienced a guided tour, glassblowing demonstration, and a cold glass activity. It was an enjoyable experience for the students, their families, and myself to spend time learning together and experiencing art. I feel that these types of experiences help distance us from the idea that online education is only a present in the virtual world. It also provides students and parents with the confirmation and reminder that I am a caring individual that is invested in their child’s education. 
Students working with cold glass creating sun catchers at the Toledo Museum of Art

Friday, December 2, 2011

Choosing Materials

A screen shot of the supply list page for Art 1

Joy asks, “How do you decide what materials students need to use in your art projects?”
In a brick a mortar classroom, funding and what the teacher decides to order for student projects determine what supplies are used in the art classroom. In an online environment, it’s a bit trickier. Students are attending school from home, and there is no cabinet of art supplies for most of them. They are required to purchase their own supplies in most cases as well, so making decisions about what we can use for projects must be decided with cost in mind. Cost is the main decider of supplies for my Art 1 class, as well as availability. I have students all over the state of Ohio in big cities as well as tiny towns, and all students need to have access to the supplies I assign them to buy. Because of this, the supplies I am able to use for art projects are a bit limited. Most of what I teach in Art 1 is drawing, some painting, and collage/mixed media. Though the supplies are limited, students are able to excel at the basics and as the semester goes on, I am seeing students develop their own artistic vision and style. Though I teach in an online environment, all projects are completed in a traditional form on paper rather than using Photoshop or other computer programs. Students have the opportunity after taking Art 1 to enroll in Art 2-5, Art Appreciation, or Digital Photography. Though individual art projects are created outside of the digital realm in my class, this week I created an interactive collaborative art activity in my live lesson about mixed media. Students took turns choosing materials and combining them in a virtual canvas. I encouraged them to experiment, repeat objects, and have fun! The result was a virtual collaborative art piece that is now displayed in my classroom.
The collaborative artwork students created in a live lesson together