Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thoughts on Common Core and the Arts

I just spent the last 2 full days learning about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the PARCC test that will go along with them. While at first overwhelmed and confused about how to apply these new literacy standards to the existing art curriculum, I have spent time researching what others are doing and working with my teammates to come up with some ideas. I am now very excited about these new standards. It has been said that the shift from the OGT test and current standards to the PARCC test and CCSS will switch our focus as teachers from teaching students what to think to teaching students how to think. And while the OGT’s never tested the arts, the CCSS for literacy is being introduced as everyone’s responsibility. They even have specific standards for us to meet, grouping all electives into a category called “other technical subjects”. Though this gives us art teachers more to cover in our classes and more curriculum to write, I am happily embracing this challenge to help our students become better thinkers. It seems to me that the CCSS are here to encourage us all to be better educators and really prepare our students for college and careers. Looking at the standards there were many things I was unclear about. One point of emphasis in the literacy standards was having students read complex texts. At first I wondered where we would find these complex texts for our students to read (online we do not have a text book to refer to) and also how these complex texts might relate to visual learning. I started googling “common core and the arts” and found a very helpful blog post (here) that outlines how a piece of art can be a “text” that students read. This really helped me get past my confusion and helped me come up with my first CCSS aligned lesson for my Art 1 classroom. Students complete a project in Art 1 where they create two portraits where at least one contains symbolism. In our live session we look at Renaissance portraiture and how artists communicate to the viewer about their subject such as personality or social standing. Though we always discuss this topic, I never have them write about it. Therefore, this lesson was one that could use a writing portion, and why not align it to the CCSS? Below is the assignment I came up with that I will be trying out next semester. It encourages students to “read” the pieces of art, analyze them, and provide evidence for their conclusions (evidence is very important in the literacy CCSS).

Portrait Analysis
You will begin your study of portraits in this lesson by looking at and analyzing the way that artists create portraits. Portraits often contain symbolism within them. Symbolism is the use of something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance. When artists use symbolism in portraits they are communicating about their subject to the viewer. For example, the type of clothing a subject is wearing in a portrait can tell us about their social class or the culture they come from. The objects surrounding the subject can tell about them too, if they are surrounded by books perhaps they are a student or scholar. For this assignment you will act as a detective to find clues within 2 portraits that inform you about the subject of the work!

Artemisia Gentileschi, 1615
Self Portrait as a Female Martyr
Paul Gauguin, 1886, Self-Portrait
Frida Kahlo, 1940
Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
Kehinde Wiley, 2007, Dwayne I

Your Assignment
  • You will need to choose 2 portraits to write about from above. Write a detailed paragraph about each portrait answering the following questions:
    1. What kind of social class is the subject from? (wealthy, poor, middle class, royal...etc.) How does the artist communicate this?
    2. What do you think the subject's personality is like? How does the artist communicate this?
    3. Are their symbols present in the portrait? What do you think they mean? Why?
    4. Why do you think this portrait was created? Is there a story behind it? Why or why not?
  • Make sure you are giving specific examples of evidence from each portrait for your answers.
  • Think about how these artists captured their subjects in these portraits when creating your own portrait drawings! How can you show this person's personality and likeness? How can you incorporate symbolism?
  • Submit your finished essay to the dropbox.  

I am just beginning this task of aligning curriculum with the CCSS but I expect I’ll be posting more lesson ideas soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

National Parent Involvement Day


Today is National Parent Involvement Day and my school celebrated by encouraging students to get their parents involved in their education. Students were asked to tell family members what they love about going to school online and give tours of their classrooms. Recently, our LMS added a Parent Portal that will give parents and guardians access to many useful tools to help their students succeed. It gives them an inbox that receives messages teachers specify for parents and access full classroom content. It also allows parents to see midterm and quarter grades, upcoming events, and how many credits their student still needs to graduate. I am hoping this new tool helps parents become more involved and aware of their childrens’ progress in school. As every teacher knows, parental involvement is essential in a child’s education. Other ways I try to get parents involved: newsletters home, personal phone calls, and field trips. Tomorrow I will be attending a field trip to a local art museum and I hope to meet many of my students and parents!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Developing an Online/Blended Studio Art Course

I have recently been asked by a former cooperating teacher to share my incites about creating an online art class. His department is being asked to do this for their brick and mortar school. So many schools are starting to create blended learning programs within their schools and I decided to share my ideas I'll be presenting to these teachers here as well.

Important Points to Remember

  • Set a timeline and due dates-This allows a flexible class to still have structure and keep students on track with their work. See image to the left.
  • Provide multiple forms of instruction (written instructions, visuals, student examples, videos)-You should provide everything you would in a traditional classroom but in a digital format. If you were to do a demonstration, make a video. Images of artwork and student examples can really get students interested and communicate the content better.
  • Provide multiple forms of assessment (quizzes check reading, project demonstrates mastery, reflection questions show understanding)-I use projects as the biggest form of assessment in my classroom but I find quizzes and written work show another view of what students understand and are taking home from each lesson.
  • Simple materials unless provided-Unlike the traditional classroom where you order supplies, in many cases students need to provide their own. Keep it simple when choosing supplies keeping in mind safety and cost.
  • Be available for questions-Students need to know they can reach you if they need help by email, telephone, or in person.
  • Give feedback for every grade-Written feedback is essential for communicating to students who are working independently about how they can improve or what they are successful at. In my classroom students are also able to make corrections and resubmit work for a better grade. This is something I have found to work well but it is up to you.

Sample Lessons

For a complete look at all the elements I include in the lesson visit my What Does a Lesson Look Like? post.
Here I have provided some images of what the curriculum pages look like in my classroom.


Art 1 Sample Lesson

This Art 1 lesson includes many visuals, some vocabulary, and many written instructions for students because this is an introductory course. I also included a video in this lesson to show what it looks like when someone is doing the shading techniques. I encourage students to include objects in their still life that tell a story. For most Art 1 projects they have a week to complete them.


Art 5 Sample Lesson

By contrast, this Art 5 lesson includes lesson visuals, more writing, and a project about concept rather than technique. The students in Art 5 should have much more experience in working independently on projects and are working on creating a portfolio for colleges. For Art 5, students have multiple weeks to complete projects but I ask for in progress work checks to provide feedback and direction when needed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Remembering to Make a Difference

I have spent the last two days filling up my brain with new knowledge about teaching. I learned about motivating students, new technology I can use, how to involve parents and guardians, and various other techniques to improve my teaching strategies. I am excited to implement new multimedia into my classroom and to increase attendance of my live lessons. I am excited to try new ways of motivating students to make the right choices in their education despite their many barriers. I am excited to work even more closely with my inclusion teacher in a more effective way that helps us be a team. However, I took home more than just helpful tools this week. I was reminded of a philosophy that sometimes gets pushed to the backs of our minds. As teachers, we are here to change lives, to teach students more than simply our subject matter. Our first keynote speaker, Steve Gilliland told a story about the 5 people in his life who have made the biggest difference, one being his 6th grade teacher. I remember the teachers who impacted my life and who made me want to do the same. Sometimes as teachers we get sucked in to our daily tasks. For me its grading, making PowerPoints, and trying to reach out to those reluctant students I have in my classroom. And sometimes they get lumped together and its call after call and answering machine after answering machine that I am speaking to. But Steve’s story reminded me that I want to be the teacher that students tell stories about later in life, long after they are no longer students. I want remind students that they CAN do it, and that someone believes in them. Though I have been learning about new tech programs and approaches I can use in my classroom, the fact is that none of this matters without remembering to make a difference. I can craft the most wonderful lessons and creative projects but at the end of the day I must always remember my purpose. I am a teacher and I am here to change lives. Every moment of extra time I take to learn about a student and talk on the phone about things that don’t always have to be about art class, every time I stop to appreciate a student’s work, or commend a student on working through a personal challenge, these are the moments that matter. My goal now as I move into the end of the first quarter of our school year is to marry my new knowledge of practical skills with my enduring passion for teaching to make my students successful not only in my class but in life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Perks of Live Instruction Time

This year, as with every year there were changes made to the structure of our office hours as high school teachers. While last year I spent about two hours a week in live instruction, this year I spend about five. One day a week I go over the weekly lesson and project and another day a week I offer an informal art critique for students to attend. Last year I did occasional art critiques with my students but not weekly. I have always been able to help foster discussion in these critiques but this year I am noticing students develop into a tight-knit community quickly and they have surpassed the stage of only making positive comments about each other’s work. Now, they also give suggestions to improve a piece of art, something they had previously not done on their own. The big change this year was going from one hour a week for homework help time to three. Three days of the week, I spend an hour each time with my live classroom open for students to “walk in” and get any questions answered. At first, I was skeptical about how many students would attend or how useful it would be and I have been pleasantly surprised. Last year I had one day a week students could attend to get help with their work and rarely had any students attend. With three guaranteed days a week it seems students are able to find time to attend. I am finding that students without working phones or who might be too shy to call me back are not reluctant to come to a live lesson. Today I worked with a student with special needs to get caught up on some missing projects. I reviewed the examples, instructions, and demonstrated some of the techniques we were learning while he drew them on his paper. These opportunities are difficult to have during a lesson day when I have many students attending but they work well in the smaller homework help time. This student was able to correctly complete a drawing using linear perspective and has been using these days to receive one-on-one help from me. I am making a concentrated effort this year to really slow down and get to know each student and I feel I am starting to be successful in this.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Professional Development and Integrating the Arts

Over the last month my colleagues and I have been preparing for our upcoming professional development meeting in October. We are a little bit of a unique school because we have so many teachers that we cannot fit in many venues all together for a PD day. Therefore, our October PD meetings will be taking place in a convention style where teachers sign up for workshops they would like to attend from a large pool of choices. The presentations and workshops come from a variety of categories such as instruction, technology, and engagement. Our art department will be offering a workshop on integrating the arts into different subjects, which is specifically geared to our online curriculum. With teachers being asked to differentiate lessons for different learning needs and styles, and the changes coming in the Common Core standards, it seems that integration is more important than ever. For our presentation we are focusing on providing online resources, specific lesson plans that can be integrated into existing content, and SMART notebook activities that can be used in live instruction to make lessons more visual and interactive. I have focused on Language Arts for my portion of the presentation and I have worked with the Language Arts department to craft several examples of integration specific to their curriculum. I look forward to presenting this information to colleagues at PD and learning from others.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Day in the Life

Lately I have been busy, busy, busy! My team and I have been working on a presentation for our upcoming professional development event about integrating the arts into other subjects and I attended a field trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art last week as well. I will be writing more about that soon, but in the mean time I found this interesting video showing what a typical day is like for students at an e-school.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

(Re)Learning to Blog

This school year I have joined a community of blogging online educators (http://inacol.wordpress.com/). I am so excited to be a part of a community of teachers who work in an environment similar to my own. This community has provided me with prompts for blog posts to help us learn together. The first prompt is sharing my blog’s purpose. It has been almost a full year since I began blogging here and at the beginning, my purpose was clear. I set out to inform anyone who was interested about what it is like to teach art online. At this point most of my audience was family and friends, many of them teachers, interested in education, or just interested in how on earth I could teach art online. I was writing to start conversations involving the questions people had about online education. I had the traditional educational experience in which I never attended an online school or took an online course and I had plenty of questions about online education before I became an online educator (and of course I still have questions!). Now it is my second year as an online educator and as a blogger and I am re-evaluating the purpose of my blog. I feel I have written about many of the questions people had and as my audience expands my ideas about what to write are changing. I still feel it is valuable to inform readers of the things I am still learning every day and how my online classroom works but I also hope to be a resource to the teachers in the online education community. I hope we can be resources to each other and learn together.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Building Learning

The dust is beginning to settle this week as we recover from some technical difficulties with our LMS (learning management system) last week. I am starting to get back into the groove of the school year contacting and welcoming new students and grading their first assignments. This week, students are working on using proportions to create a sense of space in their drawings. Like many Art 1 classes, mine focuses on foundational skills, at least at the beginning. Later, students will learn about linear perspective, which shows them how the foreground, middle, and background connect with this mathematical concept. An important element of any lesson in my online classroom is that is builds upon student learning and provides a foundation for future learning. When the connections are there, students retain more, and I can really tell when students understand the content. For this week’s lesson, students will complete a drawing of an interior room that uses the foreground, middle, and background to create depth and space. Part of their learning takes place by reading the lesson and looking at examples, but I feel the main part of learning takes place when they are asked to demonstrate it. A student might go through the process, “Now I’ve read about it. I know what it looks like. How can I create it? How can I make it my own?” I think that last question is especially important. I encourage my students to make each assignment personal even when the content is technical. In my online classroom I assess in chunks. Each week has a small project for students to complete which helps me witness students building upon their learning as they go. Assigning one project per week keeps students continuously learning and practicing their new skills. Creating is a way of learning that encourages problem solving and I love to see what my students come up with.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preparing for the New School Year

At last, a new school year is here! I have been working since last Friday to get prepared to make 2012-2013 another excellent year in my classroom. As with any classroom, preparing the environment for students is crucial for starting the year off right. I spent much of my time in the spring making changes to lessons from the school year that needed improvements and clarification. Those changes went into the “Gold Course”, an index of lesson web pages we can import into our classes for the next year. Having made these changes when they were fresh in my mind made setting up online content go smoothly this week. I have imported all of the lessons into my Art 1 and 5 classrooms to get them ready for students to start next week. In online teaching much of the prep to get the classroom ready can be done in the beginning of a semester, leaving the semester to focus on teaching, grading, and working with students. Over the summer many technological updates were made to the systems we use at my school, including a new grading scale, scheduling of live session changes, and a new homepage template. They also updated many of the databases we use to record data. One of the wonderful things about technology is that it is always making our work online more seamless and therefore it is easier to help our students the best ways we can. It’s a little like getting a present when we come back from summer and find new technological tools we can use. One of the changes I am most excited about is the new grading scale and the matching grade book that comes with it. We have moved to a uniform way of grading on a 4-point scale that allows letter grades to be equally spaced. For example 4=A, 3=B, 2=C and so on. Because of the grading change, we have a new grade book to go with it that automatically implements the new policy. The technological tools and the policies work together to make this change effective and clear for students and teachers. Some of my goals for the year will be creating more video content for Art 1 and making more connections to the common core standards that will be implemented by 2014-2015. I will keep you all posted about my progress with that this year and other exciting information from the online art classroom. As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Visit to the Traditional Classroom

I apologize for the lack of entries lately. I have been enjoying my first summer "off" as a teacher. This week I had the pleasure of teaching at a summer art camp for children ages 6-12. At first I was nervous to enter the traditional classroom again after my year in the online classroom. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this week and realized that all the confidence I gained this past year as an online teacher has translated well into the traditional teaching environment. I love working with different age groups as a change of pace and I got to try several new art lessons with campers that I have been thinking about for some time.
Who Am I Collage:
For one group I introduced the idea of a mixed media portrait collage involving things they like. I started with a lesson on facial proportions that I teach in my high school class. I followed that up with a step in which they trace the portait onto a page protector. Lastly, and the part they enjoyed the most, they constructed images of their faces using pictures from magazines. They paid close attention to picking things they are interested in. They also focused on matching the colors of their skin and hair tones. The final result is a layered portrait.
Pinhole Cameras:
I was so excited to try this lesson with a younger group. I have always been primarily interested in photography and I want to get younger students excited about traditional photography. The campers worked together to build pinhole cameras out of shoe boxes and captured images with them. I set up a darkroom to develop their photos and create reversals of them. When the students returned for a second day of my class they wrote creative stories about them and mounted them. The result was multiple ages of students excited about a method of photography they've never experienced before. I want to continue to develop lessons like this to promote the understanding of this older technology.
I also was able to showcase some of my recent art as part of the instructors' exhibit. What a great week!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Last night I got to experience one of the biggest highlights as my first year as a teacher, graduation! You might ask if our graduation is online because the school is online. We do hold a physical graduation for those students who can travel to the location to attend. And boy is it a big one! My job for graduation this year was to help pass out honor cords for those students graduation with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. 
Look at all those cords!
 I also helped pass out the valedictorian medals and National Honor Society stoles. I had the pleasure of watching all the graduates walk by and directing them to the table if they had earned honors as well as putting on the cords for them. This gave me the opportunity to meet many of my students from this year and see their smiling faces in person as they experienced this important day. I also informed many of the students of their achievements of graduating with honors. I spoke with a student who was in tears about how far she had come after finding out she had earned honors. After getting the graduates ready I watched from the floor as over 1,000 students earned their high school diplomas. It was amazing to be a part of such an achievement. What an experience!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


It is my birthday today and I couldn’t ask for a better present from my job than a conversation with an excited graduate. Scores for the OGT’s (Ohio Graduation Test) were posted today and I knew of a student from my first semester class who was just waiting to pass science to find out if she could graduate this year as an 11th grader. I went to check her scores this morning and found out she passed. We talked this morning all about her future plans and all the excitement she is feeling. She plans to go into nursing. I have been speaking to many of my seniors this week, making sure they are on track to pass and graduate and it is a wonderful experience to see their hard work finally paying off for them. Some of these students are the first in their family to graduate high school and many of them didn’t see this as a possibility for themselves but they are accomplishing this because of the opportunities online school has offered them and their strength to stick it out. I am very proud!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preparing for the End of the Year

I cannot believe I am only 3 ½ weeks away from the end of my first year as an in-service teacher. I have learned so much and couldn’t ask for a more positive experience. I am starting to get prepared for the end of the year in my classroom and there is much to do. A little bit ago myself and the other art teachers sorted through all of the best student artwork we’ve collected over several years (just one for me) for the graduation art show. The work will be viewed before the ceremony where over 1,000 of our students will graduate. I am so excited to attend this event. This week I have begun to work with seniors individually to ensure they pass my class so they can graduate. In my experience at brick and mortar schools, seniors often do not participate in final projects as they get out several weeks early but in my classroom I opened up all the content for the rest of the year. I can control what students see and usually I only keep current content open for them so they don’t rush through it but at the end of the year it is nice to give students the flexibility to finish early if they choose. So far I’ve gotten a lot of assignments submitted which I hope makes end of the year grading a bit less insane (yeah, right!).
A bit unrelated, with the completion of my thesis (and defense coming soon) I have had some extra time to start working on my own art again. I am really enjoying rediscovering making art for pleasure and I hope I can bring these experiences into my new classroom in the fall. 
Mixed Media on Canvas (in progress)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Things

It’s been a little bit longer than I wanted since I updated but it has been a busy time for my school and myself lately. A couple weeks ago we took a field trip to the Columbus Museum of Art and had a nice turn out of students and parents. We had a docent-led tour that was very fun and informative. As always it is so nice to meet my students. I also had an opportunity to meet with them at our recent Family Night, an event held in many cities in the state for parents and students to attend and meet their teachers while doing fun activities like trying out for the talent show! It is neat to see how an online school holds a talent show. Students audition in front of a camera at Family Nights and their classmates vote on the best videos online to decide the winner. This is similar to how the Senior T-shirt Design contest is judged as well. Our art department picked 4 finalists and students will soon vote for a winner whose design will be printed on the Class 2012 t-shirt. At Family Night I had the pleasure of gluing down our Art Club collage for the year. Students each sent in several doodle squares and I combined them into a collaborative collage. I also worked with students at Family Night to create doodles that will be used to make another collaborative collage that will be constructed by students, friends, and family members at events in the future. I love finding new ways to get students excited about Art! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sick Day

This week I have come down with a cold and yesterday I took a sick day to try to get myself better. This is the first sick day I have ever taken as a teacher and I started to think about the preparations I would have needed to make had I been in a traditional brick and mortar classroom. In the online classroom, substitute teachers are only needed when teachers are out for a number of weeks. This means I did not need to write sub plans. Though I was out, my classroom kept functioning for students. I was not able to answer questions via phone but catching up from yesterday was fairly simple. I replied to emails and returned voicemails. This same concept applies to my students as well for when they might be sick or out for several days. I do not need to re-teach content and that student should not get too far behind. Students also attend school when teachers are at professional development meetings, another day they would have had off. During winter and spring break many of my students logged on to catch up on missing work and they had access to recordings of lessons and content. Online learning is not bound by time constraints or holidays, which provides flexibility for all.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thesis Project

My thesis project is complete! This year has been such a beautiful experience and I cannot think of a better topic to have picked for my thesis project. I invite you to read it if you want. Also, I WILL continue to update my blog even though my thesis is done. Thank you all so much for reading!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Does a Lesson Look Like?

Screen shots of lesson pages
This week I am teaching a lesson about color theory and I realized I have not actually shown how the classroom looks for students as they complete a lesson. Translating content from the traditional classroom to online means presenting all of the content you would have lectured about, demonstrated, or delivered in other activities in a way that can be understood using only web pages in the classroom. It is important that the content be engaging and clear to help students understand without a teacher standing in front of them delivering the content. All online education platforms look different but I will share elements I believe to be important for framing an art lesson in my classroom.
Important Elements of an Online Art Lesson:
1.    Introduction-I use the introduction page to explain to student what they will be learning for the lesson or unit. The page also offers a printable version of all classroom content for students who prefer to work away from their computers.
2.     Content: This is what I would describe as the online “text book”. This is where students read about new content that I also deliver in my live lessons. I include images to engage students and promote understanding of art concepts.
3.    Assignment: Most weeks students complete one art project for my class. The assignment page lays out the instructions for the project and some requirements I am looking for.
4.    Examples: Just like many brick and mortar art teachers show teacher examples and student exemplars in person, I share them online. Students can use this page to get a better idea of what the assignment could look like.
5.     Demonstration Video: For some lessons myself and other art teachers in my team create demo videos to show student techniques for their projects. This is just like doing a demo in the brick and mortar classroom, but students can pause and watch as many times as they need!
6.    Practice: For some lessons I offer students a way to practice their new knowledge in a risk-free non-graded worksheet or web page. This week students can use this work sheet to remember different color schemes for their quiz.
7.    Quiz: I implemented a quiz for this assignment to measure student understanding of the different color theory terms. This also encourages students to read the content because they know they are being held accountable for knowing it.
8.    Rubric: Like many art teachers, I recognize that grading art is difficult! I include rubrics for each lesson that remind students and myself of what I am looking for in their work.

This is the first time I have used this project in Art 1 so I am excited to see what the results will be. I will share student examples when they are completed.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pre-Made Curriculum

Today one of my colleagues directed my to a pre-made online art curriculum. During our visit to the NAEA national convention we visited a room full of samples of products that we could use in our art classrooms. Not having a traditional art classroom, most of the products could not be applied to my classroom in particular but my colleague stumbled-upon something that could. Studio Space by McGraw-Hill is “a unique, fully digital art program for secondary educators”(quoted from their facebook page). I explored it today to find useful lessons, fun studio projects, and excellent resources all presented in a beautiful way. I am not “plugging” this product, however I find it extremely interesting that it exists. I often feel alone as an online art educator but the fact that such a product exists means that K-12 online art education is alive and well. The way that information is presented in the Studio Space is beautiful and makes me want to do a bit of an overhaul for my classroom pages.
You can learn more about Studio Space here: https://www.facebook.com/mhstudiospace

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Writing New Curriculum for Art 5

Snapshot of the current Art 5 classroom
 Throughout the year I have learned many techniques that work well for teaching art online in my Art 1 class. I have been offered the opportunity to teach Art 5 next year and I want to put my learning to use when creating this class. There is an old Art 5 curriculum in place but it has not been used for a number of years and I would like to put some of my ideas to use. Art 1 is a very large class with around 200 students, which makes some ideas I’ve had more difficult to put into action. The purpose of the Art 5 class will be for students to prepare portfolios for art schools so that will be my end goal for students. Knowing this, I will focus on portfolio development and artist statements as an advanced art class in a brick and mortar school would as well. I have been brainstorming ideas specific to teaching an advanced art class online that will help my students get a rich experience and come out with beautiful portfolios.
An issue I have always run into in Art 1 is the limited supplies. Because Art 1 is an introductory class and many students need to take it, the supply list is rather basic. For Art 5 I plan to let students decide the media they want to work with in their assignments. I will include a manual of basic instructions for many art materials so students can get ideas and decide what they can afford and would like to work with. This will allow students to experiment with new media or work with something they are comfortable with so their portfolio really shows who they are as an artist.
My assignments in Art 1 are very structured, however I want to try more broad assignments with my Art 5 students. Students will have at least two pieces they need to plan, design, and create. They will fill out a planning sheet that describes their concept, what supplies they need, and a time line for their creation. Teaching online as I have said before, does not allow me to see the whole process of a student’s art making. In Art 5 I want to work towards more in progress critiques as a class in WebEx, but also between teach and student. I will require students to turn in sketches and partially completed pieces for feedback so they may improve the work before it is done. Though I might allow up to four weeks for a student to finish a piece I will require them to show me something each week.  
I have created a rich community of students in my Art 1 class through live sessions and a discussion board in the classroom. Students post artwork they like and that they have created in and outside of class for their classmates to see. Since the beginning of the semester the “Share Your Art” discussion board has been viewed more than 600 times! I plan to continue this idea in Art 5 as a place for students to share ideas with their classmates when a live session is not going on. I hope to create a community between these students in the small group class that it will be. I also believe that using the discussion board as well as WebEx sessions to share their work will motivate students and hold them accountable for completing work on time.
I am excited to put everything I’ve learned into a new course and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Extracurricular Activities Online: Art Club

The welcome page for Art Club
This being my first year teaching, I wanted to get involved in anything and everything at my school so I volunteered to be one of the three Art Club advisors. This is the second year that Art Club has been around at my school. It began last year as a social extracurricular option for high school students. Each month, students come together in WebEx and lead discussions about their favorite artists and their own artwork. Because this is an optional activity, it is not graded and is just for fun! Our Art Club members have the opportunity to participate in the many art contests we hold throughout the year even if they are not enrolled in an art class. The big contest we are working on right now it the senior t-shirt design contest where students submit designs for a t-shirt that 2012 graduates will receive. Students in Art Club are also invited to attend any art field trips to local art museums throughout the year where they can meet other students interested in art and friends they’re made in art club. Last week during our March meeting we shared pictures from our recent trip to New York and students shared their artwork. Our Art Club members are working on a collaborative doodle project where they create doodle drawings on small pieces of paper that has been mailed to them and later my colleagues and myself will combine them into a large collage. We will be completing the project at a family night where students are invited to attend and help with its construction. Art Club is a great opportunity for students to feel involved in their school community.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Experience Like No Other

Today, three art teachers from my school and I presented at the National Art Education Association Conference in New York City. We presented on the topic "Teaching Art Online: How Does that Work?"
Prior to the beginning of our presentation I was nervous. About to deliver my first ever presentation at a national conference, I was worried about how many people would come or what questions they might ask. Would they find our presentation helpful? I was worried about many scenarios but I was completely surprised by the one that actually occurred.
By the time I looked up from reviewing my notes prior to beginning our session, I saw that the room was almost full. Many people continued to enter as well throughout the presentation and by the end, we ran out of chairs. I was confident that I and my colleagues had put together a presentation that was both visually interesting and dense with information. I had no idea there would be so many interested in what we had to say. Delivering our presentation went smoothly with few questions are we spoke, mostly technology questions that we could answer quickly. The real magic occurred after we concluded our PowerPoint slides. Many people asked us questions about how we connect and relate to our students. People told us they are trying to teach online or they do teach online and they looked to us to learn how they might improve. One girl approached me because she is also researching the question, “Can we teach art online?” and she wants to interview me for her research. I hope this experience leads to more of these types of connections. I feel we presented a vibrant picture of what we do and that not only can art be taught online but it can be taught well. Never have I felt so much like I am not alone or that everyone feels art education online is somehow less relevant to the field. Our audience was excited, interested, and intrigued. Several of my professors from undergraduate school were present to support me and learn what I do and seeing familiar faces in the audience made me so proud of myself to be teaching other art educators in this forum.
I have never thought of myself as a researcher or an expert in anything but now, more than ever, I feel that teaching others about this amazing phenomenon of online learning is exactly where I need to be. I am becoming a resource for those learning about this field and I am already sharing my experiences now. I feel like a valuable part of this profession and I will definitely continue to teach others about the unique experience of teaching art online.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Motivating Students and Other Online Challenges

Danger of failing letter sent home to failing students

I spent today contacting many of my students who have fallen behind or have failed to start my class. It is the 6th week of the semester but I still have a number of students who have yet to complete any assignments or attend class. How is this possible? One of the biggest challenges of teaching online is motivating reluctant learners. Unlike a traditional classroom where students can be motivated to work by looking their teacher in the eye every day, my students can hide from me. I contact these students through email, phone calls, and most recently letters in the mail. I sent a “danger of failing” letter out to all my students who had not started working about a week ago and since then, many have begun to complete work. However, I still have some stragglers. It is a myth that art teachers do not need to motivate their students to do work because it is a “fun subject”. There will always be students who don’t enjoy my class, but in an online setting students seem more likely to disengage in their learning entirely. I’ve already talked before about how online learning requires more self-motivation from the student than traditional learning, and this fact is extremely clear when looking at reluctant learners. I continue to find new ways to engage these students and I feel it is something I’ll always struggle with.
My mom reminded me of another challenge I face in my online classroom with her question: How can you make sure the work students turn in they actually did themselves since you don't always see them working?
This question is an issue that has inspired a policy at my particular online school. I am required to proctor students about their completed work once every 9 weeks. When I call students about their work, I ask them about their ideas and how they created their artwork. I embrace these moments as a time to really measure and learn what students are retaining and putting into practice. It is also a time where it is easy to tell if a student did not actually make this artwork. Many students who turn in plagiarized work in my classroom are easily caught. With tools like Google Image Search, I can upload the image a student submitted and search for others like it online. I also look for similarities in style between different projects done by the same student. It is easy to see if a student who was struggling is suddenly creating work far beyond their previous skills. Though authenticity will continue to be a challenge, I feel comfortable that my students are being held accountable for what they submit.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Managing My Online Classroom

As I met with my thesis project advisor this week, we discussed many factors that make my situation unique and different as an online teacher. One of the main challenges of any first year teacher is classroom management. We are generally young and semi-unseasoned in our experiences other than during student teaching where we have a cooperating teacher to step in. High school students have always been my favorite age group to work with and I have always been able to connect with them well and establish rapport. However, I was nervous about managing a high school classroom, as I look rather young. Teaching online negates many of the challenges of classroom management because students are not physically present in a classroom with one another, though we do meet in a virtual classroom once a week. A colleague of mine once said that she has always wanted to work with an at-risk population of students but that in her experiences in the brick and mortar classroom, distractions and discipline took over almost all of the learning time. Now that she teaches online, she is still working with the same types of students but is able to work with them one-on-one and distraction free. I feel the same about this, I am no longer worried about discipline and classroom management, which leaves room for real learning to take place and for me to be the best teacher I can be. I feel comfortable relating to my students and talking to them on a personal level because I do not worry about coming off as soft and opening the door for students to take advantage of my kindness. Students are not constantly being distracted by their peers or frustrated because they want to work hard and their classmates want to cause trouble. Even when students are meeting in our digital classroom, they only have the opportunity to talk to one another when I allow them to through the software I use to deliver instruction, which makes controlling the situation easier than it would be in a brick and mortar classroom. Even when students choose to go on a tangent in the chat box, I find them to be more respectful of my request for them to return to the class discussion than I have experienced in traditional classrooms. From the perspective of classroom management, I feel teaching online is more productive for both my students and I.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Digital Learning Day

Today is the first ever Digital Learning Day, a day where teachers, administrators, and students across the country come together to talk about digital tools in education today. It was exciting for me to witness the innovation in digital learning technology by so many teachers and the effect it is having on students. It is a wonderful experience to work in a technologically advancing field. It was an inspiration to see all the schools and teachers who are using technology and knowing I am not alone in my online classroom.
Digital Learning Day is asking teachers to respond to this question:
How do you make a difference using digital tools?
I provide access to at least 180 high school students every semester from all over the state of Ohio to a high quality education in the fine arts. Many of these students would otherwise not have the opportunity or access to study art or even to graduate high school. By offering school online, students who have been bullied, work or volunteer full time, are parents, are professional athletes or performers, have health issues, or for some other reason could not find their place in a tradition classroom now have the opportunity to attend school at their own pace in their own home. Every day I strive to create a community of self-driven, creative learners and I use technology to encourage that idea. The school where I work has an enrollment of 12,680 students who chosen to be educated through online technology. I am proud to be a part of reaching more students, offering personalized attention to each student, offering a flexible pace, and encouraging students to take charge of their own learning through technology. 
For more information about Digital Learning Day check out http://www.digitallearningday.org/