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!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Open Art Room - Creating Structure as a Team

During my first semester this year, I had a student ask to meet with me one-on-one in our synchronous classroom software, WebEx. Often when I am trying to help students get caught up with their work, we meet and discuss which assignments to focus on and I can show them examples of the projects and answer any questions. I also showed this student demonstrations using my document camera. He really found our meeting helpful and we continued to meet like this once a week until the semester ended. He told me that working with a teacher like this made him feel more like he was in a classroom, like he was not working alone.
This got me thinking, how can I regularly create this environment for students? After speaking with some of my colleagues, "Open Art" was born. Open Art is offered to students once a week. The session is run by myself and 3 other teachers and it is open to students in any of our sections. During the session, we walk students through each step of the weekly project, demonstrate over the webcam, and answer questions as students work individually. We allow students to work at their own pace by letting them roam freely through the slides after we have reviewed them. At the end of the session students will have their project done or developed enough to finish on their own.
Here is a sample presentation from one of our sessions:

We have seen consistent attendance at these sessions and find that students appreciate the extra structure that Open Art offers them. Students know that they can plan to do their art homework during the session and can have someone there to guide them through it. Also during these sessions, our special education teacher is able to open breakout rooms to work with students one-on-one. It has been wonderful to collaborate with other teachers on my team to make sure these sessions run smoothly. I will definitely be implementing Open Art again next year!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Experience as an Online Student-Take 2

Last year, I took a MOOC (massively online open course) focusing on an Introduction to Spanish, which I signed up for through I wanted to see what it was like to walk in my students' shoes and take a class online. I learned a lot from my experience and though I succeeded in "passing" the class, I ran into many issues that stopped me from doing my best. See the post here.

Now, almost a year later I decided to take another online course. This time, for the fun of learning and because of the topic! The course is called "The Music of the Beatles". As a huge Beatles fan, I was intrigued and excited to take this course. And, the experience was completely different from my online Spanish class.

I started excited and continued strong through all six weeks of the course. Each week I watched all the lectures, participated in the discussion board, and aced all the quizzes. I ended the course with a 97% and much historical knowledge I did not previously have about the Beatles. The course did not get pushed to the side in my mind and I never failed to make time for it. It was easy to be highly engaged in this course and I have several ideas about why.

What worked well:
  • Interest in the topic
  • Getting to know you survey to begin the course, and asked to introduce ourselves to our classmates
  • Class map where each student pinned where they are from (over 10,000 students took this course!)
  • Discussion board which was student-led where the professor actively participated as well
  • Facebook community for the course created by students. This was a big plus for me, as I am on Facebook all the time, I would see posts on my news feed about what my classmates were discussing so I would think about the course several times a day.
  • Students actively learned as a community by researching and sharing external resources from youtube and other sources that deepened the concepts we learned in the lectures
  • Video lectures where the teacher showed his face and his personality! Videos were informative, broken into small chunks, and visually appealing.
  • Released course content one week at a time with deadlines
  • Instant feedback from quizzes

I believe these practices helped me be the best online student I could be and I hope to employ as many as I can into my own course.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Getting Students Talking

Lately, art teachers have been focusing on creating more opportunities for reading and writing in their classrooms to align to the Common Core. This semester, I have begun using the discussion board in my classroom to provide students more opportunities for writing, but also in hopes of creating more of a sense of community in my classroom.
Each week, students have a prompt to respond to that uses an issue of Scholastic Art Magazine. This magazine has fantastic digital resources I would recommend to anyone trying to expand their text resources in the art classroom. I have tried to keep these prompts fun and intriguing to encourage engagement.
For Week 1, I wanted insight into students previous experiences with drawing and art. I found an interview with Tim Burton where he discussed his experiences as a student throughout school. I asked students to respond to the following:
Read or listen to the interview by Tim Burton (an artist who has worked on The Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Edward Scissorhands...etc.).
1. Why do you think some children stop enjoying drawing?
2. When has a teacher inspired you in school?
The results have been very impressive. 73 of my students responded to my prompt which is an extra credit assignment in my class. Below is a student example.
During the first week, students were responding to me only. I made sure I replied to each student to show I am reading their responses and to model communication with others in the discussion board.
During the second week, I asked students to reply to each other using the prompt:
Read the article "Is there Art in your Xbox?"
1. Do you believe video games are art? Why or why not?
2. Respond to a classmate's post
Below is a student example:
As you can see, student responses started out generic. I provided feedback to help students expand their thinking and make sure they address specifics when replying to a classmate. I am hoping to see growth in their responses throughout the semester. So far, I am happy to see students engaging in this type of assignment and with each other.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I have concluded my semester 1 with my highest ever passing rate as a teacher. 74% of my students passed Art 1! I believe the passing packet and my other efforts to engage students during the last 2 weeks of the semester really made the difference this time.
The method I used:
1. Send out mid-term grades for the 2nd quarter.
2. Send the passing packet to all failing students (see previous entry)
3. 2 weeks from the end of the semester, send each failing student an email with the subject line, "Name, you are X assignments from passing!" outlining some assignment suggestions to get them to a passing grade
4. 2 weeks from the end of the semester, call each failing student to tell them about the email
5. Last week of the semester, call each failing student who has not completed the work assigned in the email and remind them of the amount of time they have left to complete it
6. Provide an extension of the weekend to complete all missing work

With this method I was able to engage my reluctant learners so they could succeed and earn their required fine art credit. I'll continue to use this method next semester and hope for similar results.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Getting Silly and the Passing Packet

As we approach the end of semester 1 for 2013-2014, there has been a big focus in my department around pass rates. This school year is the first time in Ohio that a fine arts credit is required for all students to graduate. As an art teacher, I think this is fantastic news! However, it has been a challenge this year with an increased population of students being placed in my Art 1 class who do not want to be there and also might not know about the new requirement. Engagement is always a challenge in an online environment, especially when students are not interested in the content. I also often find that students have high anxiety about drawing and art in general. There are many ways I work to soften and break down these barriers of learning in my class through video, step-by-step instructions, live lessons, demonstrations, and working with students one-on-one. However, for the students who aren't looking at my lesson pages at all, it is a bit more difficult to help them. Thus, I have begun to get a little more creative with my approach to reach reluctant learners, and even a little silly. 
I have created a document called the "Passing Packet" which is a word document that includes all of the lesson materials and project instructions for all of the projects students are required to do to pass. I have broken it down to make it as simple as possible. Complete the packet, earn your credit. Now, I do not distribute this information to students who are already engaging and being successful. I only give it to students who have not engaged in the content throughout the first 15 weeks of school. It is my hope that I can engage even the most reluctant learners to engage and pass Art 1. I also worked with my co-teacher Dana to create a fun video that helps remind students we have a sense of humor, and even though they might be frustrated, we are here do everything we can to help.