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.