Monday, December 3, 2012

Documenting with iPads

My school recently passed a bond, which has allowed major technology upgrades to our classrooms. As a part of the equipment brought into the classroom, teachers were given iPads and taught basic methods of using them to deliver content and create resources for the classroom. I had been wanting an iPad for quite a while; there are so many great teachers who implement their use in the Art classroom and I wanted to do the same.

Unfortunately, since obtaining the device my creation of "art" has not been as frequent as I would like - since I do not have a class set to use with students, I have not done as much with production other than using it to take pictures and video and make presentations for class. Although my digital paintings have been sparse, the impact that simply documenting work with the iPad has made a tremendous difference in my ability to reflect on what I teach and how students work daily.

Artists Name: Katie M.

School: Grand Ledge HS

I recently spoke with a colleague who had been evaluated and mentioned how they wished the administrator could have been there longer or at a different time. We have all been there. I know I have. That feeling got me thinking about how I can use the iPad within the teacher evaluation system to show more than just a snapshot of what happens within my classroom. Instead of just looking at a short period of time when the administrator was able to come in and observe, by taping various projects or segments of learning, I can start offering a more complete and better representation of what happens in the classroom. When using this in during the review of a classroom observation, it can reveal different experiences that occur and help give a more complete picture of what it is you do as a teacher.

I think that is why I appreciate blogging so much as a part of my daily practice. It offers me a chance to give a complete picture of what happens in my classroom and hopefully allows others a chance to understand what it means to be an art student in my school. I also get a chance to reflect on what worked and what didn't, which impacts what and how I teach in the future.

How do you use iPads in your classroom? Do you document learning activities through blogs of videos and have you used that to impact your evaluation? I am interested in hearing from others on this topic as it is something I am just starting to explore. I look forward to your comments and learning more about how you approach the documentation of learning in your own classroom.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chance Favors the Connected Mind

It’s been three weeks now since I came home from the conference weekend in Traverse City. So much has happened since then: the elections, the quarter ended, grades had to be completed, new lessons begun.

On Friday, Jan Cramer from Battle Creek posted on Facebook: “Tests and projects graded, 50 Kindergarten empty bowls drying, student holiday art/cards matted and framed, PLC meeting agenda copied, kiln loaded and firing, materials ready to go for Mon. and Tues....this is how I spent my Friday night.” We can all relate to her post, can’t we?

Amidst all the complexities of life I crave and cherish tranquil moments—moments that I allow myself for creative reflection. Recently I came across this video by Steven Johnson, considering “Where Good Ideas Come From”, also the title of his recent book.

We can look at Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or texting or any other form of communication as a distraction, another complexity but then again we can consider them connectivity, which is what the 21st century is all about, isn’t it?

One of my biggest challenges in my role as MAEA High School Division Co-chair is that very notion: other than at the conference how do we connect? I see this blog as a tiny possibility that could grow into something far more than it is now. Jeanine has set the blog up so that we have tabs for each level: HS, MS, El. And now: Assessment. Lots of teachers are concerned about this area. So let’s talk about it! Let’s take advantage of this way of connecting.

And if you have an idea, a hunch, bring it up, and maybe someone else will have a hunch and maybe those hunches will collide, mingle and create new forms.

So here’s the plan: I will set up a schedule for high school teachers to start the ball rolling. I already have ten of you interested in writing for the blog on occasion. I’ll e-mail you and set up a schedule. It can be an interview, a lesson idea, a student success story, or simply a creative idea that you want to talk about. Let us know if you want to join the party, if you want to write, e-mail me.
If you are an elementary or middle school teacher we have a tab for you, too!

But what I’d really like to see is dialogue after the authors post an article.
Voice an opinion, an affirmation, start a disagreement, share an example or tell a story. We’d love to hear your voice! Claudia:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What did you Learn?

It has been a couple of weeks since the MAEA Fall 2012 Conference, and I am still sorting through bags of handouts, sample materials, and pictures that are filled with great ideas and classroom inspiration. This conference had it all - great views of Traverse City, awesome sessions with expert teachers, and loads of ideas to take back and implement into the classroom. Here are a couple of take-aways that will be helping me through this year:

1. Assessment: Claudia Burns had a great Thursday night session on Assessment where teachers were able to share how they are working with the new evaluation requirement to show student growth. Teachers gave examples of how the implement both formative and summative assessment tools as well as the resources they use to help with pre and post testing. You will notice a new tab on our blog labeled "Assessment" - Claudia will be putting resource materials on there to help you get started or advance your understanding of how this works in an art classroom.

2. Creativity: There were several sessions that had creativity at the heart of it. Adam VanHouten, September Buys, and Cindy Todd gave presentations dealing with aspects of creativity in the classroom. I enjoyed learning about various methods of instruction to help foster innovative thinking. Both Adam and September used to create interactive presentations on how they apply this in their classrooms.

3. Workshops: The amount of hands-on opportunities this conference did not disappoint. Sharon Stratton gave an awesome workshop that not only gave great resources for using unusual materials like tar paper, bleach, and soap to make awesome works of art, but also included pop-rocks in her presentation (which was a sweet surprise). The vendors also did not disappoint with their samples and make-and-takes which helps when deciding if you want to purchase products on display.

4. Data: One of the best moments was the presentation by Dr. Root-Bernstein. His keynote on the link between the Arts and everything else put hard facts and figures to something we always have felt to be true: that when you invest in the Arts, you are investing in all other aspects of learning. It was a great talk and I look forward to reading his book that goes into the topic further.

Overall, this was a great conference to attend. It was full of information and moments to connect with others. Conferences like these are important for our profession. What was your favorite part of MAEA 2012? Please share links, pictures, and information below so we can archive the highlights of this year's conference.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ready to Go!

Today is the start of the annual MAEA Conference and I am so excited! It is a great time to connect with other teachers from around the state and share information on what works best in Art Education. It is a time where I learn so much from my peers and receive the valuable resources that allow my classroom to thrive and grow.
Artists Name: Samantha J.

School: Heritage HS

If you are attending MAEA this weekend, here are some tips that I have found helpful when attending any conference: 

1. Have a plan: Go through the Conference booklet (available online) to help plan out what you want to attend and when they are taking place. Also have a back-up plan in case your first choice fills up too quickly. With the new mobile feature on the MAEA site, you can easily do this through your smartphone or tablet.

2. Ask questions: If you attend a session and you want to know more about something that was said by the presenter, make sure to ask. As a presenter, I want to make sure my presentation is relevant and helpful to the audience. If there is something that you want to know more about, just ask. 

3. Check out the Vendors: I think my favorite part is checking out the booths from the great Vendors that come to MAEA. Not only do you end up with bags full of samples, but there are opportunities to participate in "Make and Takes" and talk with knowledgable spokespeople from the companies represented. If you have questions about purchasing supplies, new equipment, or other resources, this is a great time to connect and research through first hand experience. 

4. Student Work: Make sure to take the time and check out the great student work on display. I am always amazed at the talent and creativity each year during our conference. It is also a great time to get ideas from other teachers by seeing how they taught a lesson so you can adapt it in your own classroom. 

5. Tweet it out: Please use the hashtag #MAEA12 to tweet any important ideas or information you gained from this conference. This allows ideas to be shared from a variety of sessions - it will be like you can experience being in more places at once! When the conference is complete, I will post the resource here so that we can all enjoy the conference over and over again! 

I hope you have the best experience this weekend at the conference. If you are unable to attend, follow #MAEA12 to get updates on the new lessons learned throughout this weekend of learning and sharing in Art Education.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Partnering with Parents

2012 State Adjudication: Laura B.
As we get into the grove of another school year, there are all kinds of demands that come along with the job. From organizing student work and supplies to participating in displays, shows, and competitions, there is a lot of work beyond teaching to do as the school year gets into full swing. One thing that I always find challenging during this time is figuring out how to engage parents into helping with these extra events. As an Art teacher, especially in the elementary level, you may have well over 500 students to keep track of throughout the year. It can be difficult at times to juggle rotating displays, depleting supplies, and mountains of papers that result.

Instead of bearing the burden on your own, here are a couple of ideas on how to enlist parents to help along the school year:

1. Just Ask. Parents are interested in what happens in their child's school and there are many who would love to spend a day in the Art room helping organize materials, displays, or assisting with students. To make this a successful experience, make sure you have a specific idea of what that parent will be doing when they come into your classroom as well as communicate those ideas beforehand to make sure you are both on the same page.

2. Communicate your needs in multiple ways. Email is just one way to communicate with parents about activities that are happening in the classroom. You can also start a blog, create a twitter account, or a facebook page to help keep parents connected (make sure you comply with your school's technology policy first). If you participate in Artsonia, you can use their newsletter feature to be emailed to parents and then embed the form in your blog or website.

3. Take a poll. Google forms allows you to create a survey to share and gather information from others. I recently created a survey for parents to see how they feel about how the school year is going so far. The form automatically calculates the data and shows it to you in graphs or charts. This allows for parents to share their ideas and for you to get quick and honest feedback.

Do you have a great way for getting parents involved in your classroom? Please share your ideas below and help make this school year one filled with positive involvement!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mattawan Tech Camp 2012

Artists Name: Christine M.

School: Northview HS
From Video Game Design, to management tools like Class Dojo, and an endless amount of Free resources for consuming and creating content - the Mattawan Tech Camp offered a little bit of everything for the teacher looking to add digital tools to their curriculum.

The event kicked off with a lively and thought-provoking Keynote from Rushton Hurley, whose presentation title included the words "Kicking Posterior." As an advocate for the power of digital tools in the classroom, Rushton shared his passion with the crowd and offered the impact we can have in our classroom if we allow students the chance to create and share content through the video production. 

He continued this discussion in his sessions by offering us a load of free resources as well as things to think about. One thing I learned involved the search function in Google. Maybe you already knew this, but I hadn't ever seen the advanced search option in Google - did you know you can search for specific file types? He had us search for PowerPoint presentations using this method. If we can do this, so can our students. This got a lot of us re-thinking the presentation tool and how we can use it as a way for students to see what other students have created and synthesize it into something of their own, like a video or even use what they find to write a critique or summary of the presentations.

 I also appreciated the resources page filled with tools that I was seeing for the first time. One such tool is called Psykopaint. In this cloud-based program, you can upload pictures and then select artist styles ranging from Seurat to Van Gogh (and more) to paint your picture. You really have to check it out to see what I mean.

I had the opportunity to present at this conference, too. I discussed how I have used Video Game Design in the classroom. Sometimes as an Art teacher, I get a little narrow in my definition in what I should be teaching; Art History, drawing, painting, sculpture, and ceramics are key, but I have opened up to the idea that animation, video, digital arts, and video game design are also important aspects in Visual Arts education. You can check out the Video Game Design page I created for the conference filled with links to important sites about how this skill can effect student achievement as well as how students can make them and various competitions students can enter. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards will begin to accept games starting in September, so consider this as you start planning your curriculum. And if you don't know how to program or design a game, it is okay - you can still create a space that facilitates that learning for your students. I know that is the case in my classroom, at least.

Have you learned something at a Edu Camp this summer? Please share any new skills, tips or tricks below.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gearing up for Another Year

Artists Name: Samantha V.

School: Lakeview HS
In about a month, our classrooms will be filled with kids ready to dive into projects and materials. If you are anything like me, then you have been thinking about that for quite a bit of the summer and maybe have already had a few of those pre-school nightmares (you know the one where you end up with a class full of students revolting against your lesson or you run out of a needed material and no back-up plan).

Here are a few things that ease my stress when thinking about the new year:

1. Seating Charts - It is a simple thing that always does the trick for me when it comes to easing my stress over the start a new year. If you haven't checked out The Art of Education yet, you really should. In a recent post about seating charts, there are a list of great ideas for creating and organizing them. To add to their ideas, I would also include using sticky notes for student names on the charts (as shown here). This allows you to only have to write it once and simply pull it off the paper and re-stick it to a new location when changing seats. I always have my seating charts done before the first day and greet students at my door to introduce myself and tell them where their seats are located. If there is an issue with a seating arrangement, I can quickly pull the sticky note with the student's name and easily place it on a new spot on the chart.

2. Artsonia - I have been using this free online resource since 2007. I always try to get my classes organized before the new year with their rosters function and the fact that they allow kids to "graduate" into the next grade, makes that super simple. In addition to serving as a way for my students to share their work with the world, Artsonia does so much for helping raise funds for my classroom, supply ideas and tools for lesson planning, and documenting student growth. With the expectation of documenting student growth as a link to teacher evaluations, there's a lot of questions about how to do that in an art classroom. With Artsonia, documentation of growth is more manageable through the evidence of student artwork and accompanying artist statements. Artsonia has also added a lot of new features this year, as explained by Suzanne Tiedemann here.

3. Twitter - So, this is a new one that I am adding to my back-to-school regimen this year. I have been using this resource since Tricia Fuglestad urged me into it and I am so glad she did. I have been able to connect to teachers and artists from around the world that have enhanced my growth as a teacher. If you are on the fence about it, just check it out and see for yourself. Here is a post about how twitter is revolutionizing the concept of Professional Development and one specifically about how it works in #artsed.

What are some key things that help you get prepared for school and out of the pre-school jitters? What is a tool or trick that you cannot live without? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting to the Core of Arts Standards

As the summer winds down and another school year starts, many of us are looking for new and engaging lessons that both capture our students' attentions as well as teach them valuable skills that they will use to grow as an artist and person. When I am developing lessons, I use many factors to determine artist, material, and subject being covered. I consider what is being taught in other content areas as discussed in this past post, I also consider the student population and what they are interested in learning through the use of Google Forms discussed in this past post, and I pour over the Michigan Content Standards and Benchmarks that can be found here.

Just as all subject areas are moving from various State level Standards and Benchmarks to the Common Core, the Arts are also being revamped through the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. This group consists of teachers from various Arts disciplines who are working together to create "the Next Generation Arts Standards." In addition to including videos and documenting the progression of their work, the group is also looking for contributors to add to the discussion. You can find more information about this on their wiki as well as see that Michigan is being well represented in the Visual Arts group by 2012 NAEA Middle Level Teacher of the Year, September Buys.

Some pieces of information I found particularly helpful when looking through their site was the draft for the Overarching Framework as well as the Review of State Arts Standards. I highly recommend giving them a look if you are as interested in developing curriculum using outcomes as a guide via backwards design.

Even with these guides, the possibilities are endless as far as what and how we teach Visual Arts. It is hard to know what is the right way because there are so many different ways to do it. What are some things that you use to help guide you through the development of lessons? What lesson do you do each year that you feel is able to hit all of the marks both with content and artistry? If you have any helpful suggestions on how to create and execute lesson plans, please share below.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Artists Name: Stella Lee
School: Northview High School
I recently engaged in a relatively short discussion with @wmchamberlain (one of many teachers I follow on twitter) about lifelong learning. The discussion started with a question he posed asking what people were learning over the summer and I responded by describing that I have spent the summer teaching myself how to sew (with the immense help of both youtube and books ordered from Amazon). He shared that he was experimenting with art making. I pointed to a website that I thought might help in his journey and he gave me some encouragement, too.

Even though the "conversation" lasted a few lines back and forth, it has got me thinking about the concept of lifelong learning and how we engage students in this. It also got me thinking about how I engage in my own learning and what motivates me to want to learn new things.

I have always had an interest in how things are made. It is one of the reasons I wanted to be an artist and it is also why I wanted to be an art teacher - I also enjoy teaching others how to make things. I have had a sewing machine since 2006, but did not start using it until about a year ago. Why did I not learn to sew earlier? It might be because inheriting the machine was the result of my mother-in-law's passing, it might be because I didn't want to pay for a class when I had other bills and monetary concerns to think about, but it was probably because I wasn't ready to learn how to do it yet.

You can lead a horse to water, right? Anyway, whatever the reason is for me not wanting to learn how to sew then doesn't matter now because I am engaged and interested and as a result have not only created things that I am proud of but have been able to share those creations with others.

As I reflected on my own process of learning (and the fact that a lot of it involved failure, frustration, retrying things, research on the internet, and some help from experienced experts), it got me thinking about my classroom and how I can infuse this experience there. If I want my students to experience learning the way I did then I need to create an environment where experimentation, investigation, and following interests are important. If I want students to be engaged, then I need to be open to the fact that they are all in different points in their learning careers and even though I may lead them to water, it is up to them to figure out when they are ready to drink... I also have to give myself a break (and my students, too) when they are not and realize that just because something doesn't work out once doesn't mean they (or I) should never try it again. The most important thing I will bring to my classroom from this experience is my story. I will share with my students how I learned to sew and how I taught myself by doing research, failing, taking risks, and finally achieving my goal.

There is a great lifelong learning opportunity coming up August 5-10 through the MAEA Summer Professional Development Institute. Today is the early registration deadline and if you have been putting off learning something because you weren't ready yet, hopefully you will take this opportunity to learn in a community of experts that will guide and encourage you along the way.

If you have a learning story from this summer, or have taken a workshop in previous Summer PDI's please share your story below.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Getting Hired

I have been very lucky in my educational career. When I graduated from college in 2004, I was able to secure a job by the end of May. When I needed to make a change because we were moving across the State, I was able to find employment well before school started. And even though I was pink-slipped three times in the course of a year, I was called back each time.

Everyone who has been hired has a different story for how it happened and having been on several interview teams, I have seen the inter-workings of what goes on when potential teachers are being vetted. I am not guaranteeing that these tips will get you a job, but here are some things that helped me get mine and what I look for when we hire teachers to be a part of our team.

1. Make contact with a mini-folio. A mini-folio is a short version of your larger educational portfolio that has copies of your cover letter, resume, certification, transcript, samples of student work, samples of your personal work, and letters of recommendation. This is the highlight reel of everything you have done in under 15 pages (my larger portfolio has well over 60). Most schools post that they only want you to fill out the online application, but from my experience, if you want to stand out against the horde of online resumes, put on a suit and personally deliver the mini-folio to the specific school where you want to teach. I did this for every job I have ever applied for and once received a call for an interview within 15 minutes of handing it off to the secretary.

Diana G.

  Stoney Creek Elementary
2. Show and tell. Now that you have an interview, it is important to think about what you are going to say to the many questions. As an interviewer, I am not just interested in what the candidate says they do in a classroom. I am interested in seeing how they engage with us - are they smiling, using eye-contact, energetic, and passionate about what they are saying... How you project yourself is just as important as what you are saying. Having confidence and conviction in what you say is important and it can give insight into what you might be like in front of your students.

3. Use your portfolio, please! It always amazes me when I have to ask candidates to see their portfolios. I remember taking that class where we put it together and not being able to wait to show off the hours of work I spent curating the collection of student samples and lesson plans. It is one thing to talk about a project or lesson or idea, it is another to show it in action. Make sure when you are answering questions you are thinking about something in your portfolio that illustrates the point. If they ask about a cross-curricular lesson, have your portfolio organized in a way that it is easy to flip to and point to the answer (it might be a good idea to practice this first). As an Art teacher, Visuals are important. When I am a part of an interview team I need to see what students have done as well as the candidate's own personal work. This helps me see evidence of what this candidate can bring to the team.

4. Do your research. Usually at the end of the interview, you will be asked if you have any questions about the job. Make sure to do your research about the school you are wanting to work and ask questions to clarify any specifics not already discussed. You can ask about schedules (like grade levels or amount of buildings you are in), classroom budget, participation in outside PD, technology concerns, or even use your knowledge to comment on something you know about the school. I always ask a question about the school's vision for the future of the program. It is important to see what they think about what you are teaching and how they see that job or department looking down the road. This gives you insight into your future as a part of that team.

5. Don't forget the "Thank You". After the interview is done, be sure to send "Thank You's" to the teachers and administrators involved. It is a nice gesture that can also give you a chance to recap something you discussed during the interview. This can be done via email or by hand. If you do it online, you can also use it as a chance to send them a link to your online portfolio or professional website. Even if you do not get the job, it ends the process on a congenial note.

 These are just some ideas that worked for me and I hope will land you the job you have been waiting to secure. If you have any interview tips that worked for you, please share. This is a very exciting time to be a teacher and good luck in your search!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flipping Assessment

Over the course of the past year, there has been much discussion on flipping instruction, moving more resources online for students to access, and really changing the way teachers connect with kids through technology in the classroom. But what if we do more than just flip instruction? Recently I came across this tweet from a consulting firm that also applies to education:

Often times when teaching, we are putting on a performance that tries to engage students in new concepts, skills, and ways of thinking. Unfortunately, as dynamic as that performance may be sometimes just because we did it doesn't mean it reached all students. One idea I think is interesting in addressing this issue is the concept of flipping assessment. Instead of solely focusing on assessing students through projects, tests, and quizzes, turn the tables and have students assess how you are reaching them as a teacher.

This is something I have done informally on the last day of class so I can adjust and reflect on my performance as a teacher. Students write a response to the following: 1. What was something that I should change for next year? 2. What is something that should definitely stay the same?

Sometimes there are responses like "you shouldn't mark us down if we didn't bring in a project" or "you should let us sit with our friends all of the time" which is unlikely to be something that can always change, but often there are direct and pointed critiques of how lessons are taught and what could have been done differently to help them learn the topic more. It is also nice to receive the feedback on what went well. It helps you get an idea on what made the biggest impact on students and think about the circumstances surrounding the projects or lessons to make that so.

For my Digital Arts Camp, I tried a different approach. I used a Google Form to create a survey of why students participated in the camp, what they thought about the camp, and what could be done in future camps to make it a success. By using a Google Form, I am able to compile data and use that data to drive future decisions. This is a great tool to consider using in the beginning of the school year to create student interest inventories or types of learning styles. You could also use it throughout the school year to check in on student attitudes and feelings about the class. Because you can make responses anonymous, it allows students to freely divulge their opinions.
Google Form compiled responses to why students signed up for camp.

 What do you think about being assessed by your students? Do you already do something like this in your classroom and how has it changed your delivery of instruction? Please share all related insights in the comments below.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Pink Slip Experience

Artists Name: Bhavna G.

School: Detroit Country Day
Spring time is the season of flowers blooming and chicks hatching; unfortunately, it can also be a time where the pink slips are arriving for hundreds of educators. I came across a couple of teachers this past week who were both pink slipped and it prompted me to think about my own experience and offer some advice to those of you who have found yourself in this situation.

I have had the privilege of being pink slipped three times in the course of a year. My first reaction was of course disappointment at the situation, but I was also kind of surprised that the form is not pink nor is it really a slip. Instead, each was a neatly typed letter using technical language to tell me that I was no longer going to be employed and that if the situation changed, I would be called back (which thankfully I was, each time).

It was a dark time, but also a time where I gained a lot of strength and insight about who I was as a teacher and person. It is often said that true character is revealed in times of trial, and the stress of being pink slipped without knowing if you are going to be able to do what you love where you have established a home and career can be a very stressing moment in a person's life.

With that said, here is my advice to anyone who is facing a pink slip:

1. Chances are you will be called back. I know it is not comforting to hear, especially from someone who has not been pink slipped, but with the technical details of No Child Left Behind, the switch to full-day Kindergarten, graduation requirements for students, and the fact that other content teachers need their prep-time, an Art teacher is a needed thing for schools and they will have to find someone to fill the requirements (chances are that is you). You may have been pink slipped simply due to the nature of the seniority list, which was the case in my situation.

2. If you have multiple endorsements, make sure to make yourself open to teaching them. I am certified in both Visual Arts and English. My first teaching job was actually more English than it was Art. Visual Arts is my first love and I am incredibly thankful that I get to do it full time, but I am also thankful that I have an option. If you do not have a second endorsement, consider getting one as a part of your continuing education that is required per MDE certification renewal. You might even be able to use credits from your undergraduate degree to go towards this. Here is a list of what classes can be taught with each certification.

3. Update your Resume, Portfolio and website, and put yourself out there. Although you would like to think that the school you have taught at will call you back because there is no way they could go on without you, sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Now that you have experience under your belt, you will be able to use that to help get your next job. In each case of being pink slipped, my principal and other administrators readily wrote great letters of recommendation. Make sure to ask for those letters, and who knows, they might also be able to give you a lead based on their connections with other districts in your county. This website helped me keep up to date on what was available when I was looking for a job in Michigan.

4. Realize that it is not about you as a teacher or person, it is about a budget. You cannot control this; you can not take it personal. It is not your fault and you can only move forward. Chances are you became a teacher because you have a passion for the subject you are teaching and a caring heart for kids. I never hear any teacher say they do it for the money; you would not be able to go in each day and do what is required of a teacher if the only motivation was that. What charges me up and motivates me are those moments when a student reflects on a work they have created as "The best thing they have ever made..." or the moment when they hoot and holler over an artist they are excited to study. If that kind of stuff gets you going then know that you are a good teacher and being pink slipped is not the end of things for you.

I know that this can be a tough time, but realize you are not alone. If you have advice or a success story to share from your own pink slip experience, please post it below - all advice and success stories are welcome!

Friday, May 11, 2012


what now

This is not so much a question or a theme, but a call to action from those presenters and participants at yesterday's TEDxGrandRapids event downtown and the Livestream for education at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center. The day was filled with thoughtful insight into ideas surrounding education, science, technology, social culture, and design. But more importantly within all of the speakers segments, it was really a discussion about the human condition and hopefulness for "being the change you want to see."

From highlighting contact lenses that offer the ability to transmit and receive data, to using game play as a way of discovering self, clothing made of the result of feasting bacteria, and how to love those around us, the speakers of TEDxGrandRapids offered the audience a chance to imagine the future and take part through initiatives like Community Xprize and TEDed.

One of the more emotional moments of the day included the story of Linda Ragsdale, a survivor of the 2008 attack in Mumbai. Although she was shot and witnessed the murder of friends around her, including a young girl she had promised to teach how to draw a dragon, Linda does not harbor hate for those who committed such acts; instead, she challenges all of us to come from a place of love and peace when encountering others. Her story of the dragon is one that looks to blast myths and misconceptions behind what it is; that the dragon is a symbol of peace, "whose spiky scales are revealed to show he is made of hearts; all hearts have a point, each point leads to a direction" and you have to be the one to answer "which way will you go?" She chooses the path of peace, and during her 3 days in Grand Rapids will have worked with over 11,000 students in a community art project called "The Peace Dragon Project" to encourage them to do the same. Linda is an incredible person who was warm and inviting to each person she spoke with during our breaks at the Fine Arts Center. She is a genuine example of peace personified.

There are plans to continue this Livestream for education next year and I encourage you to participate. There were quite a few Visual Arts Teachers there, and it was a great time to connect and talk with others outside of our discipline about collaborative projects. Have you ever been to a TED talk or have a favorite one to share? Please leave your insights and share your "what now" moment below.

Friday, May 4, 2012

MI doodle4google finalist

Please support Janae, the MI finalist for this year's doodle4google competition in the 6-7th grade category. She is  running to win the following prizess:
  • The National Winner will have his or her doodle featured on the U.S. homepage on May 18, 2012.
  • He or she will be awarded a $30,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of his or her choice,
  • a Google Chromebook computer,
  • a Wacom digital design tablet, and
  • a t-shirt printed with his or her doodle on it.
  • The winner's full time school (Navigator!) wins a $50,000 technology grant towards the establishment or improvement of a computer lab or technology programming.
  • Each of the other four National Finalists will win a $5,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of their choice, a trip to New York for the final event on May 17, 2012, a Wacom digital design tablet, and a t-shirt printed with their doodle on it.
How can you help:
  • May 2-10, 2012: The Public (YOU!) can vote online for Janae's doodle by visiting the Doodle 4 Google website here: Be sure to click on the Grades 6-7 age group, and then scroll to look for Janae's name and design, Pinckney, MI and then vote!
  • One vote per computer is accepted, but you can also vote using your phone, iPad, SMART Board, etc.
Congratulations to Pinckney Schools and Janae for this accomplishment! Good luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Flowers

May is a time where not only flowers are blooming (although with this crazy weather some have been out since March); it is the time where students really are at their prime to show off what they have learned throughout the year and apply it to culminating projects and exhibitions.

If your district is anything like mine, you get to show off the year's worth of work through various shows in your building and at a district wide show in a central location. This is a great time for students, parents, and teachers to connect and really remark on the growths students have made throughout the year.

Theresa McGee showed off her annual exhibition in this great Animoto video, complete with movies and pictures of the event.

What made this show for me was the effective use of QR codes to link to the artists being studied in each project. This is a great way to create an interactive show, involving the viewer to take part in the show by learning even more. Here is how she explains the process of using QR codes in her classroom.

In a time where students are probably looking ahead to the summer break, take a moment and pull them back in to enjoy the hard work and lessons learned that has lead them to May. This last full month of school should be the time when students say "This is my best project," or "I never thought I could do something like this..." instead of checking out, already tuned in to whatever summer plans might bring. In the best case scenario, you will even have some saying, "I can't wait to come back next year, already!" 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Connecting Classrooms

The most powerful lessons are often the ones that include students making connections among what they are learning in one class with their other classes and outside interests. Some of my favorite lessons are the ones that allow students to learn a topic they are discussing in Math, Social Studies, English or Science with an Art twist. It gives students the opportunity to use prior knowledge and scaffold their learning in various classroom settings. 

One resource that is helpful for finding these connections without having to pour over hundreds of pages of content standards for every subject area is the Michigan Education Library. In their M.O.R.E. (More Online Resources for Education) section, they allow you to search for lessons by content area, standard, resource type, and audience. They also allow you to quickly look through content standards in order to link them up with others for the most impact. They have lesson plan ideas and samples, too, which are helpful when deciding what types of lessons you want to connect with other subject areas.

Turning to the other teachers in your building is also a helpful resource when deciding how you want to integrate your curriculum to cover what is being taught in other classes. For example, I know that in 8th grade History they discuss the Civil War and Slavery. I use this as an opportunity to have students in my 8th grade Art classes create Anthropomorphic Jars based on the Southern Slave tradition from that time period. We also look at how cultures from around the world and in different time periods have used Anthropomorphic Pottery as a way to express their culture before students create their Jars to reflect something about their personalities. By tapping into prior knowledge, students are able to add various view points and context to the discussions had in class as well as the overall effect of the work created. Here is a video of the project from start to finish:

There is often the push for other teachers to integrate Art into their curriculum, but I really find a lot of success when I integrate other curriculum into Art. It allows me to connect with other teachers, giving students a different perspective on a topic that may have struggled with in the other subject. It also allows them the opportunity to learn more information from varying viewpoints.

What is a lesson you have used that coordinates with what is being learned in other classes at your school?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Show and Tell

Show and Tell is a concept that we all know; usually it is done with lower elementary students and they get to bring in an item and share it with their peers by showing it off and talking about it. The Show and Tell concept is not only for kids, it also happens for educators through conferences. Do you have a lesson, concept, or technique that has always worked for you and you want to share it? Consider presenting at the MAEA Conference in Traverse City, October 25-28th or the NAEA 2013 conference in Texas!

Being able to share information with my peers has been a highlight for me both professionally and personally. It is nice to connect with other teachers and show what works for you in the classroom; it is even more fun to hear back from those who have attended your sessions on how they have been able to use the information in their own classrooms. When presenting, or putting together a presentation, it is important to think about your time allotment, who your audience is, and what you want your audience to get out of what you are presenting.

The aRTs Roundable, a podcast hosted by Carol Broos, dedicated an episode to the topic of presenting at Art conferences. One tip I found very helpful was having your resources online instead of making copies for handouts; even when making it online, be sure to have a backup in case the internet is down. If you make a Prezi (which is my go-to presentation tool right now), you can download it and then show easily either online or right from your desktop. Instead of wasting papers on copies, consider creating a business card with your website or contact information on it so that participants can go to there to review the presentation again or ask follow up questions later. The biggest take-away from this podcast on presenting was making sure to focus on the kids and how whatever you are presenting on will help teachers reach their kids in new and interesting ways.

Great conferences are made possible because educators like you are willing to share your time, showing and telling the tips and tricks that make your classroom work. If you have any sure-fire presentation tips to share or are planning to present at an upcoming conference, please comment below.

No post about presentations is complete without Don McMillan's video on how not to use PowerPoint:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MACUL 2012

Educational Techies flocked the streets of Grand Rapids this past week for the annual MACUL Conference. From flipped classrooms, 1:1 computing, website building, movie making, and 22nd Century Learning, MACUL always offers teachers a space to exchange ideas and innovate for the future of education.

Some of the highlights I was able to take away included a presentation by Chresta Wright on making your Moodle class pages more organized for student learning. She challenged the audience to rethink how to build pages, making it easier for students to process information and more efficient for teaching concepts.

The use of iPads was also a popular topic in many sessions and I learned about all kinds of apps to help deliver instruction to students and involve students in creating videos and other presentation materials with this device. The student showcase offered a preview of what iPads might look like in an Art classroom.
Examples from Shashabaw Middle School's use of iPads in the Art classroom.
 If you are looking to add iPads to your curriculum, Tricia Fuglestad and Suzanne Tiedemann expand on that idea with their website they created as a part of their NAEA 2012 Conference presentation on the topic. Theresa Gillespie also has a great site about using iPads to make Art. If you currently do not have an iPad, consider creating a Donors Choose project to get one for your classroom. They are going to be starting a matching donations campaign for this month, which can help you get your project funded even faster!

Steve Dembo gave a spectacular presentation on the future of education as he challenged the audience to ponder what it will look like in 100 years. He proposes that creating is not enough for our students; instead of just creating, they must also share, collaborate, and connect using the physical and digital realm. After sharing valuable sites like Kickstarter and ScholarMatch, Steve challenged us to rethink how our students are going to function in the future with a world that is growing ever smaller and becoming a place where "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen people." 

I also had the opportunity to present at MACUL this year. My presentation was about the MACUL funded grant so I could enact a project for student created videos. It was really fun to share experiences in my classroom with others and learn more resources from them, too.

If you are not currently a member of MACUL, sign up because not only is it a great community to be a part of, it is also free! As a member, you can apply for one of their grants to purchase technology for the classroom. View more details here:

Did you go to MACUL? What are some highlights and take away tips we should know about from the sessions you attended?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

NYC Saturday

Highlights of my last day at the NAEA Convention:

1. More Olivia Gude. This Super Session highlighted her philosophy of contemporary curriculum in which her students are able to share significant personal experiences. Students should use the arts to explore vital issues; the curriculum should reach students “where they live.” 

2. Assessment. What are fair methods to measure student growth in the arts? And how should that evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness? These questions and more were discussed by leaders from Delaware and New Hampshire. In Delaware two performance tasks are required of visual art students at different levels: create a piece of art and respond to it. More at the Delaware Department of Education website.

3. Chuck Close, in another Super Session, was on the stage in discussion with NY chronicler Irving Sandler. Life, art, education were their topics of discussion. One of my favorite lines: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just get to work.” Chuck Close also commented on what he saw as a movement in the arts among young artists who choose to work together collaboratively.

4. TASK party. TASK is an improvisational, open-ended participatory event with a simple structure and very few rules. Artist Oliver Herring and many educators took part in this collaborative art experience.

5. Dinner at Mesa Grill. A superb meal with friends. No Bobby Flay, but a perfect way to close out a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

NYC Friday

Day 2 at the NAEA Convention:

Jeanine Antoni was presented by Art 21at 8:30 am on Friday. What a way to start the day! Transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and sleeping into ways of making art, Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body. In her work, she says, she tries to solve the problem “How does my body relate to the world?”

My roommate Susan was very impressed by the Middle Level Medley; she loved hearing presentations from our own Kim Cairy and others. She was also impressed with the Green Imagination presentation. Their website is an eco web that promotes stewardship of the natural world and explores sustainable design possibilities.

An Art 21 session talked about Studio Habits of Mind. Envision, reflect, authentic process, stretch and explore. The tension of dealing with the traditional vs. the contemporary can become a conversation instead. Just because one is working with contemporary themes one doesn’t throw away traditional skill-building experiences—need a “balanced diet.”
Calder at MOMA

Turn On That Cell Phone! presenters mentioned numerous apps that could be used in the art classroom as well as in museum education. Go to their LiveText site and use Visitor Pass Code: B35941B5 for more info.

Tattoos: The New Canvas? was hugely popular; we had to move to a larger room. Combining health, historical and design concepts, and a Think Before You Ink philosophy, a balanced and safe approach to the subject was presented.

A busy and eventful day ended with a final trip to MOMA and, of course, the MOMA design store!

Friday, March 2, 2012


I’m in New York City! And so excited to be attending the National Art Education Convention. It has been a whirlwind of activity. My roommate Susan Bartman and I took a 7:25 am flight Thursday from Detroit. Linda Tyson, from Oakland U, was also flying in and we shared a taxi into the City. The Hilton is huge and grand.

 Jean Shin
After our arrival we made it to our first sessions by 11 am. One of my very favorite art educators, Olivia Gude, was co-presenting. Her session considered Questions of Identity and she shared about “Space & Place” (meaning-making with perspective!) and “The Complex Characters of Disney” (most of us ban them in our rooms, don’t we?). She also shared a lesson that used student cell phones as source material. She will soon be posting these lessons on NAEA’s Digication site.

Jean Shin was next. She is nationally recognized for her monumental installations that transform everyday objects into elegant expressions of identity and community. Not an artist I was familiar with; I totally was fascinated by her work.

No trip to NYC would be complete without a visit to the MOMA, just around the corner from the convention. And entry was free with our badges! To see so many iconic art works “in person”  that we know and use was awesome. I hope to get back before I return home.

The Secondary Division Awards honored members who excelled as leaders. In her acceptance comments, Diane Scully said, “We never know whose lives we are going to touch so we need to tread lightly, carefully and passionately.”

In the evening, Michigan educators (at least 30 of us) met up in the lobby to walk over to Thalia for drinks and snacks. It was a great way to end the day!

More later…

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Membership Matters

Where else can you find a group of passionate teachers on a Saturday morning sharing, collaborating, and awaiting results of their students' work? This scene is happening all around the state of Michigan as Visual Arts teachers meet for their region conferences that will determine which work is in the regional show and those that will move onto State adjudication.
Region 9 Visual Arts teachers share ideas, lessons, and resources as they await results from the judges.
In addition to having time to share with others about what is happening in your district, this annual event also allows a time to receive PD from your peers on topics of great concern to Arts Education and the Common Core. At the Region 9 meeting, Tricia Erickson from Northview Public Schools shared how she uses visual vocabulary to teach students concepts of design while focusing their attention on the meaning of the top 100 words found in the SAT. Using brain-based research, Tricia shared how critical the Visual Arts can be to students not only learning vocabulary, but remembering it beyond the initial teaching and applying it to other content areas.

If you have not become a member of the MAEA yet, please consider the benefits and community gained when joining. Opportunities for your students to shine in regional and state shows, a place to collaborate and communicate with your peers, as well as a place to learn and grow as a professional all await you when you join. Good luck to all members whose students are participating in their regional competitions and I look forward to seeing the top finalists selected from the State meeting next month.

If you have pictures of your region show or conference, please post the links/images below; we love to hear your and your students' successes!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Art Gotta Do with It?

Art offers a unique opportunity to share with others what you feel on the inside. On this day filled with ideas of love, I think it is appropriate to explore what Art has to do with it. If you are like me, you became an Art teacher because you love Art and teaching. You like being able to make something with your hands and have an idea spring from your mind into something tangible. You also like being able to show others how to do that with their ideas, too.

Art is an amazing tool we have to be creative, innovative, to collaborate and communicate with others, as well as show pieces of ourselves that sometimes might go unnoticed. In addition to all of those smooshy, gooshy, heartfelt reasons to love Art, Art also has a lot to do with how we learn, function, and perform in our lives.

One thing I make sure to emphasize with students is that Art is everywhere. From the chair you sit in to your favorite television program, both aesthetics and design were apart of their creation and both are taught in the Visual Arts classroom. In addition to Visual Arts as a way to teach design, it is also important to note that Art has a lot to do with how students do in their other classes. A recent study published in the U-T San Diego posted by Andrea Ondish on our MAEA Facebook wall, points out how classrooms that integrated Visual Arts curriculum with other classes yielded higher scores than classes that did not. For many students, Art is the reason to come to school. It is what allows everything else make sense.

For this February 14th, consider what Art has to do with your life and maybe consider making it a Valentine...
Jim Dine at the Meijer Gardens, 2011

Saturday, January 28, 2012

You've got to have BOLS

Monday, January 16, 2012

Evidence of Existence

For this day of service and remembrance, many teachers and students went out into their communities and gave their time in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When reading through Dr. King's words, the common theme of equality is there; moreover it seems there is a strong call to being recognized. The evidence of existence and having that recognized by others is a powerful force. When a group or person is ignored, they are forgotten and disenfranchised as a result.  

Art allows students to see evidence of their existence. We reaffirm this through displays, web galleries, and blogs. Art allows students to express their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes about the world around them. In a time where standardized testing is a focus, Art gives students a chance to take risks, be creative, and communicate ideas that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

Knowing that our classrooms can offer this special kind of situation for students, we have a lot of power on how to direct students' energies. In a recent post by 6th grade teacher Amanda Dykes, she examines her classroom through a metaphorical comparison between Pinterest and Fail websites (specifically Cake Wreck). Her hope is like many of ours; when we walk through our classrooms we want it to be a Pinterest of things that are celebrating and engaging students, recognizing their talents and encouraging them to take risks. We do not want the fear of failure to paralyze them to stay in a box predefined by someone else.

In this day of discussing hopes and dreams, share in the dreams of Illinois Teacher of the Year and Social Studies teacher, Josh Stumpenhorst. I, too, dream of a day when students will be able to focus on their passions and be recognized for the content of their character rather than a score on a sheet of paper.

Evidence of Existence -- Holland, MI

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Beyond the Classroom

Maia C's Photostream, Detroit Institute of Arts Flickr pool

With the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Field Trip Grant deadline just around the corner (January 16), it seems timely to discuss taking your students out of the walls of your classroom and into the museums and cultural centers to experience Art. These offer students the opportunity to experience Art in the field with experts in the profession. Although it may seem intimidating at first, here are some surefire tips on organizing efficient trips that you and your students will enjoy:

  • Plan ahead. This seems like a common sense thing to do, but it is very crucial to plan ahead for your trip. Make sure to research where you are taking kids and their policies for student tour groups. Requirements and expectations vary depending on venue. Some basic things to plan for is a schedule for the day, lunches, as well as what students will do to make up work missed in other classes. You will also want to plan for the unknown. Have scenarios thought out about what you would do in case of bad weather, a sick student, or if the schedule moves faster than anticipated. Being prepared helps avoid problem scenarios as well as gives students the security of a plan for the day away from school. 
  • Ask for help. Parents are a great resource for chaperones. Make sure you give ample time for communication to parents about your trip and how many volunteers are needed. Divide students among parents by providing lists of the names as well as a list of expectations for behavior. It is important to be clear in your expectations of parents as chaperones and students as participants. If you are not, then you open yourself up to potential problems. 
  • Partner up. When I planned my first field trip, I went with another teacher on my team. This helped me gain the experience and confidence to go it alone the next time. This also offers a great opportunity to pair up with a teacher from another content to make the connections between their subject and yours using authentic examples from the field.
  • Communicate with your colleagues. Field trips offer an awesome opportunity for students to learn about a subject face to face. It can, however, be a burden on teachers when they have students missing work in their class to be gone for the day. To help lessen this issue, email teachers well ahead of the trip (more than two weeks prior) as well as the week before. Students should also ask for work from their teachers before missing that day so they can work on ahead of time. Consider allowing students time to make up missed work if needed during your class time; when teachers work together to solve issues of missed work due to field trips it eases any tension that could occur otherwise. 
What has been your most successful field trip? What are your favorite venues to take kids? Please post any suggestions you have about organizing field trips and where to take students to get the most impact.