Posts Tagged ‘art’

Nick Cave exhibit at MassMoca, summer 2017. (photo by me)

So I’ve been thinking about tech tools lately. When I work with teachers to support their technology use in the classroom, I always insist that we start with the learning goals or really anything but the technology. However, I have an upcoming technology event and so particular tech tools are on my mind.

A tool that I had forgotten about but have come back to is VoiceThread. I have helped foreign language teachers use it in the past, so perhaps I just got stuck in putting it in that bucket. I don’t know.

Anyway, my students and I were doing research on installation artists. After a brief introduction to the movement from an art colleague, they were off and investigating individual artists. As it turned out, I did not have time in the schedule for students to present their findings, nor was presenting really a goal of this mini-unit. Side note: What to do with research findings so that there is some audience or use for it beyond the researcher is often a conundrum. If I do the presentation thing, it ALWAYS takes WAY longer than planned. Plus, often it turns into a different person lecturing. Is that really what I want? If I give student groups an entire class period and make it clear they need to engage and teach the class versus just dump information, they can do that. But with the ~10-minute time frame, by the time you add class participation, each little report out is taking over class again. Ok, back to the main point here.

I had several goals for this little mini-unit:

  • First of all, I wanted students to learn about installation art as a movement.
  • I also wanted students to become more familiar with how to talk about this kind of work, so I had them incorporate information from reviews in their research.
  • I wanted students to learn about at least one artist in more detail, but also to hear about a few more artists.
  • Finally, I wanted the presentation itself to invite interaction, connecting it to installation art in a way.

Hello, Voicethread.

I teach seniors so I didn’t figure I had to do too much explaining. I sent them the link to make an account; I did a little bit of explanation in class; I directed them to where the how-to videos were online. Some students found the drawing tools and really used VoiceThread to a fuller extent than others. And, a few students had minor technical issues. Overall, the learning curve for using VoiceThread was a non-issue.

When I look at the whole thing, it worked really well for the goals I had. Students could easily share their final work with their small group and with me. Not only did it allow for written or audio comments by the student-researcher but really lent itself to interaction, which was the most challenging goal to achieve without using extensive class time. Having students interact with the final presentations is a baby step towards one component of their culminating assignment for this unit, and being able to practice the interactive piece and think about ways to engage your audience will be helpful moving forward.  

(I would embed one or two, but all the comments are identified with the student first and last names. You’ll have to trust me on the quality.)

Why hadn’t I thought of this before?


  So, I’ve been thinking about a colleague’s summer professional development. I know I should be thinking about my own professional development, and I am, but this other summer work just got me thinking.

My colleague is an artist and art teacher who has just started the Low-Residency MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Awesome! At our opening faculty meeting she shared a little about a particular project from one of her courses this summer. It was called the taxonomy project. Make 10 works in each of 10 categories, all small in size, no time to be super careful or precious, come up the categories, no changing, and get busy.

As my colleague shared both her work and the lessons she learned from the project, I thought about how this related to writing. I’m thinking a lot about making time for a lot more writing in my English class and the idea that many small art works would push creativity resonated with me. Doing more short writing (that may not even be graded) seems analogous to the taxonomy project. In the summer teaching writing course that I took, several of the instructors spoke about what improves writing–a lot of writing improves writing, not a lot of teacher correction on a little bit of writing. (Really why should this not be the case? A lot of what makes kids better readers is reading, reading a lot. So no surprise.) Just doing a thing over and over, I believe that would be called practice, works. Another thing that my colleague noted was that with the 10 categories, she was forced to come up with a lot of potential ideas rather than commit to one, even one that she thought was going to great. And, in doing so, she found other ideas that were really interesting. How will my still inexperienced writers find new paths and new techniques if they don’t ever have to push through “I’ve got nothing.” 100 pieces of writing in my one semester course seems somewhat unrealistic. I mean the kids do take other classes besides mine. So more, reason to stick to my goal of more writing.

And, I totally want to do my own taxonomy art project. There is no way I have the time or skill to do that, but here’s my first set of 10 objects.

I may work on several collections of slightly altered objects, seems a good fit for my level of artistic ability. What other objects should I consider collecting and altering?



Make Cycle 2-Remediation of text

Posted: August 12, 2015 in clmooc
Tags: , ,

So, I can’t stop thinking about all the possibilities for remediating. I’ve loved seeing the work of others participating in CLMOOC. I have always been interested in taking a particular art form and applying it to somewhere else. .

I created some work like this many moons ago when I had hobbies. (Notice I even had hobbies plural then.) An idea that I’ve been tossing around more recently is that of starting from text, a favorite sentence in a book, a blackout poem, and using that as the inspiration for a work in another format. (Well, it turns out I had also been thinking about this idea way back when I had hobbies. I was doing some long overdue clean up and organizing of my art supplies and found lots of other favorite sentences clipped to linoleum prints and other patterned this and that.  Surely it was all part of some larger plan once upon a time. Sigh.)

So, I’m at it again, it turns out. Here are some sentences from the marvelous book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherine M. Valente that I have saved recently.

Hats change everything. September knew this with all her being, deep in they place where she knew her own name, that her mother would still love her even thought she hadn’t waved goodbye. For one day, her father had put on a hat with golden things on it and suddenly he hadn’t been her father anymore, he had been a soldier, and he had left. Hats have power. Hats can change you into someone else. ~p26

I love hats personally, so that one speaks to me for lots of reasons.

“This is for washing your wishes, September,” said Lye. . . “For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes  get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes. Even when one finds oneself in Fairlyand and not at home at all, it is not always so easy to remember to catch the world in its changing and change with it.  ~p61

This one resonates with me in terms of change and adaptation, key factors for teachers. I have mentioned it is a post before this one, that’s how much I like it. Finally, this one (which I also mentioned before)…

“You know my… my wrench?”

“Of course I know it. It was not a wrench when we were last acquainted, but one’s friends may change clothes and still one knows them.” ~p117

With this final quote, I was thinking about change and being recognizable. So here’s my math equation for the image I want to create:

   1 René Magritte’s painting

   1 image of a wrench

+ 1 oval shaped frame/matte (like the kind around old-fashioned portraits)


 Wendy’s “ceçi n’est pas un wrench” image.


It would be better as a painting rather than a description or math problem, but only if I were a painter. Alas, I am not, so enjoy that description while I learn to paint.

Then I also thought about how to highlight the idea of change by combining an image of a wrench with that of a needle (the form the wrench took ‘when we were last acquainted’). My first attempt involved printing images of a needle and a wrench on vellum, slicing each into strips, and then weaving the two together. When you see it straight on it’s a little blah, but if you are looking form the side, it’s pretty cool.


Of course, I have big plans to try out other options, but I though I better  get something out here while I learn to paints, try out a dozen more ways to make this idea come to life, and then in the mean time do my job and get ready for the new classes I will be teaching in the comings year.

Ideas, ideas, ideas.

So, I’ve been thinking about what is in my closet. My school closet-not my clothes closet. There are clearly too many shoes in the one, and a lot of work from previous students in the other.

I rearranged my classroom, again, just a minor change this time. That means that I have  a spare small book-case that I planned to put in my supply closet to try to help manage the mayhem in there. I know there is at least one teacher at my school whose closet looks like a little office; a student can actually work in there. This is in my closet. So, to get the bookcase in, I had to take a lot of stuff out first. Post clean-out it is looking mighty fine. Anyway, the point is I got to look at a bunch of old work and it got me thinking about what I do now and what I did then. This is my seventh year at this school and in this grade, which honestly I cannot believe. At my old school in Chicago I never taught in the same grade more than 2 years in a row. My principal moved people all the time.

When I started pulling things out of the closet, I found some old assignments that I want to remember. I also found some old assignments that I would like to forget. It’s not that they were bad; they weren’t. They just didn’t need some of the coloring and artsy bits to them. Before anyone gets upset here, let me say that I LOVE art. I used to teach art in an after school program; in my fantasy life (the one where I have green eyes and go to yoga classes regularly) I am a sculptor. At my old school I used to give art time as a reward for my class because they had, if everything went perfectly, 1 brief art class a week. Now, however, I teach at a school with a great art program. The projects they do and skills they learn add to the curriculum. I don’t have to make up for anything.

works in progressSo when I look back at some of the webs that students did that they colored and decorated, I wonder what I was thinking about when I asked them to do that. It was certainly not necessary. For some, it did add to the final ideas, but mostly it was decoration, pure and simple. I had a few students, girls, that first year who loved to color and draw on their webs and they looked so nice that I think I just added decoration as part of the assignment. It should have been optional if it had to be done by hand. It must have been SO tedious for some students. And, for what end?

Well, they did look great in the hallway!

In the years since, I have been moving more and more away from craft projects that I can’t justify educationally. I still love art when it is art. I just don’t think that having fifth graders make a paper puppets of book characters, for example, is good use of language arts time. Now, if we are making a scale drawing of the classroom or some historical structure that’s different. There’s a lot going on: fractions, measuring, researching, etc. I know that a lot of those crafty projects are stereotypically “girl” projects. I teach in a co-ed school with lots of artistic students. And, in non-art classes I think it is up to me to encourage, insist on, facilitate, and model creativity in the broadest of terms. So, while traditional art and craft are part of that, so are inspiration webs, glogs, skits, blog writing, and on and on. As a teacher of all the students in my room, it’s up to me to make sure everyone has a way to access creativity, not just the colorers. So, there are crafty options, but there are also creative, non-crafty options, which means that not all of them make for exciting bulletin boards.

Mostly, I think that’s progress.


(Creative commons licensed photo by Quack the Wooley Duck)