Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weebly Site

I haven't been on here for a while as I've been out of Walden for a bit and got carried away with another site.  I created a Weebly site for my students to use to keep up with what we do in class everyday.  This way if they are absent, they can get the bellwork, weekly assignments, or other handouts right from the web.  It has been really helpful all the way around.  I am in a middle school now but have challenged the students enough so that the projects can easily be modified for high school.  Would love you to check it out and let me know what you think....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Final Reflection of GAME plan

Since the creation of my GAME plan I have learned several things.  Some of which are related to the actual goal and some related to my own learning and motivation.  To review, my goal was to create a class website in order to communicate more clearly with my students and their parents.  I also wanted to stimulate more collaboration and reflection for my students so my plan included having them create blogs.  While I did not do everything I set out to do initially, the progress I have made is substantial.

To begin, I have been meaning to incorporate online collaboration and a class website into my classroom routine for years now.  However, lack of confidence in creating and maintaining them has always held me back.  Fortunately, my experiences in this Masters program have lifted my confidence enough with technical strategies for me to take the risk.  So much so that I was willing to commit my intention to the GAME plan assignment.  

It is through this arrangement that I realized how effective it is as a student to formally document a goal, specifically a goal personally created.  My commitment to gathering research and taking steps to institute these practices was raised significantly.  It made me realize that using the GAME plan system not only helped me to organize an action plan, but it also elevated my commitment to follow through as much as possible.  This unexpected effect convinced me that this strategy is something that would be worthwhile in my classroom.  For this reason, I have started to create my rubrics so that each concept graded is written in the form of an “I can” learning statement.  My rubrics for projects are always distributed after the anticipatory set but before research, design, and creation.  Fashioning each standard as a learning statement mimics the essence of a goal.  I am hypothesizing that this simple change will help to elevate my student’s commitment to learning.  I would also like to incorporate self-created goals into the rubrics as well.  For that reason, I will leave a section of my rubric blank.  After the students have heard the expectations of the projects and read the existing learning statements, I will have them create a personal goal (learning statement) to complete the rubric.  These rubrics will stand as a checklist and guidelines during the projects and a form of reflection after the projects as the students grade their own work.

In addition to learning first hand the engagement element of creating your own GAME plan, I have also made progress in actually completing my goal.  At this point, I have had the opportunity to have my students collaborate online in a discussion board fashion.  This was done using the CollaborizeClassroom site.  Through this process I also witnessed how developing a clear, focused plan is so helpful.  The implementation of the discussion board was flawless.  The collaboration process was modeled to compare social posts versus educational posts.  The students discussed what expectations should be in place and then proceeded to write and post their initial response.  All of the students were focused as they prepared their initial post and many were anxious to read and respond to their peers.  The suggestions offered by the students were thoughtful and supportive.  This activity demonstrated the engaging effects of using technology to collaborate.  I am anxious to develop this strategy into art critiques and reflections, as was my original goal.

As far as the class website is concerned, I have determined that Wordpress has the most components that fit my needs.  This summer I will design the site so that it is in running order for the next school year.  I have already witnessed the power of collaboration and I want to extend that to the parents and the community as well.  This site will allow people outside my studio walls to witness our procedures, our topics of study, our creation process through the student blogs, and our final products.  I am anxious to create this hub of communication and witness the ramifications.

In conclusion, the GAME plan strategy was incredibly useful for me in that it was a structured, inspired commitment, and was based on a concept that was relevant for my classroom needs.  With these positive effects, I would be remiss not to incorporate it into the design of my project lessons.  I have started with the reconstruction of my rubrics.  I can continue to document the process by having the students monitor and evaluate themselves on their blogs. The final indicator will be how these changes elevate the learning, motivation, and success of my students.  In keeping with this process, I will be able to monitor and evaluate along the way to determine its efficacy.  I will be able to add to or eliminate any strategies that do not produce and continue improving.    

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monitoring my GAME plan

As I monitor my progress for my GAME plan, I am feeling a little frustrated and overwhelmed.  To begin, the colleagues I have reached out to for support have yet to return emails or calls.  I can understand this, in part, as we are closing on the end of a semester and everyone is finishing projects and grading before report cards go out.

In that sense, I am feeling overwhelmed as the goals I designed were meant to be instituted as soon as possible.  However, I am finding that this may not be the case.  As far as the collaborative site, I have found one that I feel will fit my needs.  However, as my students finish their current project, time restraints tell me I will not be able to implement it for art postings and critiques at this time.  The online art critiques and reflections will have to wait for the next project.  In that sense, I am trying to fashion the next project so that it will be more conducive to online conversations before, during, and after production.

I have made a little progress in terms of developing a class site.  I am now organizing the information I would like to see on my class site in the form of a concept map.  This step has allowed me to start collecting media to post when the time comes.  For instance, I will have a page for demonstration videos.  So this past week when I gave a demonstration, I had a student record it with my camera.  I have pasted that video onto my map.   I have also started to scan my weekly bellwork so that it can be posted for both students and parents to see.  Finally, I have started to organize photographs of student work, past and present, so that I can make a gallery of student work.  However, I am still looking for a website generator that is easy for me to use and is used by someone that can provide assistance when needed.  As of yet, I have not heard back from my colleagues that have their own sites.  Through conversations on this blog, I have had several recommended that I will investigate, WordPress, Weebly, and Schoolnote to name a few. 

I think my personal timeline is the main modification needed for this plan.  As with all things exciting, I wanted to create and implement both the collaborative site and the class site right away.  However, I really want these tools to be something I will continue to use and maintain so I am taking my time in investigating the proper resources and setup.  I have to be reasonable in my goal for execution if I want it done well.  Therefore, I may have to extend the class site to going public (to my students) until next year.  I’d like to take Spring Break and summer vacation to research it correctly and polish it.

One thing I have learned is that my students are hungry to use these types of tools in their classrooms.  As I questioned students about blogging and other classroom sties with the intention of integrating them into our art room, they were excited to share ideas and opinions.  Their enthusiasm will be a huge motivator to keep pushing to completion.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Continuing the GAME Plan

Last week I determined the two best strategies to explore would be to create a class website in addition to integrating blogging as a collaborative tool.  One of my main priorities with this plan is to create something that is manageable enough for me to continue.  The website creation source and collaboration site have to be something that I can become comfortable enough to troubleshoot with the students as well as easy for me to integrate into my current habits.  Unfortunately, if something is intimidating or too time consuming, I may start the practice but will not maintain it. 

Therefore, the main part of my resources will be teachers that already utilize these functions in their daily routines.  By discussing their routines, having them available to model the process, and, hopefully, give honest reflections on their experience with each product, I will be able to better determine which tools to use.  I will also turn to the students as a resource.  Who better to tell me what they are using in other classes that works well? What is hard to learn?  What is hard to access and navigate?  I may find that the sites teachers favor are not exactly the most student friendly.  I may also discover which students could take an active role in creating and managing these sites.

So far I have been able to discuss collaborative sites with some of my fellow teachers.  For the most part Edmodo and Moodle have risen to the top.  Unfortunately, I have tried both with minimal success.  With Edmodo there were too many occasions where I could not format the discussions or the groups the way I wanted to even with colleague support.  This was enough for me to stop using that particular site.  With Moodle, I became frustrated with the minimal amount of space a student could use to submit assignments.  Also, and more importantly, Moodle was too dependent on our school network, which is unreliable at best.  In the meantime, I have discovered another site called Collaborize Classroom.  I have not had the opportunity to use it with students or found other teachers that have used it.  If other options are not brought to my attention, that will be my next step.

As far as the class website goes, I will be contacting a fellow art teacher in my district that teaches at the high school level.  She currently manages a site that does everything I want a site to do; communicate what is happening in the room to parents and community, post videos of demonstrations and routines, and display artwork created by students.  I also plan on soliciting help from the students once again as I feel having a student or students compile the information and create the videos would be academically beneficial for all parties involved. 

I am hoping that as the conversation continues with my colleagues and on this blog that additional suggestions will come along.  It would be easy for me to surf the web and find possibilities, and as a last resort, I will.  However, knowing that I need modeling and dialogue when learning something new, I would like to experiment with something that others, preferably very helpful ‘others’, have used. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My GAME plan

In recent Walden courses, we were led through steps to develop an Action Research Plan.  At that time, I created a plan to research and implement activities that help to elevate the creative thinking skills of the middle school students in my art room.  The GAME plan that we are learning about reminds me of the steps we took to develop that plan.  In the GAME plan, we are asked to develop a goal, outline some actions to take, monitor the effectiveness of said plan, and evaluate the results for efficacy or readjustments. 

My goal for the GAME plan relates to my Action plan in more ways than just organization.  While I am currently experimenting with techniques to enhance creative thinking in my room, there is one specific area that needs improvement.  It is explained in the first NETS-T standard. 

“1.  Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

   c.  promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify
             student’s conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative  
             process” (ISTE).

My projects have become more problem based and my techniques for idea creation have followed the templates for inspiring creative thought, including means for collaboration.  However, my use of collaborative tools to illustrate and clarify the student’s thinking, planning, and process is lacking.

In tandem with the need to improve collaboration and more transparent processes by the students, I am also looking at my own collaboration with students, parents, and peers.  Therefore, the second standard I hope to improve is the third standard, Model Digital-Age Work and Learning, in particular, component c.

c.  Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats”(ISTE).

Consequently, my goal is to create student blogs or VoiceThreads where the students make weekly post regarding their progress on the current project.  Posts will include reasoning for chosen theme or design, frustrations over obstacles, triumphs over successes, etc.  I also want the format to allow for the students to take jpegs of their artwork to post and invite their classmates to critique their work.  I believe this added tool will push the students to think more reflectively about their own work and the process from idea creation to final product as well as allow for collaboration along the way.

In an attempt to personally collaborate more with my students, parents, and peers, I want to develop a class website.  This site would serve as an art gallery, a link to the student’s blogs, my blog, as well as resources for the students.  The resources I would like to include would be our project timelines, preparatory handouts, bellwork puzzles, and rubrics.  In addition to those, I would like to have one of my student’s videotape my class demonstrations.  I would post those videos to the site as well.

While this is a small step to opening the lines of communication between my students and their parents, I feel it will help the art program in many ways.  First, be giving my students one more resource, especially if they have been absent.  Second, and perhaps most important, the site will validate all the academics that do happen in an art classroom.  When my classroom becomes more transparent, many will see just how hard my students work to develop their creative and critical thinking skills and hopefully, the myth of art as an easy “A” will dissipate.

Monitoring this endeavor will come down to how easily and effectively I can integrate the two tools into my current habits.  If maintenance becomes an issue, I will quickly have to re-evaluate my plans for action.  While the actions seem perfect for my goal at this time, if I am not able to maintain the student blogs or keep the website current due to time constrictions or lab availability, they will soon become another ‘thing’ I tried but couldn’t continue.  Another aspect to monitor will be the student’s engagement to the blogs.  If they are not diligent in their post or truly reflective, the blogs will not produce the transparent thinking and collaboration I envision.

Since I feel this will be an ever-evolving endeavor, I will constantly evaluate its effectiveness.  If these two tools do not provide the results necessary, I will have to re-evaluate my methods and search for additional strategies to fulfill my goals.  I believe a successful evaluation would involve students’ producing thoughtful, timely posts and increased communication with parents and colleagues.  When questions or comments increase from those parties regarding information on my site, I will know I am beginning to reach beyond my classroom walls. 

ISTE. (n.d.). NETS for teachers. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from ISTE Standards:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Final Reflection for Walden Course

In my initial Personal Learning Theory developed for this course I stated that my beliefs were a blend of a potpourri of theories.  I am still convinced the Behaviorists push my classroom management system and help students that are grade motivated to excel.  As an art teacher, I am thoroughly entrenched in the theories of Constructivism and Constructionism as my students develop artifacts to demonstrate their learning and the making of those artifacts provide the students an opportunity to extend their knowledge with and beyond what they bring into my classroom. 

I still maintain the bulk of my teaching style and personal learning theory stems from the Cognitivist realm.  To start, this theory has always stood out for me because it mimics my personal learning style.  The basic concepts make perfect sense to me.  To learn, the information needs to come from a multitude of different senses in order for stronger connections to be made.  The information is stored in a variety of networks so allowing the learner to organize it helps retention.  An opportunity to rehearse or work with the information as much as possible builds stronger connections, hence, provides easier retrieval from long-term memory.  This is so entrenched in my personal learning theory that I was able to see its basic concepts as the foundations for Constructionism and Constructivism as well in regards to the opportunity to work or rehearse the information to create the artifact, or, in other words, elaboration.

While this course did not change my direction as to how I believe individuals learn, it did clarify and strengthen why I feel the way I do.  I am now able to justify the strategies I use in my classroom.  I was also pleased to find small adjustments to old strategies to help further promote the possibilities of learning success.  For example, the Dual Coding Hypothesis promotes matching and image or sound with text to strengthen the learning opportunity.  A small adjustment to a strategy I already use will be to provide PowerPoint presentations but to deliver them with images and use the text for the script. 

I was thrilled to find new technologies that will allow me to present time tested learning strategies in conjunction with my learning theories.  For instance, in terms of helping the students create networks of knowledge, I will begin using the online concept mapping sites along with content vocabulary.  From advance organizers, summarizing and notetaking, to nonlinguistic representations and cooperative learning, this tool is a gem as it can be used for several of Marzano’s proclaimed strategies that work. 

Another tool that I plan to implement immediately is that of VoiceThread.  This online tool will provide the students an opportunity to post favorite artwork produced by the Artist of the Week and record or type in comments.  The discussions will center on how the artists fit into their genre or, simply, on why they chose the piece, all the while using the content vocabulary they are learning.  This provides a social environment where the students can converse about the artworks posted, gives an image to support the vocabulary, and extends their learning by allowing them to rehearse or elaborate the concepts.     

There are still more changes in store for my classroom that I project in the long-term.  I would like to create a classroom blog that would allow the students to explore solutions to visual arts problems like refining a theme, symbols to use, media to use, etc.  This would also be a platform for students to post their designs and ask for suggestions as well as a place to post their final products to instigate art criticism.  Developing a routine and finding the technology to support this endeavor will be the main obstacles to overcome before this vision can come to life.  Our schools are beginning to see the importance of computer availability for each student so I am encouraged that this will ease the stress of access.  I am also taking the initiative of finding refurbished computers and having them restored to accommodate the needs of my room.  I am anxious to initiate this process as I feel it will open a stronger relationship between my students as they collaborate to design, build, and evaluate their pieces, but also a stronger ownership and connection with the content and the pieces themselves as they take control of the development and learning.  

An extension of this social networking would be to provide the students with a global platform to display their work and demonstrate their learning.  This will take place in the form of a VoiceThread or a Wiki.  This would extend the evaluation of their artwork beyond my scope and the walls of our school.  Knowing the audience for their artwork is expanding exponentially is sure to elevate engagement. 

Ideally, I would like to initiate this process by partnering with a sister school that would allow my students to gain different perspectives on their artwork due to the different cultures that stem from that school.  I think this process would mirror the collaborative measures corporations are taking as a means to solve problems and further the development of their products.  Allowing the students to experience this sort of 21st century collaboration will not only prepare them for the workplace but also allow them to refine social skills like accepting criticism and different perspectives within the realm of propriety.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Projects and Pictures

I finally had a chance to compile some of the pictures of my favorites and put them on display.  August has 16 projects posted with pics.  The summaries are brief but if you are interested in the step by step, I'd love to share.  Any twists on a theme you'd like to add, I'd love to hear them!