Sunday, March 25, 2012
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
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
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
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: http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx