“…the end of the beginning”

I would not have guessed back on January 22 of 2013, as I typed my first COETAIL blogpost, that I would begin this ending blogpost (five courses and 38 blogposts later) with a fractured quote from Winston Churchill.

As I reflect over these last few months of work — the Grade 4 students’ and my own — on this unit of study, I find that we’ve reached places that were not entirely foreseen. This eventuality is a good thing, though it takes both positive and negative forms. As I mentioned in my final blog post of Course #4, I anticipated that this project would take me down avenues that were not on my map when I began. The results are less a polished product and more a series of experiences which have left me (and the unit) at a much more advanced stage, thankfully. And yet it is still a work-in-progress

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Grade 4 reference wall – Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

In my attempt to redesign this Grade 4 unit — on the media, graphic design, and visual presentation — so as to improve student learning, I focused on several goals:

  • As a collaborative IB-PYP unit, the central idea is that “the media can influence thinking and behavior”. In art class we specifically look at how artists play a role in creating visual media that can influence people’s thinking and behavior (this is the visual art focus for the unit). The aim is to help the students to reach an understanding of these ideas.
  • There are other over-arching, subject-specific goals: the PYP Visual Art learning outcomes. These aims for student learning fall into two strands, Responding and Creating. In terms of the former, the objective is for students to provide constructive criticism when responding to an artwork. In terms of the latter, the objective is for students to show awareness of the affective power of the visual arts.
  • As a COETAIL project, there were four goals which centered around authentically integrating technology into an existing unit of study:  (1) Student-Learning Focus (as opposed to “teaching focus”) – to create a more engaging, successful method for students to learn the principles of successful visual presentation via the graphic design principles of Contrast, Unity, and Balance, (2) Connectivism – to create a more far-reaching, global method of receiving/giving constructive feedback at both the rough-draft and final stages, (3) Differentiation – to allow for choice in the design process and to improve and differentiate the assessment process, and (4) Project-Based Learning – to allow for a real-world and authentic design experience and to expand the project into both the 3D realm and the commercial world.
Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

I attempted to use — to varying degrees of success — a variety of tools to reach my goals. Assuming that some efforts would be for naught, not being too familiar with some of the technology, and wanting to take a trial-and-error approach to learning, I planned for more that I knew I would achieve. I structured my tools and approach according to the IB-PYP’s stated role of ICT and some of the skills described therein:

Investigating: I used PowerPoint and its Action Buttons feature to create the unit’s provocation. The students used their MacBook laptops to journey through this “interactive treasure hunt” (a description of this provocation follows shortly).

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Creating & Innovating: As each student was challenged to create an original poster for a personal campaign to effect change, they used their laptops and my classroom iPads to explore graphic imagery in the development of their own designs, and they had the option to create these posters digitally (though, to my surprise, only 3 of 38 students chose to do so, and those 3 became 2 and later 1; those students used the online poster-design site PosterMyWall to do so). Additionally, students who completed the poster project were then challenged to develop a three-dimensional accessory or toy as a so-called promotional object for their campaigns; students used the online 3-D CAD (computer-aided design) modeling site TinkerCad to digitally design their object and then used our school’s 3D printer to produce it.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Communicating & Exchanging Information: The students used Creatubbles, a recently developed art/social network site for children (and their parents and teachers) interested in sharing their artwork with a like-minded global audience; they posted both their rough draft and final version posters on Creatubbles so as to get (and give) peer and adult feedback toward understanding how to improve their designs; Creatubbles allowed for us to take the whole “critique” process beyond the school walls and into other schools and homes globally. They used the AudioBoo app on our iPads both to allow the students to self-assess orally as well as to easily disseminate their critiques digitally (for my reference for assessment, for them to share with parents at conferences, and for me to share publicly on my blog via a Twitter link). As the teacher I was also able to communicate and exchange information using GoogleDocs (questioning students and gathering their on-going feedback about positive & negative aspects of the unit’s activities) and a Facebook group for art teachers called “Creatubbles Passionate Instructors” (the result of discussion with the developer of the Creatubbles site of the benefit for the participating teachers to have a ‘back channel’ by which to communicate about the Creatubbles activities). Lastly, the homeroom classroom blogs were used as a forum for student reflection on the unit as a whole, in both written and video formats (examples to follow further along in the post).

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Collaborating: Student collaboration occurred through the use of the laptop-based PowerPoint interactive treasure hunt (between partners), through the use of the Creatubbles site (critiques of posters between students and their peers, both within school and in other countries), and through the use of GoogleDocs (encouraging discussion both between partners and as a class as they provided feedback on the shared page). Teacher collaboration (re: generating Creatubbles feedback) was attempted via the Facebook page Passionate Instructors and using the #COETAIL hashtag on Twitter.

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Becoming responsible digital citizens: The Creatubbles site has helped to reinforce this skill in that discussions — when students have read and written feedback online — have centered around appropriateness of the language used. Additionally, as students began increasingly to “bubble” (i.e. like) one another’s poster designs and to “follow” one another, discussions arose about the best use of time in class (spending time “bubbling” versus progressing on one’s artwork).

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Grade 4 student feedback for their classmate – screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Lastly, some of the differentiation in this unit was made possible because of the available tech tools: in the assessment process — in addition to the students using a printed rubric and responding in writing — AudioBoo offered the students the chance to respond orally; responding with feedback using GoogleDocs collaboratively allowed for both oral discussion and writing/keyboarding as a response method; and the opportunity to create their campaign posters in either digital (e.g. PosterMyWall) or manual (paper/pencil/marker) form allowed students to work to their strengths/preferences.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Josh’s AudioBoo photograph and audio recording on the iPad Mini – Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

As a point of contrast, last year’s version of this unit plan incorporated none of the above tools, save for laptops and iPads (which were used strictly for image and typeface/font research).

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

As a way to launch our collaborative investigation into The Media, I inaugurated this unit by creating a provocation which was intended to convey basic principles of graphic design and visual presentation: Contrast, Unity, and Balance (or as the students say, “CUB”). Having seen the students struggle to grasp these semi-broad ideas last year, I felt a new approach was needed. During the Adrian Camm workshop, I became enamored with the idea of the interactive digital story: having students take a journey via their laptops in which they are having to make decisions and demonstrate understanding, in a collaborative way (and as a sort-of competition). By the end of the weekend workshop, I’d begun the outline of the Interactive Digital Treasure Hunt Game.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

My flow chart notes – Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

My generous COETAIL colleague Josie suggested I look into the PowerPoint “action buttons”, which would allow me to give my students options and choices at the various stages of the game. Perfect! Although I never thought I’d open my PowerPoint program again, I now saw it in a different light. Because I wanted the students to encounter the ideas of Contrast, Unity, and Balance in a visual, interactive (and thus hopefully engaging) manner, I realized that the action buttons would allow me to give the students autonomy as they traveled through the game, answering correctly or incorrectly and then having to deal with the subsequent challenges in either case.

In the three embedded .pptx files below, I apologize that viewers are not able to interact with these files using the Action Buttons. I tried several ways to get it to work but failed (the WordPress SlideShare plugin is no longer supported, and I could not find any other free options; I’ve embedded the files below using SlideShare and had hoped the interactivity would be supported, but unfortunately it’s not). Nonetheless, one can intuit how the game works by clicking through the slides (many of the action buttons are actually the images themselves FYI), and of course all the content is there. What’s not there is the face-to-face interaction that I had with my students: the Q&As and demonstrations, etc.

Here is Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

No, it doesn’t seem all that lengthy just to click through the slides, yet to my surprise is took three 60-minute classes (minus technical gliches, though there weren’t too many) to get through it for most teams. If you’ve looked closely, you see that at numerous points throughout the three-part game the student partners have to interact with me in some fashion — to answer questions, to show me something, to demonstrate knowledge by explaining something via the displayed artwork. And then I would give them the key to progressing onward to the next state of the game. Additionally, I was keeping track (on the white board) of the progress the teams were making through the 10 stages of the treasure hunt. Also, there was a point system whereby teams could earn extra points by exceeding the expectations with their answers or demonstrations; similarly, teams could lose point due to poor behavior or by breaking the rules (e.g. skipping ahead in the game or copying other team’s answers).

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

The students had different reactions to different aspects of the unit. Although the provocation lasted longer than I had expected, student interest never wavered; they were eager and excited about it for all 180 minutes over those three weeks. One class’s varied reactions to the Treasure Hunt provocation can be seen here (taken from a GoogleDoc task):

CUB Treasure Hunt Feedback created by Aaron Reed - you are free to copy, distribute, transmit, and adapt the work

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed.

Here are the students in the process of responding to the prompts on the GoogleDoc:

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Creatubbles —  a site which only went live online in January 2014 — proved to be a compelling if unpredictable tool. The students were slow to warm to it, and understandably so: despite the hopeful claims I made to them about their peers “from around the world” who would give them feedback on their poster designs, the students were somewhat disappointed that they did not receive much feedback. Most comments came from adults (like me and the developer of the site, Paul, who kindly commented on every one of my students’ work). However, once Paul was able to create sub-accounts for each of the students (effectively giving each child control beyond simply reading comments), they realized that they could then comment, follow, and bubble their friends and their friends’ artwork, and then their enthusiasm exploded — although not always in the most productive manner in terms of the development of their posters.

Nonetheless, most students did appreciate the comments they received, thought not all took the advice they were given. Some felt the feedback was very constructive for their designs.

TinkerCad and 3D printing formed the endpoint to the unit. Unfortunately, not all of the students were able to finish their posters with enough time to develop their 3D designs. Once the students had seen some examples (thank you YouTube) of what 3D printing is, its various purposes, and how it works, the excitement level was very high to create and produce something in three dimensions.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Alixe working on her TinkerCad design – Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

As of this blog’s publication, only two students have completed printing their objects (and still have yet to complete the next steps beyond that), while two more are actively, excitedly designing on TinkerCad. The two students who completed their printing essentially had to teach themselves (and each other) how to use TinkerCad, while they had the help of our Tech Head, Mr. Hamada, to do the actual printing.

The girls prepare to 3D print:

Alixe’s runner printing:

Here, Alixe gives some feedback about using TinkerCad and some thoughts about the purpose of her 3D design creation:

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Alixe’s printed product, currently painting in-progress – Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Some of the students created a class blog post and reflected overall on the unit thus far. Some outtakes:

“I have made a poster, I made a plan, I picked what campaign i’m going to do. What didn’t work was that I made a poster in comic life but I thought it was better to draw poster then make a poster in comic life. My first poster had lots of white and no color at all!! so I put colors on it. My plan is to put posters around the building and let the students know to reduce plastic bags. I will launch my campaign before may 1st.”

“I made a poster with a QR code which is a link to a website which has a link to a document with lots of links to petitions and documents with more info and a document for [our class] to write letters to send to ask for dolphin hunting to stop.”

“i have made a 3d model, i have made a poster and i have done my campaign. It have been successful because people want it more longer, because they find lot of fun,the thing the didn’t work out was we were thinking to have “special”  but they were messing around and not lessening to us. My plan is to re glue one of my 3d model because when it print it doesn’t hold.”

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Did I meet my goals for this unit? Yes and no. Looking back over the unit, I met one overarching goal which was for me, as a teacher, to attempt numerous new tech approaches and to learn how well they do or don’t integrate into this particular unit, as well as how they might integrate into other units across the grade levels I teach. This has definitely been a massive positive learning experience for me professionally.

As to my stated goals listed earlier in the post, I would say that the results are a mixed bag. As I’d mentioned in my final Course 4 blog post, I’m aware that I was biting off a bit too much, and despite having my reasons for it, I would say I was overambitious. And therefore I came up short in some areas (by trying to accomplish the various goals, expecting the students to get comfortable with the tools quickly, and also with so much missed time between classes, the focus — mine and the students — was at times inconsistent and fractured).

As to the PYP Unit Central Idea, in my ongoing conversations with students and from seeing their ideas develop, I hear and observe that many of them do have a sense that the media can influence thinking and behavior (we know they have that HOPE based on their ambitious campaigns!) and also of how they do so (in terms of visual communication). Of course, that understanding does seem to vary in depth, and a few students continue to get bogged down in the trees and still don’t see the forest. As to the PYP Learning Outcomes, the vast majority have shown themselves able to give clear, age-appropriate constructive criticism (although the students’ ability to use the terms Contrast, Unity, and Balance is still varied) and able to show an awareness of the affective power of the visual arts (some in verbal form, others through their own artwork, and some in both manners).

As to my four COETAIL-specific goals, again mixed results, though overall positive in the larger scheme of things. I feel that the use of the interactive digital provocation component was the goal most fully reached and the one which I will develop in other grade level art classes in the future. In using technology to focus on the students learning (rather than on the teacher teaching), what it provided the students — independence, engagement, fun/competition, collaboration, and differentiated methods to convey understanding — was a huge improvement over last year’s unit and a revelation to me as a bona fide learning activity. The use of Creatubbles to attempt to go far beyond the walls of the classroom & school in order to improve and broaden the critique/feedback process by connecting with the outside world was a goal partially reached, but with strong potential for future use. The main drawback at this time is the low quantity of comments the students received about their posted designs (plus, it seemed that the majority were from adults, not children), though that may improve in the future. But what feedback the children received was useful to most of them, even if they chose not to follow the advice (by that point, many kids were too beholden to their ideas). Admittedly, I may be responsible for creating the expectation that each child would be getting many comments from many children from many different countries; so I will plead guilty to that optimism. The unexpected bonus was that their engagement with the site increased with the onset of their control over individual accounts (Creatubbles is to them what Facebook is to their older siblings, it seems). So, the idea of Connectivism lives, only it’s in its infancy in this unit. My goal of an improved, differentiated assessment process was reached to a minor degree, but with so many projects still incomplete, most final assessments are not yet done. And so the goal remains incomplete. However, Creatubbles certainly has offered an excellent format for a new (digital, online) type of formative assessment (digital, online, written — and has led to increased ‘casual critique conversations’). And AudioBoo has allowed my two EAL students — who’ve completed their projects — to reflect and self-assess not only in writing but orally and in images. AudioBoo, in conjunction with Twitter and my classroom blog, has allowed me to take the standard Art Critique to another level; from that standpoint alone it has helped me reached one of my goals (more to follow on this point in the concluding section of this post) Similarly, my goal to make this project-based unit very true-to-life (in terms of the students becoming ‘graphic designers’) and to take it into another realm of design (from 2D graphic design to 3D industrial design) has not been fully realized. Time is running out on this unit, and the Grade 4 students still have a 3rd (and hopefully, though now unlikely, a 4th) unit to complete by mid-June.

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

These posters (above) were done by students at my school in their homeroom classes earlier this year; each contains some commendable elements, but — from a visual design standpoint — have some glaring weaknesses. The bane of my career (and a great inspiration for doing graphic design projects with children) has long been the very unfortunate state of the average “student-made hallway poster”: usually a messy, unaligned, unplanned jumble of too-many words, fonts, colors, images, and ideas. How is one supposed to get a message conveyed visually without adhering to some basic principles of design and visual communication? That has long been a personal starting point for student learning when it comes to such projects.

Although perhaps we can’t know the long-term effect on student learning at this point, evidence of students’ learning is seen in their improved graphic design (even when some continued to struggle to define Contrast, Unity, and Balance orally) and in their sketchbook feedback, and heard in their conversations, critiques, and verbal feedback.

In looking at the students’ final posters — in comparison with their earliest attempts and before discussion and critiques of how to convey ideas visually and utilize the design principles (contrast, unity, balance) — some improvement can been seen in most students’ work. There is a range in terms of how much improvement, of course. Some students are more able to explain orally how the design principles work, while others are better at conveying their understanding through their artwork. A few students are quite adept at both. Here are some samples of student work — their initial, week one sketches along side their final products (some posters are not fully complete):

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Several of the students’ audio/photo self-assessments (critiques of their own posters); links go to the AudioBoo site:

https://audioboo.fm/boos/2066352-alixe-4d Alixe on her poster about fitness and health
https://audioboo.fm/boos/2066380-Wyatt’s comments on his poster about solar energy
https://audioboo.fm/boos/2066527-Joshua reflecting on his poster on recycling
https://audioboo.fm/boos/2066562 Harry on this poster about saving electricity
https://audioboo.fm/boos/2066411-jennifer-4d Jennifer on her poster about recycling

Student feedback about the unit’s Central Idea and one of the Learning Objectives:

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Discussing the principles of design early on in the unit:

Students critiquing the rough drafts of their classmates:

One student’s campaign was about healthy living and getting students to eat more vegetable and less meat. She initiated a “no meat Monday” idea, and after interviewing the cafeteria supervisor, she posted this recently to me on her classroom blog:

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

And perhaps this girl actually convinced someone to go out and do some exercise:

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

One student focused on the design principles in his data analysis of advertisements seen in Tokyo:

Image licensed under a CC Evan's post-field-trip data collection poster - Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Image licensed under a CC Evan’s post-field-trip data collection poster – Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Looking back over the past 3+ months of work and mixed results, I will certainly alter some approaches in this unit. Part of these amendments includes looking at my too-many-approaches-and-tools and deciding which were most beneficial and how best to use them, i.e. streamlining for a more efficient unit of study. The fact that we did so many things other than just ‘make a poster’ seemed to be confusing to some children, and when art class is only once weekly, some had difficulty keeping a consistent mindset about their poster design ideas. The organization and logistics of this unit must be a major focus for me next year.

    • From a practical standpoint, I would like to be more explicit about the design cycle; although we followed the design cycle, I did not specifically break down the stages and refer to them during each class, and I think this (along with keeping a timeline of due-dates) might have helped move the project along at a better pace and helped the students be more efficient.
    • It’s clear that creating age-appropriate learning activities that are engaging, are social, are collaborative, and allow students to be independent and to display their learning in different manners is a good thing. Thus, I will retain — and improve — the Adrian Camm-inspired interactive game and will rethink and reuse the Creatubbles social/art site for next year’s unit. In the interactive game, I will need to redesign the aspect which requires the students to demonstrate their knowledge in order to move on to the next stage (the check-in with me, face-to-face, creates a bottleneck where other teams have to wait in line). Perhaps the game can include the assessment, whereby the correct answer automatically advances them to the next step, or perhaps the end of each of the three games provides a hyperlink to a document or site that is a kind of quiz and then results in providing them with the subsequent downloadable .pptx file. As for Creatubbles, next year I will be able to give the students their individual sub-accounts (all under mine for security reasons of course) from Day One, which hopefully will get them engaged with it from the outset. Also, I ought to meet with the site developer to determine how the site is growing and what his expectation are for user growth over the coming year (assuming that increased users will result in increased comments/feedback for my students); also, I may need to connect with specific art teachers in other schools in order to set up some formal feedback sessions so that the commenting is reciprocal — rather than just posting poster images and hoping that people will comment; some strategizing on my part is needed. On a side note: I had originally thought to use Artsonia before finding Creatubbles, but Artsonia seemed too big; however now I’m thinking that “big” means “more users”, so perhaps that’s an option for one of my Grade 4 classes next year? The two efforts I did make to increase the feedback to my students’ posted designs — to connect with Creatubbles art teachers on the Facebook page and to Tweet a request to the #COETAIL community — did not appear to effect an increase in comments.
Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

Screenshot image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed

 

screenshot-of-tweet-asking-for-coetail-colleague-feedback-on-creatubbles-by-AReed-Please-do-not-use-or-reproduce-this-image

Image licensed under a CC Attr-NonComm-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License by Aaron Reed.

      • The students’ excitement about 3D design and printing was palpable. Sadly, the length of the unit meant that very few were able to finish their poster designs and self-assessments with enough time remaining to work on TinkerCad and create & print a product. Next year, I hope that the honing of the unit means that everyone will have the opportunity to participate in this final stage of the unit. Art teaching — perhaps all teaching — is sometimes so much less about the subject matter and so much more about logistics, organization, and time.
      • Lastly, I referred to “the treachery of images” in my last blog post. One big-picture focus that eluded me this year with this unit was the idea of surface versus content, that a pretty exterior might hide a rotten interior, that an amazingly successful advertisement might in fact be advertising a product which is inauthentic, dysfunctional, or even immoral. Perhaps this discussion is best suited for older children (I last did such a unit with a Grade 10 printmaking class some years back), but certainly it could be addressed in an age-appropriate manner with these Grade 4 students. Again, if I can manage the time and logistics of this unit better, I hope to include this idea in our discussions (certainly it’s an appropriate corrollary to the Central Idea “the media can influence thinking and behavior”).

Looking at my unit plan, it verifies what I’ve already mentioned in this post: I’ve currently got an overabundance of goals and tools and activities. Leading up to doing this unit next year, I will need to hone it to be more straightforward and efficient, for me and for the students.

As this unit and as COETAIL wind down, I’ll want to share my reflections and experiences with my colleagues. Fortunately, as I have some fellow Y.I.S. teachers here in my COETAIL cohort, they will see my formal presentation later this month. Beyond that, I could share at a faculty meeting and/or at an afterschool Tech PD session; I may Tweet an announcement with a link to this COETAIL blogpost on my two professional Twitter accounts (one COETAIL-specific, one for my current classroom teaching); and I may post information and a link on art teacher forums such as one for Asia Art Educators that I belong to.


cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Zhu

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” — indeed. Some version of this notion is one of my two greatest learnings from doing this Grade 4 media unit. Regardless of how we as teachers plan, regardless of what we want/expect to happen — or think will happen — regardless of what we want the technology or the children to do, we need to be prepared for any eventuality. And although at times, things don’t work out as expected or desired, the outcome is always productive in terms of reconstructing the lessons and the unit for the future. I continue to remind myself that My Assumptions are only that, and that Reality is what I have to respond to: to observe how my students react to and learn from these activities and to reflect on that, not on what I’d hoped would happen. It’s not that this understanding is new to me (and I’ve made educational technology a professional focus for 4 straight years now, around the time I attended a two-day workshop with Jeff Utecht at ASD-Qatar), but in terms of a highly concentrated and hydra-headed attempt at technology integration in a single unit of study (thank you COETAIL Course 5), this learning has hit home sharply and in a variety of ways, and it has reminded me that being flexible, open-minded, quick to adapt, humble, and realistic are key attributes for a teacher to maintain an environment which enables successful student learning.

The other big takeaway for me — and I am a teacher with a fundamental belief that engaging students is a necessary component to achieving student learning — is the unequivocable proof that the integration of technology is not only a fundamentally authentic approach to engaging students in their learning but also one which (1) has fantastic, exponentially growing possibilities and (2) allows students to be part of the growth and discovery inherent in the technologies. HOW the students engage with and use the technology can help educators determine how best to use it.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Ian Guest

Did my implementation of technology meet the definition of “Redefinition”?  I find this a difficult question to answer. Admittedly, a few tasks the students engaged in were simply Substitution and Augmentation. As to the main efforts I made with technology integration — (1) the interactive digital PowerPoint treasure hunt provocation, (2) the use of Creatubbles, (3) creating (PosterMyWall) and/or assessing (AudioBoo/Twitter/blog) with digital tools, and (4) the introduction of the industrial digital design world (TinkerCad & 3D printing) — their implementation fell somewhere along the SAMR spectrum.

      1. I feel that the PowerPoint-based provocation approaches the notion of “redefinition”. From one perspective, one might argue that if a digital book is just a substitute for a paper book (or is merely an augmented one), then isn’t a digital interactive educational game not much different that the physical version that one could create? I suppose; however, the informational and activity hyperlinks to online sites that my game incorporated could not be achieved in any way except digitally. Moreover, the ability to organize clear, high-definition digital imagery for each pair of students, to allow the game to be played by any number of students at varying times and paces, and to allow the game to be adjusted on an on-going basis takes it at least to the level of Modification, a “significant task redesign”. I will be happy to get feedback from my COETAIL classmates as to whether or not it meets the qualification of Redefinition; as it stands now, I’m doubtful.
      2. The Creatubbles website offers much potential for this unit, yet as I’ve stated, I’m not sure it was harnessed in the best manner or perhaps the site itself does not yet lend itself to my hoped-for goal. Or maybe I am still unable to envision how it might be best utilized. The idea of getting feedback on student work from peers around the world is not new. I remember having pen-pals when I was a 2nd grader myself. So I could have photographed/-copied my students’ work and mailed it to an art teacher in another country and waited for their return with written feedback paperclipped to each roughdraft poster. The quality of the feedback might actually have been better than the digital comments the children received on the Creatubbles site. On the other hand, by using a website, the key component of time is drastically altered: digital communication is infinitely faster than postal mail. And the reach of a social site such as Creatubbles (not unlike Facebook) is vast, whereas how many envelopes full of photocopies of artwork can one teacher mail and to how many other art teachers? The practical (cost-effective, labor-saving) reality is that the ability to cover time and geographic space digitally far exceeds that of any physical delivery/mail system. So where does that put the Creatubbles component on the SAMR scale? Is it a “direct tool substitute with functional improvement”? (i.e. Augmentation). Yes, it certainly is that. And does it qualify as Modification? (Is it a “significant task redesign”, allowing “the teacher/student to do old things in new ways”). I would argue that yes, it is and does. Does it create “new and different learning experiences for the students” with the “creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”? (i.e. Redefinition). As it stands now, as I utilized it during the unit this year, I don’t think so; however, between the children’s excitement at having their own accounts on an art website that is also a social media site and the potential growth of the site among art teachers (and museums and families) around the world, the potential is certainly there.
      3. PosterMyWall — the online poster design software/app — was used by very few students. Since I began writing this post recently, one more student stopped using it and has returned to making his poster manually. One girl did use it and finishe her poster (see above). PosterMyWall is straighforward Augmentation, but I actually balk at saying it offers “functional improvment” because by eliminating the need for some manual tasks (using a ruler, measuring the lettering spacing, creating/mixing specific colors, among other basic tasks and skills), it allows students to make imagery that they haven’t really “earned”. Some would say, “Who cares? This is the world we live in today.” I would say, “It’s lost opportunities.” But maybe I’m old-fashioned; maybe the need to use a ruler or estimate space or sketch is no longer a need but a choice since there are tools to do these things for us now. AudioBoo is an app (there are others like it) which I have come to appreciate very much and to use frequently. Because AudioBoo allow students to respond verbally to prompts about their artwork and to share it digitally in a variety of ways (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, SMS, email, Tumblr), it is truly a wonderful modification of the traditional art critique. Before I knew of such apps, my students would do an oral or written critique of their art; the oral critique was lost as the sound waves dissipated, and the written ones lasted as long as I kept the papers it was written on (both, therefore, challenging to organize and access — let alone share with large numbers of people). Now, as the students record their reflections and photograph their work, they click a few more buttons and their critiques are automatically Tweeted to my classroom Twitter account and end up on my classroom blog in a Twitter feed column, both for the enjoyment of students/parents/teachers (e.g. at a conference or meeting) and potentially of the general public as well as for my own reference as the feed becomes essentially my filing cabinet of student critiques. Perhaps it does go beyond Modification. Is this process a Redefinition of the old method? Indeed, such digital critiques are arguably “previously inconceivable”, but I’m not sure that they are as much ‘learning experiences’ as they are ‘assessment tasks’.
      4. The integration of TinkerCad and a 3D printer into this unit — as a way to move the unit from being a 2D graphic design project to being also a 3D industrial design project — certainly allows the students and me to do old things in new ways. It’s a major modification over the way an elementary art teacher might have done such a unit only a few years ago. I can imagine that the old-school opinion might be that what we have here is merely Augmentation, that TinkerCad and a 3D printer are simply replacing time-honored industrial drafting skills and a woodshop or metalshop. Whichever way one might argue it, I don’t feel I can rate this aspect of the unit too completely, simply because this part of my unit wasn’t addressed in full. It became an extra activity for a few students who happened to finish their posters earlier than all their classmates. Certainly the TinkerCad software and the 3D printing technology have literally redefined how design is done and executed and by whom (turning anyone’s garage into a mini-factory). But my unit of study can’t take any Redefinition credit for that. My implementation of these technologies is too incomplete and fractured as it stands this year. Much potential is there, and it’s another area to focus on for next year’s Grade 4 students.

 

“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often.” – Churchill again. Not sure how he’s made his way into this post, but it seems as if Winston had some insight into teaching and learning.

8 thoughts on ““…the end of the beginning”

  1. I agree that it’s hard to get younger students to understand principles of design, particularly when a project focuses on more than one at a time.

    I found it really interesting that so few of your students opted to make their posters digitally. I find that a lot in my classes too, that students aren’t so keen on using their laptops a lot of the time. For some reason, it continues to surprise me.

    Your game idea was great, and it sounds like the kids loved playing it. So true that engagement is a necessary precursor for learning, and your game clearly accomplished that. It seems like it was really time-consuming to produce, but you’ll be able to use it for years to come.

    As for the bottleneck issue, I wonder whether you could do the game in stages? For example, the first challenge could be done at the beginning of one week’s art class, with everyone stopping at the same point and then working on another task for the rest of the period…that might give you a chance to “make the rounds” to check for understanding. Then the next challenge could be tackled at the beginning of the following class meeting…or, maybe the kids could go through the challenges at home or in their homeroom classes, prepare their answers and then present them to you in art class one at a time (while the other students are doing independent project work)…? Just brainstorming some possibilities…

    You have clearly put a lot of thought and effort into this ambitious unit, and it sounds like you and the kids really learned a lot. Of course the first time you try something new there are bound to be hiccups, but to me it seems like overall it was a success.

    Great job Aaron! Otsukare sama!

    Reply
  2. Tried replying but got this comment from WordPress:
    “Sorry, your comment has been blocked because you used a word normally reserved for spammers. If you are not a spam peddling robot, you can hit the back button in your browser and stop using spammy words.”
    Will email you, Milan

    Reply
  3. I’m exhausted just reading this post! You did so much with this unit Aaron! Even though things didn’t always work as planned, you are a superstar for taking so many risks and trying so many new things within one unit. It’s clear that you learned a ton and have lots of ideas for how to improve this unit in the future. You’re right, this is just the beginning!

    Reply
  4. Wow, I’m so impressed with all of the hard work you’ve put into this unit!

    You’ve introduced me to a few new websites such as Audioboo, PosterMyWall, Tinkercad, and Creatubbles, and it has been interesting to see how you’ve used them to enhance your lessons. I’m excited to research them further and hopefully integrate them in my own art classroom.

    It was also interesting to watch various videos of the process, student-reflections, and critique. These have really helped me getting a deeper understanding of your unit. I’ve found all of your information especially informative, thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Hi Laura,
      Thanks for the kind words. Yes, definitely all very worthwhile efforts with these apps and sites. For me, the trick is finding the technology that actually makes the work (both the students’ and my own) easier and more streamlined. Sometimes it’s a matter of how I use the tool; other times, it’s just realizing that some things do or don’t work the way I want them to. The other challenge is just keeping up with all the new apps/programs/tools that come out all the time. I rely a lot on colleagues to stay up to date.
      Enjoy your summer!
      Aaron

      Reply
  5. Aaron, really impressive work with the kids and yourself. If COETAIL is a gamified learning, then you have set the bar rather high. I’m still on Level 4, and hopefully will push through to Level 5 (by simply paying for the course!)

    All joking aside, I enjoyed watching you reflect on your challenges and struggles, work-arounds and successes. The kids are fortunate to have you as their teacher taking risks for their benefit.

    Great work, man. Truly, great work.

    Reply
    • Hey Jamie,
      Thanks for the kind words. Ironically, I’ve received your message just as this year’s Grade 4 students are embarking on the ‘interactive treasure hunt’. It’s good to have last year’s trial under my belt, as I feel a lot more ready to field their questions and manage the ‘game day’ experience. The best thing is allowing the game to do most of the teaching so that I can site back and observe and assess them and just step in as needed to check on their learning. I do plan to set up more such activities in other classes. It’s just a matter of making the time to plan it and create it.
      Thanks again,
      AR

      Reply
  6. Hi Aaron,
    Wow, what a journey you went on with this unit! I am an ECE art teacher and am thoroughly impressed with the variety of ways you used tech throughout this process! Every few paragraphs there is something new! Creattubles was a great find for me as I prepare for my Course 5 project so thank you for that! I would love to hear your feedback now regarding this sharing site. I want a place where my students can post a digital tutorial or slide presentation and receive feedback from a global audience. It sounds like this was a good forum for you to use but any criticisms are welcome before I use it with my students.

    I also was very impressed by your interactive treasure hunt. I am not at all surprised that it took you several classes to work through it with students! It was very thorough and engaging. It brings play into learning and the content encourages learners to consider some of the most valuable art principles. Well done!

    Reply

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