About this Site and Me

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Flower Mound, TX, United States
Hi, I am an artist, wife, mom, gamer and the Elementary Art Educator at Donald Elementary, a sweet and wonderful school in Flower Mound, TX (outside of Dallas). This is a great place to see how we are integrating studio habits with technology and interdisciplinary connections. I also love to share my "wisdom" (Re: Experiences. From mistakes.) about teaching Elementary Art. I love what I do, and I've been doing it for a long time. Creating and teaching Art is what I live for. Enjoy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Reality check time for using tech in the Art room!

So halfway through this piloting 1:X year, here is an update on how we are *REALLY, really*  using tech in the art room:

Good news: it is going SO MUCH BETTER than we imagined. A few bumps, and few hiccups, but overall, here at Donald, things are going well (*knocking on wood*).
With regards to tech, the kids are way ahead of us anyway, so integrating tech into daily school life is no biggie for them. I have seen some very cool stuff happening around our school. True, it has un-leveled us teachers, but that's ok, we are in the Learning Profession. At least that is what I keep telling myself.
Reality check and fyis:
Not all of our kids have iPads, as parents can opt-out. Or they forgot them at home. Or they aren't charged by the time they get to Art. Or they haven't uploaded the instructional apps we need.

Ok. This is Really Important: In our district, parents can opt not to put apps on their child's iPad (even instructional ones). Parents have the final say, naturally, and keep in mind that our district provides a safe and secure server the kids can use at school and home. So yes, parents have the final say as to what apps they want to deal with on nights and weekends ( My son is 13 with a school issued iPad, and trust me, I need to parent that thing.). What is appropriate for one family is not always appropriate for another.

Going 1:X does not mean every kid gets an iPad or a laptop, or blah blah blah, and we don't believe that putting an iPad in their hands will make them smarter/better test takers/robots.  It means making sure every child has access to the tools they need to succeed.

So, all kids here have access to iPads, Mac Airs, traditional books and prints, etc...what they need to get the work done.

Look at it this way: 

Remember back to your 4th grade spelling tests in the 70's, 80's or 90's.
I remember my classroom looked like this:
Anyone remember those desks?
Or maybe you remember this?
Where is this? Pleasantville?
(Anyway, see those kids? YEAH. Those kids don't exist anymore. They are now adults who have had children WHO ARE NOT LIKE THIS. The NetGen or iGen kids are completely different. Completely. Don't believe me? Hang out at Chucky Cheese on a Saturday afternoon.)

Now, image you HATED spelling. You were terrible at it. Or maybe, just meh.(Unlike me, who was soooo super awesome that I was given the super awesome job of READING THE SPELLING WORDS OUT LOUD to my classmates. No, I didn't have to actually TAKE the test. Note to teachers everywhere: do not do this.)

SOooooo anyway. Spelling tests. Right. 

Ok, imagine you could take that spelling test with a purple glitter pen, as the pencil smudges left from that awful pink eraser stressed you out.

Or, you could lay on the floor and take the test. Or sit on a overstuffed chair.

Or you could use a typewriter, a word processor or a tablet, as your handwriting was so super terrible your teacher couldn't read the properly spelled words (this is not about handwriting folks)...

What if--this is crazy--you and another kid could collaborate and take the test together? 

Would that help? What is the point here, to have every kid do exactly the same thing the same way, or learning how to spell?

Look, obviously I am not an expert on Elementary Language Arts (my "inventive" grammar alone should prove this). But taking spelling tests in school is something I think we can all remember and agree on.

What does this have to do with anything in Art Ed?

A lot. 

I have to use this amazing technology is a way that meets the needs of ALL my students. And maintain the high expectations for a quality art program (read 'My Conditions" side bar). No two kids or art projects are the same. 

My struggle (ha, what a struggle. First World Problem Alert!), how can we do a digital painting or movie when out of 22 kids, 4 don't have the app uploaded and 2 don't have an iPad? Painting websites are not anything like the apps. So the tech has to be an OPTION. Or the kids work in GROUPS. Both are fine and wonderful.

First of all, remember, we are the masters of differentiation (can that be a tee shirt?).  How many other classes have 22 kids doing 4 completely unrelated things? Have you ever seen a classroom with science experiments, LA, Math and Social Studies happening at the same time, with one teacher successfully navigating? Nope. I am sure you have not (ok, maybe on those crazy half day before a break. That is not what I am talking about ^.^).

But we do it all the time. With iGen kids who:
  • cannot sit still
  • now have an attention span of .0008 seconds
  • who view quiet as a form of disapproval
  • who require constant feedback and redirection and assurance
...or is it just me? 

What is happening here: kids on the right are finishing their project, child in the back here is assessing and photographing with iPad, students at the left table are finished and doing Free Choice Centers: modeling clay and finger weaving, and the kids on floor are doing a Free Choice Center: cup weaving. 

How I am using tech in my art room and how I imagined we would be are two very different things.

I thought we would all be making at least one amazing piece of digital art by now, until I realized not all my kids had access to the iPads and/or special art apps (the year is not over yet!). 

I thought sharing these digital art projects would be a breeze, until I realize not every app allows you to save and share the way we need them (we use Google Apps, with Apple products).

I thought I had it all figured out, and then Apple pushed the IOS7 update that changed app security and briefly messed up our proxy and that (*frustration*) is part of technology.

I thought I had to master and pre-teach all these Art Apps, until I realize that kids had already figured them out. And were showing each other. Even the first graders.

So right now, in January,  here is the for real how students are using the iPads:
  • taking photos of art work, charting the journey from beginning to end, for use in digital portfolios, saving all in their art folder in their Google Drive. 
  • Creating Google Docs for assessment/reflective questions.
  • Taking videos of their art work and discussing the process and reflections.
  • Taking these images and popping them into Animoto.
  • Using Art Apps as a Free Choice center when they have finished their art and assessment.
  • taking photos and videos of their Free Choice Centers to save and share.
Yes, I am aware it is a lot of photography. I am teaching good photography tips!

These kids made this in about 5 minutes in the Free Choice Center: rods and connectors, then they took turns videotaping their creation and their process for their families to view. They were very excited! Why the heart? She is not allowed to have images online. PicMonkey allowed me a quick solution.

Biggest observation? We don't use the iPads all the time. And it's ok! The kids are using traditional art materials and talking face to face --much needed social skills.

We are using the technology when it makes sense, not as a dog and pony show. And that, my friends, is a huge relief.

Love these kids!
Old School Technology! Look ma!

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