Archive for March, 2014

Sustaining interest

Food for Thought visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Food for Thought visual note by Nicki Hambleton

The last 5 weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster.

Never one to do things by half, I set my standards high from Week 1, adding a visual note alongside my blog post. It seemed a great way for me to summarise the weeks learning and to communicate it back into the community. But it does take time, being a perfectionist.

Having said that it has generated interest and I enjoy it, and it allows me to work out how well visual thinking can help solidify thoughts and ideas. An idea I really want to put back into my school for the students.

The 2 headed monster

As the first few weeks of Course 1 COETAIL evolved and digesting the readings added to the many ideas of how to use and embed technology effectively on the classroom, I started to use these learnings to figure out what I would like to change about the existing curriculum in Art and through my connections with students. As I grappled with the planning of a new Sculpture unit aimed at helping Grade 7 to understand Sustainability, it seemed crucial to help them to find the information themselves. In turn they will learn about connecting and collaborating, sharing and informing with technology firmly at the heart of their work supporting and enhancing their Art.

But it was also on Week 5 that a simple idea sprung up spinning off from the fun Matt and I were having connecting through Twitter and sharing visual drawing prompts for our students. It occurred to me that we can connect a whole lot further and use the internet connections to help build ideas and gain knowledge.

So I have ended up with 2 Course 1 final projects!

1. The BIG unit: “Food for Thought”, with Technology sandwiching the Art

2. The Art Remix project that is still just an idea but is now starting to take shape.

For the final project for Course 1 it makes sense for me to go with my first thought, Sustainable Sculpture as this is where I believe the technology will really transform the learning, take the students forward and give them a starting and end point to the project. #artyremix will take a slight backseat whilst it is in its development.

Photo Credit: identity chris is via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: identity chris is via Compfight cc

What most affected me throughout Course 1 was the power of connections. How little one might know and how quickly we can grow through the expertise of others.

The unit I am planning is a Sculpture Unit with the umbrella theme of Sustainability. I have always been intrigued by the notion of how far our food travels from field to table and it is with this that the unit evolved. Having lived in Italy, the blog post by Joe Teft reminded me of and how trying to source food locally and ethically in Singapore is virtually impossible!

Back in November I gatecrashed a weekend workshop ran by Mike Johnston at UWCSEA East. Connecting and working with others helped me to solidify how important it was to educate our youngsters in working towards a sustainable future. But what could a lowly art teacher do? I struggled to think how I could make a difference. Ideas were being thrown around the room but it was a particular slide that resonated a strong feeling in me. It illustrated a hamburger and the journey that it had taken from field to table. I searched the internet to find a similar one recently and found so much information, articles and infographics on the impact food has on our footprint and realised I had a lot of research still to do.

How bad are bananas? and tea, and ……
How bad are bananas?

How bad are bananas?

So I started some reading, “How Bad are Bananas-the carbon footprint of everything” by Mike Berners-Lee and chatted to others about the origins of the food on their plate. How much do we know and take for granted? Living in Singapore, nearly everything is imported, with a price tag. The milk in our cereal comes from Australia, the fruit from Malaysia, the cereal from England, the juice from South Africa and the coffee from Italy.  Are students aware of this? Do they understand the impact of their choices on both the environment and their bodies? Our Food Footprint seemed to me to be the focus for my next big unit. What impact are our choices having? I stumbled on an article shared on Facebook by my mother which took me to a link for action. It outlined  the horrific reality of our humble cup of tea and the literal price we are paying and I quickly realised that research was going to be key to this project. (You can read the article in The Guardian with accompanying video and sign the action at Sum of Us.

Photo Credit: dragonflysky via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dragonflysky via Compfight cc

As I started planning my unit for Term 3, young Middle School students at East shared this video regarding Vegetarian Wednesday which contained an excellent slide visualising the journey  and the impact of a lettuce compared to steak. This is exactly what I had in mind and this Vimeo explains why visualisation is so crucial:

The bulk of the unit will be making a sculpture that clearly communicates the impact of food choices, giant plates of food, hung or displayed to gather interest and start conversation. Imagine a papier maché Teacup with people inside or a giant burger, Claes Oldenburg style or an installation of modified labels on bottles or cans.

So where does the technology fit in?

Students do not have the raw data, the base information to draw from. They don’t have the skills to search effectively to gather, sort and use that information. So I figured I would bring that element into the unit early on. Blogging about Twitter and connecting with experts on line in Week 1 helped me conclude that this could well be the ideal forum for the students to pose their questions and get some answers. So my idea is to start a class Twitter account, link with specific experts and try to get some information to trigger their ideas for sculpture. Meeting with Nathan Hunt at UWCSEA Dover and his resident G12 expert, Nima, we struck a plan together that looks something like this:

1. Students brainstorm the origins of their food, daily meals and ideas they have of the impact from what they choose to buy and eat

2. Students research online – where, who, how do we find out; youtube, google (Messing about)

3. Use Twitter to connect with experts (Reaching out)

4. Collate findings, sifting through and selecting

5. Ideas and creation of installation art/sculpture

6. Make video/PSA/animation to communicate the issue

7. Share video with the wider community, social media (Going Viral)

8. Track the results and seeing the feedback

The other side of the sandwich: Going Viral

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Marc_Smith via Compfight cc

Following the practical Art side of the unit, the students will hopefully feel compelled to share their learning to a wider audience. Andrew MacCarthy and I contrived a plan to do this effectively:

Students would use their data and the sculpture itself to trigger a 30 second PSA video, tweet and share it on YouTube to see how far it will travel to go viral.

UbD planner

But what of Artyremix?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it! I am just trying to find the best and most effective way to share, spread and display the art remixes. Suggestions so far are:

Pinterest: a shared board to download and upload to (my favourite option so far) but requires artists to join the board – emailing or adding  issues?

Instagram: great to use the hashtag #artyremix but not the greatest of quality in downloading the image initially

Google: maybe adding to a public folder for upload and download purposes then displaying on Instagram/artsonia/Pinterest?

Thoughts anyone?

I would love to get this second idea off the ground soon. I am sure my students doing the daily warm up would love to remix someone else’s artwork either digitally or traditionally then to see how it journeys and evolves across the world. Paul Fairbrother has remixed my eye drawing avatar to start it all off currently on Pinterest, so anyone else, suggestions, ideas or just get going and we can figure it all out as we go!

Pinterest #artyremix

Let the game commence……..


Global Collaboration - creative projects Visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Global Collaboration – creative projects Visual note by Nicki Hambleton


I promise to write less this week, not just out of respect to others but as a necessity to my sanity. It has been and is the week of all weeks: 270 MS reports are due in and I am slowly becoming snowed under.

So I will be brief……

Thinking ahead to my UBD planning on Sustainability, it was good to read about other projects that involve reaching out globally. As I followed the links to the multiple readings my mind started remembering projects I had followed or read about that focused on creativity and were clearly centred around the Arts.

Bones, bodies, faces and forests

4 years ago I stumbled on an online project called One Million Bones. As I was taking a Grade 8 unit teaching about sculptural materials and some of the students had returned from a history trip to Vietnam talking animatedly about the atrocities of genocide it seemed apt to get involved. The concept of the project was to encourage groups of people to make “bones” and send them to become part of an Installation to be set up in the National Mall Washington. On the website, Naomi Natale talks about how the project and the organisation The Art of Revolution are”dedicated to leveraging the power of art to inspire activism. We believe that art is such an incredible tool with which to engage and mobilise communities around a specific social justice issue. It offers a tangible way for people to connect to things that are not presented to them daily.

As my students learnt of conflicts around the world happening right then and worked hard with modroc to carve an authentic bone the sentiments of the project struck a chord:

“The installation will exist as a collaborative site of conscience to honor victims and survivors, and will also serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much need and long overdue action.”

It was humbling to have been a tiny part of such a powerful piece of collaborative art.

On a lighter note, collaborative projects have been a part of artists work for some time, from Ai WeiWei’s powerful installations built from information and research gathered collaboratively to Spencer Tunick‘s body sculptures. Tunick crowd sources willing participants to offer their bodies to become part of one of his pieces in particular places around the world. He counts on the public to respond, and they always do. One such colleague of mine had suffered with breast cancer many years previously and decided this would be her moment to embrace the situation, her mastectomy,  and become part of history. She said it was liberating and she was proud to have been part of the Selfridges artwork.

On a very different note, the Inside Out project asks the public to share their portrait where the photography project is to take place – London, Georgia, Paris, Karachi, New York and many more. 8572 locations to be exact.

JR, speaking at TED, remains largely anonymous yet he wants his large pastings themselves to speak out so that the viewer can contemplate the story behind them and to raise questions.


It was through searching these projects that I stumbled on a new one, Make a Forest, a collaborative art project aimed at groups worldwide to share an artificial tree and together to build a forest that raises awareness of diversity of our world trees yet also of their fragility on today’s society.

My Grade 6s earlier this year were looking at trees in our school grounds that reflected the 40 years of their existence, the stories they tell and the lives that have passed them by. 40 trees for 40 years is a project spearheaded by Frankie Meehan and Nathan Hunt, both keen on sustainability and who have inspired my direction with art. Reading about the individual projects on the Make a Forest website led me to think how I could involve my young artists in this humble online project.

Will you take part too? Share the diversity of the trees in your country? Let me know if you want to take part and we can share them online through twitter to gather some momentum and interest. Felix Finkbeiner, who founded Plant for the Planet in 2007 when he was just 9 years old, visited our school says:

“If everybody plants 150 trees in the next ten years we will reach 1,000 billion trees by 2020. By working together we can definitely achieve this. It isn’t that hard and it is not impossible anymore.”

It is with this sentiment that I work on my Sustainability unit with Grade 7, with this power of harnessing interest around the world in our common cause to live in a better one that fires my energy to impart important causes to our students, the future citizens of our fast diminishing world. I may be one person but together we can make a difference, if we all try.

Food for Thought - Sustainability visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Food for Thought – Sustainability visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Arty remix

In the mean time, I have a simple art idea to test out this remix society and the importance of creativity. Do you recall artists trading cards? Little baseball sized cards given or sent to be swapped.

I thought in today’s digital world we could create art, on iPad or iPhone and digitally send these to interested artists (or students). There they would remix, add to or change the artwork and send on again. How fun would it be to see your artwork travel the world, change and alter and then be exhibited online?

Do you want to help me start this? If you know an art teacher, artist or someone creative or just keen to be involved tell them.

Tweet me at @itsallaboutart with hashtag #artremix and let the creativity begin.

**update: I don’t think I wrote much less in the end, but I wrote it quicker!



Mark Prensky's "Shaping Tech in the classroom" visual note by Nicki HAmbleton

Marc Prensky’s “Shaping Tech in the classroom” visual note by Nicki Hambleton

Juggling and balancing

It occurred to me that I write too much. The thing is, I have lots to say and many ideas. The idea of making the visual notes was to consolidate my thinking and clarify my thoughts, yet it seems to open many doors to new forms of thinking. My head is like the internet, a web connecting one thought to the next; to a TED talk, an image, a quote, blog post, conversation or link on Twitter. I am juggling many thoughts and ideas this week and wondering how to balance it all. Imagine 28 tabs open all at the same time- that’s my mind.

Have teaching and learning changed with the introduction of new tools?

Whilst reading the final part of  “Living and Learning with New Media” (MaCarthur Foundation) and Marc Prensky’s “Shaping Tech for the Classroom” on Edutopia I was reminded of Ken Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms” RSA animate. We teach in an intensely stimulating world and students are easily distracted from what Robinson calls “the boring stuff”. We need to engage them and understand their world, find out what motivates them and how to incorporate this meaningfully into our lessons without losing the grip on what and why we are teaching this. In a world of distractions to us adults too, I find this choice a minefield!

Waking them up!

Ken Robinson pinpoints that in The Arts students are fully alive, operating in the present moment and that through art, dance, music and drama their senses are on full alert “operating at their peak”. “We should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves”. How can we do this?  What have I done recently that “woke them up”? It seems to be a sad fact that students become less imaginative and lose creativity the further they rise up the school. In kindergarten, students have multiple ideas for any given theme, yet as they move through Middle School they seem to lose this, “as they become more educated,  so creativity deteriorates”. Education knocks it out of them. This week I decided to jump on the imagination bandwagon with Matt McGrady in sharing drawing prompts with my MS art classes. In a nutshell, I start the lesson with a 5 minute observation drawing to literally warm students for doing art up yet calm them down ready for the learning ahead. (adapted from Marvyn Bartell‘s warm up ritual). Matt decided to shake things up a bit and connect with other teachers through Twitter and suggested an imaginative drawing prompt. So from Monday morning my students were given this: Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 17.32.34 From unicorns to doughnut factories, hot air balloons and fire breathing dragons they let their imagination run wild (and thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of choice to boot). 5 minutes wasn’t long enough for them, yet it was crucial there was a time limit (we had other work to do too!). But at the end of the 5 minutes it felt hugely important to them to talk about their drawing. So instead of letting them just explain, I tipped it on its head. Using one of Howard Gardner’s Thinking routines (Visible Thinking), the artist remained silent for one minute whilst their partner spoke about what they see, think and wonder. It was hilarious to watch their faces and they were itching to share what they were communicating and the idea behind their drawing. It had truly woken them up, yet had also given them an effective strategy to discuss artwork.

photo 1 photo 2

During our monthly PLN meeting my group (Assessment for Learning) was discussing the power of peer learning and how this might be more effective through technology. It was here that the conversation arose about the “I see I think I wonder” routine. It seems that learning to talk about art can help students analyse and this is a valuable skill across curricula as Amy E Herman explains:

So, how can I effectively incorporate technology in the same engaging and motivating way, yet keep the essence of the learning at the forefront?

Students love to be in control, or at least to think they are in control of their learning. We owe it to them to include them in the planning, the preparation and the process. In order to effectively integrate technology we must first consult the students – what do they use, how best do they learn, what is their passion? It is through these conversations that we unravel what it is to be a middle school learner. In an education world where personalised and Individualised learning is becoming far more necessary we, as educators must search for ways that help students to learn more effectively.

But are we using technology to do what we would have done but in a different way. Prensky highlights the change in our approach from dabbling to innovative methods of incorporating technology into the classroom in a similar way to Blooms Higher order thinking. It was through visualising this process that my mind started to wander into thinking about what we actually do in terms of technology in the art room and is it transformational? As we integrate more technology into our lessons, we need to bear in mind that “it’s not about the device anymore but it’s about the learning going on” (Dana Watts, COETAIL livecast February 11th 2014).

New ways to do old things

In what ways are we trying to redo old things but in new ways? Are these methods valuable as we discover what technology and tools work in today’s classroom and as we experiment with new media? What is new media today?

Sonja Delafosse captures these thoughts beautifully and helps us to understand what skills are necessary in “Teaching in the 21st century”

Collaborating on Google docs, connecting through Twitter, communicating and sharing on student blogs, offering feedback on Picasa. Are these helping to integrate technology effectively and with the desired effect on student learning?

New things in new ways

One way I found that can help develop our thinking is to read Kathy Schrock’s “Bloomin’ Apps” article. She shares multiple suggestions in which technology can be used to support Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy as well as making the crucial link with the SAMR model. Visit the site to see how she visualises which types of apps are best used at which phase in the thinking and it is invaluable as a check for how learning is enhanced by technology.

In my Global concerns group PAW (Promoting Animal Welfare) we meet once a week through lunch for 30 minutes to discuss and find ways to share and learn about animals in danger and students have recently been sharing their PAW passion through a google presentation in order share with the group for a 2 minute “Spotlight”. It seems like a new way to do an old thing so we started to discuss new ways to communicate and engage others in their learning: stop motion, video scribe and animated RSA style visual notes and an ebook to capture their ideas, communicate and share with the community. One 12 year old is developing an app and a group is planning an ebook to share their findings and communicate their concerns with their peers and the community. Surely this is heading in the right direction, isn’t it?


So as usual, I am left with a question – why use technology in Art when traditional media will work just fine? I am faced with this quandary on a daily basis – when is it authentic, useful, worth it? How do we balance the traditional skills with the new?

And so to my planning project, the one about Sustainability, collaboration and connecting. As Sir Ken said, “collaboration is the stuff of growth”. We learn best when collaborating. Students love working with others, “hanging out” and “messing around” with ideas and sharing direction. I want the project to centre around working together to discover, develop and communicate. As it is a difficult subject to research and students may have only a little prior knowledge, we will start collaboratively using Padlet to brainstorm ideas and harness the knowledge in the room. I want students to reach out into the Twitter community and connect with organisations and experts who can help them discover where the food on their plate comes from, hence the title “Food for thought”. Through this process I am hoping they will make connections and find new ways to feed their imagination and find out what they want to communicate through their Art. As their ideas start forming for their installation work I am hoping they will feel compelled to communicate their findings through a short PSA style video and to share this through Youtube. As my plans begin to solidify, any feedback on the process or the development along the way would be very gratefully received!

Just what are we doing differently than before – how are you developing new ideas from new things? or are we just doing old things in new ways? Has my teaching changed – it has, it is and it will, but it will take some time, investigation and experimenting to find out what works best and what will be the most effective. In the mean time, I’m having fun trying!

“I don’t know where the journey ends but I know where to start”. Avicii– “Wake me up”