Archive for November, 2014

What if….

Students came to your classroom already prepared to ask questions about a new topic?

What if you already knew the questions the students wanted answering?

Students already understood the new concept and were ready to experiment?

Teachers didn’t have to stand and lecture and students didn’t sit and listen for long lengths of time?

There was more time to work with individual students and help them progress at their own pace?

Students were engaged in meaningful activities right from the first minute they entered your classroom?

Could this be possible with Reverse instruction or by flipping the classroom.

Photo Credit: nataliej via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nataliej via Compfight cc

The concept of the Flipped Classroom is not new. In fact educators have had somewhat of a rocking love affair with it over the years. From an influx of video watching homeworks to a damning of the practice by others. But is it just another fad? What if we could make it work and be of real benefit not just for students but to teachers too?

Chatting with a music teacher at UWCSEA recently Carl Jenkins asks students to ask questions at the end of the lesson submitting these on a google doc or form. He says this helps him to track their learning, to see who “got it” and who didn’t and how to plan ahead for the next lesson. What if this was a fundamental part of a flipped classroom? By reviewing a video of their own work or the demo by the teacher, they could submit their questions in advance of the next lesson or formulate a reflection that helps guide the teacher in gauging the level of understanding? How might watching a video form a stepping stone to the next concept or technique?

Photo Credit: PauliCarmody via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: PauliCarmody via Compfight cc

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams ( Woodland Park Colorado explain the benefits of flipping the classroom in their video below:

Bergmann and Sams use Camtasia Studio to produce their videos. But beautiful and slick as Camtasia is, it also costs and there are lots of other, just as good, alternatives out there to use. Annotating your Youtube videos could work just as well as Patrick Green demonstrates here and he adds Virtual wait time to allow students some thinking time whilst pondering a thought or question..

I have dabbled with using YouTube videos to back up classroom practice or to review a process. I even tried out using TEDed for homework. TED-ed adds the dimension of watching, thinking and digging deeper asking questions to check learning and allowing some followup work. Here is one I found and used on Imagination with Janet Echelman. Have you tried using TEDed or curated your own video in a similar fashion or used an existing one? Can you see how you might use this in your teaching?

Having seen many teachers raving about the Khan Academy I took a look at the site, thinking this could be a great use for reverse instruction. Unfortunately there isn’t really much there for Visual Art and what there is is Art History orientated. It would be great if Art educators added real lessons there too.


Hand crossing fingers by Till Teenck from The Noun Project

Hand crossing fingers by Till Teenck from The Noun Project

But setting this type of homework demands trust. We must trust that students will watch the video, read the text or interact with the Q&A, post their questions or answer the quiz. It would more beneficial if we knew their worries in advance, their queries and questions, whether they are likely to struggle with the concept or skill and what prior knowledge they come to our lesson with. This all takes planning and time. The task must also be achievable work as one frustrated student posted on the comments section of a Flipped Classroom video on YouTube that they felt lost without the direct guidance of the teacher. We must know our students, prime them, instruct them and not leave them to flounder with yet another new approach.

By the nature of reversing the instruction the teacher leaves far more time for the student to practice and apply the technique or concept in class to their own work. This is crucial in an Art room context yet the demos are the most important part so they can literally see and feel the process. What might be lost through watching a video outside of the classroom? Wouldn’t we miss the discussions, the chats as a whole class? Wouldn’t students miss the opportunity to see when an experiment goes wrong or how to fix a problem – aren’t Youtube videos often too slick? Mistakes help us to learn and seeing a teacher work through it right in front of them has to be a great learning moment.

EduCanon and EDpuzzle

EduCanon allows that interactivability into the videos just like TEDed but with more punch. The key features that ensure feedback for the teacher are monitoring and question answers. I love that you are able to know which students have watched the video or not; a bit like Big Brother but in a supportive way!

Andrew Douch raves about its use in his classroom on his blog, citing the way that students cannot just skip through the content by answering the questions without watching the video. This feature ensures that all students will have watched it and you will know this. When you connect the students and the videos to you through a code, this is when EduCanon comes into its own, collecting the data and the responses for you. Reading his followup comments at the end of the blog post I discover a competitor, again free, EDpuzzle, with extra features EduCanon only has on the paid versions. Recently, Edudemic wrote an extensive article reviewing EDpuzzle as a complement to the school’s LMS or MOOC. I know I cannot wait to try one of these out. Can you see how they might be valuable in your classroom?

Death by videos

Years ago we were threatened by Death by worksheets, then in recent years Death by Powerpoint. Now might it be Death by videos?
It seems to me that they are many ways to incorporate the idea of reverse instruction into your classroom effectively and that it isnt just about watching videos or presentations. As educators we can be far more creative with this concept by switching or sliding, as opposed to flipping, the content you would normally dwell over in class. Moving the viewing and discussion out of the classroom totally would be a shame. My students love sitting on the beanbags or sofa at the front of my room talking together with me about the new idea or concept. Students benefit from listening to each others interpretations.
Do I ever lecture? No not really. Do we watch videos? Yes. Could they watch them at home? Probably.
But would it be the same experience, would they lose something?
We go to the movies together to react and experience, we like to ask questions during a lecture or talk and bounce ideas off one another as it is happening. Wouldn’t this be lost if it was switched to home and alone?

To flip or not to flip?

Photo Credit: lamazone via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lamazone via Compfight cc

Reading online it appears flipping is much like Marmite. It’s a love it or hate it relationship. Clearly there are many teachers using it well and finding real benefit from it such as Jane MacKenzie-Hoskyn who uses a combination of Edmodo, Google docs, quizzes and videos with her IB Visual Arts class. In her words, she prefers “rather than shopping at one shop, I am happily shopping around to see where I can find the best bargain!” But reading comments on the Flipped Classroom YouTube videos and on blog sites, many teachers and students do not like it, some slamming teachers as being lazy. Another replying to the post on IncredibleArt says:

“In discussions with the colleague of mine that uses components of the flipped classroom, she has voiced the advantages as well as disadvantages. One of the disadvantages that she expressed was students not completing the assignments or listening to the lectures on the podcasts or online.” – See more at

Ownership, Assessment and Asynchronicity

The success of another strategy in education is in considering who is in charge of the learning. In Flip Love Affair, on PLP Network, Shelley Wright talks about it not being a fad but about ownership. She says:

“I’ve learned that inquiry & PBL learning can be incredibly powerful in the hands of students. I would never teach any other way again. When students own their learning, then deep, authentic, transformative things happen in a classroom. It has nothing to do with videos, or homework, or the latest fad in education. It has everything to do with who owns the learning. For me, the question really is: who owns the learning in your classroom?” PLP Network October 8, 2012


One of the main benefits of flipping lessons I can see is that students can revisit a concept or technique and work through at their own pace as explained in Aaron’s video below:

I am going to revisit videos in and out of the classroom to differentiate learning and help students prepare and revise concepts, ideas and techniques. Just this week I have set my students to watch a TED talk by JR the artist who posts huge billboard sized portrait posters of unknown members of the community. My students are in the midst of a project blending images on Photoshop to create a unique Portrait yet, being egocentric teenagers the works are all about themselves. By looking at the work of JR they came up with the suggestion to raise the profile of our support staff: the cleaners, canteen staff, the facilities and security staff who remain otherwise unknown yet a crucial part of the running of our school. By viewing JR’s website and video, formulating questions and challenges students return this week ready to put their thoughts straight into action. This leaves me time to see individuals about their own work and skill development and the remaining can start the practical work, armed with all they need to begin working.

So with all this talk about flipping, how do you like your eggs? Me, I like them scrambled.

Photo Credit: Hamburger Helper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Hamburger Helper via Compfight cc


If you want to know more about Flipped Classroom see Knewton’s infographic below:

Flipped Classroom

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media



Gamification in Education Visual note made on iPad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Gamification in Education
Visual note made on iPad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Could game-based learning have a monopoly on education?

All kids love games, whether they are physical or mental games. As a child one of my favourite games to play was Kerplunk and the sheer fun of watching the marbles fall even today reminds me of the good times we had meeting up with my cousins each Christmas. Nowadays it is all Minecraft or Xbox in my family, games that one plays on their own mostly. We did have a Wii which was popular with us all and fun and we played this together as a family, but times have changed as have my kids. They like the challenges that today’s video games bring and the idea of improving by practice. How different is this to learning a new skill or gaining knowledge in school? Yet the two are perceived very differently by both educators and students.

Photo Credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Compfight cc

What place do games have in the classroom?

Engaging students is important so that they love to learn and games can play a part in this process. At UWCSEA we integrate the idea of games or gaming but how successful is this? As I was searching for a video clip of Kerplunk in action to educate the younger viewers reading this post, I stumbled on an unusual article by a Psychologist using the game to stimulate discussion on natural selection!  Certainly not something I would have associated with the game but an intriguing concept. This in turn reminded me of an ice-breaking task Grade 6 engaged in Life skills using Jenga with questions taped to them to trigger discussion and helping them to get to know one another better. So too was Jenga used in an awareness campaign against Shark Fin Soup yet in a huge format set up in an outdoor space over lunchtime. The idea was to illustrate what happens if you take out one species in the food chain and specifically raising awareness of sharks. In the classroom, I have used buzzers in team games to review content with Grade 6 (specifically on the Elements and Principles of Art and the corresponding vocabulary.) They couldn’t get enough of it! So it appears students love the idea of games integrated into the curriculum. But we must make sure that they are there for valid reasons (not just for fun!). Science teacher, Tony Deeley uses Triptico resources with a variety of classes to check understanding and review work and watching his classes engagement and competitiveness was clear that they have a rightful place.

Uncertain reward

Just last week a podcast on the BBC website ( talked about the cognitive behaviour associated with gaming. Dr Paul Howard-Jones explains how the idea of uncertain reward in most games, ranging from snakes and ladders to Monopoly made the game more engaging, exciting and inspired motivation. Could this concept help students to work harder in a competitive way with their peers? The podcast focuses on a school in the UK using Zondle, a quiz/game show style online software company, within a Business Studies class of Grade 10 students where we hear students battling away in groups and deciding to “gamble” their answer for more reward. One student explains how the competitive nature of these quizzes pushes him to revise more to beat his peers and another says the intense music and the suspense drives him. That reminds me of many nights gripped by Who wants to be a Millionaire.

But is the learning better using this approach? How do you see this transfering to your classroom? How might the concept of uncertain reward help your students to achieve higher and give them incentive to learn?

Gamifying lesson content

Again, just this last week MindShift published an article “A Third graders plea for more game-based learning” and you can watch Cordell Steiner’s inspirational TEDx talk, “Individualization, failure and fun”:

“5th grader Cordell Steiner enjoys spending his time with Legos, golf, basketball and boy scouts. Cordell found value in a classroom that is centred around the individual student through gaming. he looks forward to spreading this concept to other classrooms and schools by telling his personal account of Mr Ananth Pai third grade classroom and extolling its benefits” (TEDx Talks)

I stumbled on Gamifi-ed wiki which has lots of game-based learning activities to try out from cockroaches vs Algebra to the 4 litre challenge. I am sure there are lots of other examples of teachers using this approach to motivate learning but is this what students want? Is it gimmicky or just a fad and is there real learning happening?

Do we ask our students how we can tailor the content of our lessons to their learning or do we listen to their ideas on how they are motivated, inspired and want to learn? and how does this idea of game based learning transfer to High School?

Photo Credit: Sezzles via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sezzles via Compfight cc

Last month at Learning 2 I attended the workshop run by Jesse Scott on Gamifying Assessment and it is interesting to track his progression from his COETAIL post, Everything’s a Game in April 2012 to his practice in the classroom now. The concept lies in intensive planning of the curriculum content where students work at their own pace through the challenges and tasks to reach the next level. Jesse says that he stops the class frequently to input new learning yet students are happily working through the content. It intrigues me and I have a feeling I will be addressing this concept myself during Course 5!

The idea of a Leaderboard worries me though, as I wonder if this would be motivating for the best students, always at the top yet demotivating for the lesser able, always struggling 2 or 3 steps behind, particularly in my subject of Art.

I like the idea of students having progressive levels, perhaps colours that help them progress, a little like the Elementary reading book stages my son had in the early years. I also appreciate the concept of students self selecting and being able to move at their own pace, a bit like an iTunes U course. At UWCSEA our focus this year is on Differentiation and it seems to me that this could be a powerful way to motivate, inspire and engage, yet help all to achieve if planned right.

Superpowers in Art?

Crazy as my thinking always is, I think to my younger son’s previous obsession with Top Trumps, a simple card game played by outwitting your opponent with specific powers or skills:

Photo Credit: Matt Seppings via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Matt Seppings via Compfight cc

Could my Middle School students develop Art Superpowers as the year progresses? Powers and skills such as: observation, thinking, idea developing, analysing and discussing.  Or holistic skills that reflect our school mission like collaboration, resilience or communication. How might a gamified curriculum help students to achieve these skills and gain points for your profile? Would it have to be just in Art, why not for across Middle School? This would not be a small idea, but when have I ever done things by halves? As a Head of Grade I would love to push this forward with my grade group of bouncy gaming boys and highly motivated individuals.



Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

What if the year in Art was a board game or a platform based game or a quest with a series of challenges? Teenagers love challenge and video games for years have had kids hooked yet, according to Dr Paul Howard-Jones, it is the combination of cognitive function plus fun that makes their integration in education so intriguing. Games that are based on choices and reward are the ones that motivate us the most. Think Tetris, Donkey Kong, Sonic, Super Mario, Pacman, Candy Crush or GTA. Knewton and Column Five Media document Gamification through their Infographic on the right. It is clear that there is a difference between game-based learning and gamification. Gamification is the use of game-like mechanics and systems to non-game situations such as Leaderboards whereas game-based learning is simply using games. Serious games is a the concept of using real world examples with the concept of game or simulation to solve problems. Teachthought documents the process of adding gamification to your classroom on the post back in 2013.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Watching Tom Chatfield’s TED Talk 7 ways Games reward the Brain, I am reminded of a conversation with my hairdresser the other week as I read the latest gossip magazine to escape the mountain of emails I could be addressing whilst awaiting my hair to be finished. We laugh at the images of Kim Kardashian in Heat magazine and I ask, “What exactly does she do?” Lydia grabs her phone and shows me her latest app, Kim Kardashian Hollywood, a Barbie World meets Sims concept, where you create your own celebrity character, dress it, go to photoshoots and see if Kim rewards you and accepts you to help you rise to fame and fortune.

Kardashian app

Kardashian app

screenshot from itunes app store for Kardashian

screenshot from iTunes app store for Kardashian


In her early 20’s, Lydia is horrified at how addictive it is and how she is currently lining Kim’s pocket as she dresses to seek approval. I laugh yet see the addictive and costly implications to our impressionable teenagers and how “clever” Kim Kardashian has appeared to be to get (even) richer. Currently it is estimately made the star $43 million in 3 months reported on MSN news!

Surely we could develop a far more ethical app for our already beauty and fame obsessed youngsters, especially girls battling with self esteem issues. Surely with this powerful concept, we can encourage positive behaviours such as caring, manners, or reading for points or rewards.

Maybe then I can give up the day job? Never!


If you are wondering how I make my visual notes, I have made a series of 4 step by step demonstrations using Adobe Ideas on the iPad, Airplay and Quicktime player to record and iMovie to pull it all together.

I hope you find them useful as well as find out a little more about visual notetaking.

Do let me know what you think and how I can be of help to you trying out this skill for yourself.


SAMR illustration by Nicki Hambleton

SAMR illustration by Nicki Hambleton

Are you a user or integrator?

The course is questioning the very heart of what I do. That’s a good thing, right?

Being a humble Art teacher, I know that we have limited time each week to get the content of our course across. For Middle School students this is approximately 75 minutes per week amounting to to approximately 45 hours over the 36 weeks of the school year. Sounds like a lot? Take out a lesson here and there for Day of Sports (3) Science trips, Outdoor Education trips and so on and we usually end up with about 30 lessons we can guarantee planning work for. We have a well planned curriculum developed collaboratively over the last 4 years. Our model develops the students skills in the disciplines of Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Photography and Printmaking all relevant to the iGCSE Art courses we provide at UWCSEA. We find it near impossible each year to cover all these disciplines and are working currently to spread them over the 3 year programme. Further up the department and into iGCSE and IB the use of Technology in Art disappears almost completely apart from in Photography. I have always been intrigued by Technology yet found few Art teachers integrating it authentically into their curriculum. More often it is seen as an add-on or an opportunity to try something new but rarely redefining. This bothers me. We have so little time to squeeze in all the wonderful work we want to cover, so how on earth do we integrate technology meaningfully, effectively and authentically?

Some time ago I put this question out to see if Art teachers could connect with what I am struggling with or at least give me some hope that the perfect model is out there. So I ask again and wait in hope:

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 14.54.39

It appears that most Art teachers take one route or the other: wholly traditional with a splattering of technology once in a while or predominantly technology (digital art) with a little traditional on the side. Why is it so hard for it to be both?

Integration suggests that technology drives the curriculum (see this wiki) and it is with this incentive that I start to reanalyse where I am at. In scrolling the readings and looking for inspiration online, I stumbled on a comparison grid on teachthought where using technology is compared to integrating technology. It helps to ground my thinking and encourages me to look deeper into my own practice.


The SAMR model shows us that substitution only serves to enhance the content rather than transform and redefine it and that collaborating should be at the heart of it. In the video SAMR in 120 seconds, google docs are a clear example of this and, at UWCSEA they are a common part of our lessons now. Applying the principle of SAMR to the Art classroom, in ways other than google docs however, takes some thought. Earlier this year during a Grade 6 unit on drawing students were trying to comprehend the use of line to define shape and depth. As they struggled to see the reason for using a variety of line, I decided to try out Adobe Ideas with them in capturing trees. We took the iPads outside and photographed the branches of the trees in the distance or looking up to the sky. After a short explanation of the simple tools in the programme the students focussed on the task: to vary their use of line whilst capturing the tree itself. Sounds simple right? The beauty of the app was that the line variation would capture the qualities of the tree as well as emphasising depth and distance. The task reinforced the students learning of the concept through this task. Whilst this was no revolutionary task it served to help the students to understand the concept. Is this substitution or augmentation?

Slide from Grade 6 Line weight and variation lesson UWCSEA Art Department

Slide from Grade 6 Line weight and variation lesson UWCSEA Art Department

How do I redefine this or any other task so that it is inconceivable without technology yet still teach students the basic traditional skills they need in Art?

I feel right now I may be here:

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tim.klapdor via Compfight cc

So how do I move further up the ladder?

A conversation with my IB Physics husband about his understanding of SAMR in his classroom developed into an example of using the iPhone’s feature slo-mo to capture a ball bouncing. He explained that being able to show this to his students in this clearly visual and practical manner could not have been done without the use of current technology and that it would have been difficult to show in any other way. The iPhone made it achievable and quickly shown in class saving valuable time.

As I look inward to my own practice I think about my current Grade 8s as they begin a unit on Digital Storytelling through photography to develop skills in composition in preparation for iGCSE. They discuss what they see, think and wonder about an unseen photograph to decipher the story behind the image, watch the video (The World’s most Powerful Photographs) and the video by One Direction “Story of my Life”. For homework they are locating a photo of them from many years ago and recreating it now then posting it on Voicethread or Picasa to share with their peers. Here they can reflect and comment on each others compositions and the story that is being told as a opening discussion to the unit. But could we have just shared the print outs and written the comments on post-its? Did their use of online posting transform the task, would they have produced as good a result without technology?

Am I being hard on myself or is my instinct right? The methods are transforming the way that they learn but not transformational.

In the Edutopia article, Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum, it states:

Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process. In particular, it must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine and transparent and when technology supports curricular goals.” (Edutopia March 16, 2008)

UWCSEA students have laptops every lesson and sharing their work online is now routine. They frequently use google docs to share thoughts and ideas collaboratively and when planning in groups this method is natural. But to grab an iPad and use an app spontaneously in the middle of a painting or sculpture unit seems rather alien. It takes time for practice to change and students instinctively know what works and when technology is appropriate. Just last week a Grade 10 student was researching artists for her mock exam theme “Food for Thought” and could not find enough contextual information on her. So she visited the website and emailed the artist who, in return answered her questions which took her forward in her planning and idea formation. All in the space of a few hours in the comfort of her home. This would have been inconceivable without the use of technology. Imagine 15+ years ago when looking at an image in a book or magazine was the only way to connect to other artists. Nevertheless this is not a very inspirational a use for technology. So what is? How complex would it be to integrate Skype in the Classroom regularly and how crucial to the Art curriculum is Augmented reality or QR codes for example? Granted they transform the viewer’s perception or involvement in the art itself but is it transformational and indeed imperative or are we including it as a fad or a cool idea?

iPad possibilities

I met Cathy Hunt at the ADE Institute in Bali in 2013. Her website iPad Art Room is chock full of integrating iPads into the Art curriculum and she frequently blogs about learning and technology. One example on her website drew my attention:

Looking at the top bar in the above graphic helps me to see where I may be getting it right. Occasionally students will use the iPad app Explain Everything (or Educreations) to reflect on their work, explaining and annotating what they would do to take their work further or to improve it. Often I would feedback to students in a similar way and, using Google docs we can have a 2 way conversation about their art quickly and effectively. When I first started using Voicethread years ago, some of the clunkiness frustrated me, but when it worked it was faultless in transforming the way students interacted with each others art. Being public they discussed more in depth and perhaps, knowing their work would be online and discussed helped them to work harder to produce higher quality work.

The fundamental question I have though is: What technology really transforms art education?

Taryn Couch explains how she interprets the 4 levels of SAMR in her Art classroom:

Rooting our thinking in Technology

Photo Credit: theqspeaks via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: theqspeaks via Compfight cc

Reading Jeff Utecht’s post from The Thinking Stick back in 2007 and the comments following, one particular statement really resonated with me:

What if we truly acted like technology was just part of us, part of education, part of educating students today. What if we start embedding it and stopped integrating it?

Joanne Harvey-Wilcox responds with:

It is only when we root our thinking in technology that we will be able to redefine our teaching.

My thinking is that I don’t want to take out valuable traditional skills but to enhance them with todays. Students struggle to share their work and to receive good feedback so digital portfolios seem to be an effective way for me to embed technology into my curriculum. My students used to blog their learning and seemed to enjoy this process of sharing and connecting online. Using iBooks Author, students may well be able to share and demonstrate their learning more authentically with videos, audio, images, demonstrations as well as photographs and words. Would this be a good use of moving up the SAMR ladder?

I don’t want to be the same or even different, I just want to ensure that technology has its rightful place within my curriculum and that it transforms the way Art is learnt and taught. Is that too much to ask?

Comments and feedback encouraged and gratefully received.

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 18.01.46


Update: Following conversations about the cyclical nature of SAMR I am reworking the above seed to tree illustration. Watch this space!