Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

 

The Virtual Playground

Being social is a natural part of anyone’s life. From playing in the playground to chatting on the phone; meeting up with friends was commonplace when I was a teenager. Despite this still being true for teenagers today, I am so grateful that Facebook, Snapchat and some of the other giants of social media were not around when I was growing up: to have my life mapped out visually for everyone to see, the pressure to look a certain way, behave a certain way and interact online, it is positively exhausting! But we cannot ignore it, and, according to the Pew Report 2015, 92% of teens are online daily mostly down to the ease of accessibility with smartphones. (cited by A Lenhart, 2015). It’s the place where teens hang out. Most of them have multiple accounts and, since the report 3 years ago, I am certain the figures have gone up. In the Common Sense census of the same year, it reports that 13-18-year-old Americans spend up to 9 hours a day online but with only a quarter of this time being spent on social media (M Robb, 2015). I am certain in 2018, the numbers would be higher as Snapchat becomes even more popular. Much of its popularity is down to Snapstreaks, keeping the addicted teens locked in and in fear of failing friendships. Gamifying communication has been a game changer with Snapchat, but parents are becoming increasingly concerned about the time teens spend in these often obsessive and addictive behaviours. In her article on Huffington Past, mother, Julie Kelly says

“Kids are desperate to stay connected. They’re afraid to be left out, that they will miss something. This leads to a constant feeling of needing to be ‘on’.” (J Kelly, 2017)

In order to keep up with these digital natives, we must understand where they are at, keep the channels of conversation open and reconsider social media’s place in education. There are pros and cons for the use of social media and its place in education, particularly that of tweens is a hard fought debate. School aim to educate youngsters to fit in and thrive in society and, in order to fully understand the implications of social media’s place in the classroom, we must investigate how it operates in our world and what good it can bring to our children.

I first became aware of social media when I had left the UK and was working in an International school in Italy. Far from home, with a young family, we learnt to use a webcam to connect to our nearest and dearest. Teaching our parents how to use one remotely was the toughest part! Soon after moving I joined Facebook (2007) and later in 2009, Twitter. Prior to this, I do remember having Friendsreunited to reconnect with old school friends and a myspace account, but I cannot recall how long ago or if I really used the latter much: as with most of us, Facebook took over fairly quickly and overrode all other platforms.

Social media did exactly what it said on the tin and it became the place to be social and talk with friends and family when living abroad. I could share messages and photos and see what they were up to. At first, I didn’t quite understand Twitter: it seemed I was tweeting to an empty audience and I wasn’t quite sure of the point. But later, in 2011 following the Learning2 conference in Shanghai, I followed advice and started to follow a list of recommended educators. Following others, watching from a distance, “lurking”, and learning from them helps us to understand the protocols and processes of a new media. It also leads to new connections and ideas. That is the thing about Twitter: it is full of wonderful people and ideas, links to articles, videos and others creations. Of course, we have to filter out and ignore the rubbish and outrageous tweets, sift through the fake news and find what it is we are interested in.

Beyond microblogging

Having become a converted fan of Twitter, microblogging led to “proper” blogging. Finding an audience became my first fear – would I have anything interesting to say, would anyone want to read it and then what? What was it for? Blogging should have a purpose but be authentic to the individual. It should be a place to freely express oneself and this can be valuable when reflecting on a course, conference or weekly updates or shares. My first task, back in 2014, was finding other art teachers who blogged. As the COETAIL course evolved, we were encouraged to comment frequently on other cohort member’s posts, much like MA TCT, and develop closer connections. Creating authentic connections and developing genuine friendships virtually was an important part of the course. We live in a connected global classroom where anyone can stumble on your words and offer opinions and ideas. Building a PLN, a tribe, was a crucial element in developing dialogue.

Finding your tribe

It is the same for our students. Each day they interact face to face and online, building connections. They might have different friendships on social networks, from gamers on Steam to photographers on Instagram and makeup artists on YouTube. This is their world, their playground, a place to meet, talk and learn. Jabiz Raisdana, a prolific blogger, Middle school English teacher and writer, tells us “I see social networks as digital playgrounds. Our students are out there. They are playing and experimenting.” (J Raisdana, 2012)

And this is why integrating digital literacies should be fundamental in every school curriculum: literacies like reading, interpreting, decoding, analysing and sifting for truth. In Anne Longfield’s worrying report “Life in Likes” the children’s commissioner for England says children hit a “cliff edge” when starting secondary school and asks why aren’t we “preparing them for the pressures of social media?” (cited by M Browne, 2018). Helping students to successfully navigate the complexities of being social in this digital world means helping them to understand more about who they are, their values and wellbeing.

Global connections

As an experiment to connect art students across continents I joined with 3 other art teachers to collaborate on a project to connect and bring our students together online for feedback and discussion on their artwork. We set up groups where students would post, comment and connect through class blogs overseen in the art lessons. The term “Quadblogging” was first coined by David Mitchell, where 4 classes (or teachers) work together to comment on each other’s blogs in a rolling cycle. (Mitchell, 2011). If you are interested in the process, you can read more about the project and how students not only connected but also learnt more about digital citizenship. (N Hambleton, 2015)

For some it was a chance to have a voice and to share their creations, for others it was a chore, and that is the stumbling block: a blog should be personal, and, if it is forced (for portfolios or reflections) it won’t necessarily be an authentic voice. In her article on self-directed learning, Judy Robertson, in her paper on computers and education, mentions that the “commenting affordance of blogs” builds empathy and supports student development, and it is this function of social media that most interest me; how others can impact ideas and build skills through conversation and dialogue online. She goes on to talk about how blogs (in Higher Education) can support how students learn how to learn and to build their skills as independent thinkers. (Robertson, 2011)

Similarly, Huay Lit Woo and Qiyun Wang investigated the affordances of “weblogs” in developing critical thinking. Constructing a blog post requires research and analytical skills, referencing and organisation as well as writing and appropriate accreditation. Problem-solving, creating engaging content and synthesising ideas are higher order thinking, at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. Silvia Tolisano equates a successful class blog to the upper levels of Dr Ruben Puetredura’s SAMR model. She shares that it can redefine learning by being a “central hub” where students and teachers share and create, connecting, communicating and collaborating with the wider world. (S Tolisano, 2014) Another of the key affordances of a blog is that the writer has an audience and that viewers can interact with the writer through commenting. (Woo and Wang, 2009). Building conversation, developing arguments and cultivating opinions, in and out of the classroom are all valuable life skills we should help our students to hone. Within a class, how often do students authentically interact with each other offering valued feedback and advice? How often do all voices, including the introverts, get heard? Offering opportunities to share opinions, reflect and ideas can open the channels of conversation, connect like-minded individuals and build a supportive community. Supporting our students and encouraging them to create genuine connections online is an ideal opportunity to support their wellbeing. Modelling and sharing experiences with Twitter or Instagram class accounts, and following specific hashtags are simple ways to start out, but also teaching safety and awareness of privacy. The media is littered with examples of adults and high profile individuals behaving badly online on Twitter and these can serve as learning opportunities in digital citizenship. 

According to Piaget’s theory of constructivism, we build knowledge based on our experiences, (Piaget, 1976) and digital opportunities of connecting and collaborating online offer new ways to understand and make meaning. Moreover, Vygotsky repeats the importance of social interaction in the development of an individual. His theory on the zone of proximal development presupposes that an individual will develop alongside a more advanced. (Vygotsky, 1978) But is this true when connecting online? Is it the interactive and collaborative nature that social media affords that help to develop the skills in our students?

 

The Connected Teacher

Developing as an individual through connectivism is also true for adults. A small group of teachers in Singapore, piloted by a colleague, Tricia Friedman networked through individual monthly blogs to connect and start discussions around shared ideas and articles. It soon grew to include teachers further afield and, following this success, I am planning a new kind of connected and social play online with a Sketchbook challenge, digitally inspired but traditionally produced. These shared experiences will be literally passed around physically and virtually, connecting like-minded educators to share their ideas and thoughts visually and learn from one another. 

Blogging for the MA TCT has pushed my own research, critical thinking and analytical skills. Being put back in the shoes of a learner, navigating my way through multiple readings and slowly and surely finding my own research route through past and present theories and ideas has been eye opening. It takes time to develop an authentic voice and courage to post publicly. I am developing deeper thinking, yet I would like to connect and encourage more authentic dialogue with the rest of the course participants. How can we do this more seamlessly, transparently and easily alongside our busy teaching lives? Could microblogging be a possibility or could we as a group work in smaller more focused clusters, much like quadblogging, to give meaningful feedback and create community?

Inspiring the next generation of creators

YouTube is students go-to community to learn a new skill or find how to do something. This has been the case for many years and video has become a popular tool for gamers and musicians to share their work. Often adults assume teenagers to be watching mindless videos or consuming endless accounts of gaming adventures but there are many youngsters sharing meaningful creations that can inspire the next generation of creators. Bloggers like SoSonia with her unique style of video began sharing her creative ideas as a young teenager and now she is now working for SoulPancake, making positive, meaningful and uplifting media for the “optimistic millennial”. Livbits is a 10 year old social media ambassador, showing youngsters how sharing online can promote student voice and audience. Boblhead is the 14 year old son of a music teacher in Singapore, recording his own music, making films and selling his own designed merchandise. It is through inspiring examples like these that we can justify social media’s place in modern society and the more examples we can share the more our students will be inspired to create and share.

The future of social media in education

Parents may still feel that social media doesn’t have a place in education, but it is where our youngsters play and learn. We should talk with them about what they do, who they listen to and learn from and how they use social media in their daily lives. Often it is assumed to be solely a playground, but through social media they are learning how to communicate, to behave and to create. With appropriate strategies, students need to be educated in the ethics of what they communicate, share and create online and their rights and the accompanying dangers. Recently, in the Times Educational Supplement, Jonathan Owen shares some newly published simplified guides to the terms and conditions of popular social media like Snapchat and WhatsApp. (Owen, 2017) With so many actively online, we must ensure they know what data and information are being gathered and shared.

We need to show students how much more social media can be than just sharing an image and waiting for the obligatory amount of likes, retweets or streaks to signify popularity. They need to develop better habits of living healthy digital lives. As educators and parents, we must address teenagers’ vulnerabilities and talk more openly about student wellbeing when playing in such a potentially volatile yet mesmerising and ?? playground.

What ways can you see social media positively impacting your students?
How might you use blogging to push their critical thinking skills and enhance their digital literacies and citizenship?

References

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.jabizraisdana.com/blog/what-it-might-be-authentic-student-blogging/

Browne, M. (2018, January 04). Children unprepared for social media ‘cliff edge’ as they start secondary school, Children’s Commissioner for England warns in new report. Retrieved from https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/2018/01/04/children-unprepared-for-social-media-cliff-edge-as-they-start-secondary-school-childrens-commissioner-for-england-warns-in-new-report/

Etherington, D. (2017, September 25). Instagram now has 800 million monthly and 500 million daily active users. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/25/instagram-now-has-800-million-monthly-and-500-million-daily-active-users/

Hambleton, N. Learning in the library of COETAIL. (2016, March 12). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://itisallaboutart.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/learning-in-the-library-of-coetail/

Homayoun, A. (2018, January 09). Perspective | What teens wish their parents knew about social media. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/01/09/what-teens-wish-their-parents-knew-about-social-media/?utm_term=.e202246cc858

Homayoun, A. (2018). Social media wellness: Helping tweens and teens thrive in an unbalanced digital world. Corwin, a Sage Company.

Kelly, J. (2016, February 02). Confronting my daughter’s addiction. To Snapchat. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kelly/confronting-my-daughters-_b_9138986.html

Lenhart, A. (2015, April 08). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/

Mitchell, D (2012, July 18). State of Now #140conf NYC 2012: “QuadBlogging – linking learning to global audience”. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8J8Jrr_eq4

Piaget, J. (1976). Piaget’s Theory. Piaget and His School, 11-23. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-46323-5_2

Ripp, P. (2017). Reimagining literacy through global collaboration. Solution Tree Press, a division of Solution Tree.

Robb, M. (2015, November 03). Tweens, Teens, and Screens: What Our New Research Uncovers. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/tweens-teens-and-screens-what-our-new-research-uncovers

Robertson, J. (2011, 09). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1628-1644. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.003

Safronova, V. (2017, December 21). Instagram Is Now a Dating Platform, Too. Here’s How It Works. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/style/instagram-thirst-traps-dating-breakups.html?_r=0&mtrref=www.diigo.com

Seven reasons teachers should blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.steve-wheeler.co.uk/2011/07/seven-reasons-teachers-should-blog.html

Social media ‘jargon buster’ highlights pupils’ digital rights. (2017, September 29). Retrieved from https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/social-media-jargon-buster-highlights-pupils-digital-rights

This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2016/05/25/13-right-now-this-is-what-its-like-to-grow-up-in-the-age-of-likes-lols-and-longing/?utm_term=.74149e86900b

Upgrading Blogs Through Lens of SAMR | Silvia Tolisano- Langwitches Blog. (2014, May 23). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/05/23/upgrading-blogs-through-lens-of-samr/

The Zone of Proximal Development. (n.d.). Lev Vygotsky. doi:10.5040/9781472541437.ch-004

Wang, Q., & Woo, H. L. (2010, 05). Investigating students’ critical thinking in weblogs: An exploratory study in a Singapore secondary school. Asia Pacific Education Review, 11(4), 541-551. doi:10.1007/s12564-010-9101-5

Work. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from http://soulpancake.com/work/

 

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Connect Collaborate Create visual note by Nicki Hambleton made on iPad using Adobe Ideas

Connect Collaborate Create visual note by Nicki Hambleton made on iPad using Adobe Ideas

“Alone we can do so little but together we can do so much” Helen Keller 

All I have ever wanted as a teacher is for students to be happy and relaxed in my classroom and eager to learn. I wish for them to have the courage to tackle tough tasks and to grow as an individual. When I started teaching back in the UK in the 90’s I was young and keen and desperate for the students to get on with me. I felt, and still do, that students work best when they are comfortable and supported and it is still with this philosophy that I teach today.

Photo Credit: Akamï via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Akamï via Compfight cc

I remember when I first started teaching, older teachers advised me not to smile for the first 2 weeks. How ludicrous does that sound? Do newly qualified teachers still get told that in the UK? Why on earth would we not want to enjoy our job and show students how much we enjoy it. I could never adhere to that advice and always wear my heart on my sleeve. I have been told I am an open book, that is is blatantly clear if something is wrong. I am a rubbish liar and an even worse actor. However, I have always found the greatest rapport with my students and that is why, years later I still love my job.

I still connect online with students I first taught at a lovely school in the UK. Just today one of my 11 year old tutees is a dad of 2 and running the London marathon. Another is about to have an operation after a knee injury playing Premiership football for the past 17 years. Most are regular mothers, husbands, working adults or students at university. Teaching keeps you young, yet connecting with past students makes you feel old as time passes and they become adults themselves.

Photo Credit: carlaarena via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: carlaarena via Compfight cc

Teaching internationally has changed me as an educator and as a person. Connecting has brought the world closer and now we can talk to another person despite their distance. Being an international teacher has also brought connections that have helped me to grow more and Twitter has been at the heart of this. I remember in Ghana when my colleague introduced me to Kim Cofino’s blog Always Learning and it was through Kim that I began to use Twitter far more effectively to reeducate myself in the world of technology and pedagogy. Only when I moved to Singapore did it begin to make more sense through Learning 2 and in particular with Jabiz Raisdana. Being inspired by him to connect and follow, lurk and stalk, I began to develop an understanding of the benefits of Twitter and indeed connecting, but it wasn’t until much later that I had the confidence to give back into the community and form the beginnings of a PLN.

Nowadays my reach is far and eclectic. I have groups of art teachers, sketchnoters, COETAIL groups, International teachers and online friends that have become real friends in life. Joe Teft and I connected first through Learning 2, then COETAIL and eventually met face to face when he moved to Singapore last August to join CIS. We met over wine and talked like long lost friends and this is how powerful connections can be. You develop a depth that cannot necessarily be developed with a classroom colleague or a condominium neighbour. You spend time communicating, asking questions and thoughtfully responding and it is this that I am trying to impart to my students.

The Dating game

I introduced the blog task first to my Grade 8s, believing that they would be the best guinea pigs to try this out on. Most were over 13, keen for some excitement in their day to day existence and active social media participants already. They took to the task, like ducks to water, finding both meaningful learning and fun as the weeks progressed. I still giggle at their funny comments when I introduced the motivational aspect, to encourage them to connect and collaborate with the students in the other 3 schools, when one student asked how many points he would get if he got someone’s number!

But it was with the under 13s that my interest ultimately lies. Those who (legally) cannot connect on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, many of whom do, albeit superficially and disrespectfully.

As Head of Grade 6, the majority of the issues I have had to deal with in my first year with these impressionable 11 year olds has been through misuse of digital media, clashes online and misinformed conversations through social media. Despite informing parents and guiding students through a structured PSE programme they still use Instagram and Skype and many disagreements are through this. One student, let’s call them “X”, vehemently accused other students of reporting him on Instagram, yet he too had blocked another Instagrammer as she was underage. He spouted threats and accusations on Skype, screenshot by a parent and vowed to find out who they were. The irony was he too was only 11 and should not be on Instagram in the first place.

So my thoughts led to developing a programme that helped Middle School students to learn how to connect in a protected environment and to use similar platforms to connect and learn from. Developing this has been the hardest part of Course 5. Quadblogging has been just the beginning and I have plans to grow the connections further.

Motivation

Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Icons made by Freepik from http://www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Looking back I wondered if COETAIL subconsciously included a slight element of gamifying: maximum points for the number of blog posts and connections, encouraging words, being published on Flipboard, retweets, being featured or mentioned on another’s blog or Twitter – this is the kind of incentive that works for adults, not necessarily, points, prizes, rewards. These rewards go deeper and last longer. The knowledge that we have connected and made friendships that do far more than give us prestige that we are top or second on a leaderboard or the fastest poster of COETAIL this week.

These connections have longevity, are real and support and encourage us.

Being part of a PLN

My PLN seen through MentionMapp

My PLN seen through MentionMapp

Before I joined Twitter, I did not know the benefit of an online PLN and I would have probably baulked at someone who said they had strangers online who they learned from. I joined Facebook back in 2007 when we first lived abroad and I wanted to connect or reconnect with friends in the UK and with students we used to teach. It was a fun way to chat and dip into their lives from afar.

But Twitter became a different entity: it became my learning zone. Until I was introduced to Tweetdeck, I was a little overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information coming at me. I could not fathom how Keri-Lee Beasley could track so many things, add them to Diigo, respond, share and create so much in so little time. I watched her, enthralled, at a conference, listening, tweeting, storifying, sharing notes on google docs and all in the blink of an eye! Nowadays, even though I am nowhere near the league of KL, I can see at a glance the groups of people I follow, the hashtags I am interested in and the individuals I want to learn from.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck

As you can imagine, this is just a section of the many hashtags and groups I follow!

I am sure I still miss out on key things but as I was once told, it is like coming into a room: you step into a group and join the conversation as it happens, you do not worry about what was discussed 5 or 30 minutes previously.

Building a tribe

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

Connecting the Dots visual note by Nicki Hambleton using Adobe Ideas on iPad

COETAIL connections have been more widespread. As I documented in Course 4 (Connecting the Dots) there are often key people in one’s network who you draw most from. Pana, Joe and Matt are the ones I have grown most from as they give so much back to the community and extend my thinking. We often “meet” on Twitter chats beyond COETAIL or in one to one conversations: Pana in #kchatap, Joe in #enviroed and Matt in all things Art. Early on, Jamie, Vivian, Andrea, Clint and Joe helped me gain trust in the system, helping me to believe that I had thoughts and ideas worth writing about, and leaving comments on my posts. Connections I have made often cross platforms, so if I connect on COETAIL I will inevitably search for them on Twitter to continue or extend the conversation. It is through this that we can develop deeper and lasting friendships. Looking back at my activity on the COETAIL page gives me a sense of who I have connected with across the course and beyond the official records on my Gradesheet:

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

My main focus of connecting is through the strong friendships that have grown over the course on Twitter. It is not easy to track all my activity on Twitter but I try to remember to use the #COETAIL hashtag frequently when connecting and sharing.

Searching for a good way to view past connections and tweets I stumble on some clever websites. Liking the look of Visible tweets but not seeing it fit for purpose here, I used Tweetbeam to view my connections and conversations on Twitter. I took a screencast to show these many connections, although presented live at an event they would pop up randomly.

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

I wondered how I could get my own students to learn better not only in the classroom but beyond. It was with this thought that Course 5 developed and is still developing. Students started tentatively commenting on other student’s blog posts and posting themselves, waiting eagerly for their first response and the beginnings of connecting globally.

But the hardest part for both adults and students is to develop meaningful connections and that is what I have been trying to encourage and build over the past few weeks with my classes, just once a week and within the 75 minute lesson alongside their practical art!

To grow a friendship you have to spend time nurturing it. But how does one invite comments without seeming pushy? How do we ask for feedback online? Often we expect another to respond to our comment and reciprocate on our blog when we have spent time replying to theirs. But it doesn’t necessarily work like that. This is a real lesson to teach our students.

I look back at the record of my connections through COETAIL and my involvement in the community. I was not a very good Diigo user and Google Reader ceased to exist so I built on the growing friendships I had through Twitter to help connect deeper, focusing on responding to the hashtag #COETAIL and searching for like-minded individuals through posts from the online2 cohort. I wish I had done more to reach out further beyond COETAIL, but time is tight as a working mother of 2, in a new role as Head of Grade in a very busy and manic school such as UWCSEA. Add on Learning 2 preparations and I reflect that my connections grew considerably, all things considering. I may not have nurtured enough connections beyond Twitter and COETAIL but sometimes it is better to have fewer stronger friendships than many weaker ones. Or so I tell my kids.

Using Twitter Advanced search I can review specific connections with other Twitter users under #COETAIL or conversations between collaborators or friends. Often, I discover, I have tweeted a lot but not necessarily utilising the hashtag and so it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. Here are some screenshots of the types of more recent conversations on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.04.03 Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 21.06.30

I used to comment diligently each week during Courses 1-4 recording these on my Gradesheet, but within Course 5 it felt more natural to search, comment and connect at particular times and with a wider range of people, some not even connected with COETAIL. I tracked these widespread connections using MentionMapp, a fascinating tool online to see your connections relating to Twitter users and hashtags. Again, I took a video of the screen as I clicked the nodes of connections to show how my reach has developed.

https://www.flickr.com/apps/video/stewart.swf

I would love to pursue this avenue more in order to track connections and their interconnectedness, reminding me of the 6 degrees of separation and how social media brings people closer.

As our online and offline connections brought us together, Anne in China, Matt in Adu Dhabi and two Art teachers from Dubai began to chat more about our connecting project on Gmail. Matt shared the link to a doc so that we could see how Quadblogging could work and our emails have been going back and forth since February, checking, questioning and clarifying:

Gmail connections and conversations

Gmail connections and conversations

Working closely with my fellow bloggers, Anne and Matt, we attempted to connect on Google Hangouts during Course 5. Our first meet up helped us to see where we wanted to go with the blogging and how it would work in practice. The second was meant to reconnect us visually to review how it had been going and we tried, in vain to record the conversation live. For some reason it did not work out as we had envisioned and we laughed our way through it as I appeared to be talking to myself, watched Anne hear me, although she herself was mute and Matt’s icon with no sound! So much for technology.

Google hangout and Twitter connections

Google hangout and Twitter connections

I recounted this to my students who thought this hilarious but I don’t see them having any success themselves since setting a similar challenge when connecting! However, one such student forged better connections, albeit within our own school community and he evidenced these through his GDrive folder just this last week. He is a quiet and reserved student, keen to do well and he connected with another equally shy boy in another class. Together they talked online about collaborating and even managed a Hangout to talk about possible ideas. I am so pleased that my words meant something and that he was able to connect outside his usual peers. Talking to Pratyay, and viewing his “evidence” we can track back that the connections begun with a comment on his first blog post. They decided to email, then google chat and finally on Hangouts. I look forward to what they manage to collaborate online with art, as other students in China and Abu Dhabi test out Ping Pong, remixing each others artwork. ArtyRemix didn’t really get off the ground back in Course 1, maybe now is the time to resurrect it?

 

ezgif.com-gif-maker

I love that this has followed such a similar thread to how I connect. From initial unknown commenting on COETAIL blogs, to chatting more openly, to video conferencing. Rodd Lucier talked about the 7 Degrees of Connectedness back in 2012 and back in Course 1 I could see how this thermometer of growth could help our students to connect.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 23.38.06

Visual Note by Nicki Hambleton Course 1: Connectedness

I see how the tentative commenting at the start of the project began to grow into more confident and natural friendships, like Arran and Pratyay. If only I could get them on Twitter! I think we can see that connecting takes time, not just for ourselves, fully embedded in a connected cohort and confident on Twitter, but for our students. We need to nurture them in forging friendships and finding their tribe. For some it feels awkward, for others it is fun. For most I wish for them to be able to do this beyond the classroom, in preparation for their life ahead of them, immersed in social media, armed with the skills and knowledge to do so safely and authentically.

Since our own fateful afternoon, Anne, Matt and I have discovered other ways to connect, asking our IT specialists and students who suggested Zoom and Twitch. I love that there are multiple ways to connect and have real F2F conversations beyond the tweet or blog comment.

A problem shared

I had much more luck with Hangouts with Pana and Susan last Sunday as we set out to support one another in our final weeks of the course and in sharing our ideas for our final video. Pana invited us (and David) to connect through Google, we logged on, and it worked. We spent a lovely 30-40 minutes supporting one another and genuinely feeling less stressed having shared our thoughts and worries. Even though we did not record or present the Hangout live, so we have no visual record or evidence, we all felt the conversation allowed us to be relaxed and open, which ultimately moved us all forward with our thinking. Through Pana I have connected with other visually interested Tweeters on #kchatap and had some great conversations back in October. It was good to connect with other COETAILers here too and about a subject close to my heart.

Twitter chat #kchatap on Visual Literacy

Twitter chat #kchatap on Visual Literacy October 14 2014

Beyond COETAIL

From the #C5 Hangout I went straight on to the #COETAILchat about life after COETAIL. I have found much inspiration connecting from Day 1 with Vivian through Twitter and online chats. She befriended me and I am genuinely grateful for her constant kindness and responses over the year and a half. I enjoyed watching and tweeting throughout the COETAILcasts and then listening to her for real later on in the course. She has been a source of help and support and I would love to continue this one day and pay back her kindness into the community as a mentor myself. There have been numerous connections, old and new, mostly through Twitter, that have generated powerful conversations but it is in connection with COETAIL where I feel the most affinity.

#coetailchat slowchat The impact of COETAIL

#coetailchat slowchat The impact of COETAIL

#COETAILchat on life after COETAIL April

#COETAILchat on life after COETAIL April 26 2015

Beyond COETAIL, I have connections with my immediate colleagues, International educators, Art teachers, Learning 2 and the ADE community. I gain so much from the interactions with these inspiring individuals and I continue to reach out to forge new friendships to connect and grow further.

Questions are the answer

Art Alternation: Antonio's blog post inviting critique

Art Alternation: Antonio’s blog post inviting critique

 

Replies to Antonio on Art Alternation

Replies to Antonio on Art Alternation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This last week, I invited my students to connect on a deeper level with the art students from the other 3 schools and we discussed how this might work. They tracked back who had commented and who had replied back to comments they had left. They looked for the reasons why they commented and whether they had started to develop a rapport and how. Students at AIS specifically asked for questions and my students, from the beginning, were advised to ask and invite questions as part of their lesson in connecting and commenting. It seems that this is at the heart of connecting. Students were frustrated at the length of time it took and some were without comments so this was hard. I knew just how they felt, as I too found it difficult to know sometimes if what I was writing was good enough, interesting or indeed if anyone was actually reading it! Some found the process took too long and were missing valuable class time to learn the practical skills in art. It was a tough task to complete before the end of COETAIL drew nigh.

Back in Course 1, I wrote:

“How do the youth of today connect and grow as learners? In what ways is this different to how we learnt as teenagers and how we now connect to grow and develop as adults?” (I didn’t get to where I am today… February 16, 2014)

I hope by my final COETAIL post I will have reflected more about how students learn, how they can connect and in turn become better individuals. At this point I do not want it to end but to continue: to begin something new. It has almost been like a pilot for the new academic year when Teamie, our online Learning platform, will launch across campus with all students. Through this students will be able to access information, links and connections far more seamlessly and this may help in the process of timing yet also may hinder it. There will become a day when students go to their own tribe of like minded students online, as I do, without it being a mundane, teacher-led task. There will be a day when students will learn in different ways, outside of my classroom by connecting and sharing practice online with other artists, students and teachers.

Until that day, I want to encourage connections, encourage sharing of resources and demonstrations and to inspire them to develop their own learning networks. COETAIL has helped to plant this seed and over time we will see what it bears forth.

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Connected Classrooms? when pigs fly drawn on Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

Kicking off Course 5 in the Classroom

Photo Credit: dview.us via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dview.us via Compfight cc

It is with trepidation and anticipation that I begin the final phase of my COETAIL journey. In my previous post, Classroom in the Cloud, I said that I know this is not the end, just the beginning, and as I start introducing my students to the concept of connecting globally it feels like a new start and the beginning of something great.

Middle Schoolers cannot hold their feelings, they don’t mince their words and they show in their faces exactly when they are excited or upset. As I explained about my own COETAIL journey and shared with them my wish for them to have the same level of connectedness, to learn from others usually out of their reach and at the same time have fun, their faces reflected my own positive thoughts (thank goodness!). You never know whether what we plan is right or even interesting to our students, even if we think, as experienced educators, that we know what is best for them. They were genuinely excited to meet other MS art students and share learning with them.

All under one roof

The concept began to take root at the end of Course 4 where Matt McGrady and Anne Dirilgen, both Art teachers too, were thinking through their ideas for their final project. As we had connected long before COETAIL we wanted to build on this connection of like-minds and share that with our students. My initial idea, and still a huge part in my plan, is to develop a digital classroom that connects Middle School students in the ways that older students can interact: sharing videos or stories, commenting on photographs, chatting in a group or starting a discussion in a forum for example. Finding a format or platform is not so easy, especially for younger students. Edmodo exists and Nings are a possibility but I want the students to own it, design it, develop it and build and grow within it.

Previously many of my Middle Schoolers have had blogs which I connected to each other through my initial art blog (thisisallaboutart). It started out as a way for me to get to know them better as a person and to encourage interaction, positive sharing, pride and feedback. But teaching over 250 students every week made this very difficult to manage. Google Reader, at the time, made it slightly more palpable by allowing groups to be added to my blog and tracking when an individual posts. What a shame Google Reader ceased to be as I haven’t found a similar widget or tool to embed the collections in the same easy go-to fashion. Sadly, since starting COETAIL my time has meant my first blog has been on pause, whilst I developed my own voice here on Thinking Tradigitally. Perhaps the students will allow me a little space on their pages?

Quadblogging

Following initial contact on Twitter and the decision that we should continue to work together, Matt suggested Quadblogging, developed by David Mitchell, Deputy Headteacher of Heathfield Primary School in Bolton, UK. Since its inception in 2011, over 500,000 students from 50 countries worldwide have taken part, connecting their classrooms. Connecting students outside of their usual domain is the underlying takeaway of this phenomena and when Mitchell asked on Twitter, “A blog without an audience is like…..” the responses came back such as:

“A library without books, a car without an engine and Beyonce without a ring!”

I asked a similar question to my classes, “Why do we share online” and their responses were equally heartfelt:

“When you are proud of your work, you want to share it”

“To share your story and to create memories”

“To receive feedback, to be noticed”

“You want to know what people think, what you are doing right or need to change to make it even better”

You can find out more about Quadblogging on the Edutopia post, from September 2012 or more about David Mitchell on his website Ask Sir.

noun_16300_cc

Some Grade 7s and 8s have Instagram and share their photography through this method, trying for the most amount of “likes” and it is this that, to a 13 year old narcissistic girl, signifies their success or popularity. But do participants really add value to Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest? Comments range from “great shot” to “Love it” often with many emojis. So do they grow as a photographer, artist, writer or as a person as a result? What is its purpose?

I teach feedback to my students through the Visible Thinking routines with the favourite one being I see, I think, I wonder, as Silvia Tolisano eloquently describes on her post, Reflecting in the Learning process. With this framework peer and group feedback models useful yet positive commenting to take the artist forward and it is through this that my students are gaining insight into how to grow.

Hanging out

screenshot mid-hangout with Anne and Matt

screenshot mid-hangout with Anne and Matt

As part of the plan, Matt, Anne and I met online the other weekend to talk through the process, our aims, challenges and to discuss the timeframe. Matt set up the chat and we proceeded to try to record the hangout (just in case anyone was in the vaguest bit interested in the process and to laugh at us floundering with the new technology!). Google Hangouts on air will be our next learning curve when we should have our initial reflection on the first few weeks recorded.

3 became 4

Matt introduced us briefly through email to Alissa at The American School of Dubai and we are hoping that she and her colleague will join in the collaborating to spread the connections further afield. I am sure that there are other Art teachers with similar classes of youngsters that would love to take part in a programme like this. If you know of anyone, please connect them to me via Twitter: @itsallaboutart

The Class blog

This week, Matt’s classes will prepare their first blog page and introduce themselves to us. We wait in anticipation to see the first insights into life in Abu Dhabi, a country not many of us have had the pleasure to visit.

UWCSEA Dover High School Art Exhibition 2015

UWCSEA Dover High School Art Exhibition 2015

In the run up to the first week of commenting, my students took time out from the classroom to walk around our current High School Show to view and were amazed by the variety and quality of work on show. I asked them to chose just one student whose work had affected them and to write on a post it, these 2 things:

screenshot from my Active Inspire lesson for Grade 6

screenshot from my Active Inspire lesson for Grade 6

 

At the end of the week, I am compiling the multitude of post its (I currently teach 176 Middle School students in one week) to display as a “virtual blog post” alongside print outs of the artists’ work. In this way the students (and the artists) will get to grips with posting publically and how their comments can be viewed by many.

In addition, students are researching the look, feel and content of blogs on a theme of their choice to compare the writing style, design and layout and use of images for homework this week. This in turn, I hope, will inspire their class blog design to be both functional and attractive to draw viewers in and help them to want to return.

Under the same umbrella

Photo Credit: anettehustad via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: anettehustad via Compfight cc

I still hold on to the dream of the connected classroom in the cloud: a one-stop, all under one roof place for art students to interact. A place to connect artists, a little like the NING art teachers in Asia have with ARARTE, created by Kendra Farrell; not dissimilar to Michelle Anderson‘s IB Visual Art site, and not forgetting the wonderful GCSE and A Level Art site created by Amira Gale Student Art Guide. I also recall a site The Incredible @rt Department which has been going since 1994, originating as an Elementary Schools site, now serving not only the US but with some International Schools participating too. Deviant Art, started in 2000, is a wonderful community of artists too, but often open to comments and sharers that would leave my impressionable youngsters, and their parents, covering their eyes and leaving their hearts wounded.

Through this project I want to teach them the basics of digital citizenship, how to be safe and protected online. They need to learn about using their images properly, about licensing and sharing respectfully, about tagging and labelling. But I want them more than anything to forge friendships; to learn and grow without walls, to share and teach others about what it is to be a pre-teen, about culture and art. Not every 11 year old will be as keen to be involved and I get that. Just today I saw the face of a Grade 6 bubbly, impetuous boy, open as a book, clearly thinking more of the football pitch or what he was about to have for lunch than the prospect of blogging his latest masterpiece online! You cannot win them all, but it will be my pleasure and challenge to engage them all, in some way, in the wonderful world of global connections.

Where next?

Photo Credit: aturkus via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: aturkus via Compfight cc

The plan for the next few weeks is to test drive quadblogging and get the students up and running their class blog site, sharing content and connecting and commenting with the other schools. I would like to allow the students to be moderators and authors on a rotation basis to help them to organise and play with the system new to them yet also to work together to create a living, breathing space that reflects who they are, not that of the teacher. This is a crucial aspect of my plan.

The following weeks, not only will they be curating content but I would like to involve them in the design and structure of the major plan – the connected classroom in the cloud.
Through discussions with Peter Li, one of the Digital Coaches at UWCSEA, we looked at Edmodo, Pathfinder and Google sites as gatekeepers, settling on the possibility of creating a “landing page” that the blogs and other features could link from. What I am investigating over the coming weeks is HYPE, I will have some fun in the coming weeks learning keyframe animation and HTML5, but Peter will be there to help along the way. Students will design the base image and the buttons and icons that will take them forward to the blogs or galleries and we will discuss what makes an aesthetic yet functional initial webpage (see Course 3 Visual Literacy: Design Matters).

The image I currently see is of a palette of many colours linking to the blogs, videos, artworks and forums; or of a classroom with different doors to take them to various sections of the site. But who knows what the students will design and whether this idea really is akin to “pigs flying”.

I know this process will take me beyond May 2015, but this is not a short term idea. I intend this to be  something that will evolve and transform as classes move up the school and beyond my four walls.

But however it ends up looking, ownership is everything.

 

 

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

The Beginning of the End? Visual note drawn on ipad using Adobe Ideas by Nicki Hambleton

 

Looking back over the past year, it amazes me just how much I have learnt, grown and changed due to COETAIL. I had been so excited to start the course last February and it has not disappointed. In fact, I believe it has been and still is the making of me. When asked for a 140 character summary to a prospective COETAIL applicant I wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 20.17.57

The Beginning of the End

Reviewing my notes, both written and visual, helps me to remember my thoughts and directions to decipher the way to move forward into Course 5, effectively the beginning of the end of COETAIL. It helps me to rewind through my ideas to see where the most learning and growth occurred yet also to see where the vision for my students crept in during the course. Despite thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to work on, it surprises me, through a comment from Clint, that I had made some suggestions all the way back in Course 1 about connecting my students and helping them to grown in the same way that I had.

A Classroom in the Cloud?

Photo Credit: mugley via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: mugley via Compfight cc

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Having rewound through the past 28 posts, far too many words and 21 visual notes, I found it initially hard to decide what aspect would be right to pursue, so I looked back at myself and my passions to help take new direction. It was clear that we gain so much through our connections and often students in Middle School cannot be a part of this due to their age and online restrictions. Yet this is a huge part of my growth and learning and I want students to be a part of it too. From this the idea to connect artists online, bringing together their art work, cultures, discussions and feedback was born. Now I know this is nothing new as many teachers have websites doing similar things, such as Michelle Anderson‘s IB art site (currently not working) and The Incredible Art Department to name only a few, but these are largely teacher driven and I would like my students to drive it. In this way they own it, create it and develop it for students by students. Course 1 asked us to reach out and develop our PLN documenting the benefits from like minded groups and I want to help my students to reach out beyond their classroom, their school and country to learn much deeper with other similar aged youngsters. In Course 2 we looked at responsibility and digital citizenship and I feel that helping students to communicate and post online will help to address and teach students this first hand. In Course 3 we focussed our attention on Visual Literacy and working on a wiki, website or blog will help students to understand good design, aesthetics and functionality. Finally in Course 4, the course that taxed and pushed me the most opening many doors in my learning, focussed our attentions on using Technology authentically. It was here that I grew the most and I know my teaching has changed because of it. Connectivism and problem solving will be at the heart of the project, driven by SAMR to aim towards transforming the way art is learned and shared.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

In the past I have helped students to set up a blog and use Picasa web albums to share their work and thoughts online, connecting with their fellow peers for feedback. They were largely successful and, with my encouragement, began to receive comments but not true connections as a PLN might be. This aspect worries me, as at this stage I do not know how we can create an online forum for discussions like Twitter, exhibit artwork to comment on like Voicethread, connect with a multitude of schools globally yet keep them protected and safe. When I look into blogs, sites and wikis I can see the potential but not the depth or functionality for all to participate or take turns in moderating or curating. It feels like an unanswerable question but:

Is there an appropriate platform out there that would work and if so, why hasn’t someone done already this before now?

How can I ensure all students have ownership and work collaboratively to create, upload, share and comment? How can I ensure students drive this with limited experience of such a task? I have a great Technology team behind me who can suggest and show us ideas and options but even so, any ideas and advice would be gratefully received at this stage!

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

In my last post I was told that problem solving sometimes means you don’t know what the outcome may be and this scared me. But as I look ahead to this project it feels a little liberating and exciting to not know, not plan every step and to believe and trust that my students can work through this with my help. It is odd to not foresee the outcome but I am confident that it will be what it will be and most definitely grown by my students.

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

I really want to push more problem solving and student directed work through this project. I know our students are great thinkers yet also demanding of answers, so it will be a shift in what they are used to and possibly unnerving for them (and me!). But the benefits far outweigh the concerns. It will require them to adopt the new method rapidly and to be adventurous in posting, connecting and sharing ideas. Our students are used to technology and work naturally in Google apps so I am concerned they will find “yet another thing” tiresome to adopt initially. It will also rely on them encouraging others to participate beyond their classroom and away from their school but I am hoping that my PLN will help to encourage involvement and to spread the word once it is up and running.

Please look over the following UBD and let me know your thoughts and feedback:

Photo Credit: Andreas Kristensson via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Andreas Kristensson via Compfight cc

It feels rather sad that COETAIL is coming to an official end but reading the outline for Course 5 helps me to realise that this may only be the beginning, the beginning of what happens next. I know the connections we have formed will be long-lasting and I hope that the group will keep posting, sharing and connecting both online and, where possible, face to face. I like the idea of continuing to work with COETAIL, perhaps as a coach if that were to be possible, in order to help others as I was helped and to give back to the community. So perhaps it should read “The End of the Beginning”.

*the above drawing “The Beginning of the End” make visual reference to Escher’s Upstairs and Downstairs, 1960, lithography.

The Ethical Crossroads visual note on using images ethically by Nicki Hambleton

The Ethical Crossroads visual note on using images ethically by Nicki Hambleton

The Scroll society

In a world where to scroll is the new flicking (through pages), it seems that images are the most important factor in gaining someone’s interest and attention. In the commercial world it takes just a second to capture or lose a potential customer and if you haven’t grabbed their attention they won’t look any further.

In my field, individual art making is a result of days or months of development, trial and error, experimenting, failing, scrunching it up and starting again. An artist never stops planning or trying something new and is rarely happy with the result. With Middle School students they are a mix of this: perfectionists and dabblers, experimenters and non artists alike. But as they flood through my doors each week, don’t they deserve the respect and credit like anyone else?

Whether you are an artist or not you use or respond to images every day, throughout the day. Whether scrolling through Facebook or searching for an image to use on presentation or worksheet, poster, webpage or blog post, you cannot avoid images. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so it is hardly surprising that they feature heavily at every glance. Infographics, gifs, videos, animations, they are all intrinsic to our lives. Images help us to understand easier, we learn better from them and we respond faster to visuals. The attention span of our audiences is much shorter these days so images are quick to help comprehend what is being communicated.

What’s mine is yours
Photo Credit: Lollie-Pop via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lollie-Pop via Compfight cc

Google image Search is like a candy shop to visual searchers and it is through this easy and quick method of finding images that, for so many years, people have used them without care for the ownership. Whatever did we do before the Internet, when it came to using images on school projects or for presentations? I remember using images from magazines or drawing them myself from a book or encyclopaedia- we just didn’t have access to the millions of images available now at the tip of our fingers and just a click away. I remember getting inspiration from the vast library at my university when coming up with a new idea for the latest Graphics project we were set or scrolling Creative Review or Design Week for fresh direction.  Do youngsters these days realise how easy it all is? But, as I said in a previous post, with power comes responsibility.

We trust others to share ethically online but can we always trust creative commons licensed work? In a previous post, Clint Hamada queried one of the images I posted from Compfight, listed as cc. Delving deeper by using google image search to find its origin, I find that the image appears in 100s of websites, most of which it has not been credited at all. The first use of the image that I could find since October 2007 was on an article about a Pre-Uni new college and the most recent, on Peach County High School’s front page, with no link or reference at all. Returning to the Flickr site where the image was first uploaded in 2007 there are similar style photographs of staged set ups and on further inspection there are a lot of Stock style images in the album, so it is unclear if the originator took it themselves. Being a trusting individual, I like to think that people tell the truth and act ethically but I am also realistic. How do we know if what we see is all it says it is? How do we go about checking? But more importantly why are so many people, businesses, websites using other’s images so blatantly with absolutely no reference to the owner?

Photo Credit: pennstatenews via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pennstatenews via Compfight cc

I love to share and I am more than happy for others to use and share my work if it helps them and others to learn. Until recently it didn’t occur to me that anyone might want to use my work and so I hadn’t considered making them cc. But as I grow as a sketchnoter and run more workshops referencing my inspirations, I realise that it is crucial that we acknowledge other’s work that we as learners build from. Developing a presentation and a future ebook, I asked permission of some of my sketchnote gurus if they wouldn’t mind being in my book or workshop. Most are fabulous and happily allow this through their cc work on Flickr. If someone isn’t, again that is fine, it is their choice.

In today’s society, with its share and remix culture, it is imperative that we, as Art teachers in particular, spread the word quickly and simply to all our students that sharing is fine but stealing is not.

Steal like an Artist

In a conversation with a Grade 7 student the other day he thought it would be fine to take an image off google to use in his Common Craft style Stop Motion animation to share the plight of street dogs in India. I explained that if we were to share his animation online, on Youtube, or in an ebook about the work of our Global Concerns group, then he would be responsible for attributing the source of these images and it might be that the creator is difficult to find or may not want their images used. He could not see what the problem was and stated that “everyone does it”. I agree, I see it all the time. In presentations, on posters and other people’s youtube videos. Clearly the message has not got out there to the millions, or even within my school it seems.

It was on Week 3 of Course 2 that the proverbial penny really dropped. Being a Copyright Criminal was what bothered me the most about today’s take-take society and it was here that I felt, as an Art teacher that I could make the most difference. If  we could get students to understand the importance of respecting other’s work as well as protecting their own we would help to spread the word to others.

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

I would like to work closer with our communications department at school, who frequently share their own photographs through their own an image bank for all staff to access. Today I was sifting through years of images for some photos to support a parent presentation I am co-running on Monday. By sharing our own photographs, we can create image banks for each other and who better to do this but the Art department.

Some companies have cottoned on to this by developing their own online site for both creators and users, as IMGembed shows you:

I am wondering if art students could start a trial business online to see how far their image is used and how popular it is. Personally I am happy for them to share their work for free but with so many businesses in need of images it could be a lucrative idea! Ethically, students making money? I’m not so sure but it could all be for charity, so why not? If not then a share-alike Flickr album would be a great place to start, teaching them about adding Creative Commons licenses to their work.

Collaborative planning

…….and so the collaborative unit was born between Matt and Anne and I. Each of us will no doubt run it in a different way, possibly with different outcomes, yet the journey and the destination will be the same: to foster awareness and develop an understanding of the origin and use of images and how we use them ethically in today’s society.

Picasso once said ” good artists copy but great artists steal” highlighting that everything has been done before and that influence is a huge part of being an artist. Despite this we owe it to each other, as fellow artists, designers and photographers to show respect for the act of creation and to give credit where it is due.

Steal like an artist is a book by Austin Kleon

 

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.

“I WISH FOR YOU TO STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT BY PARTICIPATING IN A GLOBAL ART PROJECT, AND TOGETHER WE’LL TURN THE WORLD… INSIDE OUT.” JR

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.

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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?

Balance

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”