Monthly Archives: October 2011


Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!

My wife passed this on to me noting my habit of doodling during staff meetings. Great little video. So grab some paper, a pen, push play and doodle away! It’s okay!

Course 3

Pass the Mic: Personal Naratives

The idea for this UbD lesson came up as the school was planning our middle school cultural field trip and after week 4′s lesson on digital storytelling. A colleague (and COETAIL cohert) and I saw the potential to hit several standards in both Language Arts and Performing Arts as well as create a very exciting and meaningful lesson for the kids.

Students would be able to build on Performing Arts skills such as vocal expressions, vocal variety, diction, gesture, and overall confidence in a oral presentation…something I need to work on myself.

In Language Arts students would keep journals with daily entries while on the field trip. Students will rework their journal entries into a readable script.

In Performing Arts students will work on reading scripts out loud and to each other with regular critiquing for perfecting presentations prior to recording. At this time students will continue to develop the vocal skills required for a successful oral presentation.

A number of the accompanying chaperones from the field trip will compile photos and a CD of images will be burned for all students. These images will then be used by students and inserted into their oral presentation projects using

We’ll follow the same format we used when we made “Grandma Jo’s Cupcake Blues”, but as mentioned above, go with as opposed to

So that’s kind of the plan in a nutshell or two! We will see how it goes soon! The field trip start tomorrow!

…and here is Course 3’s final project. A joint collaborative effort between Middle School Language Arts and Performing Arts. Always looking for feedback! Enjoy!

UbD: Personal Naratives

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AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Profound Whatever

Course 3

Take a Picture!

Well that was enjoyable!

Course 3 introduced us to a multitude of options and effective practices in the use of visual media. The tools and philosophies presented were inspiring and some even immediately incorporate in to the classroom. Where previously I felt a hesitation to apply many of the new technologies introduced, but these particular new toys (VuVox, VoiceThread, Comic Life, etc.) and new ways of looking at uses for old ones (PowerPoint) began to feel familiar much quicker and dare I say it, fun!

The amount of programs/websites tools available now is absolutely astounding, yet super exciting. The link to cogdogroo was eye opening with its list of over 50 tools to assist in the creation of digital storytelling. Granted I wish I had seen it last spring when I was wrapping up another online course in technology integration from a California university. At the time I was given very little to go off of in regards to digital storytelling, yet I was expected to write about how I would use such a tool in my own classroom. The idea was completely new to me and almost entirely dismissed. Hate to sound like an rear end kisser, but really a big thank you to Jeff and Kim for presenting digital storytelling in a more inspiring light. The possibilities are truly endless and more importantly engaging for students.

As a visual learner the power of imagery has never surprised me. That being said I have come to realize that I was not using visual literacy in a manner that was most effective for student learning. PowerPoint presentations were drab and cram packed with too much text and super saturated with long spiels by yours truly. It needs to be concise, to the point and exciting. I’m taking cue from the advertising world. We know that the biggest consumers and most easily influenced are the youth today…the tweeners…the teenagers. Major corporations are more successful than ever before in selling their products to this age group because of excellent advertising campaigns. It’s concise, to the point, memorable and it all involves visuals. So take a picture!

I look forward to seeing what lies ahead in the COETAIL program. Feeling anxious and antsy though about that final presentation to the rest of the class in March. Public speaking ranks about as high as eating lutefisk for me. Looking on the bright side I suppose I could use lots of visual imagery to get my point across and spare you all of my stutters and “umm…umm…ummms…”



Here’s a great list of blogs for art teachers I stumbled upon this morning. Thought I’d share!

50 Awesome & Inspiring Blogs for Art Teachers

Course 3

“Grandma Jo’s Cupcake Blues” – A Digital Story

The possibilities for ways in which to create a digital story truly seem endless. There is an incredible amount of tools available online allowing one to present in any mass variety of ways. This was perhaps the most difficult part of this particular assignment…finding the right tools to use.

Being great big fans of graphic novels, Diana and I aspired to create a digital story that had the feeling of a graphic novel. Initially I felt that perhaps we could use Comic Life. I knew we had it on our school laptops and I had ever so briefly dabbled with it last year. Immediately we realized that this would not give us the audio option that we really wanted. I continued to play with image ideas in Comic Life while Diana laid out the storyboard. As fun as this program is and I can see my student using it down the road, I craved more control over the image altering process, which Comic Life did not provide. Time for more doodling. Photoshop Elements was selected as the weapon of choice to transform our family photos into something more “graphic” like in appearance. Not being super apt in the program it took some time to thumb through all the options searching for just the right tools.

In the meantime Diana had widdled down our virtual story platform options to VuVox and Voice Thread. Diana uploaded the images onto both websites to preview prior to selecting which to proceed with. In the end we liked the way VuVox looked and moved better than Voice Thread, which seemed more like an interactive PowerPoint. Voice Thread is however a very exciting, highly recommended website and tool, but not what we were looking for in this particular project.

VuVox did not have any direct recording options available, but provided us with the option to upload audio. One continuous audio track of Diana and I retelling our embellished story was recorded in GarageBand and then dropped in to iTunes so that it could to be uploaded to the VuVox site and synched up to our images. This would in turn become the bane of our existence. It turns out that individual tracking would have made the process of matching up the timing of the slides and audio much, much more easy on us. VuVox offered us with little helpful information or suggestions on how best to lay down the audio creating lots of trial and error on our parts. Another fatalistic realization of VuVox came towards what we had hoped was the end of having to hear our two-minute short story for the zillionth time. We discovered that when guests had been invited open and view the saved digital story they also had the ability to move slides at there own discretion. This instantly throws off what took us so long to do, the synching of audio and images. VuVox turned out to be much more tricky that we had anticipated and hoped for. So with hands in the air and a white flag waving we surrender for now, but not forever, for VuVox really is a great website. It just requires a little more understanding before presenting it to out students.

Just as the options for ways in which to create digital stories are infinite the possibilities of how they can be used in the classroom are equally as countless. The processes and programs that Diana and I took alone could be used easily in a cross-curricular unit that involves subjects such as Language Arts, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Technology and really even Social Studies if the topic is changed from a family story to one with a historical perspective or background. In the end three programs and websites were used extensively to create our digital story., Adobe Photoshop Elements and GarageBand. The thought of creating a digital story in this method with students is very exciting and one I am anxious undertake with my co-workers. Hopefully the kids will find the process of telling stories in this manner as enjoyable and challenging as we did!

Have a peak at what we ended up with using VuVox. One you push play it is highly advisable that you steer clear of the highly sensitive slide scroll button! Feel free to provide us with any feedback and suggestions. Thanks!

Course 3

Sometimes Less is Best

I recently presented my middle school art students with a PowerPoint on site-specific sculpture. It is part of a sculpture unit, which we are still working through, and I am finding myself having to do a lot of re-teaching which I had not anticipated. Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. After viewing “Presentation Zen: An Overview” on YouTube in which Matt Helmke summarizes suggested best practices from Garr Reynolds book Presentation Zen. I decided take another look at my own presentation.

As part of my recent efforts to utilize class work time and keep my students focused I have been trying to cut back on the length of my presentations. The trick of course becomes how to juggle the shortening of presentations while still making them meaningful.  My site-specific sculpture PowerPoint consisted of all of six slides. So while it was concise in quantity and it did have valuable information as I look at it now it seemed to lack focus. What I failed to really look at was the big picture or what was it that I really wanted and needed my students to come away with after this presentation in order for them to have a successful start to this sculpture lesson? There were slides that were not only too wordy but also all together unnecessary for the task ahead, which was finding a suitable, inspirational location for their own module sculptures.

One slide in particular jumped out to me as really being all I needed to get my point across. It defined what site-specific art was and what my students really needed to know to get started.  The slide itself consisted of entirely text and is extremely unoriginal and easy to tune out. The text was edited down into more four separate slides with more succinct statements in hopes that the main ideas will be more easily digested.

Slides of art with a more conceptual idea such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude “Surrounded Islands” were disregarded, as they only seemed to create confusion and an infatuation of why on earth somebody would want to wrap islands with oink fabric! The images were also very impractical for my students, making them harder to process and digest. Most of the original visuals were changed out with other that seemed to better fit the textual information now being presented. Unfortunately the revised presentation is going to have to wait another year for a test flight!


Course 3

Who’s buying?

As a visual art teacher the idea of using visual media seems natural. Slides, PowerPoint presentations, video clips, are all a regular part of everyday instruction. What I am starting to realize though is how much more powerful visual imagery can be in the classroom when it is used to its true maximum potential. It’s not unusual in an art classroom setting for us to interpret and make judgment based upon the viewing of a single image followed by what most middle school students would call a lengthy or drawn out discussion on content by yours truly. Although it is not completely unreasonable to expect a middle school student to be analytical when looking at art this is perhaps no longer the proper method to establish meaning. It seems young minds no longer work in this manner and neither should old minds.

The idea that you could essentially omit all spoken word, consolidate what’s really pertinent into a compacted few minutes of visual bliss and still be incredibly effective in connecting with your audience really hit me after following a link to the Sony Bravia (Bouncy Balls) advertisement ( It is a beautifully shot video where image and sound are in perfect harmony…just colors, sound, movement and a slogan of “colour like no other”. Ultimately it’s a memorable. It’s an advertisement that I actually find myself watching over and over again.  In a world driven by consumerism with much of the products being successfully targeted towards the children we teach, it seems high time we started acting a little less like teachers and more like advertisers. It’s time to sell Picasso’s “Guernica”.

Some rights reserved by Jaume d'Urgell ∴

My visual arts standard on aesthetic valuing: making formal judgments continues to be quite a tricky one for me. Students are expected to construct an interpretation of a work of art based upon the content of that particular piece. When introducing Picasso painting “Guernica” to my middle school class the typical reactions tend to be that his style appears child-like, cartoonish, weird, and overall not very good. We trudge on with with the most time being spent on the class determining whether or not there are in fact boobs hanging out of one of the abstract figures shirts while quickly dispelling all pertinent information on the true meaning behind the piece itself, the Spanish Civil War. After most of our 45-minute class time is eaten up some students will make connections, but overall it feels very spoon-fed and contrived.

The Sony Bravia ad gave me an idea that perhaps through the creation of a short video clip I could streamline the learning of the content to assist in the constructing of meaning and ultimately judgment of Picasso’s “Guernica”. My hope is, that given I can find enough “free” powerful imagery on the Spanish Civil War, I can intertwine Picasso’s masterpiece with real parallel historical footage. The grief stricken mother, the fallen soldier, and the agonizing expression of the horse all equaled with real corresponding images.  I have yet to explore the music-sharing component of, but I am hoping that the right soundtrack might be found there as well. If not Garage band could easily be used. It wouldn’t be far fetched to see this turn into a class project instead. One in which each student is responsible for “selling” a piece of art using nothing more than 30 seconds of images and sounds. Who’s buying?