Tessellation by grade 5 student using SumoPaint
For my final project, I chose to do a revamp of an art lesson I’ve done in the past. We had transformed geometric shapes on oaktag, but there was a lot of tedium (tracing and coloring the transformed shape over and over again) and potential for inaccuracies (cutting, taping, tracing) that sometimes got in the way of a creative solution. This was an instance where I felt technology was actually the best tool for the job. Creativity and design would still be at the forefront, with the power of painting apps encouraging experimentation while reducing some of the challenges. Inspired by the powerful scripting tools Doctopus and Goobric as previewed at the Google Summit at our school this fall, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to try disseminating information (tutorials, assignment handouts) and scoring via a connected rubric. Wanting the works of the students to go beyond that of our fourth floor art room, I made the connection to Artsonia (an online student art gallery) an essential ingredient to the project. Students would learn how to upload their artwork to the class art exhibit, write a reflective artist statement, and then comment on the artwork of others. Each student had to select a tessellation done by another 5th grader at our school and provide constructive comments, and then find an artwork done by a 5th grader at Whitman Post Elementary (where my brother teaches art) and send them a comment as well. Despite the distance and huge time differences, students could be inspired by and connected to the art of peers half a world away. By requiring students to become so active on Artsonia, I hoped that the students and their parents would become more active visitors on this wonderful online gallery.
Despite some technical challenges (certain “bugs” in the chosen SumoPaint app began cropping up as large numbers of layers were created) and a few students “losing” their files due to mismanagement or hardware issues, the project was a success. Each tessellation image was highly unique, showed creativity in the transformed shape, and demonstrated student understanding of working with layers and other basic computer graphics skills. Students loved reading the comments left by peers and wrote comments/statements that showed reflection, an understanding of the process, and the power of carefully chosen words. Using the well-thought out setup of Artsonia, students learned the importance of online safety (not revealing last names or other identifying markers, the need for parents to approve comments and the teacher to approve art/statements). Practicing good digital citizenship and art criticism skills, students produced some encouraging and thought-provoking comments. With the inclusion of the activities on Artsonia, I believe that the entire project is nearing the Redefinition stage in the SAMR Model.
Things I would change
Next time I will try to find a different online app – one that doesn’t have the layers bug and makes selecting layers more intuitive. I will also be more explicit on showing students how to merge a few layers together and duplicating that, making the filling of the page to be a quicker process. I might try requiring all students to make an art folder in their documents folder where they must save their versioned files. I intend to change the rubric, removing the “complex shape” category and inserting one that focuses on number of times the shape was tessellated. Doctopus worked well. I learned the hard way that you can’t change the name of the spreadsheet tab after you’ve run the script; thank goodness for Google apps versioning so I could revert back to the doc’s version prior to renaming it! I wish I could have made modifications to the distributed documents and pushed it out to the students. I liked that each student received his/her own version of the assignment sheet and tutorial presentation that they could modify as needed. Goobric made easy work of scoring the project, with the scores automatically appearing on the student’s assignment sheet. I contacted Artsonia and asked them if teachers could approve student comments (vs. parents), but this currently is not an option. I appreciated Artsonia’s intent of maintaining integrity and the safety of its young artists, particularly those under 13.
Technology in Art – the Future
Although the majority of the art produced in my elementary art room will still include the use of more traditional art materials, this project helped demonstrate that technology can sometimes be the best tool for art creation. I intend on having my older elementary students do more uploading of their work to Artsonia and submitting artist statements, as well as giving them time to comment on the work of others. I now have one iPad available in the art room, on which I have the free Artsonia app. In addition, this year’s 4th and 5th graders have their own 1:1 laptops, which can also be utilized as appropriate.
I wish I had more time with my upper elementary art students. Seeing them once in a six-day cycle is simply not enough to expose them to the many art materials, skills, genres, and disciplines. I am grateful that I have the flexibility in my curriculum to experiment with the inclusion of technology in art lessons. Where it feels to be the most appropriate tool to accomplish the task and reinforce desired concepts, I will try to incorporate technology.