Our Plan and Our PLN – Art Students of the World Connect


Our original posts on connecting our Ideas
Our original posts on connecting our Ideas



Initial Plans on Twitter and PLN
Initial Plans on Twitter and PLN
Twitter Plans
Getting Set and Getting Going


Initial Planning on Twitter and PLN
Initial Planning on Twitter and PLN



Our initial planning session was a smashing success not only did it bring us all together to talk about our common goal it also humanized the experience of virtual communication.  It was such a pleasure to see all of the tweets and google docs come together to finally have a grounding.  Perhaps this is sentimental and or lame but as I have seen both of my colleagues grow and develop over twitter and through their blogs, it was a real joy to see their faces light up as we jointly figured our way through a Google + hangout.

Things I Came to Know

  • Having a moderator worked with a virtual conversation dynamic
  • Collaborating across 4 hours time difference wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be

Things for Next Time

  • Next time we will use Hangouts On Air as using Snagit to screen capture went terribly wrong.  Although I am sure it was all my doing!
  • Next time I would like to have a more interactive experience in terms of being able to share and reference documents we are already shared in.  I think if I play around with Hangouts a little more I will find ways of doing this.

Documents we are Using

Quadblogging template – to connect classroom blogs.

Planning Document after our first Hangout


What has come from our Hangout and twitter conversations is a focus and intent for our project moving forward.  Our plan focuses on getting our Art classes connected via a quadblogging format.  All of the participants are new to quadblogging and I hope the format is going to be manageable for us all.  I think our plan to have another Hangout after our first round of blogging and commenting is a good one.  I also hope we will be able to have the teachers from ASDubai involved in that as well.  It was a shame they were unable to attend the first Hangout as it was a great experience.  We have each chosen to connect one class, as a way to keep things manageable.  Also for keeping things manageable we have chosen a class blog over individual students connecting.


An interesting, albeit 3 year old, article from Edutopia about Quadblogging in the US

Some action research on quadblogging from Silvia Tolisano @Langwitches 


It sounds like all of us will be using Blogger as our blogging format and I hope our students will not have any issues commenting as they follow the visual thinking routines outlined from Nicki or the PQP framework I provided in the document above.  I will admit I am nervous about the level of discussion amongst students and wanting to keep things open ended we have not chosen to give themes to discuss for the blog posts from students.  We will have to see how this goes.


We have an ambitious plan and I hope it is manageable in the time frame given.  I think there is a need for this type of idea and I am excited how it has dovetailed with the curriculum work I have done this year regarding peer feedback amongst my students. With this quadblogging format I hope I am able to expand my student’s network and allow for a more diverse selection of voices commenting on our artwork.





Canva – Design School – Teaching and Learning / Some Goings on

I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now.  But have been unsure about how and why I might.  Finally I decided it was worthwhile when I noticed my friend and fellow Online 2 COETAILER – Nicki Hambleton had tweeted about it.  If it’s good enough for Nicki – the queen of visuals in our group – it’s good enough to discuss further and definitely my teaching.

Design Journey

3 weeks ago I began my journey to teach my students Design with a capital D.  As the semester started students were fresh, I was coming off a great experience in a Middle School Fine Arts Invitational (another post coming soon) and I had the good idea to teach my Design and Technology course in a new way.  This semester I was going to explore careers in Design as the units of study.  The first was Graphic Design due to the fact that I myself had recently completed a wonderful bunch of tutorials in Canva‘s Design School.

I had come across Canva last year and had played around with it finding new templates for graphic design that I was using in my class and for making our Middle School student planer cover.  I was impressed with the familiar styles it offered and the relatively easy to use interface in general.  What sold me was a new feature – Design School.  What I love about Design School is the way it is organized.  There are three main sections for any viewer to explore within Design School these include: a blog, tutorials, and teaching materials.

Screen capture taken on February 22nd, 2015 from www.canva.com
Screen capture taken on February 22nd, 2015 from http://www.canva.com

I was of course drawn to the teaching materials and found them to be well thought out units designed by teachers, for teachers, using Canva as a platform for teaching Design.  What I really liked was the age groups it was tackling – resources geared towards elementary students made me believe I could bring similar content to my Middle School Design students.  I was also very interested in the teaching materials provided in the workshop model presented.  This seemed like intelligent chunking of material paired with teaching examples which would benefit any student.

Screen capture taken from www.canva.com on February 22nd, 2015
Screen capture taken from http://www.canva.com on February 22nd, 2015 – Showing Workshops

Screen capture taken from www.canva.com on February 22nd, 2015
Screen capture taken from http://www.canva.com on February 22nd, 2015 – Showing Lesson Plans

I was also interested in the tutorial section of the Design School.  I had experienced online tutorial format for teaching in a course I taught on HTML which used Codecademy as the learning platform.  The feedback I got from students about this blended model of teaching and learning was that they appreciated specific support, and also the means to progress at their own pace.  The tutorials in Design School are similarily set out with simple activities organized via main Design components such as Fonts, Layout, Color etc.  Further the tutorials take on a simple Learn and then Do format where students can see an example and then act on what they see in the simple sandbox in the next cell.  I also appreciate that each of the Learn and Do tutorials include a video in case students need additional independent help with the app, albeit not the actual design.

Screen capture taken on Sunday February 22, 2015 from www.canva.com
Screen capture taken on Sunday February 22, 2015 from http://www.canva.com – Showing Learning and Doing


My only complaint is that I wish the content found a way to get more and more difficult as the tutorials progressed, often this was not the case.  To an extent the final three tutorials ask students to showcase their skills, but at the same time I would like to see more obvious progression within a single tutorial set up.

Classroom Logistics

Back in my classroom I have my students working through Canva Design School independently and at the end of each tutorial they download the Learn and Do from the module/tutorial and share this on their student google site.

Student Google Folder storing images of their work - found on their Student Portfoilo
Student Google Folder storing images of their work – found on their Student Portfoilo

Students also reflect on 3 key tips they can take away from that group of tutorials my hope being that by completing the section on Fonts they might have 3 points to remember when it comes to independent application.  All of this work basically acts as their notes on learning Design and is stored on their student portfolio as evidence of their learning.

Real World Applications

My hope with using Canva to teach Design was that my students might come to better understand how to effectively communicate ideas.  So I set it to them – I asked,

What would be an applicable formative and summative assessment of your knowledge?

How would I know they had learned elements of graphic design and garner a better of Design in general?  For their formative learning they wanted to use an invitation to a birthday party as a means of showcasing their developing knowledge.  They also asked if they could use a template from the Canva site.   As it is an assessment for learning we agreed that using a template was ok in this circumstance but would not be true in a summative scenario.  Somehow, like all good realeasing of ownership in teaching, the birthday party invitation became a birthday party invitation for a student in the class; and of course somehow the birthday turned into a tea party birthday for said young man who was turning 14.  As this was happening I was thinking “oh no, this is losing credibility, they are not going to take it seriously etc.”  but then I realized this was a perfect opportunity to explore deeper the design thinking framework which I had hoped to employ in the this class.
Design Thinking process in the Chapters Dialogue project

What was wonderful was that by making it a real class design question we could consult the student and really Understand the beginning of the design cycle. Thus came the questions from students:

LMS update of information and assignment for formative assessment in DT
LMS update of information and assignment for formative assessment in DT

I can’t wait to see a tea part invitation that incorporates Manchester City blue!

Some Concluding Points

My students decided that an applicable summative for this unit would be for them to design next year’s Middle School Student Planner covers.  As they leave Middle School and move up to High School they felt it a nice way to leave their mark on being in the middle.  These young graphic designers, as I hope they come to see themselves, will hopefully take away the transfer goal that good design can and should be employed in all that we do.  Likewise it is something that can be learnt through practice and application, feedback and revisiting work.  Working through Canva so far has been a great vehicle to learn graphic design and as they say the proof is in the pudding:

Things I've learnt from Syd
Things I’ve learnt from Syd

After the first round of critiques here are a sampling of works from student’s.  We discovered a lot about motives for design, stylistic concerns, and what overall theme was most applicable.  As a group students also came to understand the importance of careful editing (we had some grammar issues – don’t tell their LA teachers).

I was impressed with the critical eye students were able to take on others’ work and I hope the critique cycle will allow them a better understanding of what level of work is expected.  I started with own designs and allowed students to explain what they thought was working and not working about each.


Work of Julian used with permission of the artist.
Work of Julian used with permission of the artist.
Work of Lucy - used with permission from the artist
Work of Lucy – used with permission from the artist
Work of Dalya - used with permission of the artist
Work of Dalya – used with permission of the artist




Social Media and Portraits

Social Media and Portraits
Our social media and portrait window.  Telling our stories in remixed ways.
creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by matt_mcgrady: http://flickr.com/photos/105803723@N04/15411849174

This year I am teaching two sections of the Mixed Media class.  One section chose to take things in a different direction all semester long and are making everyone of their artworks for the semester as self portraits.  They quickly took root in our Social Media Cathedral Window and took on a really wonderful mosaic look.

We initially took selfies on “photobooth” and then used picmonkey to edit down our photos using the warhol and posterize effects.

Warhol and Posterize effect in picmonkey
Warhol and Posterize effect in picmonkey

We then used a thick sharpie to create the ‘caming’ around our images and then followed the process outlined from the previous post.


Telling Stories Remix: Social Media Cathedral Window

Telling Stories Remix: Social Media Cathedral Window

REMIx: Social Media Cathedral Window

Our window of sites.
Our window of sites.

If a remix is something that takes existing concepts or content, and alters it to create a new and thought provoking artwork. The new work may look similar to the one it is referencing, or it may take on a more abstract connection.


The Social Media Cathedral Window is our take on a Remixing of how stories have been told over time.   Students automatically understand the roles of social media in their lives and know how the chats, the tweets, and the posts they create are stories of their lives and lives of others. What they find incredible is how during medieval times stories were told through stained glass.

Canterbury Cathedral: Royal Window
creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Tobias von der Haar: http://flickr.com/photos/yeaki/7713064734


I begin this unit by asking my students to outline some of their favorite social networking sites and explain for me what they use them for.   I then contrast this by showing them cathedral windows, which depict scenes and or ideas. At this point my students can begin to see how social media and medieval cathedral windows are possibly connected but the ties are tenuous. Then comes the real confusion. I show my students Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix: Part Two.

At this point my students are starting to wonder what on earth is going on and what frankly is a Remix? Their confusion comes around through a class discussion where I am often able to tease out the idea that the social media sites we use are the story telling platform of our age just as the stained glass window was for medieval Europe.

So Now the Art making

The easier of the two projects is for students to recreate the social media site of their choosing. We find these icons online and are able to use transfer paper to have them transfer the image onto black cardstock. I find using black cardstock works slightly better than construction paper. One important step at this point is to ensure that students include the, “lead caming lines”. A great teachable moment here as invariable every student asks what is came, or assumes I have misspoken. The caming lines are that which keep letters or designs in place in the center of the cut out design and help to strengthen the finished work. At this point I often ask students to take a thick black marker and outline all of the icon they are trying to replicate including additional caming lines for support. I explain that this will be the black paper and the colored areas on your icon will be filled with colored tissue.

Once students have transferred their image onto the card they are ready to begin cutting. We usually end up using a variety of exacto or utility knives and or scissors, dependent on shape and design. Once the students have cut out their icon I ask them to take a second sheet of card and trace their cut negative spaces onto the new sheet. Cutting out the second sheet they have made the opposite side of the work and at this point we discuss the display of our finished pieces.

As we will be hanging our work in the window to capture the light we want to have both sides of the artwork finished. This is when students can begin to choose colors for the tissue paper insert, which they will hide inside the sandwiching of two identical cut out pieces of card.

Using glue sticks students then apply the tissue paper inside the two cut outs. I find gluing the card vs. the tissue is a big help and reduces tearing of the fragile tissue paper. For advanced designs with multiple colors, I ask students to cut out a square roughly the dimensions of the space they want to fill. Apply glue around the design and stick the roughly sized square onto the card. Then, using an exacto knife students can score the tissue paper and peel away the excess. Another great reason to include thick lead came lines in their design. The final pieces come together by filling in all remaining areas of negative space with colored tissue paper.

The Reveal

This piece is great fun for students and they love having their work up on display windows at school and seen by lots of students and passers by. We have ours on the window to our studio and so often students will stop and enjoy the colored icons others have created.

A view of our window -
A view of our window –




Course 4: If These Walls Could Talk – Augmented Art Exhibtion

Course 4: If These Walls Could Talk – Augmented Art Exhibtion

Bridging the Gap Between Viewer and Artist

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by COD Newsroom

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

In the end – I don’t know if this is completely great unit for course 5, but I do see this as a great first step towards what I am hoping my course 5 project will become.  As much as this is a push for me – in that the unit is new and completely different to anything I have undertaken in the end it really doesn’t make a huge leap in the SAMR scale. Really the major tech integration would be using a new app to create an advanced audio/video guide to an art exhibition.  This being said – I have wanted to test this out and think it will be an excellent unit for my 8th Grade artists.  I really want to give them the opportunity to experience art exhibitions in multiple platforms and therefore this face to face exhibition will be the stepping stone to a virtual one I will look to hold near the end of the school year.

Currently exhibiting at the art gallery in Abu Dhabi, is a show from the Guggenheim collection called “Seeing Through Light”.  The exhibition is a series of European and American artists from the 50s and 60s minimalist movement.  All of the works call on light as part of the piece whether it be perceived light or light acting on the space or artwork.  I find it incredibly cool!  I am not so sure what my students will think…..For this reason we will be heading out to the gallery to experience the artwork first hand as part of the prep for our exhibition.  Students will have a chance to do a workshop, see the gallery and hopefully open their minds to minimalist art.  What I envision happening is giving half of the students an audio guide which would contextualise the artwork for them, the other half will experience the artwork without.  I can’t wait to hear what people’s perceptions are afterwards.  Some the of the work on exhibit really is difficult to connect to and without context some pieces seem vague or difficult to read as art.  I was visiting the exhibition the other day and I heard a visitor note “It just looks like a big Venn Diagram”…..  I really want to get at bridging the gap between artist, artwork, and audience with this unit, and I think we can do it.

Like I said previously, this unit will be a precursor to that which I am planning for my Course 5 final project.  A major goal of our Art department this year has been to increase the amount of peer feedback students are engaging in.  We are using this feedback as formative and corrective assessments whereby other students have voice in helping one another in the learning process.  We have had great success with this but now I sense it is time to take it to the next step.  In my last post on a connectivist classroom – I asked if anyone would like to buddy up and have their art classes give feedback and comment on student art work, both through the working process and on finished pieces.  Anne Driligen in our cohort agreed to join in the fun and she and I will be connecting our classes next term.  Ultimately, students will share their student portfolios where they house images of their developing and finished artwork and then ask for feedback from students from the other school.  From this online interaction of feedback and comments, I would like to see students selecting artworks, with the help of their buddies, which they would like to exhibit formally.  This would ideally happen via the google cultural institute which has opened its virtual gallery doors to artists and schools out there.  Alternatively we will craft a Google site which can be our virtual gallery platform.  I really want my students to become curators, collaborators, and connected to other art students around the globe.  If anyone else out there would like to be involved please let me know.  The more the merrier – in fact I was hoping to set up a quadblogging sort of scenario if possible.

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

Well – in years past I would have done all of this work – now I am opening it up to students to do – I love it when curriculum takes on practical life experiences.  Planning and implementing an art event is a great learning experience for my students, and I am looking forward to experiencing it from a different perspective this year.

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

Patience, troubleshooting, collaboration, dedication, organization, an eye for detail, curation, – I love it – great things to be learned here.

A Mission – and a Quest – Institute of Play – Projects and Problems and where they lead us.

A Mission – and a Quest.

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by patrice-photographiste: http://flickr.com/photos/patrice-photographiste/14162884595
creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by patrice-photographiste: http://flickr.com/photos/patrice-photographiste/14162884595

To steal some really smart words – “a problem is like a mission – I have to solve the problem to continue my quest – which is like my project” – or is it the other way around?

“A problem is like a quest – I have to solve some projects which are like missions, to continue and solve my problem”.

Ok – this is actually what I have been trying to grapple with my most recent stint of slightly off topic, but incredibly inspiring reading from The Institute of Play.

I love this idea of looking at school as a series of missions and sets of quests.  I love the choice of words, as their connotations hold an importance to them that permeates great stories and history.  Its as if students were to become Herculean in their school work.  
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by wallyg

If you think about it. That actually sounds like a really great idea!

So what if…..my art room took on a Quest and Mission schema for learning.  Well is many ways it does – the problem faced is solved through the practice of media, the working through of thoughts, the development of a design.  The quest is complete when students complete a massive task.  This might be a large summative project, or a display of their finished work as a class.

What excites me about the idea of a quest and mission learning platform is the idea that learning is a series of quests – as though learning might come at random instances, or planned events or activities.  I am thinking my way through a Zelda Map as we speak.

Is it a project based, is it a quest, or is it a mission?

I started to wonder if we are simply calling the same things different names – heck I wonder this a lot when it comes to Education.  My way of understanding PBL in its forms is:

A project may be made up of problems – which need to be solved towards the completion of the project

A project may have diverse content knowledge which stems from navigating problems across a range of topics.

A quest is a multi day learning experience that may have multiple sources/nodes of learning.

A quest is a journey of learning in which documentation of the learning process is essential.

A quest is serious, but sometimes the people you meet might make you laugh as you learn.


My Classroom

I have a major problem in my Design Technology class.  My students have been working on a STEM project where they are designing CO2 Dragsters.  We have done the research, taught ourselves a little about drag, aerodynamics, wind resistance and potential and kinetic energy and their applications.  But as a class, we are stuck….

With a pioneering spirit I thought it would be cool to see if I could get a HS student to build the start and finish gate of our CO2 car “racetrack”.  He and I did some research together back in October and we realized it might not be too hard.  Ironically, Abu Dhabi hosted the World Championship event of Co2 drag racing at the state of the art facility at the Yas Island F1 track as part of the F1 in Schools Program.  I was having my track be built of dowels and scrap wood with nails as the puncture mechanism.

Back to our problem – we have built our cars from kits purchased from the F1 in school program – we have a working mechanism to start out cars – but – in all of our test runs the cars fly off of our finely crafted fishing line track.  My class was feeling mystified and after 4 test runs and a ruined car we came to a conclusion.  Our problem was big enough that we needed to turn to experts.  So I turned the problem on my students – their responsibility was to speak with anyone they thought might be able to help us with our problem.  To my amazement my 8th graders spoke to their science teachers, their engineer parents, and I even had one student email another teacher who had posted a video of Co2 racing at their school.  I am floored with the response from my students.  After multiple tests we are close to being successful – still not there…I have asked one of the reps from F1 in schools to come visit our class after the National Day Holiday here in the UAE.  I am really looking forward to hearing what he has to say about our homemade track.  My secret hope is that he will invite us to run the cars out at World Championship track at the F1 Circuit.

Here is one of our tests – take a look at that start gate.

Connectivism: Connecting "v" to an ism.




creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by my_new_wintercoat: http://flickr.com/photos/my_new_wintercoat/415138363

The future – ohhh the future – where will we be?

– What will we do?

– What will schools look like?

– Will we even need them?

– Could I finally teach from home in a t shirt as I have always wanted to?

Education 201 – See What I did There?

We have to change don’t we? – he asked.  I just can’t even fathom not changing.  I look back at the last 6 years from whence I left the confines of my motherland and I really struggle to see myself in the classroom I left.  When I think about what the next 3 rooms I will be teaching in look like – I have no idea what they will look like and I am excited about that.

Photo Credit: Ethan Hein via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Ethan Hein via Compfight cc


The Learning Network

I think that every classroom has its own learning network.  We teach our students how to negotiate the answers.  Teachers often have a reference board or maybe it is a 1:1 laptop, or even better the student who knows everything.  What is exciting about this is that there are multiple perspectives, and responses which in tune equates an interesting learning scenario.  Many teachers, often out of necessity have already instituted a social learning network in class.  Maybe you use, “Have you asked two other classmates for help yet?”

This year our Art Department has been using the work of Ron Berger and critical feedback as well as PQP (Praise, Question, Polish) critique formats to help our students develop their own voice when looking to improve one another’s work.  What we have found is that many great things are happening.

1. Teachers talk less

2. Students are getting more specific with their feedback then sometimes teachers are.

3. Students are forced to used specific vocabulary as a means of getting their points across.

4. Artists are starting to demand quality feedback about their work – because they recognize it is a safe place / activity.

5. There is a sense that collectively we can improve our art abilities.

Of course the last two are probably the most incredible, and I will admit it wanes at times but what I am getting from Middle School students is that they see the value in getting feedback towards helping them improve their craft.  What they also see is that I am not the only one who can give quality feedback.  The next step in a connectivist framework is of course to have students seek feedback from students outside their classroom – which is exactly what we did – we had students offering feedback between classes, grades, etc.  Our next step as a department – open it out further.  I am looking for an art class to partner with – I am hoping to develop a digital “art buddies”  scenario – where students can and will comment on one another’s artwork from another school.  Any one interested? Know any one who is, at your school?


What I especially love is when I show them that their artwork is part of my learning network.  In the past year and a half I will often ask students if they are willing to have their artwork be posted on my twitter account.  As Middle School students some have their own accounts, but I share with them that one of the ways I look to improve my teaching of Art is by using twitter to inform me of any new and exciting ideas, connect with other art teachers, and share their work.  Modelling this social behaviour is important as it helps to legitimize my claims about why we make art.

a) to say something about how we directly connect to the world we live in.

b) to impart a touch of ourselves upon others.

c) to keep our hands, and minds busy.


Don’t worry – a student already pointed out that “Woah ! Crazy good!” was not high quality feedback.

The Future is Pretty Soon

When searching about the future of education I came across this article from 2002 from James Levin, about the future of education in 2020.  What is crazy is that as I am reading this twelve year old paper, I am also downloading a copy of the NMC Horizon’s Report  about the next steps in tech education over a 1 – 5 year time span.  I loved reading through both of these documents one after another.  I found many more similarities than I thought I might.  Makerspaces, and networked learning are two that stick out in my mind and announces that perhaps the future will come early, as according to NMC both are well within the one year or less category.

15 Years From Now

I may not be teaching – but you can guarantee I will be learning.  My hope is that the world will need another gardener, and I will answer that call.