Managing Classroom Management

“When I was a teacher, I’d walk into the classroom. I stood at the board. I was the man. I directed operations. I was an intellectual and artistic and moral traffic cop, and I – and I would direct the class, most of the time.”  Frank McCourt

Believe me, I know I’m showing my age by quoting Frank McCourt here. The kids may have never heard of him, but we older folks know what a brilliant writer he was. In his 2005 memoir, Teacher Man, McCourt tells his stories about teaching English to high school students. I chose this quote because I think all teachers can relate to it. Many of us feel this way, others of us feel we should feel this way, but don’t.

This post is being shared as part of the Art Ed Bloggers Network, comprised of art educators who post about a common topic on the second Tuesday of the month. The topic this month is Classroom Management.

Rather than talk about traditional classroom management such as behaviors, routines, and room set up, I want to talk about facilitating art classes through learning management systems for centralized delivery of instruction, student accountability, and to make a teacher’s life a little easier. I encounter many art educators who can’t fathom how this applies to the art room, so I’d like to give a few examples. My district uses Google Classroom and I’ve been using it with my classes for the past three years.

Google Classroom is really easy to use. It is intuitive and although Google continues to make changes based on input from teachers, it is easy to keep up with the changes. I love it for the centralized delivery of instruction – the assignment you post can be accessed at any time by students and can be augmented with in-class reminders and explanation as needed to meet the needs of all learners. Also, parents can be invited to follow the class, which is so helpful with school-to-family communication.

I also love the option to assign a question to the class and receive individual responses in private comments or as posts to a stream everyone in the class can read and then respond to when appropriate. Often the quiet kids won’t speak in front of the class and posting privately is a big help in hearing those voices that are otherwise silent. Another way to do this is through Google Forms – surveys for groups or individuals. They can be linked directly to a Google Classroom assignment or announcement.

Of course, Google Classroom is perfect for a centralized delivery of resources as well. Teachers can make them available in folders within the class or through assignments or announcements. Google Docs can be dispersed as one Doc to be collaboratively edited or delivered individually to each of the students.

Other resources easily delivered through Google Classroom are links to websites, videos, or project sites as in the image below, the student page of a project based learning unit Google Site.

Perhaps the most helpful thing about Google Classroom in the art room is the benefit of students taking photos of their artwork and turning it in at all phases of the process, not just at the end. This is also a good option for formative assessment in the art room – for example asking students to draw a still life or self portrait (or something) without instruction. The teacher can see what the student(s) already knows and can plan instruction accordingly. When most art teachers see between 400-800 students per year, this is SO much better than rifling through hundreds of pieces of artwork. Plus there is something about looking at all of the pieces within a class at once that comparisons and groupings can be better created.

Another Google tool I want to use with my students is Google Keep. I began using it this summer and I really like it. For me it will replace BlendSpace, which I use to gather websites, images, articles, etc for a topic. With Keep, one can add all of those things plus direct uploads from Gmail and Docs. I expect this will be a good tool for making thinking visible with my art students, whether individually or in groups.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a large group of teachers (35+) in Florida to facilitate their professional development exploration of Technology in Art Education. I eventually named the session ARTnology. In speaking with the Instructional Technology Director for the district, I learned that they used Canvas as the learning management system. I was familiar with the platform from my job as a  part-time online coach for the past two years with Harvard Graduate School of Education, but didn’t know the ins and outs of setting up classes.

I set about learning the platform the way I always learn – by doing it. I created a class in canvas for the art teachers who would be at the ARTnology workshop. This way, we could both learn the platform. Only a few of the art teachers were currently using Canvas, and as stated above, many couldn’t fathom its use in the art classroom. I posted a few discussion questions to get the ball rolling and the active discussion ensued.

Canvas includes the option to click on “Student View”, which is really helpful and reassuring. I remember when I first started using Google Classroom, asking for a student email address for myself so I could log in and see the platform from the student perspective. This feature is built-in to Canvas (see side bar right below).

The trickiest part of learning this platform was in understanding the terminology and hierarchy such as Modules, which is different from Google Classroom. Although Google Classroom has some changes this year and one of them is the ability to group content together in Modules. I haven’t used it yet, but I expect it will work similarly to Canvas.

As we compared notes in the PD workshop, we found that both of our districts used different grading platforms than the learning management systems we employ. Although grading in Google Classroom can be exported as csv files (comma separated values) which work well with Excel or Sheets, it is not compatible with our grading platform.

One aspect of Canvas that is quite appealing to art teachers is the option for students to create e-portfolios. Students upload their work to their own file and the file follows them through the grade levels.

Classroom Management in the traditional sense is full of systems, routines, and processes. Introducing learning management systems to art classes eliminates some of these and streamlines instruction and accountability for all students. Learning management systems mimic systems currently used in the workplace. Once students are comfortable with a platform, they can take ownership of their work and their progress, and will become accustomed to reflection as a regular part of art making.

When Frank McCourt states above, “I was the man. I directed operations” we probably all share a common visualization – teacher at the front of the room, students waiting for the next instruction, daring not to take their education into their own hands. With learning management systems, students actively contribute to the classroom systems and processes while the teacher provides the structure for them to build upon – like the Wizard of Oz. And if you use it enough consistently, the kids will run with it as if it were their own and will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

The Wizard Revealed – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1939

Thanks to the Art Ed Bloggers Network for giving me a chance to think about classroom management. Now that this is done I can begin to wrap my head around setting up classes for 2018/19. I look forward to implementing the new elements Google has added to Classroom.

This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the second Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.

Participating Art Teacher Blogs:

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