Summer Learning 3: TABnology

“I do it/You do it. I challenge/You wrestle. You choose/I support” – John Crowe, Theory of Everything

This isn’t the first time I’ve used this quote. It was at the top of the post I wrote about attending the TAB Institute at MassArt in the summer of 2017. If you read that post, you’ll understand the impact the course has on participants – art teachers from around the world. My sketchnotes from that week of professional development can be found here:

One of seven SketchNotes from TABweek – this from a field trip to a MakerSpace

There has been a real shift in art education away from the Pinterest derived, product-focused, cookie cutter art lessons of a decade ago thanks to the well-shared Studio Thinking and Teaching for Artistic Behavior philosophies of TAB. Many art educators today are integrating more choice than ever before in their art classes in an effort to engage students and provide the opportunity for students to discover their unique artistic voices and express themselves through their artwork.

TAB teachers typically set up their art classrooms to facilitate centers focused on different mediums, and minimize whole class instruction to demos and “bootcamps” where skills and challenges expose young artists to concepts and materials. One area that many art teachers find challenging is technology integration. When I participated in the course in 2017, I was called up to provide some impromptu tips and tricks about technology and that has evolved into a more formal arrangement where I prepare an actual presentation to share over a few sessions and provide a whole boatload of resources for art teachers. We affectionately refer to my session as TABnology. Thanks to Diane Jaquith for coming up with that title. I love it!

This year, TABnology took place on Thursday, July 11, in the afternoon. I went in early to socialize with old friends from the program and to catch a few sessions. I had a chance to sit in on the session Ian Sands was presenting about the Units he has developed for his advanced TAB high school program. And I got to spend some time in the TAB studio, which has enlarged to encompass three rooms, up from the one room we had in 2017. I should have taken photos, but didn’t. Bummer. Sorry.

Here is another quote I should share that compels me to add this post to my series of Summer Learning/Self-Directed Professional Development posts:

When I put together a presentation like the one for TABweek – I learn SO much. A lot of that learning is derived from reflection on my own classroom practices and the moments I witness my students catch on and run with specific elements of the program, especially with technology. As I fish through files of videos and photos of kids with their work or talking about their work, I am reminded of moments of their realizations and am also propelled toward developing new lessons around ideas that come from watching the way the kids interact with different media. For example, below, Matthew dS talks about designing a bridge with Morphi App for our “What’s in a City?” PBL unit:

As I presented on Thursday, I started the TAB presentation with a quick Mentimeter poll to gauge experience level within the group. I have used this poll before, and the results fall in line with past groups.

I have learned there is a difference in presenting to teachers with limited technology experience versus teachers who feel they are in the middle somewhere. Especially art teachers. There is a faction of art educators who are distinct purists about their approach to art education. These art teachers are committed to hands-on art making in the art room from the moment a student arrives until the moment class is over. I know this because I was once this way, too. However, through my own exploration of technology for art making, chiefly through the Every Day Drawing Challenge , which I developed and executed in 2013, I came to understand the power of technology in opening up possibilities for sharing ideas, stories, memories, and voice with art as the vehicle. Technology expedites the process and empowers artists to say what they want to say and move on. Here is an example:

An example of iPad art from the Every Day Drawing Challenge – this one about the moon landing 50 years ago: Draw a mailbox and the most important piece of mail you’ve ever received App: ArtStudio My dad wrote a letter to me when I was in Girl Scout Camp. He excitedly told the story of the moon landing on July 20, 1969. He described Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon with awe and expressed regret that I had not witnessed them while at my rustic camp. In the letter I wrote back to my dad I excitedly described how a TV was brought into the mess hall where all the campers and counselors gathered together and stayed up late watching the historical event. I still have my dad’s letter and it is one of the most important pieces of mail I have ever received…

Is it the best artwork I’ve ever produced? No. But it was executed within half an hour and provided an illustration for a story I wanted to tell. Could this have been done with traditional art materials? Yes. But I would not have learned any more about creating digital artwork. And I would have had to photograph the finished drawing to post it to social media, which is one of the goals of the challenge. The Every Day Drawing Challenge project was not only about learning to use an iPad to make art, it was about sharing the work on social media as part of a community of artists united by the year-long challenge. Did I learn to make art on an iPad with this challenge? Yes, I sure did. I also learned that there are infinite solutions to each prompt and design idea, because I could switch between ideas and designs immediately, without being bogged down by the trappings of traditional media.

That being said, I also love working with traditional media and in fact, am currently working with watercolor and clay, but I go to those experiences knowing I crave the messiness and challenge of a non-forgiving medium. There is no “back arrow” on the potter’s wheel. As it turns out, creativity through art making for me is all about intent, both in the end AND in the beginning.

There is no back arrow on the potter’s wheel

Many artists are working in digital media with phenomenal, museum-worthy results, from painting to animation to 3D modeling. That’s a topic for another day, the day when I reflect on Media Arts. Stay tuned.

In working with the TAB teachers, I share painting, drawing, collage, 3D modeling, graphic design and photography apps and corresponding online web platforms for both iOS and android devices, MacBooks, and ChromeBooks. I also share effective ways to get the most out of Google tools for both creation and classroom management. We also explore several sharing sites for artwork and assessment. We had just 50 minutes for each session. With more time, we could have engaged in “hands-on” art making and exploration.

The beautiful thing about integrating technology into the TAB art classroom is with just a few devices (iPad, tablet, laptop), students can work in centers or individually on their own pursuit of creating. The learning is then self-directed or collaborative. One thing I know for sure is that students love to assist each other in explaining and demonstrating technology tools. In a busy TAB classroom, this is a chance for the teacher to take a step back.

I recently reread The Open Art Room by Melissa Purtee and Ian Sands, and found I relate well to the concept of Units at the advanced level of TAB because of my own development of project-based cooperative learning units for my middle level art classroom. When students have access to resources whenever they need them, all types of learners will benefit and feel in control of their learning. I have found technology to be a huge asset in the centralized delivery of instruction, namely with Google Classroom and Google Sites. I see these working very well in the TAB art classroom for sharing resources, “bootcamps”, and critiques. Here is an example Google Site for our Imaginary City unit:

Home page for the Imaginary City PBL unit

At all levels, sharing sites are important. One long time favorite is Artsonia. If you can see the numbers in the screen capture below, you’ll see that in the seven years my students have been using Artsonia, they’ve uploaded almost 8500 artworks, 4500 of them had accompanying artist statements, and there were 1800 comments from friends and family (feedback). That’s a lot of community we’re creating by sharing artwork.

Artsonia by the numbers

And here is a screen capture of this past school year, including artist fans and artist awards:

Numbers from just the past school year 2018-2019

Using Artsonia in the TAB art classroom works well with just a few iPads or tablets, or even phones. Artsonia is just one example of many ways to share artwork. The reason I’m sharing it here is that I’m not sure I would have taken a look at the numbers if I hadn’t been including Artsonia in the TABnology presentation. Because I was reflecting on my experiences and assessing the value of one site over another in order to share only the most relevant with the art teachers, I’ve now taken stock and have a renewed commitment to include Artsonia in my art program.

Preparing for presentations is an authentic reason to assess your educational program as you reflect and ultimately rediscover the sparks you may have forgotten. Presenting and sharing opens you up for questions, connections, and feedback about what you’re doing. In the end, the audience gives to you as much as you give to them. Thank you to MassArt, Katherine Douglas and Diane Jaquith, and the TAB Institute for giving me an opportunity to learn.

This post is part three of a group of posts about my self-directed professional development in the summer of 2019. To see the others, search Summer Learning or 2019 Summer PD.



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