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Sketchbooks and Artsonia

Here it is Friday already and as I look back on the week I think two things: 1. busy 2. hot 


We began the week by making sketchbooks with 23″ x 35″ text paper and 15.5″ x 11.5″ cover stock. Students painted their covers last week using watered-down tempera paint applied with straws (blowing), dripping, splattering, with combs for texture and paper towels for daubing over solid white full-strength tempera applied in a previous class.

Students will use the sketchbooks for daily Creativity Sparks (bellringers), planning projects, and reflection. They responded to the first Creativity Spark over the past two days: If you were not here, doing what you’re doing right now, where would you be and what would you be doing? Although alotted 15 minutes to respond in class, many students need more time, so I will share their work once most students are finished.


Before constructing the sketchbooks, students took photos of their covers with their iPads. Over the past two days they uploaded them to Artsonia and added artist statements. The Abstract Art cover gallery is here.

Students may not have artwork posted for a few reasons:

  1. They missed the class when we made the covers
  2. Their Artsonia account has not yet been authorized by a parent/guardian (contact me at agentili@mursd.org for help)
  3. I sent the work back to her/him to be edited (all work has to be approved by me before it is posted)

Here is a video of the process for uploading to Artsonia, which I made really easily with the new screen casting option on iPads with the ios 11 update:

If they had created a Digital Dot on the iPad (an extension to the augmented reality Dot) students uploaded those to Artsonia as well. The Digital Dot gallery is here.

I also enrolled myself as a student in Artsonia so I could see what parents/guardians receive when authorizing and after artwork is published. These are screenshots of what to expect (substitute your child’s first name for MrsGentili):

Developed by art teachers for art teachers, Artsonia is very secure and concerned with student privacy. That’s a good thing!

Here is a photo of one side of the room showing me their screens so I can make sure we are all ready for the next step of instruction on how to upload to Artsonia:

Next up in the 5/6 art room? Clay! Stay tuned…





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Getting It Done

Mid-way through the third week-ish of school, so nine days in, we are settling in and already having meaningful experiences. Thanks to first day roll-outs of iPads, we were able to get right to work (thank you Mr. Quinn and tech crew). I have been introducing the tech components of our routines through authentic processes and it is going well.

Google Classroom

At this time, all students have enrolled in their Google Classroom (GC) classes, which is new to 5th grade students and parents. I will be using GC to send out assignments, collect images of finished work, and distribute resources and demos. In the art room, students take photos of their artwork at varying stages and post the photos to GC for me to see. Students will also write artist statements to reflect on their work. My students and I have found GC to be super helpful over the past couple of years with the centralized instruction and efficient sharing of resources it offers.

I have enabled parent emails for all of the classes. Parents may sign in to receive summaries of our weekly activity. You may not actually participate in the class, but instead observe what we are doing. For information on just how to do that, visit Guidelines for Guardians. Please know if you ever have questions about your child’s class, you can always email me at agentili@mursd.org.


These codes have been altered and won’t allow access to classes…muahahahaha!


All student names and parent emails as provided to the district have been uploaded to Artsonia, our online portfolio. I used the first email account associated with each student. Most families have responded to the email received from Artsonia and granted permission for their child to participate. If you are having trouble doing that, please let me know so I can help you.

Art Club

Art Club is starting on September 27. Art Club meets on Wednesdays after school and runs independent of Enrichment, although it follows the same schedule. Please download this file: Art Club 1 2017.18 to register your child for grades 5/6 Art Club.

Flat Clay! What Did You Say?

On Tuesdays after school we’ll be getting our hands nice and dirty with clay. See the description below within the Enrichment brochure and register here.


International Dot Day

I have saved the best for last!Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.34.06 PM

In the Miscoe Hill 5/6Art room we have had a blast creating dots and watching them come to life using the Quiver app on iPads. Why create dots? Because of the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds. Here is a narrated video of the story:

We colored in templates made by Quiver and then used the app to view the dots we have made. Quiver uses Augmented Reality to transform the dots into dynamic, moving dots. You can download the Quiver app to any mobile device, print the template, and view the dots with Augmented Reality.

As students view their dots with augmented reality, I’ve been capturing them in videos on my iPad. Here is a compilation of some of their artwork and our chats as they viewed their work with augmented reality:

Nice work, right? The video will be posted on the International Dot Day wall and on Twitter with the hashtag #DotDay17. Almost ten million dot makers will participate in International Dot Day this year!

To see a heart-warming story about one a former student and the impact Dot Day had on her, please follow this link: Shea on Fablevision 

And always remember:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.32.46 PM


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We Remember

My thoughts on the Monday morning of the sixteenth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/2001:

As I walk through the halls of my school, the same school where I was teaching third grade on that day, I think: “We were here when it happened.” As I pass by classrooms and see the teachers with whom I shared shock and horror on that day, I think: “We have never been the same.” And as I look at the students going about their normal student lives, I think: “None of these kids had been born then. They will never know the fear and anger their parents felt as the drama played out for weeks and months following the event. And they will learn about this in class and in books, as removed and dispassionate as my generation was in learning about historical events when we were young.” 

The following is from my social media post on September 11, 2013:


Flag pins made by third grade students following 9/11/2001

I wore this “flag” pin to school today, as I have for the past 12 years. I was a third grade classroom teacher on 9/11/2001 and had a lovely class of 26 or so kids who I had just met a few weeks earlier. We were just settling in to our school day when an urgent announcement was made for all teachers to check their email. The email informed us of the terrorist attacks and asked to keep our cool and not to talk to our students about it. That was a tall order. We had so many questions. We had email, but few of us had cell phones or cell service then, so we didn’t have access to news or each other. The school internet was shut down almost immediately. Teachers talked quietly in hallways, in doors between classes, and at lunch we gathered around a TV in the teachers room and watched in horror as the planes hit the towers, over and over again. And then we returned to our classrooms. Numb. What a long, difficult day it was. 

My son was in the same school with me, at that time in a fifth grade classroom with a teacher I trusted and respected. Still, somewhere in the middle of the day, I snuck a moment to go across the school and up the stairs to simply look at him, to see for myself that he was okay. I had to see him.

Later that day, the administrators went class-to-class in the 5th and 6th grade classrooms to tell the kids what had happened. I grew concerned for my third graders, who rode the same buses with the older kids. Although they are young adults now, I can still visualize their little faces as we gathered around for circle time at the end of the day. “You will hear stories from other kids on the bus about bad things that happened today,” I told them, trying hard to keep it together, “Just promise me that you’ll try not to listen, and wait until you get home to let your parents be the first ones who you talk to about what happened.” 

The days that followed were full of questions, theories, and patriotism. My classroom became a safe haven, a respite from the incessant news reports. My students had a great need to “do something to help”. We made the pins in the photo above and sold them for $1 each. We also made a simpler version with just 6 large beads on a large safety pin. Entire extended families worked on the pins at home. Parents gravitated to the classroom and helped my third graders produce pin after pin. Together we raised several hundred dollars for George Bush’s “America’s Fund for Afghan Children” .

Today is Monday, September 11. My third grade class of 2001 students are now 24 or 25 years old. I wonder what they remember from our shared experience sixteen years ago. I wonder if they or their families still have the pins we made. I wonder what they will tell their own children about that day as they bring them into this world over the next decade. Lastly, I hope I did well by them and their families on September 11, 2001 and in the weeks and months that followed.

We remember.

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That Mona Obsession, Tho

As we finish up our second week of school, I’m happy to say we are all settling in to the 2017/2018 school year. My students are always curious about the collection of Mona Lisa copies and parodies on the wall by my desk. I’m told there are 48 of them at this time. I like to officially introduce “my little obsession with Mona” as a welcome to the art room with this presentation, which I think I started in 2014 and every year I add a few more images. Click on Mona to start the presentation and click on the arrows once in there to progress to the next slide:

Enjoy and have a terrific weekend!

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Couldn’t Make Open House?

Couldn’t make it Open House tonight? No worries at all!

This is a super busy time of year and one can’t do everything! It was a pleasure to see so many parents and guardians tonight and I appreciate your stopping by to say hi and check out the art room. If you weren’t able to make it, please know you can stop by any time. Here is what the room looks like in a 360 Panorama (click on the photo to see the room): 

Open House visitors enjoyed the following video, which shows highlights of last year’s 5/6 Miscoe Hill Art Program and should give you some idea of what to expect this year (click on the photo to see the video):

Also available was the back-to-school letter containing a breakdown of grading criteria and my contact information. Here is a link to the letter: Welcome to 5/6 Art 2017

Speaking of contact information, I emailed every address I had for my students’ parents last week. If you did not receive an email from me, please let me know at agentili@mursd.org 

It was a pleasure to meet some of you last night and I look forward to meeting the rest of you one day soon.



Teaching for Artistic Behavior: #TAB Institute 2017

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

Teaching for Artistic Behavior

In the world of Art Education today, the pedagogical practice of Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) has become a movement toward affording students the opportunity for individualized creativity and away from the one-project-at-a-time-for-all-students approach. The movement is strong and has been energized through social media, with about 8500 members total in the eleven TAB groups I counted on Facebook. Early on, art educators were quick to harness the power of the professional learning network through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as many are the only art educator in a school and have actively sought out collegiality for affirmation and counsel. The TAB professional learning network is huge.

Originally developed in the mid-1990’s, established in 2001, and formally incorporated in 2007, TAB was founded by Katherine Douglas and John Crowe with Pauline Joseph and Diane Jaquith after exploring and collaborating around this constructivist approach to teaching art. The Teaching for Artistic Behavior website is a wonderful resource for everything TAB. To see a TAB art classroom in action, watch this video by Katherine Douglas of students working on a cardboard (and so much more) ship.

TAB is the foundation for Choice-Based Art Education, which is a newly created interest group of the National Art Education Association (NAEA). In fact, it was as I sat in the 2016 NAEA Delegates Assembly as one of the two Massachusetts delegates and listened to proposals for the establishment of the group that my interest in TAB was piqued. Having been interested in both the Reggio Emilia and Montessori methods when I was an elementary regular educator, the student-centered approach was familiar. Over recent years, the terms “Choice-based,” “Teaching for Artistic Behavior,” “TAB,” “TAB-Choice” and “Centers approach” for art education are often interchanged.  In regular education, current related terms include Student-Driven, Choice, and Inquiry. Current regular education Choice concepts include 20% Time (from Google), Genius Hour (from Apple), and, to an extent, Project Based Learning. Student choice and student voice are certainly popular topics in education today. As of late, through my interest in technology, I have often found myself with one foot in each of the domains of art education and regular education. It was with this in mind I enrolled in the Teaching for Artistic Behavior Graduate Course and Summer Institute held at Massachusetts College of Art and Design two weeks ago.

The Tree House residence at MassArt

This is the fourth summer of the program, and for the past couple of years I have watched it come and go, thinking “I should do that”. I signed on in the spring and was glad to return to my alma mater for a week in July, although at their “new” campus on Huntington Avenue. MassArt is where I earned my undergraduate degree in painting 30+ years ago when the campus was sprawled across Brookline Avenue, from Longwood Avenue to Overland Street. The Overland Street building held the student studios, overlooking Fenway Park. Those were the days.

Day One:

Katherine Douglas

Two weeks ago, though, we were ensconced in the new Design and Media Center at MassArt for the TAB course. We met on Sunday night for dinner and introductions and the week began at 9 am on Monday morning with choices (of course) of programming depending on one’s interests. I chose to attend the TAB 101 session with TAB founder, Katherine Douglas. The slides Katherine used as reference can be found here. The slides create a great framework for understanding TAB, but it was pure Katherine Douglas who breathed life into them for us. She is funny and her anecdotes are entertaining, yet she can’t help but exude  wisdom and insight garnered from many years teaching elementary art in a public school, riding the waves of budget shortfalls and challenging administrators, all the while forging a brave, new path for art education. Here are my SketchNotes from the first day of the course:

SketchNote One

These are a few bulleted items from Katherine’s presentation:

  • 3 Tenets of TAB:
    • What do artists do?
    • The student is the artist
    • The classroom is the studio
  • Choice: Children were rushing through planned projects to draw on the chalkboard
  • Centers: Survival strategies when insufficient supplies led to centers approach
  • Scheduling: 5 minute demos to introduce a new center to make the most of short art periods
  • Differentiation: “Teaching art was like making Thanksgiving dinner – the beans are raw while the rolls are burned”.
  • Assessment: “We know what the children know by watching them.”
  • Guiding question: “How can you make your art different from everyone else’s artwork?”
  • Mediums:There are 3D people stuck in a 2D world”
  • Reflection: Five minute museum
  • Sharing: Art show for only highest grade level
  • Pedagogy: John Crowe’s Theory of Everything –
    • I do it/You do it
    • I challenge/You wrestle
    • You choose/I support
  • Early colleagues: John Crowe, Pauline Joseph (see more in SketchNote #7)
  • Student-Directed: Students will decide –
    • How to do it
    • When to do it
    • If they’ll do it
  • Constructivist theory: Start where they are
  • TAB Feedback Loop – How TAB offers feedback between students and teachers: see this Prezi by Katherine Douglas

Ellyn Gaspardi

Spending the morning with Katherine Douglas would have been enough to keep my mind busy, yet I chose to spend the afternoon with 6th grade art educator, Ellyn Gaspardi, in a breakout group with other middle school art educators. Drawing from many years of experience in her TAB classroom, Ellyn had a lot to share with us, which she did with both passion and humor. She also challenged us to make comparisons with our current teaching practice in order to envision the TAB approach in our classrooms. Ellyn shared some components of her program and her thoughts on running a choice-based classroom:

  • Elements and Principles of Art: To be taught as part of work underway, not as separate concepts
  • Studio Habits of Mind: around the room or posted if used for assessment (rubric)
  • Assessment: “In an art classroom, grading and assessment are about square pegs and round holes.”
  • Over-arching Themes: 
    • K – 4: Exposure
    • 5 – 8: Identity
    • 9 – 12: Expression
  • Guiding Principles:
    • Ignite Intrinsic Motivation
    • Teach how to generate ideas and solutions
    • Give permission to adapt and collaborate
    • Give permission to inquire and debate

I was inspired by Ellyn and her approach to TAB and am hoping to visit her in her Massachusetts art classroom during the next school year.

Day Two:

On the second day, we broke into grade level groups to further explore the possibilities for TAB with our student demographics. As Art Department Chair for my district, I wanted to understand TAB implementation at every level, so I spent some of the day with the middle school group, and some of the day with the high school group. I had learned a lot about TAB in the elementary classroom in Katherine’s morning talk the day before. Here are my SketchNotes from Day Two:

Ian Sands

Let’s just say if you follow art education online at all, you know Ian Sands. Ian has gained notoriety over the past few years writing often provocative posts against one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter approaches to teaching art. Birch trees are his particular nemesis. (Insert Ian eye roll.)

Ian facilitated the high school art teacher group, which I waltzed in and out of, depending on what was happening in the other groups. I appreciate having that flexibility, and am especially happy to have information on TAB for all grade levels to share with my district as a result.

Ian shared common practices in his art room including examples of assessments and critiques, which are especially important at the high school level. Whereas most elementary and middle school art work can be assessed with rubrics or simple evaluations, high school grading bears more consequence because of GPAs and college acceptances. Conversely, at least for me, it is easier to conceptualize a TAB classroom at the high school level where independence and prior knowledge is greater, so less time is needed to focus on the centers and classroom configuration. In fact, although our high school is project-based, the physical space is more like a TAB room and students receive instruction in the style of the 5-minute demo and rely on peers for additional guidance.

The rubric Ian shared is in the SketchNote above and below. Students receive either an E, C, or a D, based on their level of engagement. I like it and am considering using it in my middle school classroom along with the Studio Habits of Mind already in use.

Assessment rubric by Ian Sands

Reflections and blogging are also key in Ian’s classroom and we discussed many options for blog websites. It is especially important that the platform is free and can accommodate images and video for art students. We discussed Google Docs for G Suite schools, Weebly, Seesaw for younger students, and Satori (not free). Other blog platforms (Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress) are often blocked in school districts.

Day Three

While we had focused on the “nuts and bolts” of TAB over the past two days, day three brought a departure from that close look and offered us a chance to consider all populations in our schools. The day began with a panel discussion on Cultural Competency in the Classroom, with Cecilia Mendez, Beth Balliro, Chandra Ortiz, Ekua Holmes, and Mariana Yates Cabral and moderated by Julie Toole. This was an important discussion about maintaining trust in the multicultural classroom, with the art room as a sanctuary. At one point Mariana shared that how important it was to her to have been asked her name and after saying it with a hard R in Mariana, being asked how it was said at home. It was then she realized she should insist that her name be pronounced correctly, with the rolled R of the Spanish pronunciation. She then said, “Hey, if I can learn names like ‘McConaughey’, others can learn to say my name correctly”, which elicited a big laugh from the crowd that did not diminish its poignancy.

On the third day I also participated in a session with Ian Sands about how to incorporate themes and units in the TAB classroom, which was good to see at the high school level to compare with the way I use them in my middle school classes. I also participated in two workshops with Diane Jaquith, about the Studio Habits of Mind and Curriculum.

Here is the SketchNote from the day:

Diane Jaquith

One really helpful session was in evaluating artwork with the Studio Habits of Mind. Diane Jaquith led the session using the artwork each of us had submitted for a group show. Diane had printed sticky notes with the Studio Habits on them and we went around the gallery and affixed them to the wall next to the artwork. This activity helped me realize that assessment can be done based on finished or nearly finished artwork. Normally, I use the Studio Habits to evaluate students on their process, and it was interesting to consider evaluating their finished work this way as well. This would also be a clear way for students to understand the Studio Habits of Mind, through using them as criteria for a peer critique.

My impression is that Diane is the glue of the TAB Institute. She is the one who clarifies the schedule and shares all the plans for the day. She seems to never tire with this work, and is still able to field questions and lead sessions competently and without skipping a beat.

I was also lucky to attend a session on curriculum with Diane. I had been curious about TAB and curriculum. If students are each exploring their own art at their own pace, with materials they choose over other materials, I wondered how we might define this within a curriculum map. Diane shared a few different approaches and reassured us that it is understood we all have different situations with different requirements and expectations from our leadership and community, so we must remain flexible. Fortunately, TAB affords flexibility. If we consider the main goal of Teaching for Artistic Behavior to be creating a student-centered learning environment, the focus for TAB curriculum is on the essential questions with students choosing how to explore them. In other words, rather than defining projects within the curriculum, we establish essential questions and provide media with which they can be explored. One way to facilitate the use of varied media by students is to provide a chart where students indicate the center at which they had worked at the end of class. After four classes at one center, they are required to try something else. We all know the students who would be content to draw Anime characters every class and never explore anything else, for instance, and a chart such as this encourages them to move away from this comfort zone.  I am working on curriculum mapping as a summer project, so this session with Diane was timely.

A recent quote by Diane on defining TAB: “…a teacher can offer a ‘modified choice’ program but there is no such thing as ‘modified TAB.’ Here is why: TAB is a philosophy, a way of approaching your art program in which every decision made is with the intent of developing artistic behaviors and moving in the direction of full student independence. If this is what guides your decision-making as a teacher, then you are a TAB teacher.”

Diane Jaquith has co-authored two books about TAB – Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom with Katherine Douglas, and The Learner-Directed Classroom: Developing Creative Thinking Skills Through Art with Nan Hathaway. These are the de facto bibles for the TAB approach. Throw in Creative and Mental Growth Viktor Lowenfeld and John Dewey’s Art as Experience, and you’ve got the superfecta of reference books for your choice-based art education classroom.

Field Trip

Wednesday night brought pouring rains and a field trip to the Parts and Crafts Hackerspace/MakerSpace in Somerville, MA. This was a great opportunity to see other methods and materials that might be included in a choice-based art room. Today’s artists are not limited by traditional art materials (think James Turrell) so electronics, 3D printing, and other non-traditional materials should be available in art classrooms today. Parts and Crafts was a good place to visit to see the realistic possibilities for adding these elements to an art program. I say “realistic” because too often MakerSpaces are all about the materials and less about the materials as tools for planned actions. I felt right at home among the stacked containers of materials and supplies, as I think any art teacher would. We are accustomed to having materials at the ready in order to bring to life whatever it is our student artists have envisioned. This is why I believe a school MakerSpace should be an extension of the art room. Here is my SketchNote from the field trip:

Studio Centers

Ongoing throughout the week were studio centers as provided for and set up by teachers attending the TAB institute. The studio was managed by Clyde Gaw, 30 year veteran art educator and TAB educator for the past ten years in Indianapolis, Indiana. Many participants spent their evenings in the studio with Clyde, creating both artwork and camaraderie. I had chosen to commute from my home 30 miles west of Boston, driving within the bewitching hours pre-6:15 am and post-6:30 pm in order to spend an hour in the car each way rather than two hours because of traffic. Due to this schedule, I was not able to participate in studio time, and so didn’t get to know Clyde very well, aside from some greetings and funny commentary we exchanged.

The purpose of the studio is to let participants experience first-hand the way studio centers are set up in a choice-based art classroom. Materials and instructions for their use are provided, opportunities for collaborative murals and other projects are established, challenges for experimentation are defined, yet the artists are free to explore and create independently. Examples of studio centers can be seen in the SketchNote below:

Day Four

This last day of formal programming began with a fantastic presentation by Julia Golden-Battle and Julie Toole on LGBTQ in education and the formation of gender identities within young people.  The underlying theme of the 2017 institute was Teaching All Students – the inclusion of this segment was essential and very well done. It was at this session that I learned about the Gender-Unicorn, a diagram for which you can see in the SketchNote below:

The next part of the day included an Un-Conference, where participants offered to facilitate sessions on TAB and choice-based related topics. I facilitated a session on Integrating Technology in the Art Classroom, which fell under the heading of STEAM on the un-conference schedule. Following the un-conference model meant I hadn’t prepared a formal presentation and had just a few minutes to gather some resources to share (which is half the fun of it). I went through the icon folders on my iPad and collected pertinent apps in one “TAB” folder and also went though my photos and videos on my phone and collected examples of student work I had documented previously in a shared folder I could access with my iPad during the un-conference. I have been presenting on this topic at various conferences since 2013 (since my district became a 1:1 learning environment with iPads), so I had a good idea of what I needed to illustrate methods by which teachers and students can use technology in art education. This is a potential future post of its own, and not by any means a comprehensive list, but here are just a few of the tech ideas I shared:

  • Google Classroom or other Learning Management System 
    • for centralized delivery of instruction and resources that students can access whenever they need them
    • where students can “turn in” photos of their work at all stages for your evaluation or to ask questions and share artist statements
    • for peer critique or discussion about artwork, concepts, or art history, etc
    • for timelines and check lists for project work
  • Artsonia 
    • an online public gallery of student work where student identity is protected
    • to share artwork with parents and school community
    • for students to develop a following of family and friends as cheerleaders for their artmaking
  • Document Camera and Projector
    • Breathes new life into the 5-minute demo where all students can see what you’re demonstrating from comfortable seating around the room, rather than clustering around a crowded demo space
    • Students can share their work for all to see easily from around the room
  • 3D Printing 
    • as an art medium in the student-centered studio space
    • for creating tools to be used with other mediums such as plates for printmaking or dies for ceramics
    • as a prototyping tool
  • 3D Modeling Apps
    • Morphi
    • 3Dc.io
  • Drawing and Painting Apps
    • Sketchbook Express
    • ArtRage
    • Procreate
    • Brushes
    • Paper by 53
    • Adobe Sketch
  • Apps for Sharing and Collaboration
    • Padlet
    • Popplet
    • Google docs
  • Photography Apps
    • Photoshop Express
    • Photo Wizard
  • Collage 
    • Pic Collage

We also talked about “app-smashing” which is using one app for a process, and adding in one or more additional apps and process(es) to accomplish a finished piece or product. With all of the apps and equipment mentioned above, they can be stretched and used for other than their primary intent with just a little bit of imagination.

SPARC Mobile

Later in the day, Ekua Holmes brought around the MassArt SPARC Mobile, which is a traveling art van that makes stops around the communities of Boston to bring art making opportunities to the people there. This was a fabulous addition to the day as the idea of a traveling art mobile is genuinely exciting. The van is a stock van that has been retrofitted with shelving and dividers designed by the MassArt industrial design department and it is chock full of colorful art supplies. You can read more about it here.

Day Five

Last day. Sad. If we all weren’t so exhausted, it would have been really sad. I know the people who had been staying at MassArt’s residence, the Treehouse, had been attending TAB sessions all day, exploring Boston in the evening, and finishing off with late night sessions in the studio and they were happily beat. I was overwhelmed with all I had taken in from so many inspiring and knowledgable instructors, as well as worn by the commute. (While driving to and from Boston throughout the week I had compiled a top ten list titled “All I Need to Know I Learned on the Mass Pike” – it helped.) Here are Friday’s SketchNotes:

So then, the last day was a literal and figurative “brain drain” where we took apart and packed up the studio and gallery as well as listening to a few more words of wisdom. We also worked in our grade level groups to create action plans for going forward. This is tricky for me.

Two summers ago I was thrilled to attend Project Zero Classroom at Harvard Graduate School of Education, a week-long program where I also learned so much and first heard the advice, “change only 10% of your teaching at a time”, which has stayed with me. I don’t know for sure, but I think this is based on the idea that whatever problems you currently have, there’s pretty much zero chance that everything needs to change – you must be doing something right! Making change a little at a time gives us something to reflect against, like maintaining a control group in a science experiment. I know for a fact that a lot of what is happening in our/my 5/6 art classroom is good, in fact I swear, some of it is great.

I have some juggling to do with some pretty awesome project-based learning units already in play, some classroom routines that work really well (handmade sketchbooks and creativity prompts), and a boatload of integrated technology. I expect my focus is going to be on the idea, “Students choose how to do it, when to do it, and if they’ll do it”, and on finding ways to afford more opportunity for them to make these choices.

While I know some of this summer’s course participants are making sweeping changes and “doing TAB” completely as they return to school this fall, my action plan is to first evaluate my current practice to measure how much of what we do is student-centered, and whether or not the part that isn’t is valuable, meaningful, and effective. John Crowe’s Theory of Everything (I do it/You do it. I challenge/You wrestle. You choose/I support) will be the device against which I gauge my pedagogy. John Crowe himself says every good classroom has all of these stages in play at one time or another. The experiences I create for my students sometimes include I do it/You do it as an introduction, always include I challenge/You wrestle as practice and usually include You choose/I support for the final project. My first goal will be to allow enough time for the choice phase of a project.

There are particular elements of the Teaching for Artistic Behavior course that I want to implement, no matter what. For instance:

  1. I really like Ian’s rubric on engagement.
  2. I also love the idea of studio centers and the freedom derived from having several mediums to choose from.
  3. The cardboard challenge is calling me. I once taught a summer class in a program for gifted kids and for our “Inside the Castle Walls” class, we built a castle out of cardboard that completely FILLED a classroom at a local vocational high school. My students and I already watch Caine’s Arcade every year, a cardboard challenge is due.
  4. Peer critiques using the Studio Habits of Mind
  5. Keeping a watchful eye on the culture of my classroom and trying to cultivate a community of tolerance and diversity.
  6. As department chair, share my TAB experience with my colleagues and help to facilitate classroom visits to Ellyn’s school and to an elementary school in a nearby town where there is a TAB practitioner.
  7. Continue to work on developing ideas for an effective MakerSpace where art is valued as one of the STEAM subjects with the same importance as the other subjects.
  8. Revise the art show goals to include more student curation of content.
  9. Keep in mind there are “3D people stuck in a 2D world” and provide opportunities for my “cayenne pepper kids” to exercise their strengths.
  10. Lastly (for now), post the question, “How can you make your artwork look different from everyone else’s artwork?” in the classroom. Perhaps in a thought bubble, with a bunch of question marks around it. Or maybe as crossroads with several paths as offshoots from the hub. Or maybe make a zonkey scratching his head in thought?

How to Draw a Zonkey by Ian Sands






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Exposition, Exploration, & Exit ISTE17 Part 6/6

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? —it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Massachusetts to Texas

I had to go all the way to Texas to have breakfast with my friend, Bethann Orr (@borr), Director of Technology in Barnstable, MA. Bethann and I run into each other at tech conferences around the state, but this is the first time we met in Texas! Bethann was staying at the famed-for-being-haunted Menger Hotel, so naturally we met there for breakfast. I love hanging out with Bethann to hear about tech life from her perspective as a director. I also loved hearing about what she is looking for at ISTE. We asked the server to take our photo with the hope of seeing ghosts in it later. See any?

See any on this photo of the lobby?

Yeah, me neither.

On the way to the convention center form the Menger Hotel, I stopped in to look at the architecture at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church right across the street. It’s a beautiful church, built in 1870, and literally built around by a shopping mall in the 1940s.

So of course I was curious to see what it looked like on the inside. With it’s elegant vaulting and flying buttresses, it is Gothic in style and beautiful to behold. I’m glad I took a moment to step inside.

Tools for Every Phase of the Project Cycle

Post ghost and beautiful church, I was back at ISTE for Tools for Every Phase of the Project Cycle with Suzie Boss (@suzieboss), Myla Lee (@MyTLee3) and Jane Krauss (@jkrauss). 

Right away the presenters had all 150 of us in audience collaborating on a Google Doc:

And using the app, Today’s Meet, to communicate with each other about our ideas for project based learning. I was fascinating to work this way and witness so many ideas being generated at the same time.

The presenters then outlined the steps through the project based learning process.

They provided a great list of phases of the tech tools that were mentioned:

Sparking Interest – Kahoot!

Question Finding, Problem-Posing – ArcView, TuVa

Research – Diigo, Google Alerts

Working with Experts – Twitter, Google +, Hangouts

Teamwork – Google Docs, Google Sites, SMS

Field Work – Phone cameras and video, STEM apps for gathering data

Project Management – Today’s Meet, Padlet, Trello

Constructing, Refining, Presenting Artifacts of Learning – Evernote Suite, Weebly, QR Codes

Reflecting – Periscope, Edublogs and youth publishing sites like Youth Voices

Knights of Make-A-Lot: Third Times the Charm

My last official session at ISTE17 was Knights of Make-A-Lot: Third Times the Charm  with Josh Ajima (@DesignMakeTeach), Diana Rendina (@DianaLRendina), Robert Pronovost (@pronovost), and Sarah Emerson (@gatethird). I enjoy seeing how others are incorporating 3D printing in their programs and this was a nice showcase. One project stood out as something my colleague, Jon Hansen (@MrHansenArt) might consider as he gets his feet wet with 3D printing in the 7th & 8th art classroom. Through a grant he is acquiring a gum ball machine (for which I am sure he has an awesome plan) yet may be interested in this project Josh showed where his students designed small trinkets to be 3D printed and then inserted into plastic gum ball containers for dispersement. How fun is this for a middle school?

It was also validating to see Robert Pronovost sharing Thinking Routines from Agency by Design (@AgencybyDesign) that I had shared in my We R Makers presentation just three days earlier. I’m glad to see the work of Project Zero Classroom’s Agency by Design become widespread.

Robert’s slide

Slide from my WeRMakers presentation

Expo Hall

ISTE is intense. The quantity of sessions and presentations is intense. The Poster sessions fill giant lobbies and hallways and can keep you busy for an entire afternoon as you weave your way through them and talk with people along the way. The keynotes are compelling and the Ignite sessions are fast and fascinating. You find yourself constantly checking the ISTE mobile app to see what your plans are, only to spot something else that looks interesting and try to then accomplish both sessions during the same time slot. This is the reason we did not make it to the Expo hall until the last day of ISTE, in the afternoon. And it closed at 2:00.

ISTE photo

That, and because I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular as I had been last year when I was looking to purchase at least one more 3D printer for the classroom. Last year I visited every 3D printer company who had a booth at ISTE and upon returning home, decided to purchase printers from two vendors I had spoken with in the Expo Hall. This year I wanted to visit their booths and thank them for a solid year of 3D printing. I also wanted to thank the tech support people who had been a big help throughout the year for various reasons. When you buy a product like a 3D printer, you are also establishing a relationship with the vendor and their support team. I value these relationships and am grateful for quick answers in the middle of a dense printing period.

Here with Bill from Polar3D

Because of ISTE’s excellent vendor directory in the mobile app, it was easy to find the Polar3D booth (@Polar3D) and the New Matter booth (@newmatter), which were the two vendors I had purchased printers from last year. It was great to put faces with telephone and email voices! Bill from Polar3D was showing a cool new printer that prints on a conveyor belt. Polar3D collaborated with PrintrBot (@printrbot) to develop this game changer:

I also checked in at the MakerBot booth (@makerbot) because my first 3D printer is a MakerBot Replicator II, which I received for free through a grant almost four years ago. I am a MakerBot ambassador for the MakerBot for Education program.  It was great to see what this company is up to and I look forward to the day when I can purchase one of their newer models as a lot has changed in four years. I was especially impressed by the castle in this photo and cannot wait to show my 6th grade students when they begin castle design during the next school year:


Of course none of our classroom 3D printing would be possible without design apps in our 1:1 iPad school. The next stop was at the Morphi booth (@morphiapp) which the app developer, Sophia, was sharing with MatterHackers (@MatterHackers) and Ultimaker (@Ultimaker). I had seen Sophia earlier in the week, and it was good to see her in the Expo Hall and to meet her partners there.

Sophia and I frame a model of a sports stadium designed with Morphi by one of my fifth grade students last spring

We took a little longer at the Expo Hall, but vendors were starting to pack up. One product that I really liked is the PadCaster (@PadCaster) mobile production studio for iPads. This is a pretty slick idea that makes a lot of sense to me. I could see my students sharing their commercials for our game design unit with videos made with PadCaster.

As we left the Expo Hall fully satiated with technology for education on so many levels, there was a little sadness that the “too-huge” world of ISTE was over, yet we were excited at the next crazy adventure on which we were about to embark.

During the convention I could never get a shot of this sign because there were always groups having their photo taken when I walked by

We had one more night left in San Antonio to see the things we had not yet seen. We decided to visit the San Antonio Museum of Art, and I’m so glad we did. The museum has a nice assortment of art from around the world from a variety of time periods, including a Copley (feels like home) and some bold contemporary art. What I love about visiting art museums in cities around the US is the regional art you find that you won’t see elsewhere. For example, there is a wonderful collection of earthenware tableaus by Mexican folk artists including Candelano Medrano, whose work brings me back to a visit to the Museum of International Folk Art in Sante Fe, NM eleven years ago.

This art inspired a multilevel collaboration (read about it here) at my school ten years ago as we created a world map upon which we placed tableaus of early civilizations and first peoples:

Photos - 06610


Here are some close-ups of Medrano’s work:

Another beautiful object at the museum is an archway outside in the courtyard. I was drawn to it by the mosaic work. I fell in love with it because of the peacocks:

Art-fulfilled for a little while, we left the museum, but not before spotting this mural at the rear of the parking lot:

Back at the hotel, we realized there was a swimming pool. It is over the road (literally) on an outcropping of the hotel on the fourth floor. It overlooks the convention center on one side and downtown San Antonio on the other side.

And suddenly there were bagpipes:

Awesome it was, but restful it was not! Nonetheless, with the heat in San Antonio, it was refreshing to chill in the pool. And then we went into our last night in San Antonio, savoring everything detail because we knew we were leaving in the morning.

Last morning in San Antonio

From here we would drive to Bandera, the self-proclaimed Cowboy Capital of the World, for some rest and relaxation.

And for this:

And a rodeo:

And this:

And this!

And some quiet restful peace:

The next morning, duly “cowboyed up”, we pulled out of Bandera to spend 24 hours in Austin before flying home. I wish we had more time in Austin, and I wish I had planned ahead to catch some quality music events there. Next time!

We flew out of Austin at 6:00 pm and were wheels down at Logan airport by 11:30 pm. And it was over. We loved it. Every bit of it – from frenetic ISTE to “mutton bustin” in Bandera to Sunday brunch in Austin. It has taken a few weeks to reflect on the experience through these blog posts. In pulling together photos and notes to write the posts, I feel like I am “wringing out” the moments to turn them into memories. I am still processing the information learned and evaluating how I will apply the ISTE experience during the 2017/2018 school year. Until then there is summer to enjoy with gardens to tend and road trips to lovely places, because…: “The road must eventually lead to the whole world.” ― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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