Last Saturday Kyle and I took a day trip to Grand Rapids for ArtPrize.  I spent a few hours on their website in the days leading up to Saturday, scrolling through the image gallery and reading the different artist statements.  You can create an online account to build collections of artworks you want to see during your visit.  I only wish you could organize your collections by location/neighborhood because it’s highly likely that your collection will include works from all over the city and that one day just won’t be enough time to see everything in your collection.  You can also vote for your favorite works, and the winner is rewarded with a large cash prize.

I will say ArtPrize has gone to great lengths to involve the public in the event.  Many of the works are outside or on display in business windows, meaning you can view the art during a stroll downtown.  You can go online, read about a particular work, and link a facebook update or tweet to the artwork’s page.  Plus, you get to vote on the winner.  You have a voice in awarding the “art prize.”  I love that the event is so community-focused.  Oftentimes, interacting with art is intimidating: visiting museums and galleries and going on guided tours doesn’t appeal to everyone.  Those art experiences are sometimes so centered on talking about technique and meaning and process that it makes viewing art seem like work.  Some people love it; but not everyone.  What’s so special about ArtPrize is that, yes, some of the art provokes a lot of discussion about technique, and meaning, and process.  But some of the art is also just fun, engaging to look at, fantastical, silly, playful, etc.  There’s really something for everyone – kids and adults, guys and gals, and both art-lovers and inexperienced art viewers.

While I had several artworks on my collection “list” to view, we only ended up seeing two of the works in person.  And that ended up being just fine.  We spent most of the day just wandering around and happening upon artworks.  While it was great being able to research a few select works that I was really interested in viewing and thinking about, it was also great being surprised by artworks at every shop window and corner.  It made for a cheap day-trip.  All we paid for was the gas money to drive out to Grand Rapids and for lunch.  But for free, we got several hours of seeing downtown and talking about all of the great art.

 Below are photos from our excursion.  Over the course of the next week or so, I’ll post individual artworks and talk about their different classroom applications.  The ArtPrize website is awesome in that it provides images of the artworks along with artist statements.  So even if you don’t go to ArtPrize, you can still view the works, build a collection, and use the images and artist statements in your teaching.  You could even have your students go online and curate a collection based on a particular theme, technique, medium, mood, process, etc.  Yay for FREE art resources!

"Fantastic Carousel of Dreams" by Jennifer Rutherford

"Norm" by John Andrews

"Making Rainbows" by Lynnea Strout

"Floral Flourish" by Donna Engstrom

"Bird Feeder" by Tom Sheerin

"Old Tired Crow" by Nick Jakubiak

I spent a good part of my summer creating my online classes using the Schoology website platform.   I developed just the first semester of curriculum, and now that I have a better feel for the ins-and-outs of Schoology - and plan on developing second semester this fall.  Having spent several weeks working on Schoology, I have a decent idea of its features - both the good and the bad.
- Free
- Any school can create an account with Schoology
- Resembles social networking sites so it's easy for those familiar with Facebook to navigate
- Crisp, clean layout is easy to follow
- Allows you to structure your curriculum in an organized, hierarchal format with main folders, sub folders, and so on
- Has a running sidebar of upcoming assignments/due dates on the right side of the screen to serve as reminders to students
- Teacher and students can create a profile complete with photo, mini bio, interests, etc. to help participants get to know one another
- Teacher and students can post updates and share links to relevant articles and YouTube videos
- You can develop quizzes and tests with a variety of selected response templates, not just multiple choice 
- Students can submit work privately through DropBox or publicly by posting a link to a discussion board
- Schoology tracks the students' grades
- Every assignment is automatically accompanied by a comment box - similar to a Facebook wall - where students can ask questions, you can clarify instructions, etc.
- You can set individual due dates for assignments, unlike some online learning platforms where the entire class is due at the end of a semester.  Setting individual due dates will help keep students on track to complete the course at a comfortable pace.
- You can create folders for whatever purpose you want.  I have ordered folders for all of my units, but I also have a "Resource" folder with lectures on convention rules and essay writing.  That way, students don't have to sift through an entire unit's content for a refresher on how to structure a body paragraph.

- Not visually dynamic
- You can "hide" unit folders and then "unhide" them, but it unhides them for everyone.  You can unlock folders on specific dates which is better than nothing, but students work at different paces, and it would be more helpful to have the Unit 2 folder unlock automatically for students after they complete Unit 1.  Instead, you  have to either set an unlock date or manually unhide the following folder for everyone once one student gets close to completing to present unit folder.
- If you've already ordered the assignments for a particular unit, know that if you edit an assignment's point value or due date, the assignment gets bumped to the bottom of the list, and you have to reorder the folders all over again.
- Once you create a title for a class, it's stuck that way.  And you have to give your class a title in order to create a class space.  This was an issue for me because I created a stand-in title of "American Government" until I came up with a better name, "Civics & Citizenship", but the class is stuck with the stand-in title.  
- You can't develop all of your class's content on Schoology.  I don't mind this, but it's good to know.  You'll have to develop hand-outs in Word, design web lectures using programs like Prezi or Educreations, etc.  Schoology is more a space to upload files you've already created, a place to design tests, than an end-all be-all for class development.
- You can't copy and paste quiz questions from one quiz into another.  For example, I'd like to pull questions from all of my unit tests to plug into the midterm exam.  That's not currently an option with Schoology.  So instead, I have to open two tabs: one with the quiz that I'm copying questions from, and the second with the midterm I'm creating to paste the content into.

All-in-all, using Schoology has been fairly painless.  Only a few frustrating days but never to the point of wanting to use another - and ultimately costly - platform.  The cons are glitches and oversights more than intentional choices, I think, and therefore I expect most of them to be ironed out in the coming months.  I'd recommend teachers of all subject areas to check out Schoology, not just to develop an online class, but to use as a supplemental tool or for flipping the classroom.  Teachers could post video lectures of basic content (like convention rules and structuring an essay), design remedial or advanced activities for those lower and higher achieving students, and create a space for the class to share out resources and ideas.

    About Me

    A lover of literature and the arts and an advocate for global awareness and active citizenship, I spend my days with high school English and Social Studies students exploring why it all matters and how they can have a voice in the world.  This is my space to document and reflect on my practice, note happenings in education, and share my appreciation for the arts.


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    Damien Hirst
    Online Class
    Spot Painting
    Web Tool Wednesday