As second semester approaches, I need to start pulling together my curriculum for my online classes.  Ideas for Arts History have been stewing away for weeks, and where I approached first semester chronologically from the Middle Ages through turn-of-the-century Realism, second semester will be broken down by function of the arts.  The unit I'm most inspired to explore right now is the idea of "Art as Play."  I've already reflected on this some with artists Oliver Herring and Leo Villareal.  But because this is an arts history class, I need resources from across the spectrum, and here's what's stewing as of now:


Oliver Herring: Using TASK to construct a creative, productive play time.  Interactive, ever-evolving.  It's never the same experience twice.  The people involved set the tasks and choose how to execute them.  I also want to look at his paint splat portraits.  Who's playing in that situation?  Herring?  The participant?  In what way is the viewer playing by viewing the artwork?  Because it draws out a chuckle?  Because the narrative told by the portrait is so spontaneous and silly and absurd?  Is it about the inter"play" between the artist, the subject, the work, and the viewer?
Oliver Herring
Leo Villareal: His works are a feast for the eyes.  They’re spectacles.  Why view them?  Because they’re fun, indulgent, transporting, etc.  They draw you in.  Sharing a space with a Villareal work is like playing.  It’s like a circus or night club or light show.  And all his works are are lights and colors and shapes and the sequence that things light up.  But they’re so much more than that.  It makes me question our emotional attachment to light and color and how Villareal “plays” to that.  His works definitely create a mood, but he seems deliberate in creating a fanciful, playful mood for his viewers to frolic through.  
Leo Villareal
assume vivid astro focus – This team uses bright, bold colors and neons.  It uses sexually imagery in a playful, cheeky way without it being offensive or obscene.  They “play” with taboo much like Shakespeare and other wordsmiths “play” with language and innuendo and puns and double-entendres.  avaf creates works that are festival-party-show-events and bring in the public to participate and bask in the spectacle of colors, lights, sounds, and performances.  They create these worlds for people to play in.  The viewer moves from spectator to player in these universes avaf creates.
assume vivid astro focus
assume vivid astro focus
What about artists who make more political statements…who play with norms and turn them on their heads?  In other words – artists who work in the carnivalesque.  How about Walton Ford who takes Audobon imagery and “corrupts” it with violent imagery?  He’s playing with traditional depictions of nature that are so sterile or neutral or peaceful and turns them on their head by inserting Hobbes-like references to the brutality and savagery of nature.
Walton Ford
Walton Ford
Kara Walker does something similar with her depictions of the Antebellum south.  She takes this traditional imagery of charm and grace and genteelism and inserts violence and troubling sexual imagery.  Her images play – though darkly – with how media “remembers” Southern history.
Kara Walker
Cao Fei is another artist who deals with play, though she did so literally by playing Second Life and creating this other, virtual life for herself.  Looking at video games as play is something to think about as well…
Cao Fei
Next, I need to consider literature, architecture, and music.  Things to keep cooking in that brain of mine: Shakespeare; puns and slippery language (look at book titles and propaganda); Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead; Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me (rhymes, news quiz); and John Stewart and Steven Colbert and how they play with politics.
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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