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5 Tips For Teaching With Art In Any Subject Area

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Art inquiry is a powerful way to engage students with diverse learning needs, improve critical thinking and social-emotional skills and make learning relevant to students’ lives.

Yet many teachers shy away from teaching with art, which causes their students to miss out on these potentially transformative learning experiences. Teaching with art creates opportunities for novelty in the classroom, which stimulates students’ minds, activating different ways of thinking and learning.

In my work with teachers, I always emphasize that teaching with works of art doesn’t require specialized knowledge in the field of art. It does require the willingness to look at your curriculum through a creative lens in order to find new and unexpected connections to the content you teach. If you are looking for a way to enliven your curriculum, the 5 steps below will help you leverage the power of art to improve your teaching practice and your students’ learning.

1. Choose a Work of Art

Because art tells the story of human history, there is no curriculum topic that can’t be supported by works of art. With your curriculum in mind, explore museum websites. A great place to start is The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, metmuseum.org, where you can download high-resolution images of thousands of works of art from their encyclopedic collection. Brooklynmuseum.org and moma.org are also excellent resources for art images. When selecting works of art to teach from, consider these three questions:

  • Does this artwork spark my interest?
  • How does it relate to my students’ lives?
  • How does it relate to our curriculum?

If the work of art you choose satisfies all three of these criteria, you have the foundation for a successful art inquiry experience.

2. Think Thematically

Use a theme or essential question to support connections between the work of art, your students’ lives and your curriculum. Effective themes and essential questions are intellectually engaging and universal; they provide an entry point into challenging content by supporting personal connections between students’ experiences and academic content. For example, a middle school teacher used the theme “Friend or Foe?” to support her students’ study of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

In the classroom, she showed her class portraits in which the artist and the subject had a complicated relationship. Exploring the theme through the paintings while making connections to their own lives deepened her students’ understanding of a central theme in the novel.

3. Develop Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions inspire critical and creative thinking. By engaging your students in open-ended inquiry with works of art, you affirm their unique ways of seeing the world while teaching them to value the diverse viewpoints of their classmates. To ensure that your questions are open-ended, challenge yourself to think of multiple responses to each question.

If you can come up with at least three possible responses, the question is open-ended. If you are expecting one ‘correct’ answer, the question is closed. Try rephrasing the question to make it open-ended. Your questions should also encourage close looking by requiring students to use visual evidence to support their ideas. This will ensure that the conversation remains grounded in the work of art.

 

4. Use the Pyramid of Inquiry to sequence your questions

The Pyramid of Inquiry is a flexible framework that can be used with any work of art to facilitate inquiry experiences that develop critical thinking skills. The foundation of the Pyramid is observation: students begin by looking closely through an open-ended prompt such as, ‘what do you notice?’ or a multimodal approach such as sketching the object. Observation is the critical first step in the inquiry process because the information gathered in this phase will support the development of inferences and interpretations that are grounded in visual evidence. The next level of the Pyramid is evidence-based inference.

This could be prompted by a question along the lines of ‘what’s going on in this painting’ or a movement activity that asks students to take the pose of a character in a painting and infer how the character feels, using evidence from the artwork to support their ideas. At this point, you will introduce relevant contextual information about the work of art. Once students have absorbed this information, the conversation builds to the interpretation phase, where students synthesize this new information with their previous ideas about the work of art.

Interpretation can involve a big question such as ‘what do you think is the message of this work of art?’ or an art-making activity that asks students to express the meaning of the artwork in a creative way.

5. Expand learning beyond the classroom

Whenever possible, bring students to a museum or gallery to explore works of art in person. These kinds of experiences yield powerful results for student learning (Greene, Kisida & Bowen, 2014), and seeing a work of art in person is a vastly different experience than viewing it on a screen. Reach out to the museum’s education department before you visit; they exist to support teachers and students and offer a wealth of resources to support your teaching. If museums and art galleries are not abundant where you teach, seek out local artists. They can be a rich source of information for your students and are often happy to take time to speak with young people about their work.

Finally, a word of encouragement: if you are new to art, don’t be intimidated! Use art inquiry as an opportunity to model creative risk-taking with your students. You will be rewarded with the gift of seeing works of art, and your students, with fresh eyes.

posted Mar 25 by Chankrisna

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The future classroom needs to be radically different in order to become relevant for the new era of education. Technology will be at the centre of this metamorphosis. When our parents recall their school days, they make no big deal about a makeshift class under a tree. They were used to taking down notes from blackboard on which teachers would write using dusty chalk. With time, chalk and duster were replaced with touchscreens, audio-visual facilities, and the era of digital learning started.

However, the journey will be much more exciting in the next decade. Here are the 5 things that will not be same in the future classrooms:

 

1. Question papers and answer sheets

We have already seen some tests being conducted online. However, as technology becomes more accessible and affordable, it will largely replace pen and paper-based tests.

The rationale is simple. Online tests need lesser logistical arrangements, can be customized for different batches, and evaluated quickly and accurately using artificial intelligence and algorithms.

Imagine the time saved by future high school and 12th aspirants when they receive their board exam results within a week, thanks to online examination. They can plan the future course of their career and do not have to spend months in speculation.

 

2. Practice books

Practice makes a man perfect. All of us have heard (and practiced) it. But technology will change the way students practice.

For instance - Avocado, an app enables students to practice questions from Maths and Science. Using Avocado, student can get customized practice tests, detailed explanation for answers, and review their results with just a few taps.

What makes a digital platform for practice like Avocado unique is the insights based on test results over a period of time. This helps the students understand areas which require intervention from their teacher or parents.

Using Avocado and similar practice solutions, parents and teachers can also track the progress of their wards and make informed decisions to improve speed and accuracy. All these details are available on a smartphone- anytime, anywhere.

 

3. Computer labs

Once upon a time, computers were a rare commodity for Indian students. The weekly computer lab class was their chance to touch, feel, and see this magic box.

However, this is no more the case. With digital revolution, most middle-class families can afford a personal computer.

Moreover, about 337 million smartphones make India world’s second largest smartphone equipped population. Over the next five years, smartphones and tablets will completely transform the look and feel of computer labs in schools.

These labs will follow Bring-Your-Own-Device and Do-It-Yourself approach. Meanwhile, teachers can take the role of mentors.

There will be many innovations that trigger self-learning in computer labs. For example, Cubetto is a friendly wooden robot that can teach early age learners the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands-on play.

The Cubetto Playset consists of a friendly robot made of hard-wearing wood, a physical programming board, and a set of colourful coding blocks that make up a programming language you can touch.

 

4. Textbooks

Typically, textbooks are written assuming one-size-fits-all’. The need of the hour is to customize the learning journey for every student based on speed, understanding, and interests. E-books can fill this much-needed gap.

Powered by virtual learning, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, e-books are well suited for supplementing conventional textbooks. Students also appreciate the interactive nature of E-books.

Having said that, textbooks are and will remain an important part of the education system. We will see an amalgamation of both textbooks and e-books going ahead.

 

5. Benches and desks

 

The neat rows of benches are meant to seat students in a way that they focus on the teacher delivering a lecture and demonstrating concepts on the board. But this approach will soon go out of favour.

Future classrooms will have flexible seating arrangement suited for the task that students are working on. The design will also consider comfort of the students.

Standing desks for those who find it hard to focus while sitting, accommodation for physically challenged, collaborative stations for group activities, and moving walls to make the space more adaptable are some classroom design innovations that will become the new normal.

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Santa Barbara Unified School District is rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school. Los Angeles Unified School District plans to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students. The goal is to improve learning through interactivity. First, school districts need to mitigate costs and get teachers on board.

High school teachers have a new disruption to deal with in the classroom: the coming of the iPocalypse. At schools across the country, teachers are being told they must use iPads, which will upend everything they've learned over the years about how to teach students. For some, it must feel like the latest, an ignominious blow to a profession often under siege.

Todd Ryckman and student at Santa Barbara Unified School District.

But Todd Ryckman, a former high school teacher and current director of technology at Santa Barbara Unified School District, sees the iPad in a more positive light.

Ryckman says he believes his small iPad pilot project will invigorate teachers, not dishearten them, and make their jobs easier. He says the iPad's simple touch interface and easy-to-use apps belie a device capable of revolutionizing the American classroom. Then there's this extra credit: iPads in high schools might help bridge the digital divide for low-income families.

"This is a fabulous new tool," Ryckman says.

An iPad in Every Backpack

After three years of planning, Santa Barbara Unified School District is finally rolling out 1,200 iPads to three elementary schools and an alternative high school this month. Eighty-five miles to the south, Los Angeles Unified School District is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar plan to put iPads in the hands of all 640,000 students by the end of this year.

The iPads-at-schools goal, of course, is to reshape the classroom and bring it into the digital age. The iPad promises to change the teacher from lecturer and instructor to facilitator of interactivity, whereby students take on a greater role in their learning.

Ryckman says teachers can finally get out of the game of getting students to memorize facts -- after all, Google and Siri make searching for facts easy -- and instead help students to think critically about those facts.

"The [board of directors] realizes where we are in history," says Ryckman, who taught high school history for 15 years. Everyone will have an iPad or a similar device in five years, he says, and Santa Barbara Unified School District students need to be ready for this future.

The future of iPads in high schools looks bright, yet iPad pilot projects should start now.

Textbook Publishers and MDM Vendors Buy-In

After initially dragging their heels, educational text book publishers are finally getting onboard with ebook versions. Introduced a couple of years ago, Apple's iBooks Author that lets teachers create multimedia textbooks has been gaining traction at Santa Barbara Unified School District, Ryckman says. Apple has made strides to combat theft with a service called Apple Care Plus that essentially bricks lost or stolen iPads. And mobile device management (MDM) vendors are coming out with tools aimed at high schools.

Last month, AirWatch unveiled Teacher Tools that gives teachers some control over student iPads, such as the capability to give exams in single app mode, send documents out to the class, and turn off the camera and disable screen shots so students can't pass tests to their friends.

However, many obstacles still remain on the road to iPads in high schools. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, has run into security problems with students taking MDM profiles off of iPads. There are also rumours of iPads being broken and stolen, and closets full of iPads collecting dust while waiting to be distributed.

But the biggest barriers continue to be cost -- who's going to pay for all these iPads? -- and especially teachers refusing to embrace iPads. The iPad represents a paradigm shift in the classroom, Ryckman says, and that's uncomfortable for teachers who like to have complete control of their environment.

iPad Payment Plans

In order to overcome cost, or at least mitigate it, Santa Barbara Unified School District came out with two plans to put iPads in students' hands. In the first plan, students and their parents can opt to have an iPad handed to them, which they'll have to return at the end of the school year. They'll be on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads (although this might change as the plan evolves).

The second is a pay-to-own plan, in which the parents must pay the school a little bit every month en route to owning the iPad after three years. They're also on the hook for lost, stolen or broken iPads and don't own the iPad outright until the final payment. The school district, of course, also doesn't profit from this plan.

Both plans allow students to take iPads home, and parents are responsible for watching over them. If a student takes off the AirWatch profile, as students at Los Angeles Unified School District did, or violates any of the acceptable use policies, then the student will be penalized by not being allowed on the network.

Interestingly, the second plan is helping to close the digital divide. Ryckman says lower socio-economic schools began seeing high rates, in the 80 percent range, of parents wanting to participate in the pay-to-own plan, while the more affluent schools tended toward the first plan that puts the cost burden squarely on the school district.

"Parents who don't have $600 to plunk down at an Apple Store saw the pay-to-own plan as a way to provide this technology to their kids," Ryckman says. "Apple said that this would happen, but our board was still really surprised."

Getting Teachers to Own the iPad Program

Getting teacher buy-in is another big problem, one that Ryckman began solving well before the first student got even a whiff of an iPad. Ryckman was just starting to make the transition from high school teacher to director of technology when he set out to get iPads for teachers.

Ryckman convinced the Parent Teacher Association, and, later, a wealthy donor, to subsidize half the price of a teacher iPad. The teacher can purchase an iPad at half price, which would be their personal iPad, not the school district's, in return for a couple of concessions: Teachers must agree to take Ryckman's iPad classes and use the iPad to enhance teaching in their classrooms.

Ryckman's big bet paid off, and many teachers opted in. Since the iPads were their personal devices, teachers didn't feel threatened by them. Like most iPad owners, they used their iPads daily and quickly became familiar with the touch interface and enamoured with the exciting world of apps. They could see the iPad's potential to enhance their profession.

Some three years later, iPads are now being rolled out to students.

"We've had iPads in the hands of our teachers for a long time, well before students get them," Ryckman says. "I think other school districts have made a mistake by trying to do it at the same time."

This isn't to say, however, that the iPad is a teaching panacea. The platform still has limitations that need to be overcome. For instance, AirWatch's Teaching Tools lets teachers force student iPads to open a single, pre-determined app but not multiple ones, such as Calculator and Pages. It would also be nice if a teacher could blast out an app to students at the beginning of class and then take the app off the iPad when class ends.

Despite limitations, the iPad should be a boon for schools. You'd think Ryckman would want to roll out iPads to all 15,000 students at Santa Barbara Unified School District. But that's hardly the case. Many schools want iPads, he says, but they're not ready for them.

Ryckman interviews teachers at schools to gauge their interest, and he still sees some hesitancy. There needs to be nearly 100 percent commitment from teachers before an iPad rollout could be approved.

"This will only work if it's organic, not forced if there's teacher buy-in," he says.

As a teacher himself, Ryckman knows that the best way to get teachers on board is by appealing to their educational values, which is why he offers iPad classes. It'll take time, he says, but eventually, as educators, they know they need to change with the times.

"Teachers themselves tend to be lifetime learners," Ryckman says, adding, "One 25-year veteran teacher told me after one of my classes, 'This is the most excited I've been about teaching in a long time.'"

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