Friday, August 31, 2012

WiPs: Creation from the Abstract | Watercolor on paper

This week was very fun for the 2D Design class because we jumped right into our first project which was watercolor painting!!!

In the past the first 2D project has always been scratch-art of some sort but after doing it like that for the last three years, I finally came to terms with the fact that while it had a good run? It was time to give it a rest for at least a little while. The only problem with giving it a rest was the fact that I needed something new to step into its place!

Thank the good Lord above for the AMAZING book that is that book I got on kindle a week or so ago - Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists. The book is AMAZING and I am so glad I got it and on kindle at that! Perhaps I am not a physical book kind of person as much as I am a type that is more comfortable with digital media but I don't know. Having it in ebook form on Kindle allows me to have it with me whether I have my laptop, phone, or tablet via the app for each! And if I have it on my laptop? I can actually project some of the pages up on the screen for the students to see!!! I might just try and get all of my art instruction books on kindle from here on out for that reason alone. All of this raving aside, I bring the book up to begin with just to say that this project/lesson idea is not my original idea and it originated from the book called "Imaginary Creatures."

The objective of the project/lesson is basically this: Take something abstract and then translate it into something that is a lot more easy to decipher/make sense of when you look at it so that it looks like a creature of some sort. The creature can be something that is imaginary or something that already exists but ultimately, the goal is to look at the abstract forms and coming together of the colors and see something there amidst the "mess" that might appear to be there at first glance. Another way to understand this lesson? it's kind of like an artistic take on the Rorschach test except you aren't given an inkblot/painted form of an abstract type to make sense of and rather, you make it yourself and you also make sense of it. (Although having the kids make the shapes and then trade could be a really good idea and I might try that tomorrow as we round out the exploration and experimentation portion of this project.)

Anyway, the students are LOVING the fact that we are jumping right into painting. I bet I could even safely say that they are way more excited to do this than scratch art. Perhaps this is the key to what should be done for every first project of the semester for 2D Design? I started off the work today but doing a demo by way of the document camera but I also allowed them to have materials so that they could follow along with me while I showed them what to do.

Do you "demo" things? How do you do it? I really like using the document camera to do mine. 

A view from where the students sit so you can see them working as informed by what they see in the demo up front.

I am super happy to report that today's "follow me" while I was doing the demo was very successful. In the past I have done demos without them having materials in front of them so they couldn't follow and now I realize how misdirected I was. I am very blessed to work with really REALLY talented student artists who have both the heart to listen when you would hope they would as well as the minds and hands to stay in control when they ought to be. For these reasons I am convinced that that is why they really handled the "follow me" demo instead of the "look at me" demo. Point taken, lesson learned. I will be doing more "follow me" demos from here on out.

Overall I am pretty pleased with what the two classes today did. The objective was that they let the paints/color drop and bleed and blend as they would without manipulating the paintbrushes to paint something specific. They used drawing paper but they will eventually be using watercolor paper and finally  small aquabord panels. I intentionally gave each individual student feedback by stopping by to see them at their tables and also to point out (to the whole class) when certain pieces were successful or not so that they had ongoing dialogue to inform their brushwork and paint application. Here are some examples that I used specifically:

I called this SUCCESSFUL because it used big marks and application of color which ultimately created abstract shapes that could more easily be translatable to any number of things. I helped them to "read" what was here by telling them that I saw a fish jumping out of the water (like what you might see in a fishing magazine) and then I asked them to try and find it as well. Some didn't see it right off but then I gave them more explicit direction by giving them clues like: Find just the orange and try and see where that is specifically in the overall image. 

I called this UNSUCCESSFUL because while it is interesting to look at with the way the brush strokes were applied to show a defined pattern and rhythm, it didn't adhere to the specific directions given in order to achieve the learning objective. Oh well. That's why we spend a few classes on experimentation and exploration alone! They'll learn.

This was called SUCCESSFUL because despite the fact that it looks very specifically like a giraffe or a llama, the student didn't intentionally mark the paper to make it that. They made their marks, let the colors go, and then ended up with this exactly. Serendipitous? Perhaps. It works though for what we set forth to do. I mean it's a little bit limiting in the end but it just happened like this so I don't hold that against it. 

My preference with any of the art classes I do is almost always to start in the abstract and non-objective realms because it immediately puts the students outside of their comfort zone and requires them to start doing things that they have not previously had experience dealing with. I really really like this project and so far it has worked so well with a first project I definitely am thinking I want to keep it around for next year (at least but I always get tired of things so I will probably end up ditching it for a while after one rerun). *shrug*

We have two weeks that I expect we will spend on this project and I will certainly share it in the stages it in each stage it passes through. In the meanwhile, here's something fun that ended up occurring during today's exploration and experimentation painting process!! Look what one of my brilliant freshman artists did...

While he did not intend for this result and he was just "messing around" and being silly with his friends at a table by making a quick and otherwise unintended portrait, this portrait actually looks very much like him!!! It might as well be a self-portrait!!! (I would show you a picture but I don't like to show pictures of my students so directly - sorry!) Anyway, I really like this piece of student work. I feel like the marks have great integrity and the speed of the lines are beautifully apparent.

And that's it for me for now! Like I said, I will be checking back in with progress and if you keep an eye on my instagram feed? You might get some previews of what might end up here on the blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Art Teacher Hack | Prepping paper for projects

One of the biggest and most frequently made misnomers about what I do as a high school art teacher is this: Being an art teacher is SO fun ALL the time because all art teachers ever do is draw and "make stuff" all day long with their students!!!

Wow. That could not be farther from the truth. I mean, yes my job does indeed allow me to be with my students all day and make CREATE amazing and (sometimes) fun works of art but none of that is so easily done. There is a lot "behind-the-scenes" (a WHOLE lot) that goes into getting to that point. If it looks easy? Well, perhaps it's just because I have had enough practice (read: time, energy, EFFORT) at this point to make it look easy. *shrug*

(Please note: I am not saying all of this like this to toot my horn or anything. I actually don't think I am super stellar at anything I have noted so far. As far as I am concerned, I consider myself to be a constant "work in progress" when it comes to teaching, teaching art, or being an artist.)

All of that being said, every year I teach, I learn something new to add to what I hope is wisdom that can be drawn from and applied within whatever moments that follow when it was gained. In the years leading up to this one, I have learned how very bad I am at prepping materials for too many of the projects I have attempted with my students and also the importance of attending to correct that issue and not let it go and get worse. Not acknowledging the importance and significant of preparedness has made me a really bad teacher in the not so distant past. Thankfully, I have learned from the errors of my ways.

I order everything at the beginning of the year to avoid disasters like having a budget cut happen mid-year that prevents me from ordering the required supplies for a project. This year when the supplies order came in, I did my usual sorting for storing but I tried something new: instead of just grouping materials in cabinets with labels on the outside, I actually wrote on the materials what they would be used for. Seems simple right? No-brainer? You do this already? Well, I only just figured out that this would be a good way for me to do things just this year. (Ridiculous. I KNOW.) Normally I would have grouped supplies and then put them in a cabinet and then put a label on the cabinet itself that in the long run looks like a list of general supplies with now designation of how each would be used. Once it came time to use them? They might be gone because (I can be so forgetful and disorganized - yeah, tell you something you don't know...) I would have maybe used them for something else or they would have maybe been shared with my fellow art faculty member. Pretty much, I would end up trying to do a project without the required supplies NOT because of budget cuts but because I am my own worst enemy.

Something else that has been a general issue for me for project materials prep? Cutting and portioning out materials so they are good and ready to go when I need them. Now as it happens, ordering in bulk can save big money. That is just because ordering in bulk means I am not paying for the convenience of having materials come ready-to-use. I will literally sit and calculate out prices per unit in order to determine if it is better to order a stack of correctly sized materials OR order a huge chunk/sheet of something and then portion it myself. As it happens? I usually end up ordering in bulk - which means I usually have to do a significant amount of prep work to pare down the big giant of whatever it is into workable individual portions. Kind of a pain but it is a necessary evil of the job.

Recently, as I was portioning things, I realized that some of what I was doing was ridiculous. Yes - it was good that I was counting out what I needed and then stacking them in individual piles (per class) and then labeling the piles - after all, some classes needed more than others because of the different numbers of students I have in different sections.

But then I got to thinking - something I know from experience - there is are some classes that even though they have less people, they sometimes require more materials and I am pretty restricted on extras so how to I portion that out? I don't want to just give every class the same amount? Then all the piles will look exactly the same! Or whatever if one class starts the project on one day and it takes another class two more days to start theirs. It has happened in the past and I KNOW it could happen in the future that the piles of materials somehow all end up in one pile despite my best effort to compartmentalize them.

So, I got to thinking, what about if I drew from previous working experience of being at a restaurant and portioned things this way: one big giant pile but stack them in back-forth layering in smaller groups of 5 or 10...

Doing things this way is similar to how it restaurants sometimes prep things. They will portion things out and then they will packaging them up and group them in a defined number so then they can tell at a glance how much of something just at a glance. Grouped by six? Six groups right there? You have 36 total. Need only six more? Just grab a whole bag - no need to stand there and measure and weigh things to portion them and no need to count 1-2-3... to get the six you need. Need 72? Get 12 bags! Simple and easy. And that's why I'm doing it like this now instead of the other way I was doing it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It came. They fought. SHE WON.

While my official job title is Full-time Faculty/Visual Art Teacher at the high school where I work, my unofficial titles include some of the following:
  • Last-minute prop figure outter and maker
  • Spur-of-the-moment sign designer, painter, and letterer
  • Award certificate calligrapher, award show graphic hacker, and trophy prize fabricator
  • Visual brand facelifter and re-designer
  • Publications layout figure outter and in-house desktop publisher
  • Massive Balloon release event schemer
  • Prom proposal and secret valentine figure outter and fabricator
  • Performance and dramatic arts set designer, builder, painter, and dresser
  • School store marketing planner and display figure outter and fixer
  • Bad and inside joke maker and planner
Easily, the list could go on and on. But for your sake? I won't go on like that. ;)

Anyway, last week I was in the copy room picking out my new document camera (YAY!!) and one of my colleagues ran into me and stated, "I am SO glad you are here because I was going to come and find you today!!" Now, it is very important to note that she said she was going to come and find me because (on any given day) I could be any number of places doing every number of things and covered neck to wrist to toe in paint, plaster, packing tape, wrapped in computer wires (because I am also one of the technology teachers) or powdered with sawdust. It's just how it goes. *shrug* I do A LOT and it's not because I don't know how to say "no" it's because I don't enjoy saying no because I am always ALWAYS up for a challenge of any sort especially if it's something that someone presents to me with in a way that goes like, "I don't even know if this is possible but..." I LOVE making the seemingly impossible possible and I LOVE when someone asks me for an opinion/idea and I can brainstorm (on the spot) at least a dozen ideas that they otherwise had not thought of. I guess another unofficial title for me would be resident brainstormer and out-of-the-box (and off the wall!) visionary and random idea inventory keeper. (I have a mental inventory of all sorts of ideas of every sort that you might ever imagine or NEVER imagine.)

Last week when my coworker approached me, she was looking for some creative inspiration to help conceptualize a portrait shoot she was having done later that evening with some of her best friends. She was having three individual shoots done and she wanted one of them to be focused on her recent triumph over CANCER. Amazing, amazing, amazing she is if you ever were to meet her and hear her story. Honestly and TRULY a healing that derives from faith in action.

I immediately had half a dozen ideas that could work for her but she latched onto one in particular that not only spoke of all of the things that enabled her to be the survivor that she is but also spoke to the person she is and the calling she answers everyday in her unique professional position at my school. The challenge with the idea? Well, it would require some visual design elbow grease to make some props. Thankfully, with last week being the beginning of the school year and me having a reasonably light load of work and open schedule because the freshmen were having a fellowship day (meaning they weren't in class all day).

You know, even if I did have a jam-packed schedule. I absolutely would have carved out something in order to fit in the time that would have been required of me to finish my coworkers portrait prop. I just have so much awe and respect and love for her being the amazing cancer warrior and survivor that she is. It seems like every single day I hear about one more person who has been diagnosed with cancer or is literally losing the battle to it. I would like to say I am exaggerating but I really am not.

I am delighted to report that I had just enough time on Friday to finish the prop and deliver it to my coworker right before we both done for the day and ready to officially finish off as successful first week of school.

It is a large whiteboard with some words that she said really illustrate her experience of battle and TRIUMPH.
In addition to having this board sitting on a stand in the background of her portrait, she is also going to be wearing a nametag that it one of those classic "Hello My Name Is" with the word SURVIVOR in large letters where the name would go. I absolutely cannot wait to see what her portraits end up looking like! I'm sure they will be a beautiful visual depiction of the incredible cancer survivor that she is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Doing it up (in the classroom) the PIXAR way.

Over the summer I had the great blessing to read an amazing (but most recently very controversial) book called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. It is a nonfiction work intended to examine and discuss the inner workings of creativity and reveal some of the secrets of how to be more creative. Some stuff was a rehashing of what I already knew like that the physiological effects of blue are so powerful that they they can actually make you more productive, inspired, or creative. Other stuff? It kind of blew my mind. And also, it made me feel like I completely needed to revisit and revamp the way I was teaching the creative process to my students as well as fostering a space for it to exist within. Thank you, Pixar, for helping me to finally see the light as well as the gigantic shadow I was casting upon my classroom and daily doings and happenings in my classroom. Pixar? I am an entirely new art teacher because YOUR creative process is what I am now going to be doing in MY class.

While Jonah Lehrer has definitely failed in grand form in very noteworthy ways, one way that he didn't fail was in his chapter about how Pixar does the amazingness that they do not only in the big pictures (no pun intended) but just as much on the daily that no doubt makes each of those big pictures that they churn out so gosh darn successful every single time. A myriad of things contribute to their success and while I can't do all of them - like, centralizing the location of the bathrooms to promote a guarantee that each person working will have the greatest probability of crossing paths with as many other people/coworkers as possible in the midst of their daily work flow - I CAN make one thing happen in my classroom. And that is: A serious commitment to doing (essentially) formative assessments and critiques (both peer and self) of student work and performance FREQUENTLY and CONSISTENTLY. 

Now, Pixar is known for having exemplary visual design, illustration, and animation in ALL of their products - be it full-length pictures or animated shorts. While they easily have the "best in the biz" working for them that would certainly cull and employ expert skill, technique, and knowledge for any given task, where they do it right isn't based solely within that. They don't rely on their obvious talents. Why? Because the only way to remain talented is to keep pushing yourself AND your talents to keep sharp enough to cut any competition down to smaller size. That's where the frequent and consistent formative assessments and critiques come into play.

According to Mr. Lehrer, one of the big things that Pixar does that ensures they are always #winning (Yes. I DID just do that!) is by regularly and FREQUENTLY gathering in order to tear apart each others work and design so that it can be put together again in a way that could never be argued to be anything less than THE. BEST. version of itself possible. Even if it takes tireless rehashing of something that doesn't work, that's what they do in order to make it work. Their ultimate goal is to find every and anything that might need tweaked or outright fixed and FIX IT. They do this by putting their work up for all of their colleagues to see and then having seriously critical and analytical discussions about what does and doesn't work for each piece of work. At times they are brutally honest and though it is reported that feelings have been hurt with some of feedback offered, what they do is SO much an integral part of their creative process that pretty much everyone is used to it and they see it less as a tool to be cut out by and more as a tool that is helping them cut from something - whether it is bad design and/or idea or it is cutting the roughness of in order for them to be polish worthy to become (for lack of better way of putting it) DIAMOND-quality type products.

Now, I'm not in the business of multi-gazillion dollar animated films. However, I would argue that what I am in the business of - shaping the hearts and minds and guiding the hands of the individuals who will one day be holding the collective fate and success (or not) of our world - well, what I do is a whole heck of a lot more incredible than trying to top the last blockbuster animated film. (Maybe I'm biased? Whatever. I maintain my position.)

So how does this apply to art education? Well, my thinking is if Pixar can do that and find the incredible success that they find on a regular and continuing basis - and I don't just mean the obvious success but more in their success of being on the cutting edge of visual creativity - why can't I institute this into my own classroom for the sake of my own students' success with their artworks?

Related to all of that, I have some huge confessions to make related to my own failures as a teacher:
  • I am TERRIBLE at doing regular and consistent assessments of any and all student work.
  • I have rarely (OK, never really - I said it) done peer critiques. 
  • I have a very general and non-specific grading rubric I give at the beginning of any course I teach but I don't really use it and I also don't really use a specific grading rubric for specific projects even if I do verbally communicate what the "general" idea/learning objective is for any given project.
  • The timeliness of the feedback in the form of grades that I provide? Uhmmm it starts out reasonably timely but it doesn't take long until you could say it takes me forever and not be exaggerating. You might even be able to call me late to my own funeral. Seriously. (SHAMEFUL)

Now, the aforementioned isn't said in pride in what I am guilty of in the least. Rather, I am reporting it in order to confess of my own sinfulness so that I can receive forgiveness for what I have done and ultimately redeem myself and seek reconciliation by doing something different that isn't so incredibly shameful and failing to be an adequate teacher to my beloved students. And now that that's out of the way, let's get on with me being oriented toward being a solution versus being the root of the problem.

Last week, on Friday (the third/last day I saw each of my classes for the first week of school), I did my first open forum self and peer critique of student work. This is because I FINALLY got a visualizer AKA document camera to hook up to the classroom projector!!! (seen to the left with a quick caricature I did of my 4yo daughter)

Each of my students did a quick project (intended to serve as a formative assessment for me to draw direction from and gauge where each of them stands with their abilities and understandings) and on Friday I had each of them do a brief presentation of their work (inspiration behind what they did, techniques they used, etc. etc.) as well as a self-critique and a peer critique. They were required to use the sentence starter "This piece is SUCCESSFUL/UNSUCCESSFUL because... [enter something constructive with specific terminology that does NOT relate to how they liked something because it was their favorite color or the like]"

One of the pieces that was presented at today's round of critiques. Not bad for a class and a half of working time!
I kicked off the critique session by explaining my particular caricature style portrait, critiqued by own work, and then acted like a third-party critique and gave specific and intentional suggestions of how what I did could be improved. Internet friends? IT WAS AMAZING HOW RECEPTIVE THE STUDENTS WERE AND HOW QUICKLY THEY CAUGHT ON AND REALIZED HOW MUCH BETTER IT WAS TO TALK ABOUT THINGS IN TECHNICAL TERMS vs. THAT IT WAS "NICE" and THEY JUST "LIKED" IT.

One of my students in the midst of her first critique session ever!!

I know. I KNOW. Pretty much, I'm late to my own funeral by taking three years to FINALLY do this type of thing in class. Let's not dwell on me being an epic failure of an art teacher before though. Let's instead recognize that my failures are a thing of the past and from here on out I am going to be doing critiques like this OFTEN and CONSISTENTLY for both works-in-progress (WiPs) as well as finished pieces. Why? Because doing it this way will do the following:
  1. Help to teach AND model conscientious working and creative processing
  2. Regularly employ and practice the use of vocabulary of the elements of art and principles of design
  3. Provide the opportunity to bounce and springboard ideas within the largest pool of creative minds possible vs. just allowing the students to limit their proximity of creative inspiration to their immediate classmates/best friends that they might be working alongside
In the past I have not believed that doing things like this are so important (I KNOW. I know. I stand corrected and shamed.) I get it now and you better believe I am going to keep doing things like this. My goal is to do major ones (where EVERY student gets up and presents) at least every other week and then periodic ones with volunteers or those I feel should present because what they are doing is unique, particularly impressive/innovator, or presents a real teachable moment type thing at least twice a week. I know there is room for me to fail at this because I'm human and definitely far from perfect but still? Doing something different in my classroom/for my students is absolutely the first step in a direction to both transforming my teaching as well as transforming the type of work my students will inevitably turn out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Best Practices of the Stewardship Chart

Two years ago, I was three years into my teaching career and only one year into my art education teaching career and I had had enough cleaning up after my high school art students!!  I was doing an OK (enough) job at it but it didn't take me long to figure out that at some point good enough wouldn't be even close to enough and also - what in the world was I doing cleaning up after all of my students ANYway? Many of them were legal adults already but why is it that they were old enough to drive cars AND vote but they weren't cleaning and putting away their paintbrushes?

What it came down to was the problem was me. I was a brand new art teacher and still pretty much a greenhorn to the field of teaching on the whole and I was at fault for just plain never expecting them to clean up after themselves. Also, I was treating the art classroom like MY classroom/studio instead of regarding it as our classroom/studio. Once I accepted this problem as my own, I spurred to action to be a part of a solution rather than continuing to contribute to the problem and that's where the stewardship chart came into play.

Since starting the stewardship chart, it's been reasonably successful and those who are subject to it are willing enough to do as it dictates. Well... I mean, for the most part. There is ONE individual who kind of dreads it and has actually contributed (on the few times it has failed) to it not working in the classroom. That person? It's me.


Now, I am NOT proud of this at all. I mean, again, I am my own worst enemy. Easily I am almost like that sour patch kids commercial...

The only difference is that I am actually the sour patch kids to myself instead of there being a real sour patch kid doing this to me. (That, perhaps, would be maybe kind of awesome? But that is beside the point, right?) Anyway, as I was saying... the stewardship chart...

Basically, the once brilliant idea of a stewardship chart has quickly turned to one of my most dreaded tasks of classroom management. Why? Well, because...
  • EVERY semester, for sometimes as long as the first three weeks of class, I have to deal with making and re-making stewardship charts sometimes at the last minute because my class rosters change. Students jump sections, students quit art classes all together (not common but does happen), and students join classes once they hear from their friends how awesome art class is (I am delighted to report that this is a VERY common occurence)
  • The stewardship chart employs a rolling and constant rotation of jobs and for whatever reason, I use the same type of continuing rotation but it always gets messed up and then I get kids repeating jobs or just plain missing out on all of the "fun" *harharrHAR* of having any stewardship assignments at all. It's pilot error and I'm the pilot. *shrug*
  • I almost always forget (or just plain procrastinate) doing it on time and then printing it off and bringing it to class and then when I appear to be disorganized and unwilling to be consistent (because that IS what I look like when that happens!), the students don't keep up with what the stewardship chart says and they get all flaky and I can't help but agree with them it's OK to be that way since I was that way by not "practicing what I preach."
Obviously the stewardship chart idea needed a SERIOUS overhaul if I wanted to keep using it.

So, this summer, with all of my professional development and graduate school indulging, I committed myself to revamping the idea so that I was having the "best practice" in doing it so I wouldn't have to fore go it all together. With some inspiration and motivation from both Pinterest AND some awesome fellow art education bloggers, I was finally able to figure out something workable for my specific classroom needs. Thank goodness I am a natural hoarder *ahem* I mean... keeper and collector of many things from my past that have loooooong shelf lives. The old white board I used to have hanging in my very first apartment post college? I just happened to still have it in a dark corner of my home studio and it is the PERFECT thing for me to make a modular type stewardship board with job labels and nameplates made from painted craft sticks. And also? The divided cardboard packaging from a class set of Big Kids Choice brushes is completely made for a second go round to hold the craft stick nameplate holders while they lay in wait for their term in the stewardship rotation.

Because the frame was a little dinged up and I wanted it to look a little more colorful, I had the notion to paint it but I changed my mind because after I gridded out the chart with decorative (splatter paint) duct tape, I just took it a little further and covered the frame in duct tape as well!! What a quick and easy alternative to taping out the white board so I could paint the frame.

Once I got the chart actually taped up completely, I got to work on the nameplates making sure that each class was color coded - so it was easy to see at-a-glance what individual or class was responsible for the messes that are made by, "... NOT ME." (I have never met this individual, "Not Me," but they are somehow always to blame for every mess in class. Hmmm...) Something else I did? I made a current week column as well as a following week column so the people who are up for stewardship next have a heads-up.

While I know there is plenty of room for me to still be lazy with doing the stewardship assignments and classroom clean-up management in this way, I feel like this way will at least be a LOT more forgiving. Last week some of my colleagues stopped in to see me to do some collaborative planning on the Fall play (The Crucible!) and just from the plans already and then the Spring musical, and then the continuation of graduate school? I KNOW I will need to have as many forgiving elements of my daily life as possible. As far as I am concerned this stewardship board is a GOD send even if it does look a little like it belong less in a high school class and more in a kindergarten one. All's well that ends well in my opinion!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Just for Fun: BEST. IDEA. EVER!!!!!

 Do you do anything fun/unique original for your students that NO other teacher does that is intended to be purely for the fun of it?

As of this year, I DO!!!!

<-------- See that over? That right there is the (now) beloved Birthday Box.

Just a little background of the inspiration behind this: I have DREAMED of the day when I would not be a first-year teacher or a new college grad or newly in the adult "real world" and I am delight to report I am finally NOT in any of those places.

Now, before I sound too big for my britches and all, "I am SO MUCH OLDER now and it is SO AMAZING being SO MUCH OLDER now!!!" understand my reasoning which is completely logical. Coming out of college, starting a career job - you are just in the stages of trying to establish yourself/your life! There are bills to pay that you never knew existed and could anticipate, there are fun things that you discover you would like to do but can never afford (even sometimes) because you are paying all of those aforementioned bills, there are... well... you get my drift - I'm sure - and maybe even you identify with me?

So, the point is: when you are there in that place, you don't have very much disposable income. Now this isn't so much a problem for me because (believe it or not) I don't enjoy shopping that much unless I actually have a purpose or as I like to call it a shopping CHALLENGE. What falls in this category? Gift giving!!! I pride myself on being an AMAZING finder/shopper and giver of gifts. Now, this doesn't have to be anything expensive or even totally obscure or unique but much more the most appropriate gift for anyone that they would most appreciate in the time when the gift-receiving moment occurs - be it a milestone birthday, the fact that they are getting ready to go on a trip, etc. etc. etc.

So where am I going with all of this? OK. Here it is: I DON'T like to shop to indulge myself but I DO like to indulge myself to shop for other people and find them the "perfect" gift. Basically, this means that my "love language" is giving/receiving gifts. Surprisingly, it has taken me a while to recognize, accept, AND embrace this but I finally have and I am learning to have fun.

OK. So do you remember going to the doctor or dentist office when you were little and IF you did OK with your appointment (or didn't for that matter and needed some incentive to, you know... like, stop screaming bloody murder and scaring all of the other patients being treated? Anyway...) there was a treasure box at the end full of novelties? Well, I wanted to have a bit of the same type of thing in the art room BUT not make it conditional so that nobody would have to be excluded. At the same time? There has to be some kind of structure with this prize box but still? I didn't want it to be so crazy that it was counterproductive and made the prize box not as much fun. I wanted there to be a little bit of anticipation about it! I wanted them to really REALLY look forward to that day when they were allowed to dig freely in the amazingness that IS The Birthday Box.

So? (To make my long story about pretty much nothing important even longer) The Birthday Box makes it so everyone gets to pick from it eventually BUT(!) they have to wait until their birthday. And what's in The Birthday Box? Well, ONLY the coolest erasers currently known to man: THE IWAKO ERASER. Never heard of them? Well, while the name might imply that they just erase things, they are much MUCH more than that. They are from Japan and popular with school children because they are actually three-dimensional puzzles that help to exercise fine motor skills. So fun... so fun!

I discovered these last year when I was planning my preschool daughter's birthday party and I wanted to do something fun but not totally five-minute toy-ish cheap and unforgettable like so many things that are in the favor aisle at Party City. I found out that while you can buy these for a buck a piece at places like Michael's or AC Moore, there usually aren't very many types to choose from AND sometimes you accidentally buy imitation IWAKO made of completely subpar rubber and with bad puzzle design. (I am always a critic of things.)

So, I did lots and lots of research and I found that I could buy them in bulk on ebay and save as much as 50% off the retail price!!! Basically, the more you buy? The more save. Here is an assortment (that they decide) of 200...

Something else about buying in bulk assortments? You are more likely get to cool (or rare as the collectors like to call them) IWAKO that are way more interesting than the cutesy animals that they always sell in Michaels and AC Moore. In my shipment of IWAKO that I opened today I found some of these fun ones...

Here are some of the really unique ones I found among the assortment I just pick up from the mailroom:
  • A pair of pink shoes
  • Noodle bowls that has a lid and probably something fun inside of it
  • A pink cupcake
  • A fire extinguisher
  • Food type items of the dessert sort
  • Dinner plates
  • A yo-yo that has real string to try it out
  • A top that has real string to try it out
  • A different kind of panda bear than the usual design
  • An type of Japanese ice cream sandwich that looks like a fish (these really exist and they are SO good!!)
  • A blue hedgehog
  • An anime type tiger
And what I listed is only a small sampling of some of the unique and fun ones!!! Isn't that neat?!!!

I introduced The Birthday Box to the classes this week so summer birthdays (as well as the current week's birthdays) could have a go at picking their favorite eraser and so far it is a BIG hit. Funny enough, the boys are the ones who are loving it more than the girls in that they are taking longer than the girls!!! One of my boys, a senior who is one of the star basketball players, actually took 20 minutes total picking the one he wanted and that involved trading what he had back in THREE TIMES. Too funny... and completely cute (I think).

Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes with The Birthday Box but my estimation is that it will continue to be well received as my calendar of birthdays has me getting it out so often that I just about have to carry it from class to class with me because that's how many birthdays there are. I am perfectly willing to do that though.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We really hit the ground CREATING - 1st day of the school year!!!

Yesterday was the first day back to school (teaching) for me and I was so tired at the end of the day that I (without skipping a beat) actually let my 4 year old daughter eat ice cream (with me) for dinner while we went grocery shopping. Despite what this kind of helpless submission might imply, it was just as much we wanting to do it as it was her wanting me to do it! The day was such a fantastic first day for me and I was craving a vanilla soft serve cone after I unsuccessfully tripped it to the school store and they didn't have their usual Good Humor ice cream treats in stock yet. So what sweeter way to acknowledge it then ice cream, right? Anyway...

The picture above is a shot of the brand new table box set-ups for each of the six tables in the studio classroom. I originally ordered some plastic (all one piece) hinged long pencil type boxes from Office Depot in my teacher supply (we get a nice sized "allowance" at the top of every school year for anything we might need/want for our classrooms and/or teacher planning) but as it turned out, they didn't have them available for ordering and I had to go into the stores to get them!

When I finally got into Office Depot, I just happened to pick a day when shopping was tax free as well as one when teacher discounts were at their most in order to promote heavier back to school shopping. I initially went in to get the boxes that I couldn't order but after an hour or so shopping around (read: being easily distracted by fun and cool new types of office and classroom supplies) I stumbled upon the above shoebox style plastic/tupperware containers and I didn't even think twice about getting them instead!!! I don't even know how I managed to find them because they definitely look like a seasonal item and so the overall stock of that was pretty picked over but I needed only six boxes and they had exactly that many in stock for me to clean out!!! I so enjoy the painted handprint designs and I feel like they are so much more fun and colorful than the plain clear plastic ones I was going to get.

 My goal with these boxes is to change out the supplies as needed in order to provide the students with the supplies that I anticipate they will most want to use in the moment. The way it works with the studio classroom is that they all pay individually with supplies fees, that money gets pooled together, and then I stretch their collective dollars to fill the studio cabinets as much to the brim as I can with every type of medium and material they might like to use for any project. Basically, once the supplies are bought, sorted, and put in the cabinets, the studio classroom is pretty close to an art supply store. (It's quite a luxury and I am thankful every day for the set up I have. Trust me!)

Logically, I can't fit every type of material or medium they might want to use on a project but I have a pretty decent idea of what to anticipate that they will gravitate towards from previous experience with projects OR I just plain know what the usual favorites are that everyone loves if they don't feel confident enough to pick out their own supplies.

For the first week's creative ventures, the three 2D Design and one 3D Design classes are doing a little bit of "free art" that is really much more of a pre-test/formative assessment for me to quickly gauge where each of them is in terms of their own abilities, already established understandings of the type of art and design they will be doing, personal preferences and work habits, and confidence and sense of creative adventure (or lack thereof, for that matter).

In every year before this one, I have made the terrible mistake of forcing my kids to endure (basically) a lecture where I went over IN DETAIL the three page syllabus of the class and then let them talk and catch up with one another in the five minutes of class that might have been leftover. That means I would be expecting them to do something that couldn't be farther from CREATING art (what they were expecting and likely hoping for) for almost a full hour. Who was I kidding? Seriously. I was off my rocker.

This year, after only what I understand was the Lord steering me in the direction He has always been wanting me to go, something finally clicked for me and I realized how wrong I had been doing things. This year I whittled my syllabus down to one page - front side was the course detailing and back was a basic grading rubric - that I very lightly went over but focused more on the slideshows made in Keynote I have already shared last week and then let them just go at it with the art supplies in the table boxes. I am totally delighted to say that the change was very much needed and every class has been very receptive to it all. From here on out I will ALWAYS do kick things off on the first day with a little bit of "free art."

This semester I am teaching three sections of 2D Design, one section of 3D Design and one section of Graphic Design. I also have a study hall (that administration so graciously allowed me in order for me to have some work time for graduate school studies) and then two planning periods (that I typically get on alternating days so I am at least always guaranteed one planning period for supplies prep, to help with set design and creating, or in-house design work for other departments). Today I saw only my 3D, one 2D, and graphic design class and tomorrow I will start the day with the last two 2D classes who will be introduced to the brand new table boxes (like everyone else was today). Things went so well today though that I am not a bit nervous about how they will go tomorrow even though I am not excited about having to do the Keynotes two more times over. *oh well*

For the last class meeting of the week for each class, I am planning on doing a little bit of a pop trivia game with each class with questions that directly relate back to what we talked about in the first day discussion as well as inviting them to present and critique each other's work with the specific intention to get them to start using statements like, "This is a successful/unsuccessful piece of artwork because..." instead of "I don't like it because..." or "I like it because I like the color they used."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The battle | Graduate school with learning disabilities

It's been months that I have been randomly and quietly alluding to the fact that I struggle with learning disabilities. I have really REALLY wanted to share things of this a little more openly but I have been waiting to do this specifically because I wanted to provide you with a whole picture of what I have been having to deal with vs. just an much inferior snapshot of a very complicated "big picture."

I have struggled with two major learning disabilities for probably all of my life. However, it wasn't until just this year (specifically this summer) that I was finally able to put some names to the obvious struggles and call them what they are: ADHD and a Reading fluency disability [Some call this dyslexia but per current standards and practices of educational psychology, the correct term is reading disability with the identification of how the reading is affected.]

I am honestly not ashamed to share the fact that I have learning disabilities with you all. Why? Because for as much as it has hindered me during times in my life - specifically, from ever being able to be more than a solid B sprinkled with C student in middle school through high school - having the specific learning disabilities I now know I have has made me the person I am so strongly comfortable being...

From my earliest years I have ALWAYS been the most imaginative and "visionary" (if you will) individual among my peers. My naturally creative nature has lent itself to me having accomplishments to my name that others constantly remind me are truly exceptional and worthy of admiration and awe. (I don't want to go into those now though because that's not the point so I guess trust me or not on this.) As a result of knowing life as being constantly and consistently challenging (even though I didn't know why it was like this), I am an individual who is not easily discouraged and who doesn't know anything but deeply rooted perseverance and will power. Some people could also call this being stubborn but I call it not being easily shaken or stirred for anyone or anything. I mean, I do have my moments of feeling down and out but they are few and far in between and I don't stay in them for all too long because my instinct of resilience always kicks in before I shed too many tears. And as it happens, all of the aforementioned things have derived mostly from the fact that I have the disabilities I have (but never knew for sure).

I am convinced at this point in my life that the hand I have been dealt is solely because of intelligent design and the designer responsible for all of it is the amazingly sovereign Lord God Almighty. I understand the challenges I have been given as things meant to strengthen and preserve me rather than break me down and  reduce me to nothing. For me it's all a matter of CHOICE in the perspective I can take and the choice I constantly make is one that is focused more on what I have over what I don't have because for as much as being doubly learning disabled has taken from me, what it has given back has been beyond measure MORE than what I could ever imagine asking for. This is because I fall into the category of being an individual who is twice exceptional. Basically, I have specific and special talents and gifts despite the fact that I also have learning disabilities.  And you know what? This is not something that is particularly out of the ordinary. As it happens, history is chock full of folks who are also considered to be twice exceptional...


This past weekend I had to spend the majority of it holed away doing a serious amount of graduate school work because that's how it goes for me. I work slowly and am constantly up against deadlines and typically score lower than what my aptitude suggests I should despite the fact that I try really REALLY hard on every bit of work I do whether it's a quick and "easy" assignment or a more intense and long term investment of my time and effort. No matter how it goes it's always that most all things academically oriented just challenge me. I would accept nothing less than frustration about this but at this point in my life I am beyond that and I have been able to harness my creative to be inventive and resourceful in order to not just my learning disabilities dictate how much success I have or not.

Today is the first day of teaching for me - my 6th of my total teaching career and my 4th of teaching what I am and where I am. Since receiving my official diagnoses from all of my diagnostics, I have actively been sharing this about myself with many of my students (and their parents) in the most open and honest way. Last Friday I had a full day of meetings scheduled in order to help me and my colleagues to help each of the exceptional students we will have in our classes in the best ways we can. EVERY TIME I shared the fact that I, too, have learning disabilities in during any of the meetings, I cannot tell you the immediate sense of connection the student of the meeting would make with me when our eyes would meet and they would smile only to have me return the same knowing smile. EVERY TIME I shared my struggles as well as the solutions and successes I have found despite everything, the parents would breathe their own sighs of relief that the battles they have been working so hard to help their kids to fight were far from being called over and could (no doubt) be called over in terms of failure vs. great triumph and success.

Yes - it's possible for me to treat my learning disabilities as the end of me and the life I wish I could have but you know what? I much prefer accepting them as an integral and ESSENTIAL part of me that works in partnership with the unique gifts and talents I absolutely know I have and, in turn, springboards each and every one of those things so that the success I am poised to find at any given opportunity is something that is absolutely within my reach even though it's not that way for others.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

But I LIKE reinventing the wheel!!!

Tomorrow is the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!!

I have been working diligently with unpacking and sorting and reorganizing and repurposing and REINVENTING systematic approaches to my curriculum and instruction for this year. I suppose I could call myself a 6th year teacher but I feel like if I assume that I "know it all" then I could become stagnant and redundant in the classroom instead of being FRESH and INNOVATIVE the way I always want to be. For this reason? I am going to think of myself as a first year teacher this year.

All of this in mind, I made some videos sharing what I came out of many of those boxes that I unpacked last week but for whatever reason, I could not get them to publish on the web to share them. Oh well. God had a different plan in mind and I made another video today and so that's the one I am sharing with you below. The topic classroom management and clean-up when it comes to student paint palette set-ups, classroom stewardship/responsibilities of the students, and a fun little thing I am doing to help keep some good and fun rapport with my students.

And that is that! I have queued up a rather personal/near and dear to my heart type of posting for tomorrow since it is the first day of school and I won't be so available to blog but I will definitely try and pop on here and share with you some of how the first day went for me within the week.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's just about that time!

It's always a little like Christmas morning when supplies come in!
So hard to believe that summer has just about ended and I'm back in my classroom again!! It's a good thing I love my job so much otherwise I wouldn't have near the motivation to do what is normally my least favorite thing to do: UNPACK and PUT AWAY the studio classroom!!!

Earlier last week a year's worth of art supplies (for both the other art teacher and me) arrived on palette after palette on a huge truck. Most of our ordering is done from Dick Blick as it has been done for years now so it's to the point where the truck delivery company knows us very well.

Normally we receive our shipments during times when students are on campus at least but it just so happened that they weren't at the time when the boxes arrived. Oh well. Some of our colleagues pitched in with us and we muscled our way through unloading all of the boxes off of the palettes and then muscling in flat cart after flat cart every last one of the boxes into the art classroom. Some of the boxes contained 25 lbs of clay (for my 3D classes) and REAMS of paper so it was kind of funny hearing some of our helpers fuss about the heaviness that they had to deal with. It was also kind of refreshing for our colleagues to see just how much we (in the art room) have to deal with that has nothing to do with the literal making of artwork! Ordering and receiving supplies and then inventorying and organizing is easily a couple day's worth of work for us and nobody believe HOW much work it is unless they see us in action.

When we finally got to work unpacking and checking in everything it was like it always is: a rhythm that is kept going with some good "tunes" to keep us good and motivated! There was the usual of jug upon jug of paint as well as some old favorites that we didn't have last year but will be using again this year like the mask - sadly, I realized I should have ordered them from Nasco because I like their version better. (Oh well. I guess I could send them back to Blick but I just don't feel like it with everything else I have to get done.)

Because, technically, the school year hasn't kicked off yet, most of the area schools are not in session so I had to stop in the middle of my unpacking to pick up my daughter from her half-day of pre-K. I tried to keep her occupied with doing arts and crafts from the random odds and ends I have collected for the art club to use but she wasn't having it. Before I knew it she jumped right into the mix and started opening off the boxes and trying to unload them too!! She is so headstrong and such a little "self-starter" that I actually just let her go with it and she actually ended up being quite a bit of help for me. I feel like even now at barely four years old she is already thinking that she might want to be an art teacher. *so proud!!*

I spent the most of last week unpacking, sorting, purging some of the cabinets and storage, and reorganizing everything and though the art classroom sort of looked like this at the end of last week...

I actually did make reasonable enough progress to not feel like I am totally behind on being ready to start classes next Wednesday on my first day of school. 

Tomorrow I hope to show you some of what I unpacked and also a new angle I am taking with organizing some of my daily/weekly supplies!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

iPlan with Keynote: Graphic Design presentation

Here is the quicktime movie of the Graphic Design presentation I will show on the first day of Graphic Design class next week.

(Some of the content within the presentation was not originated by me but proper credit will be given in the narration I provide when I give the presentation to my classes. If you see anything that you have done within my presentation PLEASE accept my gratitude for providing me with such great inspiration to draw from and include and share with my students. Your brilliance will be nothing less than a great springboard for them to create their own amazing works of art.)

Graphic1stDay from dreampraycreate on Vimeo.

Some things I tried to do within the presentation were the following:
  • I really REALLY wanted to not only tell but show what I wanted them to understand. I was very intentional with the images that I used.
  • I didn't want to overload them with information but provide just enough that would probe them to think on their own.
  • I wanted to use only examples of Graphic Design artwork and as many masterworks as I could because I seriously subscribe to the belief that some of the best learning is that done from those who really REALLY know how to do it!
  • I really REALLY wanted to use visual art vocabulary straight away so that they start getting used to hearing it and start get used to applying it and using it.  
  • I absolutely wanted to kick off the class with not only a thought-provoking experience that would *hopefully* inspire very natural discussions and questioning but also catapult them into creative processes that would lead swiftly into an art activity that could be done as soon as the presentation was over. 
So there's my Graphic Design's first day of class plans. Don't forget that I also showed you 2D Design and 3D Design's presentations on the days before today so if you are new here to this blog and haven't seen those, check my archives and you can see them!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    iPlan with Keynote: 3D Design presentation

    Here is the quicktime movie of the 3D Design presentation I will show on the first day of 3D Design class next week.

    (Some of the content within the presentation was not originated by me but proper credit will be given in the narration I provide when I give the presentation to my classes. If you see anything that you have done within my presentation PLEASE accept my gratitude for providing me with such great inspiration to draw from and include and share with my students. Your brilliance will be nothing less than a great springboard for them to create their own amazing works of art.)

    3DDesign1stDay from dreampraycreate on Vimeo.

    Some things I tried to do within the presentation were the following:
    • I really REALLY wanted to not only tell but show what I wanted them to understand. I was very intentional with the images that I used.
    • I didn't want to overload them with information but provide just enough that would probe them to think on their own.
    • I wanted to use only examples of 3D artwork and as many masterworks as I could because I seriously subscribe to the belief that some of the best learning is that done from those who really REALLY know how to do it!
    • I really REALLY wanted to use visual art vocabulary straight away so that they start getting used to hearing it and start get used to applying it and using it.  
    • I absolutely wanted to kick off the class with not only a thought-provoking experience that would *hopefully* inspire very natural discussions and questioning but also catapult them into creative processes that would lead swiftly into an art activity that could be done as soon as the presentation was over. 
    So there's my 3D Design's first day of class plans. Come back and visit me tomorrow and I will have Graphic Design's first day of class presentation as well.

      Tuesday, August 14, 2012

      iPlan with Keynote: 2D Design presentation

      Here is the quicktime movie of the 2D Design presentation I will show on the first day of 2D Design class.

      Some of the content within the presentation was not originated by me but proper credit will be given in the narration I provide when I give the presentation to my classes. If you see anything that you have done within my presentation PLEASE accept my gratitude for providing me with such great inspiration to draw from and include and share with my students. Your brilliance will be nothing less than a great springboard for them to create their own amazing works of art.

      2DDesign1stDay from dreampraycreate on Vimeo.

      Some things I tried to do within the presentation were the following:
      • I really REALLY wanted to not only tell but show what I wanted them to understand. I was very intentional with the images that I used.
      • I didn't want to overload them with information but provide just enough that would probe them to think on their own.
      • I wanted to use only examples of 2D artwork and as many masterworks as I could because I seriously subscribe to the belief that some of the best learning is that done from those who really REALLY know how to do it!
      • I really REALLY wanted to use visual art vocabulary straight away so that they start getting used to hearing it and start get used to applying it and using it. 
      • I absolutely wanted to kick off the class with not only a thought-provoking experience that would *hopefully* inspire very natural discussions and questioning but also catapult them into creative processes that would lead swiftly into an art activity that could be done as soon as the presentation was over. 
      So there's my 2D Design's first day of class plans. Come back and visit me tomorrow and I will have 3D Design's first day of class presentation as well with Graphic Design's to follow the next day.

        Monday, August 13, 2012

        It's going to be a great year. iPlan on it! *wink*

        This summer was a real first for me in that I spent most all of it on professional development...
        • Before the summer even started I was already doing pre-coursework for a grad class in middle school curriculum and instruction.
        • The day that would have started my summer break was the first day of my five week (condensed) painting class
        • As soon as I finished my painting class I traveled out of state to finally complete the week long intensive course that I had been working so hard on the coursework for. My bedtime averaged 2am for the entire week. 
        • Almost immediately upon my return home my husband and I jumped in the car and (literally) left the country for northern Canada where I spent almost 10 days trying to juggle my online coursework with public access internet connectivity that was over 30 minutes of driving into town. When I wasn't trying to get work done to turn in on one of those every day trips, I was reading nonfiction books like Imagine by Jonah Lehrer - something that has truly transformed my approach to teaching the creative process to my students. 
        • When I finally got home I was back to work with another graduate studies course for Exceptional Learners that will end only when I am back in my classroom.
        • In the midst of all of the above, I have been freelancing with all manner of work including face painting and visual branding and website design overhaul for a local small business in addition to trying to keep my own artistic juices flowing by trying to "live a life more creative" by giving only handmade items!
        I know all of the work has not been in vain because every step of the way I have truly felt more motivated and newly inspired to do MORE and BETTER as a visual artist and art education professional. During times and in places I never could have guessed, there were things that did nothing less than change the trajectory of where I am going with my own understanding of creativity, the creativity process, and creation itself. It's been amazing.

        One of the biggest things of this summer is this: Because the Lord is SO provident and sovereign I have had the great blessing of finally being fully outfitted in Apple products. I have shared a reviews and thoughts on some of the iPad apps that I have had the time to play around in but this past weekend I stumbled upon something completely unexpected - the app for Mac that is Keynote! Now, it's likely that I am behind the times on this because I have been such a fiercely loyal user of Powerpoint even in the face of things like Prezi. Still? I have been diligent with prayer and with my own sweat and tears for weeks now trying to figure out how to apply all that I have learned so that it absolutely transforms me as an art education professional especially and I feel like Keynote is one of the last big pushes that I have been waiting for.

        I don't know what it is (for me) about Keynote that sets it apart from Powerpoint but I just like it so much better. Powerpoint has definitely come a long way and I can appreciate the ways that it has been kept up to snuff but Keynote? I don't know. There is just something more about it that puts it slightly above Keynote.

        Like with most everything Mac, the software is definitely very intuitive. It also has really terrific template design options. (I LOVE a good template that I can hack apart and then put back together again.) AND the templates don't lock you in so much that it is a pain to include more than one master design template theme within one presentation. Yes - I believe it's important to have visual cohesion and so master design templates are a great idea but at the same time? I don't know. I have always enjoyed the possibility of visual compartmentalization and organization using the visual presentation of both individual slides and sections. I feel like this is especially important when you are using multimedia to present new lesson and project ideas. There needs to be a visual separation between the introduction, lecture and discussion, and then the project itself. Anyway...

        This past weekend I spent some times knocking around in Keynote and before I knew it I had created a brand spankin' new multimedia presentation for the first day of one of my classes...

        A screenshot of one of the slides from my 2D Design presentation in Keynote

        I say that so nonchalantly but honestly? That's how easy it felt like it came together. It just all fell into place. And when I went through the finished presentation I realized that it could easily be used as presentation template that could be beautifully re-shaped for each of the other four classes I am also teaching this year without making it seem like I just duplicated any of them.

        Screenshot from the Graphic Design presentation

        One of my favorite finds within Keynote so far is the fact that you can export your finished presentations as quicktime mini movies. So? I did that for each of them and I plan on sharing them with you!!! You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see my first one though. It's the one I did for 2D. I have queued up a posting so it will be posted first thing Tuesday morning and then my two other presentations - for 3D Design and then Graphic Design - will follow on Wednesday and then Thursday. Something else I hope to share this week? I fully unpacked and put together studio classroom!!! I got my shipping confirmation for a whole year's worth of supplies and between me and the other art teacher? We have TWO trucks coming in order to deliver all that we have ordered. (I KNOW. RIDICULOUS.) I will, of course, share my unpacking adventures here on the blog but you can also keep an eye on my instagram feed (username: dreampraycreate) because I am sure there will be plenty of glimpses of it on there.

        By the way...  I just wanted to thank you all for visiting my blog (and continuing to come back to it) and PINNING things from it on I regularly check my stats and it fills me with so much joy to see that one of the most frequently visited sections of this blog is the lesson/project idea and teacher planning sections!

        My main goal with this blog is to connect with other art educators and help the art education community be better established online. I know how hard it is to stay fresh with ideas and I have drawn so much inspiration from art educators that I surely might never have the opportunity to meet despite the fact that they are truly making my job easier and make me love what I do more with each passing year. For all of these reasons, I made the decision a week or so ago to completely remove any ads from my site that might be annoying or be visually clutter-y and therefore make it that much more difficult to navigate what is here on my blogsite. I'm not here to make money or be rich and I am only here to give back to so many of you all who have already given so much to me. Thank YOU for giving me a place here on the web that I can call my own and for allowing me to share things so freely the way I do.

        Wednesday, August 8, 2012

        iPad App review: Penultimate

        According to my blog stats, it's teacher planning time!!! The most visited portion of this blog lately is the lesson planning idea page. Pretty cool, if you ask me. And like you all? I am doing plenty of planning for next year as well.

        Pinterest has been a huge wellspring for inspiration for me but I also find lots of ideas via my blogroll managed by my Google reader. Every time I see something I like, I will star the posting so that I can return back to it when I need to. Now, this system has worked for me but it has also been a little clunky (if you will). It required me to do a ton of printing, filing, spreadsheeting, and inevitably forgetting about the file stacks of lesson plans that I had printed and never really looked at again since all I ever really used was my single printed spreadsheet that I would write all over and dirty up.

        Enter: Penultimate for iPad

        OH MY LAND!!! This app TRULY blows me away!! It does everything that I was doing in a format that is incredibly efficient, portable, and shareable, but also doesn't force me to give up certain elements of lesson planning that I just can't stop myself from doing - like using pictures for reference, making lists, compartmentalizing my ideas, and physically writing notes about what I intend to do with my project plans for each of my classes.

        Penultimate is essentially a wellspring of digital notebooks that you can use to put pictures in and then handwrite notes about what you want to do with them. I created a notebook for each of the courses I am instructing this year and I access them by simply touch-scrolling through the lineup until I get to the one I want.

        When I get to the one I want, I simply touch it open and it brings to me to the last page I completed.

        Pages can be changed to be a grid/graph background, have narrow or wide rule notebook lines, to-do checklists, etc. You can import pictures either from the on-board camera OR from your camera roll. You can put more than one picture of the page and layer them as well.

        After you put your picture on the page, you can hand write notes on or around it as you like. What works for best for me for the purposes of supplies ordering is just putting a picture (for visual reference/recall) and then listing the supplies I anticipate needing right next to the picture. This works well for me because there are a lot of project ideas that I see that are not standard art education lessons and I do a lot of top-down planning.

        Once you have a handful of pages finished, you can view them all together and rearrange them if you like. The below is a view of all of the notebooks open to their last completed pages but this is the same view you see if you look just at the pages within one notebook. You can touch and move any of the pages to rearrange them and reorder them if you need to.

        Something I haven't done but plan on trying is sharing and/or exporting any of my notebooks either to email or to other apps. This is good for people who might prefer typing over handwriting since *I think* the Penultimate imports elsewhere as an image file that is put on a page where you can type things around it.

        Before I got Penultimate I considered Evernote (which I got and honestly don't care much for) and Pages. I got Penultimate randomly but I am so glad that I did. It is the ultimate digitized notebook if ever there was one.
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