Saturday, January 8, 2011

Technological dark ages

I'm feeling terribly inadequate. I read all these wonderful blogs, and see so many great ideas. Many of you post about showing videos as part of your lessons, or to introduce a new topic: a video demonstrating how to weave, a video of owls flying toward the camera, a video interview with Laurel Burch, a video about the life of the artist you are studying, little videos as time fillers at the end of class,and so on and so on... Or maybe you are just showing images from the web: images of artwork by a current artist, especially those that are not in your drawer full of art prints and posters,images from museums, motivational images, etc.

So let me say this:

I do NOT have a Smart Board.

I do NOT have an "overhead" projector to project from my computer. (The only overhead projector I have is the old kind, like in the photo above, where you write with wash-off markers on a roll of clear acetate that projects onto a screen. ) When the new high school art teacher said she had asked for an overhead projector, I wondered why she'd want one of them. Of course she meant the kind mounted on the ceiling that projects from the computer. Duh. I'm a dinosaur.

I do NOT have an Elmo, except for a couple in other rooms on my hallway that I can borrow when:
*The music teacher isn't using hers as the sound system in her classroom
*The 4th grade teacher doesn't need hers for a math lesson

*(You get the idea. Elmo doesn't live in my room.)
Don't get me wrong. Both of these women are totally accomodating, and rarely say no when I request to borrow Elmo. But it is not convenient. To use it, I need to have the other teacher take her stuff off of it, roll it into my room, shift my tables to make room for it, log on and say a little prayer that it will recognize me and let me open the websites that I need since I am not the primary user, etc... All in a few minutes time. So I don't do ask for Elmo too often.

Here's what I DO have:

I DO have a good old old-fashioned CHALKBOARD (yup! chalk!) except it is in such an awkward location that I only use it for info such as who's work I am missing. I can't use it for actively teaching.

I DO have a rolling white board, with cork on the flip side. I use it every day. I got it barely a year ago and it has made life much much easier.

I DO now have a scanner. It's brand new, and I'm just figuring it out.

I DO have Photoshop Elements on my school computer, but haven't had the time to adequately play with it yet. It was recently installed, and I don't have it at home, and have a strong desire to use it but have no access to instruction.

Obviously, I DO have a computer and printer, though my printer thinks it is out of paper after every sheet I print, so multipage documents mean I need to stand there and push the amber button after each page pops out. UGH.


I have been teaching for (yikes) 34 years, and got along just fine without all this fancy technology until now. But suddenly I feel like I've been left in the dust. Why should I feel like I need this stuff to do a good job? All my kids really want to do when they walk in the art room is dip their hands into papier-mache goo or paint anyhow. They'd rather be working hands-on during their art time, than watching videos, but I know there are opportunities they miss.

I expect to be retiring in a year and 1/2, so I don't want to and haven't asked for major expenditures for new technology in my classroom. NY state, where I teach, is in tough financial times and I don't want to ask for $$ to be spent on me that is non-essential. Besides, the person who replaces me when I retire might prefer something completely different, and I'd hate to see expensive technology go unused.

I have a beautiful room, lots of good practical storage including a walk-in closet, good working sinks, nice tables, lots of bulletin boards, and a great view out my window. Do I really need this other stuff?

Am I an obsolete dinosaur?


  1. NO! I don't think you need them. You prove that daily!! I have a Smartboard and when all is working correctly, often use it VERY briefly at the start of a lesson to share an artist's work, or illustrate a concept. I'd love to use it more, but there isn't time to do what I'd like to do in a 50 min. period. I agree with you that the most important thing is to get all those little hands busy creating and as it is I am lucky if I can manage 35 minutes of hands-on after a brief lesson and allowing maybe 5 min. for clean up. Since I do have the technology (all our classes do, due to a generous PTA the last few years) I can send the Smartboard documents I prepare to the classroom teachers and they can use them as resources, enrichment, whatever.... That leaves them with some added info. and me with more time to facilitate art making!! ( When my Smartboard is not functioning for some reason, I usually just have the kids look at the images I've prepared on my computer screen. I figure it's about the size of the TV screen most of us grew up with and the kids have never complained that they can't see the screen!!)

    ps. Slightly off topic but your mention of paper maiche goo reminds me that my note to self this week is to NEVER AGAIN attempt to do paper maiche in 3 back to back sessions (with no transition time at all between the classes) all between 12:30 and 3:00 o'clock. WHAT WAS I THINKING!!

  2. No, you're not a dinosaur. Oh my, 34 years teaching art. That's amazing and how I would love to be in your art room. Your art room sounds wonderful. My art room is like a big shed, it's 40 years old and has no technology in it. We do have wireless, so on occasion I borrow a class set of laptops to do research. It would be great to have a digital overhead projector to show students art works on a larger scale etc... oh well, maybe our next fundraiser.

  3. Phyl, thanks for sharing. Ironically, I am starting a class today that deals with technology in art education. I am excited (except for the research aspect...very time consuming). I do think technology can enhance teaching and make things easier (like a document camera), but does not compare to experience (34 years wow!!). As a newer teacher it was so helpful having the internet for lesson ideas and images. I might not have a print of be very knowledgeable on a subject and the internet has been a great resource.
    Luckily for us art edu bloggers, you do use technology all the time! Your blog is such a great resource and should not be forgotten ad a major use of technology.

  4. Love it Phyl! I have a TV and of course a computer thats it! BUT I do have all the left over carts that once held the overheads! So no you are not dino just an experience teacher who could teach anywhere!

    As I have been cleaning out my room- I am a little bit of a pack rat! I have been thinking to myself All I need is paint and paper, glue and pencils and I could whipped up a fine project. Just like a great chef
    you don't need a lot of food and spices to make a wonderful dinner! Your experience is worth it's weight in gold! :)

  5. I've been teaching just as long as you have (actually a little longer but that will be our little secret...) and currently have an ActivBoard, ActiVotes and school laptop for my daily use. With all the increased emphasis on daily content and language objectives, common assessments, etc. I have found that the technology has helped. I LOVE being able to project a huge copy of Monet's waterlilies or Van Gogh's hayfield to my little ones when talking about warm and cool colors.
    Working in a low income, urban school district these kiddos do not have much exposure to the world of Art outside my classroom. When there was a Chihuly exhibit at our botanical garden a few years ago, I presented to the 4th graders both a youtube video featuring Chihuly talking about creating his work and digital pix I had taken of his work featured in the garden on one of my visits. The students learned the titles of his pieces and what they looked like BEFORE their field trip. The purpose of their trip was to learn about the flora and fauna of the desert here but since Chihuly's work was scattered thruout the garden, I couldn't pass up the chance to expand their horizons a little. And, oh, when they came back? Wild horses couldn't keep them from talking about all they had seen! (I hope they remembered some of the flora n fauna stuff too...)
    Ways that our teachers help finance technology purchases are through grants or the website
    I understand your concern about purchasing something so close to retirement but what a great opportunity you would leave for your successor - and trust me - the younger teachers coming out of school nowadays are very adaptable and fluent in the use of technology.
    While art education continues to rely heavily on the hands-on approach to learning there are many avenues in technology to expand and enhance their learning/creativity. Hang in there!!

  6. No, you are not a dinosaur. You really don't need those things to be a great teacher. You have a room and art supplies, which is most important. Just to make you feel better, I don't have a room. I move from classroom to classroom. Some rooms will have things like an Elmo, but others only have a chalkboard. Honestly, my lessons turn out just as nice in the classroom with technology and the classroom without.

  7. When I was teaching in the Adirondacks, I didn't have any of those things either (except for the dinosaur overhead projector). I used to set my students up in front of my desk, turn my computer monitor around and have them view things on my computer that way. It sucked.

    I still don't know what an Elmo is.

    In one of my classrooms now, I still have real chalkboards, and no whiteboard (I do, however, have a Smartboard in the room). In another classroom I have a whiteboard and a projector, but no Smartboard, and in my third classroom I have a whiteboard, projector, Smartboard AND a flat screen TV. And you know what? I manage to teach the same lessons in all three schools and still get great results from my students, regardless of what technological assistance I had.

    (But I will admit, having all the technology is SWEET! If you're looking to get anything for your classroom, I recommend a new projector.)

  8. Thanks, ladies, for all your comments! Our technology budget requests for next school year were due in by the beginning of December, so I won't likely be getting any new technology for my room next year, EXCEPT the 4th grade teacher with the Elmo says she has requested "her own" for next year. Which is pretty funny because I've used it maybe 1/2 dozen times since the start of school, so I thought it WAS her own.

    If you don't know what an Elmo is: it is basically a projector that can either project from the associated laptop computer, or as what I guess you call a document camera - for example, I'm weaving wampum belts with 4th grades and I'll use it to project the basic weaving process, because it projects depth and they'll be able to see when the needle goes UNDER the warp and when it goes OVER. It projects whatever is on a tablet under the camera. Is that a document camera?

    I forgot another piece of "technology" I have in my room - I have - TA DA....a Kodak Carousel Slide Projector!!!!

    I do NOT have a TV. When I showed, for example, my Get Surreal with Dali movie, I had to sign up to borrow a TV/DVD player from the library, and then get it and retrieve it via an elevator since the library is on the 1st floor and I'm on the 2nd.

    I have NOT always had my wonderful room. Our school is about 11 years old. When I didn't have an art room, I made the point of making artwork even bigger an more intrusive, so they would notice that I needed my own room! Ha ha.. I guess it worked!

  9. I walked to our local farmers' market this morning and was thinking about this issue all the way there and back. To add to my other comment, I don't think I teach any better for having the technology I have, but I don't have to spend as much time gathering hard copy resources with the internet (and a way to project stuff) at my finger tips. So it is a REAL timesaver, thus, I have time to walk to the farmer's market!!

    I write this knowing that I run the risk of annoying someone who might not like the concept of being able to walk to a farmers' market in January when you might be plowing out the driveway, but what can I say, it's Southern California (where I do occasionally have the longing to see a little snow!) Have a good week-end!

  10. Oh Fine Lines I wish I could walk to the farmer's market, but it's 10 degrees outside and would take 2 hours to walk to our local farmer's market. Even though we all have gardens in the summer I love having fresh veggies. Have a great walk! :)

  11. The reason I only use my projector a handful of times throughout the year is because it is literally IN THE WAY! Cords drive me crazy. . . and I don't like to waste a minute in the beginning of class starting up a power point. The reason I do deal with my laptop and projector is when I have HUGE classes that can't possibly fit around a demonstration table. Since the stimulus $ for teachers in CT our class sizes went from 40+ to below 30. It is a whole different way of teaching and now I hardly bring out my projector. I would rather show and discuss things in real time!

    BUT, I do LOVE teaching animation with a simple t.v. and camera. It is so simple and magical. We make thaumotropes, flip books and finally stop animations (which is pretty basic technology.)

  12. It may be snowy here, but we DO have a farmer's market! They are indoors on Saturday mornings at a church just a few blocks away, and while I drove there this morning, if it was a little warmer I might have walked. I had already spent a little time outside shoveling, actually mostly watching my hubby shovel and walking around the neighborhood taking photos of our fresh fluffy snow. The market still has lots of winter squash, root vegies, and lots of hothouse green vegies, as well as herbs, maple products and more. We waited so long for a good snow this year, while NYC and everywhere were beign bombarded, that we're really happy to finally have a beautiful snowfall.

  13. Maple -- YUM --now there is something our farmers' market NEVER has!!

  14. Some of the "stuff" is nice to have, but we're about getting our hands into it. You keep doin' what you're doin'...after so many got it goin' on!

  15. Toys are fun.. but thier is nothing wrong with just pencil and paper... i have toys but no "home sweet home" No room this year.. and i teach at three different schools..

    Just keep it up...

  16. I agree that while it is nice to have the extra technology, you can totally do a great job without it. I find, however, that the kids are much more engaged with technology. It's their norm. They love the smartboard and it's interactive qualities. I have an overhead projector and laptop as well as 2 digital cameras (that I purchased with a grant from out Teaching Center, which is closed due to state budgetary issues). I also got 2 old MACs and a scanner because the were sitting in storage up in our computer lab due to having new desktops there. My lab assistant was more than happy to hook them up in my room so we can have some alternative sources for resources! I had to really make a big deal about needing the stuff to get it, but I was lucky to get it. I have no printer in my room other than an old inkjet that a parent donated to me. I have to use the Xerox or printer in the library across the hall. It's a pain. I use the computer and projector EVERYDAY! It makes my lessons shine with images up on the screen, slideshows, YouTube videos, interactive sites, museum images, instructions... it's become my staple! HOwever, I could do mostly the same with posters and a white board. I do love it and so do the kids though. I think of the computer and digital tools as TOOLS to enhance our hands on lessons NOT to replace them. I do a computer art project with each grade K-6 each year. I use Photoshop Elements with most all classes and the digital camera with others. I just wish we had a color printer that was more economical! I admire your lessons and your outlook and am in awe that you have taught for 34 years! WOW! I think it's good to what to get new technology until the new teacher knows what they want (unless the money will run out and you have to use it).

    Keep on truckin...

  17. Aw, Phyl, you are NOT a dinosaur!! You are one of my art blogs I follow regularly because your ideas and lessons are GREAT! even without the newer technology. Get this- the elementary schools in our district are not ALLOWED to have a Smartboard in our art rooms.... apparently they think our students are running a muck and will get paint on them. My Middle Schoolers are twice the class size and they are CRAZY (all that sugar, and I somehow always have them after they have lunch or gym, where they are all hyped up). I also do not have a printer, elmo (which I desperately want), cameras, projector... anything! Just a white board. When I am being observed, I try to make it obvious that I'd like a little more help, so I set up a laptop (which I borrow) with a projector (which I wheel in from the conference room) in the middle of my room to project on the white board and have cords all over. It looks ridiculous. I keep hoping that they'll get the point soon.

    I've only been teaching for 3 years but still have to share a room with another teacher at the MS. I did the SAME thing with spreading my art all over. I used to share with a HS art teacher, so we were literally on top of each other but now all they did was move me into a new room with a Health teacher (even though I teach in an "Art Pod" which I would think the rooms would be used for art...). Sometimes I think they just must not realize how much space art projects consume (although you would think it would be obvious)... so I currently have ceramic projects all over our counters, as well as take up all the other shelf space with supplies and books, tee hee.

  18. Ha ha - sharing with health! This reminded me of when I shared two rooms, in two towns (same district as now, but we now have one K-12 building) with a music teacher. I was in the primary building in the morning, and the middle school in the afternoon. Her schedule was opposite. The primary room was tiny, a former locker room in a tiny school. I distributed materials from her piano bench, and often mixed paints at the piano. We hung papier-mache masks to dry on a clothesline. The tables were on casters so she could roll them out of the way for movement activities, and the kids would always have papier-mache goo dripping on their heads. But we were friends, and made it work!

  19. Hi Phyl,
    I just wanted to share a quick thought regarding the chalkboard, as I use mine all the time. It was also in a terrible spot, and then I noticed that it was the same dimensions as one of my bulletin boards. So, I asked the janitors if they might be willing to help me switch them. They didn't know if it would come off, but lo and behold the glue holding them on was so old, as soon as we unscrewed it, it popped off. We just switched the location of these two boards and it was much better for instruction.
    Hope maybe this can help! Happy New Year!
    Deb H.

  20. Thanks, Deb. Nice idea, but no go. I have an immense "built-in" bulletin board in my room. The chalkboard would not be interchangeable with it. I have other bulletin boards in the hall, but that doesn't help! Anyhow, since I've got the rolling white board, I pretty much use that for instruction and use the white board for more inactive stuff - such as a list of 6th graders who owe projects, or a reminder about schedule changes for the week, etc. So I'm good...
    Glad the chalkboard switcheroo worked for you!

  21. I dont have any of these things eaither although I do have a nifty cord that attaches my computer to my tiny little TV screen so I can show art images to my students. I would like a smart board though.