Saturday, April 11, 2015

Food for thought - live presentation vs using technology

Recently, perusing the lively Art Teacher group on Facebook, I've noted a lot of requests for PowerPoints, videos, or other resources for lessons on a variety of art topics.  And I've noted a lot of teachers talking about the ease of demonstrating using a document camera.
 So I'm gonna be opinionated here about electonic vs 'live'.  Maybe I'm just saying something about my own learning style, when I decide how to present lessons to kids; I'll let you be the judge of that.  So that you can really understand what I'm talking about, here are a few examples:

Let's say, I'm introducing a new artist to students. 
Or perhaps I'm introducing a type of art, such as 'still life' or 'portrait'.  Or an art movement such as 'impressionism'.   You get the idea...  On a bulletin board in my room (either one on the wall, or one on the flip side of a rolling white board) I hang as many appropriate visuals as I can get my hands on. 

It's large size art prints if I have them, or perhaps prints that I've made from my computer, or pages from a calendar.  Perhaps I have a book or a story to read to my students about the artist.  And we look at the work, and discuss what we see.  I ask questions about what they see, what they note in common about the work on display, what unique characteristics they see, etc.  I also ask them whether they like it or not, and why or why not.  Kids take turns coming up to the bulletin board to look closely.  I might have them discuss at their tables what they see, perhaps in a 'think/pair/share' situation.  As a class perhaps we will take turns noting and discussing what we see, with kids going up to the board and directly pointing things out, asking and answering questions.  Generally, this is a lively time of give and take, and I find that the kids remember what we've discussed.  Learning is taking place.

During this time, kids notice things that I didn't even realize were there, such as the time I had a selection of images from a Faith Ringgold calendar hanging on the board, and a student excitedly said "Look, I see Vincent van Gogh in this quilt!"  And lo and behold, in a field of sunflowers, there indeed was Vincent, among the flowers, holding flowers.  And I hadn't even noticed this when I hung up the images.   Here's the quilt:
If I shared those same images in a PowerPoint about Faith Ringgold, would this have been noticed?  I think perhaps not.  There's a certain separation that takes place when an image is viewed on a screen vs directly looking at images.  I don't know why, but I find that kids react differently.  There's an actual kinesthetic element in walking up to the board, and pointing to something specific in the image is tactile.

(An aside here about Vincent van Gogh:  when my students learned about him, and saw the painting of him with his bandaged ear, we discussed mental health, and had a good conversation about what is generally believed to have happened.  Meanwhile, a teacher had given me a set of rubber facial features, and we used the ear this way - when someone wanted to share something they had noticed or learned about van Gogh, they said 'lend me your ear'.  They would then be tossed the rubber ear, which meant they had the floor to speak.  They then would pass the ear to someone else who wanted to share.  Everybody loved the rubber ear, and consequently, van Gogh became memorable.   I believe that the introduction of a tactile experience during the discussion became an aid to learning.)

Let's say, I'm demonstrating a new process or technique to my students.  Maybe you use a document camera, to make it very easy for everyone in the room to see.  I've tried this, with very limited success.  Again, there's a certain degree of separation, seeing the process from my hands to a screen to your eyes.  I prefer, no matter how crowded, the 'gather around' style of demonstration, where it goes directly from my hands to the students' eyes, without stopping at a screen first!  "Let me show you this weaving process.  Let's pass the weaving around the room, and let each person have a try at weaving the needle in and out of the warp threads."  Or "let me show you how to put papier-mache on your armature."  I'll pass the bucket of 'dog drool' around the table, and let each person dip a finger in, squish it around on their hand, and wipe it off on their art shirt or a paper towel.  I'll hand my demo item to several kids to have them add a strip of gooey newspaper to it.  Immediate tactile experience for everyone!  The kids will remember the gooey paste once they have actually had it on their hands!

Perhaps I'm teaching 1 point perspective to my 4th graders for the very first time.  I tried using the document camera, really I did, but  the screen space is so tiny!!  I found that I preferred dragging out the old 'dinosaur' overhead projector, with the scrolling roll of wipe-off acetate and Vis-a-Vis pens.  I can sit at a table, demonstrating step by step, with it projecting on a screen behind me, and but I am seated, facing the students, watching them as they follow my steps.  And in between steps I can get up and circulate, make sure everyone knows how to hold their ruler securely, point confused students in the right direction, and somehow feel closer to my students than when using that document camera.  I don't know why.  Does anyone else have this same reaction to using a document camera vs an old overhead projector?
I'm retired now, but when I was still teaching full-time, did I ever show a video?  Yup, sometimes, if I felt it would totally be engaging and present a topic in an engaging way that would be memorable.  An example of that is the video 'Get Surreal with Salvador Dali' which really makes the point about surrealism in a charmingly provocative way, and gets kids singing along to the mustache song.  But still, using my precious little class time for PowerPoints, slide shows, and YouTube videos was not my norm. 

What about you?  Do you rely on electronic media for presentations of new topics?  Or do, like me, prefer the intimacy of give and take discussion, and interactive demonstration?  Do you find that overuse of electronic media creates a degree of separation and a loss of that intimacy with your students?  Thoughts, readers? 

11 comments:

  1. I own my Elmo because the district wouldn't purchase one for the Art Room. I can't imagine teaching without it. I use it like you describe your overhead projector. I can't imagine my classroom without it!!! It is also a plus for streaming things from the iPad as well. Those short clips take the place of videos especially because VCRs are not being replaced in classrooms when they cease working. This is true for the TV as well. As technology changes, we just change the way we present to our students.

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    1. That's very true, but this old dinosaur (me!) still prefers the directness of sitting at a table surrounded by students, while they get excited by the magic of seeing/touching/experiencing something new. But I am in NO WAY denouncing the use of the Elmo or other technology, especially if you have large class sizes. It's just not my preferred mode of teaching!

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  2. I miss those overhead projectors! People do not realize how awesome they were for us art teachers! I use a document camera now for demos, and I have a ginormous screen, so it is quite helpful. But not like the overhead :(

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    1. When I would bring it out (the overhead) to demo something liked perspective, the kids would get very excited, because they had never seen one before! They thought it was terrific as I scrolled the acetate, and they loved coming up and demonstrating on it themselves! Imagine what their reaction was when is take out my old slide Carousel projector! Or the opaque projector!

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  3. Great conversation here! I've gone through all the technology and now use almost exclusively the document camera and a large screen TV, all hooked up to my laptop. So I can go from slideshow, to video, to demo very easily. The TV gives a beautiful high-def quality image and I don't have to excuse the poor quality of a projector. All of our classrooms have 60" TVs and document cameras now and the teachers love it!

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  4. Phyl -- I agree that this is an interesting discussion.

    Our school has had Elmos and Smartboards for 7 or 8 years now and I do love the participatory qualities that both afford students when they are working properly. They are both "hands-on" as kids can come up and move objects on the Elmo and manipulate images on the Smartboard. Now that I no longer have my own art room and am traveling to classrooms, it is handy to walk in with my key drive, plug in and have my images projected onto the large screen.

    That being said, in my own room I would always start by have kids sitting up close on a rug (usually in a circle) where they could observe a demo "live" instead of relying on an image on the screen. This was particularly crucial with primary grades. I still try to have the kids start on the rug (room set up permitting) but my "live demo" is more limited. On the plus side, I have found that, through the years, kids are getting better at attending to what is happening on the screen, probably because teachers use it routinely for almost everything. As might be expected, though, students who have more trouble with listening skills do better when they are closer to you and you can keep them actively engaged. On the "con" side, the colors projected on screen are not always "pure" and when demonstrating on the Elmo you have to move your hand very slowly so the image doesn't appear as a quick blur. The Elmo definitely does not like quick motions!!


    My biggest complaint, now that I am going from room to room, is that not all projectors are equal. Many seem to be getting fuzzier and the colors appear dull -- definitely not the high- def quality that Kathy describes above. This is particularly annoying when teaching art and you are trying to focus on color value or small details in a piece of art. Two or three of the teachers recently got new projectors (or lenses) and their images are incredibly more clear, but still, nothing like a high-def TV image. One of the challenges of technology in the schools is the ongoing financial burden of keeping up with, not only maintenance, but the constant need to update and replace the obsolete in pursuit of the latest new and better offering. It seems to be producing a very deep and never ending money pit for education!!

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  5. I used to use the old-fashioned demonstration where everyone gathered around but I find that the kids are much more likely to full around and distract one another where does using the document camera projected onto the SmartBoard everyone gets a clear view and still gets to see what I'm doing

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  6. I'm a bit old school, too, Phyll. Doc cameras are used at my school but not in the art room. I teach 2 days a week and it feels cumbersome to carry a doc camera and laptop with me to school and set it up (especially since I ride my bike). I'm totally intrigued though. Been toying with the idea for so long now. Still undecided. I really don't have a problem with teaching demo-style right now and it works for the kids. Maybe that's why I haven't converted. Great discussion!

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  7. Hi Phyl! I also am old school and prefer hands on but I do use the smartboard for visuals. I have a question about another post and wasn't sure how I could leave this message but here it goes. I am trying the African masks this week with my 3-5 afterschool class. I have experimented at home and the black india ink comes off very easily with the steel wool. Do I have to let the soap dry first before I put the ink on? I am so appreciative of all your help and lessons and have been a follower of yours for years but have never written to you. You inspire me in all that you do! I am also on my way to retirement and my next chapter at the end of this year! Thanks, Terry

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    1. Terry - 1st of all, you can leave a message on ANY post and I will know. I get email notifications of all comments, so it's never a problem!

      Hmmm. The India ink shouldn't come off easily - what kind of soap are you using? We do NOT let the soap dry first, and you just want a very light coat. Otherwise the whole thing feels greasy. We've had the best success with a damp brush and little bars of hotel soap.

      One big thing that makes a difference - if you have areas of the foil that have not been tooled, the ink doesn't stick well (or sticks so hard you can't get it off!). I tell my students that every spot on tooling foil has to get touched with a tool somehow, even if it's just to use a pop stick to smooth it out/flatten it. But it's better to add texture/pattern and don't leave too many big untooled areas.

      Some other people have used black shoe polish instead of ink; I haven't tried this. And I saw one recently where the whole thing was colored with black Sharpie and then steel-wooded, which seems like a lot of Sharpie-waste to me. I have found that some brands of ink work better than others, plus you need to make sure to shake it up good to get the darkest sediments. Test it out. The Speedball is a nice black, and I think I've also used something called Black Cat, but there are some inks that leave more of a purplish color that isn't the black you want. Hope you can work it out!! Good luck!

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  8. Thanks so much. Guess what I never shook the bottle of ink maybe that's it! Will let you know. enjoy your week, Terry

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