Category Archives: Art

2nd Podcast

Click to play or download.[EDIT: I’ve moved this mp3 file to archive.org and changed the link to match the new location.]Looks like I didn’t learn my lesson – here’s my second podcast in all it’s glory! (And it’s a day early, no less!) It’s much shorter this time, so it only came to 12.3 MB.

It also looks like practice makes perfect. I still flub things here and there, but I heard fewer “ums” and unintelligible dialogue this time around.

This time through I stuck to my notes, discussing my quest for a Linux server, my school’s multimedia multicultural extravaganza, and the start of a multimedia club for next year.

Shownote Links:

acapulco sunset – A song by Martin Sarna, hosted on archive.org

Archive.org – All kinds of media with all kinds of licenses.

Teach42.com: The web site of Steve Dembo – the man, the myth, and my inspiration for podcasting.

How to install Knoppix on a hard drive.

Linux Home Networking – tips, tricks, and forums for help.

Distrowatch.com – Linux versions galore, and information about them.

Ourmedia.org – Have a large file you want stored somewhere, but don’t have the space on your own server? Check this place out.

YaGoohoo!gle – It’s Google, it’s Yahoo! Stop, you’re both right!

My first podcast!

Click to play or download.[EDIT: I’ve moved this mp3 file to archive.org and changed the link to match the new location.]Once again I’m bandwagon jumping, but now I present to you my first audio rambling in all it’s glory! (Just click in the little icon to get it.)

I’m not sure how many of these I’ll be able to fit on this server before moving them over to ourmedia.org (This one’s 26.3 meg! Ouch!), but as I only have high speed at school and our firewalls here block ourmedia.org’s nifty uploading tool, I’ll hold out for as long as I can.

Two things I noticed when editing this: As everyone finds out when they first record themselves, I say “Um” a lot. I edited a good many of them out, but left them in when I felt doing so would hurt the rhythm of what I was saying too much (In other words, it was too much work to cut them all out.)

Also, I tend to speed up or slow down when I’m talking, thus making my words a little hard to understand at times. This was a little harder to fix in post-production, so I just hope that I can work on this next time I’m recording.

Shownote Links:

Creative MuVo TX FM 1 gig: My mp3 player / audio recorder of choice. It’s small, it’s cute, it’s USB 2.0!

Teach42.com: The web site of Steve Dembo – the man, the myth, and my inspiration for podcasting.

Wikibooks: I mentioned this when I was recording but couldn’t remember the name of the site. Wikibooks is an online collaboration open to anyone that wants to help create free online textbooks.

In defense of analog.

brushes icon

That’s right, analog. Just because you can go digital doesn’t mean you should go digital with everything.

No, I’m not one of those people who still only listens to records because I think they sound nicer, but analog does have it’s benefits.

I decided to write about this after reading about a study where technology was found to have no positive impact on student performance. In fact, the study said they did better if they didn’t have computers. Shocking, I know. As a culture, educators often do tend to think (even if only subconsciously) that a computer is a magical device that will alter our students’ DNA to make their brainpower increase tenfold. (Edit: Although technology can and does help raise test scores in some instances.)

You see it’s not whether or not you’re using technology, it’s whether or not you’re a good teacher. A shiny new Macintosh will not magically make your student ace his or her SAT because it’s not a magic pill. However if you already are a good teacher, the increased use of technology can be a boon to the classroom as you now are better able to address the multiple intelligences found among your students – provided you do not then decide to get lazy and let the educational software do all the work for you. (I’ve seen that happen too, fortunately not at my current place of employment.)

This is even more obvious in an Art classroom. I love technology – I routinely play around with computers, digital cameras, digital video, web pages, RSS feeds, podcasts, the list goes on. I’m planning on having my 6th graders make a video for the upcoming multicultural dinner, and I’m really excited about it too.

However, I don’t do these things in every class. There’s still something to be said for the act of putting a pencil onto paper, for painting over crayons with watercolors and watching the crayon show through, and for following a series of folds to make an origami frog that can jump across your table. Sure, I could do some of this on a computer, but I could not do it as well.

A computer, like any other educational resource, is a tool – and tools are only useful if they’re used for the jobs for which they are best suited. Perhaps that aforementioned study found such low progress because too many people thought you could hammer a nail with a screwdriver. You can get it to work, but it’s a lot more effort than using the right tool for the right job.

So I’m all for computers and digital arts. Bring on the 1 to 1 computer/student ratio, I’m all for it!

… but when I show up to teach your class you shouldn’t be surprised to see my cart’s still full of markers, crayons and paint. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an art supply budget to complete.

Copyright Warnings

brushesCopyright infringement is a big deal. I mean, a really REALLY big deal. A “cease and desist or our army of lawyers will sue you and everyone associated with you for your entire life savings” big deal. And for the longest time, many people have felt that they were (or should be) exempt from copyright restrictions. Unfortunately, they weren’t and/or aren’t. The following stuff is cautionary in nature based on facts. If you want to see my personal opinion on this I’ll mention that at the bottom of this posting.For many of you that stay up to date with tech news the first thing you thought of when reading the above paragraph was “stealing MP3s.” Yeah, people distributing copies of music without permission is a big chunk of the pie, but there’s more to it than just that.

Infringement in the arts…

Look at Andy Warhol if you don’t believe me – his most famous works were all appropriated pop culture references, and most (if not all) of them were copyrighted by others. If he tried to do today what he did then (assuming he was still alive), he might need to put all his profits into legal expenses.

Infringement in Education…

But wait, there’s more! Did you know that a lot of copyright infringement happens in school? Unfortunately, it does. There is a “fair use clause” that allows educators to do a little more, but the shield of fair use isn’t as big as some teachers think it is.

Want to show a movie in class? Well you can probably get away with short clips preceded and followed with class discussion, but if you would rather just turn off the lights and hit play you’re providing a public viewing. You know that little FBI warning you fast-forwarded through? Yeah, you just broke federal law and made you and your school liable. There are some tapes that when purchased include permission for viewing in their entirety in an educational setting, but I doubt Disney’s “The Lion King” is one of them.

Want to photocopy a book for your students? Last I heard you’ve got two choices: Copy no more than a chapter at a time and disposing of (NOT reusing) the copies when you’re done, or making sure you have an actual book for EVERY set of copies you make. Making 25-30 copies of a book you borrowed from the library can get your principal very angry at you if you get caught, and believe me people have been caught. (Some substitutes turn teachers/schools in for a small finder’s fee.) When in doubt ask your Media Specialist (or Librarian for you old-schoolers) or Technology Coordinator. They may deal with copyright law on a more frequent basis than you do.

So what’s my opinion on copyrights / file sharing / etc.?

I think some people are a little too zealous with their opinions. On one hand, the copyright holders sometimes go out of their way to enforce their intellectual property rights. Disney has served papers on teachers who put Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” on “Welcome Back” signs in September. Some CDs are modified so they won’t play in computers. I don’t think these steps are necessary (and in some cases they can be bad PR), but those companies have the right to do things like that – it’s their products, after all.

On the other hand, those that promote the breaking of copyright laws seem to say “Let us do what we want or we’ll do whatever we want anyway!” Seriously, I’ve heard people interviewed who said they didn’t agree with the price of something so that’s why they downloaded it illegally. If you try that at Walmart they’ll haul you away in cuffs, and rightly so. A thief is a thief, whether it’s a 25 cent pack of gum, 99 cent song, or a $1,000 stereo system. Oh, and saying it should be ok because the person you robbed is rich will at best make the judge laugh at you for acting like you have a below average intelligence. “…and justice for all” includes the rich too, you know.)

As for me…

I am an artist. As an artist, I would feel greatly offended if someone else made a profit off of my creations without giving me a cut. I would also feel cheated if something I based my livelihood on was being distributed for free whether I wanted it to be or not. I mean, why buy something if you have something else of equal quality for free, right?

Now as an artist, I also see reasons to have my work shared with others. It can get my name out and increase my popularity, for starters. I’m not concerned about financial gain (although my student loans aren’t due yet…), so I’m just happy for the ego boost I get from people telling me they think my stuff’s cool. That right there is payment enough for me. But the free distribution of my art is and should always be my choice. That right there is in my opinion the bottom line. Promoters of file sharing have given good reasons for what they do, but not a single one of them can or should trump the copyright holder’s wishes.

Book Review – Photography: A Crash Course

Brushes IconIt should go without saying that a good teacher should know his or her subject area well enough to teach it without a book. Being able to and having to are much different things, however, and I for one am grateful for that. Texts are wonderful resources that can foster discussion, provide background information, and give step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks. One book that is a good example of some of these things is Photography: A Crash Course by Dave Yorath. (Sure, I could find a lot of this stuff online, but I like the tactile nature of books as much as I like the interactivity of the internet.)

The very name implies that this book is meant to be a textbook of some kind, although it’s my opinion that it would best serve as a supplementary text rather than the main book for any particular course. As rich with information as it is, the book is only 144 pages long, including the index, and a majority of that space is filled with the book’s 400 assorted illustrations.

I must admit that the price was right. The book’s list price was $14.95, but it was in the bargain books section of Barnes & Noble for $4.99, roughly a third of the list price.
As a mostly self-taught digital photographer I found this book to be quite intriguing. True, it said little on how to do this technique or develop that kind of film, but where it lacked in instruction it made up for it in historical information. At the top of each page was also a timeline explaining what else was going on at the time that that page’s content took place – a wonderful way to help readers keep everything in context.

As much as I liked the book, I think it would actually be a bit too difficult for most of my current students (since I’m teaching elementary at the moment). My best use for the book would most likely be to digest it’s information and provide regurgitated chunks to my class as they pertain to any particular lesson. Were I still teaching high school, I think I would seriously recommend the purchase of 30 or so copies for use in the classroom. High school students would be more likely to create involved photography projects anyway.

A day in the life of a tech addict Art teacher

circuit boardAs a teacher, I pride myself in using technology intelligently every day to help with my lessons. I include the word “intelligently” because as cool as computers are, they aren’t always the best solution for every problem encountered.

For example, let’s take a look at my typical day. I start off checking my e-mail and my schedule for the day. As I can only teach each class once before I move on to my next building, every day’s schedule has different classes at different times. My brain would deflate if I tried to remember everything, so I write my schedule out in iCal (a calendar program for the Macintosh) and sync it with my Palm Pilot. I have it set so an alarm goes off five minutes before class starts as well as five and ten minutes before the class ends. That way, I can’t loose track of time.

In the classroom my main use for technology has normally been for presentation purposes, but it’s difficult for me to use it on a frequent basis. As I have no room of my own and teach in four different buildings, I have a wide variety of classroom settings – some rooms have computers hooked up to TVs, some have opaque projectors, and other rooms have only the standard overhead projectors and blackboards. This limits my technology usage, as it’s often not worth it to create a PowerPoint presentation for a single class when you have twenty classes or more for which you have to prepare.

Lucky for me, this does not mean I must forgo technology entirely. Whenever I want to include a photo of a famous artwork or some other reference material for the students, it’s a simple thing to print it out on the school’s color laser printer. Websites like Artchive.com are full of images that are perfect for my lessons, although sometimes I have to pick them carefully.

During the lesson I’ll often walk around the room with my digital camera and take pictures of students with their art projects. The kids really like this and are often more than happy to work harder so they can show off for the camera, but my main objective is to archive the activity for later display. Parents and kids love to see visual references to projects they’ve done, and the display helps to reinforce the lesson later on.

After each class is over it’s my job to show off, or as my job description puts it, set up a display of student work. If the project is flat I can do this by hanging them on the wall and printing out a paper with the project title, objective, grade, and teacher’s name.

I’d love to hang three dimensional work from the hallway ceiling, but then any small air current would cause them to move, which would result in the alarm system going off at 3:00 in the morning.

I don’t wish to be chewed out at 3:30 in the morning when the Principal, Building Supervisor, and local police find out it was my display that triggered the alarm, so photographs have to do. Lucky for me I’ve been taking photos of the kids with their projects during the lesson so I can print them out after minor adjustments.

Modifications include some cropping, but mostly eliminating those glowing red demon eyes that some kids seem to get. Using the “red eye reduction” setting on my camera doesn’t work well, since that involves multiple flashes and the younger kids just won’t hold still for all of them. (I end up with a lot of pictures of kids walking away when I try that.)
I teach three classes a day like this, with my so-called free time dedicated to setting up displays and preparing materials for the next day.

At the end of the day I check my email once more, throw a few podcasts on my palm pilot for the ride home, and head out.

When I started working for my Master’s Degree my situation was much different. Instead of four elementary schools I taught at one high school. While I had my own room with a TV I could hook up to my computer or one of the two classroom computers (thus allowing me to incorporate all kinds of technology into the daily lessons) I still maintain that wild horses couldn’t drag me back to the higher grade levels. Maybe I’ll teach college some day, but never high school.

I didn’t just use computers and TVs last year; I also made good use of my digital camera. My Art II students spent the good portion of a marking period drawing out short animations frame by frame, then digitizing them using my camera and a tripod. The final steps were completed when they compiled them in iMovie and added sound effects.

Of course I also did the standard PowerPoint presentations, but when we went into the computer lab I also made sure all their instructions were on my school web site. That way if they missed a day (or if there was a substitute) they were still able to work. (Of course few of them worked away from my presence, but it really mattered for the handful that did.)

Suffice to say, I used technology a lot more in the classroom last year than I do this year. I like to think I still provide a good educational experience, it’s just that it’s more analog than digital now. Last year I could open a web page to show the entire class an artwork, and this year I have to either show them a page in a book or a printout from that website. I still think I use technology well every day, but a lot of my tasks are
more support tasks that the students don’t actually watch me perform.

Since I only see my kids up to four times a year this time around, fancy technology lessons are still in development. (Digitizing animations is almost out of the question entirely, although we do happen to have some digital video cameras I could borrow …. )
My students last year were encouraged to use technology several times each marking period, if not every month. My elementary schools this year are quite different, with one school not able to use the computer lab for anything other than testing for most of the first marking period. When I eventually do a computer lesson, it will most likely be in small groups using my own laptop, since it’s the only computer in all my buildings of which I can be certain of it’s abilities.

Oh clip art, where art thou?

I’ll admit I myself have an aversion to clip art, but then I make my own stuff all the time and not everyone does that. As a result, I present to you several alternatives to making everything from scratch. I assure you that I’ve never seen a principal act in the way portrayed below – I just wrote that to add some humor.

Your mission: Replace the school’s old web site with a web site that looks nice. “Looks nice,” so far as your principal is concerned, means graphics on every page.
The problem: You’ve hardly any time to finish it (your principal is already planning to show it off this Friday during an in-service) and your school hasn’t bought new computers since 1996. You’d use your home computer, but a recent accident involving a cat, pet allergies, and a double tall mocha latte has rendered your home computer temporarily inoperable. What do you do?

Wait, before you start revising your resume (there’s plenty of time for that this weekend) there is hope. A good color scheme and table layout can make a web site aesthetically pleasing, and the information you can’t reuse from the old site can easily be updated to be current, assuming you’re on good terms with the school secretary.

95% of your work is done – now all you have to worry about is your principal’s hair brained … that is, visionary idea of including graphics on every page. Making decent graphics on a school computer is out of the question. Not because they don’t have graphic design software that can run on the school computers, but because you don’t have graphic design software that will run on those computers.

Fortunately for you, there’s plenty of clip art out there. The nice thing about clip art is that it’s free, but the downside is that you often get what you pay for. Sifting through the pixels, you come across a site called FlamingText.com. FlamingText has clip art you can use, but its most noticeable feature is its free header image creator. Less than five minutes after finding the site you have a title image with the school’s name ready to display on the school site. A weaker teacher would have cringed at the pop-up ads, but you toughed it out.

But one title does not a happy principal make. With more exploration you come across a site called Classroom Clipart. This site does have a place for you to sign in and another to sign up for it’s newsletter, but it’s still free so long as it’s used for educational use (K-12 only) and you don’t get rid of the watermarks. The clip art is all organized by category, and offers a variety of pictures from low resolution computer generated images to some rather nice looking photos. You grab a few images that relate to the different subject areas and move on.

Your final stop in search of graphics takes you to Web Clip Art, brought to you by the good people from About.com. This free site has it’s own clip art (including some background images), as well as tips, tutorials, and links to other good clip art sites. Perhaps you should have come here first? No matter, you now have all the graphics you need and you still have time to go to lunch and complain about working too hard to your coworkers in the faculty lounge – and all you had to do was have your morning classes watch movies instead of doing any real work!

Drawing / Sketching

brushesInterested in improving your drawing skills? Well you can always take more Art classes, buy drawing books, and join local art clubs – all of these are helpful in encouraging you to push your skills to the limit. However, you can also try visiting online “how-to-draw” sites for advice and information. They’re often not as detailed as other methods, but they’re a lot cheaper.

One of my favorites is a site entitled Drawing / Sketching. This is actually part of the About.com network, which I love because it’s more than just a search engine. Each section is maintained and regularly updated by someone currently in that particular industry (or if there is no industry for that category, someone who at least has a lot of experience).

Drawing / Sketching is no different, as it’s maintained by an Art teacher named Helen South. On her site, she does a good job of updating frequently and providing pertinent information, advice, and links. I must admit, I’ve used some of her tutorials when making take-home lesson plans for high school students. If you’re an Art teacher or Art student, you should really check out this great resource.

myImager.com and FlamingText.com

brushesLet’s say you’re teaching a web design or digital photography lesson. You’ve made all your plans, you’re ready to go, but you have one problem – you didn’t sign up early enough to use the computer lab that has Adobe Photoshop installed on the computers. There’s still a lab available, but those computers are so old that they won’t even run a current version of Photoshop.

So what do you do? Well you could reschedule, but do you have a plan B to be working on in the classroom? There is a plan B, and it can be used in that other computer lab. myImager.com is a website that allows you to upload and image, then edit it in a variety of ways. It’s not as full featured as some of the more well known image editing programs out there, but in a pinch it’ll do the basic stuff for you.

If you have an image already uploaded to a server but want to edit it a bit, you can always head over to FlamingText.com and use their photo service. This isn’t FlamingText.com’s key feature (as you may guess by it’s simplicity). Rather, they have a very nice system for creating headers and banners that say whatever you want them to say – including choice of fonts, colors, and even (in some cases) animation.

So you want an art degree …

Education IconWonderful! The more education you get under your belt, the more money you have the potential to make. Now the question is, what college should you pick? Well my alma mater was quite nice, but rural Pennsylvania isn’t for everyone.

The first thing I would do is decide what art career you want once you’ve graduated. It’s quite possible to make a living with an art degree (both my sister and I have been doing it for years), depending on your skills and dedication. Of course, only the most skilled, dedicated, and lucky can make a living off of a degree in painting, ceramics, or another of the fine arts degrees. (It’s not impossible, just more difficult.) There are others, of course – architecture, communications design (advertising), and my personal favorite: Art teacher.

In any case, whatever art career you choose you’ll have to find a good college, and that’s what this update is truly about. I recommend asking your high school Art teacher, artists working in your chosen field, and of course, doing a little research online.

Google is nice, but there are other sites that give more information. If you’re serious about checking out art schools and colleges, then I recommend a site that is, coincidentally, called “Art Schools and Colleges.” More than just a categorized list, this site lists descriptions of each school so you’ll know more about it before you ever go to the college website.