Category Archives: Art

Paper Laptop

Due to reasons beyond my control, I won’t be anywhere near the internet for most of this Thursday.  In fact, I won’t even be in the same state.

Naturally, the first thing I thought of was the first grade kids I had been planning to teach!

Now, most of them are able to log in on their own, but most is not the same thing as all. I could have them do an online lesson, but instead I pulled out a project I had my students do a few years ago back when I didn’t have a computer lab to call my own.

With some construction paper, a little glue, and some markers/crayons/colored pencils, we’ll be making our own laptops.  The point of the lesson will be to talk about how computers are used to communicate with others online.  The end result will be a neat toy laptop to call their own.

You can do the lesson too, if you want.  the .pdf file with the instructions is here, and the printable keyboard template (2/page) is here.

Academic Aesthetic 177: 404 VOICE NOT FOUND

This episode of Academic Aesthetic is brought to you by antibiotics and  cough drops.  You see, early last week a combination of lots of talking (occupational hazard of teaching), and post nasal drip caused by a sinus infection made me lose my voice.  It’s better now, but can only talk so long before my agonized squeaks become a source of amusement for all around me.

So submitted for your approval is an interview of me done by Dr. Kavita Mittapalli, someone whose name I most likely just mispronounced horribly so I won’t try to say it again.

The good Doctor visited one of my 1st grade classes last week, before the whole AWOL voice incident, and recorded a conversation with me afterwards.  I rambled on, and then made the bad decision of requesting a copy of the interview.

And I still haven’t learned, as I’m now making another bad decision and playing it for you.  Enjoy.

Academic Aesthetic 172: Minecraft Lesson Video

This is  a brief overview of Minecraft Classic (, how I related it to my curriculum, and some student examples.

Apologies for the size of the download (Nearly 50 MB, ouch!), but I unfortunately couldn’t make it smaller without losing a lot of the quality.  Video is like that.

Academic Aesthetic 169

Moving right along.  In today’s ‘cast, I ramble on about:

  • My county’s Sharing Technology with Educators Program, or S.T.E.P.
  • My new favorite Android App (still), AndRecorder, which I keep calling “AndRecord” because long names are abbreviated below my little phone icons.
  •, because it’s free and awesome.
  •, because it as well is free and awesome.
  • Frames, because while it is not free, it is still awesome.
  • A rant against looking for things because they “work in the classroom.”  That’s great if we’re preparing our students for spending the rest of their lives in our classrooms, but there’s that “real world” thing going on outside.  Getting something to work in the classroom is good and necessary, but we should be finding and using things that will work outside of our classrooms as well as in them.

What I Teach

Little Girl Dreaming With PC

Want to know a secret?  A deep, dark secret that I’ve kept off this blog for over a year now?  One that will shock you?

Well, too bad.  I’m going to tell you anyway.


Here I go …

I’m not a part of my school’s Art Department.

Yeah, that shocks me, too.  Here’s a guy whose screen name on an umptillion of Web 2.0 sites is “The Art Guy,” who may or may not have been the first art teacher podcaster (at the time I started I couldn’t find another one … that’s far from the case now of course), who isn’t even a part of his own school’s Art Department.

How’d THAT happen?

It’s a bureaucratic issue, to be honest.  I teach in a computer lab in a K-8 Arts Academy.  If it was a high school, I’d be a Computer Graphics teacher.  Unfortunately there is no course number for such a class in middle school, let alone elementary.

Instead, I teach a class called Technology Concepts.  It’s a fun class to teach, if you’re as geeky as I am, but it’s not inherently an art course.  Therefore, I  have no reason (on paper, at least), to be a part of the Art Department.  Instead, I’m a part of the Enrichment Department.

It’s not so bad…

I recently was chatting online with a former coworker from a previous school, and she lamented my change of departments.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, “You’re far too talented to not be teaching art!”

At that point I puffed out my chest and my head swelled with pride – and not just because she said I had talent.

“Oh, I’m still teaching art.  Do you honestly think I could stop teaching art if I tried?”

Of course she could not.

I’m an art teacher. I teach art.

Your definitions may vary, but in my book, ART is anything that involves creativity.  I don’t care if it’s a painting, story, play, song, dance, or video game.  An ARTIST is anyone who creates art, and an ART TEACHER is anyone who teaches students how to be artists.

I’m a teacher at a Creative & Performing Arts Academy.  Whatever subject is taught by any teacher, they had darned well better be teaching art as well or they don’t belong there.

Math is art.

Science is art.

Social studies is art.

Reading/Language Arts is art to the point that the R/LA Department should be part of the Art Department as well!


Does it sting a bit to know I’m not part of a department named for my degree and certification?  Yes, yes it does.  But it doesn’t change what I teach.

Art is universal.  Only the styles and media change.

And I’m an art teacher.

Climbing The Wall

The photo above is the front wall of my school.  On the day I stopped by to interview for my position (one of the best career choices I ever made, in my honest opinion), I saw this wall and thought “If I was a few decades younger, I’d try climbing that.”

Indeed, with all of those bricks pushed away from the flat surface, this wall was full of hand holds and toe holds.  Perfect for climbing, except for the concrete and asphalt below you.

No, I never tried to climb that wall.  After a childhood accident where I fell off a porch railing and broke a wrist I decided not to climb things where I could severely hurt myself.  (I did later go cliff diving – repeatedly – but water landings aren’t so bad.)

Flash forward to our school’s end-of-the-year field day celebration.  A couple enterprising students looked at that wall and had the same thoughts I had – without the “Oh, we could probably really hurt ourselves” thoughts to go with them.

Fortunately these students were far from unsupervised, and stern words and looks managed to stop them before they got more than a couple feet off the ground.

So what does this have to do with education?


My experience kept me from climbing that wall, and my experience kept those students from doing the same.  They hadn’t yet learned that the benefit of climbing that wall (“Look how high I am!” “Look what I can do!”) was overshadowed by the drawback of a potential injury.

Switch gears to a Kindergarten classroom, where the teacher has decided not to let her kids use oil pastels because the benefits of learning a new media do not (in his or her mind) outweigh the drawbacks of potential hard to clean messes.

Switch again to a classroom where students are not allowed to create blogs because the perceived risks (Do I have to list them?) don’t outweigh the perceived benefits.

I’ve seen many teachers, administrators, and parents that thought of climbing a brick wall with no safety gear in the same light as student blogging, cell phones in schools, oil pastels in Kindergarten, or even letting special needs students use scissors.

What’s the difference?

The difference is that we as teachers would be fools to ignore taking proper precautions before a learning activity.

I’ve blogged about this before.

I argue that it’s not the same thing if we keep safety in mind.  Let the Kindergarten students use oil pastels after setting out “placemats” (newspaper works fine) and reminding them that when a color is done it goes back in the box.  Let students blog in a moderated setting, perhaps even in a “walled garden” environment where only the students, school employees, and parents can see what’s being said.

When a student wants to climb a wall, for goodness’ sake give them a helmet, safety line, and something soft to land on.

Then cheer with them when they see how high they can go.

Paper “Transformer” Reaction

Here’s a quick video response to this video I found on YouTube that shows how to make a 3D paper sculpture that can be bent along hinges in different ways.PaperTransformerReaction

#MSET Session 2: Integration Technology & Art in a Lesson Study

Presented by Roxanne Dean & Linda Jones, both from Baltimore County.

  • Honestly, could anyone who knows me expect me to attend any other session?  It’s Art! It’s Technology! This is what I do.
  • Demonstrating Voicethread used to teach a lesson on drawing a human face.
  • “At this point they haven’t thrown me out.” Said RE: How many Voicethread pages she has.
  • 5th graders drew self portraits then turned them into contour line drawings and learned about Andy Worhol.
  • “Why do you think we need to do this in contour?”
  • They reproduced their drawings on the computer.  No scanning or photography?  Would be nice to have the time for that.  In my case I may have to use something like this to digitise student work.
  • Showing Art Content Standards.  Yes, this is an art lesson!  It’s not just token “Let’s color something and say we did art!”
  • Showing lots of Pop Art.  Comment about how things that Warhol thought were important are not recognised by today’s kids.  Interesting snapshots of the culture at the time.
  • So apparently Voicethread lets you record video with your voice.  That could be helpful for students who are ESOL or have certain disabilities.  Seeing someone’s lips move as they talk can certainly help to aid comprehension in some cases.  (It helped me in college, especially with some professors who had strong accents.)
  • A cow is used to signal clean-up time.  Students expect it and are used to the routine.  Makes me wonder how I might implement a similar strategy – perhaps with a school mascot?
  • Students used the paint brush tool in Pixie to redraw their line drawings.
  • Copy/paste used to get 4 identical panels, then the panels were colored separately with the paint bucket.  (Watch out for cracks!  The colors will leak through!)
  • While this was done with Pixie, I see how this could be done with other art programs.  GIMP, SUMOPaint, TuxPaint, Frames, even!  … Am I starting to sound like a broken record?
  • “Zoho” used to embed art on a site for parents to see progress.
  • Showing an example made starting with a photo.  Apparently the photo needs to be “glued” to keep it from fading.  I imagine layer settings could protect it in GIMP/Photoshop/SUMOPaint.
  • “Photoshop is a little advanced for 5th grade.”  Not if my 3rd graders are making vector graphics in Frames.  Give me a day or two and they can do it.
  • A conference is not worthwhile if you don’t find something you can take with you and use the next school day.  This presentation is all I need for MSET to be worth it, and it’s only the 2nd session!  Can we say this is an awesome conference? Yes we can!

#MSET 2010 Session 1: 411: Easy Animation for Time-starved Classrooms on a Shoestring Budget

Presented by Diane Boarman, Howard County

This is possibly one of the smallest rooms I’ve ever been in, and there are few if any empty chairs.  Meanwhile the walls are doing little to block out the noise of convention center staff moving things around.  Nevertheless, the show must go on.

  • Created her first animation using Layers in Photoshop, but her school didn’t have Photoshop.
  • Switched to placing images in PowerPoint.
  • Suggests PlayDoh for claymation.  If the lesson takes a while the PlayDoh can dry out, even with sealing it regularly though.  Parafin based clays can be purchased at craft stores and never dry out.
  • Make sure slides are imported in order – some programs have a fit and put slide 10 in front of slide 2 because 1 is more than 2, right?  Watch for that.
  • Still suggesting Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  On a shoestring budget I’ll use or
  • Images not in the rectangle for a PowerPoint slide will not show up.  GREAT way to organise elements that will be moving in or out of the frame later.
  • “Insert -> Duplicate Slide, then move something.” Repeat ad nausium, but it WORKS and students can understand it.
  • What’s also good about this is if students make the switch to Frames these skills should carry over.  Frames is more powerful than PowerPoint but PowerPoint will get the job done with most of the tools you need.
  • PowerPoint 2008 no longer supports photo editing?  Ugh, didn’t they learn when Apple cut features out of iMovie?  Hm, apparently they did but they learned the wrong lesson.
  • Word Art to make titles for your animation – more flexibility than using the built in title generator in iMovie or MovieMaker.
  • “Save As -> Select JPEG.”  Check “Save All” and change the name to prevent overwriting.  A simple “ver1,ver2, ver3” is enough.
  • “Save often.”  Good advice for almost any lesson.
  • When you import your slides in set the timing for as short as possible and turn Ken Burns Effect off!  Honestly, that effect is overused and makes your animation into an earthquake simulation.
  • You don’t need to use clip art – you can draw things with Autoshapes, also.
  • Animations imported into PowerPoint will not be animated when exported as JPEG files.  Don’t bother playing with transitions in PowerPoint.
  • “Do we have enough time?” We have 20 minutes left.  She breezed through.
  • The video she’s showing is very amusing and a mix of live action and animation.
  • Did she just call GIMP “Free shareware?”  She did.  It’s not shareware.  It’s just free.

Playing with Frames

I’m at a Clay Animation training session sponsored by my employer.  I’ve done stop motion animation before, but not with Frames.

I’m really liking Frames.  My previous animations have all been compiled in iMovie or (against my will) MovieMaker.  Those programs work, and are often pre-installed on computers, but Frames was designed specifically for stop-motion animation.  Most of the concerns I had going in were resolved in an “Oh, so it can do that” way, followed by an “Oh, you mean it can also do this?!” moment.

I’d write more about it, but I have to go back to playing … er, I mean learning how to use this software.

(Oh, and if you liked the music, Bre Pettis made it.)