One of our charges as educators is to continue to learn, to grow, to reflect and improve. An excellent way to inspire growth is to review standards developed by people whose business it is to research, discuss and train teachers. One such group of brains is the International Society for Technology in Education or ISTE. They have developed a list of benchmarks for 21st century teachers called the National Education Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) and they are worth a perusal, as we can all use a well-stated, well-researched, practical goal toward which to work.
Speaking of goals, (and acronyms, of course!) Dr. Katherine Cennamo, (author, professor, all-around smart person) has offered up a nice, easy-to-remember method of keeping self-directed learning successful and on task, and she calls it the G.A.M.E. Plan, and it stands for: Goal, Action, Monitor, Evaluate (Laureate, 2010). So you may be asking yourself, what have all of these got to do with one another? ISTE, NETS, GAME? How do all of these make for a better Mrs. Boyd, Art Teacher. Well, after examining ISTE’s list of standards (NETS), I have found two that I feel I can use to improve my teaching, and I’m going to develop a G.A.M.E. plan to implement them in my classroom. Since I have two goals, I will keep each element of the GAME plan separate for each one, to (hopefully) avoid confusion.
“. . . Promote student reflection using collaborative tools.” (ISTE, 2008)
As a teacher, I do not want to promote empty learning, or activity for the sake of activity. I want my students to engage in creative, skill-building projects that challenge them to solve problems, think in innovative ways, and appreciate the value of practice and craftsmanship. I also want my students to be reflective. I do not want them to finish a project and blithely move on without first taking time to look back at what has been tried, learned, failed and accomplished. This is not just a good Art practice, it’s a good life practice.
“Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.” (ISTE, 2008)
My second goal is to improve the way in which I communicate, collaborate and share the Art and discoveries we are making in my classroom. Right now, our school participates in a high number of public art shows, and has dozens of mini-shows throughout the school all year long. But I am not utilizing the tremendous (and obvious) resource that is literally at my fingertips: the Web 2.0 and all of its read/write potiential.
In order to create a more reflective environment in my classroom, I need first to become more reflective myself, and model the behavior. So, the first act I will take is to either ask informally, or develop formal evaluation forms for my students to fill out after each project. I want them to be able to give me feedback about the project, how it was taught, what they found successful, what they found lacking and how THEY would improve it if they were in charge. I want my students to know that I value self-reflection and self-improvement, and that while I don’t have all the answers, I’m still asking questions. Secondly, I would like to develop more meaningful reflective exercises for my students to engage in after a project is over. Now, we have whole-class critiques, and I assign written reflections, but they are usually painful and under-thought, respectively. Any ideas?
To communicate more actively with my students, fellow teachers and community members, I have a simple and effective Action Plan: Make a class blog, use it and promote it! What better way to be an advocate for the Arts and develop a dialog with the community about the importance of Art education than to proudly display the work my students are doing, and ask the community to respond! Our blog can be linked to from local newspapers, the district website and social networking sites. If updated regularly, it can be a wonderful springboard for communication with community members and art lovers from all over.
A wonderful thing about High School students is that when something is not working out, you will be informed of it pretty quickly. Whether it is by an increase in complaints, blank stares, bathroom requests, or attempts at clandestine text messaging, teenagers have excellent ways of projecting a lack of enthusiasm. Fortunately, they often love being asked their opinion, so I do not think I will have to monitor the effect of disseminating teacher evaluations. I will have to monitor the efficacy of any new student self-reflection technique I try out. But the “proof is in the pudding” so to speak, and if the quality of the reflections, be they verbal, written or other, will ‘speak’ for themselves.
Monitoring the success of reaching out to students, teachers and community members through a class blog will be fairly simple. Are we getting regular visits? Are people commenting on pictures? Are people responding to our polls? Is there an open dialog between users over pieces of art my students have created?
After completing several projects and exploring a series of different ways of self-reflection (written artist statements, whole class discussion, one-on-one discussion, self-grading, etc.), I will most certainly ask the opinions of my students as to what method they felt was the most helpful for them. I usually engage in these open, frank dialogs in the last week of school, as my kids are scrubbing desks, scraping paint from sinks and organizing resources. But, in the future, I would like to make it a bit more formal, so that I can track on their suggestions, implement them the following year, and make a concerted effort not to make the same mistakes twice.
I think a year of blogging will teach me many things. I hope it will teach me that the blog/web 2.o format has more to offer in its read/write format than affording people the chance to anonymously make an obnoxious comment on a photo! I hope that readers will take the time to make thoughtful comments that will improve my students’ experience and push the boundaries of my classroom farther and farther out, until there are no boundaries. Perhaps I am naive in imagining this Utopian place where people come together to share opinions, stories and encouragement, but that won’t stop me from giving it a shot.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National Eduction Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Promoting Self-Directed Learning. Integrating Technology Across the Content Areas. Laureate Education, Inc.