The art class blog is surprising me in both good and not-so-good ways. The best way to describe how I feel about it right now is positive validation combined with a hint of frustration. Or perhaps indecision mixed with determination. Or, probably, all of that plus more…
Let’s start with the successes of blogging with my art class. It is very rewarding to see 30 students sitting at computers engaging in Web 2.0 technology. It feels promising to me. I strongly believe that students need to be taught about technology and I also believe that students need to be taught using technology in transformative ways. Blogging with my art students fits with those beliefs, so I know I’m on the right track.
Another success is that the students learned how to use the blog pretty quickly. I’ve said this before – students never cease to amaze me with how smart they are. They have all customized their themes and their blogspace, some more than others, which I expected. Many students worked on their blogs over Spring Break. How many students do you know who willingly did extra work during a week off school!?! There is noticeable enthusiasm in the students, albeit a little tentative in some, surrounding the project. They do seem to like Edublogs, and so far, overall feedback is positive.
Now for the struggles. Even with all my advanced preparations, there have been a few unanticipated difficulties. I’m hoping that writing it out will help to dissipate my frustration. The first struggle, and I have to write about this first, is the absolutely horrible laptop that I use to teach my ‘how to’ blogging lessons.
Let me explain. There are two computer labs so fortunately lab access has not been an issue. What has been an issue is trying to teach once inside the lab. The available lab has no teacher workstation so you need to sign out the one school-wide laptop cart in order to teach using a computer and a projector.
While the cart is almost always available (again, access, thankfully, is not an issue), the laptop on the cart needs to be replaced. Actually, the laptop on the cart needs to be run over by a pickup truck (hard to believe that I couldn’t find that image on Flickr – Laptop flambe gets the message across nicely though). It is, to put it mildly, painfully slow, and to complicate teaching with it even more, it sometimes picks up the wireless network in the school, sometimes, not.
I’ve had the tech crew look at it and apparently there are five other laptops exactly the same around the district and they’re all glitchy. Frankly, that laptop is ruining my blog teaching time. I won’t quit the project because of it though. The last time we were in the lab, my solution was to pull a student workstation onto the cart, hook it up to the projector and teach from that. It worked, but the whole project would be so much better if the laptop on the cart worked properly.
Aside from equipment difficulties, the other major difficulty is connected to the students themselves. My art students love art class. They look forward to their time in the art room. Sometimes, if they have art first thing in the morning, they complain because then they have nothing to look forward to for the rest of the day. Their time in the room is really precious to them for many reasons that I won’t write about at this time. If you’ve ever taught an elective, you’ll understand. Teaching students who can’t wait to come to your class is a beautiful thing and I am grateful to have such a wonderful teaching position.
Now, imagine taking those students out of that precious space. Those art students, who need their time painting or drawing or being creative or just being themselves for 77 minutes, are now in a computer lab (not nearly as cool, or aesthetically pleasing, as my art room) working at a computer workstation.
While the students have never complained about going to the lab to work on the blog project, I can certainly feel a shift in the tone of the learning environment. Like I mentioned earlier, they are enthusiastic about the blogging project, but that enthusiasm is tentative. If I had a small computer lab attached to my art room, the problem would be solved, but I don’t, so I have to carefully acknowledge the shift in the learning experience and work with it to ensure a positive outcome. That’s tricky, and completely unexpected.
That’s an update on the art class blog. I’m hoping that next week will be a turning point for the project as students are at the end of a painting project and the plan is to do the end of the unit critique online using the student’s blogs.
Anyone else want to share successes/struggles while blogging with students? I’m sure there are many good stories to share…
Imagery – “Laptop flambe” by Chris & Lara Pawluk on Flickr.com