2011: The Year in Review

To wrap up 2011, I’ve spent the past few days sorting through my postings, RSS feeds, and notes from the past year. Here, in no particular order, are ten items that rose to the top of the pile for me.

  1. Creativity
  2. As a follow up to a presentation I did at the NAEA conference in Seattle, I collected a dozen videos on “creativity” and posted them here back in March. That blog post garnered the most comments from readers during the year. Since then, I’ve bookmarked several new videos on creativity that popped on my radar screen, including Everything is a Remix, Part 3 which explores how innovations truly happen; What is being creative?, based on a student design project; and the following video titled Deadlines by a Hungarian ad agency Cafe Creative that raises questions about the amount of time we give children to “be creative” in our art classes.

    In addition to videos there have been a number of interesting articles posted on the topic of creativity and schools recently, including Randy Rieland’s A Cheat Sheet to Help Schools Foster Creativity; Liz Dwyer’s Why Making Creative Schools Requires Radical Change, which features a video talk by Sir Ken Robinson; and Brian D. Cohen’s Teaching Creativity: The Answers Aren’t in the Back of the Book.

  3. Design Thinking
  4. This past summer, my colleague Brian Slawson taught a one-week summer intensive course at UF for graduate art education students on the subject of design thinking, a topic that’s getting some Internet buzz lately and one that I’ve long felt deserves more attention in the preparation of preK-12 (art) teachers. If you’re interested in exploring design thinking with your students check out Tina Barseghian’s Design Thinking: Creative Ways to Solve Problems on Edutopia and be sure to download the Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators from the international design firm IDEO.

  5. Teachers Under Attack
  6. It’s been a rough year for teachers, to say the least. While ‘teacher bashing’ is not a new phenomenon, I never would have imagined when this year started that teachers (and teacher unions) would become so vilified in the media. To gain some perspective on the tenor of the debate, read the March 2011 discussion titled “Why Blame the Teachers?” in the New York Times, and Richard D. Kahlenberg’s more recent article “Bipartisan, But Unfounded: The Assault On Teachers Unions” in American Educator.

    All of this is particularly discouraging for young people who have chosen (or are thinking about) teaching as a career. Over the year, I’ve worked to counter the negative images of teachers presented in the media by showing my students (aspiring art teachers) more positive and inspirational messages, such as Taylor Mali‘s smackdown “What Teachers Make” in defense of his profession and the following student video titled “Teachers Inspire Us.” And, if you ever need a reminder of the importance of teachers, just go to Thanks for Teaching Us, a website that started as a 30-day campaign to recognize amazing teachers that has since turned into a global movement.

  7. Art Advocacy
  8. With rumors abound regarding the slashing and elimination of school art programs across the country, arts advocates have their work cut out for them these days. Huffington Post’s Nick Rabkin provides some historical perspective in which to view the current status of arts education in schools. One of the more effective arts advocacy pieces I saw this past year was the following video produced by the Boyertown Area Senior High School Art Department (PA) in response to the impact of threatened state budget cuts on school arts programs.

    Boyertown Art Advocacy from DomJoseph on Vimeo.

    I also got a kick out of this ad campaign for Detroit’s College of Creative Studies. As the Art Advocado points out, this is technically an advertisement rather than an advocacy piece; still, she goes on remind readers of the role of humor as a useful advocacy strategy.

  9. Curating the Web
  10. Another trend I’ve been following this past year is Web curation, a practice that’s grown in popularity to offset the proliferation of information online and the pollution of spam gumming up search results. Instead of relying solely on the usual Web search to find something online that’s relevant and useful, people are turning to content-gathering sites like Bundler, Scoop It, and Pinterest to select, organize and share content on the Web. These sites rely on individuals with expertise or interest in specific topics to pull together collections of related materials and provide various crowd-sourcing features to help guide user decisions about what is important and valuable. To learn more about Web curation, watch the following interview between social media gurus Howard Rhiengold and Robin Good. Also, read Teacher-Librarian Joyce Valenza’s article “Curation is the new search: Seven tools you may not know you can search with.”

  11. New Tools
  12. As for new tools I’ve been messing around this past year, Pinterest is certainly at the top of my list. While I wasn’t an early adopter, once I created my first board it was easy to see why Pinterest has picked up so many users so quickly (over 4 million since August). So, what is it? Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows you to collect, organize and share stuff you find on the Web (aka, a web curation tool). Since you pin images taken from a site along with a corresponding description and URL, boards on Pinterest have a strong visual appeal to them. These boards are sharable and can attract followers, which gives Pinterest a social networking feel about it. Here are some boards I recently made and continue to add to: Books I Recommend, Art Education Blogs, Museums, and Videos I Recommend.

    To join Pinterest and start creating your own boards, you need to either request an invite from the site or be invited by someone who is already a Pinterest user. To learn more, check out Mashable’s Pinterest: A Beginner’s Guide to the Hot New Social Network.

    As for other new tools, there is nothing that I’ve tried lately that I feel as strongly about as Pinterest. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was happy to see that Delicious has been taken over by new owners who have set about rebranding and redesigning the site. That’s a site I still make heavy use of to save my favorite links. I also visit Google+ on occasion, which was launched back in July. It has some interesting features, or pluses, such as ‘hangouts’ that could prove useful for meeting remote colleagues or students online, it makes photo and video sharing quite easy to do, and there is a small community of art education users that make Google+ attractive for distributing your content to others who may find it of interest. Yet, it’s unlikely to replace Facebook or Twitter any time soon as a “go to” source for online networking with colleagues or friends. To learn more, check out Mashable’s Google+: The Complete Guide.

  13. Art Education 2.0
  14. Speaking of social networking sites, I’m happy to report that Art Education 2.0 gained over 2000 new members in 2011 and recently topped 10, 000 members. In 2011, Art Education 2.0 was favorably reviewed by the MERLOT Teacher Education Editorial Board and was selected as a finalist for Best Educational Use of a Social Network at the 2011 Edublog Awards. On behalf of all the members of Art Ed 2.0, I appreciate the nods.

  15. New Online Resources
  16. In addition to some new tools surfacing this past year, a number of new or revamped resources came online that should interest art teachers. YouTube recently launched YouTube for Schools that provides access to 1000s of educational videos from YouTube EDU, which come from organizations like PBS, TED, and Stanford. Plus, the Kennedy Center relaunched its website for K-12 arts education, ArtsEdge, which features a vast collection of free online resources including lesson plans, audio stories, video clips, and interactive online modules.

    Several museums introduced new or improved educational resources on their sites this past year. For instance, the Metropolitan Museum has been rolling out changes to their website lately that are intended to make their vast collections more accessible via various multimedia sources. Their new MetMedia page is a good spot to start exploring what the site has to offer.

    I’m happy to see the Whitney Museum is back with a For Kids page designed for young artists ages 8 to 12. The Whitney also has a Teacher’s Page that offers access to a range of curriculum materials, multi-media resources, as well as information about professional development opportunities. Another museum site worth checking out is the Guggenheim’s Learning Through Art page that provides information on their LTA residencies as well as a growing list of educational resources for teachers.

    Before moving on, I should give a nod to Google Art Project, which was launched back in February and provides incredible access to over 1,000 works of art from 17 world-class museums and to create and share your own collection of masterpieces. This is a site definitely worth bookmarking on your classroom computer.

  17. New Art Projects
  18. There have been several new collaborative art projects launched this past year that have involved students in schools around the globe working together. The three amigos, Matt, David and Mike from The Student Creative wrapped up FLOAT earlier this year and are back with a third global art project titled Surrealistic Me, which invites students and classrooms to come together and share surreal self-portraits which reveal something about their dreams and the world in which they live. In another project, Kendra Farrell’s photography students at the International School in Beijing and Melissa Noack’s photography students at Yarmouth High School in Maine have been sharing and critiquing each other’s work for over year through a Ning site set up for the ongoing project. The following video provides an overview of the project and the learning that’s taking place between the students.

    Another innovative approach to school collaboration can be seen in the Monsters in a Box Project that involved Theresa Gillespie’s kindergarten class in the Moline School District in Illinois sending their monster drawings to students at Apex High School in North Carolina who then turned them into 3-d clay sculptures and created unique package designs for each sculpture. A similar type of project was staged earlier this year between University of North Texas art students and local elementary students.

    Still another collaborative art project that has generated some buzz this year is Oliver Herring’s TASK party, an open-ended, participatory public event in which people are invited to creatively respond to certain written prompts and to develop new ones. I know a number of art teachers and students have already staged TASK events at their schools or in their communities. We staged a successful TASK Party at UF (photos below) as part of our School of Art + Art History’s open house back in November (Here is a list of prompts that were salvaged from the event.). All of this activity is leading up to a huge TASK party that will take place at the NAEA conference in March. Don’t miss it!
    Find more photos like this on Art Education 2.0

  19. Steve Jobs, gone but not forgotten
  20. Lastly, but certainly not the least, summing up 2011 wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the passing of Apple Co-Founder and CEO Steve Jobs this past year. We will not see the likes of him again in our lifetime.