This past week I had the pleasure of visiting Tricia Fuglestad’s art classroom at Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. I first met Tricia virtually, when she joined Art Education 2.0 over a year ago. Following a link to her art department website, I was impressed with Tricia’s use of technology to enhance her teaching and to provide her students with new creative learning experiences involving digital movie-making and photography. Since then, I have watched from afar as Tricia collaborated with her students to produce several award-winning movies and expanded her website to include many more examples of her students’ work with digital and traditional art media. When I found out I was going to be on sabbatical this semester, I knew that I wanted to visit Tricia’s classroom to find out firsthand what were her keys to successfully integrating technology into her art program.
Tricia’s attention to the learning environment was immediately apparent when I entered her classroom. While there is the typical arrangement of work tables one would likely see in just about any elementary art classroom, it was the other stuff that caught my eye—the hand-made posters and color wheel, the shelves of art books and curriculum materials, the “art room scoreboard,” her storage scheme for managing art supplies, the life-size figure from Munch’s Scream, the art history timeline posted on the front wall, the masks, displays of student work, and so on. Of course, I also noticed the technology in the room that included three Mac computers, an overhead video monitor, stacks of drawing tablets, a digital video camera on a tripod, and an interactive whiteboard with overhead projector. But, it was the attention to Art and aesthetics that I noticed first, along with the visual energy that oozed from the walls. I could tell this was an exciting place to teach and learn in!
Back in July, I laid out 12 principles for guiding the integration of digital technologies into a school art program. I observed several of those principles at work in Tricia’s classroom, most notably is the way she melds digital technology with traditional art media and instruction (Principle #3). Moreover, while Tricia’s students have a range of conventional and digital media at their disposal, the focus of their learning is always on Art and creative expression, rather than the tools themselves (Principle #1). Just as important, Tricia makes effective use of several web sites to share what her students are doing in the art classroom with a worldwide audience (Principle #8). See, for example, Dryden’s art galleries on Artsonia, Tricia’s TeacherTube page, and her Vimeo page.
There was something I observed at Dryden that seems to play a big part in Tricia’s successful integration of technology into her art program—a supportive administration. I had an opportunity to talk with the district’s superintendent and building principal over lunch. Both expressed strong support not only for art education but also for Tricia’s innovative uses of digital technology in her art program. Having heard numerous stories in recent years of overzealous school districts placing heavy restrictions on teacher and student access to and use of the Web, it was refreshing to see a district with a cautious yet sensible approach to how online tools and resources can be used in the classroom.
Among the many things that impressed me about Tricia was her enthusiasm for her subject, her students, and for the creative possibilities that digital technology present to her to her students. Her attitude reminded me that digital tools will not transform education, unless passionate and knowledgeable teachers guide their use in the classroom.
Lastly, I invite you to watch this short video that captures some of the excitement and learning that happens in Tricia Fuglestad’s classroom:
A Scholarship Enhancement Grant from the University of Florida’s College of Fine Arts made my visit to Dryden Elementary School possible. I want to thank Tricia Fuglestad as well as the administration, staff, and students at Dryden Elementary School for their hospitality during my visit.