Becoming a Globally-Connected Art Educator

I’ve been passionate about global connectivity for years now. I’ll share with you why I think this topic should interest all art educators and steps you can take to get globally connected.

Its worth noting at the onset that the Web turned twenty-five this past year and that people started using the term Web 2.0 around 10 years ago to describe the shift from a passive to a more interactive online experience. If we look at what’s happening on the Web today, it’s clear that social media and digital tools have dramatically changed the way we learn, create, and share content online. The question is what are we going to do about it?

History shows that education is slow to adopt new technologies. Typically, new tools are superimposed over existing teaching practices. The painting by Laurentius de Voltolina (figure 1) illustrates a 14th century Medieval university classroom with the teacher playing the familiar role of lecturer while students sit in rows listening.


Figure 1. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The blackboard was introduced into the first American classroom in the early 19th century as an “innovative teaching tool.” It took nearly 100 years before every classroom in the county had one. Yet, the fact is things haven’t changed much in seven centuries of education—the lecture is still the preferable teaching model in many classrooms today.

While schools have been slow to change, our students have not. Kids today are going mobile. They’re accessing the Web through their smartphones, which are on 24/7. They can tap into the world’s knowledge base any time, anywhere.

This new scenario raises the question, “What do we do with students who come to school with access to more content on their phones than we could ever offer them in our classroom?” Do we lecture to them? Or, do we find ways to use the tools at our disposal to teach in more transformative ways?

The answers lie in global connectivity. It’s already made a huge impact in our daily lives. We now need to figure out how to harness this power to open up new avenues for teaching, learning and creative expression in the art classroom. There are three steps you can take in that direction.

The first step involves making connections with your local community. Perhaps you have a blog you post to regularly to share with parents what their children are doing in your art classroom? There are other ways to connect locally online as well.  For instance, millions of teachers, students and parents use Edmodo and Artsonia to connect with each other on a regular basis through online classrooms and galleries.

Step two involves connecting with colleagues, nationally and internationally. You should also look for ways to connect with experts in other fields that can teach your students and enhance your own professional knowledge. For example, the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) is now offering free professional development courses to primary and secondary school teachers through Coursera, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider.

Many teachers today use Twitter as their main source for professional development throughout the school year, by participating in twitter chats that occur each month or sometimes more frequently on a variety of topics. For instance, the #ArtsEdChat occurs the second Sunday of each month from 8:30 to 9:30 EST.

Step three involves extending your reach out further to include connections that link you, your students and your curriculum to the larger global community online. There are lots of ways to do this. One way is to have your students participate in one of the many global art projects being run on the web today. For instance, three high school art teachers, who met online, started The Student Creative several years ago to pose annual creative challenges for art students around the globe.

Another way to go global is to expand your personal learning network (PLN) to include digital colleagues and experts from around the world. Not only will you benefit from being in an active PLN, so will your students. Lastly, Art Education 2.0 is a social network with nearly 14,000 members. It is one of many places you can go online today to connect with other art educators around the globe.

I’ll close with this quote from Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage.” The Web has certainly given it new meaning. I invite each of you to get up on the “global stage” and share your innovative ideas, practices and student work online. You will inspire and be inspired. That’s how art education will grow and prosper in the 21st century.

Roland, C. (October 2014). Becoming a globally connected art educator. Art Education Technology (AET) Column, NAEA News, 56(4), 22. invited.