Check out The Art Machine

What happens when two art teachers connect their classrooms via technology and combine their teaching, curriculum, and resources in an innovative way? Two Utah middle school art teachers have created one possible answer: The Art Machine.

The Art Machine is a collaborative effort between Christian Fasy and Brad Asay, two Ogden, Utah middle-school art teachers who decided to team teach their classes in two different school locations using video conferencing software like iChat and Skype. It’s not just the use of technology that makes The Art Machine unique. Fasy and Asay have also developed an art curriculum that focuses on creativity and imagination, allowing their students to make choices about what they want to draw, paint, and create. In describing The Art Machine, Fasy and Asay write:

The Art Machine has three general components:

1. Idea Generation
An important element of art education is freedom of choice. Students need to have the opportunity to create art from subjects that interest them. As part of The Art Machine, students are given idea prompts at the first of the class period three days a week. These prompts allow students to focus on important aspects, themes, or decisions that become very personal to them. They record their thoughts and ideas in personal sketchbooks, notebooks, or journals. Students use the ideas they store in these “Idea Machines” as subjects for their artwork.

Once a week usually on Fridays, students are shown a short video that focuses on art and creativity from around the world. This exposure to the creative process and different forms of art inspires students and shows them the artistic variety that is found in the world.

2. Collaboration
The Art Machine allows teachers to combine their curriculum and to team-teach. Using Video Conferencing software such as iChat, Skype, or any other program for such a task, teachers can literally team teach from their individual classrooms. Our website www.theartmachineonline.org allows students to display their work and to critique and make comments about each other’s work. We are currently working on allowing students to interact with each other using video conferencing, podcasts, etc.

3. The Assignments and Curriculum
The heart of our curriculum centers around teaching students the importance of creativity and imagination. We focus on allowing students to have choices of what they want to draw, paint, and create. We carefully scaffold our units so that each assignment builds on each other. Brainstorming, the importance of doodling, the elements and principles of art, and incorporating their ideas from sketchbooks and journals are used throughout each unit. Each trimester, we focus on a different culture and incorporate the art and history of that culture into the assignments.

This is a very general overview of the Art Machine. Of course it is still evolving as all good curriculum should. We are very open to ideas and suggestions. Our hope is to continue to learn from others and especially our students. The Art Machine’s strength comes from the ability of students to discover their own ideas and identity as artists. Rubrics are set up to give students confidence and success with making art. It has made a great difference in the way we teach and the way students learn. If you would like any additional information, please feel free to contact us.

The Art Machine has garnered a lot of public attention for it’s innovative approach to art teaching. Fasy and Asay have been interviewed on Kids talk Radio and presented at their state art education conference. During a time when many schools are eliminating or curtailing art in their curriculum, it’s a pleasure to hear about a school art program that is actually thriving.

For more information, contact Brady Asay and Christian Fasy at theartmachine@me.com.