In 2001, I received a Scholarship Enhancement Grant from the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida to develop “a safe and structured virtual learning environment within which teachers and students could pursue shared artistic and educational goals.” The activities, projects, and resources offered on the site were intended to: (1) promote authentic artistic expression in young people and broaden their understandings of the various roles that art plays in their daily lives; and (2) support online cultural exchanges and joint creative work that result in shared learning experiences among art teachers, students, and other art professionals around the globe. I called the site Art Junction.
In some ways Art Junction exceeded my original expectations and in other ways it has fallen short, most notably in promoting student art exchanges and collaborative art making over the Web. The lack of success in this latter area has not been because the goal is unworthy or unattainable, its simply that like so many sites built in the early years of the Web, Art Junction functioned primarily as a static respository of digital files. I realized that if I was going to build global connections and interactions among art teachers and students, I would need to pursue other means of attracting and engaging willing participants.
As I searched for the ‘right tools’ to achieve my goals, dramatic new ways of experiencing the Web began to attract the attention of the online education community. The term “Web 2.0” was first coined by Tim O’Reilly in 1999 to “describe web sites that use technology beyond the static pages of earlier web sites.” The term quickly became popular as a way of labeling the Web’s transition from a collection of static sites containing information to a more dynamic, interactive, social, and content-sharing environment. Web 2.0 tools and services like blogs, wikis, podcasts, photo- and video-sharing sites, social networks, and virtual worlds are now used daily by millions of people around the globe to connect, communicate, collaborate, create, care, and share with others. I was first introduced to the Web 2.0 landscape and its implications for (art) education in the summer of 2006, while attending the Building Learning Communities conference in Boston. The three-day conference had such a profound impact on my thinking that I knew I couldn’t continue to teach in the same way I did before going to Boston. I also realized that I would need to distribute my online efforts over several sites and tools in order to engage with art educators in this ‘new digital landscape.’
So, instead of focusing solely on Art Junction, I began to devote more time and effort to learning the ways of social media. I worked to develop an audience for my blog, which I originally set up as a companion site for my textbook The Art Teacher’s Guide to the Internet published in 2005. I also was an early adopter of Twitter, Delicious, and Flickr. Perhaps my most significant move during this time was to set up a social network for art educators called Art Education 2.0 on Ning.com in 2007. With the help of a handful of art teachers I met online, we worked to populate the site with content and projects to do.
The doors of Art Education 2.0 opened in March 2007. Membership to the site grew slowly at the time, but has increased dramatically in recent years as more and more art educators join online communities and discover Art Education 2.0 either through Web searches, conference presentations, or by word of mouth. Art Education 2.0 recently surpassed 14,000 members, which brings me to the present.
While I greatly appreciate getting to know and work with all the dynamic art teachers I’ve met and collaborated with online, I’ve struggled to keep an active online presence across multiple domains. With increased responsibilities in my “day job,” I’ve realized I could not “keep up” with rapid changes in the ed-tech community and that I needed to consolidate my online activities. With that goal in mind and with the technical design assistance of Web wizard Wesley Wilson, I’m happy to relaunch a “new and improved” Art Junction.
While the look of Art Junction has changed, its location remains the same. It lies at the ‘crossroads’ of art, technology and pedagogy. It’s here where all of my professional activities come together online.
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