Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trends, Tools, and Tactfulness in 21st Century Education

A friend recently asked me, “How much time do you spend on plans to get these students (600 students) engaged in learning?” I thought my mind would snap right there from the pressure as we were filming. The real answer went through my head then I scrambled to think of an appropriate response. The real answer is every waking moment. I spend lots of time planning, creating and prepping fabulous art projects then I have to write the lesson plan with every standard and strategy known to the human race. I am creative and smart. I am not organized or polished. This plan is trapped on my desk under physical heaps of inspiration and ideas. If you saw my intro to me video, you are horror movie frightened of responding to my blog posts and feeling pretty good about yourself right now. U R Welcome!  So how does it feel to be creative, smart, organized, polished and good looking? Yes, you!

My name is Valerie York. The best miracle of my life is my son, Jack. One of my dreams was to be Jack’s art teacher and he is now one of my Prek art students. I teach Art Prek-2nd grade at Appomattox Primary School in Appomattox, VA. I grew up in Chester, VA and went to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) graduating with a BFA in Fashion Design. I went to NYC and worked for Tommy Hilfiger in design. I have moved over 30 times in my life. The last time was from across the street 10 years ago when I bought our house. We have our hounds, Skylar, 15 and Ted, 7. My sister lives in San Diego with her family. My folks live 2 hours away and come to every one of Jack’s soccer games. I am a romantic and idealist so of course I am single. I watch Downton Abbey, read contemporary romance novels, and watch all things Gerard Butler. If I am lucky I take a breath, sleep, eat healthy, and exercise.

I find most of my ideas on Pinterest and resources through my EDIM graduate courses at Wilkes University. My classmates and instructors have awesome ideas and resources to share. I post student work on Artsonia, the largest online student art museum. It is our online portfolio. I have created resources through Wilkes like Weeblys, Google Docs, Glogs, and digital stories I use in class for primarily units on shapes and colors and the art class rules and using art materials. I have been encouraged, inspired, and grateful for the help and support I have been given by my Wilkes classmates and instructors when I have reached out to them. I can usually figure out how to gear a resource in an artistic way for young children. Wilkes people, the educationally elite, recognize and appreciate the skills and expertise it takes to learn with young children in creative media and environments. I am around children 24-7 so it is nice to have adults I can connect with professionally and creatively.

The Goods  This one is on primary colors and has a link to my Glog. I used this with Prek.

My challenges to incorporate new ideas and resources are time, access to technology and collaboration and my struggle with organization. I see my students weekly for either 30 or 45 minutes. Many children get pulled from my classes every week for remediation. I am on lots of committees including Project Based Learning where I feel pressure to create spectacles to be seen with hours of time and money I don’t have. I am working on breaking things down to performance tasks but even that is difficult because young children have so much to learn and explore before assessments. I want learning to be fun and for the students to have the joy I have when I create art. Art is a stress reliever, therapy, play, and innovation.  Most of my time is used prepping for Art Classes and photographing and uploading student work for Artsonia.  I want to centralize and organize my resources in a phenomenal online presentation. I want to create my own online portfolio to show the value of my work, my creations, my ideas, and my accomplishments. I want to collaborative with creative, smart, organized, polished, good looking, and athletic people. See that, I just raised the bar, expectations and have left out the objective- Make Art Fun! No pressure, you’ve got this. I am giving you the wink, the smile, and the gotcha finger shake. I expect answers in the comment section from the Wilkes educationally elite. Question #2 How do you sanely organize your online resources and put on the polish? Question #3 Are you appreciated for your efforts and asked to do more?   Now you can answer Question #1 So how does it feel to be creative, smart, organized, polished and good looking? Yes, you! ( Athletic, too? My Goodness!) You are a rock star. Thank you for helping the less fortunate.


  1. What you have here is interesting. I just held an optional training in my room this morning for anyone who wanted to come learn about a newer Edmodo offering. Our art teacher came down just to see what I was up to. She is looking for something that works, but what I was doing was not it. I will share the online gallery with her. It might be something she is looking for.

    Looking forward to working with a creative type for this class.
    Chris Lopez

    1. Chris,

      I love Artsonia and if your art teacher contacts them they can set her up with a mentor if that is something she would be interested in. Artsonia can be set up for students to enter their own work. Parents can upload art work from home, too.

      Thanks for your comment. Hope I live up to my craftiness.

  2. First off, I love your post and how I can hear your personality in your writing! Second, do those people who aren't messy and uber-organized really do anything other than be neat and tidy? I live by myself in my house with my one dog and still I can think of 20 other things I'd rather do than organize.

    I'm interested in learning more about how you incorporate technology with the youngsters. I teach full day Title kindergarten and often struggle with applying the information that I learn in my EDIM classes in a kindergarten setting. So much of what we learn is excellent for kids who have reading/writing skills. But for my kiddos who come in already identified as being behind the others and learning a second or sometimes third language, they rarely are able to use what we're learning in our classes independently. I know technology integration is so much more than apps, but what do we do with kids who aren't yet literate? I'd love any help you have!

    (PS: Your comment about being single because you're a romantic and your love for Gerard Butler movies totally made me choke on my coffee.)

    1. Kate,

      I model the lessons. I also use lots of visuals on the only technology in the room they can all see, a Promethean Board. The touch had to be disabled because my Promethean is "possessed by the devil" to quote the Promethean Tech who came to fix it. The mouse moved by itself, opening everything. Most of the time the sound works though. I take pictures of the steps or find my source on Pinterest then go to the original source to bring the steps up. I am careful to tell them where I got my idea. I have recently made videos. One is about the Art Class Rules featuring our kindergarten students and resource teachers. The other I, as Glue Bottle show them how to use glue. I am interviewed by a 2nd grader and assisted by a kindergartener. I used iMovie on my Macbook Pro. It is often times BYOD for me.
      I also have all the shapes and colors in Spanish. I have bean bag shapes,too. I have one student from the Middle East. I usually have him close for directions but he is a lot like me and will look at a sample and get it. I have him sit near a methodical student if necessary because they balance each other out. Like his name, Om, he is very relaxed. I have a non-verbal student and she is able to blink or eye the answer when we test. The girl knows her colors and shapes. We do lots of kinesthetic stuff with dance, hula hula hoops, throwing footballs, and squeezing bags of homemade candy dot mixture to mix colors, etc. We document with iPad photos. There are a couple apps I would use if I could get the school to upload them to the grade level carts but it never happens so I buy and use them on my own iPad. I used Pic Stitch for collages
      I also used Word SlapPs.
      You can upload pictures, vocabulary, and they touch the word on screen.


  3. Hi Valerie,

    I love your intro video! You successfully combined fun, creativity and information in one video; I wish that I would have done something other than sit and attempt to speak clearly and concisely...emphasis on attempt. I am more comfortable behind a camera than in front of it so I think this class will be a good challenge for me.

    Congratulations on reaching your goal of being Jack’s art teacher! Enjoy every moment you have with Jack in class because the time will fly by. I have one daughter; Clare’s a senior at Juniata College and the time passed in a blink of an eye. She grew up with lots of art and craft projects and we still like to work on projects together. I treasure that connection and know you will too.

    Pinterest. Interesting, I look at Pinterest for food and craft ideas, and used it in my graphics course but did not think of using it for technology ideas. Thanks for the tip. You are right about getting ideas and resources from our EDIM classes. I have found and experimented with many tools and like you, have found fellow students and instructors to be generous with help and ideas.

    Artsonia is new to me too. Your have a creative bunch of students, their pumpkins and mummies are fun. I can see your time investment in uploading each student’s work to the site.

    We have the same time challenge even though we work with students at opposite ends of their education. I always over-prepare just in case my time estimates are off and the students work faster, and I have many things to share with them.

    Ok. I’ll take a whack at your questions. I use Google Docs - spreadsheets to organize my resources by subject area and sub-categories. It’s not a perfect system but keeping my resources in a searchable spreadsheet in the cloud has helped. Using the spreadsheet, I was able to find the information on Nancy Duarte quickly, in the past, I would have to go through files and folders for a print out of the articles. Polish - nope, my organization is a work in progress. I am a hunter, gatherer, collector of things that catch my eye.

    Appreciated in my efforts? In my current position, no, but I have only been there six months and I am learning the lay of the land. Old position, yes, I have been asked to teach another class. I need to think more about that question.

    Question 1? I try to be creative and organized but most days, I am thrilled that my brain works. Polished? How about reasonably put-together? How about we help each other? Together we can be more fortunate - we can talk about the rock star stuff later.

  4. Lauren,

    I think I can now access GoogleDocs during school hours so I will look into organizing my resources there.I am sure sub categories would help. My problem on Pinterest is remembering what category I put something in or finding it within a category. I have a category called art class with over 1700 pins. I have over 25,000 pins total. I should have started sub categories earlier. I can get lost in the details. I am looking forward to see all the creative resources and ideas you bring to the class. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Valerie,

      After reading about your experience with Pinterest - and Terra Lee's challenge of finding things in Pinterest, I think that I will not dive into that tool. Just scrolling through Pins - mostly on food - I get lost...I don't think that I would help my organization skills.