Saturday, April 19, 2014

10 Reasons Artsonia Improved My Classroom

After getting back from maternity leave, I finally decided to buckle down and start using Artsonia.  For those who are unfamiliar with the name, is an online artist gallery for teachers and parents to use.  Teachers can upload images of student artwork and parents can view the images, plus they can buy products with the artwork.

I was introduced to Artsonia a few years ago, and after hearing about all the work you need to put in, I was turned off.  With juggling three schools, traveling, and pushing a cart, I couldn't fathom taking the extra time to enter in all the artwork.  I was even asked if I had parent volunteers, which I did not.  Then the iPad started mainstreaming in our digital culture and the Artsonia app was created.  With the app, you can just snap a photo of student work, then upload it straight to student's names and galleries.  Hearing how much easier it was to upload artwork, I finally started using the site.

It took me a few weeks to enter the names of students and all the parent emails the school had collected.  I started seeing parents creating their own accounts, and I was elated.  Next, I printed pre-named permission slips (provided by Artsonia) and sent them home with kids for parents who did not provide emails to the school.  Then the slips started pouring in.

While I was collecting parent permission to show student artwork online, I started a project on Donors Choose for an iPad in the art room.  My main intention was to teach students how to upload their own work and create their own online portfolio.  Until then, I had the iPevo documentation camera.

I finally had all the student names and parent emails entered, then I started to photograph the artwork with the camera.  It was challenging at first because I was starting to take too much time away from prepping projects and decorating the halls with work.  Every photo I took had to be entered in manually, matched to the student and labeled to the correct gallery.  Over a few more weeks, I started to get the hang of it.

I had such a positive boost of parent communication, student enthusiasm, and administrative support.  Why did I not start this sooner?  I was afraid of the extra work to put in the beginning, but the positives immediately outweighed the negatives.

Here are some positives I have discovered in using Artsonia, which I feel is beneficial even to the traveling/cart/temporary art educators:

1. Parent Communication: I used to struggle trying to find time to contact parents.  I tried my best to create fliers, send notes home, create a website, and even try emailing throughout the year with little response from parents, but with Artsonia, I'm getting many positive responses.  I see the parents commenting on their child's work, and even sharing their child's gallery with family!

2. Art Room Newsletters:  Artsonia allows you to generate a newsletter that gets emailed straight to the parents.  Another added bonus with parent communication!  The newsletter template is extremely easy to use, and you can even break down each grade level you teach so parent's can scroll to see what their child is learning!

3. Student Ownership: Since introducing Artsonia to the students, they have been showing more pride in their work, which has been seen by the smile on their faces when I tell them it's upload day!  There have even been times where students beg to upload their own artwork they've created on their own!  Fewer artworks are thrown in the garbage, plus if the student loses their projects, we have an instant image to print up.  Also, students want the chance to enter their own artwork.  Now that I have an iPad for the classroom (thanks to all the generous donors on Donors Choose), students are learning to upload their own work!

4. Connections with ELA Common Core: Every time you upload a new artwork, you have the option to add a title and an artist statement.  I've started asking my 3-5 graders to add a sentence to describe their work, and every year, I will be asking for more descriptions to help enhance sentence structure and extended responses.  And, all the art projects that have been inspired by books are posted for the district and state to see as evidence of my integration.

5. Evidence of Student Growth: Many states are requiring teachers to show evidence of student growth. Since I am project-based and do not test knowledge in my class with quizzes, I found this site to be the best way to demonstrate student growth.  All images uploaded to the artist are archived, which means you can go back and visit previous artworks to see how the child has developed in their craftsmanship and understanding through time.  I had a perfect example this week.  One of the kindergarten students was struggling with fine motor skills in the beginning of the year.  Since I started entering artwork on Artsonia, I can now see the child's development each week.  In the fall, the student could not hold scissors properly, but now, he was able to complete his own puppet, cutting out his own shapes!  I was able to show this progression to the child's OT teacher on Artsonia, and she was thrilled to see the evidence through time.

6. Evidence of Presentation (Core Arts Standard): Before Artsonia (and with my limited time), I was only able to provide evidence of student work by displays and blog posts.  Now, I am gathering a portfolio of student work in one place!

7. Evidence of All Common Core Standards You Integrate in Your Lessons:  Has your administrator or curriculum director asked you how you integrate common core into the art class?  Simply send them the link to the school's online gallery and be sure to add the standard in your exhibit descriptions!  This includes ELA, Math, NGSS, Technology, and more!

8. An Automatic Fundraiser: Every artwork you upload into the student's accounts are seen by the parents.  If that parent wants to purchase an item (t-shirt, coffee mug, etc.) with their child's artwork, they can simply order it through Artsonia's online store and it shipped directly to them.  A percentage of the cost goes right back to you to use for your art supplies!  The only thing you have to do is upload the artwork!

9. The Artsonia Staff are Extremely Helpful:  My school has a high transient rate, so it's hard to keep track of all the names you no longer use or need.  Artsonia can work with you to move those student accounts to the next school.   And if your students graduate and move on to high school?  They can help you move those names as well!  This way, parents do not need to start an entire new account!  With teaching at multiple schools, this has been very helpful, and I love the staff for working with me on this challenge.

10. Promoting Your Curriculum: With thousands of art educators already using Artsonia, we can view other school's artworks, network, and share!  It's a quick and easy way to just share a link of your school's exhibits with parents, administrators, and community.  Would you like to see my school's galleries?  Click to visit Wilkins and Lyle Elementary's exhibits!  I know teachers who have an account for every school they travel to!

If you've never heard of Artsonia, or you've contemplated starting your own account, I highly recommend using this valuable resource for your curriculum.  With all the recent changes in education and evidence we now must provide, this is the best one to use for art educators.  It may be a little time-consuming in the beginning entering in all the names, but the long term goals are so rewarding!

Side Note: If you have access to a Microsoft Excel master list of student names, the process of entering names will be SO much faster for you.