Collaborative Reflections… Part 2

So yesterday’s part 1 was about the conversation. Now what?

Here are some of our ideas.

The Fun Part ~ Elizabeth Peterson

Going beyond the conversation is the fun part.  That’s when you get to put your ideas into play.  For me, that means bringing arts-rich experiences to my students while tying them into the curriculum.  How about some drama and storytelling during reading instruction?  (Get kids to look back in the story, pick out details, visualize, conceptualize and bring the story to life.)  How about movement in science?  (Get students to move through the water cycle or work together to become the parts of a plant.)

Sure, there are hurdles along the way, but I’ve learned I need to trust myself.  And BECAUSE of the conversations I have had: the ones that help me to define my position on arts integration and reinforce the idea that what I do is important, I go into the “do it” part of the journey with a little more confidence!  It’s also a great feeling knowing that I will have my PLN to reflect with at any time as well.


Yes, You Can! ~ Kyle Pace

Technology integration with the arts. It’s a little bit more difficult to do in these areas but it can be done! We’ve complied some resources on our Google site on the Teacher Resources page. Those are just a few examples but here’s what we have to remember: don’t use technology just for the sake of the technology. It shouldn’t make your job harder. It should enhance what you’re already doing and the real benefit is when it positively impacts student learning. Is there a time commitment upfront? Absolutely. You have to become comfortable with the technology and have a strong support system from your administration and colleagues. If you have an instructional technology specialist to work with, please utilize them! If you don’t, please feel free to tweet to/email myself, Michelle, Elizabeth, Yoon, or Andrew and we’d be happy to help in any way we can.


Brainstorm Your Ideas! ~ Yoon Soo Lim

Take a look at collection of tools here. This tool remix is a great place to look as you brainstorm ideas to integrate into your lessons. There are web 2.0 resources for drawing, painting, storytelling, music making, dance, and multimedia. Start simple and add different dimensions to your projects as you collaborate. I personally use Symbaloo, an online organization tool, to have all my tools in one place. Especially for our EduCon session attenders (and our readers), Symbaloo is giving away Certified Voucher so that you can get trained to create your own Symbaloo.


Action Plan

Now Do It! ~ Elizabeth Peterson

Actions speak louder than words.  I could talk forever about the importance of arts education and integration, but putting it into play – that is the key.  Since my EduCon experience, I have had a jolt of motivation to continue what I do and to explore how I can share my experiences with other teachers in new ways.

My first line of action will be with my own students.  MCAS, our Massachusetts testing, is on the horizon and with all these snow days, the pressure is on to prep for the test.  But after having these conversations with others who are equally adamant about the values of the arts, I am confident that I will not let that dissuade me from doing the arts-rich lessons the students yearn for.

For example, I want to have another “Studio Day” where students spend nearly the entire school day working on one focused arts integrated project.  The one I am planning on doing before February vacation involves Vivaldi’s Winter, poetry, visual art and descriptive writing.  I believe that having the students work for an extended period of time using the creative process is invaluable.  And the ending to the experience is self and peer reflection.  It teaches the students so much about themselves as learners.

The other plan of action needs to be outside of my classroom.  I feel the need more and more to make change outside my “four walls” by doing things such as inviting my administrator and other teachers into my room, working with other classroom and arts teachers to collaborate and to showcase the work we accomplish by sending out a press release or incorporating what we do into the spring “Celebration of Learning.”

The idea is to get gutsy and do it.  (That just became my motivation phrase to myself!)  People are really starting to understand the value of arts education, but to make change, we need to put those ideas into practice and actually show how arts education and integration affects student learning.


On a Mission ~ Yoon Soo Lim

After EduCon, I’m all the more convinced that we (arts teachers) not only have to be our own advocates, but also be active participants in the general educational community. Arts people are known to do our “own” thing. I think it’s been a long segregation. We need to join and partner together with passionate teachers who believe in making connected learning a reality for students. The only way this will happen is if we are present. I hope to talk to my colleagues on and twitter to join the general ed conversations to build relationships. I bet we’d have a very different experience if we had more arts educators at EduCon next year!

One of my professional goals this year was to work closely with classroom teachers to integrate the arts into the curriculum. I will take what we preached and do exactly that: engage in lively dialogs, brainstorm, and make meaningful projects with teachers at my school and beyond!

Lastly, I am going to work on a proposal and meet with our administration to restructure my department to answer the question: “What role does music have at our school?” I will look at our existing schedule, our school expectation of our students in the role of music, and determine which learning environment would best align with our school mission.  And then I can move on to our art department and do the same.

Here’s to a great shift in paradigm!


Going Beyond ~ Andrew Garcia

The following were contributions from the Arts Integration conversation at EduCon:

  • “It requires a human to make Art!”
  • “We teach all subjects within the arts.”
  • “In the school day, we are not getting any more time. The only way to do better job [keeping the arts alive school] is to integrate them.”
  • “When you’re in a drum circle, all are responsible for each other. Need to respect everyone in the drum circle.”

Moving beyond the conversation means making the above explicit in each of our schools-in our local places. I have five recommendations for moving forward:

1-Be The Change: Collect/Keep and Share Student Work(s) and Performances

There is no denying that good work in the name of the arts and student learning is happening all the time in schools..both in and out of arts classes.  However, if nobody sees or experiences the work, it’s tough to convince others that it is happening.  As Stephen Sondheim’s Georges Seurat sings in Sunday in the Park With George: “A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head.  If noone gets to see it, it’s as good as dead.  It has to come to life”.

Indeed.  It has to come to life.  Your vision.  Your artist-teacher vision. And the vision and creations of your students. They must come to life and be seen and experienced by other teachers, administrators, parents, school committee members, reporters from the local paper, senior citizens and pre-school classrooms. When others experience these visions and creations, they will be moved on a human level.  Nothings “speaks” louder than an emotional response.

2-Examine the school’s Mission Statement

On a practical level, getting the staff on board to examine the school’s mission statement can be a backdoor approach to achieving agreement about valuing the arts in schools. As conversations unfold as the ‘old’ mission statement is examined, insert your thoughts, ideas, opinions about the arts/arts integration into the conversation and see where it leads.

3-Study the Curriculum of Other Subjects/Make Connections  with other Teachers

Aligning with other teachers is a powerful way to achieve recognition for the arts in schools.  If your school has undergone a curriculum mapping process, the curriculum of every teacher should be posted for all to see.  Usually, the specific units and resources that they use are included. As you examine the curricula of other teachers, you can make connections with them to see if they are interested in collaborating on any of their units. Arts teachers will see many ways to bring the arts into a unit.  That is a skill we can share through collaboration with other teachers–one unit and one teacher at a time. And. if you have the inclination, make your collaboration Global.

4-Know Your Principal

I can’t stress enough that it is completely detrimental to have a ‘long-distance relationship’ with your school Principal.  My approach is to actually make several appointments per year to to have a conversation framed around what’s happening in my classroom and more broadly to read the Principal’s perceptions around the arts’ place in school.  In the very best cases, Principals are explicit about their support in word and deed.  But if you don’t know, it’s important to probe their understanding.  Misconceptions abound–even in the minds of administrators.  Many may not know how the arts can help students to grow/learn in concrete ways. Some administrators may also have had ‘bad’ arts experiences in school themeselves.  Help to educate misperceoptions and misconceptions. The Principal holds much Power to make or break the creative spirit in schools.

5-Do Arts Integration Inversion:

If you are an arts teacher, try subject integration in arts classes. Depending on circumstances endemic to your school culture. It might have more impact than the other way around.  In my situation, 100% of all students in grades 6-8 take music for 10 weeks, every day, every year.  That amounts to 80-100 hours of music class at the middle school level, all said and told.

Doing Arts in schools can go viral if we keep the ‘conversation’ going within our local situations and continue to document, collect and share the good work that we and our students do everyday in the name of the arts. In the name of Humanity.


How will you  move forward? Talk to us!

contributing writers :: blogs :: twitter

Michelle Baldwin: | @michellek107
Andrew Garcia:| @berkshirecat
Yoon Soo Lim: | @DoremiGirl
Kyle Pace: | @KylePace
Elizabeth Peterson: |  @eliza_peterson

Collaborative Reflections on EduCon & Arts Education, Part 1

I am happy to post a two-part collaborative reflections written by Michelle Baldwin, Andrew Garcia, Kyle Pace, Elizabeth Peterson, and myself. These two posts are about our EduCon conversation and the Arts Education. Here is part 1. Part 2 will be posted on Thursday. I’m listing the writers below for reference. Come join the conversation!

writers :: blogs :: twitter

Michelle Baldwin: | @michellek107
Andrew Garcia: | @berkshirecat
Yoon Soo Lim: | @DoremiGirl
Kyle Pace: | @KylePace
Elizabeth Peterson: | @eliza_peterson

Moving Beyond EduCon 2.3 by Yoon Soo Lim

3 days of EduCon 2.3 were jam packed with meeting my colleagues, thinking and rethinking education (and my role in it), and carrying on conversations about LEARNING environments and good practices for our students. So what did I learn?


Cultivating Connected Learning Experiences through Arts Integration

@eliza_peterson, @KylePace, @michellek107, and I decided to bring a vis-a-vis conversation to EduCon about learning through integrated arts curriculum. Why? It is believed that in our society art, dance, music and theater are considered nice, feel-good things, especially for kids. Take a look at our crowdsourced virtual bulletin board here with teachers answering the question, “Why Integrate with the Arts?”. After reading through these posts, one cannot help but ask a follow-up question, “If the arts are so important, why aren’t they integrated more into the curriculum?”. This is precisely why we wanted to have this conversation with our colleagues at EduCon.

Interestingly, creativity and arts education had been mentioned many times during EduCon, starting with Friday night’s panel. During the discussions of EduCon sessions and in my preparation for our conversation, these words kept popping up: “cultivating”, “connected-learning”, and “experiences”.

These words also happen to be the first four words of our session title :-).

When it came to our session time on Sunday morning, these are the words we focused on.


Everyday, Elizabeth, Michelle and I are immersed in music while Kyle gives support to his arts teachers. We teach about music, we create music, we teach others how to teach music, and we learn new ways to learn about music. We live and breathe the joys as well as the pains of being “in” the arts field. To move our schools forward and to collaborate with teachers, we motion to cultivate a new culture – to prepare the ground, and foster growth through refining of the mind – for all of our students’ learning. So why does it matter to connect?

This screen shot is from RSA video we shared in our session. The video is RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms of Ken Robinson (05:41 and on). It’s a clear capturing of what a fully-engaged learning looks like. Senses, brain function, and passion all working together, so focused and fully alive!

To the teachers who attended our session in person or virtually, making this kind of “aesthetic experience” mattered. Some teachers grew up being in the arts. For some, they were curious how to integrate the arts in the classroom. These teachers engaged in conversations fully and intentionally.

Some of the examples we shared on our Google Sites were good starting places to delve into deeper conversations with teachers who were in attendance.

Encouragement: if you want connected learning for your students, make it a priority. Take the first step to get in a consistent conversation about what students are learning and how you as teachers can give support to each other.

This charge is for both classroom teachers as well as the arts teachers. WE ARE ALL TEACHERS. We no longer cannot monopolize our “subject” areas and consequently keep ourselves at an arm’s distance. Students will not connect their learning if it is not encouraged or modeled for them. It will be hard. It will be time consuming, but by creating this kind of learning environment, learning becomes real and interesting for students.

Make Arts Your Priority, Admins!

If you truly believe creativity is something that needs to encouraged, and cultivated, make arts education a high priority! I am tremendously blessed to work with administration who support the arts education at our school. I am going to quote one of the administrators at my school: “Creativity, critical thinking and innovation – all are important terms in today’s education. Integrating the arts is a great way to tap into all of these while making learning more meaningful to the students.” Follow Susan’s advice and make it an important priority for your school.

Start with a Simple Conversation, Teachers!

Routinely get into conversations with your students about what they are learning. You are good at asking specific questions to elicit information, teachers! Engage in conversations and learn about what they are learning. It shows not only that you are interested in who they are, but that you are curious about them as learners. Talking to other grade teachers in person is always good idea. Again, connecting with another teacher is something that is time consuming, but in teacher’s lounges, or even in passing, make an effort to start a conversation. If you need help integrating the arts in your discipline, ask an arts teacher you are interested in partnering with. There just might be an area where two classes can naturally work on a project that will bring deeper learning.

I am humbled to have worked with Elizabeth, Kyle and Michelle. I am thankful teachers like Andrew joined in virtually and shared their knowledge during and after Educon. They are not only active in their own learning, they make connected learning come alive. I learn much from them and work harder to make connected learning a reality for my students.

The EduCon conversation was a great beginning. I cannot wait to have more of these important conversations and see the changes in many classrooms. I believe there will be a time when more decision makers for schools will make arts a priority. Until then, our work continues.

Before I end my thoughts for today, I want to ask you to think about a question based on @mrchase’s post titled, Things I know 36 of 365: We’re really good at not teaching kids to sing. Why are kids afraid of singing?

For further discussions on Arts Education, check out:

EduCon Experience by Michelle Baldwin

Educon was a fast and furious experience for me, but one that I will value for a very long time. So many conversations, both scheduled and impromptu at lunch or dinner, have kept me thinking and questioning since I returned home.

During our session, we talked about how arts education helps students to understand not only how everything is connected in our world (as an adult, you don’t just do math at 10:00 in the morning and then switch to science or reading), but also how arts education helps to understand how everyONE is connected. Through music, art, drama, and dance, students can view similarities and differences across cultures. Isn’t it interesting that every culture on our planet utilizes the arts to express what it means to be human?

At one point during our session, we began discussing how the arts really help students learn about each other and work together. I said, “When you’re taking a math test it’s all about YOU. When you’re in a music class, it’s all about US. ” How often in school do students have an opportunity to truly work toward a common goal? Most of the time, that is going to occur in an area where the arts are involved. When I think about how important teamwork and collaboration are in our society, I wonder why students spend most of their academic careers competing with each other for class rank, grades, etc. It’s no wonder they have difficulty translating their learning in school to how to succeed in a connected, global society. By integrating arts lessons throughout the curriculum, students may have more opportunities to work together, to learn ensemble, and to feel the power of WE, instead of only ME.

Thanks to @brophycat for the pictures of our team during the presentation!

The Virtual Experience                                                    by Elizabeth Peterson

Attending a conversation virtually can be interesting. You are listening in, taking it all in, but your voice may not be heard. Let’s face it, one of the best parts about a conversation is the give and take. You can’t just take, you have to give!

The platform used for the live streams at EduCon 2.3 was great because not only were you able to view and hear our session(once it got up and running), but you could participate with other virtual viewers in the chat room.

Our team tried to make sure that other virtual attendees were part of the conversation. There was a give and take going on in the chat room that posed some interesting thoughts, resources and even built relationships. We echoed the important points made in Philly and added our own two cents, making for a full experience.

There is something about listening in on a conversation that allows for great reflection, too. As you sit in the comfort of your home, slippers on, letting the sound of others talk together fill your headset, you have a relaxed feeling of being there. And when you are ready to respond, your thoughts, written out, not spoken, are thought out a little differently than if you are there. You are able to complete your thought, look it over and then send it out to the others in attendance.

I, being Skyped in as part of the presentation team, had the other advantage of being able to speak at times when I thought appropriate. My wonderful teammates would make my talking head a little bigger on the screen and allow me to add my thoughts. (That was another interesting aspect of Skyping in – I was always being projected on the screen in the front of the room! 🙂 )

At the end of the session, everyone in the chat room made sure we all knew each other’s Twitter handles so that we could keep in touch and keep the conversation going.

The other venue we provided for our attendees was the #artsint backchannel. Here, both face to face and virtual participants could tweet and reply to one another. This backchannel is now in full swing as people are starting to use it more and more! Again, we are keeping the conversation about the ever important topic of Arts Integration alive!

Sure, there are limitations to being virtually in attendance to a conversation among peers. But this is yet another wonderful example of what the virtual world can do for us as educators. We connect online, have opportunities to converse in person and continue the discussions for weeks and months into the future.

See what happens when you allow teachers to connect? Go us!

Thanks to @brophycat for the pictures of our team during the presentation!

ATTENDING EDUCON VIRTUALLY                       by Andrew Garcia

Despite the video feed glitch delaying my remote entry to the Arts Integration conversation, I found attending virtually to have several benefits (some of which I tweeted using the hashtag #noncon). First, the view of the presenters and what they were saying was clear (most of the time). From home there is no obstructed view or “overflow room”. Second, it is actually easier to ‘take notes’ during conversations by listening and writing and/or live-tweeting. This would quickly become annoying to a neighbor if I were actually present at Educon. (One great benefit of being an auditory learner is the ability to at once listen and type!) Question is, which is more important? Silent and still listening to preserve the peace of your proximal #educon attendee or to passionately listen, process, type and connect (w/ others on a backchannel)? Who is to say that the backchannel conversations aren’t the ones that will assure that the message lives beyond the moment?

To me, at least with regard to conversations, I learn best by listening and processing. Right there, right then. With any good talk, keynote, session, workshop, ‘conversation’ NOW is the moment to key into. (And why so much Professional Development efforts fail- it’s too easy to lose that lovin’ feeling once tomorrow comes.) Attending virtually, I was 100% THERE and turned ON to the moment/topic at hand. I was simultaneously documenting the moment. As Connie Weber of Fireside Learning wrote to me after the keynote, “I definitely felt you there!” Being ‘there’ is all about the quality of attention and intention. I might argue that some folks “at” Educon, may, at times, have been physically there but mentally elsewhere. If I were at Educon, I would have been, at least to some extent, distracted by all the awesome Educators around me (‘OMG, there’s @willrich45!!’). And, if reading the tweets of some of my followers is any indication, this is definitely true for them, too.

Third, attending Educon online actually allowed freedom to attend multiple conversations without being considered rude. I was interested in many conversations that were scheduled at the same time. I would time my exits accordingly (a lull in the conversation, a tech problem, but I always returned). Doing so also allowed me to be a minor asset to presenters. I took screenshots of conversations and posted them at for the taking. Many presenters were grateful to have “evidence” of them in action for their professional portfolios. I was happy to be a minor but helpful resource.

Finally, far from feeling alienated and excluded by those attending Educon, I would argue that relationships with #educon friends in my Twitter PLN, were kicked UP a notch. Circumstances (multiple snow days, committee obligations) kept me away from Philadelphia during Educon 2011 but I feel closer to those who attended than I did before as a result of the conference, and the multiple live and virtual conversations being had in those 2 thought-provoking days. Sure, I would have loved to see @NMHS_Principal’s karaoke skills. But (apparently) I am glad I missed the Applebee’s experience on Friday night. (Eh?) It also was a plus to be able to prepare a meal and/or go to the bathroom without missing a word that was said. Good perks, those! All this said, I can’t wait to be at ISTE2011. Live. In person.

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There you have it. Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for Thursday’s collaborative post, Part 2.

~ Yoon