Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Tuesday 01.31.12

Final Thoughts

I have had a wonderful time being the NAEA Monthly Mentor for January.  I tried to share information regarding software, hardware, resources, professional development, lessons and more all revolving around technology.  The art-technology connection can be a valuable one in our programs.  I hope you found at least one thing useful in my blogging.  Please feel free to contact me if you want more information on any of the topics I covered.  I also hope this will encourage others to share the things they do.  I don’t think enough teachers appreciate the value in even the small things they do.  Often it is an idea that others have not thought of and it would benefit them.  PLEASE SHARE the great and simple things you do!

-Thom OR

Monday 01.30.12

Creativity Express

I would like to share one more resource I use with my elementary students.  It is a program called Creativity Express through  You can get it as a software or web based product.  The program introduces the characters of Furnace, a polar bear, and Ruby and Tickles, both penguins.  They look at art, learn about art and discover art elements and principles.  It is even connected to history and science.  Short video clips introduce students to concepts and then there are interactive activities for student to reinforce learning.  I have used these clips as short introduction to my lessons as a way to grab the students’ attention.  They love the clips and the characters.  Students can move through at their own pace.

The sixteen-lesson curriculum focuses on the ways that artists visually convey messages and ideas through emphasis, contrast, and structure of the core artistic principles.  Each lesson explores artwork in context with other relevant facts and disciplines to assist students in gaining a deeper appreciation for the works of artists and the historical events and technological developments that influenced them.  Artistic principles are taught using a creative, interactive process that makes learning fun and accessible, combined with a contextual approach that makes art more relevant to one's daily life.

The online version allows students to track the sections they have completed and how they have done in the activities.  Teachers can monitor student progress as well.  There are many reviews and much information on line about the program.  I think this is an awesome resource and hope this information helps you.

-Thom Knab

Friday 01.27.12

Digital Wish is on a Mission to Solve Technology Shortfalls in Classrooms!

Many technology ideas are great but what if you do not have the right equipment or software?  Digital Wish is a site dedicated to gathering sponsors to benefit teacher technology needs in the classroom.  On the site you can explain what your need is and why it is important.  Digital Wish also provides grants for various subject areas and you can get deals on buying certain equipment and special pricing.  You can register and they will send you emails about the deals they offer.

Digital Wish believes that every child deserves a technology-rich education that will provide them with the skills necessary to excel in the global economy. Every day, Digital Wish develops new online tools and promotions that empower teachers and their supporters to get new technology for their classrooms and enhance learning for our children.


In 2006, Digital Wish was founded by Heather Chirtea's because her 7-year-old twins were enrolled in a small, rural elementary school on the brink of closure.  In September of 2008, Digital Wish officially became a nonprofit and one week later Digital Wish received its first grant to scale operations and rebuild its website to serve the ever-increasing demand from teachers.

Since August 2009, Digital Wish has granted over 24,000 classroom technology wishes and delivered over $10 million in technology products to American classrooms. However, they've still only scratched the surface of the need.

This site is certainly worth your investigation.  Visit

-Thom Knab

Wednesday 01.25.12


Today, on the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog, I thought I would share some great blogs/bloggers in art education.  Some are connected to websites and offer many ideas about art rooms, lessons, classroom management, musings, ideas and more.  Enjoy! - by Mrs. Knight at Dolvin Elementary - The Art Teacher’s Guide to the Internet by Craig Roland - Adventures of an Art Teacher by Katie Morris - Art Projects for Kids by Kathy Barbro - Art Project Girl - Art is Basic by Marcia Beckett - The Teaching Palette by Hillary Andrlik and Theresa McGee - Art With Mr. E by Ted Daniel Edinger - smART Class by Natalie Waggenspack - Fugleblog by Tricia Fuglestad

-Thom Knab

Sunday 01.22.12


In 2006, I attended the National Gallery of Arts’ Teacher Institute on Dutch Art in the Golden Age.  This institute had a podcasting component to go along with its art history aspect.   A podcast is a multimedia digital file made available on the internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.  We created our podcasts with the assistance of the Belkinsoftware Garageband 2.  Garageband is an apple compatible product which communicates directly with iTunes and iPhoto.  These two programs were used to bring our images and narrations into our podcasts.    Participants created podcast which revolved around our learning of Dutch Art.  We selected a work or works to include in the podcast.  Some also used additional images they created or were allowed to use.  We created narrative scripts which we recorded directly into iPods using microphones you can actually attach directly to the device.  We used Belkin Tunetalks (pictured right) but there are other devices available.

Garageband allows you to edit images, to some degree, and is quite easy to edit your recorded narration as well.  Garageband also has a variety of musical options one can utilize for background scores of the podcast.  I have included the one I made at the institute here for you.

Over the past few years I have created podcasts with some of my fourth grade students.  It is an interesting project which asks them to recreate their art history knowledge through the creation of a podcast.  The project involves research, writing scripts, recording their scripts with expression, syncing images to their narration, editing, and of course the many technical aspects of the project.  It supports, quite nicely, literacy skills in the Common Core.

I have included the podcast I created at the NGA Teacher Institute for your viewing.  I hope you enjoy!

-Thom Knab

Wednesday 01.18.12

Evaluating Internet Sites

I attended a conference in 1997 with the presenter being Alan November.  He spoke about accessing information on the internet and how to critically evaluate the site and/or the information on the site.  Although this is already fifteen year old information (hard to believe) I think it is still relevant today for all teachers to use with students but especially with older students. 

Students need to be taught not only how to use the internet but they also need to be taught how to evaluate what they find.  Students must understand a possible bias that may be represented in the information i.e. cultural, historical, gender, national, etc. 

The following are some questions that students can ask themselves to evaluate internet sites and information:

1. If my parents were standing behind me would they want me to view this site/information? Web
2. Who created the site (sponsorship)?
3. Why was it created?
4. What can I learn from this site?
5. How will I use the information I find?
6. Is it backed up by other resources/quality references?  Is it biased?
7. Is it relevant to what I am looking for?
8. Is it an original source or secondary, etc?
9.  Who am I interacting with?  Giving information to?
10. Do they know I am there (tracking)?
11. Can I take information/image from the site (permission)?
12. Can I find a contradictory source?  (Compare/contrast information)

Obviously, some of these are useful for younger students and all are useful for upper middle and high school students as they become more independent in their research and internet use.  I hope this is helpful!

-Thom Knab

Tuesday 01.17.12

The World’s Largest Kids’ Art Museum

I hope by now you have heard of  If you haven’t, it is an online art gallery for student work.  They refer to it as…”the world’s largest kids’ art museum”.  Artsonia is also a partnered by the NAEA.  I have uploaded a great deal of student art work to this site over the past several years.  Artsonia is a great way to just highlight and share student art work, create on-line portfolios and encourage participation by family and friends of your students.  Students are listed by their first name followed by a number.  Student last names are never used online.


The first big steps are to add the class lists for all your students.  The following years you can just add the new students and/or grades you teach.  Artsonia allows you to move class lists up to the next grade very easily.  Scanning or photographing student work can become time consuming but enlisting parent/volunteer help can ease that quite a bit.  Students can enter statements about their work.  Students can also have “fan clubs” and visitors can leave comments for the artist (which parents have to approve before they are displayed online).  Family and friends and admirers can by items with student art work on them.  15% of each purchase goes to support your school’s art program – what a great way to enhance dwindling budgets.

Bob Reeker, and arts and technology teacher in Lincoln, Nebraska, used Artsonia to do a student art work exchange.  We both uploaded mood portraits to the site which our students could then view.  We designed a question sheet for the students to answer as they viewed the work.  We wanted to see how students in a different locale would respond to how other students created a mood/feeling in their work.  The responses were in turn sent through email.  Using Artsonia cut out the expense of send art work through snail mail there and back.  It also allowed the work to be viewed almost instantaneously.  We did have to make sure, however, that we had parent permission slips for all the students involved.  I think we did pretty well receiving about 98 % permission.

Please share how you may be using Artsonia in different and creative ways.  To view my artsonia gallery visit

-Thom Knab

Friday 01.13.12

Document Cameras

One of the most useful technology items I have in my art room is a Document Camera.  If you are not familiar with these devices, they are a camera on an arm which hangs out over the item or image you place underneath it.  The item or image is then projected onto a screen through a projector or onto a computer screen.  You will also need some sort of portable or mounted camera in your room.  It is great because you can project student art work up for everyone to see (which the elementary students particularly love).  You can also project postcard size images and make them large enough for the entire class to see.  It has made so many of my postcards exemplars more useful in my program.  If you read stories to your classes, it is an effective way to show the text, images, or both.  I have created art vocabulary flashcards for my fourth grade students for them to use on their own, but I can also use them with a whole class using the document camera.

There are different brands of document cameras and I have most often referred to them as ELMOs, but I am in no way promoting one brand…it is just a way you may have heard them.  ELMO is a brand name.  The expense is under $1000 and is a great investment for an art classroom.  


On some, the arm rotates so you can capture items that are placed vertically and others capture video as well.  They have many uses and I hope some readers of this blog will share how they have used document cameras.

-Thom Knab

Wednesday 01.11.12

Technology-Artwork Idea

Here is a neat and easy technology-artwork idea.  I was playing around with the idea of creating a Warhol-esque portrait project with my students.  I wanted it to repeat the portrait image but change the colors of each image as Warhol’s Self-Portrait at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 


I had students take either their school photo or a photo of someone famous and we brought it into a paint program that had a “paint-can” type of fill tool.  For my example below I used but other programs can work.  I previously also used tools associated with the scanner I used to scan in the original pictures when I first tried this idea.  When asking the students to manipulate the color in the photos I might encourage setting parameters for each image i.e. use only complementary colors for three images and black, white and gray for the fourth image or reinforce color groups such as primaries, secondaries, warm and/or cool colors for each image.  Access to a good color printer is essential.  I had them trim and then mount the images in an appealing manner – two across and two down or four vertically or horizontally arranged.  It was a way to introduce students to an artist, his style and inject some of the art elements and principles in fun way.  I have included an example I made of my own “mug” so you can see the idea as an actual artwork.


-Thom Knab

Monday 01. 9.12

Digital Storytelling

During the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to take part in the National Gallery of Art’s Teacher Institute on digital storytelling.  This was an extraordinary experience, probably the best professional development I have ever taken part in.  If you ever have the chance to attend this annual happening I strongly encourage you to do it!

This NGA Teacher Institute introduced approximately 25 participants to iMovie and telling stories through not only word but images as well.  The teachers involved represented many subject areas and specialties including social studies, English, and elementary teachers, librarians as well as art specialists.

We first had to prepare our script which was shared, edited and rewrote until it spoke the story we needed them to tell.  Some brought images with them to use in their stories, others had to find them at the institute and many, like me, did both.  The images were famous art works, personal works and other images.  We learned how to edit our images and upload them to our iMovies.  We recorded our scripts and timed them to our images.  It was a challenging and satisfying process.

The iMovies created were so personal, so touching, and so overwhelming.  The end of the week long Teacher Institute brought a movie viewing session.  All of the iMovies created were shared in the NGA’s small theater.  I’ll just say there wasn’t a dry eye in the house but mixed in were smiles and a few laughs.  A few of the movies created dealt with topics of empty nesters, a son at war-not knowing where or how he was, a desire to be a mother and experiencing miscarriages and ultimately the splendor of adoption.

I will share with you the movie I created.


I hope you enjoy.

-Thom Knab