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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Monday 12.23.13

Educate to Innovate

In October, I was flown from Illinois to Washington, D.C., housed in a fancy boutique hotel, and escorted to the National Academy of Sciences building for a workshop with business and education leaders from the finest institutions of the country to discuss the road blocks and actions needed to educate our future innovators. I personally had to overcome my own road block of intimidation and confusion before I could adequately contribute. When you are accustomed to begging for the attention of 5-10 year olds all day, it’s shocking when adults in black suits take notes on your opinions.

I did some note-taking as well. I wanted to make sure I learned as much from this experience as I could. I believe I was the only elementary teacher present and the only art teacher. I was also the only one who did visual note-taking using the Brushes app on my iPad. I made a video from my visual notes when I returned since the app I used to sketch on also saves the drawing as a movie of brushstrokes. I did a voice-over narration so you can see and hear exactly what I was discovering about innovation in education from the sessions.

Educate to Innovate Reflection from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Many of the struggles shared from higher-Ed were intriguing to me. Universities are usually segregate and isolate their student into their respective specialty fields. Students from different majors don’t take classes together and share their expertise collaboratively. However, they are expected to do this in the business world. It was funny to me to think about my world compared to this problem. I have 24 students of all different talents, ability levels, interests, and personalities mixed into each and every classroom I teach. I get them to work collaboratively, problem-solve together, share ideas, and peer critique. We function much like the real world innovators that these business representatives want to hire. I don’t think they know what it’s like in an art room. Art may have been an elective since middle school when they needed more math and science classes to beef up their transcript so they could apply to the finest schools.

Lobby of Hotel, DC -- Education and Business Leaders -- NAS Building, DC

I don’t think these higher-Ed and business leaders realized that the things that they want to see in their future employees were readily on display in our messy little underfunded energetic happy art rooms. I think that Art Educators are key to educating students to be innovators. We encourage risk taking, out of the box thinking, collaborative work, creative problem-solving, engagement, participation, presentation skills, visual literacy, and so much more.

If we can simply maintain the culture of creativity and innovation found in our elementary art classrooms throughout a child’s career in education, then we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

And while I have your ear: Can you please fully fund your arts programs, provide meaningful professional development to your arts teachers, give them reasonable schedules which allow time for collaboration and planning, and provide children plenty of exposure to the arts each week with certified professionals?

I couldn’t help but think what the money they were spending on my airfare, hotel, transportation, and meals could provide my art students (perhaps two iPads). Oh well, hopefully my contribution provided something and kind donors can help us buy the iPads. If you are a kind donor, please click here.

-Tricia Fuglestad

Monday 12.16.13

Transforming Student Learning with Technology in Art

Over the past 15 years I’ve been finding ways to integrate technology into my instruction and art production with interactive white boards, projectors, document cameras, digital photos, videos, green screen, movie-making, animation, and drawing on iPads, as well as using web 2.0 and social networks to connect and share our learning with others.

Technology for Art Instruction and Production

Technology for Art Instruction and Production from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

The use of technology has resulted in demonstrated improvement in student art production, authentic connections with others online, and opportunities for my students to learn beyond what I was able to teach with traditional tools. What I failed to mention from the start is that I taught with only traditional tools the first 7 years of my career. My art room didn’t have internet access, computers, or anything digital when I was hired. My college training didn’t involve much technology beyond a copy machine (which I had to go to the campus Kinkos to use).  As I learn about any technology application, piece of hardware, or new media I always try to consider how its addition to my art program can bring an improvement or a new opportunity for my students.

With growing access to iPads in the art room, the possibilities for students are transformational. There are things I can teach to even the youngest of my elementary population that I never could have dreamed of teaching before. Practically speaking, pulling out the laptops in a 45 minute art class, introducing a complicated application like Photoshop, and plugging in graphic tablets so they could draw, didn’t result in much more than an experience. The interface took time to understand and the tablet took time to get used to because of the disconnect between hand and eye. All this changes for students when they draw on the iPad. Simple yet powerful apps open up very advanced concepts like working with layers, transparency, merging and transforming images, and so much more. I can teach things I never was able to dream of teaching now that my students have access to these multifunctional creation devices. Here is an example:

                            Spooky Landscape animated gif

I have done a project with 2nd graders where they create a Spooky Landscape. The objective is to show a ghost in the foreground, house in the middle ground, and the night sky in the background. They create a sense of depth with overlapping and relative size. This year, I was able to transform this lesson by eliminating the ghost drawing from the painting and having that students add it with iPads as they create semi-transparent ghost animations in the DOINK animation app over a digital image of their landscape paintings. This meant I could teach them about overlapping in a dynamic way as well as transparency and digital animation. We also created a collaborative original spooky soundtrack with the NODEBEAT app. It’s an untraditional visual music creation app that the students just touch. I lined them up at the end of class and had them all contribute 2 seconds of music to our piece. During the next art class, I asked a few students to talk about what made their landscape spooky so spooky while they magically stood before their animation using the green screen app from DOINK. See that short movie below. Here is a link to my Fugleblog post with all the resources and more about this project.

Really Spooky Landscape

Really Spooky Landscapes from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

I feel like I’m on a journey with technology. The more I explore, play, and research the more ideas I collect for my students. I try to house them all on my Creating on iPads page. Feel free to explore. Please share your ideas explorations with me and others so we can all grow. You can find me on Twitter @fuglefun

-Tricia Fuglestad

Monday 12. 9.13

Allow us to Illustrate: Transliteracy in Action

When I learned that our school building’s improvement goal for the year was about common core standards in literacy I began trying to find ways to reinforce this in art class. I learned about close reading to examine the text and make predictions as I considered the role that illustrations have in helping young readers discover the meaning of words. So I invited my 5th grade students to work on a film project that would explain the role and benefits of illustrations. I created a permission slip explaining that participants may be singing, dancing, animating, storyboarding, and editing a film about illustration and that the product may be shared online, in contests, and/or film festivals.  Not only does the permission slip communicate with parents it helps to keep my numbers down to the first 10 students who return a signed slip.

Allow us to Illustrate from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Organizing a movie project can be done with many different levels of student involvement. This particular project was structured with a song which became a guide to inform all their decisions. The song was an original composition using Garageband loops. The lyrics were written to teach the listeners about the benefits of illustration with each verse touching on a new idea. The chorus was a fun mix of repeated sounds based on the word “doodle”. My filmmakers rehearsed the song until they felt very comfortable singing before their peers.  Then they chose how to perform the song by creating parts. This decision happened before the storyboard step since it influences the visuals. They recorded the song into garageband using a simple USB microphone. We would pause the recording between parts, listen, evaluate, delete, and try again until every voice sang with a similar volume, clarity, and energy level. I am not a trained musician so I rely heavily on my students’ ability to apply their training. The more confident singers helped correct timing and key issues until we were all happy with our results.

Once we had our song recorded, our next step was to plan out the storyboard. This was a piece of roll paper with squares drawn in black marker. The filmmakers had the task of deciding how to best communicate the message of the song phrase by phrase. They decided that there would be a bit of dialogue during the introduction portion that would also introduce the concept of the story. Next, they sketched in what the camera would see in each square corresponding to each phrase of the song. We wanted to create a flow from one scene to the next while also creating a variety of images, shots, and movements. There was an energetic frenzy of creative problem-solving and flow of ideas.  Because so many amazing ideas we flowing so quickly we had trouble hearing everyone’s thoughts. So we jotted them on note cards to capture them for later.

The Making of Allow us to Illustrate from Tricia Fuglestad on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, I had learned about an exciting opportunity to be a part of beta-testing the DOINK green screen app. When my students said things like, “I want illustrations to float out of the book as I’m holding it.” I was able to do a quick inventory of the functions of this new app and determined that this idea was completely possible. When students said, “I want to draw a creature dancing along next to me.” Again, we discovered that the app can do this easily. After filling in all our ideas into the storyboard, we began preparing for filming. This step was necessary since they intended to interact with their own animations and illustrations. We used iPads to draw illustrations in Sketchbook Express and make animations in DOINK animation app. Students didn’t want this step to end. They would have been content drawing and animating all school year during our lunch recesses. Eventually we learned about a deadline for the student video contest. That motivated the students to wrap up the drawings and begin filming. At this point the students had become so comfortable with the drawing/animating tools on the iPads that they were teaching each other new tricks and exploring new ideas. So many of the original decisions evolved into better ones as they worked. They also learned how to navigate the iPads to save and share through the dropbox with one learning from me and in turn teaching the others. We discovered as we tested our animations that we needed to understand how to use the chroma key effect as we animated. This meant that their animation needed a saturated color background that was opposite to the character’s coloring so we could eliminate it with the chromo key function in the green screen app and create a transparent background to interact with our live footage. Once we moved to the filming stage, this all made sense.  

For more information about “Allow us to Illustrate” view this post from the Fugleblog.
The art room has a 12’x10’ green screen made of non-reflective muslin draped over a board. We don’t use special lighting since our room is evenly lit but I purchased an iPad tripod mount adaptor for this project since the filming would be done through the green screen iPad app. We loaded their animations to one iPad and began filming each scene from the storyboard. Since students were helping to beta test, we would sometimes sit down at the end of our session and compose an email to the app developer to give him feedback on how the app worked (or didn’t work).  There was a glitch in the app that kept us from being able to save our recordings. The filmmakers decided to keep trying, troubleshooting on our end, and communicating clearly with the app developer to help him understand what we were experiencing. Eventually, the app developer was able to fix the issue and we were able to continue filming.  This authentic real life application of communication, collaboration, and persistence was an unexpected and powerful learning experience for us all.

Fig. 3.Filmmakers Using the DOINK Green Screen App

Figure 3: Filmmakers Using the DOINK Green Screen App

Students worked on piecing all the video clips together, lining up the audio track to the images, creating credits, and making the behind the scenes video which they filmed throughout the whole 2 ½ month long project. The final video, Allow us to Illustrate, has become part of our Fugleflicks collection. It will be used as a teaching resource in our art program every time students need to reflect on the value of illustrations.
However, this transliteracy learning experience combining music, animation, video special effects, dancing, acting, and editing has given my filmmakers a valuable and authentic creative collaboration experience.

For more information about “Allow us to Illustrate” view this post from the Fugleblog.

-Tricia Fuglestad

Monday 12. 2.13

You’ve got Chocolate in my Peanut Butter! Teaching Transliteracy

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write, and create across a range of media platforms. The concept isn’t new, thought the name may be. Students need to understand how to capture, create, share information, and communicate through new media to successfully navigate their future. This is more than digital literacy which refers to “reading” media. Transliteracy adds the component of creation. There is a bit of a myth about digital natives, the children we work with who have always had computers in their lives. Yes, they may feel very comfortable on a device and fearless about trying new things, but they are more likely to be consumers of media rather than creators. They may know exactly how to get to every level of a video game, but have no clue how to compose a song, animate a story, edit video, and post the piece online. However the ability to do all those things well would make a graduate extremely marketable in so many lines of employment not to mention all the other benefits that the arts bring to one’s life. Transliteracy can be learned in bits and pieces through a variety of disconnected experiences in our current school system by taking art classes, music classes, computer classes, drama, creative writing, etc. However, wouldn’t it be amazing to teach transliteracy intentionally by artists who also value aesthetics, visual language, the art of storytelling, and artistry?

Carol Broos, an award-winning music educator, is a strong advocate of Transliteracy. Her K12 Online conference presentation from October 2013 called, Triple Threat in Tech: Art, Music, and Media, encouraged educators to step out of their comfort zones and give students a chance to explore transliteracy.


I had the honor of being interviewed by Carol for a portion of her 20 minute presentation. She shared that I helped her feel comfortable drawing on the iPad and I shared how she inspired me to make musical compositions in our student-created, art-related Fugleflicks. We were a bit like the old commercials for peanut butter cups where two people literally bump into each other. One was eating peanut butter while the other was eating chocolate. When they collide their delicacies mix. They complain, “You’ve got your peanut butter in my chocolate” and “You’ve got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” But after some consideration, they decide to take a taste of the combination and discover that it is a wonderful mix.


I believe your students would think that combining art, music, drama, creative writing and technology using digital media would be wonderful too. As an art teacher you are an expert in communication and visual literacy.  Consider stretching yourself to open up learning opportunities for your students where they are encouraged to combine forms of art.  My K12 online presentation this year, Creating and Sharing Fugleflicks, gives some tips and behind the scenes peeks at how we collaboratively create these interrelated arts productions. Please share what you and your students create as well. Not only to give your students an authentic audience, but to also inspire other educators and students to become transliterate. Don’t be afraid to let the arts blend into each other. Like chocolate and peanut butter, it’s a recipe for success.


-Tricia Fuglestad, NBCT