Reflections on The Virtual Gallery Lesson Plan

For the original plan of the gallery, please click here.

DESCRIPTION

The Virtual Gallery Plan I wanted to do for World War I was not implementable, but an alternative plan for my 9th grade class was. This is the description I used with the students, modified in past teems.

RENAISSANCE VIRTUAL GALLERIES

One of my favorite subjects to teach is art history, particularly during the Renaissance. It is not because I particularly favor the art (I’m fonder of ancient art) but because I can see the “spirit” of the Renaissance clearly in its works. The Renaissance is all about display: display of talent, of defiance, of beauty, and of wealth. That is why for this unit, students created a “display” of their own: a virtual art gallery that each class designed a theme and chose images for.

These were the grading criteria for this unit:

20 points: Students chose an image (drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, or decorative arts) from the Early, Late, or Northern Renaissance, then wrote an accompanying essay that addressed the following:

  • The provenance of the piece (where is it from, who made it, and what it is made of.)
  • An analysis of the piece.
  • Why this piece is reflective of the spirit of the Renaissance? What is its significance? Is it related to humanistic education? Is it meant to test boundaries against the Catholic Church? Does it reflect the Age of Exploration that is also part of the Renaissance? Your ideas on this can be woven into into your discussion of the piece’s significance.

Each class chose a separate theme for their exhibits. Example class themes were:

  • Artception: the “arts within the arts.” All of the images and backgrounds were of other arts: musicians, theater performances, and the like. The students wanted to show the breadth of the arts during the Renaissance by using paintings and sculpture.
  • Innovation and the Renaissance: all images incorporated the concept of innovation: inventions, new ideas, new techniques, and the like.

For the galleries, students chose to use Exhibbit and Virtual Art Space instead of Artsteps, per my original plan.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

I will explain three areas where implementation was an issue, good or bad. The students were from my 9th grade history classes. We have a healthy mix of abilities and skills in my course — the normal range for a classroom — but no learning support and problems with motivation. Fortunately, motivation was not much an issue in this assignment. The three areas I will address are…

TECHNOLOGY

This was the hardest part. Prior to starting the galleries, I contacted the creators to ask about nuts-and-bolts questions: how many images, how many words maximum in the descriptions, etc. I tested the galleries to see if they worked: no problems. The answers I received turned out not to be correct, however, so the students’ descriptions didn’t properly load with the images (the images were fine.) We had some problems signing up because of firewalls, but that was solved with a call to the IT department. Still, in the end, the gallery was not finished as I would have liked because of the word counter problem, which we solved by creating JPEGS that included BOTH the image and the text. The students were at points frustrated, but they did a good job of trying to work the problems through. I also had each student submit their image and text in a separate upload so I could grade them. I know now how to do the next assessment of this type. Our class will fix the galleries at a later date.

THEMES

The students got pretty heated in a good way about this one! They really had to think about what the Renaissance meant, what kinds of images they would be able to use, and how to organize them. I used a discussion protocol that synthesized ideas: students wrote their ideas down, grouped them in discussion, then narrowed the groups down to a theme that was a compromise. This for the most worked very well.

TEAMWORK

Some classes did this well, others not so much. The classes were separated into “design” and “concept” teams: design determined how the site should look and the order of the images in the galleries, and concept checked the theme, grouped the pictures thematically, and wrote the introduction to the exhibit. The results were pretty good for all classes, especially on the introductions.

 

REFLECTION

I really enjoyed both the concept and the process of the Virtual Art Gallery idea. It was pretty amazing to watch my students work out the issues associated with it. I also believe the students ended doing a lot of problem-solving and analysis, something for which I am very grateful. If the technological issues had not been as challenging, I think the project would have gone off swimmingly. My regret is that I failed to test the software to its limits – I just put up pictures and short text to test it. I had no reason not to believe the developers that the text inputs would work, but at least I found a solution for getting completed assignments, if not perfect galleries. When I have the time to have my students rebuild the galleries, then I will be quite pleased.

Pedagogically, I thought this was a lesson that was very constructivist by nature. The basis was about conceptualization –use of the visual, defining themes, choosing images – and the students did this quite well. They were creative in their choices and thought on their feet when things did not go as well technologically.

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