Collaboration and Student Involvement on an Art Curriculum Website
Rogers Bridges, Ph.D., ArtsNet Minnesota Coordinator, Walker Art
Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Frederick R.Weisman
Art Museum. Bemidji State University, professor Professional Studies,
Turn of the millennium teachers are facing the most dramatic paradigm
shift to emerge within the educational community in the last several
centuries. Both teachers and students must become webslingers, like
Spiderman; enter a chaotic realm, anarchy; merge onto the super highway,
the no speed limit Autobahn; and willingly embrace a new learning model
which may prove to be exhilarating and frustrating, challenging and
rewarding. The Internet is like Mardi Gras - anything can happen and
no one is in charge.
Blandin Foundation of Minnesota expressed interest in developing
a curriculum site in order to connect rural Minnesota with the metropolitan
Minneapolis, St. Paul area, and with each other. They selected five
rural sites (arts organizations, college media center and Service
Cooperatives). I was hired to identify art teacher, student, museum
and arts organization desires, needs and expectations. By the spring
of 1997, the site was constructed by all participants. We launched
ArtsNet Minnesota in September of 1997. I gathered the original pilot
group through Satellite Site promotions, workshops on site, and my
college, K-12 and residency contacts. We continue to build our virtual
community with studentís use of our site as our present focus. With
a recent MCI grant, the summer of 1998 will bring continued expansion
of our curriculum.
I earned my doctorate and embraced technology during the same time
period. I flew, I crashed; I was in awe of the volume of accessible
knowledge and I short circuited from the sheer number of variables
in the equation. The entire journey made me feel ignorant, not a pleasant
experience, considering I had just collected a doctorate! Using this
personal experience as valuable data, the ArtsNet Minnesota project
was approached with a clear understanding of problematic issues faced
by educators interested in exploring the new learning model created
by the Internet. In the spirit of collaboration, I hope this report
may be useful in your quest to broaden constituency based accessibility
to curriculum and art via the Internet (Eisner,
This paper will describe the emerging design issues revealed in
the pre-study data, the resulting design of ArtsNet Minnesota at launch,
a short summary of the 6 month study results, student involvement,
discussion and next phase priorities.
Research Methods and Techniques:
I am a multimethodological researcher. I believe "truth" is best revealed
by using empirical/ analytical, symbolic/interpretive, and critical
data collection techniques (Soloman,
1991; Leedy, 1993; Cohen
& Manion, 1994 ). I used the Glaser and Strauss (1967) grounded
theory instrument development approach and employed the following:
- Review of literature and existing web sites.
- Interviews: (a) Personal (native collaborators) and (b) group.
- Verbal and written survey of workshop participants. What are the
ArtsNet Minnesota participants' expectations? Frustrations? Needs?
- Assessment of daily Internet listserv interaction; identification
of emerging trends.
- Assessment of teacher lesson contributions, participation totals,
online surveys, and phone conferences; identification of emerging
Emerging Design Issues Synthesized from the Literature
- Graphics heavy sites are often a slow download (Borland,
- An understanding for the necessity of (Gailbraith,
1997), but an apprehension of, the emergent technology learning
- Static HTML design.
- Need for support group - feeling of isolationism (May, 1994).
- Text not written in accessible language. This phenomena is described
as the often intimidating "Unassailable Voice" by Walsh
(1997). Text cannot be used "as is" for student, classroom generalist
and community access. This reinforces the "elite" imageprojected
by many museums (Donovan,
1997; Witcomb, 1997).
- Site designs may be too time consuming for teachers to locate
specific resources quickly. Time is a MAJOR issue for many teachers
- Lesson plans were too lengthy and scholarly.(Keifer-Boyd,
- Lack of an embedded human resource on web sites was identified
by workshop participants as frustrating.
- Lack of specific events encouraging "real time" visits to the
ArtsNet Minnesota Design at Launch- September 1997
Thirty six art works were selected from the three institutions. The
inquiry based site design is non-linear and includes sections titled
"About the Artist", and "About the Art", discussion questions (aesthetics,
criticism and interdisciplinary) and vocabulary, all written in student
language with convenient print capability. There is a separate link
focusing on short multicultural and interdisciplinary lesson Activities,
identified and indexed by discipline - science, language arts, art,
math etc. Multiple indices also enable the user to search for information
by theme (Environment, Identity, Inner Worlds and "What is Art?"), artwork,
artist and media. Teacher written Lesson Plans illustrated using Minnesota
students' artworks, a New News link and a Styles Characteristics chart
and glossary are also included on the site. The ArtsNet Minnesota website
design also includes an embedded list serve moderated by Dr. Barbara
Bridges, who is available for general conversation, to answer questions,
and to receive news and curriculum postings, etc.
Three regional workshops demonstrating ArtsNet Minnesota and providing
an opportunity to meet the listserv moderator were conducted by Louis
Mazza, New Media Designer at the Walker Art Center and myself in August
and September 1997. Approximately one hundred people attended, most
were new to technology. Louis is a frequent voice on the listserv
and many participants have told me that meeting Louis and myself was
instrumental in encouraging them to make the first step into the often
intimidating world of technology.
ArtsNet Minnesota attempted to construct itself in the "Outstanding
Learning Museum" model as described by McKenzie
(1997). The site is an authentic multi-way conversation and curriculual
resource exchange, the who, where, when, how and why described by
Donovan (1997), Fernstrom
& Bannon (1997) and Anderson
(1995). The design of the website has created an opportunity for participants
to take ownership of the ArtsNet Minnesota online arts resource.
Study Results September 1997 - February 1998
As of February 15, 1998, we have approximately 65 participants on the
ArtsNet Minnesota listserv. The participants represent Minnesota state
visual arts and theater organizations, museum staff, art and classroom
generalist teachers, students and community members. We are not automatically
recording the number of visits, user demographics or viewing patterns.
The literature indicated this method to be ineffectual (Borland,
1997). Instead, qualatative data and statistics describing specific
interest topic percentages, numbers of postings, areas of interest etc
were tallied using the multimethodological techniques described previously.
Over 900 postings on our ArtsNet Minnesota listserv were recorded
between participants or between participants and myself from September
20, 1997 to February, 1998. There were also over 150 phone calls recorded
during this time. Many participants were new to technology and needed
help signing up for the listserv or using their browser. e.g. I still
give directions at least once a week on how to select "All" to post
to the entire listserv.
Topic percentages follow:
| Discussions focusing on how to get connected; technology questions
| Discussions focusing on April 17 event
| One-on-one discussions focusing on advice from moderator
| Discussions focusing on curriculum questions (website connected)
| Discussions focusing on current art events
Many of our participants are new to technology and are uncomfortable
posting to the listserv. They read a general posting and then respond
to me directly. The human resource has been an important component
to the general development and usage of our site.
Student involvement emerged as the number one priority for the next
phase of ArtsNet Minnesota development. We create wonderful curriculum
websites, but do students and teachers use them? In June 1997, the participants
and partners decided that a constituency developed Student Link, connected
to a specific art work, would be the next project. The students, directed
by their art teachers, would "form a relationship with an artpiece"
(Milekic, 1997 p.271) and be encouraged
to transcend their own cultural perspective as they ask the who, when,
where and what questions (Lopez,
1995).Participants were recruited for this activity using 1-6 phone
contacts, 3-5 e-mail contacts and 2-3 snail mail contacts.
On April 17 we will conduct a major event for the ArtsNet Minnesota
participants. Fifty students from grades 3-12 representing all parts
of the state will select an artwork from the site and develop a student
page link. They will bring the images and text to an all day technology
workshop, conducted at the University of Minnesota by Louis Mazza,
Paulette Jones and Barbara Bridges, where they will learn the basic
elements and principles of design, HTML coding and how their weblink
will be constructed. While the students are at their workshop, the
sponsoring teachers (who may be meeting online friends for the first
time) will take a customized all-day tour of the Minneapolis Institute
of Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum.
All April 17th conference attendees must be participating on the listserv.
We disseminate information and share plans etc. online.
Teacher Responsibilities for the April 17th ArtsNet Minnesota Participant
A. Select 1-3 students. Identify them by name, age, and previous technical
experience. Work with students as they choose a work of art posted on
the ArtsNet Minnesota website. Students may work alone or in a group.
B. Write and submit to Barbara, a one-paragraph description of the
journey that brought you to the ArtsNet Minnesota project (people
contacts,interest in technology,discipline isolation, Internet experience,
interest in learning about web and/or web design, mentoring students,
etc. Please include background and special area of interest).
Student Responsibilities for April 17th ArtsNet Minnesota Participant
A. The students will investigate their chosen work of art, the background
and the artist, etc. They will expand their investigation using other
resources. Make sure they review other websites!
B. The students will develop an idea for a 2-3 page link responding
to the selected work. Their link will appear on the same level as
Teacher Lesson, Artist, Art, Activities, etc. Their development might
be prose or poetry, it could be a comparison to similar (or different)
art and artists. It could be student generated visual art, a quiz,
a postmodern puzzle or a response not imagined by us! One group has
animated characters from a work and will develop a short action sequence
with a moral message. Others may choose a more traditional approach.
Let the students develop the page(s) in the direction their creative
impulse and skills take them.
C. The students will write a paragraph describing their chosen artwork
and the general approach or idea they plan for their link.
Teacher Journeys and Student Plans
Lindberg Elementary School
"Who would have guessed that I would be traveling down the "cyber
hiway" with three third grade students (who, by the way, know alot
more about the computer). My connection with ArtsNet Minnesota is
directly related to my friend and colleague, Dr.Barbara Bridges
who I met through our affiliation with the Minnesota DBAE Consortium.
I teach visual Art to 720 K-12 students at Charles Lindbergh ElementarySchool
in Little Falls, Minnesota. I know you haven't heard my voice online
very much, class load and very few prep periods leave very little
time for conversation, but I love reading everything!"
Plymouth Middle School
"Re: My Interest in Technology/Computers. Since my introduction
of Internet I have been fascinated with the amount of information
and resources available through the world wide web. Kids are very
interested in it too, so it seems a logical connection in order
to make to involve them in the art class in another way.
Typically, only one art teacher is assigned to a building. This
network makes a wonderful forum to learn, ask questions, find ideas,
and just feel like you are not the only one with the challenges
you are facing. This group seems accessible both in terms of common
interests, geography and a reasonable number of messages. I would
really like to learn more about web home page design to highlight
our school's program".
Sartell Middle School
"I am going to compare and contrast the difference between Rauschenberg's
abstract expressionism and Marsden Hartley's realism. I will portray
this by making the two artworks have a conversation about which
one is really good art and why they are a superior artwork to the
Annandale High School
"We are going to write a poem about the painting "Through Birds,
through fire,but Not through Glass," by Yves Tanguy expressing the
emotions we feel as we observe the painting. In our poem, we will
explore how this poem correlates to the teenage life and create
an image that people will be able to relate to. Along with this
idea, we will create icons that will link the viewer to other paintings
and images that express similar emotions. We hope that this set-up
will force the viewer to look deep into their own soul and feel
what the painter was feeling at the time. We also had an additional
idea of adding other students thoughts of the painting. We thought
we would get a quote from people about their feelings of the painting.
We would then take a picture of them and place their quote by their
Discussion and Summary
Several design features presented on the ArtsNet Minnesota site have
received special a attention. The teachers have raved about the Styles
Characteristics chart. As we found when we constructed the chart, this
is a problematic area for a consensus and the teachers really appreciated
an updated list from the experts (museums). The multiple indexing (content
may be accessed by theme, artist, artwork, discipline or media), embedded
vocabulary, and student/classroom generalist and community friendly
text have also been mentioned as particularly attractive features. We
have moved from the aristocratic Jeffersonian model to the democratic
Jacksonian model (Levi Smith, 1991).
Collaboration emerges as the key word for ArtsNet Minnesota's success
as an online Learning Museum. Every participant brought a valuable
skill to the party. For example, I am not a technology specialist.
I contributed experience as a curriculum writer, as did Laura Pereira
from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Susan Rotilie from the
Weisman Art Museum. I also brought the perspective of a university
professor, art teacher and artist. I was hired coordinate the development
of the project and to act as listserv moderator after the launch.
We are all products of our enculturation. James
Banks (1988), a noted scholar looking at cultural point of reference,
concluded that egocentric individuals are denied important parts of
the human experience. ArtsNet Minnesota is organized using a social
reconstructionist approach (Freedman,
1994; Hicks, 1994; May,
1994). New Media Initiatives experts (Steve Deitz from the Walker
Art Center, Scott Sayre from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts), classroom
teachers from across Minnesota, museum staff (Jackie Copeland and
Karen Moss, from the Walker Art Center, Kate Johnson, from The Minneapolis
Institute of Arts and Colleen Sheehey from the Weisman Art Museum)
and Minnesota students all continue to contribute essential components
to the development of ArtsNet Minnesota.
This project represents solid theory to practice connection (Bergman
Feiring, 1997). We synthesized the knowledge gathered by others
and used this information as a foundation. I would like to thank all
the people referenced in this article for their contribution to our
project. I would like to send special accolades to the Getty Education
Institute for the Arts for their pioneering efforts and to The Blandin
Foundation of Minnesota for our financial support. The future direction
of ANM will be the cumulative sum of all participants and their continuing
experiential growth and development. Unlike hard copy projects, there
is no final publication date on the Internet.
Although the number of messages processed, over 900, has been challenging,
I believe ArtsNet has met the stated mission: "to create new relationships
and to provide previously unavailable opportunities and resources
for communication between all peoples interested in the arts and art
education in Minnesota."
- Increase student generated curriculum and interactivity.
- Increase hyperlinks to related resources.
- Add more artworks.
- Plan a teacher workshop retreat.
- Pursue funding for slide sets of works online to be used for "realtime"
lectures to be connected to student ArtsNet Minnesota website assignments.
- Create an administrative link.
- Create student listserv.
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