Bulb Archived: North Grand SCALE 2016-2017: Furlong & Malmed

Teacher:  Karen Furlong

Artist:  Jesse Malmed

School:  North-Grand

Big Idea:  Students make videos about themes that are important to their own lives.

Inquiry Question:  How can we use video to explore our own identity?

Fall/Winter

Art Content:  Video

Non-Art Content:  The Odyssey

Describe how the project unfolded. (What were the class learning goals, what were your teaching or artistic explorations, what were your students’ explorations, student reactions, any changes in plans, what worked well and what didn’t work well, unexpected outcomes, how your future project planning was impacted, etc.)

We wanted students to use video to explore questions about their own lives and the world around them.  We wanted them to be exposed to the myriad ways in which video artists use the art form to ask and answer questions.  At times, we simply asked the students what kind of videos they watched on their own time, and why they were drawn to these specific pieces.  We then started simple by asking the students what they would like to make videos of.  So, for instance, we made a series of videos that we thought would put people to sleep.  This is based partially on the notion that, in art, it is sometimes worth pursuing the problem, going deeper and deeper into it until it reveals itself to be less of a problem than initially considered. To wit: if it’s too boring, it needs to be more boring; if it’s too loud, it needs to be louder. In trying to be as boring as we could, we discovered that we’d happened upon something interesting. 

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Rosy and Yanitza making boring videos.

When we discovered that we were running out of suitable material, we then switched it up and started connecting the work that we did in SCALE to some of the literature that our students were reading in English class.  This was a rather organic decision since I am their English teacher and they were engaged in class.  We used The Odyssey as a stepping stone and students took one of the stories from The odyssey and adapted it in a small group skit which they then videoed and edited.

Do you think that students made progress toward the learning goals that were set for this semester? Please estimate the percentage of students who made progress toward the learning goals. Please explain the basis of your assessment.

Absolutely.

Please upload photos and/or videos of student work or classroom artifacts that demonstrate student learning and/or provide evidence that learning goals were or were not achieved. Describe how the artifacts, images or videos illustrate students achieving, partially achieving, or not achieving the learning goals.

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Collaborating with the Theatre program.

How did your teacher/artist collaboration work this semester? Describe how you and your partner planned together. How did you compromise when there were conflicts or differences of approaches or ideas? Can you cite a specific example?

As a teacher, I was more aware of what the students were doing in their courses, so I was able to contribute ideas that related to curriculum.  My artist partner had many ideas for video examples which would then be helpful for the students to watch and glean ideas from, almost like mentor texts (just not texts).  There weren’t many conflicts or differences of approach, per say, so much as there were times when we didn’t know where to go or what to do next.  For example, when we were fresh out of ideas last semester, I told Jesse about all the crazy stories from The Odyssey and together we developed ideas.

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Look how great we look!

Describe how you teach together in the classroom. Who does what? How do you understand each other’s roles? Can you cite a specific example?

Jesse excites the students to think about what they want to do next in terms of video art.  He tries to review with them what they have done so far, and elicits ideas from the students about where they would like to go next.   I provide ideas when the group starts working; they show me what they’ve done, and I say what I think.  I give them tips for improving, technical support, props, and snacks.  For example, when the students were making a boring video, they sharpened a pencil to death, destroying my pencil sharpener in the process.  I also let them video my fingers typing away on the keyboard.  Boy, that was a bore.

We also took a fabulous field trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art (see photo below) to gain perspective on all the different ways video can be used.  We saw many videos that played with the notions of space — public space v. private space — and time.

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Winter/Spring

Art Content: Video, Experimental Animation

Non-Art Content: Exploring the city of Chicago, Humor, Experimental Memoir (after school); Romeo & Juliet, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (in-class)

Describe how the project unfolded. 

We wanted students to explore their own city, and what it has to offer for burgeoning artists.  We accomplished this goal by visiting various spots in Chicago which encourage the arts and artistic practice.  These places included The Art Institute of Chicago where we visited exhibits about protest; the Garfield Park Conservatory, where we took videos with the lush green as a backdrop; Myopic Bookstore, Quimby’s Booksellers, and LVL3, an art gallery housed by a Chicago artist.

We wanted students to use their explorations to enhance their own work in video.  For the most part, this seemed successful.  Of all our trips, the visit to Garfield Park seemed to encourage the most creativity in terms of video production. By giving each of the students access to the same material (which they had shot separately), we were also able to have conversations about editing and form: how was this clip instrumentalized here or there, how can the same material generate different content?

Searching for adventure at Garfield Park Conservatory.
Meeting strangers at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

Do you think that students made progress toward the learning goals that were set for this semester? Please estimate the percentage of students who made progress toward the learning goals. Please explain the basis of your estimate.

Yes! All of our students in the after school program made tremendous progress. They each became more adept at using the technology (the cameras and Premiere), at performing, at thinking through their own voice, at what makes for compelling videos and at understanding the multiplicity of forms their expressions can take.

The students that we worked with (two separate classes) in 9th grade English may not have experienced as comprehensive a jump in their video skills, but many students walked away with the ability to make a video (from beginning to end) with a very limited amount of time. Honestly, it was really inspiring for me (Jesse) to see how many students were able to understand the fundamentals of video and create something they were proud of so quickly!

We Are the Clowns

Please upload photos and/or videos of student work or classroom artifacts that demonstrate student learning and/or provide evidence that learning goals were or were not achieved. Describe how the artifacts, images or videos illustrate students achieving, partially achieving, or not achieving the learning goals.

How did your teacher/artist collaboration work this semester? Describe how you and your partner planned together. How did you compromise when there were conflicts or differences of approaches or ideas? Can you cite a specific example?

I (Jesse) think that it worked well! For our in-class sessions, we discussed what the students were reading and traded ideas about interesting ways to integrate video production into the curriculum. Our after-school program was more student-led, so we spent more of our planning time discussing where to go both physically — since exploring the city of Chicago was an important part of our content — and curricularly. We didn’t have any real conflicts to speak of and it was fruitful for both of us to experience related (but different) concepts in the different (but related) spaces of the classroom during and after school.

Describe how you teach together in the classroom. Who does what? How do you understand each other’s roles? Can you cite a specific example?

Generally, we’re able to work well together. In the classroom, I (Jesse) functioned more as a visiting artist, so our roles were different than in the after-school environment. In school, Karen’s knowledge of the students’ rhythms and dynamics enabled me to communicate the basics of video-making and explain the ideas for each project effectively. Once production began, we both roamed, helping groups of students with technical, creative and (occasionally) social issues they were encountering.