Bulb Archived: Spry ATLAS 2015-2018: Lopez (Year 3, 2017-2018)

School Name: John Spry Community School

Teacher Name: Marina Lopez

Section I: Arts Integration – Documentation. 

1. Documentation should not only provide a narrative, or story, of your project, but should also provide evidence of students’ engagement in the unit inquiry. 

This ATLAS project is the final project over a three-year period. The classroom I worked with is a 6th grade classroom.  I have been teaching visual arts with most of the students since they were in kindergarten.  The majority of students have been in the ATLAS grant as of fourth grade. However there have been students who transferred in and others who have transferred out.  This project focused on integrating the arts, literacy and technology. I am a strong believer that we do not learn in a vacuum and that as with all areas of learning one enhances the other. Without the arts there would be no stories as they are one of the oldest art forms.  Without creativity there would be no new ideas, no innovation and no advancements in technology.  My interest in this grant was simply to find another way for my students to use their creative ideas, to play, experiment and work in collaboration with one another. In addition they would be able to connect to another subject area and use another tool to express themselves.  The bonus would be through this experimentation they would learn more than what they would have, if each of these skills and subjects were separate. 

Students practicing a scene with director on the right side.

2. Through your documentation, please provide student artifacts that depict the range of work completed. For example, what were the various ways in which students responded to various aspects of the project? 

Section I: Arts Integration – Inquiry 

3. What is your Inquiry Question for your ATLAS curriculum unit? What big ideas does this inquiry question address, and why do you think the question successfully addresses these? 

 Inquiry: How do students relate to the idea of Myth while engaging in the creative process using the tools of technology? How do students learn and code the art of storytelling merging visual arts and technology to express the hero’s journey.  

The big idea is symbolism.  The symbols within the stories are coded. The characters, the places, and the trials or adventures, the characters encounters are symbolic and are embedded into the myth.  

4. How did student research help them to engage more deeply with the unit inquiry question? Explain how your students conducted research for their ATLAS project, and how that research opened up avenues for further inquiry. 

To start the unit the students were to research a story.  They were asked to go home and ask a family member to tell them a story that had a strange or magical quality to it.  The story had to be a real story that was either told to them by a family member or it could be a story that their parents had experienced.  This story would give students a start to their myths. It also allowed them to begin asking questions about what symbols would represent each aspect of their story.  Each group would have to choose a story and begin to develop it together.  After choosing their symbols for the myth the groups then went to the Internet to find images that best fit their stories. 

Students downloading images to use with the green screen.
           Researched Family Story

5. Describe how the unit inquiry opens up avenues for interdisciplinary connections between the arts and academic content. How did arts processes and/or research practices facilitate students’ understanding of the academic topics addressed in the inquiry question? 

By having the inquiry questions focus on Myth, technology and the creative process the combination of the three created an interdisciplinary connection.  In order for students to  develop a myth they had to learn about myth and the stages of the hero’s journey, the literacy unit was the study of myth, focusing on the book Percy Jackson, The Lightning Thief.  However, the unit was just beginning and students were reading about the general concepts of Myth .  The hero’s journey would not be presented until after I started working with my part of the unit.  I realized I had to find a way to introduce the idea of the journey, the symbolism and the structure or stages to help students construct the hero’s journey.  Students began to work as a group to sort through their chosen story. The creative process came into all stages of making, beginning with creating the story, planning out the story through storyboarding the scenes and then by practicing, acting and filming. While filming their myths, the students continued to  reinforce the hero’s journey through the technology provided. Some groups, after working with the green screen realized they would need to change the images, as they did not fit with the actor’s placement, in front of the green screen. After reviewing the footage taken the majority of the groups, decided to do retakes of scenes in order to tell the story.

6. How did the curriculum evolve based on the unit inquiry process? 

Although a number of students had worked with i-pads in year two of the ATLAS grant, not all students had experience working with this technology.  I also knew that in order for the students to get a larger sense of the visuals of a myth I had to find a way for them to construct a mythical space.  Although, I did not know how to use a green screen I discussed the technology with a videographer/family member as well as our technology coordinator.  After these conversations I knew this would be a technological fix for the myths. This would allow the students to develop a sense of place which, would fit into their stories.  These images projected on the green screen would allow each group to develop their storytelling using creative background visuals. Knowing that the students would use i-pads to construct and film their myths I began by teaching the structure of the hero’s journey.  Students would use the graphic organizers given them to flush out their ideas individually and in groups.  Once they understood the structure, they began creating the myth in their groups by using the structure provided and symbols chosen for their story.  

Student’s working on a storyboard while one looks for images for their myth.

Section I: Arts Integration – Create Works 

7. How did students self-direct while creating their artistic work during the ATLAS project? Please provide any examples for the ways in which students made their own aesthetic choices and direction for creating their artwork. Examples might include but are not limited to: how did students make choices about the use of materials, how did they decide what they wanted to communicate, how did they make decisions about how to present work? 

The student’s self-directed from the start of the projects.  They chose the groups they would join and developed the Myth as a group.  Creating their films was all self-directed, each group was responsible for deciding who would act, film and edit.  There were moments when I would watch how they were working and comment on what I saw but the comments were general and they could choose to think about what I had said or discard it. The groups filmed in the hallway and in an extra classroom or in the visual art room, I could not be with each group but would check in with  them and where they were in the process of creating.   They came to work on their projects, before and afterschool and during their recess periods.  Each of these groups filmed, acted and kept each other on task, working within a timeframe. I reminded them of the amount of time they had at each interval. Whatever props they needed they either brought in or found or repurposed for their stories.  While editing they were given directions to have narration, sound, filters and credits. They made choices with regards to each of those components of their film. 

8. Please explain what opportunities the students had to reflect on their experiences and react to the work of their peers. 

Students viewed each other’s work as they were filming and once the film was complete. The films were screened so that all the students could see them at once. The class went to the Hairpin Gallery Space where some of the work was hung and screened.  This was a reflection question given to the students after they completed their films. Some of the comments are listed below. 

Question: What have you learned over the past two weeks, about making films?

Working together is very important to make a great film and it takes patience and time. You learn new things about working on a project. I also learned how to use a green screen.  This project has taught me that sometimes you can make something great with more people.  I have also learned how to get along with people and make friends with them. Jackie

That films take a lot of work to make and I learned to work with a green screen. Joseph

In past two weeks, I learned about making films they are fun, cool and working together is hard but exciting.  Isabeya

How to get along with other people better. Mario

I learned that making a myth could be made on an i-pad and how to make a story/myth by recording it.  Brandon

I learned how to act and how to work with other people and what the real directors do when they are making a movie.  Kayla

It takes a lot of focus and a lot of time. Alondra

I learned how to film and edit and use a green screen. Jair

List of symbols/elements for the myth.
Storyboard scenes for filming of the myth.

9. How did the students’ artifacts from various stages of the ATLAS Unit impact your teaching practice? Please provide artifacts that exemplify your points. What did you learn about your teaching practice from looking at these artifacts? 

The atlas units have been created to work with an interdisciplinary model.  Each unit from the first year has been developed particularly for each classroom as the focus of the academic subject changed as well as students grade levels.  The unit began by having students ask a family member tell them a story.  After reading their stories, I realized that I had to find a way to structure and help them develop their myths. They would not be able to write a myth in a short period of time and film it. Which meant I had to give them enough information for them to write a myth in less than a week.  Although I was familiar with Joseph Campbell and his study of myth, I needed to break it down and simplify it for the students.  I researched the hero’s journey by watching YouTube interviews with Campbell and found structures about the hero’s journey which I could simplify.  As I was researching, I was also aware that I needed to have students find symbols and details for their myth.  The symbols would tie into the idea of codes of a story and how we relate to those codes/symbols within a story. What do the codes relay and how do they move us through the story.  I developed graphic organizers to help students develop details in their stories and to have concrete information to refer back to when they began filming.  After working with the graphic organizers they developed the full story and storyboard, before beginning to film.  Although, I have written stories to tell, I had to continue to think about how I needed to help students find their way through what seemed to be a challenging project for them and myself.  I had not even begun to think about how I would explain working with a green screen, as I had never used one.

Artifacts are in the section above question 9.

10. Describe how the students’ work was shared in the school or publicly. Why was this an important part of this unit?  

The student’s work was shared publicly in the Hair Pin Gallery in Chicago’s north side.  The myths were projected along with the work of the past two years.  Students were given the opportunity to view their work of the past three years by spending an afternoon viewing it and the work of students from other schools.  Students could see the  development of the images from the first year and the complexities of the work over the past two years.  The first year was digital portraits taken individually, while in the third year groups were formed to create the short films. Two students from the class answered questions and spoke about their work while at the gallery.   

After seeing the exhibit at Hair Pin Gallery the students viewed the films as a group. Although some students were embaressed by the whole class viewing their work, overall the class enjoyed seeing the finished work as a group. They responded to seeing how each group used the green screen affect and how each group created very different work.  This culminating show allowed our students to look at their growth over the three years. It visually showed them that over a three year period they learned not only technological skills, but that they created ideas and images that connected to what they learned in their core subjects.

Section I: Arts Integration – Collaboration 

11. How did students collaborate at different stages of the project? Examples might include but are not limited to: did the students research together, did they create together, did they critique together, did they present together?  

In this unit students were expected to collaborate. They could not succeed without collaboration.  Creating their groups was the beginning of collaborating.  I asked students to pick a group based on the students that were willing to be group leaders.  Each student picked a group to work with however after a week of working within these groups there were three students who realized they could not work with the students in their groups. When they brought this to my attention I asked them to try again and I observed each group. After I realized that they could not work with the group.   The students asked other groups if they could join; they were accepted and became an asset to the groups. I had one group out of seven that could not collaborate well enough to complete their film. Each group however worked on the graphic organizers, created the story together along with the storyboard and had to come to an agreement for each persons role in creating the film. Once they began filming each group made changes along the way.  If one person was filming a scene but needed to act in another scene then another person would become the cameraperson.  Some groups had one cameraperson throughout.  This came about due to the issue of photography permission.   Yet in those groups they were willing to work within that structure, as were those that opted to film. They all viewed the scenes they shot and based on how they felt the images carried the story or mistakes they saw. They chose to keep or retake the scene. Most groups did at least three takes. Editing the film became collaborative for all the groups.  Groups did however have the option to allow one or two people to add the finishing touches onto the film.  

Students editing their green screen footage with i-movie.

12. In what ways did you collaborate with the students for this unit. How did the students impact the way in which the curriculum was implemented? For example, how did students help you plan, develop, and/or implement the curriculum? 

The development of the curriculum was driven by the integration of the literacy unit and by the technology that was used.  There was little collaboration with the students in terms of planning the curriculum.  In terms of the implementation, the amount of time I had to work with the students and the amount of time I would have the i-pads, they were loaned, lead me to a schedule that I needed to stick to.  In this way students and I negotiated extra time to work on their projects. The groups were more than willing to spend time outside of our classroom time to work on their films.  They could sign up for mornings before school, recess or afterschool to film and edit their projects. When I could see that some groups had developed a technique for working with a problem as with the green screen, I would ask if they would be willing to teach and share what they had discovered. 

13. How did you collaborate with other teachers in your school to plan and/or implement the unit? 

I collaborated with Ms. Smith the sixth grade literacy teacher.  I asked her first if she could tell me what she was teaching in the time period I would have her students. I then explained that I had been working with the students since fourth grade and that I would be working with i-pads with the students, as the project/grant was technology based. She explained that the students would be reading the story The Lighting Thief, and gave me a copy to read. I asked her if I could sit in on a few of her classes so that I could observe what the students were learning in the first part of her unit and therefore know what I would have to teach in order for students to be able to complete the short film.  I sat in on two class sessions as she began teaching the introductory part of her unit on mythology.  We would touch base with where the students were at in terms of the book; they had just started it when we were already filming their myths.   There however was no co-teaching as she had her preparation period when I had her students.  Our schedule with students is usually a three-week cycle.  Just by chance with her classroom I had four weeks which allowed students to spend more time on their films, the student were dedicated to the work although I could have used an extra week to work with individual groups and allow more reflection time. 

Section II: Technology Integration 

14. What was your process for selecting this form of digital media technology? Why did you think this form of digital media technology would be ideal for student learning? 

I planned to use i-pads as a way to continue developing student’s skills with this technology. I also felt that to give all the sixth graders the same technology skills, I would teach students who did not have access to the i-pads the year before.  Using the i-pads with i-movie is accessible to all students.  In a preliminary survey I asked the students: What would you like to learn about when making videos or a film? Thirteen out of 25 responded that they wanted to learn how to edit the video or edit better, four responded they wanted to learn everything. Two responded by saying they wanted to learn how to use the camera to take better images. I also asked if the students had computers at home, 26 students answered and 46% responded that they did not have computers,  although 61% said they had a tablet or an i-pad at home and 4 students responded that they had neither. Based on what students answered I believe I had targeted the correct technology skills for them to learn. 

15. How did students use digital media technology to direct their own learning? Provide artifacts to show evidence of how students used the technology to direct their own learning. Examples might include but are not limited to: making choices about technologies to use, using technology to facilitate experimentation, using technology as a research tool, to express themselves artistically, and/or to make meaning of their experiences. 

When students initially used the i-pads I asked them to experiment and practice.  They would each get a feel for filming and for working as a group and begin to make decisons for filming, acting, directing and keeping the group on task. The only way students could create the film was through experimenting as they moved through the process of creating.  Once students made decisions about who would take on particular roles or share roles they set about to work filming the myth.  Again, the group had to make decisions and learn from each take. They then decided if there was a need to retake the images just shot.  By the last few scenes groups using the green screen to film took less time and number of takes lessened for each scene to be filmed.  They obviously learned through working with the technology how to address problems and realized that with time constraints they needed to focus and direct their energy to get the images that they needed.  It is not by accident that many students commented that the unit took focus, time and patience. 

16. How did you use technology to enhance the learning environment for both you as a teacher and for the students?  

Aside from using the i-pads, I had begun using google classroom with my ATLAS group last year. This year I continued using the Google classroom to gather preliminary data and to have students reflect on what they had learned. This allowed me to access their responses and to not have to fumble through papers in order to reterive the information. Most students prefer to go onto Google classroom to answer the questions.  It helped me to see who needed to complete the questions and allowed me to look at the class as a whole based on their answers.  Students were excited to begin the project. Those that had worked on the i-pads the year before were happy to have a chance to again create a short film knowing they would be expected to work with group as they had the year before.  Students who had not worked with the i-pads the year before did not know what to expect but were quickly engaged in the activities once they realized what the expectations were.  Once I demonstrated the green screen affect to each group, they were more than willing to come to school, before, after or during recess to continue working with the green screen app.

Students practicing a scene from their myth.

17. In what ways do your chosen technology resources align with your goals and outcomes for student learning? Looking back at the unit, how did the technology meet, not meet or exceed your expectations for facilitating student outcomes. 

Choosing the i-pads as the artmaking tool aligned with my goals.  I had hoped the students would be able to collaborate to create a myth and then to develop it into a short film.  As students worked in their groups they had to rely on one another to each be at school, to be team players and to focus on the task of completing each scene.  Although students were working with Ms. Smith in their Myth Unit, I had hoped that the transfer of writing a myth and immersing themselves in the action of creating the myth would allow them to get  more three dimensional view of the hero’s journey.  If they would expericience the hero’s journey as they were creating the story though acting, filming and editing it would develop a deeper understanding of the idea and importance of myth and connect them to the story they were beginning to read, The Lightning Thief.     

After looking at the final films made by the students, I have to say that the technology both met and exceeded my expectations for facilitating student outcomes.  The accessibility of the i-pads and the immediacy of the images lend itself in allowing the students to make decisions on the spot. Although they had a guide, their storyboards, they had the freedom to change the scenes as they felt they needed to, especially as they were filming in the school.  Filming was kept to the third floor where the art classroom is.  Filming outside was not an option, due to the cold temperatures and also due to the high rates of gang violence surrounding our school.  

The groups, who completed their films, used the green screen application they quickly understood how to set it up, create scenes in the application and transfer them to i-movie to eventually edit into a film. Some groups realized that they could use parts of the wall in the hallway; the green screen chroma could be set to the green wall. For students to experiment while creating was a great outcome.  As in most art making some accidental or experimental ideas add to the understanding of the material and tools. 

18. How did the use of technology contribute to students’ application of higher order thinking skills? Examples of student higher order thinking skills include metacognition, self-reflection, analysis, and application of knowledge or skills. 

While students created their myths they had to make decisions and analyze how the story would flow and continue moving the hero through the tasks that would move the hero forward.  Group reflection came up every time they completed a scene.  Student groups would hover around the i-pad discussing if the scene was what they expected or if they needed to make changes to it.  These conversations reflected on what was just created and based on their conversations allowed the groups to develop ways to solve problems they faced while filming.  Given that the students had to film in a school and had to use the environment as it was, they filmed in areas that would support the story. These were the types of external factors the groups faced as they began to create. Applying the skills students acquired the year before and teaching other students what they knew and what they learned during the process,  allowed for students to be teach their peers.  For all of students, learning how to use the green screen app was a skill that was new to them.  For half of the students they had never edited in i-movie and acquiring this skill was what they had wanted to learn based on the questions asked at the beginning of the unit.

19. How did the use of technology drive student creative artistic expression? Please provide student artifacts that exemplify how technology supported their artistic expression.

Most groups as they began working together had to come up with creative solutions.  They did this though their decisions of placement of actor and camera angles.  They scrolled though and found images that would work with the green screen and the story.  Students in the third group used the lower area of the screen to have the animals in the story change into people.  Students in group one, working in the classroom, used a light box as a Ouji board and a jacket to create the image of a ghost or demon. Editing decisions allowed for artistic expression. Choosing footage to represent the story, arranging the footage, adding sound and narration were areas in which students could be creative. Acting and creating the story with their voice, body and expression allowed students to add personal creativity.

Students using a light box to represent a Ouji board.

20. How did the integration of digital media technology impact your teaching practice? 

For many years I was teaching visual arts without the use of technology.  The main reason is we didn’t have much in terms of computers hooked up to projectors, digital cameras, chrome books or i-pads.  Therefore using technology was something that could not be done.  Acquiring a projector allowed me to use my lap top to project images and access the web.  As far as allowing students to use the technology we had none.  When the school acquired chrome books there were three carts, one for each floor. The chrome books were first to be used by the classroom teachers.  

When the ATLAS grant became available I was happy to be a part of it.  It would allow me to find ways to access and connect technology in the art room.  This year as in last I had to think about ways in which I could move the students from the idea or concept of creating a myth on film and completing the film.   Because this was the second year I had used the i-pads as an art making tool I knew that students would form groups to create their films.  Using the i-pads has helped me to work towards creating a curriculum that allows the students to work in collaboration.  

Although at times this is not easy for me or for them it gave them opportunities to brainstorm ideas, work toward a common goal, get to know one another and understand that through negotiation and focused work they can accomplish more than if they worked alone. I myself have had to allow the art making process to move the students to their goals.  Because I could not be with all groups at any given time during filming, I had to make sure I gave them two goals to work toward each day and allow them to be successful or to miss the mark.  If groups did not complete the tasks we discussed what they needed to do to accomplish the goals and not fall to far behind.  Using technology though the ATLAS program has transferred to using more technology with my other classes. I am currently trying to find ways to use the chrome books with my other classrooms and finding ways for students to access the Internet with a creative mindset. 

Two students stay afterschool to continue editing their myth.