Making Online Learning Engaging (Ep. 213)

We know how difficult it is to make connections with our students right now, but one important way we can connect is to make online learning more fun! In this episode, Lindsey Moss joins Tim to share some of her best ideas for online meetings, including pictionary, scavenger hunts, and more. Full Episode Transcript Below.

Resources and Links


Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz. Today we are continuing on with the journey of schools being closed and teachers not being able to see their students. But as I’ve said I’m trying to make the best of this, trying to look at this situation as an opportunity for us to share and for us to learn together as art teachers and to eventually come together and to do what’s best for students.

So I am continuing to find guests to talk to who are doing some really cool things, who are making the best of their situations and ones that are willing to share in order to help all of the other art teachers out there. So, I hope over the course of these conversations you are able to pick up some ideas that might work for your teaching, that might work for your students. And obviously not everything is going to work for everyone but I figure the more we put out there the better chance there is that you can find something that clicks with you and you can find something that works for you.

So today Lindsey Moss will be returning to the show and today she’s going to talk to me about all of the amazing things she is doing with her teaching. And I think she has a lot of ideas that you will appreciate. Now before we start the interview though I want to tell you that AOEU will be continuing to host a free webinar every Thursday night as we all try to get a handle on this new normal, get a handle on what teaching from a distance can look like.

So, last week was the third webinar that we’ve done and we had presentations on making art history meaningful, more ideas on how to record engaging videos. And Lindsey actually presented on a couple of the ideas that we’ll talk about today but we’ll get a little more in-depth here on the podcast. And then this week on Thursday night, 7:00 Central we will be back. You can register for that. See all of the resources we’ve put together at But that should be it, we are ready to go so let’s get Lindsey on here and we’ll get the conversation started. All right, Lindsey is joining me now. Lindsey, how are you today?

Lindsey: I am good. Thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim: Yeah, thanks for coming back. I am thrilled to talk to you. We have lots to go over but can we begin with you just telling us a little bit about your situation right now? What does life look for you at home? What are you doing teaching ways?

Lindsey: Oh sure. Well I think I’m in the same boat as everybody else where normal was totally up ended. And so, for about two weeks/two years it feels like things have been not the normal. So my district, I live and teach in Illinois and my district closed until April 7th by order of the governor. And so we, my district was actually organized. We got the chance to do four days of e-learning and then we were closed all this past week for spring break which I think has been really good for me because I got to try e-learning and then have a little bit of a respite while I can figure it out for what’s going to have to happen on Monday as we go back to work. My husband’s also a teacher and so he is home and off work as well also doing online e-learning but not from the art point of view, he teaches fifth grade. And my kids are home consuming e-learning and just generally being crazy in the house so.

Tim: There’s a lot of that going on everywhere I think so. Now as you said you’ve been doing a lot of e-learning. I know you’ve done a lot of online meetings I think with Zoom. But before we get into all the awesome things that you’re doing on Zoom can you maybe talk a little bit about your stumbles, maybe some things that didn’t go so well or a couple of things that you’ve learned through the process of getting started there?

Lindsey: Oh sure. Okay. So, it’s interesting when I on social media which we all are a lot these days. I see our teachers and their debating platforms or trying to figure out the best way to organize. And my district dictated that which in retrospect was really nice to just have somebody say, “You know what? Here are the parameters.” And my district they wanted us to use Google Classrooms and they wanted us to open a Zoom account so that we could have face to face interactions with our kids. So that ended up, that choice was out of my hands.

And I had done Zoom as a meeting participant a lot because of the Art of Ed actually but I had never been responsible for hosting a meeting before. So that was a really quick learning curve and I mean it’s pretty intuitive so it didn’t take too much to get rolling on that. But it was interesting to me the amount of kids over the course of our four days last week doing e-learning that were migrating to my Zoom meetings. So, it ended up by the end of the week that there were so many participants that Zoom was splitting it into two screens so you had to scroll over to see all the kids.

So in terms of hurdles, I guess my largest hurdle was just people who are unfamiliar with the platform coming to me with questions about how to use the platform and to me it’s not very hard to just follow a Zoom link and join but everybody’s got different devices and different technology and I felt like the volume of questions I was getting at first felt overwhelming. But then I had an IEP meeting virtually last week also and I had a really interesting conversation with the parent on that meeting and he was explaining that he thinks kids are going to specialists first, that as they’re trying to access e-learning from their houses they’re uncomfortable too. So when they see a menu of things from math and language arts and everything but then they see their specialty teachers on that menu and they’re like, “My art teacher that would feel really good right now.”

That oftentimes I think they’re actually coming to us first and that’s why I was getting a lot of these email questions because they hadn’t had to figure it out yet for the regular classroom. So then it felt like, answering all those emails felt like you were doing good work. So, hopefully paving the way for other teachers too as we get back from spring break. But I actually didn’t have any instances where I couldn’t successfully get somebody on after an email or two. And again, most people are pretty tech-savvy, they don’t need you to start, it’s just a small fraction.

Tim: Yeah. Now, I know you’re doing a lot of cool things and so I want to dive into some of your ideas and have you share those with everybody so let’s begin. Can you tell me about online Pictionary? Because that sounds fantastic and I would love to know how you’re running that.

Lindsey: So it started organically like my district wanted us to offer options and we all know as art teachers kids have different resources at home. So I was pairing with my librarian and music teacher. We were making a grid menu for kids and three art options, three music options, three library options. And so, my first two art options were hyperlinks for stuff in my Google classroom or a video to watch. But the third one was to join me for a Zoom sketchbook chat is what I called it or I think I called it a sketchbook share. They either do one of these first two options or you could join me for the share.

And I ran it at the same time every day and I didn’t know how many kids I was going to get so I said, “Okay, if you follow this link from 9:00 to 9:30 I’ll be there for K2 and then 9:30 to 10:00 I’ll be there for three, six. And I was thinking if they aren’t able to make a lot they could still get some of those national standards about creating and presenting or presenting and responding. So I told them anything you had you could bring it on and share.

So that first Zoom meeting there were kids there and they were sharing their art and that took about 15 of the 30 minutes and then we all were looking at each other like, “What now?” And then I don’t know what about Pictionary popped in my head but the next day when they logged on after the share was done I told them all just really simple just go get a piece of paper and anything that writes. And at the bottom of Zoom there’s a chat function and that you can chat with the whole group or you can as the host you can send a private message to a single participant.

So I said, “One of you is about to get a private message.” And I picked a kid that was pretty outgoing and I sent a message and I was just like, “Hey Jack, can you draw toilet paper.” So then Jack puts up the paper and I told them, “You can either draw it in front of the screen art teacher style or if you need to put it down on the table flat and dry it and then hold it up and reveal it you can.” So then he’s drawing the toilet paper and everybody’s screaming the guesses and the first person to get it is the next person to get the secret message and draw. And then my colleague Lauren I was telling her about this and she’s like, “Yeah, I think it will be less of a free for all if they have to put in the chat what their guess is and that way there’s not millions of …”

Tim: Not like 30 kids yelling at you.

Lindsey: Which is how it was that first day yeah. So in retrospect Lauren was right that’s probably the better way to run it but they loved it. So then Wednesday I had more kids and then it’s like word was getting out that we were playing this game and I had a lot of people, you only were supposed to come to the sketchbook chat once but I had a lot of repeat visitors.

Tim: That’s awesome. I love that kids are loving it so much so and that makes for a good connection. Now are you still continuing this sketchbook share or do you have other ideas for what you’re doing or thinking about doing?

Lindsey: Yeah. So I really liked that because I feel like the sketchbook share really speaks to equity because when I was on Zoom talking to them about what they had at their house there’s a big variety. I mean there’s kids that are able to make slime at home and have all kinds of this vast suite of art supplies and then there are kids that basically have scrap paper and a pencil. And the thing I liked about the sketchbook share is the equity there. It didn’t matter what you were making it out of there wasn’t some prompts you had to modify and feel bad about it was like anything you made was acceptable. And so, I am definitely going to keep that element going because I feel like it made it okay for any kid to share anything, any art making was fine. Not like they were compromising because other people had paint and they didn’t, it was anything you made was okay out of anything.

And I mean some kids even brought Lego stuff so I liked that because of the equity. But yeah, we’ll definitely continue the Pictionary. But some other ideas, I’m excited next week because I think we’re going to be doing a scavenger hunt. There’s so much art vocabulary and I think sometimes in my classroom anyway we get so excited about making that vocabulary building doesn’t always take the forefront of class instructional time could but you could work on it now. So for my little’s, “Okay go find this texture, go find this color, go find an example of contrast, go find,” and I don’t think we’ll probably do a point system because kids can get ultra competitive [inaudible 00:13:35] against me, maybe that’s how it is. But we’re definitely planning a couple of different vocabulary scavenger hunts for next week and I’m excited to start that with them.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s really cool. Now have you tried teaching any lessons or doing any kind of direct instruction in one of your online meetings?

Lindsey: You know everything that I did that was lesson based or more direct instruction was like a link from that menu that I previously mentioned. But when I was talking to the kids in Zoom meetings a lot of them are trying to access YouTube tutorials right now because they’re bored. So they’re looking at projects or whatever to do and I asked them about workshops. See I just have, I’m nervous to make a specific online instruction mandatory. I like the idea of those being extra. Because to me when it’s live there’s pressure if you don’t have the right materials or whatever, again I worry about equity. But I did float the idea to my kids, “Would you guys be interested if I had a workshop on a certain topic at a certain time of day?” And I posted what materials or substitute materials might work, “Would you be interested in logging on?” And they were all gung ho about it. They gave me some ideas that I was nervous about their ideas. They really wanted origami but I know as an art teacher origami’s hard.

Tim: That sounds like a disaster to me.

Lindsey: I like that is not where we’re going to go the first time. We’ll probably do some how to draw stuff. And I’ve been big into collage on my menus because everybody has collage materials and even if you don’t have scissors you can do torn paper collage. If you don’t have glue you can just set things together like a puzzle. So probably if I had to guess what that workshop’s going to look like next week it’s probably going to be collage based.

Tim: Okay, I like that idea too so that’ll be cool. Then I guess just to wrap it up what do you see coming longterm like if we’re out of school for awhile where do you see this going or do you have any other big e-learning ideas on the horizon, other things that you want to try?

Lindsey: Wow. You know it’s hard to wrap your head around that because you just don’t know. The news is so conflicting sometimes and I don’t know if we’re going to be back in three weeks or if we’re going to be out the whole year. I guess if it’s more of a short term thing like I said I’m interested in floating these workshops. If it’s longer term I’m going to be I guess looking at how you can even do a digital art show for your kids with pictures they have submitted. I think for a lot of people, I already had one art show this year so I’m lucky in that respect but I think that that’s a really special time of the year as art teachers where kids get to celebrate what they’re making and what they’ve achieved over the year.

And this situation’s happening at a time of year where most people haven’t had an art show. I’m trying to investigate ways to honor kids and what they’ve learned in a public internet space. I don’t know what but you can’t push it out to the whole world. So, I guess that’s going to be the next thing I look at if it does turn out that we don’t finish the school year. That’ll be my project for May.

Tim: Yeah, that sounds really worthwhile. I think yeah you can make some really cool things happen there so cool. All right now Lindsey before we go I’ve been having all my guests give recommendations for people when they’re stuck at home of things to read, things to watch and things to listen to. So, I’m going to ask for your recommendation so let’s start with something that you think people should be reading.

Lindsey: Oh, okay. Well I mean, okay so don’t laugh but my kids and I made a library trip right before everything closed down and we have been deeply immersed in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series.

Tim: I love it.

Lindsey: And I have to tell you though, I really gets a really good parenting strategy right now because when you read about pioneer life and then you tell your kids like, “No, you need to eat what is in the pantry,” I feel like they get it more. And my husband started planting our garden for the year and the girls were out back playing Little House on the Prairie. I feel like there’s some weird connections to that in quarantine so we’re enjoying that. We’re on the second book right now.

Tim: That’s funny, that’s really cool though. My daughter’s way into it because Laura Ingalls Wilder is actually from Nebraska where I live and so yeah. So my daughter loves that connection and she has read all of the books and loves them so much so that’s awesome. For my reading I’m going to the opposite end of the spectrum, I have been reading an author named Chuck Klosterman and he does a lot of just weird off the wall writing. He writes a lot about music but he’s got a collection of short essays called Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs which is a great title by the way but just really creative thinking, really funny, short, easy read and I’ve been enjoying breaking that back out. So all right something for people to watch?

Lindsey: That’s tough because we are big TV watchers. So we’ve been watching a lot but I don’t know that it’s been great. You know what the last thing I really liked was it’s a Netflix series and it’s called Lock and Key, L-O-C-K-E and Key, and it’s based on, it’s creepy and it’s based on a graphic novel that was written and illustrated by Stephen King’s son and it was his foray into the pseudo horror genre and it’s a creepy one. I liked it a lot.

Tim: So is that one that kids should stay away from probably?

Lindsey: Yeah. I probably wouldn’t do that for young elementary kids, middle school is fine yeah.

Tim: Okay. Good to know. I have been watching a lot of Lego Masters with my son. I don’t know if you’ve seen that but it’s a great, great show. The host Will Arnett, who did the voice for Lego Batman, he’s hilarious and then just watching people build these amazing Lego things and it’s really inspiring. And so, we’ll watch an episode and then my son will be like, “Okay, I have to go build,” and it’s so much fun to watch that with him.

Lindsey: We are also watching that. Do you have a pick for the winner? Who do you think is going to?

Tim: I don’t know if I’m far enough in yet to pick a winner but who are you thinking?

Lindsey: Well I guess when, based on the early episodes I thought that those two guys from the East coast, one of them’s name is Boone, I thought they were good, with the beards were going to win. But I don’t think that anymore, now I think it’s going to be that husband, wife duo. I think they’re the ones going all the way.

Tim: All right, well we’ll have to touch base in a little while and see what happens. All right. And then lastly something that people should listen to?

Lindsey: I can really only help you with two out of the three here because one of the hardships of quarantine is that my kids are commanding the Alexa at all times. So, my normal music tastes, I’m a pretty eclectic listener but we have got a frightening amount of Kidz Bop going on and it’s been a little rough.

Tim: Yeah. I can only handle Kidz Bop for so long and them I’m like, “No, we need actual music.”

Lindsey: My ears are bleeding, yeah.

Tim: So my recommendation is anything with piano, that’s what we’ve been listening to a lot. My daughter and son both play piano and they’ve been wanting to just listen to things that have piano so we’ve been trying to bring in a lot of Elton John, a lot of that. Yeah, I know you’re a big fan but Ben Folds of course.

Lindsey: I love Ben Folds!

Tim: And then I’ve been trying to show like rock bands that use piano too and my daughter’s really enjoyed Jack’s Mannequin. So yeah, just a lot of cool things out there, Alicia Keys, just a lot of good music that features piano and my daughter’s trying to learn to play along. So, that’s been on my playlist for the last few days at least so.

Lindsey: Maybe you could have your kids call my kids because it sounds like you listen to way better music.

Tim: I think that would be worthwhile. I think that would maybe save you just a little bit so maybe we’ll give it a try. So cool. All right well Lindsey thank you so much for joining me. It’s been awesome to talk to you and hopefully we can chat again soon.

Lindsey: Yeah thanks for having me Tim.

Tim: All right. Thank you so much to Lindsey for coming on. I will just encourage you to go try some of those ideas while you are distancing yourself. Even if you’re not meeting with your students if you can’t do that because of your district, which I’ve heard from a lot of people, you can take these ideas and you can do some of these ideas with your family or with your friends. I actually did zoom Pictionary with my family and it was amazing so I will definitely say that you should give it a try. And then before we go just one last reminder that we have our webinar happening on Thursday night, 7:00 Central. Check the AOEU website for all of the details there and I’m really hoping that we will see you there. So stay safe, take care of yourself and take care of everyone around you. Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening, and we will talk to you again next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.