Professional Learning

Making the Most of Your Art Ed Now Experience (Ep. 152)

Art Ed Now presenter Rachel Albert joins Tim from Toronto to talk about everything related to the conference. They discuss Rachel’s upcoming presentation on using Google Classroom in art class, her process of creating her successful presentation, and how to make the most of your conference experience on February 2nd.  Full episode transcript below.

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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.

We’re now just under two weeks to go until the Winter 2019 Art Ed Now Conference. Now, as you all probably know, I am in charge of all things Conference related, so once I can get past the stress, I do wanna tell you that I am really excited about what we have going on for this Conference. All the things you’ve come to know and love, the Q&A with presenters, the day of the chat, all the resources, all the new ideas, and then After Pass where you can go back to everything and view it again whenever you need.

It’s all there, but we also have a lot of new things. We have a lot of new faces, new presenters, all of which I’m really excited about. But today, we are going to talk to a returning presenter, Rachel Albert. Now, Rachel is a middle school teacher in Toronto and she has been attending conferences forever and this conference, upcoming Winter 2019 is also her third time presenting. She has been incredibly popular as a presenter the last two times that she’s been there and I am pretty confident that this is gonna be number three for her.

She always puts together these incredible presentations that are just chocked full of information that you can use immediately and people just seem to love that. But she’s here, she wants to talk about her presentation and everything that she does to make conferences go well for her. And I think she’s got a lot of advice you can use, so let’s bring her on and start some conference talk.

Joining me now is Rachel Albert, Rachel thank you so much. Let me start by just asking how are you?

Rachel: I’m doing great, thank you very much. How are you?

Tim: I am doing really well. I am excited to talk to you, because somehow we’ve had you at like three conferences now and you’ve never been on the podcast, so I’m excited that we get to chat. I guess let us start with the conference, all the exciting things that are coming up in just a couple weeks.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim: Your big presentation is all about using Google Classroom in the art room, and so I guess I was hoping you could give everybody a preview of what’s coming with that. Can you just talk a little bit about why you wanted to present on Google Classroom and why you’re passionate about it, I guess?

Rachel: Absolutely. In general, I’m passionate about anything that helps me keep my students engaged and that also makes my teaching life a little bit easier.

Tim: Yeah.

Rachel: And many people don’t necessarily think about using Google Classroom as part of the art curriculum. This year, my school is a one-to-one school meaning that all of my students amazingly have access to their own technology and they bring it with them from class to class. And there are so many reasons that I value Google Classroom in my art room. First, I would say that Google Classroom gives my students a lot of autonomy.

And with middle schoolers, I teach grades 6, 7, and 8 and it’s really important to me that I’m training them to be responsible for their own work and I find that Google Classroom really helps with that. They can access their instructions independently, which saves them time, especially some of the rowdier classes rather than waiting for everybody to be quiet so that I can deliver instructions in person. They have access to those instructions whenever it is that they’re ready.

And that independent access also helps me with catching up absent students rather than spending my lunches reviewing what they missed and as art teachers, most of us are teaching so many kids that when five or six miss a class each week, it’s taking up all of our lunches to catch them up.

Tim: Yes, yes.

Rachel: And then, second I would say everything stays in one place. I am personally quite organized, but our students are not always super organized and I find that even the most disorganized students, the ones who come in and say, “I can’t find my shoe,” why did you take off your shoe and how did you misplace that shoe? Even those students can never say that they don’t have the assignment or they handed it or lost it, my dog ate it or it’s with my shoe.

Whatever it is, I can actually see exactly what time it was that they started working on something, when they edited it or even when they submitted the assignment, so I really am able to keep track of how organized they’re being and then they’re really able to be as organized as possible. They’re not having to sort through their binders or their backpacks to find all the resources that they’re looking for.

And then, another benefit is that, of course, in the art room, we’re using lots of paper and going paperless in any possible way is, I think, a definite pro for the environment, but also just for the students to see that not everything needs to be printed. And then, the last major benefit would be the convenience, which is probably one of the biggest buzzwords at AOE or now AOEU.

Tim: Yes.

Rachel: The convenience of being able to access information from anywhere at any time. And Google Classroom is similarly convenient to AOEU because I don’t have to stay late every day to mark or even drag home hundreds of projects. I can mark most of these assignments online in Google Classroom in my pajamas from the comfort of my couch while feeding my face, so it’s really convenient in that way

Tim: Yeah, that’s awesome. Now, I wanted to ask you too about the Google Classroom updated, because I notice, I think you had gotten your presentation to me for the conference and then like literally two days later, Google Classroom just put something out on Twitter like, “We’re revamping what we do.” Does that change kinda the things that you’re talking about or the way you approach it or is it just sort of a cosmetic change?

Rachel: Yeah, I was really pleased when I got into my classroom and opened up Google Classroom and went, that does not look the same. So yes, fair warning, it may look a little different than what you see in my video, but the features are pretty much the same. They added a couple of extra actually help tutorials, which could be really helpful for people who are brand new to Google Classroom, but other than that, it’s mostly just an aesthetic thing, kinda like when Facebook does their facelift.

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rachel: So, most of it will be similar, just might look a little snazzier than it did in my video.

Tim: Okay. No, I think that’s a good warning for everybody because there are gonna be a lot of people coming into this with something new and trying to take some of your ideas and I think it’s good to give them a warning it may not be exactly the same.

Rachel: Yeah.

Tim: I wanna dive into your video a little bit more, just because you kinda have this reputation now of always putting together these amazing videos that are just full of ideas, kinda the ultimate how-to guide kinda as you did with stop-motion animation last time.

Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tim: So, is this video another one of those? Can you let people know what to expect from your presentation?

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been an attendee of the Art Ed Now Conferences since 2014. That’s 11 different conferences. I’m hardcore fangirling the Art Ed Now Conference and I’ve loved all of the types of presentations. The pedagogical concepts, the fury-based lectures, pretty much everything, but the most useful presentations that I’ve watched have always been the ones that are not just showing a technique that you could try, but also how to teach it and sometimes, even how best to assess it from somebody who’s already tried it in their own classroom.

And so, the AOE Conferences have always been such a gift to my professional practice, so when I became a presenter, I really wanted to try and give back in the format that I benefited from the most. So, that has been in these sort of comprehensive presentations that focus on a little bit of everything and so, my presentation on Google Classroom is a little different in that I’ve tried to provide information in the ways that I’ve found Google Classroom helpful as a middle school teacher and not everybody is going to be in the same boat that I’m in.

So, it’s definitely not an ultimate how-to guide, because there are so many features in Google Classroom that truly require teachers to experiment in order to determine whether or not they would be useful for them. And so, that’s why actually during my presentation, I’ll be inviting participants to join a Google Classroom that I created specifically for the conference. And they’ll be able to explore what it could look like from the student perspective.

And hopefully, then, they’ll be able to learn that there are many ways that they could also be using Google Classroom with their students whether it’s elementary students, middle school, or high school students. So, they’ll really have a chance to look at it from the student perspective and that should help them in determining whether or not it would be helpful for them.

Tim: That’s really good and I think, yeah, it’ll give people a really good opportunity. But let me ask you, 11-time conference attendee, that’s before I even started coming to conferences.

Rachel: I only missed one. I missed the very first one and I found out right after I had missed it and I mourned for several days.

Tim: Now, you’ve been to every one ever since.

Rachel: Yep.

Tim: That’s pretty amazing. But we talked about passing along your experience and so, you have this presentation in the after pass about how to make the most of the conference, how to make the most of the day and I would love for you to talk a little bit about that too. I guess, what do you think are … when you’re attending the conference, what are the important things to be paying attention to and how can people make the most of the day and get as many takeaways as they can?

Rachel: Absolutely, so I mean, anyone who’s attended a conference, probably have experienced that conference overload feeling. I know I definitely felt it the first time I went to an NAEA conference. But I feel it even with the online conferences, even though I’m in my pajamas, so I’m a little more comfortable, they can still sometimes be overwhelming. We’re filled with professional development that most teachers who aren’t necessarily art teachers are probably getting more sporadically throughout the year.

Tim: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rachel: Whereas we’re getting it in one fell swoop because AOEU is really one of the only options for getting PD. And so, I’ve always found it kind of difficult to take all that information in. And my brain was just so filled with all these ideas that inevitably, some of them would have to leave to make room for whatever it was I was going to eat for dinner. And then, that idea was completely lost and I never really got to use it.

So, I guess without giving too much away, because I hope people will still watch that after pass presentation, my biggest piece of advice for making the most of the conference is really just to write down as much information as possible, but not just to leave it at that. That kind of becomes an outline as if you’re … when our students are writing essays, afterward, they have to take that outline and pull out the most important pieces of it, so what I like to do is a debrief at the end of the conference where I choose three ideas.

I could choose more if I want to, but I like sticking with three because I feel like it’s manageable. I have room in my head for three ideas, maybe a few more, but dinner is taking up some of that room too, so the three ideas I like to try, choose one that I call a try tomorrow and a try tomorrow idea can literally just be something as simple as a thought that you’d like to keep in mind while teaching or a simple strategy that can be easily implemented in tomorrow’s lesson plan.

I’m talking something simple like standing at the door to greet your students. I can’t remember who presented on that idea, but standing at the door to greet your students and asking them each a question as they walk in like, “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” That was one quick, little snippet from someone’s presentation that I took and I used it in my class the very next day and I still use that technique today. But it was something that I felt it was manageable to implement the very next day in my class.

And then, I try and come up with as well a try this year idea, so some sort of technique or project idea that I’m willing to commit to trying at some point during the year. So, in past years, I’ve taken Cassie Stevens’ air dry clay and I watched her video and took lots of notes and then I implemented that in my classroom several months later. Something that requires a little more prep, but something I’m willing to commit to doing within that school year.

And then, the third debrief point that I like to keep with me is what I call a keep in mind and a keep in mind is probably something that has the least amount of pressure and it’s something that I just wanna remember. I wanna remember it for my career, I wanna remember it for my life, I wanna remember it for my students. And it can be something super simple, it can be really anything, but the pressure’s removed from having to try it this year or having to try it tomorrow. It’s just something I wanna write down that I will remember forever.

And I’m constantly coming back to … I mean, all of my debrief ideas, I’m constantly coming back to each year, but especially the keep in mind, because I know that’s something that I’ve committed to trying to implement at some point in my future. And I find that narrowing it down to just these three things really makes it easier for me to implement what I’ve learned and not let all these amazing, amazing ideas, techniques, concepts really just sit in my brain for too long before they fizzle and disappear, because I’m focused on something else.

So, I found that really that’s the most helpful way to get the most out of the conference.

Tim: Yeah, I think that’s a really, really good approach and something that people can definitely, I don’t know if I wanna say copy, but a good way to keep some ideas in mind, because like you said, it can be overwhelming. And just as a side note, that greeting kids at the door, that was my idea from one of my presentations. And I’m a little hurt that you didn’t remember it was mine, but … I’m glad you’re using it.

Rachel: I’m gonna go home and mourn for that.

Tim: I’m glad you’re using it, but no, that’s what happens at these conferences all the time is you have … it’s like drinking from a fire hose. There are just so many great ideas and you don’t remember where they come from.

Rachel: Yeah.

Tim: But as long as you can use them and implement them, then I think that’s absolutely worthwhile.

Rachel: I mean, of course, it’s important to give people credit.

Tim: Right.

Rachel: So, next time I stand at the door, I’m gonna make sure that my students know, “Guys, what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? ‘Cause Tim Bogatz told me to ask, okay.”

Tim: Yes, please do. But I wanted to ask also since you are a pro at attending these, what is your day of the conference actually like? You have talked a couple times about lounging around in your pajamas, which we always encourage people to do, but what is the routine? Where do you watch from, what do you do during the conference?

Rachel: Oh man, conference day is my happy day. I look forward to it like I imagine the celebrities are looking forward to the Oscars. It’s like the most wonderful day … it’s like Christmas Day. I’m Jewish, so Christmas Day doesn’t mean anything to me. Conference Day is Christmas Day for me.

Tim: Nice, nice.

Rachel: I look forward to it so much. I wake up early, make sure there are cookies and milk. No, but before I became a presenter, I really tried to take as much advantage of the convenience aspect of the conference as possible. I had spent a lot of time looking for relevant PD while the rest of my peers or my colleagues were getting PD in a much easier format, monthly even at our staff meetings, where most of that PD wasn’t relevant to me.

So, by taking advantage of the convenience, I would really try and come up with creative places to watch from, so I have participated from a lounging chair at my condo’s swimming pool. This would be at a summer conference, not at a winter conference because I’m Canadian and it would be very uncomfortable. I have participated while cooking meals for the week, while folding laundry, while jogging on the treadmill and even while getting a pedicure.

And there’s something that’s just so exciting about being able to learn from wherever I’d like while doing whatever I would like. And like I said, the rest of my staff at the school are mostly doing their professional development in such a formal way and it’s always been easy for them to get PD and once I found AOE, I was so excited to have relevant professional development that I kinda was like I’m gonna go to these creative places and be like nana, nana boo boo, my professional development is cooler than yours.

Yeah, so that’s usually how I used to spend conference day and now that I’m presenting, I try and be a little more professional in making sure I’m available to be in the chat in case people have any questions, but I just take conference day as a day to soak up as much as possible and of course, I’m using my strategy to make sure I’m getting the most of the conference.

Tim: Yeah, that’s really cool. I like that. Now, just one last question for you and then, I need to let you go, but what other presentations are you looking forward to in the conference? Who are some of your favorites or who do you really wanna see this time around?

Rachel: I always really enjoy Don Massey’s presentations.

Tim: Yes.

Rachel: And he’s presenting non-chalk pastels this year and it’s not my favorite medium to use, mostly because I find the sound really irritating, but I’m hoping that I’m gonna learn some really interesting techniques from him. He also tends to do those sort of comprehensive “how to” guides …

Tim: Yes.

Rachel: … sorta like his mural presentation at the Winter 2018 Conference, so I really enjoy learning from him. And then, I would say second is something I’m looking forward to Jessie Armstrong’s presentation on integrating art therapy into the art classroom. It’s something I’ve always been interested in and there’s actually been a lot of drama recently on Facebook about whether or not art teachers have the right to integrate art therapy into their classrooms or if that’s something that should be left to professional art therapists.

And so, I’m curious to see what aspect of art therapy she presents on and how I might be able to integrate some of her ideas into my own classroom.

Tim: That’s good. I was not aware of this drama. I may need to go check this out. I’m not on social media very often as people know, but I may need to go check that out, but I will say that I think Jessie’s presentation is gonna be really, really good and it’s something that people have been asking for for a long time, so I was excited to find somebody who knows about art therapy and has some specific ideas on how to bring it into your classroom.

I think that’s something that everybody’s looking forward to and I think it’s one that’ll go over well.

Rachel: I agree.

Tim: Cool. All right, well Rachel, let’s go ahead and wrap it up there. Thank you so much for giving me some time and chatting with me and we are excited to see you in a couple weeks at the conference.

Rachel: Thanks so much for having me, I’m looking forward to it.

Tim: You know, I think Rachel had a lot of great things to say about Google Classroom and what she does with it. Follows a lot of the ideas that we seem to go back to fairly often on the podcast. Not necessarily about technology, but more about teaching in general. She talked about her students having independent access and how that grants them sorta a measure of autonomy in her room.

She talked about how it helps with classroom management, she talked about it saving time and helping her stay organized and when you can do any or even all of those things, especially with a new tool or new idea, I think that’s worth checking out. I think that’s worth exploring, so if that intrigues you, definitely check out her presentation at the conference. And if you are not registered for the conference yet, go do it please. Saturday, February 2, we will have over 20 presentations that are all online, all incredible, and all super relevant to what goes on everyday in your room.

We’re gonna do hands-on art making like we always do. We have all the new ideas, we have inspiration, we have just a full day of really relevant and really engaging professional development. The talks are innovative, they are inspiring and everything comes with new ideas and new resources and downloads that you can use throughout the year. So, if you have any questions about it, make sure you go check things out at get registered and make sure you get there after this episode is over.

So, thank you to Rachel for her expertise, her ideas, her insights, and I hope that you can use her advice. I hope she has given you some great ideas for what you can do to make the most of your conference experience coming up on February 2. We’ll see you then.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening as always. Next week, we will hopefully have another good conference presenter where we can give you a little more of an in-depth look at what they’re presenting about and a good preview of what else is coming at the Winter Conference. We’ll talk to you 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.