Previewing the NOW Conference (Ep. 252)

It is finally here–the week of the NOW Conference! Amanda Heyn joins Tim today to talk about their preparation for the big day, their excitement about the conference, and how teachers can make the most of their professional learning on Saturday and beyond.

Join us at the NOW Conference on February 6th, where we will share a great day of PD about teaching art, creativity, and inspiration. 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.

You have heard me talk for the past few weeks about the Winter NOW Conference and it is finally here. This Saturday is the day. I’m feeling a huge mixture of excitement and relief I guess. We’ve been planning and putting this conference together for the better part of six months and it’s a great feeling to have the week finally get here and finally be ready to go. Resources are ready. The schedule is ready. Our featured presenter, Kevin Honeycutt is ready and it is going to be a great day of professional learning and spending some time with your favorite art teacher community. Now, if you have not signed up for the conference yet, you can do it at the AOEU website. The conference is if nothing else, a boost of inspiration and motivation, which is something everyone needs and something everyone can appreciate right now. Even in a normal year, January and February are difficult months for teachers, but this year it is immeasurably more difficult.

So it’s my hope that Saturday can be a small escape, something that can offer a little light and maybe give you the inspiration and the motivation and the ideas and strategies you need to get through the rest of the year. So today, my esteemed NOW Conference co-host, Amanda Heyn is here to talk with me about the day on Saturday and what to expect. And our goal with this episode is to help guide you through what’s going to happen on Saturday, what you can look forward to, and also, maybe this is the most important thing, how you can maximize your learning, not only this weekend but also how you can continue that learning into the future. And Amanda is waiting to do all that. So let me bring her on. Amanda Heyn is joining me now. Amanda, hello. How are you?

Amanda: Hello. I’m great. How are you?

Tim: I’m doing great. Before we dive into all of this exciting conference talk, I have something else that we need to discuss. If you don’t mind going on a little side journey really quickly.

Amanda: No, that’s fine. No.

Tim: So a couple of weeks ago, the always wonderful Jenn Russell was on the podcast, and we had a quick aside about a ranch dressing, which is not super important, but I’ve heard from a lot of people telling me that I should learn to love ranch, even though I don’t like condiments. Now you are, I don’t know, a fellow condiment hater. I don’t know if-

Amanda: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if I should put that out there publicly. I guess it’s too late. Yes. I also hate condiments.

Tim: I need your support here, please.

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: So anyway, is it okay for me to really hate ranch? Is that all right in your opinion?

Amanda: I mean, yes. I’m going to out myself in another way. I also don’t like fruit and when people hear that, I get interrogated. Even if it’s somebody-

Tim: I kind of want to interrogate you right now.

Amanda: The number one question is, not even strawberries? No, not even strawberries. I don’t like it, not even strawberries. So I would say while I hate condiments, there are certain situations in which I will eat ranch, like if it’s homemade. I don’t want it out of the bottle. I don’t want it to have the shiny sheen to it. If it’s a buttermilk ranch at a restaurant and I’m dipping a fried food into it, fine. That’s a specific use case. But otherwise no, and I think it’s fine because I think you can like whatever you want.

Tim: Yeah. I know. And I told Jenn, I’ll tell you, I’m happy to defend ranch. Some very important people in my life love ranch. But I can’t get there and people are telling me I’m wrong, but I just can’t help it.

Amanda: I think that’s okay. You know what’s in your heart and if ranch isn’t in your heart, then I think that’s fine.

Tim: All right. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Amanda: You’re welcome.

Tim: However, we should probably talk about the super exciting conference that is coming up in four days. Yikes.

Amanda: Oh, my God.

Tim: Exciting, but a little panicky. Before we get to all of the conference stuff though, we just had a bunch of new PRO Packs that came out yesterday. So since you are in charge of Pro can you tell us just a little bit about the packs that just came out?

Amanda: Yes, definitely. Well, as an aside, I think people now have an insight into what we talk about during the conference breaks, so nice having that. I feel like it does relate. Okay. So, three super exciting packs coming out. So the first one is introduction to graphic design and Rich Station facilitates that one. It’s great whether you’re in person or online because you can understand the programs and what will work for you and your students. Rich is also really good about talking through what if you don’t have a lot of access to tech? What if you don’t have a lot of access to money? So I think it’s really applicable for anybody. And then we also have displaying elementary arts. We wanted to give people a little time before Youth Art Month, coming up in March, to sort of get organized. That’s by Sarah Krajewski, and she gives a lot of really cool out of the box ideas for displaying art, so not only for art shows but for hallway displays. And she even has a whole module about displaying art online, so that could be very helpful, depending on …

Tim: Yeah, that’s perfect because people are going to need some out of the box ideas for Youth Art Month and for art shows this year.

Amanda: Yeah. And Sarah is just really fun to watch, so that’s a great one. And even though it’s displaying elementary art, I really think if you are looking for new ways to display your art and you teach at the secondary level, you could probably glean some really helpful tips from that one as well. And then Susie Belzer is doing, bringing hand sewing into the art room. Hand sewing is one of those things that I think as a new art teacher you think I would never do that in my classroom, like that must be so hard. Same with like weaving or ceramics, it’s just like anxiety-producing.

But, at least in my experience, those kinds of projects actually make kids the calmness because they have to … Well, A, it’s new and it’s engaging. They have to really concentrate. And so I think this spring, especially, kids are going to be really squirrely, especially if you are in person and so I think it’s a really cool time to introduce something like this to your kids. They’ve built up the skills. It’s kind of like one of those next-level projects. And one of the things I love about the pack is Susie does spend a good amount of time talking about safety and how to do this in a really manageable way.

Tim: Super important.

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: Cool. So if you’re listening to this and you cannot wait until Saturday for the conference, feel free to check out a few PRO Packs in the meantime. But we are ready for the conference. We are doing this on Zoom once again. So let’s chat just a little bit, Amanda, what did we learn doing this on Zoom last time, and what works well? What should people look forward to on Zoom this time around?

Amanda: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think we talked about previously the webinars series last spring we had to do on Zoom. And then we quickly realized Zoom was far superior to the other platform that we had been using for 13 conferences or something for a lot of reasons. But one that I’m most excited about is live presentations. So we figured out we love live presentations. They’re very scary, so they’re also very exhilarating, anything could happen, like what is the tech going to be like? We had pretty good luck last time and we learned some good things about things that we need to check for to make sure that all runs smoothly. And I just think it gives a different vibe to the day. It’s really exciting to talk to people in real-time. It’s really exciting to see their energy being live. It just brings a different feel to the conference I think.

Tim: Absolutely. Well, it makes me feel like I’m walking a tight rope for five straight hours, but it’s good. I think it does add a lot of excitement. It adds a lot of energy, so I think that’s cool.

Amanda: And then also … Oh, go ahead. Did you want to?

Tim: Oh, I was just going to say, and the other thing that I liked is along with that energy, the chat is so much better because everybody feels comfortable with what’s going on in Zoom. So many people are familiar with it through school, through teaching, or even just through they’re having meetings. And so it’s easier to put everything together. It’s easier for people to participate in the chat. Is that what you were going to talk about?

Amanda: That’s what I was going to say, yes. I think another thing along with that, you don’t have to have 50 windows open to enjoy the conference anymore. Everything’s just all in one screen. It’s really easy to keep track of everything. It’s really easy like you said, to jump in and out of the chat. And we can also better keep up with what people are talking about, what they want to hear about, and take the audience’s questions and comments into account while we’re hosting, while we’re talking with people. So I really like it hosting as well, just having everything together.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. It makes things so much easier. And then I think we’re just able to do a little bit more with the schedule. We can relax a little bit more because like you said, we don’t have all of those things going on, like everybody’s always asking for more breaks, longer breaks. And so we can bring a few live presentations in, we can bring a couple more breaks in, and just give everything a little more time to breathe, which I think is really cool. Let’s chat about the schedule though, and those live presentations and all the cool things that we’re going to have going on. We have some great presenters that are returning. We have some new presenters that I’m really excited about. But I’ll turn it over to you. Who do you really want to talk to?

Amanda: I mean, all of them, everybody. I think more than any other conference, I’m really excited about this group of presenters. They’re so high caliber. They have such fresh ideas. I really am excited. But if you’re going to make me pick and talk about some specifically, I really am excited to talk to Janani Nathan again about helping students express themselves visually. She always has ideas that I literally have never thought about before. And I have been in art education for a really long time now. And every time I talk to her, I’m just like holy cow, this is really incredible. She really is thinking on a different level than I think on, or I think on a regular basis. And I’m sure it’s going to be no different this time. I also think her topic is really good for right now. Kids really need help processing everything that’s going on in the world. And so learning how to better help your students express themselves can only be a good thing.

Tim: Oh, for sure.

Amanda: What about you?

Tim: I am really excited for Lindsey Moss. She’s going to be doing teaching art on a cart. She’s been on the podcast a bunch. People know her from PRO and webinars and previous conferences, but Lindsay is awesome. Very similar to Janani, just so many things that she talks about. I’m like, I never would’ve thought of that. And I think she packages things in a way that is new, that’s exciting. She has a PRO Pack about teaching art on a cart and it’s so good. It’s just so good.

Amanda: I mean really, when I watched that PRO Pack, if can just as an aside, I helped her plan that one, and when I watched it, I almost cried. Now, I’m an emotional person anyway. But the takeaway from that one is, in addition to all of her amazing ideas about how to make it work, was just the sense that she gave to people that they could make it work. So I know a lot of teachers are going back and they are maybe switching, maybe they’ve been out of the classroom and now they’re in, or maybe they’ve been in their classroom and now they’re on a cart. If you have to teach on a cart ever in your career, you should absolutely watch this PRO Pack because you will leave feeling inspired. It almost made me want to go back into the classroom, and it’s a worldwide pandemic, and be teaching on a cart. And I just felt like I could do it after I watched that pack. So I’m super excited to hear what she has to say at the conference.

Tim: Well, for sure. And I think like you said, she will have an uplifting messages. She’ll give people hope that, yeah, we can do this, we can get through this. And honestly, even if you don’t teach on a cart, just the organizational ideas that she has can be used anywhere. So I think that’ll be a really good one. What else, or who else? What are you looking at?

Amanda: I’m also excited about Amanda O’Shaughnessy. Oh, first of all, I need to apologize to Janani, because Janani. I just want to make sure I’m saying her name right. Janani. Okay. Sorry, Janani. We’re very excited to have you. Okay. So Amanda O’Shaughnessy, I’m super excited about as well because we are going to do something with the swag box that can I tell people? Should I leave it to be a surprise?

Tim: Yes. You know what, it’s the week of, I think we can tell people. Go for it.

Amanda: Okay. So, I’m really passionate about this thing called the canary knife. I don’t know how many people know about it. It’s kind of a utility supply. It’s a knife, which sounds dangerous, like why would we put a knife in a swag box, but it’s like a butter knife. And basically, it cuts through cardboard like butter. So it’s really good for breaking down your supply order, but it’s also really good for sculpture. And I think not enough teachers know about it. And my own kiddos have been using it. My younger one is four, he uses it and my older one has been using it since he’s been five, so it really can be used anywhere.

Anyway, Amanda O’Shaughnessy is going to take us through an art-making activity where we actually turn the physical swag box into an art project. So we’re going to cut it apart. We’re going to use the supplies in the box to decorate the box. And art-making presentations are always fun, and I think that this specific project really speaks to the moment of just making it work with whatever supplies you have. And there will be options given if you didn’t get in on this swag box action this round. So don’t worry about that. But I’m super excited for that more hands-on one that’s coming.

Tim: I think that’s going to be really cool. And you were also telling me another hands-on one, Candido, you’re excited about him, right?

Amanda: Yes. The monoprinting, yes. I loved watching him on Instagram Live. So if you haven’t been checking it out, Sarah Krajewski has been running Instagram lives weekly, obviously, on our Instagram page. And she has a real knack for finding really interesting guests. And I did really love watching Candido. He gave a little sneak peek at what he’s going to be doing with that cool circular monoprinting pad that came in the swag box as well. And, of course, I’m excited for Kevin Honeycutt. But I know you just talked to him, so what are you excited to hear about from him?

Tim: A little bit of everything. I think just the motivation and the inspiration that he offers is going to be awesome. People heard the podcast last week. It was really, really good. He’s entertaining. He’s hilarious. He’s super smart, has so many cool stories, so many cool things to say. And just the idea of an art teacher leading art teacher PD is fantastic. And so, he has the same experience that we have had. He has lived everything that we do. And so I think just being able to hear a message from a featured presenter that hits so close to home is going to be a really cool thing, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Amanda: Yeah. I was trying to think, have we ever had an art teacher featured presenter. He might be our first.

Tim: We have not, so I’m really excited about it.

Amanda: That’s so exciting. Yeah, if people want to know more about him too, he has a Ted Talk, right?

Tim: Yes.

Amanda: Yes. I’m trying to think about where. I know I watched it, but I didn’t know if it was an official Ted Talk, but yes it is.

Tim: Yeah. Yep. So he’s got a lot of great stuff out there, so feel free to look him up or just come on Saturday and enjoy and he’ll be great. We have a couple extra things also coming this time around that we probably need to tell people about. Would you like to go first or you want me?

Amanda: Yes. No, I want to.

Tim: Okay.

Amanda: I want to talk about the pre-conference. Okay. So last time we ran our first pre-conference, so that’s obviously the night before the conference. If you were there, it was a ton of fun. We did a full live fake Price is Right game show. There were fabulous prizes. There were props, there were costumes, and we laughed a lot. So this time we’re going to do something similar. I’m super excited. We’re going to do a trivia game. And then we’re going to do for the second hour, some breakout rooms where you can choose to either make some art or talk about your school year or listen to some interesting conversations. And so, we decided last time that what art teachers really needed was just a little bit of fun, like a little bit of time to just chill out and check out from everything happening.

And I can honestly say the pre-conference was one time last year where I didn’t think about anything else for a few hours and it was really nice, and just really nice to hang out with a bunch of awesome art teachers. So I’m super, super excited that we’re doing that again. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong, people should see an email coming where they can sign up for that if they want to.

Tim: Yes. For sure. Yeah. And you’re absolutely right. Well, yes, that email is coming. But just the idea of being able to connect with a bunch of art teachers and just kind of tune out everything else and hang out for a couple hours and just relax, I think is really, really valuable. So if you’re interested in checking out the pre-conference, I would definitely recommend it. And then the other thing that we are doing, and this is pretty big is immediately after the conference, we are going to have the AOEU graduation ceremony because it’s been what, two years now-

Amanda: Three years, yep.

Tim: … since AOEU officially launched the program and we have our first cohort of master’s students who are graduating. So there are 700 students, I think now. I mean the number’s just incredible.

Amanda: Really, that’s crazy. In my artist cohort, I was at a huge university and I think there were 13 of us. And we have 700 students at AOEU right now. It’s honestly mind-blowing. And yeah, and 45 graduates.

Tim: Which is amazing. So anybody who comes to the conference is invited to stick around afterward, watch the graduation ceremony, AOEU President/Founder, Jessica Balsley, always amazing to hear from her. She’s going to be giving the commencement address. And if you’re interested at all in just what the master’s program is like, what it’s all about, a great opportunity to hear from students about what their experience was like, and just kind of celebrate everybody who has graduated, who has their master’s degree now, which I think is really exciting.

Amanda: Yeah. I’m excited about that too. Also, can I say that it’s going to be hosted, in part, by Shannon Lauffer, our dean of … Oh, gosh, dean of admissions and student services?

Tim: I don’t know. She has so many jobs.

Amanda: She’s just so awesome. But I would just like to say that she has an amazing bird, and I don’t know if the bird is going to be co-hosting, but it’s really on brand. It’s AOEU blue and its name is Paigey, and it’s the smartest bird in the world.

Tim: All right. We should talk to her about getting Paigey as a cohost.

Amanda: Let’s do that.

Tim: That would be good. Cool. All right. So, Amanda, we should probably wrap up here soon. But I think we’ve kind of saved the best for last, the most important thing here. We’re very excited about Saturday, but I think it’s important to talk about how learning can kind of move beyond just that one day. So I guess the question for you is how do we get past just that quick five-hour window? How can we make the learning continue outside of what we do when we’re together this weekend?

Amanda: Yeah. That’s a really great question. I think people often lament about how quickly the conference goes by. And so like we’ve said earlier, we’re going to try to address that a little bit this time by building in some more breaks and a few less presentations or few less per hour. But I think that it’s really important that we don’t just focus on the day, like you said, but think about and be thinking about during the conference how you’re going to take this further. So we know that if you don’t take time to sit with your new learning it just goes away, right? I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I, personally, if I go to a really great PD, my head is swimming with ideas, I’m so excited, and then I used to go back to my classroom and just dive back into the daily grind. And that new knowledge, it was really hard to make the jump.

One thing is, I think, our presenters are going to, like always, give really practical tips for how to get started with these things right away. But I think that it’s really important to set aside some time after the conference, like pencil it into your schedule, that you’re going to go back and you’re going to look at all of the amazing resources that we’re going to provide you, downloads that come with each presentation, and then also go back to the after pass. So remember, you are going to have access to all of the conference presentations after the fact for a long time, so you can re-watch things or watch anything you missed.

And then I would say, keep it reasonable. I think the other thing that happens is we get decision fatigue when we hear all of these amazing ideas. We’re like, “I want to do them all.” And so I would say choose a one to three, make it really manageable for yourself. What are one to three specific ideas that you want to try in the next month or the next few months? You don’t have to do everything. And then I would write down an action plan or just a really simply, I’m going to try this idea with my second graders, or I’m going to try to ask my AP students these types of questions, or I’m going to take this idea and apply it here. I think just writing it down and making it intentional will make that learning transfer a little bit easier

Tim: Yeah.

Amanda: Do you have any more ideas?

Tim: Well, I was just going to say, I think that’s absolutely the best strategy, that last one you mentioned, just choosing specific ideas. So I think when we close the show, I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. But a couple of things I would think about, number one, just find a presenter that you really connect with or you really enjoy. We always give out social media handles, other places you can find people during the conference, or, heck, you can just Google them if you want to, and just kind of see what they’re up to, see what they’re doing in the classroom, or just search the AOEU website. Jenn, and Janani, and Lindsay all have PRO Packs. Ten of our presenters have done other things for us. A ton of them have been on the podcast.

So, just searching through everything we have on the site will lead you to a lot of good stuff if you’re looking to dive in a little bit deeper, and just check out AOEU, in general. There’s so much great content in the magazine. Obviously, I’m biased toward the podcasts, programming, flex curriculum, all those things. So if there’s a concept or an idea that you want to explore further, use the search bar. See what is there.

Amanda: Yeah, chances we have seven more things for you.

Tim: Exactly. So just don’t be afraid to find an idea that you connect with and explore it a little bit more. Anything else, Amanda?

Amanda: Oh, I mean, if you like the graduation ceremony or you’re interested in that, you can also check out the courses or the master’s program. There are a lot of people on standby to help answer your questions if you just send us a quick email. So we can get to where you need to go if you’re interested in that too.

Tim: All right, awesome. Let’s go ahead and wrap it up, Amanda. Thank you for your time. Thanks for the conversation. And we’re going to be seeing way too much of each other in the next few days.

Amanda: That’s right. I’m excited.

Tim: But Saturday is going to be good. So we’re ready to go. So, thank you.

Amanda: You’re welcome. Looking forward to seeing everyone at the conference.

Tim: One last word of advice before we wrap up the show. Amanda spoke a lot about how to get the most out of your conference experience and I just want to talk a minute more about one of the ideas that she brought up. She said to go into Saturday with a goal to find one to three things from the day that you really want to try and put together an action plan. And I just want to share my best advice for that. I would do it like this. Look for one thing to bring to your class on Monday, one thing that you’re really excited to try, you’re ready to go with right away. And look for one other thing to implement in the short term, maybe the next week or two. This is something that you may have to get some new supplies together. You may need to try it yourself. You may need to design a lesson that works for your students. But something that you can do within the next couple of weeks, something you’re excited about and really want to try.

And then finally, find one thing to try in the long-term, something that is a little bit bigger goal, something that you want to try a little bit down the road in the future. And still, like Amanda said, action plan, write those things down, figure out how you’re going to get to them. But I think it’s manageable to do one short-term, one medium-term, one long-term goal. And that sort of mindset allows you to focus in a specific way on what you’re seeing on Saturday and really get some concrete takeaways from the conference.

Then on top of that, I would also encourage you to try and make some art sometime on Saturday. We have a lot of great presentations that give you that opportunity. Definitely participate in the chat with all of your fellow conference attendees. There are so many good ideas being exchanged in the videos, in the chat throughout the day. And I think the more you participate, the more you are going to gain from the experience. So if you’re signed up, get your swag box out, get ready to make some art, get ready to learn, to interact, and to just have a great day on Saturday. And if you’re still not signed up, there’s time, but do it quickly, please. Head over to the AOEU website, learn everything you need to know about the NOW Conference and you can get yourself registered. And we will see you on Saturday for a great day.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Enjoy the conference this weekend, and we will be back next Tuesday with another episode. Thank you for listening.

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.