Technology and Hybrid Learning (Ep. 166)

In today’s episode, Nic welcomes on Abby Schukei to talk about her hybrid teaching situation and how she is reaching all of her students. Listen as they discuss some of their favorite lessons, the technologies they use the most, and how their students are reacting to artmaking on the days they are in class.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Today, we’re going to talk to Abby Schukei, who is… Well, she’s very much involved in the Art of Education University. She plays a role in many capacities. I know you’ve seen her in the conferences in the past. She is involved in the magazine. She’s involved in all the social media. Abby’s a large part of our organization, as well as a middle school teacher in Nebraska. We’re going to talk to her about her experience with art education this year. It’s chaotic for all of us, including Abby, and she’s going to talk to us about some of the platforms she’s using, some of the tools, and just her overall attitude in teaching school this year. This is Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

Thank you so much, Abby, for joining us. Let’s do a quick introduction just so everybody knows who you are and your affiliation with the Art of Education.

Abby: Sure. So, my name is Abby Schukei. I am a middle school art teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, as well as I do a lot of… I do a variety of work for the Art of Education University, including writing magazine articles, doing some work with the marketing team, and just a whole bunch of other random things, as well. So, I’m really excited to be here today and to chat with you.

Nic: Yeah, that’s awesome. Now, besides working for the Art of Education, which is mostly how we know each other, you’re also a spectacular art teacher. What level do you work with?

Abby: I teach middle school, and so for my school, that’s seventh and eighth grade. I primarily do teach eighth grade students, but I see both grade levels throughout the year. And that is how I spend most of my time in the wonderful world of strange middle schoolers, which I wouldn’t have it any other way because-

Nic: You know, if there’s one person I would deem as like a middle school teacher, it might be you. I can see you balancing that life and that weirdness just wonderfully.

Abby: Well, thank you. I take that as the greatest compliment because sometimes I think my students are just like, “Why are you so weird?” And I’m like, “You know what? I’m just trying to get on your level,” so it’s like, “Come on, guys. Let’s do this.”

Nic: No, fully meant as a full compliment, too. You’re amazing. Okay. So, right now in your world, what is school looking like? What are you working as?

Abby: Yeah. So, we have been in school, I think now for 35 school days or something, so basically like two months.

Nic: Who’s counting? Yeah.

Abby: Yeah. So, we’re just in a good groove, have it all figured out, for the most part. So, my school is in a hybrid blended learning situation. So, as of right now, and I would probably guess until at least the winter break, until we reevaluate what’s next, we’re in a hybrid plan where I only have 50% of the student body coming to school at a time. So, students are coming every other day, so they’re assigned an A day or a B day. So, I’m only seeing my students every other day. Now, I’m at school every day teaching basically the same thing two days in a row.

And so, then, when those students aren’t at school, we don’t have to teach live to them at the same time, which I’m so thankful for. I mean, for some students, we have some situations like that, but it is not an expectation as far as every single person, which I know that is not the case in all places. So, on those days that students are not in-person school, they are doing online learning at home with activities that we have to have set up for them. So, we are planning instruction for in-person teaching while having to plan that instruction for their asynchronous, online learning activity that they have to be completing when they’re not at school. So, it’s just a little bit of everything right now, but it’s good.

Nic: Okay. So, you have your AB, AB, and then do you have a day of planning or where everybody’s at home, or do you have a day to help you out with that?

Abby: We do not have that, and one of the things that they did is they actually shortened our school day by almost like an hour, I think. So, we get that time at the end of the day to plan for that, which has been so, so nice because it’s been really weird. The first week of school was just madness. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this. This is the worst, but whatever.” But because our students, were only seeing 50% of the student population right now, I used to have classes that were the size…

My class sizes were like 30 students, and now, my average class size is like 10. I think my maximum class size that I have right now is 14, so even though I’m only seeing the students every other day, we are getting so much more valuable time together because I actually get to give… Every single time those students are in class, I’m able to give them the individual attention and really talk to them about the art that they’re creating, and get to know them as people, far more than what I ever did with a big group of 30 students, even though I’m not seeing them as much.

So, that extra time at the end of the day to just plan for everything has been a saving grace. I’ve really been able to use my school time and try not to take anything home with me, which has… I know as art teachers, sometimes we struggle with that work-life balance, so even teaching amidst the pandemic, there are some good things that are coming from it and some good positive changes that I hope to see implemented, however that world of education changes. Yeah, it’s been an interesting experience as we get going on this school year.

Nic: Yeah, for sure. So, it sounds like some of the positive things are you’re finding more, almost, quality over quantity with your students. I’m just curious, how is that affecting your curriculum? Are you covering the same amount because you actually have smaller class sizes, or are you a little bit behind on what you normally would be?

Abby: Oh, we’re definitely behind on what we normally would be, just because of… The day that the kids aren’t doing… they’re not at school doing their online learning, you can’t just bombard them with busy work and things that aren’t relevant and really applicable. And we also don’t want our students just staring at their computer screens all day. So, I’ve been really, really taking to an account like, “Okay, I don’t want this activity to take them one hour. Let’s focus on like this activity that I’m providing for you should take like 20, 30 minutes for you to do if you’re spending and using that time.” And as a result of that, our classes are a little bit shorter when they’re in person, too. So, we’re definitely behind, but I would say just because of that smaller group, we yeah, definitely are meeting that quality, not necessarily the quantity of things that we once were able to do, but I’ll take it, I’ll take it if there has to be one or the other.

Nic: Right. And if you’re at least spending some time with the kids, I mean… I don’t know. You’re right, there’s some benefit to that. Okay. You recently wrote an article about this hybrid learning. We’ve talked about a couple of things that people should keep in mind, but what are some additional things in that article that you wrote that everybody should keep in mind or at least think about when they’re rocking out a hybrid learning model?

Abby: Yeah. So, video instruction is going to be your best friend when it comes to that. And I know that you have used some flipped classroom instructional concepts and tools for quite some time, but that has been something that has really been a lifesaver for me. I think so for so many art teachers going back to school, can’t sharing the materials or the supplies that students were once able to do, and teachers, we try to foster this climate of independence and student ownership amongst our students. And then, that got taken all away just with the procedures that we had to do. And I know for me going back to school the first week, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I feel like I’m teaching a class of kindergarten every single hour of the day, just trying to get them everything.”

And so, that aspect of it was a little disheartening where it was like, “Am I just going to have to think for these kids? I can’t foster this climate of independence that I’ve so worked for.” So, with that, we’re getting back there, which has been so nice. But that’s largely because of being able to implement true flipped classroom instruction, where students are following along with instructional videos, activities that they are able to work at their own pace. And I have it set up in my Google Classroom that it’s like, “Okay, if you finished this, go do the next thing. There’s no time to wait. We got stuff to do.” So, that’s how I’ve been setting up a lot of my activities for the students when they’re doing at home, too. It’s like, “Okay, here, I’m going to give you this little activity. Let’s learn about crosshatching, or let’s take a look at these different drawing techniques. We only need pens or a pencil or whatever you have at home to do it. Let’s follow along and do it.”

So, one of the things that I’m focusing on for those hybrid activities is just skill-building activities, exploration, because I want students to be engaged in that learning. I want it to be fun for them. And honestly, just whether it be color mixing or color theory, exploring things with different materials or different ways of doing things, it’s hands-on, we’re not just sticking them in front of a screen, but they’re actively engaged and working. And so, that’s what I have been finding success with when students are doing their hybrid learning stuff. And I know talking to other teachers in my building, they’re like, “Oh, these students aren’t doing the work,” and I was like, “Well, they’re doing my work. [crosstalk 00:11:57] and they’re doing something.” They’re not just listening to somebody talk, lecture at them for 20 minutes or whatever.

Nic: Right. So, you’re keeping your content concise.

Abby: Yeah.

Nic: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, so you’re using the platform in your classroom as well as at home. Is that Google Classroom, is that what you said?

Abby: Yep. Yep. And that’s something that, pre-pandemic, we did anyway, but it wasn’t until this year that my… We would always had computer cards and stuff that we could check out throughout the school day, but with the CARES Act funding, we were able to secure one-to-one Chromebooks for students that they get to take home. And so, we are rocking and rolling in that. Yes. Kids are just always working at their own pace, and because of creating that video instruction, there’s no waiting. They don’t have to wait for student B, who is just a slower-paced person at working. And so, kids are engaged.

And one of the things, and I don’t know how you’ve noticed this in your classroom, but I find that when the students have been coming in to the art classroom, yes, we have all this technology, especially for my eighth graders. Yes, they have their computers, they have their cell phones, but they’re not… I mean, unless they’re using their computer for the work that we need to be doing in class, they are so… It’s like they don’t have time to be distracted by their phone or their computer. They really want to be there to make art, which is so cool because I haven’t seen it like that in a while, and I don’t know if that’s just because kids have been out of school for so long and they’re craving that activity. I don’t know. Are kids so bored right now that they’re [inaudible 00:14:05]?

Nic: Turn to art? Are you kidding? No.

Abby: Yes. No, but there’s just a difference in my kids this year and how engaged they are. I don’t know. I seriously don’t think I’ve had a kid complain about anything, and there’s usually always something to complain about.

Nic: There is. I’ve noticed that. I think you’re right. I think people, not just our students, are embracing like, “Oh gosh, our whole world could be taken away from us at any point. Let’s just get in here and enjoy what we have when we have it.” And there is this overarching… Well, even for your students right now on hybrid, they don’t have interaction, they don’t have teacher communication on some of those days, so when they’re in class, I can see that being more of an engagement tool. Interesting.

Abby: Yeah. It’s just been a really interesting change to see that, and like I said, you can just really… We know that art matters and we know that active creating is so good for everyone, and especially our students, especially during this uncertain time of emotion and everything that’s going on in the world. But I mean, I think I’m actually seeing it. I can see it dripping from my students.

Nic: That’s awesome. That is great. Thanks for some of the tips. We will definitely link that article about hybrid learning in our podcast. But I also know that there is an article about just video instruction in general. Since we talked about that a little bit, what do people have to have to be successful in making recorded videos for their students?

Abby: Keep it simple. Make it easy. You don’t need to be spending all this time on post-production and editing. I mean, I don’t have time for that, and I know that. Our students don’t need that. Do work with what you have. And so, whether it just be filming from… For art teachers, we’re going to need something to film demonstrations, so whether that just be a cell phone or a… Use your smartphone, use a tablet, use an iPad, and if you are able to just have something that is and can create overhead demonstrations, go for it. A few years ago, I invested in like a big lightbox so that students could take their photos of artwork in it, and we still use it for that purpose, but it’s large enough that I think I can fit like an 18 by 24 paper inside of it, like laying flat. And it has just…

We can link the one in the show notes that I have. I think it’s like $100, but it is the best $100 I’ve ever spent because now I just set my phone on top of it. It’s well lit at all times. I don’t have to worry about like, “Oh, is it nighttime? Is it too early in the morning? We can’t see anything.” I just set my phone on top of it, and you’re just ready to record. You plug it in, and all the LED lights come in so there are no shadows. You can see everything, record your demonstrations. If you need to speed up a couple of things, do that. But then, other than that, there are times we need to screen record and share some things like that, so just use what you have on your computer.

So, if you’re using Apple products, QuickTime is a great built-in resource. If you’re using a PC, there’s so many other Google Chrome extensions, like Soapbox is an easy screen recording, and face recording one for you, Screencastify. There’s a lot of different options. And I, in the article, that we’ll also link in here, share some of the highlights and maybe some of the features about some of those platforms that might make recording video instruction a little bit easier, so we’ll make sure to link that in here, too.

Nic: Yeah, that’s great. Those are all really good advice, but just bringing that back to just use what you have. You don’t need anything special. And I think when I was first thrown into the pandemic situation, I wanted to explore like, “What can I do? Oh, let’s try green screen. Let’s try this. Let’s try that.” It doesn’t need to be that at all. That’s what I’ve really learned, too. So, that’s a great message to really highlight. Thank you for doing that. But I did recently learn that you’re using Pear Deck and Edpuzzle, and I love those, but I need to learn it a little bit better. What can you tell me about those two platforms? How are you using that tool?

Abby: So, Pear Deck is a really great tool that integrates well within a Google Slides presentation. And so, there’s a couple of ways that you can set it up for your students, so you could set it up where you’re like, “Okay, I want my students to go through this Google Slides presentation on their own.” And so, you could have it in a view where you assign it to your students, and that often integrates with whatever learning management system you might be using. But what it’s doing is it’s making sure that your students are actually consuming the information. They’re not just skipping through things.

So, within it, let’s say you have a slide, some artist information, right within it, you can, with the Pear Deck tool, you can put in a question that students have to answer. So, that gives you a checkpoint as far as, “Okay, are they actually reading this? Are they actually doing this?” Or you can embed a video within your Google Slides, and they have to watch the video, and then maybe you say, “Okay, give them a quick, multiple-choice question to make sure that they were actually, once again, they watched the video.” And then, at the end of it, you can see their answers, the amount of time and things that they spent within it.

And then, another great way if you’re using it in the classroom, too, is if students have devices, you can put it in a presenter mode. So, if I’m sharing artwork from another artist and I’m presenting it on the board, or on the projector that students are looking at on their devices, they could have a different view which doesn’t allow them to click out of different things. But I could be like, “Okay, what do you like about this artwork?” And they could type it or whatever from their iPad or their Chromebook that they’re using. It’s interactive in that way so they don’t just have to sit through another PowerPoint presentation of teachers just talking at them. So, it’s an interactive way to check for learning through formative assessments and just quick questions in there. That’s a really great tool to use that way.

And Edpuzzle is a very similar tool. However, that one is just meant for video instruction, and I know… I always try to make my videos for my students 10 minutes or less because research shows the average length of a video should be, until student engagement starts dropping off, is somewhere between six and 12 minutes. And so, Edpuzzle makes sure… So, whether it’s a YouTube video or a video that you’ve created yourself, you just upload it into the Edpuzzle platform, and any anytime you want to, you can pause the video with a question or a fill in the blank or something that the students have to do-

Nic: As a response to the video.

Abby: Yes. And then, they can’t skip ahead, they can’t skip through the video either. And then, you get the student view, I guess, or the teacher view, but you can see every single student, how much time they spent within it. Did they only complete 50% of it? Did they watch 100% of the video? How many questions did they get wrong? And so, it’s not only a great tool to make sure that if you’re implementing hybrid learning or asynchronous activities that you need to make sure that your students are actually consuming the information, it helps you track that. But it also helps track, “Okay. Wow, my students did not understand this at all.” If all of your students are getting the wrong answers on the same questions, that’s a clear indication, “Okay, maybe I need to spend some more time teaching this,” or it’s just a really great quick formative assessment tool, too.

Nic: Formative, but it sounds like you can almost make either one to be a summative assessment, as well.

Abby: Oh, yes, definitely. Depending on how you were doing… Yes. How you set that up. It’s so versatile. It’s nice because you can use other people’s videos if you need to. Sometimes there’s great just like introductory videos to a concept or an art movement, but then you can upload your own videos, too, that are more personalized for your students. Once again, it’s an interactive feature, not just having to sit and consume the information, because the most powerful thing about teaching art and teaching in general is that we want to engage our students in the learning, and those are just some tech tools that help allow for that.

Nic: Yeah. And I was following along pretty easily because I have tried both platforms, but we’ll have links to Edpuzzle and Pear Deck, as well, with this podcast. I think what you have to do is really know what the tool is good for, which can be formative, summative, and engagement, but then you have to go research it. And what’s nice is I know for Pear Deck, they recently had… And it was recorded, it’s on their YouTube. For specific to art teachers, they had a training specific to art teachers.

Abby: Oh, that’s awesome.

Nic: Yeah. Yeah. So, I did hit that, and it gave me some good ideas, as well. So, definitely research if those tools seem like something that you would be interested in. Thank you for talking about those, and man, all those ideas about hybrid and just the tech tips that you are so willing to share with us. So, thanks a lot for visiting with us today.

Abby: Yes. I was glad to chat about the world of art right now. Thanks for having me on today.

Nic: You got it. Abby does an amazing job in her classroom. I would love, love to be a middle schooler in her classroom for a couple of things. She is passionate about the age group that she teaches, and she is so creative with the way that she approaches education. She’s real, she’s fun, and I know it flows off from her onto me. I can’t imagine, if I was an influenced middle school student, how exciting it would be to go to her classroom every day.

So, I want to thank her for joining us today, and then also for giving us all those great examples that we could possibly use in our classroom tomorrow. In addition, make sure that you are looking at her website… Or I’m sorry, at our website for her articles, because she has written some articles that she refers to in this podcast, and they’re available for you now at the Art of Education University. Keep in mind that the articles that are written right now in the magazine are so current, by educators who are doing what you’re doing right now, so take a look, go through it most recent to last couple of months. You’re going to get some good tips on how to make this year the best it can be.

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.