Professional Practice

The March Mailbag Episode (Ep. 361)

After a flood of messages coming into the inbox, Tim is answering listener questions in this mailbag episode. Listen as he talks about March Madness and Arts Madness, AP portfolios, book recommendations, and how careful teachers should be when it comes to their digital footprint. Full episode transcript below.

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Tim Bogatz:

Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for our teachers. This show’s produced by the Art of Education University, and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

Now, I have been getting a lot of emails lately, a lot of messages lately, and that was kind of exacerbated when we did our two episodes on ChatGPT. The inbox floodgates really opened, so I thought it would be a good idea to do a mailbag episode for those of you that are worried about too much about ChatGPT. Just one question in here, but we won’t dwell too much on that. I feel like Amanda and I covered that quite a bit over the two episodes that we did, and I think we’re good for a little bit there. But the first question that I want to bring in, this is from Ryland in Texas, and Ryland says, “My students have really been enjoying Arts Madness. So, please tell Kyle Wood, thank you.” So Kyle, shout out to you coming on in the past couple years to introduce people to Arts Madness, and it seems to be gaining more and more popularity.

A lot of people love doing these types of tournaments. Yeah, Kyle has put together all the resources you need to really put a nice tournament together. He does a great job with Arts Madness, so shout out to you, Kyle. But anyway, back to Ryland, she said, “Please tell Kyle thank you.” And Ryland also says, “I was inspired to do that with my classes after hearing him on the podcast. But here are my questions for you, Tim. Who do you have in your NCAA March Madness bracket? And more importantly, who do you have in the Arts Madness bracket?” So, I’ll just say a question that encompasses both art history and basketball. Could probably fill a couple of hours here, but outside of Don Massey and Candido Crespo, I’m really not sure how many listeners we have here who actually like basketball. So, I’ll make this quick.

In the women’s bracket, I really don’t see anybody beating South Carolina, so I have them winning at all. Though I graduated from the University of Iowa, they are really good this year and have a lot of just yeah, just a lot of excitement in their games, they’re really fun to watch. So, if they go on a run, I wouldn’t be mad at that. That would be great. On the men’s side, I picked Houston. They are a lot of fun to watch as well, and they haven’t been really good outside the last couple years. They haven’t been good since I was a little toddler, so it’s cool to see them back up and running well. So anyway, those are my picks. Hopefully no dramatic upsets happen between the time I record this and the time it airs, but those are my picks for right now. For Arts Madness, originally when Kyle first started this you could submit who you thought was going to win.

I believe I picked Frida Kahlo for that, but she was upset in the Arts Madness bracket by Janet Sobel. If you don’t know Janet Sobel, look her up. You can listen to Kyle’s podcast about it. But she was an abstract expressionist that did Jackson Pollock type stuff before Jackson Pollock did it. And I’m really fascinated to see her work, it’s cool to see more people learn about her. So, if you like abstract expressionism, you like that style, she is definitely worth checking out. So, props to Janet for beating out Frida Kahlo. And like I said, I’d encourage you to look her up. For the rest of the tournament, I will be hoping that Frank Lloyd Wright and Fallingwater keep moving on, just because Kyle and I recorded a whole podcast about Fallingwater. But who knows, he could be out of there by the time you listen to this.

I’m excited to watch that. I’m excited to see what happens. I really love to see the results come in, and I’d love to see what our students think the best work is. That’s always kind of fascinating to me. So yeah, check out Kyle’s Arts Madness stuff if you haven’t done that yet. All right. The next letter that I wanted to read, next message that I wanted to read, I’m going to leave this one anonymous, but the subject line was, “Please Stop.” I was like, okay, I’m intrigued. I open it up and the message says, “Please know more about ChatGPT. I’m really worried about it. Also, you should know that the college board,” that’s the governing body that does AP Studio art, “Is very explicit in talking about how any use of AI, any part of the creative process is considered plagiarism. So, maybe don’t encourage people to use it for prompts for their students.”

All right, so a lot to unpack there. And I will say to begin, there are a lot of legitimate concerns about AI, and I don’t want to dismiss those. I think it’s valid to be concerned with new technology and be concerned about the consequences that may come with it. And I think that in the two episodes that Amanda and I put together about ChatGPT, we discussed that a little bit as well as some of our reservations about the technology. But our main point was and still is that this technology is here. Like me talking about it on an art teaching podcast, pretty niche audience. I don’t think it’s going to slow down ChatGPT if we ignore it or if we don’t discuss it. Okay. But like I said, the point is the technology is here and we think that it could have some serious ramifications for what happens in education and for how teachers just do their jobs.

And so, the more we know about it and how it works, the better we’re able to have all the discussions surrounding it, good or bad. The better we’re able to talk about the technology, its uses, and its consequences. You don’t have to love it, but burying your head in the sand is in my opinion, not a good option here. Whether you love or hate what AI is doing right now, you can’t just ignore it. Now as far as the AP Art and Design angle, I did go look at the college board website. I was not aware of this, but it says right on there for AP Art and Design, that AI is not allowed at all. Not ChatGPT or Open AI or anything text based, and not Dall-E or Midjourney or any image generators. And it’s there in no uncertain terms. So, please make sure that you’re aware of that if you are an AP Art and Design teacher, and make sure you’re discussing that with your AP students as well.

And that actually leads me into another AP question that comes from Lexi in Connecticut. And Lexi says, “I have a handful of AP Art and Design students who have told me they don’t want to submit their portfolios at the end of the year. Have you ever run into this situation? What would you do about it?” Hey, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about this. I think it happened a lot during the pandemic as well. And I would just say this, I think the best approach is not to wait for kids to tell you that. I think it’s always better to be preventative. It’s always better to be proactive about pretty much everything that you’re teaching, and just let kids know from the beginning of the year that it is an expectation that part of this course is submitting your art and design portfolio and everything that goes along with it.

And I think that most teachers who are doing AP Art and Design have students tracking their work, photographing their work, doing all of the writing, whether that be just the explanation of materials and how the piece was made, but also writing about the sustained investigation, all of the questions that come along with that. And if you’re already doing those things as just a regular part of your classroom, why not just submit it, if it’s not going to be that much more effort? And like I said, I would hope that you’ve been doing the writing, writing about the sustained investigation, practicing the written evidence needed for that portfolio submission. And Lexi or anybody else in this situation, if you haven’t done that, it’s not too late to start right now. Just get kids writing about what they already have for their portfolio, what else they could need.

And I would say if a kid is not wanting to do that, my guess would be because they don’t have the work done, they don’t feel like they’re going to complete what they need or they’re not going to have high enough quality stuff. And so, if you have the time to sit down with them and see what their actual concerns are, why they don’t want to submit, and then just show them, Hey, you’re not this much further away. We’ve already done X, Y, and Z. The only other things you need to do are going to be this, this, this, and just going to lead them down the path toward submission and just show them that it’s probably not that much more work, and it’s probably pretty simple for them to do. So, in the ideal world, like I said, you’d be very proactive. You’d already have that expectation and hopefully wouldn’t run into this.

But if this is a situation you find yourself in, just conference with your kids, meet with your kids, talk to them about what their concerns are, and see if you can find a path to them getting all of their artwork done, getting all of their writing done, to show them that it’s something feasible that they can do, help them along the way, and hopefully we can get them where they need to go. All right. Next question here is from Jamie. Jamie is in Minnesota, and she said, “I really enjoyed your podcast with Mariana VanDerMolen. I like that you both recommended books. Did you end up liking the one that you read, and do you have any other recommendations?” All right, so Jamie, great question. I could fill the day with art history and basketball, like I said before, books would be high on the list of things I could talk about for a long time too.

But the specific book that I talked about in that podcast was called The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer. I was enjoying it, but I had just started it. In the meantime, I finished. I would say it was good. It was not a great book, but it was entertaining. It’s a good mystery and thriller type book with a lot of art history thrown in. The author’s fairly skilled, and it’s an easy read and a fun read. So I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something to entertain you for a bit. I’ve also been on just a big art forgery kick with my reading lately. So, a couple other recommendations, if that’s something that that’s interesting to you. I really like the book Hot Art by Joshua Knelman. It’s nonfiction, it’s investigative journalism, but really fast-paced about the art world, forgeries, stolen art, and just kind of everything involved in the black market of art.

Fascinating, really interesting to me, and I thought it was good. I also read The Art Forger. Now, this was a fictional story, but also entertaining. And it was, the setting is The Garden Museum in Boston, which was the home of the Garden Museum Heist, which I think we did a podcast on back when that Netflix series came out about it. I don’t remember for sure, but it’s a really, really good book. One of the characters agrees to forge a Degas painting for a gallery owner. And in return, the gallery owner will give the artist just a really prestigious individual show. And after the forgery, you can probably guess where it goes from there and everything that maybe wrapped up with the mystery around the painting and around the museum itself, and everything that goes along with it. But like I said, it’s mysterious, it’s tense, it’s worth reading.

I think it’s a good one that’s called The Art Forger. And then the book that Mariana recommended was called Tomorrow and Tomorrow And Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. When Mariana recommended this, I was really intrigued. So, I ended up reading it. I really enjoyed it. The way Mariana described it, which I thought was pretty good, was I think she said it was about the creation and the art behind video gaming and is tied to the story of these two video game creators who are friends for a long time, and I think I mean she’s right, that is the plot of the book. But as you move on, you see some of the bigger picture themes, and it’s a book that’s about what we go through in life and our need to connect and our need to love and be loved. And I thought it was a great book, so I would highly recommend it called Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. So anyway, there are a few recommendations for you.

Next question is from Maya in Arizona, and Maya says, “Hi, Tim. I’m a student studying to become an art teacher. One of my professors was talking about our “digital footprint,” and she said that we have to watch what we post because future employees are going to be looking at our socials. Do you agree? Should I censor myself online, so I can eventually get a job?” Well, Maya, I think that’s a great question. I think it’s kind of a loaded question with the framing of censoring yourself, but I think this is a discussion worth having. And so first of all, nobody’s searching your Snapchat or your BeReal, or whatever other apps that are out there that I probably don’t know about. So, obviously feel free to go wild there. But the truth is, people hiring you are probably going to look at your digital presence and they’re going to look at what you post online.

So, do you have to quote unquote watch what you post? I would say no. I don’t think anyone expects your social media to be perfect. I don’t think you need to be perfect, and I don’t think that’s an attainable standard to be honest. And I guess I learned what 20 years ago when I was going through undergrad that you do need to watch what you post. But I think at this point, that’s a little bit of an outdated idea. I don’t think it’s the case anymore that you need to be perfect or show only professional things on there. I think it’s okay to be yourself. And so yeah, that would be my advice. Just be yourself online. Feel free to post what you want. But I would say that with the caveat of don’t be sloppy. Don’t get sloppy, don’t have drama, don’t get messy with things online.

Don’t plant your red flags in the ground. If someone wants to hire you, they’re probably going to see what you have on social media, and it’s your job to make sure there’s nothing there that would cause them to not hire you. You don’t want them to see any red flags or see like, oh, this person has some things going on, or this person makes bad decisions arguing with random people online, or this person makes bad decisions with the people they hang out with in their life. You don’t want to show that. But yeah, feel free to just do what you do. And like I said, don’t get sloppy. Don’t get messy. Post what you want, just avoid that mess. That being said, I would really appreciate hearing from other teachers on this. If you’re in your forties like me, what do you think? Teachers who have been in the classroom for let’s say eight years or a decade, what are your thoughts?

What about people in Maya’s situation or teachers who have just been hired recently, what’s your take on this? I’m curious to see if there’s a divide between different levels of experience. And I mean, I know everyone uses social media differently, but I would love to hear people’s thoughts on how careful do you have to be about what you want to post online as either a professional or as an aspiring professional. We’ll see if that’s a discussion worth diving into more. Okay, final question. This is from Madison in Illinois. “What is your favorite one-day lesson?” Simple and easy enough to answer. I would say I have a lot of them. I talked about them on two different podcasts, I think about a year ago, that in something on simple one day lessons, and that was so popular that we did a follow-up episode with even more simple one day lessons.

So, I’ll link to those and you can give them a listen. But I talked about stained-glass window drawings, drawing water droplets, going outside, drawing for observation, so much more. And I referenced a handful of different articles that we have on the AoU Magazine with a few different ideas that are out there for you too. And I would also say that if you’re a FLEX member, AoU’s FLEX curriculum, you can check out everything in that curriculum that AoU has put together. And they actually have four different collections that are all about one day lessons. My favorite out of those is about building a sketchbook practice, but all four of them are outstanding, you can go check. And they’re literally dozens of lessons, resources, worksheets, assessments, just everything you need for a plethora of one day lessons. You can’t go wrong, and guarantee you’ll find a number of things that’ll work for you and work for your classroom.

So, if you are a FLEX member, just do a search for one day lessons and you’ll find a lot that can help you out there. All right. That is going to do it for us. So, thank you again for all of the messages, all of the emails. I love hearing from everyone about what is happening in your classroom, what’s going on with your teaching and with your students, and I would love to hear your ideas on the digital footprint, what you are posting online, like I said, as a professional or what you think people should be posting as aspiring professionals. So yeah, keep writing in with that or with any other questions. I love putting together these mailbag episodes. I love talking to everybody who’s in the art teaching community. And yeah, thank you for being a part of them. Art Ed Radio was produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you as always for listening, and I will be back with 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.