Dolph Petris | October 2017

Classroom Management and Art in a Virtual World

Perhaps the title of this article gives the impression that I believe we currently live in a virtual world, and that I would be providing classroom management tips and tricks for living in that said environment.  However, note that the article title actually divides ‘Classroom Management’ and ‘Art in the Virtual World’ by the word and.  This was done for two reasons.  First ‘Classroom Management’ and ‘Art in the Virtual World’ are non-mutually exclusive, and as classroom teachers we need to hold on to that truth.  Second, you can have your cake and eat it too by allowing your students to experience Art and Technology all while maintaining self-regulated Classroom Management in the 21st century!

Teachers are required to have a plethora of academically related prompts and signs on our classroom walls, and along with many district related requirements, we typically become consumed with everything else we need to manage.  Our classroom walls, often become a resulting wordy ‘white noise’ of information.  As a result, we often forget to include items of interest on our walls that are not specifically related to current academia yet apply to our lives, and the lives of our students in so many other ways.

I like to also populate my classroom walls with art prints from the great masters.  Different sizes, different art styles, movements, and genres.  I like to refer to my classroom as a visual museum in itself, a place where students are exposed to wonderful visual art that I can reference even when discussing a somewhat related, but tangential topic.  The classroom management piece comes into play because I can ‘send’ my students on a museum gallery walk within our walls, or perhaps offer them the freedom to learn on their own when in-class work is completed.  As typical, prep work on the teacher end is somewhat a task in itself, yet well worth the resulting classroom management benefit.

Enter the in-classroom, virtual museum.  Much more engaging than the typical online virtual museum’s you may have visited in the past, or perhaps navigated your students to visit.  This virtual museum occurs right in your very own classroom, is unique to each student, and can occur at any time throughout the day!

How is this done?  Aurasma.  A free online app that allows you to essentially use any object, any document, any photograph, any print, anything!, the same as you would use any QR code.  I like to find an age appropriate video or article that matches a specific art print and then ‘associate’, or link, the image of the print, with the online piece.  Students are then able to walk the room and scan any print from my classroom walls.  If I have associated a video with the wall art print, the video then opens directly ‘over’ the image on their device screen, complete with audio if applicable.  I can also add my voice recording to any Aurasma associated print so that I task the students to pay particular attention to specific detail, or Element of Art.  So even when my students are not directly engaged in a hands-on art or STEAM project, they can learn about great masters of art, and the world of art from museums they have never even visited in person!

Student classroom management during this exercise is self-regulated because students are so engaged with the technology piece, and are also learning about the art that they find particularly interesting!  I find that students, along with their devices, will navigate the classroom on their own accord just to learn more about a particular artist or great work of art.  The appreciation component in Art Appreciation is organically grown amongst all my students as they learn more about art that is sparked by and through their own curiosity.

From the teachers perspective, it has been a wonderful experience for me to be able to expose the world of art, artists, and masters of art to my students on such a broader scale than direct instruction alone.  I find that my students often know more about a particular artist and artwork than I have even taught them, and all because they are able to use the app Aurasma, and the prints posted on the walls of my classroom as their virtual museum to explore.  The world really is our oyster.

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.