How do the History and English teachers do it?
Well, overall this project had mixed results. Initially, the students were very interested in the software, and exploring what it could do. When it came down to making the actual website, many students lost interest and didn't want to invest time in research and properly citing. I can think of a couple reasons for this. First, I am still fighting a mentality among the students that art is supposed to be a fun class with no homework. Second, out of 18 students, 13 are seniors with senioritis. Anyway...
The searches for photos and biographical information was more difficult than I thought. Even students that chose well known photographers struggled to find enough images. The school does not have scholarly subscriptions and many images were either embedded into museum websites or simply not present in the electronic databases the museums provided. Finding scholarly images was one struggle, but finding scholarly information was even more difficult. Students who chose contemporary photographers usually had no trouble finding photos, but also struggled with the biographical component of the requirement. The platform is basic enough that it can be used in different ways, but it doesn't scaffold citations in ways that some eduational technologies like TrackStar do.
Even though students were all doing similar tasks, this group was less likely to share techniques, information, and what they'd learned. As a result, in the end, even though the websites all had published urls, many of the students did not actually see, nor benefit from each others' work. The project had already extended past what I had anticipated, so we just moved on. This was my first integration and thus had a higher learning curve than the other two projects.
The research component was challenging, but when we got to the actual websites being turned in, the lack of citations was appalling. Many students lifted whole chunks of text word-for-word without references. When confronted, one student seemed surprised that this was an issue and gave the excuse that they didn't believe that they would be able to find the sites again (forget about taking responsibility for not having documented that in the first place). They showed even more surprise and slightly more embarrassment when informed that they could simply put portions of their text back into google as I had done.
This was the first time that I was teaching this class, and so even without the web access, I would have had them writing a paper, and likely faced the same issues of copyright and citations. Obviously, these are issues that many teachers face every day, but they were new to me, and I was unprepared for how clueless the students seemed to be about accountability and what to me is cheating. Before doing this assignment again, I would spend significant time addressing issues of copyright, citations, and consequences within the class and in federal and state law for copyright infringement.
ArtsConnectEd is somewhat self explanatory, but it is also not that intuitive as far as where tools are and what the site will even look like in the end. Without the inservice that I had, I would have been unlikely to use it within my classroom. Now, having used other technologies and media publishing platforms, I may not be as likely to use it in the future (ArtsConnectEd). On the other hand, now that I have used this for several projects, I am more familiar with it than some of the other platforms.
The technology allows for group learning, but within the context I set up, it really only provided individual learning... though, the potential exists to reuse these websites as resources to show other students (of what to do and not to do). If I were using ArtsConnectEd again, I would probably create a class login, so that I could also access all the projects, then spell check and basic editing could be done before reuse. In the end, the problems with this assignment weren't with the technology, but with the lack of scaffolding within the technology coupled with some inexperience on my part. Among other changes, I would provide a list of photographers that I had checked to see that sufficient resources existed on, along with some starting points. One thing missing from this project, that I liked in the (soon-to-be-discussed) landscape photography website was the positive nature of the interaction and motivation involved in making it a group effort. One idea would be to make this project into a webquest where the final product is a website, and roles coincide with pages that should appear on the site (i.e. biography, summary of major works, critique of work, influences from the past and on the future). As a project in the calendar of a semester class this would probably be more motivating, less time consuming, and a more interesting product.