Episode # 23
Using Technology with Visual Art High School Students with Jennifer Moorman
November 3, 2022
About This Episode
Jennifer Moorman art class is about much more than learning techniques – she’s dedicated to helping students create a visual vocabulary for life. By combining technology with her art classes, she’s able to help students draw connections to the world around them and build a stronger toolkit for success in the future.
[00:00:47] Kara: Joining us today is Jennifer Moorman, who is a high school visual arts teacher at Eastwood Local Schools in Pember Villa Ohio. So, hey Jennifer. How are you? Good. How are you doing? We’re doing good. I think. Yeah.
Could you do, just tell us a little bit about what led you to become a teacher, and specifically maybe a visual arts.
[00:01:13] Jennifer: Yes. Well, it’s very profound, and I remember it like yesterday I was in kindergarten at Indian Hills Elementary School in Rossford, Ohio. And my art teacher, Mrs. Gladio, had my actually future college professor she invited him to our elementary school to throw pottery on the wheel, and they put him up on the stage in the cafeteria.
and it was very epic for me. I feel. I remember watching him in the front row and just like my hand in the air the whole time, just wanting to know everything and anything about this like wheel that was moving around and he was making these amazing clay jars and VAs and it just, it was like, you know, I, I thought, Wow, they’re, you know, and in my mind at the time, I thought they were cultivating the mud from, you know, the school outside and bringing it, you know, I was just like, it was just this whole primitive process that I was just so intrigued with.
And so I do remember like having to write something and like first or second grade about what I wanted to be when I grow up. And it was an art teacher. And so, Oh wow. I had the fortunate experience of having my elementary art teacher as my high school art teacher when I went to the high school.
It was kind of a really neat, full circle experience. She, you know, kind of questioned like, Hey, well, you know, what do you, what do you do in your after school hours? Do you play sports? What do you do? And I said, Well, I babysit a lot. And she goes, Oh, you really like kids?
And I said, Yeah, they’re awesome. Kids are like magic. I love hanging out with kids, . And so she saw that. And so she kind of, you know, saw that I really enjoyed art and I had some pretty decent techniques for the age. And so she invited me to come to a teacher work day. So mind you, this is a day all the students have off, and she invited me to come to school.
So the look on my face was probably like surprise, , but really honored. And so I took her up on it because I got to do an inservice with my high school teachers and she invited all of them to the art room and I taught them how to throw pottery. I remember coming away from that day thinking, Oh, my science teacher at least knows that I can do this, you know, and maybe I’m not having the greatest time in science or math, but like, my teachers see that I can do this.
So it really kind of, I feel like built my confidence and my bravery level with my learning. So she was a very, very, very important part along with my mother. My mother was always taking me to the Museum of Art. She was always giving me positive opportunities to create.
[00:03:45] Caryn: That’s so cool. Well, and what I’m cur, well, I know this story a little bit. , but you didn’t leave high school. Going, I’m going to college to be a teacher.
[00:03:59] Jennifer: Did you? No, I did not. . No, I actually, my senior year I think was a rough year for me. And I had an opportunity to go out west. And I also received a pretty substantial scholarship from Bgsu and I. Turn that down. My parents were not very, very pleased with me at the time.
But as the years went on, they saw that, you know, me choosing my own path was probably best. I decided to move out west to Montana and I became a RAF guide part-time and on, I was spending the other half of my time cleaning condos in big Sky Montana. So it was a lot of. Hard work.
But a lot of fun. I didn’t get paid to be a RAF guide, like I just showed up because they wanted to train me. Like, I was just so excited to even be on a boat, on the water, you know, with, with people in the boat. And I’m leading it with another guide down the river. I mean, it was just one of my dreams.
And so I did that for a summer and then my dad called and was like you know, your health insurance is probably gonna not be there if you don’t, you know, decide what you’re doing with school. He said, You know, if you come back and you do like a semester at the community college, you know, we’ll see where you’re at.
And so I did. And then I ended up transferring to the University of Toledo, which was the best decision I ever made because having class at the Toledo Museum of Art was exceptional. I mean, to be able to study famous paintings and books was really like, obviously, You know, great. But I also think to see them up close one semester I took a class on the Casa Vulner royalty.
So that is a collection of art by Michelangelo that is from Florence. And so in Florence, Italy, they have the Casa Vulner royalty and they brought almost the whole collection over and they had a curator from Italy come and teach the class. And so every night, two nights a week, I was able to go up into that collection and look at it and study it and draw from it.
And I just felt, I just felt so like, special and like, it just felt like a little pocket of time that was so inspiring and, and really formative for me. Yeah, for sure. Cause Toledo has like one of the, a big art. Scene. Yes. Scene. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. There’s a lot of really great organizations that work very well together that have created this historical aesthetic landscape that we call Toledo.. Wow, that’s really cool. Yeah. Because we are for the love of Ed Tech, , I am curious, some people might be thinking, Why in the world are we talking to an art teacher?
[00:06:41] Kara: But you are a visual art teacher and you incorporate technology into your classroom. So can you just share some the cool happenings or how you utilize technology as an art teacher?
[00:06:54] Jennifer: Well, one of the biggest things that really stood out to me within the last probably eight years was I found a tool called Google Tour Builder, which no longer exists.
It is now integrated into Google Maps. So I created a lesson where I had the students pick an artist and they had to investigate their life and they had to make a presentation about it, but I had them do it in Tour Builder, and now I have them do it in Google Maps because I really found that when you’re able to have students engage with information and geographical locations simultaneously,, it really resonates and it really, they, they seem so much more engaged in it.
And so they had to follow the path of an artist’s life geographically. Through the Google Chore Builder. And then within the slides presentation, they were talking about the narrative, obviously, of the artist’s life and the accomplishments. And they had to, you know, where did they go to school?
So they had to geographically like locate that and then they had to put a pin in it and then they had to connect it to the slide. And so that when they were presenting it to the class, not only was the class learning about all these different artists, but they were geographically understanding where these parts of the world were.
And I just found it to be a wonderful tool for kids to feel more engaged and present in the experience. Because I don’t know about you, but I get lost on Google Maps sometimes. Like I love, just like looking at the Great Wall of China or, you know, Looking at different you know, at the Eiffel Tower and all, you know, just, it is quite amazing how we can still travel nowadays.
A hundred years ago, you would only have people render paintings of what the Eiffel Tower looked like. You would only have people, you know, doing grievings or, you know, sculptures. But now, you know, we actually have documented photographs of these places that you can access in a microsecond, and it’s pretty like profound.
And I want kids to really see that. And the one feature that I know Google Tour Builder had at the time was You could sometimes pull up photographs of the site, of the geographic location of what it looked like 50 years ago. Mm-hmm. , or, you know, however long they had that. And I thought that was really cool too.
Cause a lot of kids would incorporate that and say, Well, this is what it looked like when you know, Renoir lived here. And then, you know, this is what it looks like now. I know that the place that Van Gogh was born is like a, as like a you know, a easy mart or, you know, just like a little convenient store, you know, And it’s just to think, you know, the apartment above is like where Vangogh was born.
So I think really kind of connecting historical sites and historical information to our current. Landscape that we live in is very key for students, for them to understand that scope and for have an appreciation I feel like as well too. And I feel that, you know, Google Tour Builder and Google Maps are really good at, you know, providing that experience. When I do put a Google form out and ask them, you know, What was your favorite project?
A lot of ’em actually say it’s that project because they really love the aspect of searching geographically throughout the world, you know? Yeah. And having the time, , to do that. And I actually did. In service for teachers and a lot of, obviously the history teachers were blown away by it. But, you know, a lot of teachers are really trying to utilize and, and incorporate the same tool into their classroom.
We’re very creative in here. I have a lot of kids that I, if I give an assignment and the kids like, I’m not getting this, or I don’t, I don’t wanna do it this way, then I’m always like, Okay, well what are you thinking? Talk to me. I’m giving you some tools. I’m giving you some vocabulary.
I’m giving you some directions. How do you feel that you could be successful with this? And then you start talking to them and you start kind of saying, you know, I had one student who was like, I really love cars. Like, I, you know, was showing me all these pictures of the cars and we were doing like a traditional grid drawing lesson.
And I said, Well bring a picture in of a really nice card, like your, your car you really, really like. He was like, Really? I was like, Yeah. So we brought it in and we get everything set up. By, gosh, a week later, this guy, he was a, he was this wonderful artist that created this beautiful drawing of his favorite car.
You know? And, and it’s like, I feel as teachers on day one with me, it’s motivation when you walk in my room, what is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? That is like one of our biggest lessons. And you know, I tell them in this class, I’m hoping that you find an intrinsic motivation for something you wanna do at the time.
Like something you, you wanna do in the present right now. But also too, what are you gonna do in the future? That’s a really good balance of really trying to be there for them, but also saying, Hey, you have the tools, you have the processes and the techniques. You apply them to the real world. And that’s what life is. And I always say life is like an art project.
You’re being given tools, techniques, and processes, and you are to create something, right? To have a tangible ending to this. And then I always have them connect it to basically an artist statement stating. Why did you make this? And it can’t be because Mrs. Mormon asked you to . , Some students have a very hard time writing, and so I let them do a audio or a visual artist statement where they’re just talking to the camera and then I put a QR code next to it, you know?
[00:12:18] Caryn: Nice. Yeah.
[00:12:18] Jennifer: Because as their artist statement, because that’s, Or sometimes, you know, not all the time do we let everyone view the artist’s statements, but you know, a lot of ’em want to kind of say, Look how I’ve connected my art to, you know, how I feel and who I am as a person. Mm-hmm. , you know, which I think is a very good lesson.
[00:12:38] Caryn: Yeah, for sure. There’s a lot to be learned.
[00:12:41] Jennifer: Yes. Yeah. So with my digital kind of citizenship curriculum, what I’ve been doing is taking different, like asop fable lessons throughout history. And then having students Look at art that is created by artists about these specific asop fs, you know? Oh, interesting. , I’m kind of putting a lesson together for November about like the seven deadly sins and finding artwork that relates to gluttony.
You have to be very careful, obviously, with a lot of these different topics. But I do feel that you can have a productive conversation with high school students about these topics. And so you’re dissecting and you’re giving them a visual vocabulary of like, the painting of that represents like one of the seven deadly sins, right?
And you’re talking to them about, well, what is the representation in this painting? What is it saying? You know, what, what is it telling you of this time period? And then we’re kind of trying to find a time in this day and age, What is an example of gluttony in this day and age, , and trying to talk to them about giving them a visual vocabulary so that when they are thinking about these.
Life lessons per se. They have like a visual vocabulary to it, because a visual vocabulary is what’s going to build stronger connections as a visual arts teacher, we are charged with the duty to help kids see visually the world, right?
We’re supposed to teach them that. And then also the different processes of how to document that. Because nowadays though, you don’t need that. Nowadays. You get a rectangle in your pocket, you know, the, the size of a deck a little bit bigger than a deck of cards, and it has more technology in it than the satellites in the 1950s.
With technology you’re able to get that bigger picture quicker, right? If you have a need for something in a district, you can just do a Google form and see, okay, oh, they really would like to do this, you know? And so I do think technology is, is very much a part of education and very important.
And of course you don’t wanna see it go away. But there has to be some type of refining. As an adult in social media, if my child has experienced a really great positive day of, you know, an activity, it’s so nice to put it on social media because then like my uncle in New Mexico sees it.
My aunt who’s in Spain sees it. My dad who’s in Arizona sees it, and then I get a phone call later, Oh, I see. You know, you’re, you know, they were doing this and that, and, and then you, you know, they have a visual to that conversation and it’s such a richer connection, you know? When you put it on a platform where people see it, it’s kind of like, I’ve said hello world . Yes. And then I have to go back to my real life, you know? Yeah. Because we cannot all be sitting on social media all day long.
I am not like a conspiracy theorist or a prepper or anything, but. What happens when the lights go out? Where does all this information go? Your generation needs to have some type of plan. I mean, libraries are disappearing.
And then, Oh we also talk about the Library of Alexandria and what happened to that, you know, and then the dark ages happened. . Yeah. You know, it’s like, yeah. Mean, There’s just so many different things throughout history that we could learn from. And if kids are given this visual vocabulary, hopefully it will get them to think about the current time that they’re living in.
And that actually kind of takes me into where My biggest roots in art education is art therapy. I taught at Coaker Hospital and that’s when I saw the little, little, little ones who were struggling so immensely from just their environments. You know, just many, many different things.
And all I wanted to do was have fun with ’em for one hour in art. And so I would bring my little iPod in because it was when the little iPods came out, my little speaker and I would play Mozart and we would talk about Monet and we would make, you know, the, the lily pads with our oil pastels.
And then we would make our tissue paper flowers and we would make a, a Monet flower lily pad. And we would talk about who Monet was. And you know, and this is at the elementary level, but you know, you would think this would be all great and fun, but then kids who are having a hard time, you know, all of a sudden the table goes flying or supplies go flying across the room or, you know, there, there’s a lot of behavioral issues there.
And so when I found, when I started playing the music, it was more of a calm environment. And then I started really researching meditation. Well, I started researching meditation through my own journey of the loss of my mother when I was 30. But once I started researching it and I started seeing the benefits of it, I started trying to use it in the classroom, and I found that that controlled breathing along with that calming music, created a very aesthetically pleasing environment that gave the students the opportunity to be present in their learning versus the same mundane environment that they’re in. That’s when I really started doing a lot of research and doing a lot of different techniques and lessons with students on how to teach them self regulation, and trying to teach them, about having those big feelings, but being able to express them in a way that was positive.
And so then when I came to the secondary level, I really started incorporating it. And so every time we did drawing, I would have students just do like a three to five minute little meditation. And I have found that it has worked tremendously. Students are very receptive to it. They seem happier because we as adults forget what it was like to be a kid. Yeah. Yeah. We, as adults, I think sometimes compartmentalize our days based upon what we need to be doing for others. . And that sometimes we forget that kids are just, Hey, I’m here.
Like, I haven’t experienced that yet. And so sometimes maybe adults have had a jaded experience with something . All they wanna do is teach the lesson, but the, the key part of a lesson is it’s in, it’s not in the punishment.
It’s not in the consequence, It’s in the actual act of what they were doing. Like what is the lesson behind that? And walking a child through that takes time. And what do adults not have at time? Time? Yeah. And so we as adults need to be better at making time. For these kids, you know, to, to do that. And I think teachers though, on, you know, but then it’s like you have teachers who are being pulled in a cajillion different directions, and the weight of the world is on them, along with the documentation of it, through paperwork.
[00:19:32] Kara: Right. . Right. You know? Yeah.
[00:19:35] Jennifer: So, you know, it’s like, it’s a balance. There’s no perfect recipe. There’s no perfect answer. But I, I do think that in rooms like this, that we’re talking in, that these conversations are happening. And I’m really hoping that more people are having these conversations about technology and about how a visual vocabulary is important, because Yeah, I would love to think that we could all go back and you know, I did a lesson with a dictionary where, Some kids said, Well, what, what is a dictionary?
I was like, What? ? Oh my gosh, What? That doesn’t surprise me. You don’t know. Similar experience, . You don’t know what a dictionary is. And then I go, Do I dare ask, Do you know what a thesaurus is? a the, So is that a dinosaur ? No. Let me invite you to come see what these are. They are tools. And so I said, Pick a word out that describes you, I think they picked the word wild
That’s surpris. Yeah, . But they ripped that page out. And then I said, Okay, so now we’re gonna take that and you’re gonna kind of rip and tear at this page and, and make it in the organic whatever shape you want, and you’re gonna glue it down to a piece of paper. And then you’re gonna think of a symbol you wanna draw that represents who you are.
Okay? And so, of course, You know, they chose a horse , and so they were very literal, but they were following the assignment. Like I was like, okay, that’s fine. We can have cliche art right now. I’m okay with that because it’s more about you utilizing. A tool from the past to create something. And so, , they had, , drawn this beautiful picture of a horse, and then in the background they had the ripped out picture of the dictionary page with wild on it.
And then they had to write the artist’s statement. And so at the end of it, I said, Now do you really feel that you would’ve known the definition of wild if you would not have looked it up in the dictionary? And I had ’em read the definition. And prior to that I had said, Well, well what is wild?
And instead of reading the definition, they just gave me examples of their life. And I said, Do you see the difference is that it’s not fair to document just your experience? Like there has to be a common space for humanity to have what things mean, right? Like just the definition of it, you know? So yes, it was an art project, yes, it was creative.
But the common thread for me was that this is a tool from the past that you think you no longer. Which you do, You absolutely need this tool. You absolutely need tangible ways to find information because the lights could possibly turn off one day. I don’t, I know you think that’s impossible, but it is not.
Have you ever been backpacking, ? Yeah. You need to know. I mean, we live in a society that of convenience and so really getting back to the basics of, you know, I was just in a PD meeting the other day and we were talking about we would like to just teach them some real life skills, you know, and, and what are those skills?
What, what, what list of skills? And so right now we are gonna have another meeting coming up and, and so we need to compile that because to me, I, writing is something that is so important. write to me, writing is one of the biggest courses you’ll ever take in high school. You need to know how to express yourself through words, period.
It is, it is a very important thing to be doing. But also too, a visual vocabulary of history for them to digest and understand the current times we live in. And the beautiful part about that, about technology is we can offer them that pretty quickly, pretty aesthetically, and pretty savvy. Right. And make it fun.
A lot of that starts with the younger, younger generations. And we’re very lucky here at Eastwood because the elementary does a wonderful job laying the foundation of, of vocabulary called zones of regulation, which is how they describe how they feel in their learning at that present time.
So are they like in the red zone, the yellow zone, the green zone, and then the blue zone? Is that kind of like, you know, in between Yes. And or unsure. Yeah. And so giving them that vocabulary to be able to identify how they feel and then having that communication and connection with their teacher helps them be more present in their learning.
And then the teacher has a toolbox of like fidgets or like just other activities that can kind of like get them back into their present, learning. So, you’re laying the foundation of a good vocabulary to then have those greater executive functions in those upper grades if you teach mindfulness and meditation at a younger age, you know, like I said, it’s a brain break, it’s quiet time, whatever, just to kind of reset back to a better default mode. Like, okay, I need to just reset and be calm.
[00:24:46] Caryn: We used to, our school did a mindfulness thing with the Cincinnati Symphony. It was like a whole program that was like, I forget what it was even called. But yeah, basically like every morning there was some sort of meditation that, you know, you would, we would do.
And it all, like the music was created by the Cincinnati Symphony. Oh, that’s so cool.
[00:25:13] Jennifer: So another, you know, kind of thing in art education that I realized was when I was teaching elementary and I, you know, Took the kids to the Toledo Museum of Art with the music teacher .
So this was the fourth grade, and they were going to listen to Peter Boyer’s. Ellis Island is a dream done by the Toledo Symphony, Okay? And they had all of these photographs of all of the immigrants that came over to Ellis Island while the symphony was playing .
And I remember thinking, you know, the kids were just like, Wow, you know, to, to hear that music and the excitement of coming to the United seats and to see these photographs. And so after they went to the symphony and they saw this experience, I took them over to the gallery and Vain Bogosian, who is an Armenian artist was at the Toledo Museum of Art.
And he had a beautiful room with his artwork in it. But then he also had this room off to the side where there are these tables of all these found objects. And if you’re not familiar with vain bogosian, he finds object. And he puts them in different boxes of like in a composition that tells a story.
So he has like a couple pieces about like the Odyssey you know, different. He has lots of different artwork that has representation through the objects within the composition of these boxes. Okay. So in this room, after they went to the symphony, they went over to the room and they used all the different objects and made their own compositions in the boxes.
So the music teacher was teaching about the composition of music and Peter Boyer’s, Ellis Island is a dream. I then took them over to baring Bug Ocean’s exhibit and taught them about visual composition. And then the fourth grade teacher went back and she had them write a composition about the entire day.
And so we kind of used obviously a composition as the theme, but that’s when I really started to see pedagogy in play that we as teachers, If and when we have the time to connect and collaborate can create such a rich experience for kids in education. Because there are, we, we live in a day and age where there’s so much information and we have so much leisure time and it’s very wonderful.
And, and, and I love it. I love 2022. I love that. You know, I, I mean I love the past obviously, but I really, really think that we are very lucky as humans to live in 2022. I mean, you can, you can be Michael J. Fox in time travel if you want, you can go to Greenfield Village and go see how they made butter and, and see how they dressed . It’s like time traveling. When you go to a museum, don’t you feel like you’re traveling to the past? I mean, how many times in a movie where it’s like a, a period piece of like a certain time period of like the 18 hundreds or the 16 hundreds or whatever, how many times did I either start or end with looking at a relic of time?
You know? And so the idea that you kind of tell kids like, you know, you guys are time travelers, we’re traveling through history and making it exciting for them really I think can help them digest the content and really experience the content in a way that will be more memorable and that you’ll be able to create more lifelong learners , When it comes to students graduating from high school, it’s the time, age, old question, Well, what do you wanna do with the rest of your life?
I just think that’s such a unfair question for them at that age. I think kind of like, Okay, what’s your next step? What’s your next, next adventure? Let’s say someone’s like, I wanna be a newscaster when I grow up.
Okay, well, well go have that experience. Go check out a news station, go be around that culture, see what that’s about. And maybe you’re like, you go and you’re like, Oh no, that’s not for me. Yeah. So putting kids in positive experiences to experience the things that they think they’re interested in, I think is key.
And in education right now, unfortunately, we have a lot of checks and balances with testing. But why can’t we be more creative about it and how we do do that? Because at the end of the day, It’s not about packaging up this little person and sending them out the door, it’s hopefully packaging them up with all the tools you gave them and they know how to use them.
Yeah. Ex to be successful. Yes. And yes. Successful. And feel successful really. I mean, you know, cuz that’s part of it too. Right. And so through that lesson at the museum and, and having that experience really, you know, formed a lot of the ways that I teach. And I think, again, the documentation of education through technology is amazing as well.
We are advocating for these kids every single day. We are, we are fighting for them.
We are trying to get them to understand the value of their education. And it’s hard because their brains aren’t developed . Right? Yeah. It’s true. You know? True. And so us as teachers to be on the front lines of this world of technology and education is very scary. But I also consider it one of the biggest honors that I have every single day.
The fact that I get to walk into this room and engage with kids in a positive way and try to bring out the positive qualities that they have. Is, is, is an honor, you know? And, and I feel like we as teachers need better supports to kind of find a better balance with that, so I really truly appreciate the Google Conference.
I appreciate the art education conference because it’s when other like-minded people get together and start having these conversations in rooms that really will cause and, and propel and, and really the trajectory of things can look really optimistic.
We as teachers and, and even as parents, you know, we are just leading by the experiences we’ve had and we are just handing down knowledge that was given to us, but also in a way, hopefully, That students can apply it to the real world and be successful doing it and feel good.
I want, I want students to feel present and to feel good in their learning. Like, almost like when the sun is shining on you, you know? Yeah. Yeah. And that’s what I tell them. So it’s, you know, like I said, I am very lucky for what I, what I do for a living. And I was very lucky to have the women in my life to help shine the light down that path.
My mom, you know, she always, she loved a post-it note . She loved a post-it note because I just remember, I would find them all over the place. Make sure you do this, make sure you do this as little reminders, because that’s all they need. Kids just need reminders and check-ins. And a lot of the times when a kid is going off the path, you know, you just, when they’re little, you’re like bumpers at a bowling alley, like a global, You’re the bumper.
You’re like, All right, I’m trying to keep you from going in the gutter. You know? Well, eventually you gotta take those bumpers out, you really just have to be someone there that’s giving them directions. Like you’re at an airport.
But I also think the connection of just connecting with your students and your rapport with your students is so key. It’s, yeah, it iss true. Yeah. So, Yeah. Well, I appreciate your time, and you listen. I know. Yeah. Thank you so much for talking to us.
Jennifer received an M.E. in Art Education from the University of Toledo in 2010 as well as a B.E. with a concentration in the Visual Arts in 2004. She currently serves as the Visual Arts Teacher at Eastwood High School in Pemberville OH, along with the director of the historic FOCUS Art Show, creator of the Diamante Award, and EHS International travel tour leader. Jennifer feels that the healing power of the arts raises visual awareness about how education enhances the well ~ being of individuals, society, and the environment. Art and education encompass the human experience and make a profound impact on history, as visual documentation of how we are all connected through a thread of history, nostalgia, and progress. She strongly believes that advocating and promoting education in our culture, ignites the imagination, the human spirit, and the community in so many unique ways!