Technology Updates

I'd like to share a few quick updates with all of you.  The first is that I changed (updated?) my Twitter name from "msmillerleban" to "mrsleban."  I've been married almost two years now, so I figure most of my students are probably more familiar with me as Mrs. Leban instead of Ms. Miller.  So if you already follow me and noticed this, that's why.  On the flip side, maybe you're looking for me on Twitter and can't find me.  This might also be why!

Secondly, the art blog is now optimized for viewing on your mobile phone!  Here's a screen shot of it from my iPhone (above).  When you use Blogger in draft, you have the option to make your site mobile-phone friendly.  I thought I'd try it out.  Let me know what you think!


Elementary Art Visit

Yesterday morning, I visited Mr. Wesseler's art room at Hawthorne Elementary in Elmhurst.  He uses a lot of technology in his classroom (like an iPad, which I'm getting soon!), so I wanted to see how he does it.

Here's his room.  Actually, it's only the main part!  There's a special room just for clay off of the main room.  Then, off to the left in this photo (above) is a doorway to an outdoor courtyard.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  An OUTDOOR COURTYARD.  For students to make art.  No, I couldn't believe it either, and I was way jealous.

So, besides a swanky courtyard and a clay room, he also has a whole separate store room that's definitely bigger than my storage closet (I feel so inferior now!), and another room for the kiln that had even more storage.  Ugh, storage envy!

I love these painted brick walls and windows.

I was able to watch a fifth grade and a fourth grade art class before having to travel back to Sandburg for my own classes.  Fifth grade was painting monochromatic compositions, and fourth grade was drawing still life arrangements in oil pastel.

Mr. Wesseler uses his iPad on the digital presenter to draw on it, but he also connects it to an external monitor that students gather around when reading digital books.  He uses his MacBook Pro for projecting art examples via iPhoto.

One of the most fun tips I saw in action was a repeated alarm set on his iPod to alert classes when there was 5 minutes left of class and it was time to clean up!  It was a cute little twinkle sound that students had been coached to listen for to begin cleanup before the next (back-to-back) elementary art class began.  Smart!


Need washing advice...

Here's a photo of my backyard fence on Sunday afternoon.  I spent the warm-ish weather (on Easter Sunday, mind you!) out on the driveway, hosing down old towels from the pottery wheels that were caked in clay.  I was too worried to put them in the washing machine as-is, for fear that I'd clog up the plumbing.

Are there any art teachers (or expert clothes-washers) out there with good ideas or suggestions on how to clean towels (we put these on our laps while using the pottery wheels in an attempt to keep ourselves clean) without clogging my home plumbing, but also not reverting to old-school "washing-in-the-river-and-beating-against-a-rock" techniques?  I felt so goofy, spraying them out on the concrete and hanging them on the fence... and that was BEFORE I then brought them in and washed them via machine! 

Thankfully, my neighbors are nice... and kind of used to me being weird.

I should probably also give a big shout-out THANK YOU to my mother-in-law for donating a huge pile of old towels for us to use in the art room for this.  When we got our pottery wheels, we had no idea how many other odds-and-ends (such as spare towels) we'd need to use them efficiently.

That being said, 8th grade classes will start the 4th quarter round of pottery wheel usage this week!  Get ready, because it'll be messy!


Happy Birthday Mr. Leban!!!

It's Mr. Leban's birthday today!  Wish him a happy birthday over on twitter and he'll get your message directly.  Unfortunately, it's a teacher institute day at his school, so he won't get the joy of having students sing to him or embarrass him with guesses about how old they think he is all day long! ha ha!



Tagxedo is, in my opinion, a souped-up version of Wordle.  It takes words from pretty much anything (rss feeds, twitter, famous speeches, urls, etc) and turns them into word "clouds" with more frequently used words showing up larger.

Tagxedo is cool because you can change most of the options, including the shape of the final cloud!  Here, I made a Tagxedo from the Sandburg Art Blog:

Aww, I made it a heart shape, because I love art!  It is easy to save and print your Tagxedo without having to create any logins or users (which is really important to me when I'm working with students).  This site was really fun to play around with, and I hope to use it with students very soon as part of a cool new project!


Help fund our Donors Choose project!

While I was fortunate enough to benefit from Mrs. Bensfield's "Crochet Coral Reef" Donors Choose project, I've never actually tried to fund my own Donors Choose proposal... until now.

I've been researching wireless graphics tablets for a while now, and my original plan was to go out and buy one for the art room, probably with my own money, to use for presenting information to class, but also to collaborate and pass it around to students to draw with on the computer.

...so you can probably imagine my dismay when I discovered that a decent wireless tablet costs almost $400!  I'd really like the Wacom Intuos4 Wireless tablet because I've heard really good reviews about it.

So pretty! 

My proposal is on Donors Choose right now, and it's called "Drawing Through The Air?  Yes You Can!" Here's my plan:

A wireless graphics tablet would enable greater control and ease in presenting information to classes, both by the teacher and by the students. We can use the tablet to control presentations (such as PowerPoint and Prezi), and to annotate the computer screen while watching up on the projector as a whole class.

Another motivating and fun use of a wireless graphics tablet is to collaborate on a single drawing by passing the tablet around at our seats, with each student taking a turn adding to the final digital image.

A wireless graphics tablet is a useful tech tool for both the teacher and the students in the art room. It is an piece of equipment that will be used for many years to come, and will give students a "taste" of what it's like to use professional artist's tools.

Thanks in advance for your support!  Please tell your friends!


Sandburg at 60!

Guess what's coming up?  Sandburg Middle School is turning 60!  We're hosting a big community-wide celebration in honor of this milestone.  There will be a performance by the band, choir, and orchestra.  A school-wide art show with artwork from every student in art classes this year will be on display.  There will be cake, face-painting, and art activities to participate in!

This is a preview of the postcard that was created especially for the event.  Mr. Burgett's wife donated her graphic design skills to create this awesome logo and postcard layout for us.  She even designed a poster, which you'll soon see all over the school and at local businesses!

We're hoping to get Sandburg alumni, community members, parents, students, and staff together to honor our school and share memories about Sandburg.  I even have a special mural planned made up of puzzle pieces.  Visitors will have the opportunity to create individual pieces for the final puzzle, which will come together to form one giant art mural.  I'm pretty excited about it!

Hope to see you there!


Hooray! I won stuff!

Exciting news!  Today I was visited by members of the Elmhurst 205 Foundation, and they awarded me with a super amazing huge grant!

I wrote a grant for a SMART Board and three iPads to use in the art room, and I was so happy and excited to find out that I had won!  It felt like winning the lottery!  I had almost forgotten about writing the grant, since it was way back in December.  My sixth graders were walking into the class as photos were being taken, so they were invited to take a photo of me and Principal Read along with our sign.  I'll post a photo here if I get a copy, because I bet it turned out pretty good.

I hope to order the new technology soon, but it won't be fully up and running until next school year.  Some of my current eighth graders were a little sad, but I promised they could try out the iPads if they show up before the summer.

Hooray!  I love exciting news!


another reason to love teaching art

Every once in a while I'm grading papers, head down, chugging away at my work... not much going on.  Then it happens.  I spot something on a student artwork that makes me smile and giggle.  I can't help but have to share it with others.  This is one of those instances.

I was grading the sixth grade "Where the Wild Things Are" paintings and I spotted this crazy little guy cannon-balling off of a diving board in the background of Gillian's artwork.  I've circled it and pointed it out in the image below:

...and here's a close-up:

This little guy looks so happy in this picture, like "Whoopee!" as he hurls himself into the pale blue water below.  I love spotting little details like this.  It makes me smile, and it makes my day a little brighter.  I'm reminded what it's like to have the imagination of a sixth grader.

Thanks, Gillian.

p.s. A very special thank-you to everyone who voted in the Oak Park education referendum on April 5th.  Mr. Leban and I are very excited that he'll have a job next year, and that Oak Park K-8 schools will continue to have art classes!


Enlarging a Photo

In seventh grade art, we paint monochromatic portraits of ourselves.  To ease our self-consciousness over making ourselves "look good," we work from photos that we trace and enlarge onto large paper.

First, I take digital photos of the students (usually out in the hallway with a brick background), and we alter them using Adobe Photoshop.  The software allows us to transform our color photos to a 4-level grayscale image.  Once we print those photos, we trace them onto plastic overhead sheets using a fine point sharpie (see photo above).

The overhead sheets are projected the "old fashioned" way - via overhead projector!  I have a collection of seven overheads I've scavenged from teachers who were getting rid of theirs - when we received digital presenters (Elmos), many teachers ditched their old overheads.  Score for me!

Above are some photos of students working on their projections.  This is happening today and tomorrow in class.  Then we'll be ready to begin painting!  Hopefully we can finish them before the last day of class next week!

Do you want to see some of the results we've come up with?  Check out our past portraits on our Artsonia here, here and here.


a referendum tomorrow in Oak Park.

My husband Mr. Leban, was in the newspaper over break to talk about the art program at his school.  It comes right before the big vote tomorrow in Oak Park that will decide (among other things) if he gets to keep his job or not, and if their district will continue having art class at all for elementary students.  You can read the full article at the Oak Park Wednesday Journal website.

Please cross your fingers and hope the vote tomorrow comes out a big giant YES for art!  Do you know anyone from Oak Park?  Call them up and let them know that we need their yes vote!
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