SmART ART that is “off the chART”!

Activity, Project, Tip, Tutorial 2 Comments »

Today I will focus on some “hidden” Art-based projects that Manitoba students and educators have created and shared. I have purposely used the adjective “hidden” because these educational treasures often get little exposure beyond the school in which they were originally created. However, should the ideas migrate to other students or teachers, they often, unfortunately, tend to stay “hidden” within the originating school division’s boundaries.

Why do we, as educators, spend so much time searching the Internet for practical classroom-based ideas which we can download and then “tweak” or modify to meet our local provincial curriculum? My experience suggests that we often do this because we are unaware of the proven educational resources that have been created and used successfully by other Manitoba educators and students.

I recently attended a meeting in Brandon of the Manitoba Association of Educational Technology Leaders (MAETL). I regularly attend such meetings because I am eager to learn of new educational ideas and  resources that I can share with other students and teachers. At this meeting, I was not disappointed. Part of the morning was spent discussing how technology leaders might, more actively, share the inspirational, educational “nuggets” that each individual knew about within his/her own school division. Following the formal discussion, I had a chance over coffee to talk to Ron Nordstrom, who is the Technology Coordinator for the Beautiful Plains School Division. As is so the case, a chance remark afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal. Although, I have known Ron for perhaps 15 years, I was unaware of his many talents. Recently, I have been following Ron through Twitter and I was impressed with the sketch that Ron had chosen for his gravatar. I asked Ron, who had he commissioned to created his life-like sketch. Ron replied that he had sketched his own image and that in addition to acting as Technology Coordinator, he also taught Grade 5 and 6 Art at Hazel M. Kellington School in Neepawa.

We then discussed some of Ron’s engaging Art activities, together with the student creations, that I wish to share with you. Readers should begin by examining the wealth of Art-related resources that Ron has compiled and displayed along the side of “Mr. Nordstrom’s Art Wiki“. To showcase the creativity of his students, together with the focus for the Art lesson, Ron designed this powerful image-enhanced blog resource called “Nordstom Art“.  I encourage readers to examine, and comment on, the creative student image galleries and lessons that Ron has shared under the following categories:

  • Superheros
  • Shades of Joy
  • Beauty of the Beasts
  • Cartoon Watercolor
  • Van Gogh Style Landscapes
  • Patterns and Texture Fish
  • Creative Names
  • Cartoon Watercolors
  • Ted Harrison Water Colors
  • Crayon Value Drawings
  • Faces in Proportion
  • Value Half-Drawings

Ron has also conducted a Superhero Challenge where students, with Internet access, may submit their own superhero drawing. Not only can viewers compare and contrast this gallery of portraits (all which display correct facial proportions), they can also examine each hero’s individual profile and super powers. Imagine the fun that students can have drawing their superhero and then writing about his/her exploits?

Finally, Ron described a book-creating service that he had recently used. As an dedicated teacher, Ron wanted to capture the lessons, ideas and, most importantly, the creative art work that his talented students had produced. To do this Ron submitted the ideas and images to where he made his own book entitled “Art Projects – Examples From Grade 5 & 6 Art Classes“. I encourage readers to preview Ron’s excellent Art resource and share it with other educators who appreciate and/or teach Art to middle years students.

So often, as educators, we expend a great deal of effort preparing lessons and activities which engage our students. Perhaps there are some readers that will want to investigate the Blurb book building service to create their own coffee table book.  Regardless of whether such a book captures the creativity demonstrated by your students, a grandchild’s first steps, or a trip of a lifetime, the resulting book, that you create, will indeed be treasured.

Speaking of treasure, I want to thank Ron Nordstrom for sharing his talents and treasures with me and my readers.


Since this post is focusing on educational Art projects, I thought that I would share with readers two instances of unique Art projects that Winnipeg School Division teachers and students created several years ago.

Kate Wallis and her Grade 3 class at Sister MacNamara School challenged other students to take part in an innovative “Picasso Principals” challenge. At that time, Kate’s students sketched an image of their principal, Dale Scott, using Picasso’s creative style. Although this challenge started as an Art activity, it quickly developed into a unit which integrated Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Technology. I encourage readers to examine this web site and peruse the wealth of integration ideas and resources that are displayed through the “Index” links menu. Although this Art unit is more than 10 years old, it still demonstrates creativity and innovation on which today’s teachers and students might capitalize.

When I viewed Ron’s lesson on “Ted Harrison Watercolors”, I immediately remembered another Ted Harrison-related article that I had published in my “Bits and Bytes” newsletter in March, 2005. Sheila Malcolmson, of Tyndall Park School, shared an instructive article entitled “Smart Art – Tyndall Park students showcase Ted Harrison“. Here, in her article, Sheila described how her students created images using Ted Harrison’s style to complement the Social Studies unit on the Arctic Region. Windows users will still find the Anfy book flip freeware a unique tool to help them display exact-size images in a rather effective manner. Furthermore, I encourage readers to peruse the “Tyndall Park Alphabet Book’ that Sheila’s students illustrated using the Ted Harrison technique. Wendy Groot, who was the technology support teacher at the school, helped showcase the student’s artistic talents by displaying their creativity on the school web site as well as incorporating each student’s Ted Harrsion style image into a HyperStudio stack. Although HyperStudio may not be as popular in schools as it was several years ago, one can still download this creative “Tyndall Park Alphabet Book” as a Windows executable HyperStudio file, to view the talents of these Grade 5 students.

In conclusion, I ask that readers pass along these engaging Art-related resources to teachers who might wish to use them with their students. Regardless of when these ideas were first created, the resources of such creative and dedicated educators need to be shared so that other students might benefit.

Thanks to all for caring and sharing.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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ManACE Social Justice Grant for $1000

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The Manitoba Association for Computing Educators (ManACE) is funding up to a total of $6000 divided into two grants of $1000 for each of the three grade levels of K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 in Manitoba schools.

How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!

~ Anne Frank

The aim of this Social Justice initiative is:

“To support Manitoba school-based projects that promote social justice themed initiatives involving technology with school in developing areas. ManACE seeks to inspire students and teachers to use technology to reach out to others and to find ways to assist students and teachers who do not have good access to technology.”

Interested staff members should visit the ManACE web site at: to download the Information Brochure and the Social Justice Grant Application Form.

There are two submission intake deadlines on January 26 and April 13, 2011 and class proposals can be made for either, or both, dates. Up to three $1000 grants will be awarded at each intake period and decisions will be made within a three week time frame.

So start giving serious thought to what your students might do using some form of technology to help alleviate or solve a real life problem.

If you are not able to be involved in this endeavour, please make sure that you pass on this opportunity to other Manitoba students and teachers.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

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‘Image with a Message’ Activity/Project

Activity, DS106, How To, LwICT, Project 20 Comments »

Are you looking for an engaging computer-related activity or project for your students? Regardless of the grade or subject area in which you teach, I think I have an idea that you will find both stimulating as well as educationally relevant.

Over the past few years, much emphasis as been placed on technology integration throughout all subjects in the K-12 spectrum. However, many educators may become frustrated because they feel that their students need to be scheduled into the school’s computer lab to use technology in a meaningful manner. Others may feel that image acquisition is restricted based on their school or divisional filtering policy. To help reduce such frustration, I propose that students complete this “Image with a Message” activity, on their own time, to demonstrate that they can use basic technology skills to enhance other assignments or projects in any discipline.

I asked myself, what are the main tasks or concepts that all students should be able to perform when using technology. Regardless, of the particular curriculum, I believe that each student should be able to use the technology to accomplish the following three basic tasks:

  • search the Internet critically;
  • enhance projects with images from Creative Commons; and
  • give appropriate credit.

Students who can accomplish the above three fundamentals will be better prepared to use technology in a meaningful manner to enhance many school-related assignments and projects.

I want to remove the hassle for all teachers who feel that it is necessary to gain access to the school computer lab before recommending that students engage in any computer-related endeavour. Why must students always use computers at school? In many cases, students have access to computers at home, in public libraries, or in community centers that are more sophisticated than the equipment in their respective school computer labs. Furthermore, asking students to work, perhaps in pairs, outside of school fosters important collaborative skills that have life-long benefits. Perhaps individuals who don’t have access to a computer at home can be teamed up with another student who has ready access.

“Image with a Message” Activity Overview

Each student must create a JPEG image that combines the following three components:

  1. a famous quotation or statement that has relevance to the subject being studied;
  2. a “Creative Commons” image that combines to illustrate the above quotation; and
  3. the computer address link which identifies the “Creative Commons” image.

“Image with a Message” Lesson Steps for the Teacher

Although the following steps are directed to teachers, I have also included a somewhat similar student handout (in both Word and PDF formats) at the end of this blog entry.

1.    For students who learn best by seeing the “big picture”, educators should showcase some of the samples that I have created for this blog entry or select other “Image with a Message” creations from some of the following sources:

2.    Since each student’s final JPEG image will be emailed to the teacher, on or before the assignment due date, it is best to determine a standard image size. For example, one may recommend, based on the screen resolution of the computer in one’s classroom or school lab, that each project’s final image dimensions must be 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 pixels.

3.    Team up students in pairs. Ensure that students who do not have access to a computer outside school are matched with a partner that has access to a computer with internet access. Even though students are working in pairs, each student must create his/her individual “image with a message”.

4.    Select a famous quotation that is relevant to the subject area. Team partners must select a different quotation and a different image. Possible sources of quotations, from famous individuals, may be located at such web sites as:

5.    Review the Creative Commons License Types at:

6.    Demonstrate how one can use the Flickr Advanced Search at:

For example, to find the previously shown “light bulb” image, I entered the words “light bulb idea” (without quotes) in the top search field. I then checked off the “Photos/Videos” media type. Lastly, and most importantly, I checked off the bottom “Creative Commons” filter by selecting the two qualifiers to “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and to “Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon” since I hoped to combine or re-mix an image with a quotation.

7.    Browse through the various “Creative Commons” photos until one finds a suitable image and click on its thumbnail to see the larger version.

8.    To help return to the selected “Creative Commons” image, bookmark it or identify it as a favourite.

9.    Click the “Actions” button to “View all sizes” and, most importantly, click the top “License” link to verify that one has permission to use the image selected.

10.  Select the image size which is closest to the previously determined standard image size in Step #2.

11.  Demonstrate how to download and save a relevant, appropriate-sized “Creative Commons” image.

12.  If students have access to Microsoft Office, they can use the “Insert > Picture > From File” menu items to place the downloaded image into a blank PowerPoint slide. If not, one can use the “File > Open” menu items to load the “Creative Commons” image into a “paint-type” program. Remember to resize the image to fit the final standard agreed-upon image dimensions.

13.  Position a text frame appropriately on the “Creative Commons” image and enter the chosen quotation and author. Choose an appropriate font, size, and colour and then position this quotation to maximize impact.

14.  Return to the bookmarked “Creative Commons” image (in Step #8) and copy the image address source. Repeat the above step by inserting this web address near the bottom of the image and size it appropriately to give the necessary “Creative Commons” attribution.

15.  During the save process, PowerPoint users should click the down arrow at the end of the “Save as type:” field, scroll down and choose the “JPEG File Interchange Format” to save the current slide as a JPEG image.

16.  Once the final image and quotation layout has been finalized, make certain to save the JPEG image using the student’s first and last name as the image filename. (e.g. Robert-Finigan.jpg or Adya-Singh.jpg)

17. To complete the activity, email the final image as an attachment to your teacher and support your partner with their “Image with a Message” creation.

Next Steps

Teachers, or a student-team, should insert all the JPEG images into a PowerPoint presentation that can be shared with a class. Students might be encouraged to vote on their favourite “Image with a Message” and discuss why such slides have impact. Make certain to save such a PowerPoint presentation for subsequent years as one will find it beneficial to use local, student-created images to challenge new students to the subject or grade. Some teachers may choose to print some of the “Images with a Message” and display them on bulletin boards within the classroom.

Teachers often wonder how to challenge students who complete projects early or want to extend their learning. I would recommend if such individuals are using PowerPoint, that they investigate the steps outlined in my earlier blog post entitled “PowerPoint Pizzazz“. The technique, which readers are encouraged to view at this video link, demonstrates how colourful PowerPoint slide images can be made to “come alive” during a presentation. Perhaps such students might be challenged to create very colourful “images with a message” that can take advantage of this “fade to colour” technique.

“Image with a Message” Samples

Although the original Creative Commons licensed image above specified “No Derivative Works”, I contacted Rémi Janner who graciously allowed me to add Albert Einstein’s quotation to his amazing picture and share this remix. Thanks Rémi for your understanding and willingness to share.


Take care & keep smiling :-)

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