Benefits of Learning Communities
Learning communities can be very beneficial for teachers. They are a platform in which teachers and students can interact with others around the world. Learning communities are readily available and in most instances they are free to join. Being inexpensive or free is a huge plus for every school district. This allows the teacher to connect with others in ways that would otherwise be impossible. Before digital learning communities were available to teachers they could only share information inter-district, at inservices or training sessions, or if they were lucky enough to be part of an association that had a yearly conference. Learning communities open up many new and creative ways teachers and students can learn, engage, and most of all share information and ideas. Being a member of a learning community helps me because I am the only art teacher in our high school. My learning communities give me the opportunity to see what others are doing in their classrooms, how different situations are dealt with, how students are reacting to different lessons, what is working or not working for other art teachers, and they help me create bonds that were otherwise unimaginable. If I did not follow and participate in a learning community it would be harder for me to get ideas for projects, get answers to questions relating to my classroom or subject, communicate with other art teachers, and share my ideas.
I am currently a member of the National Art Educators Association and Edutopia.The NAEA, www.arteducators.org, was founded in 1947 and is a membership organization for visual art educators in the US and abroad. The NAEA’s annual convention attracts thousands of art educators and offers art educators a chance to network, establish mentor relationships, and attend professional development events.Techman(2010). As a member of NAEA I get to share mine and my students artwork, lesson plans, resources, and tools. When I create a lesson plan or a project that my students accel at and learn from I share it on the site to see if others can use it. I also participate in the blogs and chatrooms. I use the quicklinks tab on their site to research artist or projects. There is also grant writing assistance program that helps teachers apply for different grants to assist them in their classrooms. This is a good tool that I plan to utilize to help me get more computers and digital tools for my classroom. They have a monthly blog, and a chat room to communicate with other art teachers. NAEA’s website has a lot of useful information for art educators. Another way I take advantage of the site by using lesson plans that other teachers have shared and having questions answered that I have had over the years through the blog. One tool on NAEA website that I have not used yet but look forward to using is the Virtual Art Educators link. It allows members to access live and archived webinars, workshops, and more. Teachers can also earn continuing education or university credit.
Edutopia, http://www.edutopia.org/, is also a free organization for teachers. I follow this one on facebook, it is geared toward regular education teachers, not just art. I get daily ideas, helpful links, uplifting messages, etc… Just today I have received “6 Engaging End-of-Year Projects”, uplifting messages from students, such as ”Dear Teacher, I’ll remember you for the rest of my life. When I grow up, I want to be as compassionate and understanding as you.” Edutopia’s website gives one opportunities to chat, share lesson plans, watch videos, and shares many useful tools. I am not as involved with Edutopia as I am with the art based learning communities. I mostly use this one as a way to see what is going on outside of the art world.
I found an amazing learning community for art teachers while searching for a new one to explore that is going to benefit me more than any have –http://arted20.ning.com/. First of all it costs me nothing to join. My students and myself can participate in forums, groups, blogging, and photo/video sharing. This site is incredible, it is the best one I have found thus far that benefits both teacher and students. The home page is like an art show for students from around the world, their work is posted on a slideshow that can be viewed by anyone that visits the site. There are many useful tabs such as photos, forums, videos, chat, groups, blogs, and a members only tab that provides teachers with tons of insight about everything relating to art education. This site is going to help me tremendously in finding digital tools for my class. One of my favorite things about this community thus far is the ongoing list of projects that students are invited to participate in online with other students all over the world. How amazing is that? My students can work simultaneously on a project and see each other’s work all over the world! I can’t wait to start chatting, blogging, and sharing with this community.
Thanks to the learning communities that I have been involved in and the new ones that I will definitely utilize I am very confident that I am moving in the right direction with my digital teaching. With the education I am receiving through the Digital Learning and Leadership master’s degree program and the amazing learning communities that I am getting involved in my students are sure to accel in the digital art world.