21st Century Learning
Build Your Own Interactive School Art Gallery Using QR Codes

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I’ve always enjoyed doing art with my students. Pinterest and other sources have allowed for the proliferation of so many fantastic ideas that I often struggle with deciding on the projects I want to do during the year with the limited time that I have. It’s a good problem to have. Kids love doing art and love seeing something they thought was going to be difficult and ugly, turn out amazing.

This may be off-topic but I wanted to share a couple of the resources I use to find great art projects.

  1. Pinterest – If you do a search on Pinterest, your mind will explode with all the ideas available. Lot’s of great ideas here though it is hit and miss as to whether they come with instructions or lesson plans attached. Mostly, you’ll find great pictures of completed projects and you may be able to connect with the teacher to get more info on how they did the project through the link. You can also find resources for assessing Art in the classroom. I found a couple of nice rubrics through Pinterest that I will adapt and use next year in my class.
  2. Deepspacesparkle – Deepspacesparkle is a fantastic site with a wide range of art projects and activities filtered by grade, season, etc. She also has resources you can purchase which are very well laid out. I get a lot of my ideas from this site. The important thing is that the artwork looks fantastic when the kids are done.
  3. Draw Squad – This one is actually a book and it is definitely an old one. Mark Kistler had a tv show in the 90’s(?) on PBS where he taught kids to draw using simple techniques that, when put together, created some really dynamic drawings that student could apply in many different ways, whether it simple sketching or more complex drawings. Like his TV show, the thirty lessons in this book are peppered with jokes, tips, and slogans, and organized in easy-to-follow steps. “Warm-up” exercises generate enthusiasm; the “Key Drawing Words” develop specific skills; practice pages are provided for hands-on participation; and the Commander’s own lively sketches and “contests” invite you to add your own creative touches. It’s a great book to use and I always start the year off with the lessons to give students a nice solid base in drawing techniques, terms and methods.

Now, back on topic!

What always made me sad was that we would do these amazing projects, post them up on the wall for awhile, grade them and then send them home. There was really little idea of audience. What I mean is that, they might be displayed in the classroom or, if you were lucky, out in the hall for a little bit. However, as we always talk about in 21st century learning, we need to work on getting students to create things beyond the audience of the teacher who is marking the project. Students need a sense of purpose and audience that goes beyond the 4 walls of the classroom.

That’s why about 4 years into my teaching career I asked the admin about the possibility of creating an art gallery of student work saved from through out the year. This idea accomplished many things:

  1. Gave students an audience bigger than just the teacher, students from the class and the occasional parents who wandered into the school who may or may not have taken the time to stop and look at the art.
  2. Allowed for the audience to see growth in a student’s artistic ability.
  3. Bringing in outside artists to demonstrate and show off their craft allowed students to see a art as a career choice and something that adults did for fun and possible for income.
  4. Students were so proud to show off their artwork and worked hard knowing that their art was to be displayed to the community.

To set up the Art Gallery, we first contacted a number of artists in the community to get them to come in on the night we had designated to show their art, talk about what they were doing and hopefully, demonstrate painting to the adults and students who came. We also had teachers saving artwork throughout the year. Teachers would save all the artwork from the first project, and as the year continued, students would be allowed to trade art pieces for ones they liked better. By the end of the year, each student would have 3 pieces of art saved. You can see that we would end up with a lot of art by the end of the year. At the end of the year, we set the gym or multipurpose room up as an art gallery, splitting the gym off into sections of displays using dividers. Teachers hung up their classes’ art through out the gym making sure to mix them around and not put them all up in the same place. This meant that the audience would have to move around the room looking at all the artwork to find all the ones belonging to their child. We also had benches and chairs set out in front of art pieces like an actual gallery would and we had music in the background and refreshments available. The night was very successful drawing in a large number of people from the community; even people who didn’t have children at the school! It was an amazing event and not really all that difficult to set up for the benefits we gained.

Moving to a new school, we had a dedicated art teacher, so the idea of an art gallery sort of fell off the to-do list and I hadn’t really thought about it again, even after we started having to do our own art. That’s why I was so excited about this blog article I found where the teacher was taking the same idea of the art gallery (I don’t think teachers ever have original ideas. I always find that the idea I thought was from my own imagination turns out to have already been done) and adding in an amazing technology angle.

Simply put, as the students finished their artwork, the teacher has them create voice recordings where students talk about the artwork they had created, what it meant to them and why they were doing that style of art. The teacher used one of my favorite websites, vocaroo.com (which you can read more about here if you don’t know about it already) to save the voice files as QR codes. As they set up their art gallery, the teacher and students also post the QR codes next to each piece of artwork. Visitors get the link to a QR reader they can download for free. Throughout the event, visitors can listen to the thoughts of the artists as they look at the art. To me, this is such a powerful use of technology embedded into learning. It’s easy to do but has such a lasting impression. Students get a chance to express their thoughts and thinking behind the creation of the art and parents/visitors get to hear those thoughts and ideas. It’s not an opportunity they get that often. I can’t say enough what a revelation this blog post was to me. I kick myself for not having thought of it before and I will definitely be doing this with the teachers at my school next year!

You can view the blog article here: