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We’ll be back in our classrooms soon! Or will we? Maybe part time? Life is full of uncertainties right now, but one thing is certain: we all need to be flexible and ready to move our instruction online at a moment’s notice. I know we are better prepared than we were in the Spring, but it’s still a daunting task. I, like most of you, have spent my summer soaking up webinars and learning best practices. I’ve taught online off and on since 2010, and I am always looking for new ways to boost engagement. Since it takes a village, I wanted to share my favorite engagement tools/techniques that I am anxious to employ in my virtual classroom. I hope you find some inspiration for yours!

For Engaging Online Asynchronous Discussions: VoiceThread


VoiceThread is an interactive collaboration and sharing tool that allows students and educators to incorporate different media into presentations. In the beginning it was mostly used for online discussions. I dabbled with VoiceThread for my online Integrated Arts course years ago and enjoyed how lively online discussion felt as a result. Keep in mind that it is not free, but many school districts and institutions already have a subscription. If yours does not, you can get unlimited threads through their app for $5.99/month. A classroom subscription will cost you $15/month or $60/year.

Jim Briggs, a K-5 art teacher in Baltimore, uses VoiceThread for so much more than discussions. You can read about all of the ways he uses this very versatile tool in his contribution to VoiceThread Blog here: https://voicethread.com/blog/using-voicethread-in-my-art-room/

If you’re only interested in something to use with discussions and prefer a free app, Flipgrid is a great alternative to VoiceThread. https://info.flipgrid.com/

For Quick, Easy How-To Videos: Jumprope


I learned of this app during a webinar back in May, and I have been using it for my How-To videos ever since. If you follow WMA on social media, you’ve likely seen this app in action on our We Create Wednesday series. Here’s a sample just in case: https://youtu.be/Mkf2HYyM-wI

Jumprope is a mobile app that helps you shoot, edit, and create quick how-to videos arranged by steps. You can film or take photos in the app or upload photos and videos from your device. You can customize the appearance of your videos, but that feature is limited to only choosing a theme color and font. One feature that I especially like is that you can download your video and it will automatically format it to the platform of your choice. It’s free, but be aware that it eats up a lot of storage.

For Creating Your Own Virtual Gallery

You can show off your students’ work or create a gallery of works that you want to incorporate into your curriculum this term. I introduce you to a few other options for this below, but if you’ve created a Bitmoji classroom with Google Slides, you can easily create a virtual gallery, too. As with your classroom, first find a background you enjoy through a Google Image search (be sure to set to “labeled for reuse.”) If you need to eliminate the background of images in your gallery, RemoveBG (https://www.remove.bg/pricing) allows you to easily remove the background from images. The first is free, and you can upgrade to monthly subscription or pay as you go. Google Slides allows you to incorporate hyperlinks and narration to create a truly engaging experience.

Google also offers Tour Creator, which helps you create simple, yet stunning, 360-degree tours complete with narration. I have yet to play with this tool, but at first glance it appears to be very user friendly. https://arvr.google.com/tourcreator/

You can also create a similar effect with Genia.ly. I believe it is just as easy to use as Google Slides, but as with any new technology, it might take a little playing around to learn all of the features. Take a look at the virtual gallery we created for the Helen Keller Art Show with this program: https://view.genial.ly/5e8e39c7dee0d90e26ef78b9/guide-helen-keller-art-show-of-alabama

A free app called Artspace allows you to actually create a virtual space to house your virtual gallery. https://www.artsteps.com/ The product is stunning and easy to navigate, but there is a bit of a learning curve in creating the space and experience. Check out this example from an elementary school art show: https://www.artsteps.com/view/5ef3d9dba0de5a18dfb2d69f

Lastly, Padlet, an online post it board, could be used to create a collaborative gallery, one in which students can contribute to the experience. It’s inexpensive (it was free at one point) and very easy to use. It can be easily incorporated into Canvas and Google classroom. https://padlet.com/

For Virtual Field Trips: So. Many. Options.

Most museums and galleries across the country and the world have some sort of virtual offerings, some more robust than others. Google Arts and Culture houses virtual experienced from the National Gallery of Art, in Washington DC (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/national-gallery-of-art-washington-dc?hl=en) and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/uffizi-gallery?hl=en). The Louvre in Paris, France offers several virtual gallery experiences on their website with information offered in French and English (https://www.louvre.fr/en/visites-en-ligne/). The British Museum offers a wonderful interactive virtual timeline complete with narration and embedded Google map links (https://britishmuseum.withgoogle.com/). Lastly, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has created a fun, interactive time machine that lets students choose their own art adventure (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids/time-machine). This is only a sampling of the virtual experiences available! Take your students around the world from the comfort of your classroom or their couches!

We hope that as you plan your year, you are also able to take advantage of the resources WMA has to offer. From lesson plans that incorporate works from our permanent collection that are aligned with Alabama State Standards, to our archived posts in the Educator’s Lair, to our #WMAfromHome content: we are here for you and your students!