Empowering Learners as Leaders: Parkway Productions

As teachers we wear a lot of hats. One hat that I wear outside of the art room is sponsoring and facilitating the Parkway Elementary student-led broadcast journalism team, Parkway Productions. This team of students works together to create weekly informational video segments by writing, filming, editing, producing, and sharing their videos through a Seesaw blog. We are exploring the power of a student video creation team that goes beyond morning announcements. We ask questions like “How might we grow authentic relationships in our community?” “How can we keep our community informed of local events and news as well as create global connections?” and, “How might we model good digital citizenship?”

Parkway Productions students had an incredible opportunity to share about their video creation processes and our learner led video production program with innovative educators from all over the state of Arkansas this week at the Education Innovation Summit in Hot Springs.

Using Keynote and iMovie to Add Animation to Handmade Artwork

Have you ever thought to yourself “Wouldn’t it be cool to merge the traditional paper Christmas card with an animated eCard?” That’s exactly what we did!

Here’s how we did it:

We started by making self portraits, paying close attention to and celebrating our individuality.


Next, we added winter backgrounds using liquid watercolors in cool colors and oil pastels for a wax resist effect while creating snow.


Finally we added our winter accessories. Winter cuteness overload!

We tiled several of our portraits together on white butcher paper to create the design for our Christmas card. I climbed up on our trusty art room ladder and took a photo of the card design.


Here’s a look at our printed Christmas card.


This is where things get really fun (and super techy). We took our photo and made three additional modified photos of the eyes blinking and mouths in different positions; closed smiles, toothless open smiles, and 0-shaped mouths. We did this using the eyedropper tool for color matching skin tones in Keynote. (See video below)

Here is a look at the four photos we used for creating our animation.

XmasCARD WES closed smile.png

I collaborated with our incredible music teacher to get a recording of the students singing “Jingle Bells.” She simply airdropped the file to me in GarageBand. We imported that file into iMovie and we were all set to create our animation. We simply used our four photos and timed the mouths to go along with the words the students were singing.

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The snow effect was created by inserting a falling snow green screen file. I found it here for free. Since our photo was vertical I simply rotated the photos to fill the screen. Once I exported the video I was able to rotate the video file in QuickTime.

Here’s a look at our final product:


The last step was to link the animation video to the physical card via augmented reality using HP Reveal.

And there you have it! A Christmas card that encompases both the traditional paper card that can be mailed out to loved ones and a fun eCard addition!

The Librarian Borrowed My iPads - What Happened Next Was Nothing Short of Incredible

Augmented Reality Book Talks

By students.

For students.

Written by guest blogger Chrystal Burkes, Parkway Elementary Library and Media Specialist.

My students have been studying how to give Book Talks in library to share their love of reading for others. However, I wanted to think of a way to help share student book talks to others outside of their own classrooms and make the experience engaging. This is where my art teacher and Apple guru pal, Lindsay Fell, came in. What about recording student book talks with iPads, and sharing their videos via HP Reveal, thus creating an augmented reality experience for student book talks? Let's do it!


Students in grades 3-5 recorded videos of each other giving Book Talks using iPads. Then, they used the app, HP Reveal, to make them augmented. To accomplish that, they took a photo of the front cover of their book, selected their book talk video as the AR trigger, and created their own augmented reality Book Talk. 


The following week, these books were displayed for other students. iPads were available for students to grab and watch other student book talks on display! Students opened the HP Reveal app, pointed their iPads at a book of their choice, and the recorded book talks started playing! Kids could pick the books they wanted to check out after watching and hearing Book Talks given by their schoolmates! 


In the end, the activity gave students ownership over their learning, creativity while delivering their Book Talks, and excitement over choosing new books to read. The students were creating a culture of reading by delivering augmented reality Books Talks by students, for students. 


Here’s a look at our augmented reality book talks in action!

Augmented Reality Can Help Us Understand the Difference Between 2D Shapes and 3D Form

Dot Day is an international celebration of all that creativity inspires and invites. Millions of people around the world connect, collaborate, create and celebrate this day inspired by the book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The Dot is the story of a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities by being brave enough to “make her mark”. What begins with a small dot on a piece of paper becomes a breakthrough in confidence and courage, igniting a journey of self-discovery and sharing, which has gone on to inspire countless children and adults around the globe.

And each year on International Dot Day the inspiration continues. What started as a story in the pages of a book is transforming teaching and learning around the world as people of all ages re-discover the power and potential of creativity in all they do.

My kindergarten and first grade students celebrated Dot Day this year by bringing their dots to life with the 3D coloring app Quiver.


Quiver allows coloring pages to pop into 3D via augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) imposes video and audio multimedia components onto “real-world” objects.

So, in Quiver, sneakers dance, planes fly, firetrucks race down the road, kids kick soccer balls, birds start flapping their wings, and flags wave in the breeze. You need to print out the coloring sheets from the Quiver website.

The app is available for iOS and Android. I had it installed on my student iPads so the kids could see the results first hand.


After students designed their dots in celebration of International Dot Day we used Quiver to discuss the difference between a two-dimensional circle and a three-dimensional sphere. The idea that augmented reality can help us better understand the difference between 2D shapes and 3D form is pretty powerful.

And then this happened.

He has dimples and tells me I’m pretty and my whole heart explodes.

Rethink what’s possible. Your students will love you for it.

Art and Literature - Using Stop Motion Animation to Tell Stories

Who remembers making flip books when we were younger? We created them by drawing a small image at the bottom corner of a book page and drawing it again, a bit changed on the next page, and so on, and then “flipping” the pages to see the items move.

Stop motion animation productions, which manipulate physical objects to create the animation, have been a popular project in schools for many years. Traditionally, clay was used for the items in the animations, but today everything from staplers to iPads to Legos to bits of paper to any real object are used in stop motion animation projects.

After reading the picture book If The Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most, my kindergarten students created artwork inspired by the illustrations found in the book and thought about ways dinosaurs could help us in our everyday lives. Some of their responses were “they could help me reach a books on tall shelves” and “they could help us paint really big paintings.”


We used the app Stop Motion Studio for this project. This app is perfect for young students. it is easy to use, powerful, and it’s tremendously fun.

Once our stop motion videos were created we used HP Reveal to make our artwork interactive with augmented reality.

Art and Computer Science- Coding Meets Color Theory

When I wrote a technology proposal to my school administration asking for iPads, I also asked for Sphero robots. I was able to get 12 Sphero Sprk+ robots. The Sprk+ is perfect for any art classroom because it is completely waterproof. That means we can paint with them. Once we are finished painting I just hold them under the faucet to clean them off. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.


While teaching kindergarten and first graders about primary and secondary colors, we painted with Spheros. I simply put down two primary colors on a large piece of butcher paper and had the kids drive their Spheros to mix the colors to create a secondary color.


This lesson also happened to fall right in the middle of my abstract expressionism unit. It tied perfectly to Jackson Pollock’s oversized abstract paintings. The kids love walking by these while traveling down the hallway. Sometimes I’ll even hear them say “red and yellow makes orange….blue and yellow makes green” softly as they walk by and point at the paintings.

Augmented Reality In The Classroom- This Changes Everything

Imagine living in the magical world of Harry Potter, where the school hallways are lined with paintings that are alive and interactive. Now imagine creating an atmosphere like that for your students. Augmented Reality (AR) allows educators and students to do just that: unlock or create layers of digital information on top of the physical world that can be viewed through an Android or iOS device.

You can read about how my students created interactive paintings here.

In our elementary school classrooms, we can use AR to create active learning experiences that has been inconceivable before now, and in the process redefine the learning space. Educators know that learning deepens, not just through reading and listening, but also through creating and interacting.

The app JigSpace offers a bank of AR experiences with an educational focus, categorized by topics – Science, Machines, Space and even History. It also has a special “how-to” category which contains an eclectic bank of AR guides to things like assembling an office chair, reverse parallel parking and even building some Lego Star Wars models.

My fourth grade students used JigSpace to get a close look at Gutenberg’s printing press while learning about print making. Students were able to sit the printing press down in our classroom, walk around it, look under it, manipulate it, and navigate through narrated information about the printing press. Providing this experience for my students was far more powerful than any article I could have given them to read or picture I could have shown them. They were able to interact with the subject they were learning about and they were really excited about that.


Imagine trying to teach concepts like planet revolution and rotation, something that is conceptually hard for young students to understand. Now imagine being able to sit the solar system down in your classroom. Imagine your students being able to interact and explore the solar system with the touch of a fingertip.

This changes everything.

Interactive Art Exhibit - For Students By Students

Student created augmented realities empower students to share school pride through art.

I teach in a brand spanking new, incredibly beautiful elementary school. We hosted a community open house for the public a few weeks ago. I saw this as an opportunity to showcase what my young artists have been up to. Our school mascot is the lion, so all of our artwork on display centered around that theme.

4th Grade Lion Monoprints

4th Grade Lion Monoprints

5th Grade Lions

5th Grade Lions

Third graders created large lion drawings inspired by the contemporary artist Dean Russo.


We used the app Funny Movie Maker to create videos of the lions talking. Students could tell what they love about being a Parkway Lion or how they show their lion pride.


Once our funny face videos were completed we used the app HP Reveal to turn our artworks into augmented realities. What we were left with was a digitally interactive art exhibit that empowered my students to share their school pride through art.


As school administrators, community members, state representatives, and school board members flooded the halls of our school, student media helpers were armed with iPads and excitedly shared our interactive artwork with visitors.


Here’s a video of our interactive artwork in action.

How I Convinced My School District to Purchase iPads For My Classroom

Would you love to have a class set of iPads, but are unsure about how to convince your school district to purchase them for you? Here’s how I did it. I’m not saying what I did will work for you, but hopefully it’ll at least give you a starting point.

But, before I tell you how I convinced my school to invest thousands of dollars in technology for my elementary art classroom, it’s important for you to know that I am incredibly blessed to work in a school district with an amazing technology department and a team of administrators who are forward thinking and open minded. Without these individuals being willing to hear me out and consider what I was proposing, I wouldn’t be here writing this for you today.


If you simply email your technology department or administration asking to go one to one with any technology device, you may not even get a response. You are asking them to spend a ton of money on your classroom. They have a large load of responsibilities and their budgets are tight. You’ll want to give them a reason to stop and listen to you. Instead, I encourage you to create a technology proposal and consider the following:

Know exactly what you want and why you want it.

I had a vision for an art room with iPads that blended traditional art making processes with innovative content, techniques and ways of thinking. I feel that my responsibility as an elementary art teacher is not to create great artists, but to empower students to think like artists.

I had a dream of an art room that would help my students recognize their creative strengths and empower them to flourish in a complex society with critical thinking, communication, and problem solving.

I have a passion for empowering students as problem-solvers and creators in a changing world through the use of iPad technology starting in my classroom and spreading throughout my school, district, community, and the world over.

What is your vision, your dream, your passion? Share that in your proposal.

Show them innovative things you are already doing.

Asking for a class set of iPads for my art room was pretty much asking my administrators to trust me to make the return on their investment worth it. I felt I needed to give them proof that I was already innovative in my classroom instruction and maximizing on technology I already had at my disposal.

How are you using the classroom technology you already have available? Try to think of some innovative ways you could start using it if you aren’t already doing so. Take pictures and videos and include those in your proposal.

Align your vision with your school district’s core values.

Our core values drive our culture and remain at the center of every action and decision we make. The school district I teach for has three defined core values: equity, excellence, and community. I aligned everything I wanted to do with iPads in my art classroom to these core values.

What is at the heart of your school’s actions and decisions? Be sure to align what you want to do with the devices you are asking for to your school’s core values.

Consider student and teacher growth.

How will additional technology in your classroom grow student and teacher experience and skill?


Propose a future community of innovators behind the commitment to continuous improvement.

I provide weekly voluntary based professional development opportunities focused on instructional technology for teachers. We start out with the Apple Teacher certification process to grow knowledge and skill and then shift our focus to improving technology integration using Apple’s Everyone Can Create curriculum.

What could you do with the technology you are given to ensure continuous growth in your school, district, and community?

Provide a way to measure growth.

The impact of technology in student learning can be measured in two categories: cognitive gains and social and emotional gains. I proposed ways to measure these gains.

I didn’t stop with student gains though. I didn’t want this movement to become stagnant and contained inside the walls of my classroom. I proposed to also measure teacher knowledge and skills, technology integration in classrooms, and a pedagogy change.

This was about so much more than devices for my classroom. This was about an opportunity to do something so much bigger than that. This was an opportunity to inspire other educators to rethink what is possible in their classrooms.

How could you measure the impact of growth the technology will have on students and teachers in your school and community?

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Use the proposal itself to demonstrate what is possible.

Since I was asking for iPads, i decided to showcase what is possible with Apple applications by publishing my technology proposal in the form of an interactive iBook using iBooks author. My published proposal included videos created in iMovie and interactive widgets involving images and Keynotes to navigate through content. This provided a way for my administrators to receive content in a way that I would present it to my students and to consider what students can create using iPads.

Consider using your proposal to showcase how the technology would transform your instruction.

Try to get some face time with your administrators to share your proposal.

After I had my proposal published I sat down with the director of technology and our assistant superintendent to share what I had prepared.

This step may be a little tricky to pull off, but it will be very powerful to share your proposal in person. This way you can communicate your passion and vision and show them first hand what is possible. If you are able, take one of the devices with you. I asked my technology department if I could borrow two iPads for my presentation. During my presentation I introduced my assistant superintendent to augmented reality with the app JigSpace. Her mind was completely blown and she bought in to what I was proposing.

Stay persistent.

If you don’t get the technology you are asking for the first time you ask for it, don’t give up. Stay passionate, stay persistent, keep fighting the good fight. Your students will love you for it and you’ll make the world a better place in the long run.

How did I get here? My journey to the art room.

I’ll be real honest.

I don’t have a degree in art.

So, how did I get here?

Sit down. I’ll start from the beginning.

Growing up I was the kid who was painting, drawing, or building something at the kitchen counter while the rest of my family was watching a movie in the living room. I had my spot at the bar in our little kitchen. My mom always kept the drawer and cabinet at my spot fully stocked with art making supplies. She never once got upset with me or my messes. And messes are what I make best, y’all. My artwork still covers the walls of my dad’s office. I don’t think I’ve ever given him a piece of artwork that he hasn’t displayed. And once they are displayed (hung on the wood paneling with a push pin) they never come down.

I don’t come from a family of artists. No one else was making art with me, but I didn’t care. I grew up in rural Arkansas. I wasn’t taken to art museums when I was a child. There weren’t even art museums in Arkansas at the time, and we didn’t do a whole lot of traveling. It didn’t matter. It was like there was something inside me that needed to create in order to feel complete or balanced.

My elementary school didn’t offer art as a specials class, so my first school experience with art was in junior high school. Enter one of my life’s biggest champions, my junior high art teacher. Everything I know about art I learned from this woman. I soaked it up and loved every single moment of my time in her class. I even stayed in her classroom for hours after school to work on ceramics projects and to learn how the kiln worked. I will forever be thankful for this incredible educator and the time she spent with me.

Neither of my parents attended school at a university or have college degrees. They have made an incredible life for themselves from hard work and determination. Being a first generation college student, I felt a huge amount of pressure to not screw up the whole college thing. So, when my parents voiced concern about a degree in art, I listened to their wisdom and got a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

But sometimes I would walk down the hallways of the fine arts building really slowly to overhear what the art teachers were saying. I’ve never wanted anything in my life like I wanted to sit in on one of those classes. Figure drawing, ceramics, graphic design. Those are the classes dreams are made of.

I graduated in the spring of 2005 and immediately went to work in a public school. I continued to be a classroom teacher for 13 years. I never stopped making art. I never stopped creating. I would sneak art lessons into my daily instruction in my elementary classrooms. I was named district teacher of the year of the Bryant School District for my innovative art integrated instructional methods. I ended up taking the praxis exam to add art education to my teaching license and waited for a position to open. When I heard there would be a new elementary school in our district, I immediately started preparing to apply. I didn’t know if a principal would hire me for that position or not, but I had to give it my best shot.

I went into my interview broken out in hives and sweating profusely. This was my make it or break it moment. I needed this. The interview was supposed to last 30 minutes. I accidentally talked about art for an hour and a half.

I had to wait an aching six weeks before I knew if I got the job or not. When I finally got word that I would in fact finally be an art teacher, I cried the ugliest of cries and that little girl inside me, the one drawing at the kitchen counter, got up and did the happiest of dances. Moments like this, moments when we realize our life path is taking a huge turn, our dreams are becoming realities, they take our breath away.

And moments like these don’t happen on their own. No one ever gets anywhere without a little help from others. I will forever be grateful for my parents always doing their best to give me what I needed. For my junior high art teacher who gave me my first taste of art education, and for my current principal who took a chance on me by hiring me to be her art teacher.

I don’t have a degree in art. And I think I’m ok with that.

Our degrees don’t define us. What we believe in, our passions, and what we are doing about them; that’s what defines us.