The Art of…

Following an exploration of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) and the Peer to Peer University ( this week, I have created my own mini online learning experience, an Ultra-Micro MOOC as it were. The model for my UM-MOOC is the widely known and highly respected DS106. (I highly recommend checking it out if you are not already familiar with it.)

In my “The Art of…” course my peers will practice digital image editing, audio file creation, animated GIF creation, and video editing by exploring creative expression through seven school-subject based projects and through collaboration with and review by peers.

3180236074_608666c955_qCourse Topic: Exploring creative expression

Course Title: The Art of…

Who is coming to your course? Students from high school through adulthood interested in exploring their creative side make up the target audience for this course.

What will attract them? A desire to stretch their creative muscles in a structured environment with like-minded peers.

Why would they want to participate in this experience? Creativity, like any skill, takes practice. Taking a course like The Art of… offers people an opportunity not only to practice their creativity but to do so in a collaborative setting and allowing for peer review. It creates an environment where risk-taking can be encouraged and even failure is accepted.

What do you want learners to be able to do when they are done? Students completing The Art of… will increase their skills using digital tools to manipulate images, sounds and video. But the true goal of the course is to enable students to open their minds to new ways of looking at things, to view the world through “art colored” glasses as it were and to expand their creative consciousness. We begin to think more creatively by acting more creatively. The Art of.. is designed to get students acting creatively. By working on projects in the course, students will be constructing or at least expanding their own creative vocabulary in a discovery learning environment.

The course is designed to run over a period of 8 weeks, one for each of the first six lessons and two weeks for the final lesson. No specific tutorials are offered for learning the skills required each week. Rather, students are encouraged to use the internet to seek out such opportunities via YouTube, online forums, and even free tutorials offered by vendors. The aforementioned DS106 Tools website is an excellent resource for finding out how to accomplish many of the tasks students will want to pursue.

What will peers make? Below are the seven assignments comprising The Art of…

Math – They say math is everywhere. So prove it. Create a collage of photos/images representing the numbers 1 to 10. (It should include at least 10 images but may contain more.) Explore creative alternative methods of representing numbers in your images: words, numerals, objects, etc. (Extra bonus points for coming up with your own et cetera.) Create the collage using a digital image editing package (such as Photoshop if you have access or The GIMP if you need something free) that allows you to create and manipulate layers. Each image gets its own layer for easier manipulation. Experiment with placement of the images beyond the standard one through ten positioning. Can you tell a visual story with your number images? Have a peer review your collage and identify the images belonging to the numbers 1-10.

Science – Humans communicate with sound (words), as do most animals. But who speaks for the inanimate around us? You do! Select an inanimate object, pretend it is now alive and needs to communicate with others of its specie. Record the sounds that your newly animated object makes

1.) when it is happy,

2.) when it wants to scare off a predator,

3.) when it wants to attract a mate and

4.) when it is hungry

into 4 separate audio files. Write descriptions from a naturalist’s viewpoint about why each sound indicates a corresponding feeling. Have two peers attempt to match the descriptions with the sounds.

Language Arts – Brevity is the soul of wit. As well as at the heart of this creative challenge. Create a six word story (a la Ernest Hemingway) with a strong emotional theme in a particular direction, e.g., happy or scary or brave. After swapping stories with a peer, write a six word sequel for your peer’s story in the complete opposite emotional direction.

Social Studies – Create an animated GIF of a social convention such as a handshake, a hug, a kiss, a wink, a nod, a tip of the hat, a wave good-bye, etc. Bonus points for multiple animated zones in the same GIF. Collaborate with three peers to create a 4 panel animated GIF comic strip that tells a story in which each peer contributes 1 animated GIF to the strip.

Physical Education – Create a piece of art using large bodily movements: e.g., an open shutter light painting, a sand or snow angel, throwing paint at a canvas.

Music – Collaborate with two other peers to create a found sound musical composition and recording. Make sure your composition has both a “verse” and a “refrain.” Note: lyrics/words are not required, just the “music.” A minimum of 3 different found sounds should be used in your composition, but an orchestra of found sound is welcome. Originality of the composition is not required, i.e., creating a found sound cover of Mary Had a Little Lamb is acceptable.

Art – Create either a remix or a curation of the previous six projects using video editing software of your choice such as iMovie or PopcornMaker or Magisto or even using presentation software like Keynote, PowerPoint or Prezi. Present the final product for peer review.

How do those activities hang together as a course?

The seven activities in The Art of… are designed to be a structured opportunity for students to play with creative ideas in fun and interesting ways. By allowing students to explore creative expression through a variety of methods (graphics, text, audio, video), The Art of… takes into account Howard Gardner’s theories on Multiple Intelligences. By offering structured yet still somewhat open-ended objectives in the activities, The Art of… builds on constructivist learning theories allowing students to develop their own understandings of creativity and the creative process. Perhaps most interesting about the structure of The Art of… is how it aligns with the exemplary learning environments described in an E.P. Clapp review of Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators, a book about designing educational experiences which cultivate innovation and creativity. According to Clapp, Wagner describes institutions that place “an emphasis on collaborative, multidisciplinary, trial-and-error-oriented learning that focuses its pedagogy on creating over consuming stemming from intrinsic over extrinsic motivating factors” (Clapp, 2013, para. 6) as excellent places for fostering innovation. Those same characteristics: collaborative, multidisciplinary, experimental, creative and intrinsically motivating are precisely what I attempted to design into my UM-MOOC, The Art of…

How will peers help each other in your course?

Collaboration and peer review are the two primary ways in which peers will help one another in The Art of…

The process of exploring and outlining my UM-MOOC has given me an increased respect for those who create online learning environments. Moreover, it has fueled my desire to go out and do something creative.


Clapp, E. P. (2013). Creating innovators: The making of young people who will change the world. Harvard Educational Review, 83(3), 532-534. Retrieved from

Goble, F. (Photographer). (2009). Light my path [Photograph], Retrieved October 6, 2013, from:

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