Minot State professor works through challenges with online art classes
The pandemic has affected everything and everyone in one way or another. Minot State University had to send all of its students back to their homes, including those from Canada. One of the subjects significantly affected was the art department, and Micah Bloom explained the difficulty of moving studio art classes from the studio to his students via video conference.
He taught five studio classes this past spring semester. The students were on spring break when they got the message they could not return to campus for the rest of the semester. It caused many problems for them, especially the art students who left their art supplies on campus and could not retrieve them.
“They are spread across the country now because we went into spring break with a ‘see you in a week’ to the present reality of ‘maybe never see you again,'” Bloom said.
He had to mail art supplies to his students so they had what they needed for their assignments.
“This worked well for all but my Canadian students. I had sent a supply box to Boissevain, Manitoba, and it cost $50 and took 30 days!” he said.
His guess was the Canadian Post wanted to quarantine the package to make sure there wasn’t a chance for the coronavirus to spread.
Some of the questions Bloom had to ask himself about moving to online classes were: “How do you translate hands-on art experiences into the virtual realm and still hold the attention of your students?”; “What are the tips and tricks of online instructors?”; “What platforms and formats work best?”
He had to learn about synchronous video conferencing, online discussion forums and online quizzes. It was a lot for him to take in, as he had never taught online classes. When he was having some difficulty, students with prior online class experience helped him out and kept the classes rolling.
Stuck in quarantine and discouraged from going outside, students were physically and emotionally drained. To try to counter some of the negativity, Bloom wrote a song called “Wicked Corona” and performed it on his piano. He then posted it to his YouTube channel for his students to see.
“It uses humor to get at the inconveniences of not being able to live a ‘normal’ life, or get toilet paper,” he said.
For another uplifting video, he used his daughter’s ukulele to sing a song for the art major graduates.
“There’s definitely anticipation that builds to graduation,” Bloom said, “and since we can’t be together to celebrate, I thought that the students deserved something special.”
His daughters did a lot of the puppet work in his other videos, turning one into a love story. It’s called “Can’t Critique a Batik” and was written for his art methods for elementary education class that was making batiks for class. Batiks are pieces of cloth that are designed and colored with wax and dye.
“I thought if I made a silly, nonsensical song, it might help get them motivated,” Bloom said. “(My daughters) did most of all the puppets, and as we were filming, the older girls wanted to make the video into a love story, so alas, it got sillier still.”
Making the silly musical videos was fun for him and he had the chance to learn something new. The creative solutions he found keeping him interested in continuing to do it.
In response to the stress and emotional distress, Bloom said he lowered his expectations for his students and extended the deadlines for the projects. He called it “COVID Grace.” Both he and his students struggled, feeling stressed and drained, which he kept in mind when considering academic expectations.
One of his Canadian students, Quinn Billaney, said it took two-and-a-half weeks to get the supplies that Bloom shipped to her.
“He was very helpful and told me not to stress about getting stuff done on time. When it comes, it’ll come and we’ll go from there,” Billaney said. “That was the most stressful of it all.”
Mackenzie Froehlich is also from Canada, saying, “Living in Canada, he also found a way to get me the art supplies that I would need to finish off the semester, which was helpful and greatly appreciated.”
Overall, Bloom said his students did well, considering the circumstances. To make classes bearable, he added in some fun things. One of them was having the students run around the house and go back to their computers wearing a “fun hat.” He created his own hip-hop beat and made a video using puppets to discuss the visual art education standards.
“I was delighted in a following class when I asked students to recall the lecture, and one student quoted content from the hip-hop song,” he said.
The students had to use the immediately available resources. A lot of them experimented with new media. He also mentioned one student who used 100 glow sticks to create wearable art.
“That probably wouldn’t have happened if not locked up at home,” he said.
Bloom and his students adapted well enough to get through the semester.
“All in all, during this pandemic, I learned that I had to care for and about my students in a new way. By using some creative approaches, I was able to break through some some of the barriers created by a little virus: a big distance and a sudden isolation,” he said.
A Song for Our Art Graduates – 2020:
Can’t Critique a Batik: