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Bettie Lake: Building a Home for Art Teachers on the Internet

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Of all of the usual school subjects, art might be considered one of the least compatible with computers and the Internet. Not so! Students can create art with their computers and experience virtual galleries they might never access in person, and teachers can communicate via the Net to exchange ideas and show off their students' work. Bettie Lake is one art teacher who built a Web site for educators who are looking for a guide to art resources on the Web.

Editor's note: With this story, Education World continues this month's focus on arts in the schools. If you missed our special issue a couple weeks ago, be sure to check out great art lessons that can be done without breaking the bank in Art on a Shoestring and art teacher Pete Sotelo's call for art teachers who would like to share ideas in WANTED: Art Teachers Willing to Share!

The Herrera School for the Fine Arts in Phoenix, Arizona, has a unique art teacher on its staff who has set up a virtual faculty room for educators on the Net. And the subject of discussion is art!

Bettie Lake began working with computers in her classroom 16 years ago, and she has found them to be an invaluable tool for herself and her students. As Webmaster of The Art Teacher Connection, Lake helps other teachers locate lesson plans, find art resources on the Web, and share their classroom gems.

"The computer is a tool every artist needs to learn to use," said Lake. "There was a time when that statement was the beginning of a heated argument, but now I think we are moving closer to understanding the truth of it. My entire career has been focused on helping other art educators become computer literate so they could train their students to use this technology creatively."

MONET BY MODEM?

Monet by modem? Lake says yes!

"The Internet has allowed me and my students access to resources I would never be able to afford on the budget given to me by my district," she told Education World. "It has truly torn down the walls of my classroom. My students and I can view exhibits from most of the major museums in the world and hear the comments of the curators. We can talk to other students and art educators anywhere in the world, and we can share our art with them. Research and art history have become easier to teach because of the Internet."

From teaching in an Indian settlement in Iowa to instructing students in rural and inner city schools, Lake has experienced the difficulties of teaching without luxury. In her current assignment, she serves as an art teacher in an inner city school in Phoenix. She has found that incorporating computers, and the Internet, into her curriculum offers great motivation for her students.

THE ART TEACHER CONNECTION

Creating a Web site was a logical extension for Lake, who was impressed with the material that she found on the Internet.

"Once I realized the potential the Internet had to change art education, I began to think about how I could encourage other art educators to go on-line," Lake explained. "Many teachers I talked with didn't think the Web had anything they could use in the art classroom. Besides, many said, they didn't have the time to do all the searching it would take to find worthwhile information. So I decided I would create a site that would lead them to what they could use."

The Art Teacher Connection is the result!

Anne Armstrong of Ursula Frayne Catholic College, a K-12 school in Perth, Australia, is a teacher who has used The Art Teacher Connection: "I was searching for material on Japanese art for a Web site on Japan for [sixth-grade] students," explained Armstrong. She included the resources she found on a page she created for her students, The Japan Cyberpedia.

Although her initial reason for visiting Lake's site was simply to gather links, Armstrong found the site stimulating. "I thought [The Art Teacher Connection] was well organized, was visually appealing, and had great ideas for the classroom."

Lake's goal is to provide a portal to the best sites on the Web for art teachers and students and to help teachers change their teaching styles to one that is student based and content integrated.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

Certain portions of The Art Teacher Connection might prove especially helpful to the classroom teacher, says Bettie Lake.

"The Lesson Connection Links page offers many links to themes often covered in the school curriculum, such as art and math, ancient cultures, and art and science," Lake said.

"The most rewarding part of the site," Lakes added, "is the Teacher Links page, which allows visitors to ask questions or request ideas from other readers. New teachers, student teachers, and classroom teachers have the opportunity to hear an answer from other art teachers in the field. Many e-mail exchanges start from this page. When a classroom teacher suddenly finds out she has to teach art, this page offers her access to expert teachers who are ready to help."

With the trend toward integration of the arts into regular classroom experiences, Lake has provided suggested means for teachers to do so without sacrificing true "art." Several of her recommended activities list corresponding National Art Standards and ways of incorporating the Internet. She feels that such lessons are important for classroom teachers who may need guidance in teaching what she calls the "inquiry and context part of the discipline."

FOUR FABULOUS RESOURCES

Bettie Lake has found some wonderful art resources on the Web through her own searching. She recommends four other sites for teachers who are looking for lesson sources or for ways to connect with other educators.

  • ArtsEdNet is a resource for arts educators from the Getty Education Institute for the Arts. It contains a superior collection of K-12 lesson plans and curriculum ideas as well as a listing of images of works of art pictured on the site. On-line discussions among art educators are included. If you are looking for ways of bringing art into your classroom or for reasons the arts should be supported, this Web site is perfect for you!

  • Art lessons galore can be found at The Incredible Art Department! This resource provides a listing of art jobs, shows off the activities in art classrooms, and tells you what is in the news of the art world. Because the lessons contained come from actual art teachers, you can be sure they work well. The extensive list of activities is sure to include just what you need to complement your current units.

  • You and your students may explore the arts on-line with ArtsNet Minnesota. Gathering resources from three Minnesota museums, the Web site presents art learning experiences for students that fall into four themes: Identity, Environment, Inner Worlds, and What Is Art? Teachers will find lesson plans, activities, discussion questions, vocabulary words, and interdisciplinary lesson activities. Thirty-six artworks from the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum are included.

  • Another offering from Bettie Lake, Japan: Resources for a Visual Arts Theme Unit is a terrific place to begin a study of Japanese art. The unit includes crafts and lessons and focuses on the topics of Japanese shrines, castles, theater, calligraphy, and temples. Your students will also learn about the system of education in Japan. Study Japan from a unique perspective-with an eye toward art!

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