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Stretching the Studio: Using Distance Resources Asynchronously to Extend the Art Classroom

Module by: Jennifer Harris Edstrom. E-mail the author

Summary: This project examines how distance resources can be used to extend limited classroom time for art educators. Through the use of an established blog system, students participate in online discussions, assignments, and virtual field trips that enrich their art studio experiences in class. By using an established blog system, students will have the opportunity to participate in extended reflection, discussion and exploration of art history and studio art technique outside the confines of the studio art classroom. In addition, through virtual screencast field trips, students will have access to the finest examples of artwork, rather than the lesser works found locally.


This project is designed for a middle school studio art classroom in the state of California. This class meets four times a week for 45 minutes per session. The school has a 1:1 laptop program for all middle school students and each student has a blog account in which all homework assignments, discussions and projects of interest are posted.


Students will observe and learn asynchronously about art techniques from art history examples using the instructor’s blog discussions, virtual screencast field trips and assignments.

Rationale for Project

The state of California, and indeed most states, requires that students do more than simply create in a studio art classroom. In California, arts education is divided into five categories:

  1. Artistic Perception
  2. Creative Expression
  3. Historical and Cultural Context
  4. Aesthetic Valuing
  5. Connections, Relationships and Applications

In the studio art classroom, creative expression prevails; students are provided many experiences that allow them to acquire skills and techniques in a variety of art mediums. However, due to growing budget constraints, studio art classroom time and resources for field trips and guest artists become more and more limited every year.

Art educators must become increasingly flexible when looking for ways to extend their classrooms. Distance resources become an interesting and viable option for creating a virtual classroom in which artistic perception, historical and cultural context, aesthetic valuing and connections, relationships and applications can be explored, leaving precious face-to-face studio time for the creation of art. By establishing blog systems, art educators can increase the amount of the analysis, critique, exploration, discussion and history of art by moving many of these experiences into an online classroom.

Project Description

In order to create a snapshot of how this type of online blog system could be used to extend the art classroom, this project examines one lesson from an integrated humanities unit on the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and how the online learning environment can augment and improve the quality of instruction.


By participating in this project’s online experience, students will meet the following California state visual arts standards:

Artistic Perception:

1.1 Describe the environment and selected works of art, using the elements of art and the principles of design.

1.3 Identify and describe the ways in which artists convey the illusion of space (e.g. placement, overlapping, relative size, atmospheric perspective, and linear perspective).

Historical and Cultural Context:

3.1 Research and describe how art reflects cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.

Aesthetic Valuing

4.2 Analyze the form (how a work of art looks) and content (what a work of art communicates) of works of art.

4.4 Develop and apply specific and appropriate criteria individually or in groups to assess and critique works of art.


Prior to the online blog post, a virtual field trip was created using screencast technology, Jing ( The field trip used Google Earth to “travel” from San Diego, CA to Florence, Italy. Once there, a historical context was provided about the Early Italian Renaissance and the Uffizi Gallery. Then, using the Google Art Project (, students were led through a guided lecture comparing Cimabue and Giotto’s use of value and color transition along with egg tempera techniques to create greater realism and depth. After creating the screencast, a blog post was written that shared the link for the screencast with students.

Student Experience

In order to participate in the online classroom experience, students are asked to:

1. login to their account and access the instructor’s blog (

2. read the most current blog post.

3. take a virtual field trip that uses screencast technology to visit Florence, Italy and the Uffizi Gallery.

4. listen to a virtual lecture using analogous examples (Cimabue and Giotto) to demonstrate egg tempera technique.

5. analyze art from the Early Italian Renaissance and examine its role in promoting Christianity.

6. compare and contrast the works of Cimabue and Giotto and their use of egg tempera medium.

7. transfer their understanding of value and color transition while finding another example of artwork with a similar use of color transition.

8. transfer knowledge learned form observation and critique of exemplar works to their own studio experience.


Students will be assessed using the following informal and informal assessments, prior to the next class session:


The instructor will assess whether or not the student was able to find another example of artwork that demonstrated similar use of value and color transition.


The instructor will assess whether the student was able to provide accurate and complete answers to the three answers on the blog post.

See APPENDIX A for exemplar answers to blog questions.

Evidence Supporting the Project

How does learning occur?

Transfer to future applications can sometimes be elusive to students, especially when learning in a highly-contextualized situation (Son & Goldstone, 2009). In this project, students are learning about color transition and its role in creating depth in space in a contextualized fashion. However, research has found that analogical encoding, or the presentation of two side-by-side analogous cases, may help students with the ability to transfer the learning to future applications (Gentner, Loewenstein & Thompson, 2003). In the case of this particular lesson, students are provided with a virtual observation of two analogous applications of the egg tempera medium and color transition. Through instruction, students can observe the relative effectiveness of each of these artists’ renderings of these techniques. Once students have learned through the observation of these two analogous cases, they will have the opportunity to transfer this knowledge in two ways: students will first apply what they have learned by identifying a comparable artwork via their own explorations and then will use the lessons of technique and color transfer in their own artwork.

There is significant evidence that students learn best when they are provided with the opportunity to explain what they have learned in their own words (Chi, De Leeuw, Chiu & Lavancher, 1994). In this project, students benefit from this positive self-explanation effect by answering questions that require them to put the information presented in the virtual field trip in their own words. Through this self-explanation, the ideas of cross-hatch blending, value transition and the creation of the illusion of space are explored. Later, in the studio setting, students will have the opportunity to practice these techniques and explore how they are used in a practical setting, a constructivist practice.

In what environment can technology promote learning?

This project was designed for a school in which technology is a priority. Students participate in a 1:1 laptop program; however this is not essential for the success of this project. In fact, one of the advantages of using a blog system rather than having students access software programs is its accessibility to most learners. Students who have access to an internet connection and either simple computer or smartphone—technology found in most schools today— can benefit from this type of online classroom environment. The blog system through is free for users and readily available to all students.

What is the process by which technology enhances learning?

Blogs by their interactive nature can foster discussion and peer explanation. In addition to the benefits of explanation discussed above, students can provide clarification, insights and important reflection. Hall & Davison (2007) found that using blogs as an aspect of a learning module can foster encouragement between students and also create informal peer-tutoring scenarios in which students can help correct misconceptions and provide clarification when needed. In this online classroom, the blog system easily facilitates this type of peer-to-peer interaction and in turn provides greater learning opportunities.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of technology in the art classroom is the place and time independence that it affords. Both Harasim (2000) and Bonk (2009) highlight these two qualities of online education as ones that make it desirable for learning. Indeed, there are many advantages to a student having the opportunity to view the greatest works in the world rather than viewing lesser works that happen to be available in the geographic area. Likewise, students have the opportunity to peruse these works at their leisure and from the comfort of their own home, rather than in the classroom environment where an art program’s limited minutes are ticking away. They are able to think about the art, search for comparable examples of techniques demonstrated, and formulate opinions, reflections and questions for their peers.

By providing more thoughtful peer-to-peer and student-teacher interactions, using blog systems such as the one outlined in this project can facilitate greater discussion and reflection on art. When coupled with the many advantages of time and geographic independence afforded by using blog systems to create online classroom experiences, the scheduling, budgetary and resource limitations that instructors may experience are lessened. Without those constraints, the possibilities for the art studio classroom become endless.


Bonk, C. J. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education., San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Chi, M. T. H., De Leeuw, N., Chiu, M.-H., & Lavancher, C. (1994). Eliciting self-explanations improves understanding.Cognitive Science, 18(3), 439-477.

Gentner, D., Loewenstein, J., & Thompson, L. (2003). Learning and transfer: A general role for analogical encoding. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(2), 393-405.

Hall, H., & Davison, B. (2007). Social software as support in hybrid learning environments: The value of the blog as a tool for reflective learning and peer support. Library Information Science Research, 29(2), 163-187. Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2007.04.007.

Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens: online education as a new paradigm in learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 3(1-2), 41-61.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence- based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Structure. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://

Overby, A. (2009). The new conversation: Using weblogs for reflective practice in the studio art classroom. Art Education, 62(4), 18-24.

Son, J. Y., & Goldstone, R. L. (2009). Contextualization in perspective. Cognition and Instruction, 27(1), 51-89.

Appendix A

Exemplar Answers to Questions:

1) What were three reasons that artists created artwork for churches during this time period?

Exemplar: Artists created works for churches for three reasons. Religious artwork was designed to help teach religious ideas to those that could not read. They also were used to serve as a memory tool, since an image was believed to be easier to remember than text. In addition, they were designed to more devotion in churchgoers.

2) What was Giotto’s major accomplishment with egg tempera?

Exemplar: Giotto’s major accomplishment with egg tempera was to create bodies that were more realistic and three-dimensional in feeling. Using egg tempera, Giotto created human bodies and space that actually gave the illusion of depth.

3) Describe the egg tempera painting technique used by Giotto and Cimabue?

Exemplar: Both Giotto and Cimabue applied egg tempera in tiny hatched brushstrokes that blended color from light to dark and dark to light. This transition in value created the illusion of depth of space and three-dimensionality.

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