Win, lose or draw: How my summer art instructor kept me engaged during distance learning


Elijah Jhee

This is the optical color wheel rising senior Elijah Jhee submitted for one of his assignments in his summer Drawing and Painting class. For the first time in Sunny Hills history, summer school sessions were held online.

The most important item for my summer school art class at Sunny Hills wasn’t a paintbrush or a charcoal pencil.
It was my school-issued chromebook.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, all summer school classes in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District — including my eight-week Drawing and Painting course — were held online, following the distance learning measure that campuses nationwide resorted to at the end of the spring semester.
Rather than spending the summer in a classroom full of art supplies and a teacher ready to demonstrate drawing and painting techniques, I had to pick up all of the materials from school on the first day of class and rely on Google Meet and Google Classroom for instructions for assignments.
Although half of the past school year had been moved online, the idea of taking a subject like Drawing and Painting from home sounded impossible.
How could I submit work? How would I know if I was drawing something correctly? What if I needed help when the teacher wasn’t available? How would the teacher really know whether it was me who completed an assignment instead of someone else in my family?
Combine these concerns with my not-so exceptional art skills, and that led to a very daunting summer school experience.
Despite my initial concerns, my teacher, Fernando Perez — just a summer session fill-in at Sunny Hills — definitely made the class an engaging experience despite some of the difficulties that other instructors may have had with online learning during the regular school year.
And as the upcoming school year begins with virtual learning, educators should consider some of the techniques that my teacher used.
One of the most impactful methods that Perez utilized was his live drawings and paintings through Google Meet, which I accessed using my chromebook.
By illustrating a painting on a canvas from scratch and allowing his students to view the process, he made it much easier for me to understand each of the steps of his assignment. I would not have paid much attention had Perez recorded his work using a program like Screencastify.
Another element of virtual learning that teachers should take into consideration is the importance of immediate feedback on student assignments. For every assignment I submitted to Google Classroom using my chromebook, Perez would return it with a brief comment stressing the things that I did particularly well and highlighting areas that needed improvement. He delivered the message through a private commenting system that Google Classroom has in which teachers can directly send personalized messages to returned student assignments.
In addition to the live virtual instruction, a helpful online tool that Perez incorporated into his class was pre-recorded videos. Whether it be content from YouTube or anything created by teachers, videos offer an extra form of information after live sessions that was useful for me whenever I needed extra assistance on certain assignments.
For example, while completing work on color theory, my teacher included a YouTube video that explained the basic principles of the subject to act as an extra form of guidance for the lesson. Even if I still had questions about an assignment after attending an online meeting, I felt the security to know that I could watch something whenever I wasn’t sure about a concept related to my task.
Of course, such videos shouldn’t showcase an entire drawing from start to finish as for this could possibly backfire and result in far less student engagement.
Although Perez had definitely integrated some great methods of teaching art virtually, I noticed one crucial drawback to his method of online teaching that persistently popped up in my mind throughout that summer session: How could he combat plagiarism?
With the exception of our 45-minute meetings, students had complete freedom to work on and submit his assignments whenever they wanted. It was a system in which students could participate in the meeting in the morning, but then complete the assignments at night without his supervision — something I’m sure would not happen in a live classroom environment.
What could stop me or one of my peers from simply asking a sibling to complete an assignment during that free period of time?
Based on what I’ve considered after participating in my art teacher’s meetings, the most foolproof method to combat this is through timed, facecam-required meetings in which the assignment would be due at the end of the session. By doing so, teachers can ensure that students are not receiving any outside help by both viewing their webcam and creating a time limit so that assignments are turned in while the teacher is watching.
Even if Perez had not implemented such a system into his class, I feel that teachers should learn from summer school classes and consider timed-webcam meetings as the new school year approaches.
Despite the initial doubts I had toward the class, Drawing and Painting has definitely educated me on a subject that I had little experience in. I definitely had a paradigm shift about the appeal of art and now clearly understand how much pride and passion artists have toward their work.
Even though I had lacked the in-person guidance of a teacher while producing my artwork, the online class has impacted me enough to the point that watercolor painting could become a new hobby for me.
And I would no longer need my chromebook to accomplish that.