Monday, July 27, 2015

Getting Started on Artsonia

As I prepare to set up Artsonia from scratch at my new school, I thought I'd share some tips I learned over the past 6 years that helped streamline the process.

If you are unfamiliar with Artsonia, it is an online kids' art museum that works really well to keep digital portfolios or artwork and artist statements, connects students and their family members to your school's art program, and can be a great fundraising tool. Did I mention it's free to use? Artsonia also really seems to care about user feedback and they've used it to launch new features in recent years, including an app for smart devices that saves a lot of time.

Step 1: Create & Set Up Account
Go to and click create new account.
Follow the steps to search for and select your school, then enter your information.
If you are the first person to start an Artsonia account for your school, they will fax a verification code to the school that you need to enter.
After you are verified, you can fill out the information about the teacher and customize the welcome message that viewers see at the top of your gallery.

Step 2: Set up Rosters
The first year I used Artsonia, I printed and sent home a letter and permission form I got from Artsonia and manually entered each and every student name and parent email address that I received.
Eventually, I learned that an Artsonia employee will upload a spreadsheet for you that includes each student's name, grade, parent email(s), and class if you just send it to them. They've always gotten my spreadsheets added in about a day and it is SO handy. When you enter a parent's email address, Artsonia will send them an email inviting them to create a parent account. The other option is to print off the permission forms to send home with students that give parents a code to enter to link their account to the student's.
If a parent does not give permission for their student to participate in Artsonia, you can still upload their work but it will only be visible to you. That way you can still use it for your records and assessments.

TIP: Last year I got a ton of parents to register through the Artsonia email and then I waited until the parent teacher conferences at the end of the first 9 weeks to print off the permission slips. I asked the teachers in my building to hand out the form during their conference so I could be sure the parent really saw it and the slip didn't just get lost in a backpack by sending it home with the student.

More About Rosters
Before the beginning of each new school year, Artsonia will "graduate" your students to the next grade level. I used to teach in two buildings- a primary school that fed into my intermediate school- so I would ask Artsonia to move my 3rd graders from one building into 4th grade at the next. This feature is really nice for two reasons.
1st, if a student uses Artsonia, it is really easy to look back and see their work from previous grades. It would be possible to have a comprehensive portfolio of all of their artwork from PreK-12th grade!
2nd, if you teach multiple grades, you only have to enter information for your youngest grade and new students each year. Everyone else should already be there.

Step 3: Upload Art
After you have everything set up and your students have finished some work, it's time to photograph it. You can either photograph the work with a digital camera or scan it and upload through iPhoto or directly into Artsonia, or you can use an app on a smart device. I found that using the Artsonia app saves a bunch of time. You can do each piece individually or in batches. If I had the students's names visible, I preferred to use the batch setting. I could use my phone during my plan to photograph all the artwork for an exhibit (all the work from a particular lesson, a certain medium, however you want to organize it) at one time at school and then wait to actually publish the photos until later. If you have an iPad or tablet in your classroom, you can also have students publish their own work using the app.

TIP: My 2nd graders and up did a pretty good job photographing their work after I taught them how to do it. And reviewed how to do it. And reminded a couple more times. I tried to find a well lit spot on the floor and asked students to put 2D artwork there. It seemed to be easier for the younger students to get the tablet's camera parallel with the work than if it was on the table. You will get a much better photo if the camera is parallel to the artwork. I also let a student who was really good at it be a helper for students who hadn't uploaded before.

After the artwork is photographed, it can be cropped in the app along with basic editing. You select the students' name and have the option of entering a title and artist statement. You can also have students enter their artist statements at a later time.

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