Design Process Thinking: Mind Mapping

Last week, grade 11 art students began exploring their first major task:  #Canada150.  We devoted a few days to exploration:  looking through each of the artists’ sites and artworks, discussing their significance as well as our topic.  I wanted to use Design Process Thinking to guide our work because of its usefulness in TAB-based classrooms, and because Melissa Purtee had simplified the process so nicely.

Now, on to the fun part:  Step 2.  Time for Design!

Fate seemed to work in our favour, because Clara Lieu shared an October challenge called #ArtProfDare.  The “dare” is related to her theme of your future self, but she also invited participants to use mind mapping — a tool to help you think about a topic, and to consider multiple sub-topics or perspectives — so I decided to use it with our topic of #Canada150.

Students appreciated how mind mapping fit into Design Process Thinking, and they really enjoyed Clara’s 51 second video, which demonstrated mind mapping in action (with a very helpful explanation).

After discussing how we could use mind mapping with our topic (and sharing a short demo with my class), students began to let their thoughts flow freely…


My heart skipped a beat when Brandi discussed her love of trapping with me; my parents used to own a trapline, so I can’t wait to see where she goes with this!


Dennis has shared such beautiful thinking here ~ his honest questioning along with his connections to the land and older generations are already telling such a unique story…


I am fascinated with Ebony’s topics, and very curious about so many ideas that she shares in her mind map! I feel like this is the beginning of so many rich conversations for us.


I love reading through the mix of natural elements and aspects of Indigenous culture that Hannah has used in her mind map.  It helps to see some beautiful sketches in the corner too🙂


Maya’s mind map is so intriguing; her thoughts flow freely through so many aspects of her life, including her liberal-minded family, expectations and feminism ~ wow!

I wasn’t kidding when I told my students that, like proud parents or grandparents who love boasting about their kids, I love sharing my students’ work.  Their thinking and their creations are absolutely fascinating, especially when they connect their work with their heads and their hearts.

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A Framework for Design

Melissa Purtee wrote a post that intrigued me because of her willingness to discuss a topic that challenges some educators.  The connections formed between motivation, behaviour and cognition were brilliant.  Many times, students possess a level of motivation that allows them to progress through tasks, but it isn’t always this easy.  What I appreciate most is her development of a framework for Design Process Thinking:


There are two main reasons why I am grateful for Melissa’s post:  1) Any time we scaffold the steps required to succeed, we know that our students’ best interests are our priority, and 2) A framework is a handy assessment tool which may help us identify where students need help.  If, for some reason, a student appears unmotivated (such as Emma, the student whose story is told in Melissa’s post), it may simply be that they need extra help in one stage of the Design Process.

I would love to see another diagram: one that specializes on each step of DPT and provides even more scaffolding.  I believe this could help many educators provide open-ended learning opportunities for their students.


In the next task that is planned for my senior art class, I want to spend time breaking down each step of the Design Process (which, thankfully, is quite similar to the Creative Process, available in the Ontario Curriculum for Visual Arts).  The image above is meant to address the Inspiration stage of the Design Process.  Here, I begin by introducing the topic that will help guide our thinking throughout our task.  I ask questions that will spark discussions in class, or will serve to prompt new explorations for students who hadn’t considered these ideas before.

I’m interested to hear from other art educators.  What kind of framework do you use in your classrooms?  Which models help your students the most?  Do you have any suggestions or tips that you would like to share?





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If I hadn’t tried TAB

Today, I introduced an activity to help my senior students notice the differences between lines and values.  I had been sifting through Clara Lieu’s playlist, “How to Draw a Portrait with Charcoal & Cross-Hatching” and thought that Clara’s tip to begin a drawing by coating it in a layer of charcoal was a great idea.  Her reasoning that it took the pressure off was excellent:  a blank white page can indeed be very intimidating!

Alas, most of my students didn’t enjoy the activity.  Of the 12 students who were in class (some were attending a meeting), maybe 2 or 3 admitted that they enjoyed what they were doing and were quite happy to share their work with me.

Did this hurt my feelings?  Did I worry that they might not learn how to use this particular skill?  Did I cringe when I saw some exercises tossed in the garbage bin?


This activity wasn’t accompanied by any sort of evaluation or anxiety.  It was an activity.  A way for students to see what it was like to work with a material.  Without pressure.  Without an expectation that they needed to get better next time.

This was my way to share an option with them, to see how they liked it.  That’s it.  If they like it, great.  Perhaps this may be the start of a new exploration for them; a way to share the way they see things.  Maybe this is a way they can further refine the skills they want to acquire.  But maybe it isn’t.

You know what gave me a sense of peace about the whole experience?  Knowing that one of my students dug up some very thin tree roots this weekend just so that he could strip them of their outer layer and find a way to work with them throughout the semester, connecting him to the land that he loves.  Sharing a conversation with a student who is hoping to use a program to help him learn about architecture.  Exploring how-to videos with a student who is hoping to become a better photographer so we both need to learn more about aperture, ISO and shutter speed.  Sitting next to a student, mesmerized as I watched her practice calligraphy on magazine images because of her passion for literature. Glimpsing at an independent student who rummages for wooden frames and stretches her own canvases so she can continue to paint.

I have a lot of learning ahead of me.  Thankfully most of my students forgive me for my faults while we try to figure out a lot of things together.  Their interests, abilities and hopes are the focus of this year’s curriculum, and I am merely the person helping them as they sort through their thinking, explore their curiosities, share ideas with others and develop as artists.


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Could Doug Actually Change My Mind?

Last week, I wrote a blog post about the need for originality in art, and illustrated my point by judging cover bands.  They were judged a bit harshly, and Doug caught me.  I found out by reading his blog this morning, and I have to admit that he made a good point.  Many good points, actually…  you really need to read what he had to say.

Doug made me do my homework too.  After hearing Bruce Springsteen’s cover of John Fogarty’s Rockin’ All Over the World, I ended up doing some research on YouTube and found the original performance by Fogarty (I hadn’t been familiar with the song at all before this point).  It’s hard to say which artist has done a better job, but maybe that’s because I’m a bit stubborn and might not want to admit defeat quite so easily.

The thing is, after thinking about it, I realized that I do enjoy some cover bands (a green eggs & ham moment, maybe?).  This one is dedicated to Doug.


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Cover Artists

This morning I was watching CTV’s Morning Live (Ottawa) — the best morning show since CTV canceled Canada AM…  but I won’t get into that.  Morning Live shared a short performance by a cover band that pays tribute to the Tragically Hip (one of Canada’s greatest bands).

I am not a fan of cover bands, simply because I prefer to support the original artists.  If the original artists did not create their art, there would be no art for the cover bands to …cover.  I feel the same way about impersonators.  Sorry to the fans of cover bands and impersonators, I’m sure there are some fabulous Elvis performers who are spectacular.  They’re just not my thing.

The thing is, if we teach students to produce art in the style of a famous artist, are we not encouraging them to become nothing more than cover artists?  Mimicry has its limits, and I doubt that anyone who wants to develop artists with integrity would challenge them to become skillful impersonators.  Skillful, yes.  Cover artists have developed skill.  Some artists have developed so much skill that they can even make you question the legitimacy of an original artwork to their own.  There is also the consideration of plagiarism and copyright…

So, rather than developing skillful forgers, consider what artists must do to develop into the historical and contemporary figures we admire today.  What inspired them?  What challenges did they face?  How did they continue to pursue their curiosity and their passion?  How did they evolve?

The art we see today is simply the result of their creative processes.  Let us esteem their creative processes while celebrating their art, and encourage our students to begin their own journeys too.  Get to know your students; their interests, their questions, even their dislikes.  Help them respond to the world around them in their own way, one that respects others while maintaining and developing their character.




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Inspired by Amy

I wanted to give a shout-out to Amy Burvall.  She is easily one of the most creative educators I know… and I’ve never even met her (yet).  She can’t seem to help it; creativity oozes from her in multiple forms:  Instagram images, blog posts, artwork created on Paper by 53, YouTube videos… the list is endless, thank God.

Her digital sketches influenced some of my own work, most notably this image, which was created in response to the Orlando massacre:

#LoveIsLove Inspired by #AmyBurvall #Orlando #OrlandoUnited

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on


Amy has used the symbol of a tear drop to create a number of beautiful artworks:



A photo posted by Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) on

#paris #parisstrong #parisattacks

A photo posted by Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) on


So, I guess I just wanted to make sure to give credit where credit was due.  Austin Kleon encourages us to steal like an artist, and I love appropriation, but I also love respecting the original thoughts & creations of artists. Thanks Amy🙂








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The Learning Environment: Time for a Change?

Today was my last day of work.  As I prepared to leave my room for a lovely summer break, I took a few pictures for a couple of reasons:  1) I wanted to capture the image of my super-shiny, clean room & post it on Instagram, and 2) I wanted to get some advice from other teachers, especially those who have experience in a TAB classroom.

Next year, Lindsay, Stephen and I are beginning our TLLP journey together, and part of the journey involves assessing and restructuring our classrooms.  I can’t think of a better time to take stock of my learning environment, get advice and begin to plan for changes in the coming school year.  In fact, I’m going to challenge my friends to do the same thing.  Stephen & Lindsay (and anyone else who would like to join us for the ride):  Take a picture of your classroom, write a blog post with your images & ask for advice from others.

I’ve learned that other people have amazing strengths that we can benefit from, especially when those strengths balance our own weaknesses.  My weakness:  organization.

How should I organize my classroom?  What is the best way to use the space I work in every day?  How do I prevent tossing materials in a location that I know about, but my students don’t?  How do I create centres (or is this advisable for high school)?  Is it better to simply organize & label materials and equipment for easy access & storage?  What about anchor charts that could be displayed near certain storage areas?



Please leave a comment below!  (thanks)





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