Teacher's high-tech methods draw national attention

Art teacher Tricia Fuglestad spent her last day of the school year much like the first: incorporating digital media with her hands-on art instruction.

Using her SMART Board interactive whiteboard system, she devised a game that encouraged students to illustrate sentences, using a digital roll of the dice to determine each word.

Students took turns putting their creations under the Logitech Web camera so they would be displayed on the SMART Board, allowing them to write and draw their classmates' responses deciphering the sentences.

Fuglestad is well known in Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 for her use of Web 2.0 sites and hand-held devices in making art-related videos to teach her concepts.

"Her classroom is an exciting place," says Principal Robert Jares. "Tricia is continually working on creating videos about art concepts (Fugleflicks) with students to make learning more engaging and fun."

Twice her students' short videos have been entered in the film festival at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts. In 2007, her fifth graders' film "Young Sloppy Brush" won best of show.

Now, her cutting edge teaching methods are drawing national attention.

The Dryden Elementary School teacher was one of 10 teachers nationally to win the PBS Teachers' Innovation Award. As a result, she and the other teachers were flown to Austin, Texas, last month for the PBS national convention.

"She represents a new wave of innovative teachers from the area, who are using unconventional teaching methods to connect with their students," says Jazzy Wright, communications director for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards office in Arlington, Va.

Of the 10 teachers flown to the convention, two were nationally board certified, including Fuglestad. Still, Fuglestad says she was surprised at all of the attention she and her colleagues received.

"We were wined and dined," Fuglestad says. "They treated us like stars."

The teachers took part in a panel discussion on how the PBS stations can make more educational resources available to teachers, which took place in front of producers and station managers from across the country.

She participated in professional development workshops about integrating technology into the classroom for more collaborative learning, and was able to see sneak previews of upcoming programs.

Her favorite was seeing previews of "Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That," which premieres Sept. 1 on PBS and features comedian Martin Short voicing the Cat in the Hat.

"I already use a lot of Dr. Seuss in my room, so I know my elementary students will eat that up," Fuglestad says. "The series mixes literacy with science elements but it also features an online component that matches the TV series."

Fuglestad first became involved with PBS resources after enrolling last year in one of the PBS TeacherLine courses. In it, she designed a unit to teach students about the artwork of Pablo Picasso, which she called "Picasso Carnival."

Students rotated through stations, from using the SMART Board to explore the Mr. Picassohead website, to organizing and sorting Picasso images, to using flip video cameras to record each other mimicking one of his most famous paintings, The Old Guitarist.

"I use lots of digital devices to simulate what the students are doing physically," Fuglestad says. "But we still do lots of hands-on art in here."

In fact, on their last day, students left the room with their sketchbooks in hand, intent on following Fuglestad's instructions to "draw all summer long."

Art teacher Tricia Fuglestad works with students using a SMART Board at Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer