PowerUp, or optional activities for deeper student engagement in art history


Many of us have now finished this semester and are still trying to handle all the adjustments, shifts, emotions, trauma, and more that took place since March 2020. I had intended to post more during this time, but like many of us, I have not had time or, frankly, a desire to do much of anything. A couple weeks out and I find that I am now in conversations about Fall 2020 that are making me a feel a range of emotions. It has re-ignited my desire to share my materials, in the event that someone/anyone finds them useful–now or in the future.

So I turn to what I call “PowerUp Activities.” These were born of #TriageTeaching2020, and I have to say that I will continue to use these any time I teach in the future. They were a smashing success.

What are they?

I wanted to find a way for students to do short, individual, low-stakes activities to help keep them motivated during the COVID-19 crisis. They were one of many ways that students could earn participation points (more on this in another post!). Basically, on any given lecture I would select 5-10 artworks that we did not cover and add them to EdPuzzle as PowerUp Opportunities. (So, yes, they were all videos, mostly from Smarthistory).

I would add few questions via EdPuzzle. Then, after each lecture (or sometimes embedded into the middle of lecture) I’d provide these opportunities. They might be prefaced by something like “if you want to know more about impressionism, consider engaging with one of these PowerUp opportunities.” Sometimes I might even have one prefaced by “This is one of Dr. LKE’s favorite artworks. Want to know why? PowerUp!”

Each of these PowerUp opportunities is worth 2 pts. (my class is out of 1000 pts, and 300 of these pts are participation points).

And students loved them! One student noted that it was like a choose your own adventure. For materials that she really liked, she could learn more without the pressure to have to do it. She also liked that she got to choose, which felt more liberating to her.

I also opened up these powerup opportunities after each class. So after we discussed Edo Japan, I opened up 3-4. The next class on 19th century France had 4-5 keyed to it as well. Still, students could always go back in time and complete these opportunities even several weeks out from a given lecture.

They were a smashing success. Almost every single student across my classes completed a variety of these, and I was surprised at how much they had fun doing them.

For anyone who often feels like they have to cut beloved material, this is also a nice way to give students a chance to engage with it, albeit on their own time and in their own way.

Cite this article as: Lauren G. Kilroy-Ewbank, "PowerUp, or optional activities for deeper student engagement in art history," in Adventures in Pedagogy, Digital Art History, + More, May 21, 2020, https://lkilroyewbank.org/lke-blog/powerup-or-optional-activities-for-deeper-student-engagement-in-art-history/.
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