The answer came to me rather quickly: bringing guest speakers to my class seemed like a great way to make the class fresh and vital. Since there is no budget available for speakers, I decided to try bringing visitors into my classroom via Skype video calls. Initially the plan was try Skype on a limited basis and see how things worked out: four or five guest speakers would be plenty. At the heart of my experimental class there would still be the backbone of a conventional class: students would read an assigned text, take quizzes and hear me lecture on relevant topics.
I posted a notice on my Facebook timeline asking for volunteers, mentioning that I was not able to offer compensation for speakers. Since I have been blogging about art and artists for four years, I knew that I had many artist Facebook friends to draw from. Within a week's time I had enough volunteers to schedule 17 guest speakers and also a list of alternates, many of whom have let me know that they will be happy to speak the next time that speakers are needed. I was amazed and pleased at the response. If you are a teacher, you should keep in mind that if speaking simply involves connecting with a class for 30 minutes via Skype there may be many people in your field willing to volunteer their time and expertise.
With my calendar filled up there was a practical concern to address: how would I ready the classroom for Skype visits? The room where I teach art history is a "smart classroom," which means that it features an overhead LCD projector connected to a computer which is in turn connected to high speed internet. As it turns out, all I needed to do was add a webcam and microphone to the computer so that my guests would be able to see the classroom and take questions from my students. I chose a Logitech HD Pro Webcam, which sells for $60.67 on Amazon.com and it worked very well. We had virtually no technical problems with Skype although there were some minor issues with video quality from time to time when our guests had intermittent internet service.
"One thing that I have found in common with all the artists that we have met through Skype is that each one has taken risks. They have fallen and gotten back up, not just in art but also in life."
"Inside you, you know what is right for you." I must say it has stayed on my mind even until right now. It was said by a recent guest speaker: Thomas Wharton. It made me think of recent and future decision I have to make which I have been thinking about constantly, but when Thomas Wharton said that it was as if somebody shook me and said "wake up!"
***Sam Nejati said: "I look at painting as a human body or a symphony; every piece has to function. It is like me and the canvas have a conversation." I liked the way he expressed his views on what art and being an artist means for him.
***My favorite artist so far has been Jean Paul Mallozzi. When we Skyped him, he said that he "purposely makes himself uncomfortable to be great." I am a musician and music teacher so I understand the importance of challenging yourself artistically.
***The best thing that any of our guest speakers has said came from Nathan Lewis: "Art is a way to figure out who you are: it's not a competition."