Birmingham high school students create blogs available to millions

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Howard Crosby, middle, and his Advanced Blogging studio art class. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Howard Crosby, middle, and his Advanced Blogging studio art class. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

Students in Howard Crosby’s art class at Carver High School can show the world their work without leaving the classroom.

Crosby teaches advanced blogging, giving students a global way to show their art.

“These students are digitally native, it’s second nature for them to access the internet,” Crosby said. “They express themselves with a keyboard, rather than a pen, and we have to present the information to ways that keeps them connected.”

Their work has the potential to be seen by millions, he said.

“I tell students, the second you press that button every human being that has access to the internet can see your blog,” Crosby said. “It stunned them. They’re not just making something and saving it on the desktop; everyone can see their art now.”

Blogging is a multimedia art, the instructor said.

“When you blog, you’re combining four forms of art in one: video, traditional art, photos, and text,” he said.

The students create original forms of traditional art, and take photos of their work and post it to their blogs. Afterwards they write about their process of creating the piece and what they learned in the process of creating the artwork, helping them improve their skill of writing.

“It’s helping improve their cognitive development drastically as well,” Crosby said. “They’re thinking about multiple platforms at one time.”

Blogging is a skill that will be necessary for many students in the future, Crosby said.

“This gives them a place to create portfolios of their work, and it teaches research skills,” he said. “Students aren’t going to the library and researching people anymore; they have the internet, but there is a proper way to research, even online.”

With more colleges providing laptops and online textbooks, rather than physical books, it’s important to keep up with that, he said.

Carlos Torres paints a photo from the Civil Rights era using the monochromatic painting method. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)
Carlos Torres paints a photo from the Civil Rights era using the monochromatic painting method. (Ariel Worthy, The Birmingham Times)

Unsung heroes

The students are currently working on projects, which highlights unsung heroes of the world. The students create a traditional art piece representing the hero, and add it to the blog, along with researching the person, and their accomplishments.

Lillie Winston, 16, an art student, said the project has opened her eyes to more than just the person she is researching. Winston said she was inspired to create her blog around Henrietta Lacks, whom she discovered in her anatomy class. After learning about Lacks’ diagnosis of cervical cancer at John Hopkins University, Winston began her study.

“Even though she died of that cancer, they still sold her cells across the world to help with research and funding, and all this research has been used to end polio and bone marrow diseases,” Winston said. “Her cells have gone to space, been exposed to nuclear toxins, they have furthered our understanding of cancer, HIV and AIDS, cells in general, and are still widely used today to grow viruses and to test anti-tumor medicines. Even today she sits in an unmarked grave in Virginia” and nobody knows much about her.

Researching people like Lacks is what makes blogging important, Winston said.

“I’m a shy person, and I’m not a technology person at all; I prefer pen and paper,” she said. “Being able to adapt to the culture shock of all of this technology has been a learning process for me.”

Winston, who is a junior, said she never considered blogging an art until her time in the classroom.

“When you think of art, you think of paint, pigments, shades and stencils,” Winston said. “You don’t see blogging as an art form, but when I open [my blog] up, it exposes me to an entirely different form of it, and it exposes my traditional artwork to the world,”

Carlos Torres, an art student, said he started posting interesting things that he did. “It kind of helps me keep up with myself, and the things I can and have accomplished,” he said.

Torres, 17, said he wants to study computer science after graduating, and the class has inspired him to discover ways to help others. His project is on Ian Logan, founder of Airbnb.

“During Hurricane Sandy he managed to rewire an entire system to help people find free places to stay during the storm, and he did it in a day,” Torres said. “It’s proof that there is a way that if I need to help people, I can do it with my skill in computer science.”

Torres said he plans to keep his blog updated even after he graduates in May.

Another benefit to student blogging is it helps students learn how to work together, he said.

“They ask their classmates for help on things they might not understand,” Crosby said. “They’re not always going to have a teacher there to show them how to do things, but they will have coworkers, and they need to know how to communicate and ask for help from others.”