History & Credits

History of Thinking with a Line

A Smith College course in educational technology, taken over 20 years ago, was the inspiration for Thinking & Creating with a Line. During this course Cathy saw the potential of the multimedia environment for making teaching and learning come alive. By inserting very short video clips into digital lesson plans, Cathy found that she could show teachers and children at key moments of inspiration and discovery. Video clips could suggest ways to set up, introduce, and extend a variety of projects about line – the most basic of all art elements and a vital pre-reading, writing and construction tool. Cathy’s purpose in creating Thinking & Creating with a Line was to help teachers – especially teachers of young children – feel comfortable with studio art materials, and to demonstrate a variety of strategies for using materials to foster, extend and deepen learning across the curriculum.

It was fortuitous that just at that time the technology department at Smith College was looking for ways to foster the use of technology in teaching and decided to support the development of this program. The program became a five year collaborative effort among Cathy Weisman Topal, art teacher at the Smith College Campus School and Lecturer in Visual Arts Education at Smith College; Joanne Cannon Carlson, Assistant Director of Educational Technology Services and multimedia programmer at Smith College; and several Smith student programmers. Grants from the Dean’s Academic Support Fund paid for the talented students who programmed the original interactive CD-ROM. Students from the department of education and child studies at Smith College filmed teachers and students in action at the Smith College Campus School, and the Center for Early Childhood Education(CECE) at Smith.

Technology has changed and evolved exponentially over the last twenty years and so has Thinking and Creating with a Line. With the continued wise counsel of Joanne Cannon and the help of Abbie Duquette, a student intern at Smith College who reformatted and reprogrammed all of the video clips from the original videotapes, as well as the programming skills of Scott Bultman from Froebel USA and Red Hen Toys, along with Jesper Dinesin of Engine, a software development company offering web solutions using existing open source technology, in 2015 Cathy was able to create a website for Thinking with a Line with all the original multimedia programming from the CD-ROM and much more.

In 2020, Team 118Group, a young group of web designers, along with Cathy Topal, have reprogrammed the website and added new features, images, and videos. The introductory video that draws viewers into the website was created by John Pottenger and Jay Irwin of Match Frame Creative (matchframecreative.com). Mary Beth Radke, Claire Topal, Rita Harris, Carolyn Dashef, Jennifer Dashef, Kristina Lamour, and Gabriela Micchia provided new perspectives and editing help.

Cathy has presented Thinking & Creating with a Line along with hands-on workshops at many professional development conferences, colleges, schools and early childhood centers:

  • Smith College Faculty Club, Northampton, MA, 2003
  • Shanghai High School, International Division, Shanghai, China, 2003 
  • The NAEA National Art Education Association conference in NYC 2004
  • North East Ohio Special Education Regional Resource Center (N.E.O.R.S.E.R.C.), Niles, OH, 2004
  • The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA 2004
  • Studio in a School, NYC, 2005 
  • Math/Science Partnership, Rutgers University, NJ 2005; Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, Philadelphia, PA 2005 
  • The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH 2006
  • Connectivity: The Tenth Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology at The Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology in New London, Conn., April 2006
  • Punahou School, Honolulu, HI, 200
  •  Acorn Collaborative, Ontario, Canada, 2007 
  • NAEYC National Association for the Education of Young Children conference, Minneapolis, MI 2009
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) Anaheim, CA 2010
  • North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) conference, Boston, MA 2010
  • Workshops with Kindergarten Teachers and Art Teachers from the Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge, MA 2010 and 2014
  • Cambridge Reggio Group, Lesley University, Cambridge, MA; 2012
  • Froebel Conference, San Francisco, CA, 2012 
  • Fullerton College, Fullerton, CA, 2012
  • Michigan Inspirations, East Lansing, MI, 2013
  • Early Childhood STEM conference, Caltech, Costa Mesa, CA, 2014
  • Sechelt Indian Band Education Dept., Mem7iman Child Development Center, Sunshine Coast, BC 2015
  • Capilano University Child Development Center, Vancouver, BC 2015
  • Naugatuck Valley Community College Child Development Center, Waterbury, CT 2016
  • Paradigm Project 2017 Conference, Baltimore, MD
  • Massachusetts Art Education Association (MAEA)Conference, Amherst, MA, 2017 
  • Charlestown Nursery School, Charlestown, MA, 2018 

Lessons from this website also appear in The Teacher’s Guide to Thinking with a Line, 2005 and in Cathy’s Visual Arts Curricula: Explorations in Art: Kindergarten, 2019 and Creative Minds Out of School, 2012 all published by Davis Publications, Inc.