Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Technology makes art eduction a bigger draw

"Technology makes art eduction a bigger draw" is a wonderful article (see below) from eSchoolNews that explains how the use of software in student projects faciliates the art experience in many ways for both student and teacher. This is a theme I explored extensively in my recently released book 'Visual Arts Units for All Levels' (ISTE) giving many examples of meaningful, easy-to-do activities that can be done largely with free or already in place software.

Some excerpts from the article:

"In art classes at schools and universities today, new and emerging software is rendering art appreciation and even actual artistic production accessible to a far greater number of interested students and aspiring artists than ever before"

"I don't think technology is replacing traditional art instruction, but I think it's a really good piece to use alongside it. ...It's really a skill they need to go on and be competitive with the rest of the world."

"Using technology in art classes also might help take the pressure off students--especially younger students--who enjoy art, but who feel they aren't talented enough to draw or paint."

"The software "has lit the creativity fire for so many of my students--especially those who struggle to communicate their rich thinking through more traditional means," said Wade Whitehead, a fifth-grade teacher in Roanoke, Va. "

"As part of his role, Ponton helps teachers learn how to incorporate technology into their lessons... DrawPlus offers pre-defined shapes, which Ponton said is beneficial for students who might not have top-notch drawing abilities themselves. This helps keep such students engaged, he explained, whereas before, they might have lost interest out of frustration.

"Ponton said students in his district use DrawPlus not only in creative arts classes, but also in core subject areas to create and animate illustrations for concepts ranging from chemistry compounds to Spanish verbs."

Yes, software to support student art making efforts has the potential to elevate art from something few teachers are comfortable with or equipped to offer their students, (and that many students find difficult because of limited technique), to an eminently practical approach to successful learning that can be made part of a great many common school activities! Youngsters naturally want to explore ideas visually, and supporting them in doing this through the use of simple to use software is an easy step to take in making classwork more motivating and relelvant. My book 'Visual Arts Units for All Levels' shows how student art can be made easily with free resources like Google's Picasa or nearly ubiquitous applications like MS Word and PowerPoint, which nearly all schools have already.

These free or ubuiquitous applications can get teachers started down this wonderful path. As their experience and interest develops and success grows they can acquire expensive pieces of software, which in many cases are more robust and elaborate. However, teachers can absolutley start out making great art with their students without buying new software.

As an example I created this graphic using MS Word, MS Powerpoint, and Paint (included with all Windows OS computers)... please compare this with this demo from Serif software, which is referenced in the article. True, their 'for purchase' software can take the student a little further, but the piece I produced with software that cost me nothing clearly indicates that this same activity could be done well without purchasing anything. As a result of my 18 years as a middle school fine arts teacher in an East Harlem public school, I know the value of this type of activity and understand that this would be an appropriate resource set and series of techniques to use with my students to accomplish it. This image was done in just a few minutes using Word's Auto Shapes, importing them into PowerPoint as a group where images are easily positioned and text easily added, and touched up in Paint...easy!

Serif Draw Plus DEMO video...

I want to state emphatically that items like this one offered for sale, do have their value and I suspect that teachers may be tempted to purchase them AFTER they have begun to make art with their students using the free resources I recommend and are ready to go to the next level. This software was offered at the price of " Elementary School Site License - $2,200." on the company's website when I checked.

The article from eSchool news can be found in its entirety @

"Technology makes art education a bigger draw Sophisticated software and new online collaborations are helping students of all abilities acquire key art concepts and skills

In art, as in life at large, technology has changed everything – or, more precisely, almost everything.

In art classes at schools and universities today, new and emerging software is rendering art appreciation and even actual artistic production accessible to a far greater number of interested students and aspiring artists than ever before.

In the classic approach, talented apprentices toil under the tutelage of a highly skilled master to perfect their skills and learn the fundamentals of their art. That approach works well for the talented few but not so well for those who lack dogged desire or raw native talent. It also imposes strict limits on the number of individuals permitted to benefit from the wisdom, skill, and experience of the master.

To a remarkable degree, technology in the service of art and art education is changing all that...