What is the Perfect Balance of Technology in the Art Room?

A number of years ago, when my district was organizing an introduction of a 1:1 iPad program, I was asked if I was willing to give up my entire art supply budget to help fund the cost of the new technology. Although I was excited about the possibility of my students always having tech access, I was completely dumbfounded at the idea of how and why we would use an 8″ screen to replace tactile, malleable, and hands-on materials.

Fortunately for my students, I was able to keep my supply budget and have iPad access, as we passed a technology property tax levy later that fall. However, all the hype around increased tech use in classrooms, and its seeming-to-be-boundless list of benefits, has got me thinking — When is it not appropriate to encourage student technology use in the art classroom? How can art teachers strike the right balance? 
 
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Simplicity is Key

First, let me point out that I am not anti-tech. Currently, I serve on my district’s digital learning mentor team which provides us opportunities to envision, plan and cooperate with other teachers on how to use technology to strengthen our students’ development of 21st Century Skills. An art classroom can be an enhanced atmosphere of deepened critical thinking, authentic collaboration and communication, intense creativity and uninhibited curiosity through the addition of digital resources and technology. It is through a combination of resourceful instructional strategies (rooted in traditional, researched pedagogy) and high-quality digital media resources that students can continue to strive towards these goals.

When we first became a 1:1 iPad school, some of us teachers were obsessed with installing as many free apps as possible. We spent way too much time looking for the latest, newfangled app that would assist our students in completing even the simplest of tasks. Our devices became over-installed, disorganized messes that contained apps that were used only once or twice a semester. Worse yet, we spent a lot of class time teaching applications just to teach the technology instead of spending that time using the technology to deepen students’ critical thinking skills. We decided to make a change. We started to think about how we could pare down our technology choices to best serve students’ needs.
 
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One way we did this was to focus on using applications that are cross-discipline. For example, I do not use a particular app in my classroom for electronic portfolios. Instead, I ask students to create their portfolios using any presentation app they feel comfortable with: Keynote, Haiku Deck, 30hands, etc. We do not spend any time with technology instruction since most students have had plenty of practice with these applications from their other core classes. We instead use our class time to dive into creating portfolios that answer deep questions, show true reflection and highlight creativity.
 
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Technology Can Be More Than Just Another Art Medium

We tend to think of technology as purely another creation medium. Challenge yourself to think of technology not as an art-making medium but as a tool to deepen and expand some other, typically-forgotten aspects of art education.

 

Challenge yourself to think of technology not as an art-making medium but as a tool to deepen and expand some other, typically-forgotten aspects of art education.

 
Consider some of the new national visual art standards: Revise artwork in progress on the basis of insights gained through peer discussion (VA:Cr3.1.4a) or Demonstrate awareness of ethical responsibility to oneself and others when posting and sharing images and other materials through the Internet, social media, and other communication formats (VA:Cr2.2.7a). Both of these standards could be addressed through the use of technology in the classroom.

In addition, using a Learning Management System like Edmodo or Schoology can help you organize responsible communication and feedback collection between students in various classes, diverse grades or even different schools. Students are so accustomed to hearing opinions and revision suggestions from their nearby peers, that having the ability to communicate with new cohorts digitally is a welcomed change. However, we need to watch the frequency of this type of communication and expression; it is through the excessive use of online communication where we lose face-to-face interaction and, therefore, interpersonal communication skills. We are, after all, still teaching human kids that need authentic human connections.

Using technology in your classroom is truly a balancing act. Too much and you lose human aspects, not any- and you are missing true incentives and benefits in increasing your students’ 4Cs capabilities (Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication.). Blending the old with the new takes finesse, practicality and a willingness to see beyond the screen.
 
 

What is your take on technology use in the art room?

How do you enhance student learning with technology?

 
 
 

Tracy Hare

Tracy is a middle school art teacher from central MN who strives to create rich, meaningful content and resources through her Content Specialist role at AOE.

Related

  • Mr. Post

    The perfect balance in my elementary art classroom is 0% technology and 100% hands-on art making with paint and clay. I think kids spend enough time in front of screens at home.

    • And messing around with clay tends to be a bit more fun than pushing vertices around.

    • Mr. Post, while I agree with your sentiment completely from the perspective of students using technology, allow me to share how technology use increased students hands-on time:

      This was the first school year that we had ipad/appletv technbology in the Art room. Our students were about to create coil pots, and this year we filmed all the steps of the demonstration, then edited and narrated the footage in imovie. By doing this, we were able to not only show the essential steps more clearly on a large screen that everyone could see clearly, but also include more ideas and creative inspiration. This amount of teaching/demonstration would have taken 10+ minutes each class period. The video ended up being about 4 minutes. This is huge in a 40 minute class.

      What we saw this year was astounding! Coil pots 3x bigger than ever before. Crazy designs and creative ideas like never seen in previous years. I think this use of technology has most definately *increased* the hands-on experience for my students both in time and in fidelity.

      Here are the demo videos we made:

      https://vimeo.com/118822066

      https://vimeo.com/120386114

      -Alex

      • Mr. Post

        Hey Alex,

        I agree with you – technology does have a place in schools. I have a website, a twitter account and a hard drive full of videos and powerpoint presentations I use with kids.

        I teach in a school district where kids in K-2 are “required” to be on i-pads for a certain part of the day. I find that approach a bit over-reaching.

        Most of the kids I teach come from poverty (80%) . They need more time on a parent’s lap reading and more time doing things in the real world as opposed to spending more time in front of a screen.

        If I taught high school I am sure I would give assignments on computers but my kids are too little for that – and my school district laid off all of the techs who keep the technology running. It’s an exercise in frustration trying to get 30 kids signed into technology that does not work properly.

        • Mr. Post,
          It is true, you do a fabulous Job with technology- in fact your great website inspired me to build a kiln yard for Raku (and raised pit firing) at my school district too.

          You are spot on with the sentiment that kids need more real world experience and less screen time; and wow, the K-2’s “required” ipad time does seem like overreaching.

          • Mr. Post

            There is no better way to teach kids about firing than using actual fire. I’m glad to hear your kids do Raku and pit firing. I am sure they love it!

  • Vicky Siegel

    I agree with Mr. Post. I like to give students names of apps or websites relating to our project, but I hate to take art time away from increasing fine motor skills with actual art supplies. I only see my students once a week for 45 minutes. Each year it seems young students come in with lower and lower skills, because not a lot of families cut, glue, paint, etc. with their children. I usually just use my iPad from home and if classes are done a bit early, I will show an app or website and have some students participate- or I will do the same on my computer in my room. I do have access to iPad carts, but I would have to get it and return it all day if I have third grade at all times of the week, for example.

  • I would probably intro tech into the classroom if they’re interested in 3D modeling/anim, 2D anim, digital drawing or painting, or software dev/coding/programming, but it would have primary emphasis on traditional materials for the most part.

  • Ellen K

    Let me add the benefits of Google+ Classroom app. I was an early adopter and I find it very useful. I can upload Youtube videos, Word docs or slides. Plus, next year each of our student will have a site of their own on which their personal portfolio of work will reside. They will be able to upload documents. This doesn’t mean we will be paperless-there will always be paper-but it does mean the responsibility for printing and keeping documents falls on the students.

    • Angela Miller

      We also adopted chromebooks for 7th & 8th graders to bring to art class next year…was hoping for iPads or Mac…any tips or suggestions?

      • Ellen K

        Chromebooks can be used with Google apps for digital portfolios. After Art 1 I require my students to produce one. A friend of mine uses Sketchup for a connection to electronic media. I do like Classroom. I post Youtube clips, articles, etc for students to use. I also post documents so if they lose them, it is their responsibility to print out. Students can upload assignments. Plus if you haven’t discovered Google Forms-they are excellent for doing online assessment. The form can save as a spreadsheet which in turn can be graded with Flubaroo. Try it.

  • Anne Fry

    I do think using tech with the art curriculum is important in the secondary grades. I would hate for one of my students to enter a college art class without ever using Photoshop. I did get my masters degree in classroom technology and feel very comfortable with using tech. The issue that most upsets me is our middle school is using Google Chromebooks. In the field of art a chromebook is useless in my opinion. My 8th grade curriculum is “Art and Animation” Chromebooks have not been especially useful making stop motion films. We use the older laptop carts.
    I now appreciate Mac users complaints using a PC.

    • Angela Miller

      Anything you’ve been successful with on Chromebooks? Our 7th & 8th graders are bringing them to Art class next year

  • Brandy

    I think the funniest app I have ever seen someone try and tell me I should use is the potter’s wheel app on the iPad…my response was “”Or we could use an actual potter’s wheel!” It amazes me how some have become so tech hungry in their classrooms, it almost feels like it’s being forced into places it ought not be. I agree with Josh Mason’s post that if a student is interested in 3-D animation or Photoshop or digital art of that sort I would not hesitate to get them started with a computer (desktop or laptop). But it seems that the big “push” is for iPads or tablets of some sort which don’t really introduce anything new to the art classroom let alone they don’t have the software or capabilities like a desktop or a laptop would have.

    • Mr. Post

      My doctor plays that app – so my wife tried it out. The bigger and uglier you make your pot, the more imaginary money it sells for in the app. It’s hilarious…

  • Angela Miller

    Chromebooks in Art class? 7th & 8th graders bringing them to class next year & We are also stations to use Canva LMS like MyBigCampus & Google Classroom
    Tried to find a class for Chromebooks in Art Class