New teaching methods have been popping up that are slowly replacing the conventional methods that started back during the time of the industrial revolution. Classrooms were set up like factories, with the supervisor (teacher) in the front of the room, and desks in neat rows. Learning was in a single direction. The teacher provided information, and the students were expected to learn what the teacher taught.
New methods have been challenging the ways that students have been traditionally taught. Many of these new methods involve the use of emerging technologies in the classroom. They include:
• Flipped classrooms
• Filmmaking technology and digital storytelling
• Game motivations
• Web 2.0 tools
• Digital art and design tools
These new technologies have application for all learning systems, but the focus of this paper is to specifically discuss the benefits of their use in an art classroom.
Salman Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, has been an early proponent of flipped classrooms. Khan started making YouTube videos to help his cousins learn math. The videos were set for public viewing, so eventually he received letters from teachers saying that they are using his lectures in school to flip the classroom (Khan, 2011). Traditional classrooms generally follow the format that the teacher lectures about the topic for the bulk of the class time, and the majority of the practice working with the topic happens at home in the form of homework. These teachers said that Khan is already providing the lectures, so instead of spending time lecturing during the class period, they are assigning the video lectures as homework, and using the classroom time to practice what they have learned (Khan, 2011). The teachers are now able to move around the class and help students one-on-one, or in small groups. Class discussions are more interactive, because the students come to class with information gleaned from watching the videos. There is also more time for projects in school where students can learn to work collaboratively. Overall, the teachers find that students are more engaged during the class.
For art education, the flipped classroom is a perfect solution to time constraints that limit the students’ hands-on time for doing art projects. Rather than the teacher demonstrating a concept or technique during class time it can be done at home. The students can come to class with the foreknowledge of the technique, and the teacher can walk around the class, and discuss the works in progress with the students. Teachers can create lessons in a variety of formats including online videos, Flash animations, and instructional blogs that the students can watch at home. They can come to class prepared, so they will have more time to create their own artwork.
One problem with the flipped classroom is that not every student has access to the Internet at home. A possible solution would be for students to be issued tablet devices with digital textbooks, videos, and other tools pre-loaded in the place of traditional textbooks, which are more costly, and harder to update when the become obsolete. Other solutions may be more practical depending upon the district, but some kind of accommodations would need to be made to allow for the introduction of homework that is technology-based.
Filmmaking and Digital Storytelling
In essence, teaching is similar to storytelling. Some think that stories in school are reserved for children in the younger grades. However, Arnold and Eddy write, “Storytelling…is more than a childhood experience. Storytelling is the root of information recording and the medium upon which all other media rely for successful communication and retention (Arnold & Eddy, 2008).”
Both teachers and storytellers have a lesson, or message that they are trying to convey to an audience. What makes stories so powerful is that they use particular methods to relay their message in a way that the viewers find compelling. This is not always the case with educators, so it would be valuable for teachers to envelop their lessons into creative stories that their students will find interesting by using digital storytelling techniques.
Art teaching is no different than other kinds of education in that lessons need to be conveyed to students. Art teachers today have many new technologies at their fingertips that will help them develop films, or other kinds of digital stories that can deliver the lessons to the students while making the materials seem more relevant. By creating high-interest stories that learners can relate to, the lesson becomes personal, and more easily internalized by students.
In addition to using film and other technologies to teach lessons through storytelling, the act of creating a film, or digital story can involve many of the concepts and techniques that are important for developing artists. Having students working on film projects through the school year is a great way to teach about foreground, middle ground, background, lighting, composition, color, perspective, and many other visual art terms that they wouldn’t learn as easily using other methods.
Games and play have an important place in learning. Young children begin to understand the world around them through play, but that kind of learning is quickly eliminated for students once they reach school age. Yet, they continue to learn when they play after school through sports, board games, or video games. Students (and adults) learn very well during play because they are totally immersed in the learning environment, not passive observers like they often are in school. According to Clark Aldrich, video games provide “highly interactive virtual environments” (Aldrich, 2009) where students become absorbed into, and are an active part of the lesson. Art teachers can easily make learning about visual arts more engaging by incorporating play into the classroom activities.
Another useful aspect of video games in the art classroom is that many modern video games are art intensive. Katana Jack is a video game where the artwork was created completely by finger painting on an iPad. It is a typical maze type of game with art intensive backgrounds, but the reward for completing a level is gaining access to see a video about how that level’s artwork was created, which is a great way to get students thinking about creating their own artwork. Likewise, games like Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and others feature compelling art images that students find engaging. Those images can be compared to traditional artwork to make the original masterpieces seem more relevant and appealing to students. Clips from these games can be used to demonstrate perspective, palette, lighting, ground, negative space, value, and other important art concepts in a way that some students may find more interesting.
Game Strategies for Assessment
Educators place a great emphasis on assessment, which is important. How else can one know if their students are understanding and retaining the information that is being taught? However, testing isn’t always the best way to determine what a student really knows. Video games, and games in general, have assessment built into the action of the game. Generally, there are levels that involve some sort of mastery before moving further on into the game. Imagine how unpopular video games would be if players had to stop the game at the end of each level and take a test to see if they learned enough about the prior level before advancing? Games are able to assess the level of knowledge, or skill without a break in the action for testing. Why can’t educators do the same thing? In art when a student is learning areal (atmospheric) perspective, the act of creating artwork that demonstrates that skill should be assessment enough. This is not to say that traditional tests are never warranted, but project-based assessments are often more appropriate for the art classroom.
Web 2.0 Tools
There are many new online tools that students can use to create art projects, and enhance their experience with learning about art. For example, students can be taught how to use iGoogle to create personalized learning environments (PLEs), which they can organize with links, widgets, and newsfeeds about art information that is delivered directly to their homepage. Online drawing and painting applications can be accessed to create digital artwork. Teachers can use wikis to set up group projects. Online collaboration sites can be used for students to exchange ideas and feedback. Learners can have blogs on Blogger or WordPress where they can show their artwork, and write about the process, or discuss their motivations for creating the work. There are also archival tools like Museum Box where students can be assigned an art history topic (for example), and they can collect images, writings, music, videos, and other virtual artifacts, which they can organize into boxes, and display for other museum visitors to see the results of their research. There are countless ways to use the tools that are found on the Internet to teach art, and enhance the art curriculum.
Digital Art Technologies
Today, digital artwork is everywhere. Millions of digital images are designed every day to advertise products, enhance viewing experiences, and create brand elements. Once students who were interested in commercial art could study traditional art and illustration techniques, and apply them to business and publishing arts. Today graphic artists and designers are expected to know specific digital tools that are industry standards. They include the Adobe Creative Suite tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, and others. Art students should be familiarized with these tools because of their widespread acceptance in the graphic arts. Photoshop is used for editing digital photography, drawing, painting, and animations. Illustrator is the standard for complex digital animations and drawing. InDesign is the tool of choice for designing the pages of magazines, books, and newspapers. Flash is a powerful animation tool. Schools should either offer specific classes using these tools for students who are interested in the graphic arts, or they should be used in conventional art classes, expanding the tools for the traditional artist.
New Digital Tools vs. Traditional Tools
Like most academic disciplines, art has been transformed by modern, progressive techniques, and art education should reflect those changes. There has been a call from groups like the New Literacies Research Team at UConn to include digital literacies into the traditional literacy curriculum. That is not to say that time-honored literacy education should be abandoned to new media literacies. Literacy classics must always be a strong part of the curriculum. However, students should be fluent with both types of learning so that they can be successful in an age that is so dependent on digital communications tools. Art classes should also be influenced by the modern technologies that have emerged in the twenty-first century. Whether these technologies exist to alter the way that art is created, or they provide new methods of teaching visual arts, the art education community should embrace them. However, like new literacies should accompany conventional literacy classes—not replace them, so to should traditional art classes remain steadfast within the structure that is contemporary art education. Ultimately, unless an art student’s education is based on traditional drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking principles, then their use of digital rendering will be limited. Therefore, teach art using modern techniques, but always remember the importance of exposing students to traditional mediums while they are also learning the new world of digital art and design.
Aldrich, C. (2009). Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds (Aldrich, Clark. Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Arnold, B., & Eddy, B. (2008). Visual Storytelling: the art of turning good ideas into compelling stories. USA: Cengage Learning.
Khan, S. (Director). (2011). Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 [Motion Picture].
Monthly Archives: April 2012