Art & Technology

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I am a huge advocate of using technology in the classroom…whether that’s as simple as involving the students in the use of technology or handing the technology over to them completely – either way – Technology = Good. There are a million ways that you can use technology in any given classroom but there are specific ways that really help art classrooms thrive – so I’m about to share a few. ūüôā¬† What I’ve come to realize is that there are millions of things we can do with technology in the art room but a lot of us can’t just up and afford it.¬† Here’s an overview of some of the most common technology integrations and simple solutions to make it happen for you – you’d be surprised what a little bit of exploring will find you.

1. Digital Photography: A unit we all seem to be looking into but boy is it expensive – between the cameras, the software and the photo paper; even the ink – can you imagine the cost? In reality, to expose your students to digital photography, all you need is a functioning camera and a computer.¬† I’m lucky enough to have 15 digital point and shoot cameras I received from a grant so my students can pair up and use them but for those times that cameras are few and far between, there are other options!

For the tool that will facilitate the pictures?

  • Camera phones – most cell phones have a camera anymore and even if it means you take the pictures and students explore the editing using similar or the same pictures – you’ll still exposing them to digital photography!
  • Tablets or iPads – many schools have some sort of tablet or laptop cart system and most of these have a camera on them.
  • Web cams¬† or document cameras – Check with your librarian! She may very well have a web cam of some sort that could work for you.
  • Really just check with any teacher or staff member – you’d be surprised to find what just sits around with no use

For the software that allows you to edit?¬†¬† Most computers come pre-programmed with the basic photo software.¬† Whether this is simply “preview” or “iphoto”, your computer will have the basics which let students crop, rotate, and resize images.¬† More and more, districts are buying into software programs district wide, not just lab by lab.¬† Our district runs Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc) on all computers – bless their hearts.¬† But I know that’s not the case for everyone.¬† You aren’t lost! You can still find great things online and for your tablets!

I am always weary of registration required websites, especially for students but it’s really up to your district – which should have no problem telling you what you are and are not able to do based on school policy.¬† Our district’s internet filter is pretty intense and all four of these websites work flawlessly.¬† Of course, with your tablets you have Instagram and similar programs that range anywhere from free to $5.00.¬† Keep it simple, stick to the free stuff!

For the printing cost? Simple.¬† I can’t afford color copies, let alone photo paper – no way would my budget handle it.¬† So I simply contact local print shops and see if they offer an educator discount.¬† I then tell the students that they have a choice: they can save the file digitally to a USB (50% do this) so that they can have it whenever they want or they can share the file with me and I will take it to a print shop.¬† A single 8.5×11 copy never costs more than $0.80 and to keep it nice, I laminate it which, if you have your own lamination machine ($25 at Wal-Mart), you can do for next to nothing.¬† Tell kids you can handle $1/copy and they don’t hesitate.¬† You can also look into going through your local AEA.

2. Virtual Classrooms: So you want to maintain your classroom outside of the classroom day.¬† Some of you just attempted to run away because that means unpaid work – get over it, it’s what we’re here for.¬† I run a Virtual Classroom for my 7th and 8th graders during their technology.¬† It creates a transparent environment where students can really take ownership of their learning and you simply become a facilitator.¬† Project Based Learning? Flipped Classroom? All of thee above.¬† There are hundreds of hosting sites that allow you to create a classroom for your students in which they can participate in polls, quizzes, assignments, discussions and even find great resources.¬† Stay away from Facebook – that’s trouble waiting to happen.¬† My favorite host for online learning environments is Edmodo.¬† Edmodo is great because it requires no email of the student, parents receive a code that allows them to monitor their child, and it’s completely free!¬† You don’t have to be 1:1 to make it work – spend one day in a lab, set up the accounts and have students use it from home.¬† You as the teacher have complete control.¬† My students love this concept because they feel modern, in control, and seem to get things a lot quicker.¬† It makes for a great tool when it comes to Project Based Learning – and what better room to advocate project based learning than in an art room – where it’s all about projects!¬† Simply, you could even use blogs to create a class discussion board – blogs like this one, WordPress!

3. Graphic Design: Easy peasy, rice and cheesy – you can easily add a graphic design unit to your classroom even if you’re limited to Microsoft Word as your program.¬† Take the same graphic design concepts (layouts, balance, color schemes, typography) and apply them to whatever program you have at hand.¬† There are also a lot of great typography websites in which students can explore tag clouds – a simple activity that can help them explore typography and design concepts more.

4.Digital Portfolios Рhave students use Weebly  or Wix to make their own portfolios. Of course, it requires registration but depending on the level you teach, you could very well use this to help students understand how to display, critique, and present their work.  In the end it could be extremely beneficial for students when they head to college.

Other Ideas: Explore! Get off your butt and explore! I know that half of us use Pinterest and the other half have an app based device…all of these resources are great to find applications and websites that students will really become engaged with.¬† Use Pinterest as a class critique board – make a board for everyone and have students visit and comment to do virtual critiques.¬† Visit virtual museums because Lord knows some of us can’t afford field trips.¬† Hashtag assignments on Twitter; start a Wiki to help students communicate – the possibilities are ENDLESS!

The point is – it doesn’t cost money to head into the future.¬† And technology is a big topic right now – our district is on the verge of 1:1.¬† It would be silly not to embrace even a small portion of technology and implement it into your instruction.¬† Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s not art…and students will only benefit from the exposure you give them.¬† All of the examples here could be essentially free.¬† There are the expensive versions, but free is easy too.

So what are you waiting for – dive in!

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