In our current era of deep budget cuts throughout education and high-stakes standardized tests which focus predominantly on reading and math, art education can quickly be pushed to the margins. Restoring the arts to a prominent place in our education system may occur only with the help of a surprising ally – 1:1 technology. But how can student access to technology make things like visual art, music, theater, and dance come alive in the classroom? Here are three key roles 1:1 devices can play in improving the quality of art instruction for students of all ages.
Digital Art and Music
Creating art and music through traditional tools – painting with watercolors, for example, or playing the trombone – is incredibly valuable. 1:1 technology should be used to enhance, not detract, from such experiences. For students and schools struggling to afford musical instruments, however, inexpensive IPod apps exist that offer realistic simulations designed to teach students the basics of how to play any instrument. Even better, students can take their expertise with traditional tools and turn them into impressive finished products through tools like IMovie (for video), GarageBand (for music), and Google SketchUp (for 3-D sculpture and design). Once finished, students can document and publicize their work by posting it on a personal blog or sharing it on a site like PhotoBucket (for photography) or ITunes (for songs and videos). No longer will a student’s audience be limited to his teacher and classmates – now students can potentially sing, dance, and create art for viewers around the world!
Districts which cannot afford highly qualified specialists to teach art, music, theater, and dance can turn to online arts courses to expand their class offerings. These distance learning classes are thankfully not limited to video lectures and paper/pencil tests, either, because the types of tools described above can allow students to submit their real artwork (via video, podcast, etc.) to an instructor located anywhere.
Virtual Field Trips, Guest Speakers, and Collaboration Across Schools
In addition to giving students powerful ways to create better art and to share that art with the world, 1:1 technology allows art opportunities from around the world to come into the classroom. Through the power of videoconferencing, for example, students in 1:1 classrooms can talk to expert artists from anywhere around the world. Students can take virtual field trips to museums, for free, from the comfort of their classroom.
Collaboration with art students across multiple schools can also be cultivated. Virtual art fairs can be held involving students from any number of schools, partnerships with other art classrooms can be formed, and “art buddies” within a district (such as a 4th grader from a town’s elementary school being paired with a 12th grader from that same town’s high school) can communicate together about similar art interests using 1:1 technology.
People sometimes see computers as a tool primarily for enhancing science, technology, language arts, and math education. Education in the arts, however, can also be dramatically expanded and improved through a 1:1 technology program.
About the author: Mark Pullen, 1:1 classroom teacher, on behalf of Worth Ave. Group.