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Do you hate technology?

Ask yourself: Why do you use technology? How would you like to use it? What are your fears about technology? How do artists and art educators use digital technologies? How does electronic/digital media change our experiences, and therefore, our perceptions and expressions?

When I ask art teachers these questions, patterns of beliefs emerge, such as perceptions of computer technology as cold, sterile, and impersonal. Moreover, art teachers tend to express a lack of confidence in working with computers or state that their students will know more about technology than they do. Many art teachers perceive computer technology as useful for finding, storing, and presenting content, but less suitable for creating art. Commonly expressed is the statement: "I hate technology." The emotional state of hate is often associated with disillusionment and misunderstanding.

The Element of Play

Most art teachers do not have time to keep abreast of the latest version of software in order to integrate computer technology into their art lessons. Moreover, software approached in a step-by-step manner is detrimental to motivation, creativity, and learning for transfer beyond the particular school project. Art teachers know that becoming familiar and confident with any medium requires time for exploration and play, which, in turn, leads to motivation to develop skills for meaningful artwork. Similarly, students need time to explore new media technologies such as digital cameras, scanners, and software programs.

Technologies in the Artroom

Show students how to use the help menus and tutorials, and how to pull down menus and search for the small icons that extend each option into further options. Also, when introducing new technology, provide opportunities for students to teach, first themselves, and then to prepare (with visuals and text) a how-to handout for classmates, which is also a way to assess their understanding. In this way, the tutorial will be at the students' level and will be interesting to them because their peers would have decided it is worthwhile to know. Student-created how-to handouts can be posted in a course Web site or printed and made into packets for use when at a computer. To move beyond seeing computer processes as merely technical, ask students to name the process they discover and share with others. Older students can give the process a metaphorical name, for example, There's No Place Like Home: Background/ Foreground, or Word Corruption/ Warped Text, or Masking Identity.

Misunderstanding Digital Art

When teachers ask students to use digital media for artwork that students and teachers perceive would be best rendered in traditional media (i.e., paint, charcoal), it is likely most will see their art as an imitation of a painting or drawing, rather than quality artwork.

Furthermore, with digital effects such as watercolor, conte-crayon, or pastels, the apparent ease and lack of skill needed to apply the effects are often seen as inferior art. Just like with traditional media, we need to explore the various creative potentials of digital media that are impossible to achieve with clay, paint, and other more traditional art media.

The best way to learn what is unique about digital media, like learning about watercolors, is to look at digital media artwork. Fortunately, with an Internet connection the artwork is plentiful to look at in the classroom, not as reproductions, but as the real thing.

Karen Keifer-Boyd is professor, art education & affiliate professor, women's studies at the School of Visual Arts, Pennsylvania State University. www.personal.psu.edu/ktk2.k-b@psu.edu
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Title Annotation:All Levels
Author:Keifer-Boyd, Karen
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Words:574
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