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Sensible software.

Software is essential for art teachers, and selecting the right software can be tricky business. Packages range in price and the price often (not always) reflects the complexity of the program. The most critical part of deciding on software is in determining how you are going to use computers in your art program. You'll need to consider the following: cost, grade level - if you teach small children, you'll need a program that is simple and uses in icons exclusively; access - how many computers you are able to use; and time.

Before making any decisions, check with your computer coordinator or computer teacher. Several art teachers have dug up graphics packages that were bought a few years ago and never used. Older programs, like Koala Painter and Blazing Paddles, can be used in an art program with younger students because they are relatively simple to use and all tools are indicated by icons.

What Do I Need to Know?

Before buying any software, make sure it is compatible with your computers. Software is made specifically for use with certain computer brands e.g. IBM, Amiga, Apple IIe, Apple IIgs and Macintosh.

Second, look at the memory requirements; all packages should clearly state what computer they will run on as well as the memory requirements (64K, 256K, 1M and so on).

Third, check the features of the program itself.

* What input devices will a program

accept? * Do you need a mouse? * How many colors are available? * Can text be added to pictures? * Is a print dump included? * Can the user cut and paste sections

of images?

Determine what features are needed in your particular situation before selecting software. Younger children have little need for sophisticated software; in fact several programs like KidPix have a child's version which allows you to shut off certain options and turn them back on later. Keep in mind that students of any age group will be working under time constraints, and sophisticated programs may be unnecessary. If at all possible, work with software before you purchase it. Be aware that even software with very limited options may be of use if you're working with young children. Often, students get so fascinated with all the options available in more sophisticated packages, they never explore the software fully and end up failing to created or save any images. With some students (and art teachers) the complexity of a program can lead to frustration.

Software Packages

A complete listing of all the software available goes beyond the scope of this article; I have limited this to software I have used or that has been recommended to me by other teachers. If it seems to you that there are more packages listed for the Apple family, you're right. Apple IIe and IIgs are still the mainstay of education. IBM and Amiga are included, but in reality there are not as many reasonably-priced graphics packages for these machines. Of course, all you need is one package. I have not included presentation, animation, multimedia or CAD programs.

The suggested levels of use in this article are based on a variety of considerations. These considerations includes ease of use, features and documentation. Koala Painter is recommended for younger students, but that does not mean it cannot be used by high school students or adults. Koala Painter is easy to use and may be sufficient as introductory software for all ages. You may ask why I even include sophisticated and costly software like Cricket Draw and Adobe Illustrator. The answer is that I have found them in use in several schools, not necessarily in classrooms, but in administrative offices. More sophisticated packages can even be used with younger students if you have sufficient time. PageMaker, a desktop publishing program used by professionals, is probably more than your art program needs, but it is user-friendly and I have seen it used in high schools.

It is difficult to give any accurate figures on cost because prices vary so greatly. For example, Dazzle Draw for the Apple, lists for close to $70, I've seen it for less than $40; KidPix lists for $39.99, I've seen it for less than $30. Many of the packages mentioned are available in lab packs: Dazzle Draw lists for around $41.95, but is available in a Lab Pack of five disks and teacher's guide for $119.95.

Most computer catalogues are very specific regarding memory requirements, ability to network and so on. If your school has a computer coordinator or uses a central office for purchasing, you will already have approved suppliers. If you can shop around for prices, and ask for software on approval. Most software dealers are understandably hesitant to allow potential buyers software on approval because of piracy (making illegal copies of programs). You might also check magazines for reviews on software.

A Suggestion on Software Use

I have some suggestions for those of you just starting with computers. If you are part of a K-12 program and your school uses Apple II computers, you may want to buy several different packages with varying options and level of difficulty. You might buy Color Me for K-2, Blazing Paddles for 1-5, Dazzle Draw for 4-6, 816 Paint for 5,8; 816 Paint can also be used in High Schools, as well as Paint-Works, Deluxe Paint, Platinum Paint or the various draw programs. Of course, all this depends on access and the time you allow for computers. You don't need high-end software packages; with even the simplest programs, students learn how to use input devices and manipulate and experiment with their images.

As you become familiar with software packages, you will notice that some packages are well-suited for teaching various art concepts. For example, paint programs are great for freehand drawing, large color fills and palette manipulation. They are easy to edit in the zoom or magnify mode, but the image degrades as it is enlarged. The distortion is obvious and can be frustrating to students. Drawing or illustration programs create vector-based or object-oriented images. The concept of creating object, rather than simply making a freehand drawing, can be difficult for young students, but these images maintain their integrity when enlarged or reduced.

What is true for your students is true for you as well. You can't expect to turn the computer on and use it to create masterpieces with only an hour or two of practice. Select each tool and learn what it does; experiment with different menu options and always save your works on a disk. If you've never used computers before, don't start with sophisticated software. Get a simple program like Dazzle Draw, Blazing Paddles or Kid-Pix and explore all the options available. Once you feel comfortable using a mouse, storing images on disk, using the tools and pulling down menus, to on to more sophisticated packages.

Finally, let your students help. If you get a software package during the school year and don't have time to explore, give it to one of your students and let them teach you.

Debbie Greh is Assistant Director, Communication Arts Program, St. John's University, Jamaica, New York.
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Title Annotation:selecting software for use in art classes
Author:Greh, Debbie
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Buyers Guide
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Graphic self-portraits.
Next Article:A paint program tutorial.

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