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The art teacher's new tool: the video camcorder.

The art teacher's new tool: THE VIDEO CAMCORDER

As in many schools today, Cannon Elementary has a television set with video hook-up in every room. Using this up-to-date technology, I can provide art lesson objectives and background to all students ahead of time. First thing every Tuesday morning, students and teachers watch a ten or fifteen minute art lesson on their classroom TVs.

There are several advantages to this routine:

1. Students are stimulated to think ahead to what they'll be doing in their weekly art class, providing an incubation period in which ideas might be generated. As a result, more time becomes available for students to work creatively when they get to class.

2. I save time for more in-depth planning. For instance, I have to wrap myself like a mummy and crawl out of a box only once, instead of doing it for each class studying Egypt. That makes life easier for me, and art more dynamic for the students.

3. Because the homeroom teachers also get to see what their students are studying, communication between the art teacher, classroom teacher and student improves. With a focus or direction established, other professionals have an opportunity to contribute ideas and interests to the lesson. The art program becomes a connected rather than an isolated segment of education. Classroom teachers begin to realize that art has real substance.

4. Teachers begin to appreciate the history, the geography, the practical applications of math and communication skills that a good art program encompasses. They see the variety of processes and skills students are required to use, as they visualize and then produce images in art forms. They gain an appreciation of the students' opportunities for making decisions and solving problems.

Typical comments from teachers are, "This lesson ties right in with what we're doing in my class!" or "May I borrow the Indian rug I saw in your video this morning?" The guidance counselor even requested that we run the program first thing in the morning, as an incentive to get students to be on time for school. The whole school notices, becomes involved in, and appreciates the art program.

The camcorder is a practical, helpful tool for an art teacher if the instruction involves pictures or reproductions. I can reproduce and enlarge small pictures to fill the color TV screens, so I don't have to worry about making or showing slides. The camera eye can zoom into a part of a picture to emphasize points or direct attention. Directions, definitions or other instructions may be written on small cards and shown large on the screen.

There are other advantages to having this moving photographic eye at your fingertips. Taking field trips to art museums with the camcorder can bring the outside world into our classroom, without having to actually take the students there. This also encourages students to visit local museums, and lets those who are unable to go, see and appreciate the current exhibits.

Other artists seem to enjoy explaining various aspects of their work and sending personal messages, on video, to the students. Information gathered on camera field trips can enhance regular lessons or become stimuli for special lessons with commentary reinforcing the objective of the impending art lesson. How many times has an art teacher said, "I wish my kids could be here"?

Some of my best lessons come from taping students painting or drawing, talking about their ideas as they work. The viewer begins to realize what is involved in creating art. The work becomes very important when one sees the thought processes demonstrated, and other students gain an appreciation of the student's product.

All students become encouraged to talk about personal experiences, paint the experience and talk about what they're trying to do. Some students may be given the task of researching an idea and coming up with the best way to present it to the school. This can include scripting, directing, filming--the same tasks that would be required by a real artists in the real world. For students producing the video, using verbal, dramatic and visual art skills can be a rewarding artistic experience. They love to dramatize ideas, and make good models for peers as they demonstrate working and talking about art with enthusiasm. They gain self-confidence, and are motivated to try harder.

The camcorder encourages me to plan well and go to a little extra trouble to make a lesson really worthwhile. These lessons may be used for many classes, stored for a while, shared with other schools, or swapped with other teachers.

Many dynamic lesson introductions will fit onto one small tape, keeping many good ideas in a very small space. Not only can I send the program over the video network to the whole school, but I can run the tape through the camcorder directly onto my large screen artroom TV. This flexibility allows me to review part of a lesson or show it to a class that might have missed it. Preparing and organizing good lesson plans seems worthwhile when it is so easy to use and refer to them quickly.

PHOTO : Props may be recorded and stored for future lessons.

PHOTO : Students can operate cameras, and act as directors or animators.

Doris Turner teaches art at Cannon Elementary School, Spartanburg, South Carolina.
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Author:Turner, Doris
Publication:School Arts
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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