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The computer as a tool.

Once you become convinced to give computers a try, the next logical question is how? How can I use computers in my art program? How do I get computers in my artroom in the first place? Do I have to have a computer for each student? How do I know what equipment I'll need?

The questions can be overwhelming if you tackle too many at a time. Besides, you probably know some of the answers already. The computer is a tool; think of it as you would any piece of equipment.

Where can I get help?

Most art teachers using computers are self-taught through computer magazines, family members, fellow teachers or their own students. When incorporating their knowledge of computers into classroom activities for students, they draw from their experiences and instinct about teaching. And that makes sense; our "gut" feelings may well be the best source for setting realistic goals and developing lessons. You know your students and your program better than anyone else. What you don't know quite so well are computers.

You can't do it alone, of course. There are a number of places where you can get help and training:

* Workshops sponsored by your state department of education.

* The computer coordinator or computer teacher at your school.

* Your state art education association.

* Fellow art educators who have been working with computers.

* Education departments at universities and colleges offering courses in computer applications.

* Your students, many of whom grew up with computers and have been using them for years.

What do I do now?

Your first activity with students will be the hardest. If you are like me, you'll probably allow more time than you need to introduce the computer (most students already know how to use it) and you may underestimate their enthusiasm for it. Rely on your best judgement; you know your students and your situation best. Be confident; you've done this before--with the new kiln, loom or camera.

Start slowly, maybe by using computers in an assignment you have used before, but replacing the traditional medium with this new one. You may want to experiment with a small group of students first, perhaps after school or in a gifted and talented program. Take your time and be patient; both you and your students will need some time to get used to the equipment and software. Know your students, know your program, use the new equipment so you feel relatively comfortable with it; everything else will follow.

Work it out

The limitations of equipment, time and space are problems that art teachers face with most major equipment. There are never enough potters' wheels or printing presses; moreover, when a new piece of equipment does arrive, just trying to create a place for it is a challenge. With computers, the problems are not new, just packaged differently.

Some art teachers have one or more computer stations within the artroom; others make use of a central computer center with enough machines to service a class of students. Most art teachers using computers note that students enjoy working in small groups at the computer and it's not necessary that there be a computer for each student. You may find that many students are familiar with computers, and you can team these students with less experienced ones.

The final solution

You probably still have a lot of questions:

* What computers are best?

* What input devices should I get?

* What printer?

* What software?

* Are there sample lessons available?

See the problem? I will continue next time with a discussion of hardware and software considerations. But I think there are teachers out there who have a lot of experiences and insights to offer. Please write. I think this should be a place where we can share ideas about technology and computers and how we can use them in art education. If you have questions or suggestions or artworks, please send them to Debbie Greh, 516 Farley Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076.

Debbie Greh Assistant Director of Communications at St. John's University, Jamaica, New York, and the author of Computers in the Artroom (Worcester, MA: Davis Publications, Inc.)
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Title Annotation:using computers for arts education
Author:Greh, Debbie
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1991
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