Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thoughts on Art and Technology

The use of technology in the classroom has always excited me. However, I have always taught classes that do not traditionally use technology because they are in the field of “the arts.” My undergraduate and master degrees are both in theatre with emphasis in acting/directing and educational theatre, but I decided I wanted to spend more time at home so I turned my teaching career to elementary art. I have been teaching art for three years now, and because I am an “outsider” to this field, I have decided to bring what I consider best teaching practices to the art room, including technology. Interestingly, in talking with colleagues about my desire to incorporate technology into the art curriculum, I received mixed reactions. Some feel that “they (the students) get enough of those computers at home…art is a chance to get away from that”, while others are interested but have no idea where to start. Through this paper I want to explore thoughts on technology in the art room as well as ways to integrate art technology into the “academic” subject areas.

In a discussion of Art and Technology, Harold Olejarz speaks about the need for art educators to include technology in their visual arts curriculum and gives a real-world example. He says:

In some creative projects, computer technology may not be used to generate an end product, but may increasingly become part of the creative process. An example of this is cited in an article entitled Sculpture and Computers by Kenneth R. O'Connell in the February 1995 issue of School Arts. In this article, O'Connell discusses how two professional sculptors, Bruce Beasley and Kenneth Snelson, use computer technology to develop three-dimensional sculptures. Also, as computer technology becomes more sophisticated, another trend will be the use of technology to imitate traditional media. The title of an article by Janet Ashford in the April 1995 issue of MacUser is Watercolors Without Water. Ashford discusses and shows examples of how software and hardware can be used to create digital watercolors. Is oil painting next? (Olejarz, 1996)

I think the point Olejarz makes is that technology does not take the place of the work of an artist, but rather is a tool for the artist, very much like a paint brush, and the more we learn about a variety of tools, the more freedom we have as artists.

Just as in other disciplines, we forget that the technology available to us can actually make art concepts easier for students to understand. Below, Don Wass, a leader in art education illustrates this point through a discussion on perspective, a very difficult concept for fifth graders. He says:

Traditionally trained artists may emphasize flat drawing too much when teaching forms in space. Working on flat paper is not necessarily the best way to understand a 3Dimensional form. 2D drawing of a three- dimensional form is an illusion. High school students in my experience, even Special Education kids, can all learn to model in 3D when they can't come close to drawing in 3D perspective on paper. What the brain tells the viewer about a form is not well represented on a flat piece of paper but it is very well represented in a 3D environment. We may need to rewrite our thinking about this concept. (Integration of Visual Arts with Technology, 2009)

In reflecting on this idea, I could not imagine NOT using the computer to illustrate these concepts to my struggling fifth graders. In addition, Mr. Wass hits on another great educational strategy, differentiated learning. By proving an entry point through the computer to some students, as teachers we might have a better chance delivering our content. (Not to mention the idea of proportion, which is equally important in the elementary math classrooms.)

Finally, art and technology combined can offer ways to reach across the curriculum lines opening up a myriad of other opportunities. In the Community Discovered Project (CD), a group of students worked with various technologies and a wide range of museums from across the country with one of their goals being “to create a national network of educators who will develop and implement appropriate learning strategies integrating technology and the arts with core subject areas such as math, science, reading and social studies” (Sackrey). This was a five year project with numerous students across Nebraska, and like most educational trials, it was met with mixed success. However, there were some exciting things they found at the conclusion of the program. For example:

Another high school class was exploring local Native American traditions by studying handmade rugs and quilts and by using the Internet to view the work of Native American artists. In another lesson, students were involved in an on-line conference with docents at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Docents asked students about drawings and paintings that they had made of natural scenes they had seen during field visits to Platte River Park. These are all good examples of the infusion of the arts and technology into other subject areas. (Sackrey)

In conclusion, I think we are just opening the door to a world of possibilities for our young and budding artists. But just like our sisters in the music and dance world, in order for our “classics” to survive, we need to find ways to make them accessible and exiting for our new generation. At the same time, we can take that passion that exists for some and help them scaffold meaning for their other subjects.

Integration of Visual Arts with Technology. (2009, May 14). Retrieved October 22, 2009, from Welcome to WikEd: Integration of Visual Arts with Technology

Olejarz, H. (1996). Integrating Technology into the Art Curriculum. Retrieved October 22, 2009, from Harold Olejaz:

Sackrey, T. A. (n.d.). Musuems and the Web 2001. Retrieved October 22, 2009, from Art Tales: A Story of Collaboration and Integration:


  1. I never really thought of bringing Art and Technology together but after viewing your blog I now see how this can work. I can see how this could also be enjoyable to the students.

  2. Chris,
    I enjoyed your blog on Art in Technology. It will enhance a lot of creative minds to try computer imagery, drwaing, painting,animation, etc. Some of my students are currently taking Art I and they are doing Mangas. They are drawing the Mangas and adding animation to them also. Absolutely fabulous!