Curriculum Approaches

Your Guide to Using Technology in a Choice-Based Space

cardboard pieces with iPad showing a house

Technology is a huge part of the twenty-first century art room. It’s an amazing asset but also brings some big challenges. In a TAB classroom, it’s almost impossible to continuously monitor technology usage with all of the other processes going on. It can be difficult to find a way to use technology while keeping students safe and preserving the autonomous spirit of the classroom. However, it can be done! And while it does take some set up, the results will be worth it.

Setting Up a Tech Station in a Choice-Based Classroom

Setting up a technology center in your classroom takes some special consideration. Here are three ideas to help get you started.

students working at tech station

Set Clear Expectations

Before offering technology, such as iPads, in a choice-based space, it’s important to set extremely clear expectations and consequences. Frame the center as a privilege that needs to be taken care of.

Create Rules to Keep Technology from Getting Damaged

Splashes and spills are regular occurrences in the art room. Make sure your students know exactly how to keep the devices safe. Create an anchor chart to remind students of the rules.

For example, an anchor chart for an iPad station might have the following:

iPad Rules

  • Use clean hands only!
  • Keep iPads in dry media areas.
    (Do not take iPads to the paint station or clay station.)
  • Keep iPads in your hands or on the tables.
    (Do not put iPads on the floor.)
  • You are responsible for your iPad for the entire time you have it out.
  • You may continue to use the iPads as long as all rules are followed. 
    (Breaking these rules will lead to lost privileges.)
  • If iPads are damaged, the center will be closed.

Teach Students to be Responsible Tech Users

As much as we try and police it, we have to face the facts. Kids have access to the big bad Internet twenty-four hours a day. Therefore, we need to teach kids how to be responsible users and set clear expectations for tech usage in the classroom.

Here are two basic guidelines to share with your students:

  • Use the tech to make art…that’s why your here!
  • If you come across something that is inappropriate:
    • Close out of it calmly.
    • Do not share it with other students.
    • Let the teacher know. (Here you may want to say you don’t need specifics, just to know the student handled it responsibly. This would depend on the age of your students and your student population.)
    • Ask the teacher questions if you’re unsure.
    • Move on and make art!

Make sure both positive and negative consequences are crystal clear for students.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Appropriate tech use is rewarded with:
    • Unlimited access to the technology
    • Freedom to use technology to explore artistic interests
  • Inappropriate tech use may result in:
    • Limited technology use
    • Loss of technology use
    • Other disciplinary measures
      (This could include a phone call home and/or trip to the principal.)

It’s a good idea to connect with your technology specialist to ask for help and ideas. You may even be able to use school-wide common language or consequences to keep things clear for your kids!

Using a Tech Station in a Choice-Based Classroom

Once your expectations are clearly stated and displayed, then comes the fun part. If you’re new to using tech in the classroom, you might want to start small. Download a few apps and test them out with some of your classes. Easing in allows your students to show you what works best for them. Pretty soon, your tech savvy kids will likely be showing you cool new apps for the art room! Here are four specific ways to use your new station.

1. To Document Artwork

Keeping track of student artwork is important in all classrooms. Accountability can be especially tricky in a TAB room where students are making artwork in a variety of different mediums at all different paces.

Using technology to document artwork really helps with that accountability piece. iPads specifically offer tons of amazing apps to store artwork digitally. Google Classroom, Seesaw, and Artsonia are all great choices. Teaching students to upload their own work allows them to share their work and artist statements with the world. Plus, after it’s uploaded, you can send original artwork home to cut down on clutter while still having the ability to keep track of work for grading.

2. To Generate Ideas

The Internet is the world’s largest visual resource library! No longer will you need a printer or vast array of physical visual resources to accommodate your students’ diverse interests. Students with access to technology develop more confidence in their researching abilities. In my room, I hear students say things like, “I think I can find out,” way more oftan than, “I don’t know how.”

3. To Supplement Other Centers

Sometimes students are the best inventors! I once set up a Claymation station with polymer clay only to have students adapt the process to include all stations.

students doing stop-motion

Pretty soon my kids were documenting their drawing and collage processes, using sculptures as characters in their animations, and creating full-length features with Star Wars Origami. Technology doesn’t have to be self-contained! It can enhance traditional artmaking experiences.

4. To Flip Instruction

If your school allows access to YouTube or other online video resources, students with tech devices can easily access flipped instructional videos created by you or other art teachers.

student using online tutorial

You can also create online anchor charts with step-by-step instructions, links to visual resources, and art history scavenger hunts right on your classroom website.

Although nerve-wracking, incorporating technology into your classroom can be hugely successful. With such a powerful motivator, students will rise to the challenge of taking responsibility!

How do you incorporate technology into your classroom?

Do you have any favorite apps or programs to share?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Kelly Phillips

Kelly Phillips is an elementary school art educator and a former AOEU Writer. They strive to create an environment where all students can become independent, self-directed risk-takers.

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