Is Technology in the Art Room Always a Good Thing?

These days, it’s totally normal for me to say things like, “Get out your phones and work on your blog posts,” to my high school art students. However, this type of instruction wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago.

Now, technology permeates our culture, including the culture in our schools. Many schools even give each student their own computer or iPad, while others operate on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. There, students are actually encouraged to bring smart phones and other devices from home to supplement available classroom resources.

With the availability of technology comes the expectation that we use it to improve learning in our classrooms.

 

This change has, of course, impacted our art rooms. Increased access to technology affects almost everything we do, from the way we deliver instruction to the way students access materials to the art making processes we teach.

  • We can easily record videos to deliver instruction to our students which they can access it over and over again.
  • We can teach students to use their devices to access literally millions of artworks.
  • We can expose our students to new forms of tech-based art like animation and digital sketching.

So technology obviously has enormous benefits, but does it also come with a cost?

Is replacing face-to-face interaction with a screen always beneficial? Studies have shown that screen time can inhibit children’s ability to read human emotions. We know that students are spending ever increasing amounts of time plugged in, and research shows that the amount of television kids watch lowers their readiness for school. If students are negatively impacted by the amount of technology they are currently exposed to, should we add even more screen time in our classrooms? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

student on phone

These thoughts run through my head as I sit down to read the posts my students have made on their personal blogs. When I really think about it, I have a love/hate relationship with the sites I have my students create. I love that they serve as a digital portfolio of all the work they produce while in high school, and I love how convenient they are to grade and keep track of. If I’m being honest, I also love how important it sounds when I say all my kids create and maintain personal blogs. I am, after all, expected to use technology.

What I’m less sure about is the relative value to what the blogs replace – face-to-face conversations. If I sat down and had a conversation with each student, would I gain deeper insight into their learning by being able to respond in real time to what they say? To see their facial expressions and to hear their tone of voice as they reflect?  I also wonder about the wisdom of asking kids, who have been immersed in screen time all day, to take in more.

Making decisions about how much to use technology in our programs is something we have to base on a variety of factors, but the one thing we have to continue to ask ourselves is if the benefits are always worth the costs.

How do you use technology in your classroom?

Do you always love it or do you sometimes worry about its value?

Melissa Purtee

Subscriber

Melissa teaches at Apex High School in North Carolina and is the author of The Open Art Room. She’s passionate about supporting diversity, student choice, and facilitating authentic expression.

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  • Rose Delia

    I LOVE the many ways technology has benefitted my elementary classroom! I can find artists, artworks, art information and more in so many ways and so quickly! I can research educational ideas, art lessons, materials and share my curriculum. BUT. My PreK through 5th grade students seriously lack fine motor skills, and struggle with simple tasks including writing. I felt the pressure when I began in this school, “How will you use technology in the art room?” was asked by several people. Then I started our first clay unit. I saw students struggle to manipulate clay! I heard them comment that is was hard and their hands were tired and sore. This happened in Kindergarten all the way up through 6th grade (I had 6th then). That was my turning point. Art happens once a week, for 45-60 minutes. Computers happen the other 23 hours in every day. Students use technology all day in the classrooms, and they all have serious access at home. My Art Room was going to be a hands on only space. I still use the Smart Board, and my computer to search out information, but, except for a very special project (where 3rd graders “animated” their drawings of the Presidents with an app), Technology isn’t welcome. We use our hands. We build strength and control. There is plenty of other time for technology. This works fabulously in my Art Room, the students love the work, and adults, both staff and families, completely understand and support the decision. In fact, no one ever complained. Except our IT person, who completely understood when I laid it out.

  • Stephanie Hudson

    I use technology multiple ways. I teach 7th-12th in the country, not everyone has access at home to the internet, so that means I have to let them have some time in class to do that. i use Canvas an online classroom for all my classes but differently depending on who the kids are. Like the advanced class of 7th and 8th can go online to take quizzes and do discussions. I create my own process videos for high school since so many of them work at different levels I individually assign work to keep them on pace. So I put all my powerpoints in Canvas and show them to a class as a whole but students can also go back and review from it or if they are absent they can see it. Youtube is awesome as well, so many great things from museums and artist out there! I use to use a document camera, however i had no space for one this year because I’m cramped up in a tiny room because of instruction, so being able to make videos was very helpful. Also in the online classroom they saved the day because I had a student who was severely claustrophobic and she couldn’t step in the room (yea it’s that small and crowded.) So do I worry about the effect all this tech is having… YES! That’s why I balance it with all the art making! Some students with reading issues and language barriers never do well with paperwork and excel with art processes. I must say though that the google extensions plugins have really helped them though, I have one that reads it to them if they highlight it and one that will translate for them.

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