Discussing Digital Art and Technology (Ep. 228)

Following her incredibly popular NOW Conference presentation, Khadesia Latimer joins Candido today for a discussion of all things tech-related in the art room. Listen as they discuss their favorite apps for artmaking, how we can make technology more accessible, and how digital art can empower students to find their voice. Full episode transcript below.

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Candido: The Winter NOW Conference was a success. There were so many incredible presentations. If you were anything like me, you were taking notes and ended the day excited to try new lessons. Among the presenters was Khadesia Latimer. During the conference, Khadesia introduced us to Procreate and an excellent project that brings digital art into the classroom. I thought we should reach out to Khadesia to review that lesson, but also discuss technology and digital art in the classroom, along with concerns of accessibility and funding. So, this is Everyday Art Room, and I’m your host, Candido Crespo.

Thank you for joining us. I know a little bit about you, but the audience I’m sure would like to know maybe who you are and where you teach.

Khadesia: Yes. So, hi everybody. My is Khadesia Latimer and I am an elementary art teacher here in South Carolina. I am actually split between two schools. So, one school is kindergarten through fifth grade and the other is third through fifth.

Candido: I have questions, because even though we do know each other, I don’t know everything about you. How long have you been teaching?

Khadesia: This is actually my fifth year, so I still consider myself a newbie.

Candido: I love that. I love that. You are, from what I see, you’re so full of excitement about this job. I feel like even before we jump into our topic, I’m interested in what you do to remind yourself what’s so exciting about our profession?

Khadesia: Oh, definitely that every single day is different.

Candido: Yes.

Khadesia: For example, Tuesday through Friday I teach the same lessons in the same order with just different groups, but every single day is completely different just because our students are completely different that we see every day and they are hilarious. I love, that’s my favorite part about this job, that is not the same. Every day is completely different. I have something new to look forward to.

Candido: For the five years, have you been in the same position? Have you been split for the five years?

Khadesia: Yes. I’ve been at the same two schools and I’ve been split the whole time. So, I don’t know what it’s like to teach at one school.

Candido: Well, up until this school year, I was stationary in a building, but I chose to do a split position this year. So, just real quick, shout out to all the teachers who are in a split position, because we are a different breed.

Khadesia: Of course.

Candido: So, Khadesia, you presented at the NOW conference. Well, and I guess I did too. So, that was pretty cool. It was, the lineup was incredible. But I want to talk specifically about the lesson that you introduced. You spoke about symmetry, but I was hoping that maybe you could get into a little bit more detail about it.

Khadesia: Yeah. So, this is actually my second presentation on Procreate at the NOW conference and this time I did a little, I guess you could say a review of how you can use Procreate to teach radial symmetry.

Candido: Right.

Khadesia: So, I drew on the screen the whole time showing step by step exactly what to do, and it’s a really fun app. I wish I had it for my classroom. We’ll talk a little bit more about that in the minute, but I just feel like it’s perfect for the classroom because elementary students can use it and high school students can use it too, because it can be super simple but really complex at the same time. So, teaching that radial symmetry lesson was really fun and a lot of people liked it and are curious and trying to figure out how they can use it in their classroom.

Candido: Yeah. I’m glad you said a lot of people liked it because there was a lot of feedback while it was occurring, and from what I’ve seen, afterwards. So, I think you definitely struck a chord for a lot of teachers through that presentation. There’s something special about not only advocating for a particular app or software to introduce your classrooms, but the way you presented it in a way that teachers felt comfortable doing it.

I received the same, similar feedback when I did comic books in a classroom in the art classroom last year. I think sometimes teachers, I guess, restrict themselves from moving forward with different kinds of lessons, because, I guess just out of fear, right? A level of comfort, a discomfort. They don’t want to engage in discomfort. We know that from a span of different circumstances, but in this particular case with talk technology. The way you presented it was a way that made people feel comfortable and felt like, oh, this is something that’s possible for me because, again, not every teacher is a digital artist, but then making them feel empowered to be able to do so for their students as well. So, congratulations on a really awesome presentation.

Khadesia: Thank you. Thank you.

Candido: Yeah. So, this digital art that we’re talking about can’t really be created without the technology. So, what’s your experience been like getting tech into the classroom?

Khadesia: Well, my school is actually, both schools are actually one to one schools, which means that every child has the piece of technology and currently they have Chromebooks. Anytime I need my students to bring their technology into the classroom or their device into the classroom, they just bring their Chromebooks. Chromebooks are awesome, but they are a little limiting when it comes to digital art making. It can be done.

Candido: Right.

Khadesia: But it takes a little bit of research and trial and error because teachers in my district have a laptop, but the kids have Chromebooks and we know they are a little different. So, if I try out a site that you can use to create digital art on my laptop, it might look completely different or work differently on their Chromebook. So, it’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to that.

Candido: Right. What grades, what’s the youngest grade that you’re working that you’re creating digital art with?

Khadesia: The youngest is third grade. I have not tried kindergarten through second grade yet. That’s a whole nother battlefield. With or without technology, but yes, third grade.

Candido: Look, when we talk about fear of trying new things, I’m just always, I just always have fear with anything under third grade, so.

Khadesia: Yes.

Candido: I completely understand.

Khadesia: Rightfully.

Candido: I don’t have anything under third grade this year… But I, prior to, I’ve had my fair share of experiences and why I’m laughing about this as well right now. All right. So, in thinking accessibility, right? The populations we serve are varied. Maybe you might want to expand on who you teach, but technology in the classroom is a pipe dream in some of these communities, right? So, why do you think it’s important for us to advocate for accessibility if we don’t already have it?

Khadesia: One, obviously, technology is the future. I feel like a lot of times we only talk about technology in the classroom if we’re talking about science or math, but we, as our teachers know, that it is so much more than that. We can and use technology to help kids learn how to be more creative and problem solve and have those critical thinking skills, because those are things that we use in the art classroom all the time.

Technology, again, can be used for every aspect of education. We really need to advocate for that because it’s not simply for academics. It can be used for everything and we just have to find ways to use it more in the art classroom and letting other people see what that looks like.

Candido: Right.

Khadesia: Because I know in the past, once people notice what I’m doing in the classroom, they’re more likely to help me get the things that I need. So, not only doing it in your classroom for your kids, but also doing it to where other people can see it so they know, you know what I mean? You have to see it.

Candido: Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. Let’s expand on that for a moment because… So, we’ll refer to it as visibility, right? Visibility is important because… There is this complex crossroads between theory and practice. You can tell everybody whoever you want us to talk to about how important it is to have digital art in inside of the art classroom at elementary level, but people won’t hear you out because there is no concrete evidence for them.

Khadesia: Right.

Candido: That’s what you’re referring to now, is how can you provide that concrete evidence? I think what’s wonderful about digital art is how easy it is to create maybe an online gallery.

Khadesia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Candido: Right? So now you’re taking these works that you have spent an incredible amount of time with the students creating and you can place in everybody’s email and say this is how, this is what I mean.

Khadesia: Right.

Candido: I’m sure there’s other ways to go about it, but that’s one that comes to mind immediately when we’re talking about that.

Khadesia: Yeah. The online galleries, like you mentioned, or even if your students create some type of digital artwork, display it. Have them write artist statements about how they came about creating what they have. People need to see you using these things so they’ll know how important they are.

Candido: Right. So, if I can, at this point right now, I’ll share my story and why I thought this episode was important and why this discussion is important. Our school district in the past two years has undergone a tremendous revamping of technology. It, of course, it’s a result of the pandemic.

Khadesia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Candido: A lot of good things are coming from it. They’re, we’re, I don’t want to say we’re, I guess we’re catching up to our neighboring districts and… We’re, I don’t think that we’re going to be where we should be, but where at least getting to where we should be.

Khadesia: Right.

Candido: But part of the plan or what I noticed when the plan went out was that the art department itself was excluded. I found that pretty interesting because, well, it, exactly what we’re saying. It’s a part of what we’re creating. It’s one of our, it’s a medium for us. There is alternative ways to create art that aren’t just rooted in paint and glue sticks and scissors, there’s other ways to do, there’s other art that we can create and there’s, and we can also consider it part of mixed media, right? What if we did a painting and then we wanted to alter it digitally, right? It’s a tool that we should have.

Anyways, I questioned this. I questioned why it wasn’t part of our package. The answer I got was the students are having, are going to get Chromebooks. Perhaps you can just, you can ask them to bring it to class. I’m sure there’s a bunch of different perspectives on that. But for me, I was like, I don’t want these kids every day, Chromebooks inside of my classroom.

One, I don’t know that everybody’s going to bring it and two, I don’t want, just the same way. I don’t take phones away inside of my classroom. I don’t want to be responsible for that tech. I want to be responsible for the thing that’s assigned to me. So, what I’ve always wanted was just a classroom set of iPads. We weren’t in a place where I could make that budget request. I made that response and I didn’t, I act-, I didn’t get the response I wanted. They were just like, yeah, well, art department’s not considered part of the plan. That’s fine. But what I did understand, or what I had to come to realize was, you could always ask again, right? So, that first time, and that’s where I want to go for this conversation, is that perhaps you as an art teacher have been trying to strive to get technology into your classroom. If you’re anything like the two of us, you’re constantly advocating for things. It’s just part, I guess, it’s part of the job, unfortunately.

But I asked that same question again in January and suddenly a plan of action was, came about and it was partially because you and I started talking and as a result of your presentation as well, I was like, man, I kind of want to do that now. I really want to get that going. I felt that new excitement, that energy again, so I placed a question back out there against it. I said, Hey, I really want to do this iPad thing. The plan that came out was actually one that I think is one beneficial to many districts. Instead of me asking for brand new tech, I said, and I knew, I was like, I know you have existing iPads there that aren’t being used. How can I have access to those? And I put them to work in a class.

Instead of it just being, yes, it was also like, yes, let’s put them to work inside the classroom and then we’ll put together a presentation to pitch to the superintendent and see if we could get you new tech in. So, a little bit of patience, a little bit of rewording, could possibly get you the thing that you want.

Khadesia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Candido: I don’t know what it’s like to have the one-on-one yet because it’s not in place. But it’s also not something that I wanted to work with. So, it’s interesting to hear how you are working with Chromebooks. What have you used? What are some things that you’ve used, or, because I’m not familiar with it.

Khadesia: I am actually, I have an… A cart. I have a cart of iPads and originally they belonged to the library. They were for the whole school to use, but nobody used them anymore after everyone and got the Chromebooks.

Candido: Okay.

Khadesia: They were in the back of the closet, just collecting dust. I went to the librarian one day and I was like, nobody’s using these and I’m the only one that ever asked for them, so can I just have them? Quote unquote.

Candido: Yeah. Right.

Khadesia: She thought that was a good idea. So, the cart is in my classroom right now, but they’re very outdated. They’re newer Chromebooks, but they just need updates and they’re, the apps. Some of the apps need to be deleted. I’m going to pitch that we get these iPads in working condition again, and hopefully I’ll be able to purchase Procreate for each one of the Chromebooks so I can actually use these because my idea is if we purchased them and nobody’s using them, somebody should be using them.

Candido: Yeah. Absolutely.

Khadesia: So we don’t waste that money because not every school district is fortunate enough to push Chromebooks to the back of a closet.

Candido: Yeah, seriously. So, is there a department or, in our school we have something called Network Outsource and they’re our tech department. They’re a hired company that works inside of our school district. So, who would be responsible if you made that pitch to handle that?

Khadesia: Our tech department.

Candido: Okay.

Khadesia: So, we have a tech department in our district. They work in our district office and we have one at every school. I could always go to the tech director at our school and talk to her about it. But of course money wise, I think I would have to talk to our superintendent about getting the funds that we need.

Candido: Right, right. So, Procreate is nice in that if you do buy more, I think it was like, I don’t know. I don’t know, 10 or more or something like that. You could receive a 50% discount on it.

Khadesia: Oh, wow.

Candido: Yeah. That’s actually in an episode that Tim Bogatz recorded with Procreate EDU, they review all of that. So, I’ll talk about that a little bit later as well. All right. So, let’s do a little bit of future thinking here. What are some hopes you have as far as digital art in the classroom?

Khadesia: Hmm. I hope to one day actually have nicer iPads that I can do more things on. I also hope that there will be more apps that will encourage creativity. Procreate is an awesome app, but again, I do know every school can’t afford to spend $10 for each iPad for this app or even if it’s at a discounted price that will be more options in the future and that more art teachers will create digital artwork and make that a focus. Not a focus, but something that they’re intentional about sharing with their students because like I said, technology is the future and what if we’re not teaching our students something and they could potentially miss it out on something they’re amazing at.

Candido: In these elementary schools, they are proficient in digital art and they’re not in my district. In my district, we don’t even have, we have a computer art classroom in the high school without an Adobe suite. I’m not sure at what point we should be looking at a class and looking at a curriculum and saying, we can’t refer to it as this anymore because it doesn’t fit into the description of what’s happening at a global level. So, yeah. I totally agree. If we’re not teaching this thing, our students are missing out on something.

Khadesia: Right.

Candido: Right now, I have these iPads coming into my room and there is a couple of different programs that I’m checking out. There are free. One of them are in particular is a stop motion program because I want my students to explore animation as well as digital drawing and painting. There are some free, there are some different free apps that teachers can check out. Yeah. Procreate is definitely the one. I mean, it’s the one that I create my personal artwork on and I love it, but there’s also opportunities four districts to just get the tech in and then work at the free level while you try to, I guess, figure out how you can get the funding for some of those better apps.

I just realized that some of our listeners probably didn’t attend the Winter NOW Conference. I think we should expand a little bit on what you presented so that they are familiar as to something that they can try if they do have this technology. So, you said radius symmetry, how could we put this experience into words into an audio experience?

Khadesia: Again, we use the Procreate app and we focused on, well, I focused on teaching how to use the app to create a radial symmetry design. It’s really cool to watch yourself drawing using assisted drawing because when you’re creating the radio design, as you draw in one spot, it places that line or that shape in a radial design.

Candido: Yeah.

Khadesia: So you’re not having to draw, say for example, a circle eight different times on your own. Once you draw the circle, it’ll pop up in all the other spots to create that radio design. It was really awesome to watch, but it’s also addicting in a way, because you start playing around with ideas like, oh, well, what would this look like if I just scribbled on this spot or if I actually drew objects?

So, that assistant drawing is really cool because you can actually see the design come them to life right in front of you, even though you’re not drawing every single aspect. When you get ready to add the color, you can use the assistant drawing too because if I have, for example, what I did, I used, I created a radial symmetry design using art supplies. I drew different art supplies and then came about kind of like a radial symmetry design. When I was getting ready to add color to it, for example, when I was working on my pencil, if I added color to that one pencil, it added color to all the other pencils too.

Candido: Right.

Khadesia: So, me being a mom, that’s a time saver.

Candido: For sure.

Khadesia: I have to use time wisely. It’s really, it’s an amazing app. Then on top of that, you can watch yourself draw the thing all over again.

Candido: Yes.

Khadesia: Yeah, so you can play it back and you can literally see yourself from, well, not yourself.

Candido: Sure.

Khadesia: You can see the drawing from beginning to end, mistakes, things that you took away or added back. It’s really awesome.

Candido: Yeah. It’s kind of a snitch too, because if you use the reference, it’ll show the reference in there too.

Khadesia: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Candido: Yeah. I said, okay. So, that’s where you got that from. Have you or anybody who attended the conference tried it with students, tried this lesson with students?

Khadesia: I have had a lot of few have reach out to me on Instagram saying that they were going to try it and that they already have Procreate in their classroom, lucky ducks.

Candido: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Khadesia: They’re actually going to try it in their classroom. A lot of times people will tag me in pictures of things that they’ve tried, so I’m really excited to see that. Again, I don’t have Procreate currently, so I haven’t been able to do it in my classroom, but I will.

Candido: Yeah. Yeah. Right. That was, something else to look forward to. Did other art teachers who attended a conference tag you in their radial symmetry? Because part of the NOW Conference is to keep teachers engaged, right? So, the stuff that we’re talking about, things that we’re presenting on, teachers are creating in the same moment and it’s pretty cool. It’s a cool idea of how we are as visual thinkers that we could be listening to a presentation but creating the thing that they’re talking about in the same moment. Did that happen?

Khadesia: Yeah, it was crazy. I was, I watched my presentation that Saturday and literally that same day, some people were creating as I was creating during the presentation and they were sending me the things that they created. I love that because in my presentation, I made a point to say that even if you don’t have 25 iPads in your classroom and you don’t have Procreate on all of them, this is something that you can do for yourself.

Candido: Right.

Khadesia: If you have a hard time finding time to create artwork as an art teacher, because life, right? You can pull out your iPad and the Procreate app, and this can be time for you to create, because we know that’s very therapeutic for us, especially art teachers is something that we do every day for someone else for children. But a lot of times we push it to the side when it comes to creating art for ourselves.

Candido: So, that’s speaking to my heart, because I am a huge advocate for art teachers to continue creating. I totally understand that there are an amazing amount of obstacles that can get in the way, but by providing each other with ideas, such as the one that you’re speaking about, it’s an opportunity to do that. Right? To follow through with, or reminding ourselves this thing that got us into the position that we’re in now.

Khadesia: Right. You stay fresh when you are still creating yourself. I noticed my first year teaching, I didn’t create anything the entire year. It was a horrible year.

Candido: Right. Right.

Khadesia: But when I realized that’s what was missing, I started getting more ideas of things that I can do in the classroom, I was a lot more motivated. I felt like my lessons improved. So, it’s really important.

Candido: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Khadesia, thank you so much for your time. Again, your presentation was incredible. I think if anybody had access to the Winter NOW Conference or attended and maybe missed your presentation, I definitely suggest they go back into the archives and watch that video because I think it’s a great presentation. Like you said, not only for our students, but for ourselves as artists. Thank you.

Khadesia: Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

Candido: I don’t know about you, but I feel motivated to bring tech and these lessons into my classroom. It may not be a part of the budget, but we should try to work beyond traditional media. For more resources, be sure to check out the article Easy Ways To Get Started With Procreate In The Art Room by Andrea Wlodarczyk. In episode 303 of Art Ed Radio, where Tim Bogatz speaks to Lauren Yates-Jones from Procreate EDU. Oh, and be sure to hit that website because there’s tons of lessons that you could put into practice now. Thanks for listening to Everyday Art Room. I hope you’ve learned enough to want to know more. Catch you next week.

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