The Case for Teaching Digital Arts

November 2, 2016

Technology in Education

ms-computer-teacher-1-6You may be wondering why Ms. Computer Teacher focuses on providing “easy, fun digital arts projects for kids”. Or you may be thinking what are digital arts anyway, and what do they have to do with teaching my subject area?

A Little Background Info

Who is Ms. Computer Teacher? I am a middle school computer teacher who loves teaching kids how to create using digital resources! During my time as a middle school computer teacher, I found that my students could not find the resources they needed for the technology skills they wanted to learn. They were engulfed in a sea of multimedia and were excited about creating with technology rather than simply consuming information. I was anxious to provide them with the computer instruction they needed, so I began creating video tutorials for my students and posting them on YouTube where they could be easily viewed. The response was surprising. Quickly, I reached a million YouTube views from more than 130 countries! Yay! It was obvious there is a need for kid-friendly video tutorials for creating on the computer. I recognized this as an opportunity to impact other students beyond my classroom so I started the website MsComputerTeacher.com. I am committed to growing our library of digital arts projects to not only develop students’ technical skills, but encourage additional 21st century skills as well. My mission is to help teachers and students “Teach Tech Better and Learn Tech Better”!

What are Digital Arts?

In some way or another, we are all digital artists. Digital art is a general term for a range of artistic works and practices that use digital technology as an essential part of the creative and/or presentation process. This includes areas such as digital cinema-think Pixar and Lucas Films-with animations, video, and special visual effects; digital illustration – such as drawings, online games, interactive websites, cartoons, photographs and Infographics; digital fine arts like painting and sculpture created with computerized tools including 3D printing; digital architecture utilizing CAD tools to draw, model, calculate and test designs; and synthesized music/audio composed and edited with computer software. We know our students are enthusiastic participants in this media-rich technology.  In fact, a study of American teens by the Pew Center in 2010 found that 83% used phones or digital cameras to take pictures and video. Imagine what that number is now! While this probably doesn’t surprise many of us, think of the popularity of YouTube, Instagram and SnapChat among our students and how motivated students are to learn and apply these relevant digital media skills. Why not focus this interest on the classroom curriculum?

Reaping the Benefits

Beyond the fact that students love to explore and experiment with the digital arts, research shows that many of the 21st century skills we want our students to have for both the classroom and the workplace are enhanced by practicing the creative process involving innovation, problem-solving, critical thinking, perseverance, patience, planning, reasoning, adaptability, self-direction, oral and written communication, synthesis of information and collaboration. As students manipulate and play with digital objects and ideas, they learn to take risks, develop self-confidence and gain knowledge of the ways to use technology creatively. Digital art immerses students in the many ways they can communicate and express their ideas, engaging them at a high level and increasing their motivation. Synthesizing the instructional content allows students to better process, understand and remember what they are learning. Digital tools allow for multiple variations, shared access with other creators, and the opportunity to publish immediately for authentic audiences. As students practice these real world digital skills, they learn design and increase both their visual literacy and media literacy skills. As a creator of digital art media products, students are better able to interpret, recognize, evaluate, appreciate and understand complex messages presented visually, an important ability in today’s world. This is a convincing argument for providing digital arts instruction to our students.

Fast Forward to the Classroom

What does all of this look like in the classroom? As students are challenged to communicate their learning in your instructional area, consider opportunities for engaging them with tools for illustrating, photo-editing, video creation, animation, website and game creation as options for synthesizing and presenting the information. The best part is that teachers don’t need to know all the tools! Creativity involves discovery, exploration and experimentation with new tools and ideas. Students can learn independent of the teacher.

Ready for your students to start creating? Check out the how-to videos on MsComputerTeacher.com to introduce and practice the digital arts tools! Have fun and happy creating!

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