Thursday, June 2, 2011

Instructional Technologies

My young students work with computer programs to design pattern

One young girl in my classroom uses her free time to study a drawing process

A kindergartener learns to divided his clay evenly
5th graders watch us demonstrate how to build a simple armature. All photos above show technology in the classroom.
"Many people see technology as the problem behind the so-called digital divide. Others see it as the solution. Technology is neither. It must operate in conjuction with business, economic, political and social system." Carly Fiorina 
      The government is anxious for our nation's teachers to include learning environments and experiences supported by informational and instructional technology in our classrooms. "Today we live in a technology-driven global marketplace where ideas and innovation outperform muscle and machine. In an age of digital content and global communications, we must build an education system that meets the new demands of our time. Technology can help us create schools where every child has the opportunity to succeed, while we work to close the achievement gap and address the economic and workforce needs of the future." I am not at all opposed to these concepts. In fact, I have spent the last eight years of my career working online with the Adobe Creative Suite and using Office Word programs on a daily basis. One might even say on an hourly basis! However there are obvious ethical and practical considerations to be made by individual teachers, department heads and administrators when selecting to include technology in the classrooms of America.
      Not every school district can afford expensive software programs and computers for their classrooms. An art teacher must know enough about the use of computer-generated imagery to adapt his or her students’ skill base to those future demands of the market place. Sometimes teachers also need to adapt their lessons to older technology made available by a less than adequate budget of their district. Many art teachers do not even know the first thing about “how” to teach this kind of technology without advanced equipment because the more user friendly software becomes, the less the artist must know about how it actually works. Hence, the necessity of superior knowledge, if the equipment is inferior.
      There is also an obvious age gap between those students who live with computer technology and those who teach these students in an educational environment. Time and time again I have observed a proud resistance to the use of simple technologies in the classroom by older teachers. I myself am not a young educator, but I have managed to keep up with the pace of technology because of necessity and I have learned to enjoy it in spite of my age.
       Use of technology demands detailed training but not necessarily creative thinking. Technological advancements in our culture were and still are achieved by very creative thinkers not computer addicts. A computer can only operate as it is programmed to; it cannot assimilate information by its own direction. This concept is science fiction. Those who are successfully proficient in technology understand that their performance is still driven by human intelligence, not just the mindless application of program use. When teachers become preoccupied with teaching the process of technology over the reasons for technology, they end up exchanging necessary academic information for the skill based practices of communications. There must be a balance of information taught in our classrooms in order for our country to take a prominent position in the global economy as is stated in the national governments' agenda here, "The goal is to explore specific actions to improve education outcomes through targeted applications of technology and to find a renewed perspective on the role of technology in education reform."
      Another very important part of childhood development has to do with human interaction and contact. To deny this obvious truth would be a disaster on our part as educators. Emotionally well-balanced human beings absorb and process information better than those people who live for their immersion in cyberspace. I have experienced first hand the differences between these two perspectives because I have worked online for eight years. Advanced technologies should be taught but not allowed to replace the personal exchange of information between an empathetic, companionable, and well educated teacher and her students. It is possible for students to actually become over-occupied with technology. They can destroy very necessary intimate relationships with family and friends in the process of their addictions. As a nation of privilege we must strive to understand the difference between mindless profit driven technologies and those technologies that are necessary for an advantageous global economy. Otherwise, we will risk becoming a country of people who are controlled by technology, not a people who can produce students who are creative/innovative enough to dictate technological advancement.
      I use technology to enhance my personal productivity and professional practice everyday, both as a website owner, a freelance digital illustrator and as a pre-service teacher at UMSL. Many people who are familiar with my work are surprised to hear this because I have also pursued a fine arts career as a professional painter for over thirty years. But in this fast paced culture we live in, artists must learn to adapt to the demands of their employers in order to feed their families and I have certainly done my share of accommodating this obvious fact.
      I can apply computer technology to facilitate a variety of effective assessment and evaluation strategies through the daily use of online grade books, web journals, productive searches, and graphic technology software programs such as:
1. Productive Searches:
      Art educators should use online resources to supplement their own research. While attending a class called, “Art At The Museum,” I wrote lesson plans based upon internet research/resources. I frequently include web bibliographies with my lesson plans. The lesson plan included in this artifact accompanies an extensive web listing of interactive museum sites for young students. Sites such as these bring technology into the classroom that educates while it entertains.
2. Online Web Journals:
      I publish many online journals for education purposes. I developed a new web journal just for the purpose of communicating with my future students. This journal may be accessed at 
3. Graphic Technology Software Programs:
       I also share my graphic resources online with thousands of educators daily! These resources are made with the Adobe Creative Suite software programs. I am proficient with all of these technologies and can use them liberally inside of a art classroom.
4. Publishing Software Programs:
      During my art internship I also used a publishing type of software typical those programs used in a yearbook course or also in the publishing of special bound editions of student work.
      I've included a sample newsletter that demonstrates my ability to communicate with parents and students with simple software publishing programs. I wrote this particular newsletter to accompany a set of lesson plans for the study of the depression era.
      Technology, however, is not only defined by computer software systems inside of an art classroom. Technology essentially involves the manual use of a wide variety of tools. In art we refer to this skill as “low tech.” As an art educator, I spend much of my time teaching students the fundamental practices used in manual technologies. These methods involve drawing, painting, sculpting, and even sewing. I have had professional success manipulating all kinds of materials such as: oil paints, acrylic paints, watercolors, pastels, clays, and a wide range of textile media. However, there were still some areas of expertise I had yet to develop. I needed further training in ceramics and voiced my concerns to my cooperating teacher during the later half of my state internship. Mrs. Pfeifer happens to be an expert at teaching ceramics to children. She happily agreed to teach me from her vast experience while I was under her supervision. Included here is a collection of ceramics lesson plans that I wrote during my state internship. She also made certain that I could run and maintain a kiln properly. Her devotion to my learning experiences far exceeded my expectations. I chose to remain with her till the end of the school year (two additional weeks) in order to ensure my training to be thorough.

all articles, photographs and lesson plans are copyrighted 2011 by Grimm 

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