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Saturday
Jul052014

Paint, Palettes and ipads? 

PAINT PALETTES AND iPADS - story Anne Schauffer (click here to download the whole article)

  

Under the tree of many senior school learners this past Christmas, lay a tablet-shaped parcel. In it, mobile access to the world. But does today's technology have a place in the classroom, even the art room? Apparently, overwhelmingly, yes

Worldwide, tablets are outselling laptops, and for those youngsters who've embraced — or are open to exploring — technology, an iPad or similar, is high on the wish list. Yes, they're cool, but increasingly, cool isn't the primary driver. It's shifted from the teen refrain of "but everyone has one" to "everyone needs one". They're no longer taboo distractions for the spoilt, but marvelous tools to educate the smart. They're portable, offer instant access to the worldwide web, easy communication locally and globally, a host of creative Applications (Apps), and entry to a world that's educational, informative, interactive, social and fun. It's also wildly exciting, ever-changing and evolving, just what presses most teen buttons of today. That iPad on the teacher's desk is now also on the students', and it's taken on a whole new meaning. School art studios look, feel and smell pretty much as they always did, but increasingly, there's something unseen in the air. Wi-Fi, the connection which enables teachers and students to travel way beyond the classroom into museums of the world via virtual tours, to get up close and personal with art collections, to explore and research everything related to art and artists, to be inspired by others' work, and to actually draw and be creative — wherever you may be.

Joan Martin is the art teacher at Durban Girls' College as well as a practicing artist. She's acknowledged by her peers as the most tech-savvy art teacher in town, and although she laughs at that description, she can't really argue. Thing is, she studied computers and multi-media, but more than that, she's passionate about technology, spending much of her "spare" time exploring, trawling and using these tools for herself, her art and her teaching. For her, learning is facilitated by teachers who speak a similar language to the kids, and that language is cellphones, tablets and technology. She not only actively encourages her art students to use the tools, but works with Apps such as Procreate and Photoshop as part of the curriculum. So, how does it work in the art room? Looking at some of the Apps available, isn't it a bit like, well, cheating? Joan laughs, "If you can't draw you can't use the Apps anyway. They're tools, not a replacement for anything." But in art? "I think technology associated with iPads and iPhones suits art more than any other subject. It's so visual. All my history of art is technology based, and everything is presented on Powerpoint." Joan plugs her iPad into a PC, flicks a switch and the Mona Lisa appears on the Smart Board (looks just like a white board). If it's on the iPad, it appears on the Board. Using her "magic pen", she draws a circle round the face, which allows her to zoom in and see the fine detail. "You can't do that on paper," she says. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The relationship between an art teacher and her students is different from other subject teachers. Producing or thinking about producing art is a creative, personal process, a journey or inner exploration of sorts, so boundaries are less defined. Joan has a "whatsapp" group with a senior grade, and a dedicated Facebook art-oriented page connected to her students. That's how she communicates with them: "If you're doing a painting or have an idea, you don't want to wait until Monday morning. You're excited, you want to tell your art teacher now, and see what she thinks." Joan has her own YouTube account, and often downloads BBC and other tutorials: "I show art videos, and I'm always on YouTube looking for exciting work to show the kids. I also upload the work they've made to YouTube. I follow other artists or art teachers on Pinterest, I find pictures of material I know a student is looking for, put it in my Dropbox, and send them the link. I use Twitter for research." From a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, art history and art games, to drawing Apps like Sktchy, Joan encourages her students to explore endlessly. Bottom line, she says, technology enhances the art experience. "It's also made me more efficient," she grins.