Technology Use / Social Media / Media Arts Integration
Born into the first generation of Digital Natives, computers and digital technology have always been integrated into my education. The turning point came in 1996-1997 when I was in the third grade and my class played a game of Oregon Trail with students across the country connected by the Internet. That same year I had my first computer at home, and the following year the Internet. Where I diverge from the students I teach is that the majority of them rely on the connectivity of technology and don’t know any different. I am part of the generation that watched digital technologies go from a luxury in education to a necessity. A lot of my education was hybrid–I know what it is like to use an encyclopedia set for research, while I came of age in a time span that stepped me from dial-up Internet and floppy disks to smartphones and the Cloud. As an educator it is my challenge to help students to build 21st Century skills in using technology and media, while also helping them develop skills independent of a technology crutch. The balance is found in appropriately using technology not to make things easier, but to extend the possibilities of learning.
As a graduate student at Columbia College Chicago I became employed by Columbia’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP), where I worked with TEAM (Transforming Education through Arts and Media), a media arts integration program working with 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes in the Chicago Public Schools. TEAM gave classrooms access to digital technology paired with the expertise of a teaching artist able to work with the classroom teacher in designing lessons that elegantly integrated media arts into the curriculum. My role with TEAM began as a Teaching Artist Assistant and I was soon promoted to Program associate.The experience culminated with my playing a role in building an education resource website and compiling a book of TEAM curricula, Media Arts Integration: Reflections from the Field, released June 2015. I had the opportunity to TA residencies involving creating videos about healthy lifestyles, making collaborative audio pieces of spoken word poetry written in response to The Outsiders novel, and exploring narrative structures using digital photography and iPads to create comics. Additionally I observed and documented residencies at several schools, promoting and sharing TEAM’s work in maintaining social media accounts. I was devoting time each day to researching the latest in the realm of media arts, technology, arts integration, and education to share with followers and wrote blog posts about Glitch art, using Twitter in the classroom, and affinity spaces as learning communities (see appendix).
In managing TEAM’s Facebook, Twitter, and Blog I was further introduced to social media as a tool for educators in sharing educational resources, and the potential use for students in helping their work reach a much wider audience. I was inspired by the work teaching artist Eden Unluata in using Twitter with 8th grade students in Dr. Bella Ferrer’s class at John C. Haines Elementary School in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. Many of the students came from households where it is the cultural norm for students to not speak unless they are asked to. Dr. Ferrer’s class studied and mapped their e-waste footprints and created infographics which they then Tweeted from individual accounts. I was then able to retweet their work on the TEAM account, allowing their work to reach an even broader audience. Social media allows for the creation of a free public museum in a sense, where student work can be published made accessible to other students and educators looking for inspiration.
During my second year of graduate study I became the Graduate Ambassador for my MAT program. This further highlighted the role social media plays in arts advocacy. It was a privilege to represent my program on Twitter and through blog posts, with the opportunity to share my story as a graduate student in education, promoting the work of myself, my cohort, and my students. Prior to the first half of my student teaching apprenticeship at Nicholas Senn High School I came in to teach the Art I students a lesson in which they were asked to respond to a multi-media installation by an artist named Sougwen Chung. It ended inspiring a much larger unit in which we created large ceiling-suspended paper sculptures for a cancer fundraiser. I was able to share our work with Sougwen via Twitter.
When I moved on to the elementary portion of my student teaching at Bell School I continued my online promotion of student work and connected with the school’s Twitter account which was maintained by parents in the school community. This allowed me greater outreach in sharing student work with parents, and keeping the school updated on the happenings in the art room.
As technology has become an integral form of communication and a necessary tool for education it is important to expose students to opportunities for students to use devices towards positive learning outcomes. When a student has a smartphone at hand they are holding a camera, video/audio recorder, and research library. It is a waste to not empower students to responsibly use readily available technology for learning and creating. During my time at Senn High School I tested the freedoms of a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. I was teaching five art one classes and it was a challenge to reserve technology for five class periods for more than one day. In a unit that involved studying Visual Music, Synesthesia, and Cymatics students created their own beats using MusicShake, a free online program akin to the basics of GarageBand. Students had one class period to create their music on Chromebooks which they would then translate into a watercolor painting. All of their music was uploaded onto SoundCloud where it could be accessible from personal devices. Building the use of their own phones into the project removed the taboos of cell phone restriction. Students were engaged, they were using their devices responsibly. I later allowed students to use their phones to do research for self-directed projects. Outlawing phones in the classroom instead of teaching responsible use eliminates a lot of learning potential.
When technology is used in the classroom with a clear purpose and not as an added bauble it allows students a home-field advantage in learning with tools that are already a part of their daily lives. I am certain that technology will take many major leaps and turns throughout my career as an educator and I will continue to adapt and investigate possibilities. I will continue to engage with educator communities through social media platforms and encourage my students to use their connectivity as a tool to enhance their education.
Writings on Technology and Media Arts Integration
CCAP – TEAM