Integrating Technology into the Art Curriculum
Fall 1996


It was still snowing at 1:26 PM on Friday, February 16, 1996, in Maryland when John Royo posted the following message on the NAEA-EMIG (National Art Education Association - Electronic Media Interest Group) listserv:

Hi everyone,

To those of you in the mid-atlantic, U.S., happy snow ;)

A question for all to ponder.

As we merge more and more into the Digital Age, are "traditional materials" chalks, oils, etc, still relevant to teach with??? Why, once into the digital age, would we want to use clay, paint, etc that is analog and not digital with any art student except the BFA/MFA track, or them at all. Are these traditional materials essential to learning about art? Or are they a source of hazardous materials?

Assume that you could put economics and art budgets aside, and everyone could be doing digital, why would we continue to use the "traditional" materials.

Mind you, this is a devil's advocate type of question.....

regards, john


John's posting sparked a lively discussion of the growing impact of technology on art education among art education professors and K-12 art educators from Maryland to New York to Indiana to Tennessee to Minnesota. The responses ranged from "How could we possibly consider NOT teaching with the traditional materials" to "Traditional art can be transformed into digital art" to "In some courses (graphic design, for example) electronic media could replace traditional media."

Technology has provided artists with new tools throughout history. As new technologies become available, artists learn to use them and traditional means of expression are transformed or entirely new means of expression are developed. The relatively recent developments of photography and cinema are examples of new technologies that gave birth to new art forms.

Technology has and will continue to have an impact on how we live our lives. In art education, technology will continue to have a profound effect on the teaching of art. Art educators will continually be confronted with the challenge of integrating new information and technology into their art curriculum. How are art educators meeting the challenges today and how will they meet them in the future? In this paper I will look at the current impact of technology on art education and speculate on future trends.

In looking at the impact of technology on my teaching and the teaching of my peers four major trends are apparent. The first is the use of technology as a creative tool, using a computer paint program, for example, to create an image. The second trend is the use of technology as a storage and presentation tool, using a laserdisk player to show a painting or sculpture on a TV monitor. The third trend, is the use of technology for Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), an example of this is a HyperCard stack I developed to help students learn to draw objects in one-point perspective. The fourth trend I have identified is the use of virtual environments and telecommunications that enable students and teachers to visit and create virtual museums and exhibitions and easily exchange ideas and images with others from around the world.

Technology As A Creative Tool

The use of technology as a creative tool is occurring more and more in art classrooms across the country. Creative tools such as paint, animation and three-dimensional modeling programs, as well as multi-media authoring tools are being used in art education programs. Courses and instruction in computer graphics, animation and multi-media design are increasing in a number at the elementary, secondary and college level. At a recent Art Educators of New Jersey conference, a session presenting a computer graphics curriculum for grades K - 8 was filled with art educators. On the college level, The School of Visual Arts, for example, offers both a BFA and a MFA degree program in computer art.

In "The Digital Artroom," a course I teach at The Ridgewood Institute, I review several paint programs along with other new technologies presently available to art educators. There are a host of paint programs like SuperPaint and Dazzle Draw that enable students and teachers to use the computer to create images. Specialized paint programs that are geared to elementary students in grades K - 6 like Kid Pix and Fine Artist are also reviewed. These programs use sounds and special effects to make the creation of computer images more exciting and fun for children. There are also specialized paint programs, like Print Shop. It is designed to create banners, posters and greeting cards. Type Twister is another specialized paint program. Its sole purpose is to manipulate type.

In my school, Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey, I will be team teaching a multi-media course to eighth graders with the computer teacher next year. I think that there will be more collaborations between technology and art teachers because using the computer as a creative tool will increasingly involve incorporating images and design ideas in computer generated projects. This trend is also exemplified by the artists and graphic designers who are employed in the development of commercial products like CD-ROMs and Internet Web sites.

In some creative projects, computer technology may not be used to generate an end product, but may increasingly become part of the creative process. An example of this is cited in an article entitled Sculpture and Computers by Kenneth R. O'Connell in the February 1995 issue of School Arts. In this article, O'Connell discusses how two professional sculptors, Bruce Beasley and Kenneth Snelson, use computer technology to develop three-dimensional sculptures. Also, as computer technology becomes more sophisticated, another trend will be the use of technology to imitate traditional media. The title of an article by Janet Ashford in the April 1995 issue of MacUser is Watercolors Without Water. Ashford discusses and shows examples of how software and hardware can be used to create digital watercolors. Is oil painting next?

Computer technology also enables students and teachers to manipulate images. Software applications such as ColorIt! and Photoshop allow the user to transform images by applying filters or taking parts of one picture and putting it into another. Photoshop is a veritable darkroom in a box. It enables users to do all the things to an image in a computer that photographers have traditionally done while making prints in their darkrooms.

The trend towards greater use of technology as a creative tool will continue into the future. The recent movie Toy Story is a taste of things to come. Since digital tools and digital images will continue to be used in commerce, art educators will be challenged to keep up with technology to prepare their students to create images with the new technology.

Technology As A Storage And Presentation Tool

The digital image will become an ever greater presence in the artroom and in our lives. New technologies that are used to store and present digital images will be increasingly used. The second trend, that of using the computer and other new technologies as storage and presentation tools will continue to grow.

The beauty of a computer is that it is a file cabinet and a display case and a digital darkroom all in one box. Images may be digitized for storage and presentation by scanning them into a computer. My students are now creating digital portfolios of their two-dimensional work with a scanner and a shareware program called Museum. An inexpensive and easy to use shareware program, Museum makes it easy to store and present both student and professional art. Increasingly, students and art educators will be using new technologies to store and present portfolios.

Photographs, slides and negatives can also be taken to your local photo processor to be digitized and placed onto a Kodak Photo-CD. If you prefer to avoid the camera store, a digital camera will enable you to take a picture and immediately download it into your computer. Video from sources like camcorders, videotapes and television may also be digitized and stored on a disk, if you have the right equipment.

A computer hard drive or CD-ROM can store thousands of images that can be easily preserved, printed, duplicated, sent over the Internet and/or changed. If you want to use your computer to display a picture of a bird, you do not have to draw it. You can get an image from a clip art CD-ROM. CD-ROMs are digital disks that can store tremendous amounts of digital information. Many clip art CDs are available today. Desk Art, for example, stores eleven thousand images on a single disk. The images are stored by category and can be easily accessed and placed into any paint program or word processing document.

Imagine having a collection of 5,000 slides and using it along with your colleagues and students on a daily basis in a classroom. How long would it take for the slides to become disorganized, misplaced or even lost? A single laserdisk easily stores and organizes 5,000 images.

Laserdisks are similar to CD-ROMs insofar as they are used to store still images and video. A single laserdisk can store up to five thousand still images on a single side. Laserdisks are different from CDs in that their images are not digital and are played on a TV monitor rather than a computer screen. Laserdisk titles are available from The National Gallery of Art in Washington, The Louvre and from several other museums. In addition, there are laserdisks on specific artists. Some laserdisks come with HyperCard programs called videostacks. The videostacks are designed to be used as software companions and provide information on the images contained on the laserdisk and are used as a kind of remote control to select the images that will be presented from the laserdisk on a TV monitor.

The Electronic Museum is a series of interactive HyperCard videostacks that I designed specifically for classroom use with the National Gallery of Art's American Art Laser Videodisc. Each videostack contains an exhibition on a specific theme or subject. The Elements and Principles of Art, Portraits, Sculpture, Landscape, Drawings, and Watercolor are some of the exhibitions now commercially available. The videostacks simulate museum exhibitions and present the images on the American Art laserdisk along with labels about the image. Each exhibition has an exhibition information screen and twelve "rooms" that users may visit.

An exhibition map helps you navigate your way through the

exhibition. Electronic Museum exhibitions are designed for class presentations and student interactive learning.

The advantage of laserdisks over CD-ROMs is that laserdisks play on a TV monitor thereby making it easier to show images to a class. The disadvantage of laserdisks is that the images are not digital and the machines used to play them do not have a large user base. While the laserdisk remains a useful technology for art educators today, it will probably be replaced by the Digital Video Disk (DVD) in the near future.

The Digital Video Disk format was agreed on last year by the hardware manufacturing and entertainment producing industries (New York Times, September 16, 1995, p. 1) and some reports have projected new players and software by the end of this year. DVDs can hold a full length feature film on a CD-like disk that can be played on either a computer or a TV. The DVD can store 4.7 gigabytes of computer data, software and/or music as well as movies. This format has the potential to take over both the videocassette and CD-ROM markets. When this format becomes the standard, entire museum collections will be stored on one or two disks along with information about the art.

CD-ROMs and laserdisks are part of the new revolution called multi-media. In the past, art educators understood multi-media to mean an image that was made using a combination of media such as collage, oils and watercolor. Today multi-media refers to programs that combine text, still images, video and sound. Software such as HyperCard, HyperStudio, SuperCard and Director are part of a new group of programs that enable users to write or "author" multi-media titles. The multi-media revolution has given birth to a host of CD-ROM titles in the arts. While some of these CD-ROMs are used solely as storage and presentation tools, many are used for Computer Assisted Instruction.

Computer Assisted Instruction

The Art and Music and History through Art CD-ROM series published by Zane Publishing and Clearvue Inc. is another example of Computer Assisted Instruction. The CDs in this series contain presentations on topics in art and music history and present them on the computer screen along with text, spoken words and music. These CDs also contain educational features like text that is linked to a dictionary and encyclopedia on the disc and a section that has tests the user may take on the information just presented. I believe that we will be seeing more titles like these in the future.

Dabbler is one of the few graphic programs on the market today that comes with its own drawing tutorial. Many developers are turning to CAI and are including tutorials with their software. Some independent software developers are also developing tutorial CD-ROMs. These titles, unlike the Dabbler tutorial, are geared toward instructing people on how to use the software rather than in art instruction. (Some graphics programs supply users with easy to use templates so that their projects will look good, rather than attempt to teach good design.)

As mentioned earlier, I developed a HyperCard stack to help students learn to draw in one-point perspective. I find that when dealing with a technical subject like perspective, students find it very useful to have the computer available. I think that there is an opportunity for art educators to develop instructional software to assist in the instruction and reinforcement of many art lessons like perspective, design and color theory. At present there are very few titles in this area. I am sure that there will be more software of this type in the future.

Telecommunications And Virtual Environments

The last trend I will discuss, telecommunications and virtual environments, is perhaps the most important and the most revolutionary. Barely a day goes by without some mention of the Internet and how the Information Superhighway is already changing and will continue to change our lives in the future and virtual environments seem to be becoming increasingly real, if that's possible. I define a virtual environment as a computer simulation that mimics reality. It is different from virtual reality (VR), a more popular term, in that it needn't be so real that your senses are convinced that you are moving through space or fighting with aliens from another planet that have you surrounded.

There are a growing number of CD-ROMs available that present the riches of the world's art museums on a computer screen. Ancient Egyptian Art from The Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection, Art Gallery - Art from The National Gallery London, Le Louvre and With Open Eyes - Art from The Art Institute of Chicago are but a few titles currently available. These CD-ROMs create a "virtual" environment that enables students and teachers to visit museums and look at and learn about art without leaving their classroom. The CD-ROM, A Passion for Art is a virtual environment insofar as it simulates placing you in the Barnes Foundation's galleries. After spending some time going through the CD and viewing the images of the installation along with details of the art, a person may have a sense of having been there and seen it, much like someone who watches a baseball game on TV can say that he saw the game.

Museums that develop CD-ROMs of their collections have a wonderful opportunity to create "virtual environments" that simulate the experience of visiting their museum. They should also work with art educators to develop titles that help students learn about art. With Open Eyes, a CD-ROM published by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Voyager Company, is an excellent first step in that direction. This CD engagingly presents historical and geographical information about art. There are also games that encourage students to take a closer look at works of art. I am not sure if With Open Eyes will have strong enough sales to influence other museums and software publishers to create software titles directed toward the art education market. Since many museums have education departments it seems only natural for them to pursue this kind of product.

Though telecommunications and virtual environments seem like two very different concepts, I have put them together because the Internet, with the creation of the World Wide Web, also referred to as WWW and the Web, has become a kind of virtual environment. When I think of the Web today and what I suspect the Web will become in the future, I am reminded of Lewis Carroll discussing a map in Alice in Wonderland. He describes the map as being as big as the area it was a map of, a veritable full scale map and virtual reality of sorts. The Web is becoming a kind of virtual map of our world with everything from automobiles to zoos having their own Web sites.

The Internet is a network of networks that links computers from around the world. The Web is part of the Internet that is based on linked text and a common computer programming language called HTML. The World Wide Web consists of Web pages that contain digital information and links to other Web pages on the Internet. The World Wide Web is a virtual environment insofar as you can go to a museum Web site and see representations of some of the works in the museum's collection and perhaps even order a poster from the museum shop.

The Web has experienced phenomenal growth over the past two or three years. An extraordinary amount of information is now available on the Web and a recent Web search for art museums and galleries resulted in a listing of 55,300 documents. Though many Web sites are of little or no educational value and some may sites may contain material not suited to minors, the Web will increasingly become a tool for art educators.

Many schools have set up Web sites and created exhibitions of student work. I am involved in building a Web site for my school and have created Web pages that contain examples of student art. Students and art educators will easily be able to exchange images and ideas as more student work and curriculum materials are published on the Web. Collaborations in developing lessons and creating art will become increasingly popular. The World Wide Web will increasingly become a place that students and teachers will go to to get and publish images and information.

The trend towards virtual environments, in the form of CD-ROMs and World Wide Web sites that give you a sense of being there, will have the greatest impact on art education in the future. The impact is just beginning to be felt now and will continue to grow. As the Web grows and evolves and when the next generation of CD-ROMs, the new Digital Video Disks mentioned earlier, are produced, and new titles become available, they will make being there, wherever there is, more real through the use of digitized images, video and sound. This new virtual environment will enable students and teachers to visit and create places and learn by experience. The virtual environment will become an exciting learning tool that will have a profound impact on art education and education in general.

All work on this site ©Harold Olejarz 1997 - 1999 and the artists credited. No images or text may be used for commercial purposes without written permission from Harold Olejarz. Personal or educational uses are allowed with permission from Harold Olejarz.