Saturday, October 27, 2012

Explorations in Art

I started a new assignment in an International Baccalaureate and Arts Focus school this year.  Having come with experience in several district art core programs, I have been excited to share arts based websites and uses of technology in art that keep my 23 inquisitive and creative Grade 1 learners engaged.  They are definitely of the "Yes, Let's" approach to technology and creativity which I find most inspiring for me as an educator!

There have been several really helpful posts in the Div1 Edtech in EPSB blog which outlines processes to get young children "up and running" with basic skills using the technology itself.  Most of the students in my class had quite a bit of experience in their Kindergarten class with Netbooks so quite quickly I was able to determine who might be "tech leaders" and I have been able to enlist their help with students who still struggle with signing on.  Building independence is key, but having support from peers is a great way for students to begin the collaborative opportunities that abound in using technology as a vehicle to facilitate inquiry and conversation during a creative process.


A Playful Download

Skipping ahead from the beginning wanderings and wonderings students had about how they might use technology this year to support their inquiry and creativity, I was aware of a free starter download of an art program called "Art Rage 2".  There is a free, unlimited demo version of the program which is what I downloaded to my desktop for students to investigate on the SmartBoard during Arts centres. (if you would like more information about Arts Centres, I can elaborate in a future post).  You can access the site here.  While it is always best to access software that sits in the "cloud", especially when using Netbooks and Chromebooks, once in awhile, a playful program pops up with advantages for download.  When the download is free.... bonus!  The version has a scaled down tool set but there are enough tools available, particularly the paint brush capabilities, to make the download worth the time.  You do have the ability to load previous paintings and to save and print paintings/pictures created.  System requirements include Windows 7, Vista, or XP, with 256 MB of RAM and there is also a Mac download available.

As an art teacher, using ArtRage 2 allows students to practice skills they have learned on paper to see how they work on a computer/SmartBoard.  Creativity is the focus as they further develop techniques and experiment with the medium.  I also love that the type of paper used can be selected such as watercolor and various textured papers.

ArtRage for the IPad

ArtRage is also available as an IPad App, though at $4.99 plus GST it may not be an option for all IPads in your school.  I do have it on my personal device and I am presently experimenting with it to see how it might be used in the classroom.  During the "experimentation" phase of determining whether or not an App is "classroom worthy", I do bring it to school and let the students use it during Arts centre time. Many an App has been crossed off the "need to get" list based on student exploration and feedback from them.


How to Introduce the Program

Just like any centre time activity, I briefly share with students a few of the main features so that much of their time can be spent exploring the program rather than me showing them all the ins and outs.  I had a principal once remind me that letting them "play" with the new technology, to discover what it can do, is all part of the creative process.  After the brief explanation, they are off to centres, with ArtRage being one of their options.  We always allow two students at the SmartBoard centre to allow for collaboration, conversation and exploration and we make sure that there are several "switches" during centre time as well.  Because this is a popular centre, we keep track of who has visited the SmartBoard to allow for everyone to have an opportunity to create.  Here are few of their collaborative efforts with the program:




As you can see, the paint still looks wet and it is this property that makes the program exciting for students to experiment with.  There is even a little cup that students "wash" their brush finger in and I have often observed students wiping their paint finger on their clothing, one action I don't have to apologize to parents for at the end of an art class! 

Sharing Process and Products

At the end of Arts centre time, students participate in a group sharing time where they reflect on their experiences and share products and processes of their activities.  This is one of their favorite "show and share" opportunities and I have to be mindful that we save enough time to allow for as many to share as possible.  This is a critical component of Arts centre time where I assist students in providing specific feedback to their peers using arts terminology.


What's Next?

We have used this program for a whole class collaborative painting which I will share in a future post.  For those of you who have used ArtRage 2 or ArtRage 3, please share your ideas as a comment below!  If you have any questions or comments, I invite your feedback as well!