Sunday, March 3, 2013

Google Art Project Reflections


I had heard about Google Art Project but I had never really taken the time to sit down and play with it. I had a chance to learn more about Google Art Project at a Google Apps Summit. All the ideas I am sharing in this post are a result of the workshop I went to run by Jim Sill.  As with many things, it is something that older students could be taught how to use and then be set free with. However, as a grade two teacher, I did find some useful applications.

Teaching Art

The most obvious application is to use Google Art Project when teaching art. In my grade two class, I have an artist of the month that is connected in some way to the type of art the students will be creating that month. For example, in September, I teach students about line and so the artist of the month is M. C. Escher (who is NOT in the Google Art Project).

One of the activities I have the students do is experiment with their pencils what kinds of lines they can make- thin, thick, squiggly, straight, light, dark, etc.  Next year I plan to use this pencil drawing, An Elephant, to illustrate using a variety of lines in one drawing. I would use the cool zoom feature (discussed more below) of Google Art Project to zoom in to take a closer look at the lines that make up the elephant. 


You can zoom into artwork. Very cool for encouraging/teaching art appreciation. You can a create a link to a particular part zoomed in. To do this you have to be signed in (EPSB staff automatically have an account through Google Apps) and you have to add the image you want to zoom into to YOUR gallery. It will prompt you to create a gallery if you do not have any set up. For example, I created a link to the image on the left to show my class. When you mouse over the image you will see another image appear in a black box on the right hand side. It will allow you to zoom in further or zoom out to the entire picture. You could use this as a whole class experience on the Smartboard or you could have students explore art more deeply on their own individually. With grade two students, I would recommend providing them with the links/images you want to explore (you could post these on SchoolZone).

There is a user-created gallery within Google Art Projected titled Zoom In Thinking Routine. "The purpose is to get students to focus on the detail of the images and then gradually reveal the greater context of the image as the students discuss their thinking. Thus stimulating thinking and ultimately activating their creative thought processes." I love this idea! It could be used when learning about an art technique or to inspire more detailed writing. Perhaps even giving the zoomed in shot to inspire creative writing and then only show them the full picture after! 

Street View and a Virtual Field Trip

You can visit art galleries using Street View. The 'peg man' allows users to walk through parts of major art galleries. It also may be worth discussing with students how these things are available on the Internet. People have to take pictures of them. 

I do a Van Gogh unit each year to teach oil pastels and texture. This year my students will be going to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam! Not only will students have an opportunity to see what the inside of a famous art gallery/museum looks like and how they are set up, but they will be able to explore the artwork as described above. When a piece of artwork in a museum has a black and white icon near it (like the example on the left), users can select it to explore the artwork. 


Another cool feature is the ability to compare two pieces of famous art side-by-side (notice the yellow compare icon in the screenshot to the left). This is not something I might use regularly with my grade twos. However, I teach pointillism and then impressionism. I think showing a zoomed in side-by-side comparison would be a great segue between the two projects. 

Search and Refine

The tools for navigating around Google Art Project are fairly simple to learn. They have a search function and a refine function to help the user find what they are looking for.

The search function will bring up not just the artwork or artist you are looking for but the collections they might be stored in and user generated galleries. 

This is not a database of every famous work of art. There are many artists you will not find.

Limitations and Cautions

As a Canadian educator, one limitation of the Google Art Project currently is the limited number of Canadian collections it currently offers. Hopefully in the future this will be expanded. For example, I would love to see an Inuit art collection!

As well, as mentioned above, it does not include every famous artist. It also does not include the entire body of work for each artist within its database. For example, this is not the website to use to research Picasso. 

As with many art history books or art gallery field trips in general, you need to be aware that art contains nudity. Therefore the Google Art Project contains nudity. Like any resource, on the Internet or otherwise, you need to use at your own discretion  The better familiar you are about a resource, the more you are able to mitigate any potential issues. 

Learn Yourself

Want to sound like an expert on a particular piece of art? Press the details button. As you might have guessed, you will get the details of the artwork, including viewing notes. 

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