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Combining computer technology and art in the classroom


From: Kevan Nitzberg (knitzber_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sun Oct 12 2003 - 09:58:06 PDT

It's been a while since I have contributed to this listserv, but I think as
the end of the 1st quarter of school is now in sight, I can contribute
something of value regarding my experience teaching a video / computer art
class that I am now responsible for.

Early on I discovered that the high school students I had in this class
represented a wide range of ability, from being very knowledgeable about
studio production with little computer art background, to those who were
extremely adept at using the computer (to the point of possibly running
somewhat afoul of the law), but having little or no experience actually
creating artwork. As a result, I realized that this class presented an
excellent opportunity to teach the aesthetic values inherent in art via the
computer in order to enhance the level of creative excellence in all of my

We began by examining the basic elements and principles of art in both chart
and drawing formats, creating such things as value charts, color wheels,
complementary / warm & cool color diagrams, geometric and organic shape
charts, and the like. We used the tools available on Appleworks (formerly
Clarisworks), to create these. In addition, the students had to find
existing exemplars of the various elements and principles that we explored
using ArtsConnected (the online learning environment facilitated by the
Mpls. Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center), to initially make
separate collections of master works for reference purposes. The students
then had to prepare power points to show their projects to the class in
order to give everyone a better understanding of the variety of
possibilities that could be employed to illustrate these concepts and make
engaging artistic compositions. The power point format also made grading
the work much more doable as the work was saved to the individual student
folders on the building server which I have access to.

From here we moved on to working with additional tools that were available
through the computer to create a variety of special effects that could be
used in the creation of their pieces. This phase used the picture effects
available on the 2001 Microsoft Power Point software. 2 photographs were to
be selected to explore the various manipulations that were available, both
as individual and combination effects. We worked on exploring additional
special effects through working with Adobe Photoshop (we currently have
version 6.0.1 at my school). The effects that were realized here are much
more sophisticated in scope and, in addition to creating images, the
students were to write down the changes that were created through using the
variety of tools that they were utilizing. This provided them with a
written record that documented the changes for future use in other projects.

All of the experimentation with special effects helped to provide practice
for a series of 5 self portraits that the students were then to create in
class. The 5 portrait assignments fell into the following categories:

1) Historically styled portrait that effects the characteristics of a
   particular style or period
2) Property change portrait that portrays the effect of a significant change
   in how the face is portrayed, trying to recreate the impression of
   another material such as stone, water, brick, metal, gas, etc.
3) Expressive / emotional portrait that uses a variety of elements and
   principles to portray different feelings
4) Portrait incorporating text that is used as part of the artistry of the
   portrait, helping to convey more information about the message(s) being
5) Portrait plus symbols / images of personal significance that further help
   to define the different aspects of the individual whose image is being

The initial photographs were taken with a digital camera in class and loaded
into their building folders. The best works by each student are printed on
glossy stock paper in full color, matted and hung in the art gallery at

Finally, the class breaks up into a series of 6 groups (4-5 per group), to
create video poems that are based around a selected piece of poetry or prose
that is either generated or selected by each group. Moving and still images,
computer art, text and sound (including music), are combined into a 1-2
minute finished video that will be editted in iMovie. As time permits, the
best work(s) will have the opportunity to be further enhanced through using
Final Cut Pro. The completed projects are imported back into the digital
video camera and copied to VCR tapes for students to take home at the end of
the term.

Through the sequential approach used in class to understanding the power of
the computer in producing successfully generated works of art, a better
appreciation of the strategies and processes available through using the
computer as an art tool is developed. Also discussed as a component of this
course is an introduction to the career opportunities that exist for people
who have the necessary training in creating computer generated art. It is
hoped that ultimately this approach to working with the computer as yet
another tool for creating artwork will help to inspire students to consider
the value of this part of their education as it relates to what jobs they
consider preparing for as they move both into the working world as well as
continuing to be creative individuals.