Monday, June 28, 2010

Technology and the Arts - ISTE Day 1

My first session this morning is called Rethinking Arts Education for the Youtube Generation. I have worked a fair amount with the arts over the year in couple capacities:
  • Drama 9-12
  • Arts education 10-30
  • Visual Arts 10, 20
  • Theater Arts 20, 30 (Technical Theater)
In general, I use technology a lot for the critical responsive strand in each of these. It will be interesting to see what the focus is for the two women who are presenting. They are a music specialist and visual arts specialist.

They argue that new technical tools provide ways of working with media instantly, and that they can be well suited to digital learners. Learning about the arts helps us to create more compelling media and really understand what creativity means in the 21st Century. They also mentioned that the issue of copyright and being a digital creator not consumer will be discussed.

What do we need to teach our students? The presenters showed a number of projects from their school and talked about the opportunities for arts teachers to help students learn fundamental skills.
  • First, they showed a sample from their school of pictures of students to a copyrighted music. They recommended teaching about creative commons and copyright (new laws coming here in Canada).
  • Next they showed a digital story with poor resolution images. They suggested me need to teach about file size, types of images etc. I use Google image search here to solve this issue once I have taught students the basics.
  • They also showed digital video creation. The video they showed wavered badly and they didn't understand composition. The presenters argued that even suggesting a tripod would have helped, but teaching composition is a real strength of arts
  • Next they played a song. This one had issues will levels in the audio.
  • They also showed an example of a poorly constructed digital slide show and talked about the need for teaching presentation skills and how to construct and effective slide show. I think that would be helpful to teach many adult presenters these skills - it would have helped our keynote speaker last night, and he was the former vice-president of the World Bank
  • Last they showed a student re-illustrating a professional's picture book and talked about why it is essential to create their own original work.
Next the presenters moved on to talking about creativity. They referred to Daniel Pink and his work as a good example, but think that many leaders use creativity as a buzz word and don't understand it. The stages of creativity in the multimedia process:
  1. Pre-production - use a concept map (think Bubblus for free or Inspiration as common software) or make jot notes about key things you want to focus on. In video, you might use a treatment, even before storyboarding.  These pre-production processes to make the key ideas clear is often missing in student work.
  2. Production - here we need to make sure that students understand basic theory so the work can be both sophisticated and successful. They used the example of teaching the rule of thirds and focal point before having students take a digital picture.
  3. Post-production - this is where students get ideas for how to polish the work to make it really sing. This often happens to me in the last three weeks of a drama production. These polish elements work best when you understand the possibilities and the teacher allows you to play with them. Very specific rules often prevent originality.
They had a number of resources and links for arts educators, including a prezi with national standards. However, much of their presentation was pages of presented text, an unfortunate choice given the subject mater. When the audience asked them a couple of questions, there was simply a reference to the handout.
They referred to many things, like the reference to creativity in ISTE's technology standards for students, called the NETS, but didn't actually fully explain any of their ideas.

They talked quite a bit about the need for a global audience, and how student projects are shared on a school screen, but also on Youtube, via blogs and in online communities. They said all of this required changes in school culture and the comfort level of teachers with the digital media tools. They recommended one-on-one planning and instructional support to grow teacher competence. They also says that digital tools should not be siloed into a class or a room, but should be present everywhere.

Overall, this session was hard to follow and vague - even though I understood each individual thing they said. It would have benefited from stronger structure and more practical elements. Both presenters clearly felt that they had to advocate for the arts, even though their audience was composed predominantly of arts teachers and clearly in agreement. I have noticed this issue with arts teachers in the past. When we are together and could work on making things happen we sometimes use the time to agree it is important that something happens instead. One thing I was really hoping would be a focus (given the title and description) was how are students are changing and what we need to do to meet their learning needs. Other than mentioning students like to create digital products, the presenters did not cover this at all.

The most interesting part was a discussion between some music teachers about the value of playing in a high school band versus teaching each student to arrange and compose, so they are creators not consumers. The group discussed Finale, which some of us in Saskatoon are using. I really like it, although licences are expensive. If you are a music teacher and would like to play with it, you can download it for 30 days for free and play with it. They also talked about Stomp and other ways of teaching students "music is alive, not dead." People discussed iPod touch Orchestras using the music apps and other ways to essentially use digital technology as either instruments or mediums.

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