Digital Art Week
This month we had Ireland’s first Digital Art Week for primary schools and it was one of the best weeks I’ve had as a teacher and principal in years. Over the course of a week (or two) schools all over Ireland used digital tools such as Twitter, Flickr, Wikipedia and more in order to learn about art and to create their own pieces of work. The idea of a Digital Art week sprang up from a Twitter conversation a couple of weeks before my school were due to start our own Art Week, which we hold every year.
Each year, children in my school get a drawing pad and they draw a picture and caption it. Each year they get the same drawing pad and by the end of 8 years, they will have amassed a progression of their drawing skills from Junior Infants to 6th class. I wanted to expand on this idea so I went on to Twitter to see if there was anyone interested in collaborating on something else.
Over the course of a few days, Fred Boss from the NCTE (and an art teacher), Damien Quinn from Seomra Ranga (and a primary teacher in Sligo) and myself (also a primary teacher) worked on some ideas to integrate Visual Arts with simple technology. We came up with a number of interesting ideas.
There were four main parts to the project. Firstly, there was to be a shared gallery that all schools could upload images to. Secondly, there would be an online Art Treasure Hunt. Thirdly, we wanted to give a list of web sites that children could play around with to gain an insight as to how some famous artists worked. Finally, being big fans of Twitter, we really wanted to get conversations going there and this was going to be a medium for sharing ideas, questions, etc.
We created a Twitter hashtag (keyword) for the week #tap2011 and began tweeting about the event and asking anyone we knew on Twitter to retweet it. We also emailed the various education fora and mailing lists such as IPPN, DICTAT and CESI who kindly did not object! I created instructions for the event on my personal blog (http://www.simonlewis.ie). On this, we answered questions and hoped that lots of teachers and parents would pick up on it. Thankfully they did.
We decided to use Flickr as the place to share all the pieces of art that the children were to create. Flickr is one of the best known photo sharing sites in the world so I felt it would be a good choice. Teachers simply had to email me and I would give them the username and password to the account and they could upload whatever children’s art they wished. There was no theme, no type of art and no restrictions (within reason!) Pupils could take photographs or draw something using Paint or use iPod Touches to create their masterpieces. There was a great variety of art work uploaded with almost 100 pieces of work uploaded by the end of the first week. Samples of this artwork are scattered throughout this article. The only downside to this was Flickr is blocked by the Schools Broadband Filtering Scheme on levels 4 and below. This made it very awkward for some schools to upload images but it was amazing how inventive some teachers were. One teacher emailed me to say she had uploaded the images on her iPhone using the 3G signal!
Fred Boss acquired a new Twitter friend for us all – a Vole by the name of Leo – who created a fantastic Twitter Art Treasure Hunt. For two days, Leo would tweet clues, which would link to a web site and questions would be asked about a particular piece of art. Pupils had to tweet back the answer. If they were right, they collected a piece of a jigsaw. If they got all 12 piece s of the jigsaw, it revealed a famous painting! It was amazing to see so many new faces on Twitter and hopefully it will encourage them to keep on tweeting with their classes after this.
A while back I discovered a fantastic app which allowed children to make paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock (jacksonpollock.org). I wanted to find other web apps that let children “paint” in the style of other famous artists. I found a few of these and children were able to play around with artists like Picasso, Keith Haring and Henri Roussau. Some of these images made it onto the Flickr album.
One of the great successes was the use of Twitter throughout the project. A quick search of the term #tap2011 contains hundreds of tweets from loads of schools and other followers. Another great thing about the project was that there were a number of non-teachers who got very interested in the project. One such interested party was the National Children’s Gallery who offered to use the art uploaded in the project to their national gallery.
I definitely think this should be an annual event. The project welcomed teachers who may not have used social media like Twitter before. It also helped children create their own art and share it with each other. Most of all, it helped hundreds of children around the country learn a little bit more about art.