Art Unit Enhanced by Technology

K-12 students are excited by technology — engrossed in it — connected to it in ways many of us, who are not digital natives, cannot begin to understand.  A variety of technologies have amazing potential to enhance art instruction and student learning by taking advantage of this natural connection. I’d like to share one such exciting example — an architecture lesson I saw recently.

Student architecture project
Student architecture project

This unit is the work of Cali, my friend and colleague who teaches at a middle school in my district. She has done an architecture lesson with her students for a number of years, and over time, has developed some impressive ways of incorporating technology to enhance this lesson for students and viewers.

The first photo, above, is an example of the initial product from the first part of the unit. Students develop an original architectural design that “challenges boundaries” and construct a model using balsa wood and other materials. This part of the lesson is not particularly unusual. I think there are many art teachers who might teach something similar.

This was just the beginning, however. After planning and constructing the model, students photographed it in front of a green screen and used digital imaging software to place the design into a context.

Student Architecture design with digitally imposed setting
Student Architecture design with digitally imposed setting

Then, in the role of architect, students developed a sales pitch to convince investors to support the construction of their building on the proposed site. The pitch was refined and captured as an audio recording that was posted online. Students created a QR code to a access the recording and included it in a display of the work in the school.

Display case with architectural models, renderings of designs in a proposed site, and QR codes to access audio recording of the students' sales pitches.
Display case with architectural models, renderings of designs in a proposed site, and QR codes to access audio recording of the students’ sales pitches.
Display case with architectural models, renderings of designs in a proposed site, and QR codes to access audio recording of the students' sales pitches.
Display case with architectural models, renderings of designs in a proposed site, and QR codes to access audio recording of the students’ sales pitches.

IMPRESSIVE, ISN’T IT?!

These technology extensions make this unit so much richer! Too often we have students create a product, but stop short of the potential to do so much more. Relative to students who might only design and construct a model, those involved in all parts of the unit described above gain a number of opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills, and understanding. These students:

  • Develop a stronger understanding of the relationship between architecture and environment
  • Learn about green screens and how they work
  • Develop basic digital imaging skills
  • Develop a stronger understanding of the function of sculptural or architectural models in the approval process
  • Practice oral/verbal communication skills
  • Develop skills for persuasive communication
  • Learn about making and using QR codes
  • Present their work to an authentic audience
  • Integrate their knowledge and skills from a variety of (STEAM) disciplines

Sincerest thanks to Cali and her students for allowing me to share the great work they are doing!

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