Steve Jobs said “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”
I love how tactile technology is and the wonderful opportunity it affords ELLs to grasp new concepts as they learn English. The arts in all of its different forms have also proven to be a valuable vehicle for engaging students of all kinds. As I have been participating in an inquiry seminar about the arts in education, how to integrate the arts meaningfully in a computer lab has been swirling in my head.
I took the 3rd graders in my school through an exploration of urban wildlife. My goal was to give them something they could use to create a powerpoint presentation.
From beginning to end, the project took a few months to complete (I see the 3rd graders twice a week for 45-minutes). Some of the wildlife chosen by the 3rd graders included pigeons, house sparrows, opossums, gray squirrels, and geese.
At the end of the project I found a detail of a silk screen by the Korean artist Kim Jin-Woo titled “Reeds and Geese.” This seemed like a good tie-in with what we had been doing in the computer lab.
I explored the piece with each 3rd grade class asking questions about the landscape, the colors, and other details. Then I wondered out loud with each class what a conversation would sound like if the geese could speak English. What would they say to one another? What would they be thinking about? Which would speak the loudest? Which might not speak at all?
I taught them how to use the Comic Life software program. This program enables users to create comics using photos and images. They added speech bubbles and dialogue.
Conversations ranged from multiple geese talking about topics ranging from being hungry, fishing, or simply enjoying the landscape.
Some children used a vernacular (“wasup homie,” “Hi bff”) that seemed to make the geese more familiar to the children.
Others were clever and light-hearted (“Who wants to play duck-duck, goose-goose?”, “Hey move it you’re holding up traffic here”).
Over all it was an enjoyable assignment. The children enjoyed adding their own meaning to an otherwise esoteric piece of work. Later, they added titles and more color slowly making the artwork their own. I was particularly interested in the way my English language learners maneuvered this assignment. I generally found that the language they used was less inhibited than what I have normally seen if they were completing a story on a simple Word document.
This assignment to me embodied in a small way the essence of Steve Job’s belief. Technology by itself is unlikely to produce the joys in learning. Integrating the arts at any opportunity helps make a person whole.