Smashing silos, re-imagining relationships, and making flipbooks.
GUEST COLUMN | by Becky Fisher
On Sunday, October 27th, the third conference from the Harvard Arts in Education alumni group, Continuing the Conversation, was coming to a close. The conference, titled “Re-Imagining Relationships”, focused on artists, arts educators, and those in the arts ed community re-imagining our place both in and out of the classroom. The weekend is one of making and doing, and generally attracts those who have no problem jumping in without a safety net.
For this reason, I was most excited about the opportunity to re-imagine the relationship between arts and technology. At this particular program, there is a sense of division between the arts and technology. A silo of sorts. Just as there are those who say, “I’m not an artsy person”, there are artists who say the same about technology. But ultimately, as both a technologist and an artist, I place them in the same category. Technology is an art, just as art is a tool for the future.
As a committee, we decided to reach out to Karen Brennan, founder of Scratch Education at MIT, PhD recipient from the MIT Media Lab with the Lifelong Kindergarten research group, and current Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It seemed like a natural fit. Karen’s work centers on learning communities and supporting young people as computational creators. The only advice we had for Karen while she was planning her session was to feel free to take a risk.
Karen brought an activity to our final day that changed the lens of the conference and allowed us to reflect, create, and work together to build something as a community. She demonstrated the magic of combining art and technology, and showed us how embracing this union can create pieces of beauty that reflect both mediums.
“Lies my Father Told Me” was the title of the session. Karen’s father told her she would get a job out of college, and that’s what she would do. I’m sure many of us heard this lie at some point. It was easy to relate as she took us down her non-linear path, which led to where she is today. As the future seems to indicate these disjointed paths will become more of the rule and not the exception, it’s important to remind ourselves, and our students, to regularly reflect on the learning and build new relationships along the way.
The activity, inspired by the silos of our lives, was building a communal flipbook that shared reflections from the conference weekend. We were assigned to draw ten slides, which were then digitized by the Collaborative Animation Team in their digitizing stations and converted to a short film in real-time.
This activity may have made “non-techies” rethink their relationship with technology, but it also made me rethink mine. As much as technology brings the satisfying ending of watching the video moments after hundreds of cards were created, there is something to be said about the simplicity the activity. The ease at which the video was created, the beauty of the finished product, and the design of the handmade digitizing stations that Karen’s team built.
CREDIT: Serena Fan
It all led me to wonder: How can we re-imagine technology in our classroom as an art form that is meant to reach the highest level of ease and effortlessness? Perhaps rethinking the relationship between art and technology is a good place to start.
Becky Fisher studied Arts Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a consultant to Edutopia at the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Previously she was marketing manager for Kidaptive. Currently, she is on a mission to bring artists, arts educators, and arts enthusiasts together from around the country to create a network of creative people and a web of interesting work through her blog “ArtRoots America”. Write to: [email protected]