Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the things that I like the most about art is the history behind it. I find it fascinating to learn how a piece was created and the reasons behind it. I like to know about the time period in which the artist lived in, what the politics of that time were like, and how people survived from day to day. In some ways I am a bit of a history junkie. I rather read a non-fiction history book than a fiction novel anytime.
One of the biggest disappointments for me in Art college were my Art History classes. I would have a 2 hour class from 1 to 3pm two or three times a week. I don’t know if there could have been anything more boring than those 2 classes I took in my first year. However back then the way to teach about art history was for a professor to show a series of slides and then lecture on them to a theater filled with students. One of the problems with this method was this often caused many people to tune out or fall asleep; myself included! For class that had lots of potential for me, it sure fell flat more often than not.
Fast forward 30 years and now I teach art and art history to elementary students. Due to the number of periods I have with each class I only touch on art history. I have never really found a way of making it exciting until now. Using digital storytelling seems like a creative way to go about teaching it. It uses many different elements from pictures, video, and audio (talking and music). Each of these can be taken to so many different levels depending upon applications used and skill levels. In some ways, the age old cliche that the possibilities are endless is true and all thanks to technology.
I have 2 ideas for potential projects in mind. The first is kind of a digital road map related to different artists life and the other is related to finding famous missing art work.
The first idea will have students create a digital story that follows the road map of a famous artist’s life. Students will follow the highlights of their chosen artist. For each major point in time they will use Google Maps to follow the progress of the artists life along with slides/video from places they lived and major pieces of art that they created in each time period. They will create a simple narrative for each highlight. My hope is that students will basically create a digital timeline that is packed full of interesting images, video,relevant audio, and voice about the artists of their choice.
For my second idea I kind of visualize the students being digital detectives using the Internet to try and solve (or at least go as far as they can) the mysteries behind some of the world’s most famous pieces of art. Pieces such as Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet or the Nazi looted Amber Room have incredible stories behind them. Students again could create their digital stories based on their own online detective work. They could start out with a brief history of the art work, then go on to how it went missing and follow the clues as far as they can or to when the piece was found. Again all types of still images and video could be used along with music to set the mood and voice overs for telling the stories.
By combining story telling with images, video, music, voice and putting it together with technology creates a whole new layer for teaching things that may not have been as interesting as they could have been in the past. Now I feel I can get excited about something I like, but did not know how to present in a fun way. If I am excited about teaching something then it makes it a whole lot easier for me to get the kids excited about what they are learning as well.
Kremlin.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons