There is great power in the study and practice of the visual arts. Art captures and communicates the human experience in powerful and expressive ways. It reflects culture, history, diverse perspectives, deep feelings, and core beliefs. Art can become both a window into the perspectives of others as well as a mirror into our own experiences. It can help us better understand each other and allow us to connect through our shared humanity.
You could argue that arts education helps students develop into well-rounded individuals. A study by the College Board highlights many of the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional benefits of the arts. It notes that art education strengthens cognitive development and reinforces higher-order thinking skills, such as creativity, analysis, critical thinking, and reflection. Art helps younger learners develop gross and fine motor skills, and it has been shown to help students develop socially and emotionally, allowing them to explore the relationship between themselves and others. The College Board report highlights some of the research reinforcing these claims:
“Research initiatives of the past decade have linked arts participation to cognitive growth and academic skills, including the strengthening of long-term memory and reading ability (Gazzaniga et al., 2008), creative thinking skills, and writing fluency (Deasy et al., 2002). Arts participation has additionally been linked to positive social outcomes, including overall engagement in school (Deasy et al., 2002), increased graduation rates (Israel, 2009), and increased community engagement and pro-social activities (Catterall, 2009).”
These impacts offer profound and positive benefits in the area of student development. One of the most lasting of these benefits may be the development of creativity. Edward de Bono, author of Six Thinking Hats, states: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” Another critical component in the development of our students is social and emotional learning. Amy Maricle, an artist, art therapist, and founder of Mindful Art Studio, describes art as “a natural way to practice mindfulness. The colors, textures and sounds of creating pull us into the moment. You don’t need any previous training to meditate through art, just a willingness to draw like a child, with freedom and a sense of curiosity.” Because it’s the experience of creating art rather than the quality of the final product that is so impactful, every child can gain these benefits regardless of their artistic abilities or accomplishments.
An Explosion of Technology in Art
While traditional art production often focuses on pencils, chalk, paint, clay, and other tangible mediums, the explosion of technology has broadened the scope of art and has highlighted the growing importance of digital arts, tools, and techniques. This infusion of technology has also impacted art-related careers. A recent study by Wang and Wang (2021) that was published in Art and Design Review notes that two-thirds of art-related jobs with a salary of over $60,000 per year were connected to digital art and technology sectors. The researchers at Data USA report that the most common occupations for visual and performing arts majors are graphic design and teaching. Data showing the societal impact of technology is also reflected in the findings of a Pew Research Center report that shows eight-in-ten Americans get their news from digital devices. With people living in this digital reality, advertisers, media producers, and graphic designers now must apply their skills to digital platforms—like social media, television, and streaming services—in order to reach their audiences. This has increased the importance of technology skills in art-related careers.
Not surprisingly, working artists regularly lean on digital skills. Many rely on digital image editing software, digital video production suites, and web design skills. Architects use computer-aided design software (CAD) to create and share their work. The movie and entertainment industry is almost entirely digital. Animators and artists continue to find new opportunities in video game design. Even artists who continue to work with traditional mediums regularly use technology to archive, promote, share, and sell their work. One recent college art student stated, “Only teaching traditional art and not digital is like only teaching how to put a stamp on a letter but not how to send emails. Not including digital arts makes an art class pretty irrelevant in most cases, or at the very least incomplete.” Digital art has become a foundational element of the visual arts and an important component to any K–12 art program. Not only does it help to prepare art students for practical applications and careers in a tech-rich world, but it also opens doors to new creative possibilities.
Integrating Technology into Art Classrooms
One way that integrating digital art into our classrooms opens up new doors is that it provides practical production advantages. Because most schools have moved to a 1:1 student-to-device model, classrooms can access a wide variety of digital art tools for free. This eliminates the cost of consumable materials (such as expensive paint, paper, and drawing supplies), thereby reducing barriers for students in poorly funded art classrooms. Digital mediums also allow for unlimited drafts, limitless trial and error, and instant access to new attempts. Students can even continue their creations at home if they have access to an Internet-connected device. Because the work is digital, it is also easy to archive, share, and transport. In addition to these practical benefits, when we blend traditional art forms with technology, our students have an opportunity to learn both art and technology skills. This is a win-win situation that we can achieve through technology integration.
To make this integration a reality in our classrooms, we must align our work to academic standards. While each state sets its own education standards, many have been developed based on the National Core Arts Standards. Some states have used these as general guidelines, and others have adopted the national standards directly as their own state standards. These widely-referenced standards have been endorsed by the National Art Education Association and are built around a framework of four core processes in which artists of all formats engage:
- Creating: Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work
- Presenting: Interpreting and sharing artistic work
- Responding: Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning
- Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context
National Core Arts Standards © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards.
Rights administered by State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE).
All rights reserved. www.nationalartsstandards.org.
This AVID Open Access collection of materials is organized around this widely accepted framework to help you easily and meaningfully integrate digital tools and strategies into your visual arts classroom. Browse these resources to find powerful ways to merge technology with art education. This convergence can help your students not only develop creativity, critical thinking, and art skills, but it can also prepare them for success in a tech-rich world of work and artistic possibility.
- Catterall, J. S. (2009). Doing well and doing good by doing art: A 12-year national study of education in the visual and performing arts. I-Group Books.
- The College Board. (2012, January). Child development and arts education: A review of current research and best practices.
- Data USA. (n.d.). Digital Arts. Deloitte and Datawheel.
- de Bono. (n.d.). Home.
- The de Bono Group. (n.d.). Six thinking hats.
- Deasy, R. J. (Ed.). (2002). Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development. The Arts Education Partnership.
- Gazzaniga, M. (Ed.). (2008). Learning, arts, and the brain: The Dana Consortium report on arts and cognition. Dana Press.
- Israel, D. (2009). Staying in school: Arts education and New York City high school graduation. Center for Arts Education.
- Mindful Art Studio. (n.d.). Home.
- National Art Education Association. (2014). National Visual Arts Standards.
- National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. (2015) National Core Arts Standards. State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE).
- Shearer, E. (2021, January 12). More than eight-in-ten Americans get news from digital devices. Pew Research Center.
- Wang, V., & Wang, D. (2021). The impact of the increasing popularity of digital art on the current job market for artists. Art and Design Review, 9, 242-253.
Extend Your Learning
- The “Art” of Teaching: Infusing Artistic Creation Into Your Classroom (Tech Talk For Teachers podcast episode)