Art class goes high-tech
January 18, 2009
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Thanks to a partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, artwork from the likes of Andy Warhol and Wayne Thiebaud can virtually pop into classrooms around the Pacific.
With the help of a Smithsonian education specialist, Department of Defense Dependents Schools students can now learn about Impressionism and sculpture from a videoconference tutorial conducted nearly 8,000 miles away inside the Washington museum.
The virtual art program brings the museum inside the classroom and gives overseas students access to American art history that isn’t normally within reach, said Sally Otis, an education specialist with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
"Our collection basically tells the American experience, and this allows students to still have a connection to the American experience as seen through art," Otis said.
Otis was in Okinawa on Tuesday finishing a two-day training session for local DODDS visual arts teachers to familiarize them with the video equipment and online education resources.
The program gives DODDS teachers access to the Smithsonian’s educational art resources, art collections and classroom materials through an online program.
Teachers also can post student artwork and share lesson plans and ideas, Otis said.
It’s the first training for Pacific visual arts teachers in four years, said Jim Hashman, fine arts instructional systems specialist for Pacific DOD schools.
The art program was launched five years ago, when the Department of Defense Education Activity partnered with the Smithsonian to bring materials and curriculum to its schools, Hashman said.
The program is available at DODEA schools worldwide.
The initial training was brief, however, and many teachers felt ill-equipped to use the resources, Hashman said.
But this week’s training offers teachers a more focused look at the program — how to set up a videoconference, research art topics and develop activities.
For now, only one Polycom videoconference screen is available to Pacific visual arts teachers, who must submit requests to use it.
However, Hashman said, more equipment could be purchased if interest increases.
Otis said she works with teachers to create customized lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations on artists and artwork and also leads videoconference tutorials.
Teachers have access to more than 25,000 high-resolution images of American artwork and direct links to art historians, curators and experts who can answer questions or lead discussions.
The program is unique to DODEA schools and fills a void for visual arts teachers who previously complained that access to good art images was difficult and costly to come by, Hashman said.
"Now they have high-resolution images, so you can see them up close and not just in glossy books," Hashman said.
Hashman said the training should boost participation in the program.
Last year, only three videoconferences were held in DODDS-Pacific schools.
"We’re expecting that to go way up," he said.
Bill Nixon, a visual arts teacher at Lester Middle School, said he’s enthusiastic about the resources available and feels comfortable using them.
Nixon said his previous attempts to navigate the online resources were frustrating.
"Now I’ll certainly use it," he said. "It will be great to have experts come into the classroom."