The Symbiotic Relationship between Technology and Art at Greensboro Montessori School

Technology Wall in the Art Studio

The Symbiotic Relationship between Technology and Art at Greensboro Montessori School

What do the oldest fabric in the world and a vintage typewriter have in common with my dentist? And what do they have to do with art?  Well, I encountered each of them in the course of one week, and the intersection of these seemingly disparate things gave me an “a-ha” moment about the symbiotic relationship between creating with technology and hands-on art making in our School’s art studio.

As a mixed-media artist, I am naturally drawn to tactile, malleable, hands-on materials and adore using these materials in my lessons. If you walk into Greensboro Montessori School’s art studio, you will see a variety of rich textures, fibers, paints, clay, found objects and nature. You will also find a technology wall where one of the School’s 3D printers, a computers and iPads live. These two worlds co-exist harmoniously in our art studio and with each new day I am learning and teaching how technology and art are interwoven and applied in the world beyond the studio.

For instance, many Greensboro Montessori School faculty recently participated in an excellent coding workshop from Code.org. During this workshop I learned how coding is fun and creative and identified a great way to apply this technology in my classroom. Once armed with coding knowledge, students can practice their skills by writing an algorithm resulting in a specific design being drawn on their computer. They can bring this code to their art lesson and exchange it with another student. From there, students run each other’s algorithm to see if it produces what the creator originally intended.

Another project where technology and art intersect is stop motion animation.  Students use a stop motion app on our classroom iPads to tell stories, but they also use physical objects make stop-motion animation the good old-fashioned way (by moving an object in small increments, taking photos of the object after each movement, and viewing multiple photos per second in a continuous sequence to create the illusion of motion). One of the most famous stop-motion animation films is the 1964 television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In our classroom, students manipulate KEVA planks, not wireframe figurines, to make their movies. The excitement has been great, and upper elementary students often rush back to class to ask Cathy Moses to come see their work!

Middle school students have been very helpful in teaching upper elementary students about the School’s 3D printer and 3D drawing program, SketchUp, which brings me back to my “a-ha” moment about the connection between art and technology.  Within the course of one week at school I led a felting project demonstrating how to create with the oldest fabric in the world and guided lower elementary students in a freedom of speech exercise where they used a vintage typewriter to create art with their own words. I was reminded how each of these discoveries represented a technological shift at the time of their invention. At the end of the week, I went to the dentist and experienced a modern technology and art revolution in the making.

As crazy as it sounds, and as personal a story it is, my time at the dentist was real-world affirmation of the integration of art and technology. I was scheduled to get a crown and had anticipated my visit being the first of two required to complete the procedure, but then I was introduced to CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) dentistry. While I was in the office, my dentist used technology to capture a 3D rendering of my tooth (CAD) and reproduce it onsite with a grinding and milling machine (CAM). While the grinding process used in my dentist’s office is different from the fabrication method used in 3D printing, the use of technology to produce sculpture in both cases highlights the inspirational interplay between technology and art. (And to top it all off, my ceramic crown was fired and glazed onsite, just like our students’ pottery is fired and glazed in our kiln!)

As we continue to create with our hands in collaborative and productive ways in Greensboro Montessori School's art studio, we will continue to grow the use of technology as well, because technology helps strengthen the development of our students 21st century skills and introduces them to career opportunities where art and technology co-exist.