Digital Media Practices in the Art Classroom


Goals for digital media practices.

The primary goals for digital media practices in the high school art classroom are the understanding, re-defining, and development of the relationship between technology and its users.  Before teachers can utilize digital technologies for the creative good, they must first understand their relationship with these technologies.  Scholz (2005) argues that “new-media arts must be concept driven rather than media driven” (p. 103) meaning that before embracing the culture of technophilia for its own sake, art teachers must analyze the conceptual content of digital media and instruct their students in this analysis.  Eisenhaur (2006) explains that “included as part of learning to use given technologies, should be a simultaneous inquiry into what technologies mean, how they relate to other technologies, and what our own divergent experiences with technologies are in our everyday lives” (p. 212)  As the art teacher and student come to a deeper understanding of their relationship with technology they are better able to creatively re-define this relationship during artistic exploration.  Just as the painter continuously re-defines their relationship with their brushes, paints, and substrates to discover new techniques and means of expression, so must the art educator and student manipulate technology to produce fresh, relevant work in digital media practices.  With the re-defining of this relationship will come development.  Students should be encouraged to recognize and utilize concepts they have learned from working in traditional media as they explore the digital media landscape.  This approach will improve their work in both digital and traditional media as “children learn more thoroughly when they represent the same concept in different media” (Swann, 2005, p. 45).

Problems and limitations of new technologies in education settings.

Some major problems and limitations of new technologies in educational settings include funding for expensive equipment and software, assumptions held by teachers about their students’ relationship with technology, and the wide range of exposure to technology within a high school setting.  Perhaps the most difficult obstacle for art educators who wish to incorporate digital media practices in their classroom is obtaining the equipment to do so.  Due to low funding for the arts, art educators may find it difficult to convince administration to provide state of the art technology for an unfamiliar medium.  Historically, the relationship between technology and its inclusion in the educational world is strongly affected by the cost of the technology as illustrated by Eisenhaur’s (2006) discussion of the preference for the affordable slide projector to expensive microscopes.  One strategy for addressing issues of cost is to demonstrate to administration how the technology is beneficial for all subject areas and to propose a plan for sharing the equipment and software with as many classes as possible.  The instructor may also personally seek out individuals or companies that may donate used equipment for the classroom.

Another problem for art educators who wish to incorporate digital media practices into their curriculum is that many hold biases and assumptions about their students’ relationships with technology.  For example, instructors may assume that because students encounter computers on a regular basis that they are proficient with computers and would be receptive to computer generated art, but this is not necessarily the case.  In an article detailing the process of incorporating Internet art into high school digital art curriculum, Coleman (2004) explains how such assumptions can negatively influence teaching methods:

I initially assumed that because the students appeared comfortable using the Internet, they would be receptive to Internet art.  I also assumed the students would be able to transfer their knowledge of the Web to an ability to navigate around works of Internet art. These assumptions directly influenced my teaching methods […] with two exceptions, their overall reactions to the first two works were highly unfavorable; their Internet savviness did not translate into knowing how to navigate through and understand Internet art […] most students shut down and did poorly on the first two worksheet assignments. (p. 66)

As Coleman (2004) illustrates, it is important for art educators to reflect on their own assumptions while creating lesson plans that incorporate new technologies.

A minor difficulty that may frustrate art teachers and students in high school settings is the wide range of skills each individual brings with them into the world of technology and digital media.  Students may be proficient in one software program but not another, some may not have any experience with computers, and others may already be blossoming digital artists.  This creates a challenge while lesson planning as advanced students may become bored with assignments testing their technical skills and beginning students may become overwhelmed when comparing their work to others.  It is likely they will consider these advantages and disadvantages unfair because, unlike pencils and paper, computers and software for producing digital art are not available in every household.  To bridge this gap, the instructor may consider offering different levels of a class or dividing one class into beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels based on proficiency.

Contemporary digital media artists.

Notable artists using new digital media in creative ways include Pascal Dombis, Antoine Schmitt, and Antoinette LaFarge.  Dombis’ (2013) work includes large scale digital prints often utilizing text and manipulated printing methods.  He lives and works in Paris, France.  Another Parisian working in digital media, Schmitt (2013) often displays generated videos as installations.  LaFarge (2012) is a performance artist whose works “are heavily computer-mediated and many require a computational infrastructure”.

Digital media projects for the classroom.

A digital media studio art project that I could do in my sketchbook class is an assignment to create a digital drawing using only a word processor.  I will share example of work created this way, but urge students to come up with new techniques for this art form.  Students will be encouraged to consider the inclusion or omission of meaningful text and symbols and given the option of printing their work or emailing it to each other for discussion and critique.

A digital media facilitated research project that I could do at the Renee Foosaner Education center is to ask students to initiate an image driven dialogue with one of their peers through an online chat system such as AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, or Facebook Chat.  Students would be asked to share their conversations with the class, and we would analyze the similarities and differences between digital communication using images and digital communication using text.

Both of these projects communicate details about the artists’ identities through their unique creative choices.  The research project also especially explores the theme of visual culture by revealing the popular meanings conveyed by images.


Austin Musuem of Digital Art. (2012). Austin Museum of Digital Art. Retrieved February 10,

2013, from

Ceasar, R. (2008). Ray Caesar – Home Page. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from

Colman, A. (2004). and Net.pedagogy: Introducing Internet art to the digital art

curriculum. Studies in Art Education, 46(1), 61-73.

Eisenhauser, J. E. (2006). Next slide please: The magical, scientific, and corporate discourse

of visual project technologies. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 47(3), 198-214.

LaFarge, A. (2012). : Home. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from

Dombis, P. (2013). Pascal Dombis. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from

Schmitt, A. (2013). Antoine Schmitt. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from

Scholz, T. (2005). New media art education and its discontents. Art Journal, 64(1), 95-104

Swann, A. (2005). The role of media and emerging representation in early childhood. Art

Education, 58(4), 41-47.


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