Artifacts in Cyberspace: A Model of Implementing Technology into Art History Education

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A Model of Implementing Technology into Art History Education

How can art instructors use technology to help students to understand art history better? Imagine being in a darkened classroom in which an image of a prehistoric sandal is projected. Students are challenged to ponder the age of such an artifact and the information that it imparts to archeological science. What fibers were utilized in creating this sandal, and what does this information reveal about where it originates? What was the life of the person who wore this sandal possibly like? What is the age of this artifact, and how was it found? The projected image this class is viewing is a scanned photo from a recent archeological discovery, and through the magic of cyberspace, students are able to contemplate a recently uncovered phenomenon from the past. This article offers a model of a secondary school art history course, entitled Multi-Media Art History, in which the tool of technology plays a large role.

The Internet-based course described in this article requires students to compile a comprehensive collection of art from around the world, gathered from various time periods and cultures. With the resources at hand through technology, lack of access to art history resources is no longer a limitation. Students in Multi-Media Art History conduct research in order to be proficient in their understanding of a chosen topic. They trace this topic through various cultural units. From their research, students are challenged to identify and discuss a variety of cultural motifs and compare and contrast these to other cultures studied. As implied by the article title, technology holds the key to being able to accomplish this intense learning experience. Artifacts abound in cyberspace, and discovering them via technology can be a very exciting experience for today's students.

Personal Observations Regarding Technology in Art History Education

As an art educator, I find strength for my program by embracing technology. Technology is quickly becoming an essential part of everyday life and inevitably is emerging in the art classroom. As art educators struggle to stay afloat amidst shrinking funding for their programs, technology can offer an infusion of interest in the importance of art instruction. Art classrooms increasingly take on the role of training our young people to utilize technology and to use it creatively. Teaching students not just how to use a computer, but how to create and innovate with one, is a strong argument as to why students need art as part of the curriculum.

It is pointless to argue the merits or limitations of technological instruction over traditional practices. Technology integration is a reality in today's educational environment and can be a valuable tool in art history education. Opportunities for distance learning are increasing, and a technology-based art history course such as this can be adapted to this mode of instruction. Although most electronic media are still one-directional, this is likely to change soon. Advancements are being made towards interactive potential we can only imagine.

In the course being examined, Multi-- Media Art History, the technologies utilized are: Internet sites, CD-ROM art collections, computers, digital scanners, and digital cameras. When students in my class study ancient Egypt, they can go via the Internet to the Cairo Museum to compile information and view a virtual museum collection. This does not replace traditional methods of art history instruction, but vastly expands access to information and collections of instructional visuals.

Technology Considerations

When implementing this model, an instructor must be aware of some technological considerations. Students enter a technology course with varying degrees of experience, and a great deal of one-on-one teacher assistance may be required at the outset. The heavy reliance on technology in a course such as this necessitates student comfort and mastery of the machine. …