Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

If Art Education Then Critical Digital Making: Computational Thinking and Creative Code

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

If Art Education Then Critical Digital Making: Computational Thinking and Creative Code

Article excerpt

Imagine teeth, eyes, and tongues are digitally added to a shadow puppet as a child's arms move in front of a light projection. The enhanced shadow puppet squeaks and growls, growing shapes that react as the child moves around (see Figure 1) Imagine students' charcoal drawings are scanned and run through a computer program to create an animated virtual fungus growing around the light and dark passages of the drawing (see Figure 2) How is this possible? How can software interact with shadow puppets and charcoal drawings? These are examples of creative code (Maeda, 2004; Peppler & Kafai, 2005), programmable objects1 developed as art by Philip Worthington (Shadow Monsters, 2004-present)2 and Ryan Alexander (Mycelium, 2005-present) These examples are a small representation of the history of code-based artworks exploring both digital image manipulation and realtime performance (Lovejoy, 1997) Creative coding requires a range of problem-solving skills using computer algorithms or what has generally been called computational thinking (Wing, 2010) In this article, we discuss the value of art students engaging in computational thinking by playfully creating their own computer code as both an art medium and as an opportunity to critically think about the ways programmable digital media shapes society 3

When art students play a video game or show each other their favorite smartphone app, too often they are able to discuss how the computer program interacts with the user, but unable to describe or articulate how these programmable objects function Yet, art students can articulate firing processes in ceramics; how light and chemical reactions work in darkroom photography; or how mixing of pigments affects the hue, value, and chromatic intensity of paint All of these forms of knowledge develop the technical skills of artists However, these are not the only forms of knowledge a 21st-century artist might need Recent art education scholarship includes critique, analysis, and making with digital media as part of field research in visual culture and digital literacy (Buffington, 2008; Castro, 2012; Darts, 2010; Keifer-Boyd, 2005; McClure, 2013; Sweeny, 2010; Taylor & Carpenter, 2002) However, few art educators have demonstrated expertise in computer programming, so the field has largely stayed away from critically investigating how programmable objects function and developing technical skills like computer programming as a creative practice for art contexts Digital media theorists-critically looking at programmable objects like the video game Civilization® (Galloway, 2004) and image editing software like Adobe® Photoshop® (Manovich, 2013)-examine how cultural biases and limitations impact software's functionality in culture and contemporary society To fill in the gap between theory and practice, we argue that art education can play a role in developing the critical thinking skills of 21st-century students by augmenting the K-12 art curriculum to include computational thinking as a practice of critical digital making-a creative process using programmable objects to engage with sociocultural contexts to make art

(Re)Thinking Art Education Programming (sic): Computational Thinking & Constructionism

While computational thinking is discussed extensively in fields of the learning sciences and instructional technology, there has yet to be a consistent definition (Brennen & Resnick, 2012) Coined by scientist and educational theorist Seymour Papert (1996), computational thinking has been defined as an algorithmic problem solving method, "represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an informationprocessing agent" (Wing, 2010, p 1) By this definition, computational thinking has been implicitly connected to programmable objects and their design, whether software or hardware Like many fields of art and design, dispositions essential to computational thinking include confidence in dealing with complexity, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, and the ability to deal with open-ended problems (CSTA Standards Task Force, 2011) Computer scientist Jeannette Wing (2006) argued that computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just computer scientists, citing the importance of integrating computational ideas into other disciplines

Art programs like the ones described in Studio Thinking (Hetland, Winner, Veenema, Sheridan, & Perkins, 2007) push students to work in ways aligning with computational thinking such as persistence in working with difficult and open-ended problems Yet, the art examples in Studio Thinking stay within the traditional mediums of ceramics, painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture-leaving out computation and digital media Although recent research explores how principles of Studio Thinking can be applied to digital making (Sheridan, 2011), we, the authors of this article, believe computational thinking through critical digital making should be embedded in the art curriculum to equip students with coding skills important to digital literacy, to expose the computational world surrounding all of us (Gardiner, 2014), and to explore the materiality of digital forms of art connecting to people's technologically mediated daily lives

Arguing for art educators to learn how to program software and manipulate hardware appears in the art education literature as early as the 1980s when Linda Ettinger (1988) envisioned a future when art students would create "new media" by developing their own software Ettinger challenged art educators to ask questions when students make work with the computer such as, does "the student control the medium, or does the medium control the student? …

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