Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Smartphones Connect Art Students to Sights and Sounds of Montreal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Smartphones Connect Art Students to Sights and Sounds of Montreal

Article excerpt

Smartphones connect art students to sights and sounds of Montreal

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Ehsan Akbari, PhD candidate, Department of Art Education, Concordia University

Many teachers see smartphones as a weapons of mass distraction in the classrooms and have become convinced smartphones and school are a bad mix.

With a smartphone, a student is connected to all their friends and millions of strangers on a vast virtual world of attention-grabbing apps.

While there are many legitimate concerns over smartphone use in classrooms, the fact remains that smartphones are a major part of teens' lives today.

In this context, embracing the mindful use of smartphones in classrooms might be a more effective tactic than prohibiting their use in schools.

I believe educators can have a positive impact on the everyday practices of youth by integrating smartphones in thoughtful and creative ways inside and outside classrooms.

I am a member of a research team investigating how mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, can be used to enrich teaching and learning in art classrooms.

I am also an artist whose sense of the learning possibilities with smartphones has been enriched by my own explorations with sound.

Sonic energy

One day, I borrowed an audio recorder and I stood out in my backyard in Verdun, a neighbourhood in Montreal's south west, and started listening with the device.

This familiar place had suddenly transformed into an aural ocean imbued with sonic energy!

I became aware of a world full of sound that I had been tuning out and I began composing soundscapes that represent my relationship to my everyday surroundings.

I began to wonder -- could this type of attending, listening and creative representation of soundscape be useful in classrooms? What benefits might this offer students?

This led me to work with art teachers to develop an approach for teaching soundscape compositions in art classrooms.

A key insight I gained from these experiences is how mobile technology, like an audio recorder, can make us aware of our relationship to everyday places.

And I began to wonder if smartphones could do similar things in schools.

Expand the learning space

Our team, led by my supervisor (Juan Carlos Castro), researches and designs ways for art teachers to use mobile devices in their classrooms.

In the MonCoin project we collaborated with high school art teachers and about 300 of their students. The phrase mon coin, which literally translates as "my corner," also captures a sense of connection to identity and place.

Our team used Instagram, the social media application for sharing photos online. At each school, we created a private, closed network accessible to only teachers and students in a class.

On Instagram, we posted visual prompts (images), which we called "Missions." Through these we invited students to post a response with a smartphone photograph. Such missions explored themes of "self," "my school" and "my surroundings. …

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