When a Hammocks Middle School seventh grader was selected as the winner of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent’s Holiday Card Award in December, it was hard to believe her artwork, “Holidays by the Beach,” was created on an iPad.
A month later, two more Hammocks students won first place out of more than 400 submissions from across Miami-Dade County in the Beaux Arts Student Artist Showcase. They, too, used their iPads to create their winning designs.
Hammocks is one of 253 Verizon Innovative Learning Schools around the country. Since 2014, the initiative—made possible by a partnership between Digital Promise and Verizon—has worked to bridge the Digital Learning Gap by equipping every student and teacher at these select middle schools with devices and up to a four-year data plan. In addition to technology and access, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools receive extensive teacher training, support, and the opportunity to engage in a unique, immersive curriculum to leverage technology in their classrooms.
While using technology in art class may not seem obvious, Hammocks art teacher Katherine Martinez has been incorporating the use of the students’ Verizon Innovative Learning Schools iPads throughout her lessons. Sometimes it’s for reference—students can look at their iPads rather than printed copies of pictures, which also reduces the amount of paper in the classroom.
But students are using their iPads to create projects, as well. For example, during an assignment on surrealism, the Beaux Arts Student Artist Showcase winners used an app called PicsArt to create surreal digital collages. Some students have also created coded self-portraits, and others are working on animations to submit to the Code/Art Festival, an all-girls competition organized by CodeArt, which aims to inspire girls to code.
Ms. Martinez says she has seen some students embrace art when they started using their iPads in class. “Some learners have an interest in art but don’t see themselves as artists,” she said. “It’s quite amazing to witness how the iPad and technology-assisted artwork can help them create wonderful pieces.”
Other students were originally hesitant when presented with the task of making art with their iPads, she said, “but there are so many options, apps, and sites out there that they soon overcome their hesitancy and find options that suit their learning style and creativity needs, and their avenue to express their artistic flair.”
While some students may have been hesitant at first, Ms. Martinez says that teaching art with technology was an easy transition for her: “I’m always welcoming ways to work smarter not harder, and technology does that for me.”
Ms. Martinez began teaching art with technology before Hammocks became a Verizon Innovative Learning School; however, she said having one-to-one devices makes it easier as she does not have to schedule a computer lab.
“In the past, we blended traditional art with technology by beginning with actual paper collages or drawings, then taking pictures of the artwork and turning it into digital work that students can manipulate further using technology,” she explained. “Now, instead of waiting for an available computer lab, every student has their own iPad and can start applying concepts right away.”
Ms. Martinez has grand plans for teaching art with the iPads in the school’s second year in the program. She has proposed an Art Through Technology elective, with a goal of increasing digital literacy through art. In addition, students will use their iPads to create final products more often than in her regular art classes.
“Otherwise, I’m still going to be providing the same opportunities to all of my classes to take full advantage of technology as much as we can,” she said.
Learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools initiative at verizon.digitalpromise.org.