Saturday, December 7, 2013

Going Low Tech This Week - week four of the Smart Jams math and music video project

(This post is part of a series highlighting work in a project funded by a MACUL grant. See my Music Creation page for complete information.)

This week groups continued taking turns practicing their songs with Crystal. When she thought they were ready, they would record with me. While waiting their turn, they made signs for the video.  We easily could have come up with ways for them to make signs digitally, but instead we went low tech.

This weekend I am putting several hours into processing the music files we recorded.  We will have over 20 videos by the time this is done.  Even though I can simplify the process greatly and finish a song and video in under a few hours, each big step that I do on my own can take a long time.  Once I finally decide on the best way to do this (I have changed the plan a few times so far with the first examples) I will post a tutorial.

For now, some thoughts on the benefits of low tech are below.

When I was finishing my master's I was inspired by something Kevin Kelly said in an interview.  He had a big impact on my thinking from that point on.  I wrote to him once to ask for advice as I was doing the project for my final class.  

His brief reply gave me nothing specific, but he said to use non-digital tools whenever possible.  Actually, I'm not paid to spend time with classes when they aren't learning new technology, so most of the time I disregard his suggestion.  Still, I see the value of putting the computers aside.

Of course, I've seen the students enjoy creating with paper, markers and colored pencils just as much as with computers. I'm not a trained art teacher, so I can't speak to the value of virtual tools compared to real world tools in terms of developing creativity and artistic ability.

I do know there are usually two or three students in each class that don't like using computers.  They need tech skills, obviously, but I appreciate the chance to let them enjoy part of the project in their own way.

From a more personal perspective, I can see how hands on creation through early years benefited my own children.  My wife was trained in early childhood development and when we had our kids she stayed home to raise them.  Under her direction they grew up on good, old fashioned crafts with loads of glue, paint and glitter.  At a time when the early elementary art teacher tells me she finds more and more students who do not know how to use scissors or how to play with clay, I am very grateful for the balance my wife brought to our young family.

In our home there was also computer time and video game time over the years.  Now that my son and daughter are older they are just as comfortable (and, yes, too comfortable at times) with their iDevices and laptops.  But they are capable makers in the real and virtual world.  The versatility they gain as well as the opportunities it offers in finding their strengths is vital.

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