Art in Motion: Integrating Technology into Art Classes

by Michelle Calimlim| 10/02/2018

As an English and Art school teacher, Michelle Calimlim works in a Southern California public school, Wilson Middle, with a significant immigrant and refugee population. Many students are from low-income households and navigate daily hardships that extend well beyond schoolwork. Michelle recently attended Pathfinders Summer Institute to enhance her teaching skills and learn more about combining art with technology.

Student Art at Wilson Middle

My students have demonstrated the desire and passion to create through art. Although they may not always clean up their classroom messes, my students enjoy experimenting, learning HOW things work, or figuring out which elements WORK TOGETHER, in art.

I have always believed such persistence can be applied to improve and expand skills in additional subjects, including science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).

My students strive to stand out and prove others wrong. Diversity does not divide them, but rather adds to their characters and growth. Many deal with situations beyond what your typical middle school student faces, yet all of my students persevere. They can be tough, oftentimes hesitant or resistant with the things they do not understand or find difficult to complete. But they are curious and are constantly challenging the norm.

When I started teaching at my school I was told, "If you could 'survive' here, you could teach anywhere." In fact, I have learned that I don't just survive here, I thrive here, with these children and their curiosity.

As an educator, I have come to realize that I will always be a curious student too. It could my first year, or my twentieth year of teaching and there will always be a conference or professional development to attend whereupon I can improve my skills.

Getting instruction at Pathfinders

I learned about Pathfinders Summer Institute, a weeklong professional development gathering hosted by Infosys Foundation USA, and opened up a project with DonorsChoose to secure funding. This course was perfect because I did not require any programming skills and yet I would walk away with enough experience over the course of a week to roll out a unique STEAM project in my classes.

Art in Motion Workshop, led by Tamara Pearson and Katie Henry, was the course I chose to take to learn how to authentically integrate computer science into art classes. During the week we learned programming basics using the Hummingbird Kit from Bird Brain Technologies. We created various art sculptures, both individually, and as a group. We were able to create moving parts, or have the whole sculpture move, by creating the software code for various sensors and motors.

The highlight was the final day when each of us shared our final projects, fashioned after art installations located around the Indiana University Bloomington campus. This activity was most memorable for me, in that it was a strong reminder of how teachers truly are lifelong learners. The demands of the final project put us in the shoes of our students and had us think about our learning processes. It also had us reflect upon not only aspects of classroom management but also student centered engagement, motivation, and achievement.

Brain Sculpture on IU Bloomington Campus | Author's project modeled after Brain Sculpture

Something that I learned while at Pathfinders is that I can integrate technology into my art classes. Ideally, for this school year and beyond, I would like to collaborate with my school's computer science teacher to create more dynamic and interactive art pieces through coding. Our school district enjoys partnerships with local museums, so it would be an opportunity to extend the classroom to what student see in art museums, or even other historical museums, and then create lively works that provide insight to their societal, historical, and cultural contexts---much like we did during Pathfinders.

Public school teachers with their final Art in Motion projects

Thank you again for all who made Pathfinders possible!