In defense of analog.

Categories Art, Education, Technology

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That’s right, analog. Just because you can go digital doesn’t mean you should go digital with everything.

No, I’m not one of those people who still only listens to records because I think they sound nicer, but analog does have it’s benefits.

I decided to write about this after reading about a study where technology was found to have no positive impact on student performance. In fact, the study said they did better if they didn’t have computers. Shocking, I know. As a culture, educators often do tend to think (even if only subconsciously) that a computer is a magical device that will alter our students’ DNA to make their brainpower increase tenfold. (Edit: Although technology can and does help raise test scores in some instances.)

You see it’s not whether or not you’re using technology, it’s whether or not you’re a good teacher. A shiny new Macintosh will not magically make your student ace his or her SAT because it’s not a magic pill. However if you already are a good teacher, the increased use of technology can be a boon to the classroom as you now are better able to address the multiple intelligences found among your students – provided you do not then decide to get lazy and let the educational software do all the work for you. (I’ve seen that happen too, fortunately not at my current place of employment.)

This is even more obvious in an Art classroom. I love technology – I routinely play around with computers, digital cameras, digital video, web pages, RSS feeds, podcasts, the list goes on. I’m planning on having my 6th graders make a video for the upcoming multicultural dinner, and I’m really excited about it too.

However, I don’t do these things in every class. There’s still something to be said for the act of putting a pencil onto paper, for painting over crayons with watercolors and watching the crayon show through, and for following a series of folds to make an origami frog that can jump across your table. Sure, I could do some of this on a computer, but I could not do it as well.

A computer, like any other educational resource, is a tool – and tools are only useful if they’re used for the jobs for which they are best suited. Perhaps that aforementioned study found such low progress because too many people thought you could hammer a nail with a screwdriver. You can get it to work, but it’s a lot more effort than using the right tool for the right job.

So I’m all for computers and digital arts. Bring on the 1 to 1 computer/student ratio, I’m all for it!

… but when I show up to teach your class you shouldn’t be surprised to see my cart’s still full of markers, crayons and paint. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an art supply budget to complete.

Aaron Smith is a Media Arts & Technology Teacher who spends most of his time on computers. In his free time he plays video games, edits videos, and misses his wife dearly.