We’ve delved into some quite technical stuff recently, so I thought I’d give us all a break with a little bit of art. Specifically I’ve trawled the net for some of the best art, art history and cultural appreciation sites and apps.
In an age of heavy STEM influence, the liberal arts, art appreciation and cultural studies are seen as somewhat of a rarefied and career-unwise privilege. However, it is also true that students who study the arts tend to have higher SAT scores than those who don’t. So, while our blog is certainly all about digital and blended learning we by no means encourage studying exclusively tech and science-based subjects.
Art appreciation is naturally an inroad into cultural appreciation, and has been shown to improve a range of sociological and psychological benefits. Visual Thinking Strategies is a non-profit that enables, trains and advocates for art appreciation classes in grades as early as Pre-K. Their research has shown that students in classes where their program was used had a better understanding of visual images, exhibited stronger growth in math and reading, and showed better social-emotional growth than students in classes that did not use the program.
6 of the best art and culture ed-tech tools
I’ve tried to find as many mobile apps as possible, because they are a great way to begin flipping your classroom, as students can keep their homework and research in their pocket, and read or look something up any time: my caveat here is always access and digital equality — which must be addressed with either school-funded 1:1 programs, or by a school-or-community-funded tablet or smartphone lend/lease/fund program.
Google Arts & Culture
This is a free app, with weekly updates, projects and stories. I particularly like their global and inclusive subject base, and you can explore an extraordinary array of sub-cultural gems: from learning about the Zoroastrian art of Kusti - the spinning of the sacred thread to various art movements. You can also download 1000s of famous pieces of art, and can explore various internationally-renowned galleries’ and museums’ latest exhibits.
A resource geared more to a college prep or high school audience, this is essentially a repository of videos from a great number of specialists talking about specific art history subjects, as well as the theory behind great artworks. The pros are that it’s free, cons include it being only web-based, and also that not all of the subjects are covered with equal rigor. It would probably work best to direct students to specific hyperlinks, rather than ask them to browse on their own.
Presented by the Kennedy Center this is primarily a teacher resource that provides very interesting lesson plans and ideas for achieving cross cultural, and cross disciplinary explorations for students of all ages.
The Culture Trip
Another wonderful site, that can easily be a teacher or student resource, it is a news and information magazine-style website that traverses a remarkable range of global cultural and historical topics. Search by continent to discover everything from the last porcelain painter in Hong Kong, to the perfect walking tour of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia.
It’s easy enough to tell your impressionists from your cubists, but what about your pointilists from your divisionists? Enter kunji, a quiz-based game app that challenges your knowledge on art periods and methods. Not as robust or comprehensive as previous apps mentioned, but certainly a useful tool to engage older learners on the finer points of pointillism.
This is an unusual and fun app for younger students. The app builders have taken the elements of painting from five famous artists — Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Henri Rousseau and Paul Klee — with 25 full canvasses in total, and reduced them down to interactive visual elements, ready for young minds to recreate the original pieces, or create something entirely different. A lovely blend between being creative and learning about the actual paintings. Students can then save their art in their own shareable “museum.”
Art and culture are naturally very location specific, digital tools have the incredible potential to literally open up the world to young minds, and this is never more so prevalent than when sharing the diverse worlds of culture and art in class.