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Digital calls the shots

New A-level requirements are bringing students' output right up to date, says Peter Day who introduces a new art specification from Edexcel

In 1994, Apple produced Quick Take, the first mass-market digital camera. Since then, technology has revolutionised the way we create, store and view images. The digital age has also heralded a shift in emphasis: as well as directing and shooting pictures, we can now edit the appearance of the images. Personal photos from bloggers and vloggers are now becoming a global phenomenon, and are making very public what were once private moments.

Teachers and exam boards are responding to this new potential with, for example, photography specifications allowing for an all-digital submission. The same may happen in other areas of art and design. Exam boards and schools are recognisingthat students now work in a wide variety of media; soon they will be able to submit work via web pages, CD-Rom, DVD and digital projection, and include soundtracks, short films and installations as a whole or part of their submission. Animation, a somewhat overlooked art form of late, can be made through image sequences and narratives, including voiceover and texts.

Students still have to combine practical knowledge with a broad context and critical knowledge of the area of their expertise; however, future developments in online assessment and external moderation are just round the corner.

Already ASA2 candidates can get digital accreditation, not just through traditional imaging routes like photography and graphics, but also from film, video and multimedia image production.

The emphasis is very much on the creative use of the image in all of its forms and the use of emerging technologies in creative ways, so much so that light and composition are very much to the fore.

Traditionalists can rest easy, though. As I have seen in my role as a photography lecturer and e-learning advocator at Exeter College, many students still come forward to learn "old-fashioned" skills, by which they mean film and chemistry. Indeed, digital camera technology is now incorporating film ISO, shutter and aperture settings into its technology - but when some cameras can shoot eight frames per second and store several hundred images, the gap between the single-image frame and the moving-image frame has neverbeen smaller.

In response to current innovations in delivering and teaching ICT in art and design, Edexcel has developed a new GCE art specification beginning this September.

For the first time, candidates will be allowed to submit solely digital imagery for coursework units in photography and graphics.

The new art specification has one unit of coursework and an exam unit for ASA2, which reflects a reduction of a whole unit per level from the previous GCE specification and allows candidates to build a portfolio of evidence across the whole year.

The resources required to deliver the digital aspect of the new specification are readily available in most art departments: a PC, camera and standard software for digital image manipulation. Gone are the days when expensive darkrooms were a necessity in developing resources for image making.

* For further information regarding the specification and training events contact Elaine Davis, art assessment officerat Edexcel Tel: 0870 240 9800 www.edexcel.org.uk

Peter Day is principal art examiner at Edexcel with responsibilities for IT in art and design at GCE

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