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Drawing in ict

Although ICTis a by-word for creativity in the modern classroom, few teachers are using it in art. Tony Wheeler investigates

New technologies offer unprecedented access to creative engagement in almost all aspects of human endeavour. Properly structured and presented, the creative potential of new technologies extends across all subjects, offering exciting opportunities to engage and involve children of all abilities.

It is therefore surprising that, as more teachers of art and design report a growing feeling of responsibility for the creative aspects of the curriculum, national statistics show a pattern of generally poor and rapidly declining use of ICT in art. This pattern of decline is not exclusive to art and design; the same statistics show a similar picture in the reported use of ICT in other foundation subjects.

The DfES survey of ICT for 2002 asked schools to record the level of "positive benefit" ICT had in each area of the curriculum. Almost a quarter of all schools reported "little or no benefit" from using ICT in art (primary 23 per cent, secondary 26 per cent and special 27 per cent). When compared with the 2000 survey, there has been a marked decline over a two-year period across all schools in the incidence of "substantial use" of ICT in art, particularly in primary, where the data shows a 31 per cent drop, but also at secondary level with a 14 per cent drop.

In spite of this evidence of a growing disconnection between ICT and art and design, there are clearly pockets of really exciting practice in this area. To discover more about the ways in which some teachers are managing to harness the potential of ICT in art and design, Arts Council England commissioned a research project from the Creating Spaces group earlier this year.

Despite efforts to develop ICT as a capability, it is often still presented as a series of office-based skills forming part of vocational business studies or technology courses. For many art and design teachers this is the only model of ICT they have access to, so it is not surprising that they see little or no relevance to it in their endeavours to protect the creative heart of the curriculum.

The Creating Spaces team, which carried out the research earlier this year, worked with a number of arts organisations to choose 10 schools where digital approaches to visual art had already been established. Each was asked to identify an art and design project that had involved the use of digital technology. For example, Trish Madigan, digital arts co-ordinator at Preston Manor City Learning Centre, runs a seven-week programme of digital art exploring hybrid cultural identities for all Year 9 pupils at the school.

The short course introduces the students to different types of digital media. They use a range of internet resources, such as the DARE website (, to explore a particular theme. The students are encouraged to talk to their families and collect and scan cultural images from home. This source material is then used to make a digital collage (see above).

In virtually every interview, the teachers expressed the value of making such connections, as well as the desire to establish and maintain new ones, identifying their desire to connect with a wider community of artist practitioners and expertise.

"The more I deliver the Year 7 digital arts course the more confidence I have to try different approaches," says Madigan.

Analysis of the interviews with the teachers in the survey has helped to extend our understanding of the pressures and opportunities in this area.

These reflections are detailed in the final report as recommendations to help other art and design teachers see ways in which they can harness new technologies.

Effective integration of ICT in art and design is typically based on ideas rather than technology. Sean O'Sullivan, deputy head of Frank Wise Special School, characterises this balance between ideas and technical skills. "I think the strongest link between ICT and what we've said about art is the fact that everybody here treats it as a creative tool. You are constantly looking for ways of using it that do give the kids the opportunity to make their own decisions."

The fact that these case studies can be characterised as isolated pockets of innovative practice only underlines the need to create links between these and other schools, colleges and arts and media organisations so that skills, ideas and resources can be shared.

Further research is required to identify best practice and to look at the creative and pedagogical issues which arise from the integration of ICT in art and design.


The final report of this work is entitled ICT in art and design - Tools for the imagination and can be downloaded from the Arts Council website at:

Data from the DfES ICT surveys can be found at:

The OFSTED report entitled ICT in schools - secondary art and design can be downloaded from:

Creative places

The schools that participated in the Creating Spaces project were: All Saints (CE) Aided Middle School (Northampton); Beacon Community College (East Sussex); Frank Wise Special School (Oxfordshire); Gateway Primary School (London); Hampstead School and Technology College (London); Lowton High school (Wigan); Luckwell Primary school (Avon); Preston Manor High school (London); Sidcot School (North Somerset); Saint John's RC comprehensive School (Kent)

Get involved

If you are involved or interested in digital art in education and would like to be included in future projects please contact:

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