Working relationship

29th December 2000 at 00:00
Art and design and technology can share projects to the good of all, says Simon Sharp

It seems extraordinary that design and technology and art are invariably treated as separate curriculum areas. Good designers understand the relationship between these subjects, and the best college courses promote a diversity of approaches. It is important for teachers to experiment and to loosen our grip, and allow other specialists to influence and cultivate the development of work.

At Uppingham School, for example, we discovered that a simple digital camera can become an animation facility when the skills are downloaded on to a video editinganimation package. The clay heads being sculptured in an art lesson became the subject of a short film; even paintings, drawings and sculptures could enter the process. Pupils formed a team of modellers, photographers and computer editors. The diversity of skills and planningdesign decisions was quite sophisticated - from scriptingstoryboarding to sound, vision, timing and lighting.

Here technology became the servant rather than the box of tricks. Teachers had to fill in gaps in skills and knowledge, but pupils were involved in plenty of creative design and problem-solving.

In another project in art, the form of plants is studied aesthetically, then pupils transform teir drawings and sculptures into other materials to engineer a light fitting. Digital photography becomes, via Photoshop software, an observational tool, and computer-aided design and manufacture develops naturally from these modified images. The products produced by the students are not just pleasing and original to look at, but demonstrate that technology, when used as part of the art and design process, can itself foster imagination.

At Uppingham School we have the Leonardo Centre, designed by Piers Gough with this type of vision in mind. Its ICT facilities, library, two and three-dimensional art, a television studio, sound and electronics studios, and a large workshop are all ingeniously linked by an exciting space. However, the creative atmosphere and conversation are the most important assets of this environment, not the latest technological toy. There are no tricks, secrets or pieces of equipment that are not available in most schools.

New technology requires a fine balancing act with a diversity of more traditional skills and practices. It is possible to allow children to be more creative with technology.

A broader cultural approach is required if a dumbed-down and superficial result is to be avoided.

Simon Sharp is director of the Leonardo Centre at Uppingham School, Rutland


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