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How technology is helping students engage their creative side
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Sophomore Madison Ingram uses her iPad to draw a portrait in Jennifer Gray’s fourth period art class as Dawson County High School March 15. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Dawson County High School art teacher Jennifer Gray has noticed an improvement in her students’ creative projects that she attributes to the iPad.

During the March 5 board of education work session, Gray demonstrated how she uses the iPads, which are issued to each student in the school system, every day in her classes to engage her students with self-learning and creative endeavors.

“I know it’s made my life easier and I truly think it’s made their life easier,” Gray said.

Gray projects her iPad screen on the whiteboard and walks students step-by-step through projects she assigns. She also films the process and creates video tutorials that are uploaded to the Schoology application, where students always have access to the lessons.

Students utilize their iPads in several ways. Not only do they have access to daily lessons at their fingertips, they are tasked with finding their own information and techniques they want to explore.

“These iPads are incredible for self-learning,” Gray said. “Not only do I teach the (art history movement), they dive in and find their own information.”

Gray has her students put together Google Slides with pictures demonstrating eras in art history as well as information they have researched.

Gray also teaches the students to create digital artworks through the Sketchbook app, which she said helps to bridge the gap between digital art and traditional media.

Students can create collages or pose a still life, take a picture and then import that picture into Sketchbook. They then trace it to create digital outlines, and can print out their digital tracings and use traditional mediums to paint or color.

For more artistic students, adapting to sketching on the iPad has made creating art faster and easier.

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Dawson County High School sophomore Madison Ingram demonstrates how the iPads help students create art pieces in Jennifer Gray’s art class March 15. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Sophomore Madison Ingram said being able to trace portraits of people digitally has helped her drawing abilities, as she struggles to draw people by hand.

“I just think that they’re user-friendly and a good learning tool,” Ingram said. “I feel like this generation’s getting really into the technology so it’s good for teachers to learn how to use them so they can teach us in a way we’ll understand.”

Senior Jill Daniel also said she sees improvement with her artwork using the iPad, which she said helped her become better at drawing free hand because she has learned about line placement.

“I usually use it for self-portraits because I’m not good at drawing free handed so I draw it on the iPad,” Daniel said. “I think it’s easier and I think it turns out better when I do it that way.”

Gray even uses the technology in her pottery class, where students sketch their designs on the tablet and research the techniques they want to use to create a sculpted piece.

“Before we had the iPads, I’m not going to lie, I would show them three or four different videos. By the fourth one, the technique was gone because they weren’t able to have this in their hands and develop their own technique based off one they found,” Gray said.  “This is the most diverse techniques I have seen so far at our shows so I’m pretty excited about that. I think it’s simply because they have this accessible to find their own knowledge.”

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Dawson County High School art teacher Jennifer Gray demonstrates how she uses iPads in her class to lead instruction and help students research and create art projects March 15. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Gray has also seen improvements in some of her exceptional students because the iPad allows them to be more precise than working with pen and paper.

“I’ve gotten some of the best work out of my students with autism lately and I think it’s simply because it’s been able to focus them,” Gray said.

In her class, students often create a grid that is placed on top of a picture. Students trace the lines inside each small square, and when they are finished they are left with a precisely scaled picture.

“Because they’re very precise, this helps with precision,” Gray said. “They’re able to zoom in. They’re able to illustrate on such a precise level that they want to be at, and then they can hyper focus the way that they want to so this is another perfect tool for them.”

The iPads were rolled out at DCHS at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year in the third and final phase of the 1:1 initiative.

“I’m actually blown away Mrs. Gray,” Superintendent Damon Gibbs said at the March 5 meeting. “We knew the iPad’s simply a tool and what you guys are doing to use that tool for the creation of work is really what this roll out’s been about.”