Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reflections on art apps.

It has been a fun and interesting summer with the ipad! After watching my nearly 7 year old and nearly 2 year old use the ipad and explore apps and after my own exploration of academic apps I find that most of the reviews from classroom teachers fall in line with my thoughts regarding those apps.

As an art teacher I was most interested in exploring the drawing and design apps keeping in mind their use primarily with the younger grades. We all know that nothing takes the place of sensorial stimulation, development and satisfaction of pencil, pen, marker or brush to paper, canvas or other surface, nonetheless using some of these apps will promote sensorial engagement and fine motor development. That being said, here are my reviews of the ones I thought have merit for use in the classroom for individual and small group work.

* Draw Free: Of all of the drawing apps my daughter seemed to enjoy this one the most and I can easily see why. The overall design of this app is visually appealing and very easy to figure out without the need for turorial. The screen opens with a textured tan background and offers very clear and simple options for changing your background color to one of many offered or for importing photos or drawings as backgrounds for drawing on. It only offers one tool which although called a brush, is more like drawing lines and has options for varying the thickeness of the line. A fun looking color wheel can be accessed to change the line color. This is a perfect app to introduce the idea of drawing on the ipad for the younger grades.

* Doodle Buddy and Brushes: These are both great art making apps for classroom use with younger students. They offer more options than Draw Free in terms of tools and the ability to see the result of overlapping the marks made by those tools as there is transparency to some of the media. They also offer the option of changing tool thickness, color and media (such as paint, marker, chalk etc). These are more in line with the basic paint programs that students use in the the tech lab but the screens seem tobe designed to please and encourage the success of younger students.

* Mirror Lite Paint: Wow! So much fun, even I was addicted. As an art teacher, it is one thing to discuss the notion of true symmetry with students and a whole other thing to provide students with an opportunity to have simple explorations of it that do not require mirror, paint and folding paper in half or cutting lines or shapes through stacked sheets of paper and aligning them. This is a very satisfying exploration of symmetry! The screen can be divided into two or 4 which provides all the more excitement and interest. Tools and colors vary in thickness and media to a degree and the marks overlap but without transparency. It offers beautiful and vibrant color options for both background and tools creating bold and exciting outcomes. Watching what you draw mirror or mirror in quadruple has a kaleidescopic effect that is mezmerizing and kids will truly grasp the notion of symmetry even after one or two attempts. This is a great precursor or addition to the aforementioned mirrors, paint and paper symmetry explorations for younger students.

For Elementary use and beyond, in the art room or classroom, I discovered and downloaded (utilizing my personal apple account) two free art apps that I think are very worthwhile.

* Art HD: This is a visual feast of an app and that is even before you get into exploring it. It is gorgeously designed and accompanied by sounds of classical music throughout. The free version offers a limited but wonderful menu of classical European artists, Impressionists, Fauvists as well as Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Surrealist Frida Kahlo and an American Modernist or two that you can choose to learn about. They provide an image of either a portrait, self portrait or photograph of the artists as your entree to their info. When selected you can view biographical info but the best part is viewing the art. You can enter an on screen gallery for a particular artist and view their art as a slide show, pausing when desired. The resolution of the images is stunning and the color and textural translation is fantastic, all accompanied by the wondefrul and uninterrupted music. You also have the option of creating your own galleries by importing images and biographical info for the artists that you desire to have available. I love this app and can only imagine what the full version has to offer!

* MOMA: This app is like taking a mini tour through some of the MOMA's permanent collection. Having grown up in New York and having visited the MOMA often during my youth, this was like a visit with old friends. It is modern and sophisticated in design (I'd expect nothing less of the MOMA). The prevailing background color is white which allows all of the artwork to sing on the screen and sing they do! They arrange the paintings on a white wall just as they are at the MOMA (with infrequent exception). The works of art hang with appropriate distance from each other as in the museum and with variation in scale as in the museum so you truly have the feeling of walking through one of the galleries. In the free version only paintings are avaiable for view and as expected the resolution is superb as is the color and textural translation. When you click on a painting and enlarged version comes up with limited info about the artist. A menu on the side offers "About this work" and "More about this work". Most of the works will be familiar to appreciators of art and are must knows in understanding modern art.

I have throughly enjoyed my time with the ipad and am grateful for the experience!

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