James Oliver’s Drawing III classroom at Pittsburg State University looks much like one would expect a college art classroom to look. There are paint-spattered easels, life forms, and a wide array of traditional art supplies. But the students in this drawing class use almost none of those.
Instead, when Oliver’s students get ready to work on their assignments, they reach for their iPads.
Oliver’s Drawing III class is one of several classes across the PSU campus in which students are using the latest technology to learn traditional concepts. The ongoing project, through the Office of the Provost and the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology, puts iPads in the hands of students for a semester. The project is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology as a teaching tool.
Oliver and his students seem to be unanimous in their enthusiasm for the iPads.
Zachary Stoppel, a senior from Bartlesville, Okla., said he was a little intimidated at first, but quickly got comfortable with the iPad.
“It’s fun, I can pull it out anywhere. It’s easy,” Stoppel said.
Janelle Kranker, a senior from Frontenac, Kan., was a harder sell than most. In fact, when Kranker first had an opportunity to use an iPad to create art, she declined.
“I think she was the first and only student we’ve had to refuse,” Oliver laughed.
“I refused to use one because I was not a digitally oriented person. I’ve done art on paper since I was about 5,” Kranker said. “I was intimidated by (the iPad) because it was something new.”
Kranker said she finally relented because she believed it was something she needed to learn about. Now she’s having fun.
“I think the undo button is my favorite feature,” Kranker said. “I also like the ability to go back and edit layers.”
Other members of the class pointed out that using the iPads has saved them money. Not only did they not have to purchase or rent a textbook for the class, but they also haven’t had to purchase art supplies, which can add up in a hurry.
Oliver said students may choose from a long list of artists’ apps to create their work. Many of the apps are free; others are relatively inexpensive.
One difference Oliver said he has noticed between students who use the iPads and others in a traditional drawing class is the time they spend on their work.
“We’ve found it’s really addictive,” Oliver said. “They’ll start to work and before they know it, hours have gone by.”
And even students who have little or no experience working with digital media tend to pick up the technology quickly.
“Art students, by their nature, are receptive to new kinds of things and experimenting with new kinds of media,” Oliver said.
Oliver said the students will share their iPad works in a student show in April.