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Brentwood students melding art and technology [Contra Costa Times :: ]
[April 19, 2014]

Brentwood students melding art and technology [Contra Costa Times :: ]

(Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 19--BRENTWOOD -- The worlds of art and technology are intersecting at Heritage High School, where students now need a smartphone to fully appreciate some of their classmates' creativity.

Brentwood teacher Stacey Churchill decided to kick off the second semester of her introductory art class by infusing a drawing project with digital elements.

"(Art and technology) complement each other so well and students will be using technology in college and their careers, so to incorporate it into all their classes is important," she said.

The initial assignment was ordinary enough: Her 218 students were to do a pencil drawing based on a photo of a friend or family member.

A group of Churchill's fellow art instructors then chose 22 of those pictures, and last week she hung them in the hallway just outside her classroom, enlivening walls that had been devoid of students' handiwork until then.

But that was just the beginning.

Fresh off a conference where she had become acquainted with some iPad applications that can be used in the classroom, Churchill had the students whose work was being showcased shoot videos in which they identify the subject of their portrait, explain why they chose that person, and what aspect of the drawing they liked best.

Opening a free app called Aurasma that Churchill had downloaded onto her iPad, the teens then used the device to snap a photo of their artwork. The software links the photo and video, and enables smartphone users with the same application to see students' "hidden" video narrative when they train their phone on the art display's title card.

From there, Churchill introduced students to Quick Response codes, a type of bar code comprising a mosaic of black-and-white squares encoded with information about the item it's attached to.

Smartphone users can download an app that scans these QR codes, calling up store coupons, videos and information about a product, among other things.

Churchill's students hopped online to generate a QR code for each drawing by entering the address of a website where they had uploaded photos of other projects they've done.

They then printed out the QR code and affixed it to the corner of their drawing, which allows passers-by to see that additional body of work using their cell phones.

"They get to discover a new artist or see (the work of) friends who are in a different class," Churchill said.

Although 15-year-olds Emily Hoyte and Natalie Splaine don't envision having other opportunities to use QR codes and apps that create interactive content anytime soon -- Google and YouTube are what occupy most of Hoyte's attention -- the teens have a general idea of how digital media could prove useful when they're ready to enter the work force.

Art might be in the future for both: Hoyte wants to be a tattoo artist, and Splaine is toying with the idea of a career in filmmaking or photography, so knowing how to use Photoshop and create e-portfolios of their work could come in handy.

In the meantime, Churchill's classes are working on another project that also will involve embedding videos and accessing them via smart phones.

She's having students write stories based on a famous piece of art and then read the narratives aloud on video. Teens also will illustrate the tales, and once their pictures go on display, others can use the Aurasma app to watch and listen to the corresponding video.

Churchill also has ideas for ways to use QR codes beyond the classroom, starting with Heritage High School's annual open house in the fall.

Parents could scan one code to learn more about a class their child has signed up for, another to visit a teacher's website, and a third to check out the kind of assignments students receive, she said.

By holding their phone up to a code, they also could see a calendar of activities such as school performances and sports games.

Churchill doubts this quick way of obtaining information would befuddle the older generation.

"Parents do seem to be pretty tech savvy," she said.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Reach her at

___ (c)2014 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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