Real Creativity vs the App

One question I am often asked as an Art Teacher is ‘What Apps should the children use for art.’ This is tricky as there are a lot of fantastic apps out there. I just don’t want the students using them.

Here is a rule that I set for myself, my students and for my own daughter. If it can be done without an app, don’t use an app. Any app, no matter how well programmed will never be as rich an experience as that feeling of a brand new slab of clay in your hands, the tools set out in front of you and the sensation of endless possibilities. As a teacher, I love being the only person coming home on the MTR with blue paint in my fingernails. That just means my students and I had the best day ever.

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There have been times when a piece of student artwork has left me speechless. On occasion I have seen students artwork that hasn’t met my expectations. I value each one equally. Because the student who is struggling to ‘get it looking right’ has as much potential as the other. They may be at a different stage in their creative journey or it may be that they answered in their own unique way. Children’s work should be cherished.

There is research coming out all the time claiming negative effects on the brain due to too much screen time. We are living in a very different age from when we grew up. Every time I take my daughter to the park, I seem to be the only parent who is watching their child play on the swings and interact with other children. It’s fascinating and these moments are precious. My problem is that children her age believe it is normal to check your phone every 5 minutes and for adults to escape into TV dramas and candycrush in the middle of the day. They believe the world has always been like this since the beginning of time.

Art has always been my escape. As a child my father would bring back all the used photocopying paper from the office so I could draw on the back. My mother who was also a primary school art teacher, would introduce me to batik, tie dye and all sorts of wonders. My holidays were spent backpacking through the Samatran jungle and cycling through remote villages in China. I was able to see the world and I carried a notebook everywhere I went filled with my pictures, songs and poems.

The only app we use in art class is for animation. I’m all for bringing to life a drawing you did, or a clay model you made. It’s involves team work, human interaction, planning and drawing out storyboards, trying out new materials, making and painting scenes on cardboard boxes and recyclables. But only after you’ve had all that experience will I let you use an Ipad, to share what you’ve made with others.

There isn’t an app for childhood. There isn’t an app for life experience nor an app for family. There are great apps, but none of them are relevant to a 7 year old’s art education.

– Mr G.

2 thoughts on “Real Creativity vs the App

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking post. I think you have the right approach with your rule “If it can be done without an app, don’t use an app”. I think this is true for all learning. It does, however, beg the question, what can’t be done without an app? We can use tech when it offers a new possibility (the SAMR model is good to keep in mind). I totally agree with you about excessive technology use and the value of “traditional” creativity.

    As a “real” artist (bad word, but someone who makes art outside of school), what role does technology play? What about other professional artists? Food for thought.

    Congratulations on the new blog. I look forward to new content! Keep it up!


    1. Hi Adam,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think most adult artists are probably at least my age and we grew up in a time before apps. I’m definitely not saying Apps are bad, they’re just not relevant to a child’s development.

      I have stopped googling things I can’t remember since I have recently become aware that I am not using my long term memory as much as I used to. If I can’t remember the name of a film I want to see or a song in my head I would rather try to use my brain to remember it. I guess it’s the same with art and apps for students. I definitely don’t want them to become dependent on apps to create art. Its taking away very necessary skills that we need to continue to develop even if it takes us much longer.

      – Chris

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