Introducing Technology in the Elementary School Art Studio

Technology in the Art Studio is an exciting and daunting thing.  How much is appropriate in a class where the students should be using their fine motor skills to produce physical pieces of work?  How do you draw the line between what’s hip and happening and all the rage, and what is really in the best interest of the student?  These are considerations I make anytime I introduce a lesson that involves technology. 

Recently, I dusted off an old lesson that was completely painting/drawing based, and gave it a new twist.  My fourth graders and I took a look at propaganda art and created our own messages to share with the community.  In past years, we’ve drawn the images and hand-lettered the text.  This year, I introduced technology into the process.

4th grade art and technology project
4th grade art and technology project

We began by examining historical propaganda art, starting with Picasso’s Guernica, then moving to the World War II posters, and finally more contemporary work by Shepard Fairey and others.  We discussed the techniques the artists used to get their message across in a quick and effective way.  The students noticed the artists used color in the WWII posters to show patriotism.  They made the observation that short sayings were used to grab attention and make a point.  The students were particularly intrigued with how the artists swayed viewers with their messages.

Each of us took some time to come up with a message we wanted the elementary school students to follow.  Some chose ideas that would inspire their friends to eat more healthily.  Some focused on sports, or movies, or healthy personal care habits.  Once the students had their rough draft, complete with text and image, they re-drew the art by itself on a fresh piece of paper.  They added a touch of color, and then used an iPad to photograph it.  Finally, they uploaded the image into Canva, a web-based program that allows anyone to become a graphic designer.  Luckily, the students had been introduced to Canva in their homerooms, so our time spent learning the program was decreased dramatically.  Once the photograph was uploaded into Canva, the students continues to work on the iPads, playing with different fonts, pre-set graphics, and size to place their verbiage into the final piece.  The students then printed their posters and were allowed to hang them around St. Paul’s Elementary School.

Introducing technology into this project breathed fresh life into an old lesson. 

The kids were excited to use the iPads, and had great success in adding in text without taking up too much precious class time.  They got to practice with a program they had been introduced to in their homerooms, which helped to drive home the concept that learning can be inter-disciplinary.   They still had the chance to draw by hand, so they were able to work on fine motor skills.  The students even had a chance to work on their literacy skills, as they combined text with image to make their point.

There are a number of technology lessons that I’ve retired after a couple of uses.  This one will not be one of those.  I’ve got some work to do to improve and build upon it, and I can’t wait for next year to try it out again.

Camille Gammon-Hittelman

Camille Gammon-Hittelman

Camille Gammon-Hittelman, or “Ms.G-H”, as her students call her, is the Lower School Art Teacher. She began teaching at St. Paul’s in 2005, and started her teaching in Baltimore County two years before that. She can be reached at

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