Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Art Education is Beneficial for STEM Education

  Art programs across the nation are persistently facing challenges that threaten their survival. Gradual decline has become more feasible as these programs continue to lose acknowledgement as substantial and relevant curriculums in academia. From school funding to advocacy, art education has slowly withered while programs like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are vigorously endorsed in public education. The future of art education isn't certain. But by increasing awareness of its academic importance and innovative practices in other subjects, the survival of this enriching program is guaranteed.

Younger Generation Are Less Likely Receiving Arts Education than Older Generations

  20 to 30 years ago art education was at its prime. According to research conducted by the NationalEndowment of Art (NEA) between the early 1980's and 1990's close to 60% of 18 year old Americans were receiving an art education ranging from music, visual art, theater, and dance performance. These percentages have decreased to about 50-40% in between the late 1990's and 2010 in which younger Americans, unlike their older peers, have lacked exposure to these programs.

  These statistical findings clearly demonstrate how far the decline has gone; few schools are supporting arts education, affecting the availability of these programs. The NEA confirms that as of 2008 only 49.5% of Americans have received an arts education during their childhood, justifying the predicament that this percentage will gradually continue to decrease in the next few years. These findings are concerning for Americans, young or old, who believe art programs are positively contributing to academic environments.
                                                                                             Source: National Endowment of Art
Howard High School student Maria Elvir shares her views on this decline and why art education should continue.

The Increasing Emphasis on STEM Education Diverges Attention from Art Programs

   Most, if not all, schools are treating art education as secondary curriculum while giving STEM education top priority. As long as the global dynamics in the work force continue to develop schools will find it compulsory to engage and prepare students for these changes. This preparation, although excellent in approach and intention, sacrifices programs that don’t fit the structure found in STEM. Art education is therefore forsaken. Jason Farman, Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, explains how this modus operandi contributes to the decline in art education. 


   According to research conducted by STEM Reports, 87% of college students and 93% of parents of k-12 students agree that preparing students for careers in STEM should be a top priority. Parents were asked why this preparation was essential and of those 93% that agreed, 53% felt that STEM helps ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in the marketplace. 51% claimed that it would produce the next generation of innovators and 30% of parents were confident that it would provide their children with fulfilling careers. Although, these statements may in fact be true art education isn't receiving the same praise. Schools are ineffective in stressing the fact that art education creates innovators and critical thinkers with creative capabilities as well.. Ann M. Galligan, professor at Northeastern University, in Creativity, Culture, Education, and the Workforce, explains how "'arts education opens doors for students to a growing number of careers with employers even beyond the creative industry job sector. Employers in today’s information-driven, service sector workplace value creative thinking, problem solving and analytical thinking.'" Art education is an imperative component for success in other academic curriculums and in future careers.
  Integration of STEM and Art Education is Beneficial for both Programs
   In these past recent years there has been this push to integrate arts and technology in one curriculum. Instead of STEM, supporters for instructions in visual creativity are convinced that arts should also be part of this acronym. Supporters of STEAM believe art and design are just as ingenious as sciences and technology. Without the fundamental lessons taught by the arts STEM would lack the necessary tools to make use of creative. The founders of the organization STEMtoSTEAM reiterate this very notion.

The statement published on STEMtoSTEAM website clearly illustrates their strong support of art education in STEM:

    “In the current moment of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation
     as the way to ensure a prosperous future. Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with 
     Technology, Engineering, and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised
     to transform our economy in the 21st century like science and technology did in the last
     century. We need to add Art + Design to turn STEM into STEAM.”

Watch this video to learn more about this expanding movement.

   Farman, aside from being an assistant professor, is a distinguished faculty member of Digital Cultures and Creativity (DCC). This interdisciplinary program “challenges traditional divisions of knowledge and expertise” by creating a hybrid curriculum based on inclusivity and innovation. Faculty members are expertise in various fields but share a common interest in digital media. In this video clip Farman describes how art education is integral for his students; their majors are predominately STEM.

   Enforcing STEAM should also be applied in k-12 education. Wolf Trap Early Childhood STEM Learningthrough Arts embodies this idea that art works as a primary function in teaching children the basic framework of STEAM. This organization believes thatthe arts support crucial developmental skills in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. It appears that this assimilation is only temporary. But In fact, more educators should model DCC and Wolf Trap in diversifying curriculum. Farman explains how doing so can actually benefit students in the near future.

Advocating Art Through STEM can slow Decline in Arts Education

As mentioned earlier, art education in public schools and in higher education are declining. There has been this lack of interest from the government and school boards to really push these programs for there students. Regardless of their motives, art education should continue to prosper just like STEM and other programs. By emphasizing how art education can be applied to these programs and in future careers awareness will increase. Increased awareness means increased funding, advocacy and sponsorship from various sources, and debunking myths long associated with art education. There's no doubt that art programs will benefit.

In short, art education is vital for educational development; it shouldn't be dismissed. Experts agree that an art education not only increases creativity and critical thinking, if combined in other courses such as STEM, it'll become a crucial asset. Hopefully by highlighting its contributions in academia and in the work place art education will continue to thrive and teach students how to become masterminds of creativity.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Technology is a Useful Tool in both Academics and Personal Life

University of Maryland student briefly explains why she believes technology is a great addition for personal use and academics.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Digital Divide and Participation Gap are Present in Today's Technological Communities

 Innovative technology has given numerous people the opportunity to utilize tools to significantly improve their lives. Over these past several years we have seen how people are purchasing and adapting these tools to accommodate their particular needs. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, as of April 2012, 88% of Americans own some type of cellular device and of this group more than half (55%) go online using their phones, a major change since 2009’s 31%. But unbeknownst to some, “digital divide” and “participation gap” are present despite technology’s rapid availability. 

Minorities are the Victims of Digital Divide

Kevin Guidry, in Digital Divide or Participation Gap? Will Mobile Affect it?, argues that “there are still large numbers of Americans who do not own computers or have Internet access at home.” And the Americans who are generally under this category are Blacks, Latinos, and people with low income. If we consider the data gathered by the Pew Research Center, his argument is indeed correct. 42% of Latinos and 51% of blacks browse the internet with their phones compared to 24% of whites. One can infer that the reasons behind these findings is that those who mostly do online browsing on their phones have no access to computers at home or around their communities.

The High Level of Computer Expenses Hinders People With Low Income to Access the Internet 

Computer desktops can be a burdensome expense for those that have a meager income. Research states that “those with an annual household income of less than $50,000 per year” access the internet with their phones than any other device (inferring that they have no computer access). Those that can afford to purchase and continually update devices are economically well off and more educated. Unlike those with low income these individuals have “high overall levels of smartship ownership.” The “participation gap” that Guidry describes in his article is deeply affected by an individual’s level of income. People that have several devices to their disposal are more technology literate meaning that they find it relatively easy to use these devices, adding to their comfort level. But those that aren't or weren't exposed to various technological tools will “view it [technology] differently compared to those with significant...access.” People view the internet in different perspectives depending on their environment and community. 

Universities and Colleges Are Contributing to Today's Digital Divide and Participation Gap

Universities and colleges are also seeing a divide regarding digital participation amongst their students. The tough economic challenges that these educational institutions have faced “have slowed access to computers and the Internet, preserving and perpetuating the digital divide” that Guidry explicitly analyzes. 

Digital Divide and Participation Gap will Still be Relevant in the Future Unless Major Changes Occur

After gathering and analyzing both Guidry’s argument and the research conducted by the Pew Research Center I've come to the conclusion that the participation gap and digital divide will continue to grow as along as the mobile trends (indicated by the research) increases too. If nothing is done to close these gaps there will still be individuals with no access to computers, laptops, and cellphones despite the ever increasing adaptation of these devices. By confronting these issue we can hope that in the future people will have a fair shot of having technology within reach in every home. Technology is more important than ever and it's vital that everyone benefits from this tool.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rise and Impact of Citizen Journalism

   In these past few years journalism has undergone innovative changes in its traditional news format.The introduction of citizen journalism has given ordinary citizens opportunities to become part of a global community by providing instantaneous news using a variety of media.

Citizen Journalism Supported by Mainstream Media

   The fervent increase of the Internet’s interactivity paved the way for citizen journalism; more people, now than ever before, understand how they can manipulate the internet for their own  benefit. Since the distribution of information is rapidly changing the idea that news should solely be presented in its traditional manner has also changed. The notion that common people are just as important in providing relevant, important news has been the main fuel for this contemporary movement. Many popular news organizations, such as CNN’s iReport are encouraging citizens to make use of their cell phones and cameras by recording and photographing content that would have otherwise been ignored by news networks.
   iReport states that “looking at the news from different angles gives us a deeper understanding of what's going on [around us].” And Websites such as Citizenside and apps like Signal and Rawporter are joining CNN’s motto by reinforcing this same idea. Anyone can upload customized, compelling material following simple steps. For Signal “users capture media that they then upload to the app with a geo-tagged location and a short caption of around 60 characters.” It’s creator, Mark Malkoun, followed  Instagram’s structure “an idea that has already turned Instagram into one of the hottest digital platform.” These outlets go so far as provided monetary incentives and a shot of 15-minutes of fame in order to promote this unconventional form of journalism. iReporters can “create a profile [and] can “follow” other users, as well as CNN personalities, and can earn awards and “badges” for accomplishments (insert link).” Because of this fervent advocacy and passion for news, citizens across the nation are teaming up with CNN and other companies. This proves that “there’s a strong desire to share visual, mobile stories with the world.”

The Positive Impact of Citizen Journalism

   You may ask yourself why there’s such a strong emphasis on citizen journalism. From mobile apps to traditional media companies it appears that everyone is supporting this media sharing platform. Well unlike major news organizations, citizen journalists have the “opportunity to present a unique perspective
— to breathe fresh air into a society herded by mainstream media.” According to Lila King, CNN’s participation director because “we are all carrying cameras, we all have something to say, and....we all increasingly have an expectation to hear our own voices and see our work reflected in the media we watch.” Journalism is about informing people and citizen journalism gives power to the people. Citizens are able to provide raw, real life material that can never be filtered. And people have the choice of what content they want to receive.
    It also allows “marginalized people to reclaim their voices, to tell their otherwise silenced stories firsthand” which would have rarely occurred in the past 10 years. We have seen how this can be true. In 2010 and 2011 hundreds of videos and photographs surfaced just as the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa were gaining momentum. These videos came from ordinary sons, daughter, mothers, and fathers experiencing the devastating problems firsthand; they were in a sense documenting a historical moment. The world became much smaller and communities more connected. The Hudson River plane crash is another  prime example of how citizen journalists with mobile devices can make headline news with their information. The online world was booming with countless tweets and pictures from eyewitnesses. These images would later be published in blogs, newsrooms, and newspapers. There’s no doubt that because of these citizen journalists people across the nation were informed within minutes when it would have taken several minutes, if not, hours for newsrooms. Citizen journalists help “‘capture the moment, not the aftermath.’”

Issues with Citizen Journalism and Mobile Devices

   Although citizen journalism has received positive reviews from both citizens and media professionals there are several issues that are currently being addressed. Videotaping police activity has been one of the issues. The availability of mobile devices and camera has given citizens various opportunities to record police brutality and shedding light on America’s fractured judicial systems. Incidents such as the beating of Rodney King and other cases of police brutality allows to put “a check on power." Citizen journalist provide balance by acting as a “check and balance to the mainstream press.” Some of these journalist have been able to ruin the careers and reputations of several police officials thorough simple footage and photographs. Mobile devices, if used inappropriately, have the power to completely obliterate an individual’s honor. High profile people such as Anthony Wiener, Chris Lee, and Michael Phelps have experienced first hand how mobile devices can impact a person’s reputation.

   In short, the new wave of technology has given citizens the power to control the media they share with their peers. The concept of citizen journalism and the availability of mobile devices provide a wide varied of raw, unfiltered newsworthy material that adds a different dimension to journalism. As the years and technology progress citizen journalism will continue to prosper.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Put Your Phone Away!

   After watching Katie Couric's interview with author William Powers about his controversial book, "Hamlet's Blackberry" I couldn't stop reflecting on my personal life. Is digital media really taking its toll on my physical and mental health? And am I another victim of "digital narcissism" and “over-connectedness"? According to Powers, we all have, some way or the other, been consumed by this notion that the more connected we are to our digital devices then the better off we’ll be. As a digital consumer this argument couldn't have been any truer. The surplus of digital information has had significant effects on our ability to concentrate, think creatively, and most importantly relax. I confess, watching Powers reflect on his personal struggle with digital content put things in perspective for me. How much have these devices effected “how we think, feel, and live?” 
     During the interview Powers states that this “digital overload” has diminished our emotional intelligence. Is it possible that as a generation we have lost the ability to assess and demonstrate basic emotional cues? Body language, facial gestures, and vocal communication are vital for thorough connection between people. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, CBS News Medical Correspondent, on "The Early Show"" stated that the average American spends over 8 hours on electronic material. If more hours are spent interacting electronically then less time will be spent communicating with each other. People are “risking the nonverbal aspect of our social interaction becoming in jeopardy.” Younger generations are growing up with electronic media so readily available; validating the concern for generation z’s insufficient social skills. Communication still exists but how we communicate has drastically transformed, for the better or worse is up to you to decide.
     Not only have our social skills changed but the way we use our most important organ, the brain, has seen some adjustment too.  Powers add that if people are always multitasking then they’ll never allow themselves “to reflect and bring [their] own originality and creativity.” We’ve been conditioned to have everything available within a click of a button, making us, for lack of a better word, lazy. Creating original work and thinking critically has become a challenge. The New York Times author, Matt Richtel describes in his  article from the Your Brains on Computer series that “ when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.” Many of us have been repeated offenders.
     This assumption directly connects to the idea that people just don’t give themselves time to simply relax. Constant stimulation prohibits people to live in the moment. As Dr. Rich of Harvard Medical School stated in Ritchel’s article, “downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body.” The cravings we get to regularly check our emails and update information on social networking sites should be subsided because just as Powers' accurately explains, "[people] don't need to be a slave to [their] gadgets."

                                          Katie Couric's interview with author William Powers.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Today officially marks the birth of this new, creative platform that focuses on nonetheless- technology. Stay tuned for intriguing blog posts, links, and videos to help expand our understanding of what it means to live in a technology-based society and its affect on society and media. Thanks for visiting! 

- Genesis