Where Arts, Education and Tech Fanatics Gather

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ArtsEdTech panel at Apple SoHo
ArtsEdTech panel at Apple SoHo

After frequenting so many different technology and social media focused gatherings lately I quickly began to realize I was the only arts education person in the room. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if my arts education colleagues could make connections with the people I’m meeting in these other circles? Absolutely! So I decided it was time to start a group of my own.

The idea behind ArtsEdTechNYC came to life late one Friday afternoon at the end of a very long workday. The plan was to register a group through Meetup, save the account for later and officially launch ArtsEdTechNYC to the universe when I was ready. But as I got half way through the online profile creation process, about an hour in, I realized there was no option to save the profile and return later. There was no turning back now.

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The way social media and networking sites like Meetup work, you can’t just hit the save button and expect the profile alone will generate enough interest. You need a Facebook page and a Twitter handle which both require profile images – not one, but two – and catchy branding that presents a clear message identifying the group’s mission. Then you have to start posting and tweeting – a lot.

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Illy art collection
Illy art collection

I was tired and about ready to say F**k it and go home when I noticed a few empty Illy coffee cans sitting on my desk. I stared at them for a moment thinking to myself, “I could really go for a cappuccino right about now.” Then, during a moment of clarity, I recognized the artwork on the shiny aluminum was exactly the profile image I needed for my Meetup profile. A few minutes later an impromptu photo shoot with my iPhone ensued and voila: ArtsEdTechNYC was born.

Since unexpectedly launching ArtsEdTechNYC a few weeks ago, interestingly things all of a sudden are en fuego. I was a bit skeptical at first, but the concept of F**k it, ship it I recently wrote about here at The Clyde Fitch Report might actually have some serious value.

Last week I moderated an inspiring arts education and technology panel at the Apple SoHo store in Manhattan for the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable. The topic of discussion was the first of its kind (that I’m aware of) and has given ArtsEdTechNYC some momentum. By connecting Twitter dots as I write about in a recent Americans for the Arts ARTSblog, I was able to curate this incredibly rich panel of educators, teaching artists and cultural organizations, each demonstrating how they are integrating technology into K-12 arts programs.

Jaymes Dec, the Technology Integrator and Fab Lab Administrator at the Marymount School, a K-12 all-girls school in Manhattan, showed photos and video of his students in action. Some of the projects included designing buildings using 3-D printers, creating science experiments using a giant wooden obstacle course with racing cars set up in the cafeteria, fashion design projects like how to find a cell phone buried in mom’s purse – or my favorite – watching video of the NYC Makery, a pop-up community maker space where kids can create and explore.

Barry Blumenfeld, a dance educator at an elementary school in Manhattan and a Dance Teacher Magazine Tech Expert, shared insight on how using technology in his classroom has totally transformed the way he prepares for class and stays organized as an educator. He created a File Maker Pro database where all of his lesson plans, with video clips, are archived. His students also create video blogs where the dances and information they learn in class can be shared regularly with parents. No more shoving paper and notes into backpacks on Fridays!

 

ArtsEdTech panel at Apple SoHo
ArtsEdTech panel at Apple SoHo

Leah Reddy, a teaching artist with the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City talked about how she’s integrating iPads, social media like Twitter and Facebook and graphic design into her residency classes with students. With the exception of the occasional classroom internet connectivity issue, Leah has discovered ways to engage kids using technology that enhances learning like creating an interactive conversation about a play they are working on in class using Twitter.

Christopher Amos the Director of Educational Media and Technology at Carnegie Hall’s Weil Music Institute spoke of a really cool collaborative interactive project that uses iPads to help students compose music. Another exciting new initiative he’s working on is an online learning community for young artists, educators and lifelong learners called the Musical Exchange.

Finally, Kevin Lopez, a special education teacher and co-founder of LPZ Media, created a film lab at Soundview Academy in the Bronx where students are producing short films on a variety of genres and topics relevant to the community. The principal of this middle school, William Frackelton was in the audience at Apple and described how Lopez’s film lab and cultivating a team of arts education specialists at his school has transformed Soundview from a culture of failure and disruption to a thriving learning environment.

Beginning June 4th, #ArtsEdTech Tuesday, a new monthly Meetup event will occur on the first Tuesday of each month at a different location in New York City. Part panel discussion with experts in the field and part networking, ArtsEdTechNYC will bring together groups of people who might not otherwise find each other.

The other night on Twitter I posted a tweet that said, “The word ‘nexus’ came up in 3 separate convos today. ‘A means of connection, a link or tie…the core or center.’ I think I am one.” Even though I haven’t quite figured out what I’m supposed to be doing with all of these new interactions, I do see myself as a connector and I look forward to where this exciting energy takes me.

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Jessica Wilt is a professional dancer, arts education consultant and freelance blogger living in New York City where she is actively involved in arts, education, technology, advocacy and politics. Wilt is the founder of ArtsEdTechNYC, a VOICE Charter School Board Trustee and currently is acting Chair of the Arts Education Council with Americans for the Arts where she is a guest ARTSblog contributor.