SchoolArts Magazine

February 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Page 26 of 54

Talking in Code W hen I was flying home for the summer last June, a magazine caught my eye. This in itself was not unusual. What was unusual, however, is that I don't normally reach for Bloomberg Business Week. Even more unusual was that it had no compelling graphic image to grab my attention—just twenty lines of code. At the bottom of the cover was the subtitle, "If you can't read that, you'd better read this." Learning to code might not appear at first to be as central to a contempo- rary art curriculum as digital imag- ing and filmmaking or introducing STEAM-based approaches, but it introduces the opportunity of inter- activity—for everything from a click- able website to a modular sculpture that responds to your approach. Online Coding Education From the Khan Academy (khanacad- to the Code Academy (, there are seem- ingly infinite paths to learning code online. Many of these websites allow you to learn by doing. As you follow step by step, you can immediately see how the lines of code you are instructed to write on one side of the screen affect changes to your project on the other side of the screen. Advanced Coding Advanced coders can get into some more serious programs with edu- cational based electronic platforms such as the Arduino ( The Arduino is a single microcontroller that allows you to program both inputs and outputs so users can create an interactive experience that oper- ates in the real world. Tutorials on the website will take you through the process of writing a few basic lines of code that quickly result in immediate and noticeable results, like creating a program for a single light to blink. It will be a bit of a journey between getting that single light to blink and creating an installation made of mov- ing and illuminated parts, but it's a great first step. Code for Kinders Scratch ( is a free pro- gram created by MIT's Lifelong Kin- dergarten Group that gives students experience creating programs through very simple color coordinated, drag- and-drop commands. Scratch's simple interface allows students in elemen- tary school to learn how to code sim- ple programs, but it's powerful enough to be relevant to high-school students. You might think of Scratch as the Legos ® of coding. Using colorful "bricks" of code, you can stack and snap together instructions for various elements of your program, making it easy for young students to figure out how lines of code work together to perform a function. I know enough HTML to do some very basic formatting—which isn't a lot. The article in Bloomberg Busi- ness Week ( is not aimed at art teachers, art students, or artists, but when they equate writing code with a new literacy, we can see the applications to art as well. All interactive art—websites, animations, installations—involve code. At this point, learning code might not yet be a core part of an art curriculum. However, as these dynamic art forms become more ubiquitous in our lives, it is important to understand that this is the language that will connect art to many other disciplines. David Gran teaches high school art and film classes at the Shanghai American School in China and is the author of The Carrot Revolution, a blog about twenty- first century art education. carrotrevolu-, 22 FEBRUARY 2016 SchoolArts David Gran M E D I A @ r + s

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