On My Mind: Digital Media (It’s Elementary)

November 20th, 2013 by IMAGE Magazine
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Students create animation as part of CCAD’s longest-running community program, Saturday Morning Art Classes for elementary through high school students.

Students create animation as part of CCAD’s longest-running community program, Saturday Morning Art Classes for elementary through high school students.

By Joan Vogelesang

As the leader of a technology company, I pay close attention to market trends and have long understood the power of digital media, not only from an industry-building perspective, but also — more importantly — as a medium of communication in our daily life at home, at work, and in school.

In this digital era, children need to be critical thinkers and problem solvers at an increasing pace. They represent a generation more technologically and creatively inclined than ever before. To prepare them for their future work life, it is imperative for us to fully embrace technology and digital media as the foundation of their education.

Mark Prensky, who first referred to today’s children as “digital natives” (DNs) in his 2001 article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, defines DNs as people who were “born digital,” while “digital immigrants” are those who have had to make a reluctant shift into the digital world (think parents and grandparents pre-1980s).

Because digital natives are so naturally drawn to technology, it’s best to speak to them in their natural tongue. Mobile devices, computers, and creative software are the new storytelling and teaching mediums. Digital media and animation are completely aligned with children’s preferred choice of self-expression — enabling them to communicate and demonstrate their understanding of any topic visually.

Digital media creation enriches school assignments and fosters greater interest and motivation for students in every subject area. Empirical data proves this.

For example, Bluffton Elementary School in South Carolina has reported impressive achievements in record time following the integration of digital media creation into their core curriculum. Students from grades three to five use Toon Boom animation products to extend their learning by connecting classroom instruction, assignments, and concepts to their own creative capabilities.

Joan Vogelesang

Joan Vogelesang

During the first year of implementation, this approach translated into an increase of up to 15% in overall grades throughout the core curriculum, a much higher performance than the state average. There was also a greater than 40% increase in science, 36% in math, 12% in social studies, and 26% in writing among African-American students.

The animation program at Bluffton Elementary differs from other programs in that it engages students early in using animation as part of current,

ongoing learning. Digital drawing tablets and storyboards extend schools’ typical visual arts programs to support story building, visualization, sequencing, logical thinking, creativity, and self-expression.

Teaching methodologies need to embrace such technologies in order to keep students interested and motivated.

At the end of the day, the goal is to prepare the workforce of tomorrow and build strong and vibrant economies, accepting that new generations are of a different breed. Digital media creation definitely serves that purpose.

Joan Vogelesang is the president and chief executive officer at Toon Boom Animation, Inc., who joined CCAD’s board of trustees in 2013. She has over 30 years of experience as a senior executive for international business development, customer care, and operational management in both large and smaller organizations.


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Published in print twice a year, CCAD’s IMAGE magazine shares stories about our creative community, whether here in Columbus or around the world—what we’re doing, thinking, and planning next. The IMAGE blog brings those stories online for transmission at the click of a mouse.

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