The Intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts
When I was a kid in elementary school, I distinctly recall admiring the computers that lined the back of each classroom. I didn’t really have any use for them, but that didn’t matter; to me they were an alien force that provided instant feedback to any input I desired (even if that input accidentally erased the “C” drive of my parents’ computer). As time carried on, these computers commanded an increasingly important place in school life. From grades one through three, we had a dedicated art room in school that every class used to express their creative side. Painting, drawing and various crafts allowed children to move from the logical to the analogical and create more abstract representations of objects and ideas that were previously concrete. After my third grade year, the art room was replaced with the computer lab, and art ceased to be a present part of my school experience.
If I'm sounding excessively sentimental, it's because this loss truly affected the path that I and many of my peers would choose later on in life. The computer has become an increasingly important part of society for good reason, as tasks that took large amounts of time before—like balancing a business’s finances—are easy to accomplish with the correct software and sufficient training. The world has been able to industrialize even more rapidly with the development of automated machinery that could build automobiles more quickly than its human controllers. While these accomplishments are impressive, they have little to do with the crux of education: the creative and curious spark that every child develops as they grow.
Learning how things work and then creating as a result of that knowledge is a process that often prods educational systems to succeed. I don’t believe in binaries. Every child has an artist inside; they just need to have the environment to express themselves and this need does not negate the usefulness of technology. In fact, computers can be programmed in a way that allows for huge gains in logical and creative development. The newly released education edition of Minecraft allows student to collaborate on teacher-approved projects. If used correctly, this has the potential to unlock the imaginations of students across the globe.
During an Apple presentation, Steve Jobs once said that the best products are created at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts. Finding this intersection is the key. As I exited my junior high years, my teacher Mr. Marden would have us write creative stories—first with pencil and paper and then typed and printed at the computer lab. He believed that the process of writing is enhanced by the lack of ocular stimulation that a computer screen often provides. Apart from that, paper is fun! You can doodle ideas and scribble across the page, marking it with imperfections. Perhaps what the classroom needs isn’t a binary, but instead a marriage of art and technology that, like writing a story, allows the student to really understand what it means to be creative.