Media Arts: Stand Alone or Integrated?

October 27, 2011

Let’s chat

Please humor me… I know you’re busy and some days you barely have time to eat lunch and use the rest room let alone read the meartsed blog. This is what I need from you… your thoughts, your wisdom, your ideas.

Please weigh in on this topic since it is important to the standards future and could impact your future arts education curriculum …. Should “media arts” be a stand alone topic, like dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, or should “media arts” be intervowen into the 4 arts disciplines as we now know them in the Maine Learning Results and National Arts Standards? I think it is a simple and challenging question that needs your best thinking, especially in Maine where MLTI has helped us “lead” the technology conversation in Maine and beyond.

Periodically I get emails and questions like these: My high school has put in a media arts course where students are receiving fine arts credit. Can that be done? Usually the teacher is upset since students who would normally take the arts courses are taking the media arts courses. My question in return is: have you incorporated any media arts into your traditional courses? If the answer is no, I ask why not? And add that perhaps the reason students are taking another arts type of course is because they are looking for something that contains more 21st century tools and opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong here I am not suggesting we eliminate those traditional experieinces however we need to do business differently.

To help you think differently about education, how you teach and how students learn… I suggest you read the following books:

Inevitable, by Bea McGarvey and Chuck Schwann, both makes the case for mass customized learning, but also lays out a vision of what it might look like and how we might do it. Commission Bowen had all of us at the Department read this book. Our books were passed on to the superitendents in the state and each group is reviewing the book and have been asked to pass theirs on to a school board member or another administration. It would be great to hear what you have to say about this easy read.

Another approach to customized learning is student-designed standards-based projects. The Minnesota New Country School is given much credit for developing this model, and their work has been recognized by the US Department of Education, and others. Ron Newell has captured this work and makes clear the student-designed project approach in Passion for Learning. I haven’t read this one yet but it is on my list.

What books have you read lately that you recommend to others? Please make suggestions in the “comment” section below. And what do you think… Media arts a stand alone or interwoven into the other arts disciplines for delivery of education?


  1. Media arts are visual arts (graphic design/video/web design, etc.), media arts also are in the music area of the arts through sound engineering, sound design, etc.. There is a profound reason why they have become called “media arts”, and that is because they are in fact “media”, to be manipulated by artists in a “design” context. To remove them from the context of design and from their direct relationships to arts disciplines would only diminish their importance. Just because film-making, animation, photography and graphic design are now most commonly practiced via computer technology does not separate them from their origins, elements or principles.

  2. I think that there is a LOT of bad design out there and this “new area” needs to keep itself embedded in the “traditional” principles and elements of art and design in order to move forward with good end product. This area has similarities to the thought processes in any print media- it is just on a flat screen instead of a flat piece of paper or canvas.

    Also, I think “job security” suggests you weave them in. It means that perhaps we need MORE time for new classes and MORE time for new additions to already existing classes. MORE people who are artists and designers teaching these classes. MORE training for those who need it.

    This is from a Visual Arts point of view- Music/Dance/Theater, etc probably have similar arguments for more time and resources to teach “new” media.

  3. Foundations of art and design include the elements and principles of organization and
    design used in varieties of media forms and processes.
    Media forms include 2D, 3D and 4D (time based examples such as film, video, animation).

    For those of you that are having a….”I thought Media Arts were already included” moment…..this may be how
    Alfred Stiegliz, the Fauvists, Les Paul, Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham were feeling with “less than enthusiastic” receptions to the innovative use in their chosen media (yes, media…..)

    As educators…..as vehicles of teaching and learning, our duty is to be cognizant of our openness to developments and innovation.

    Part of Steve Jobs’ legacy is the importance, value and transformative properties of DESIGN.
    It’s not just WHAT we do…..but
    HOW we do it……..

    Focusing on HOW we do it…….. students synthesizing skills in visual media will be well prepared for contemporary visual culture, not passively as targets, but as informed participants.

  4. From Ann Marie Quirion Hutton
    In my opinion “media arts” is a part of the four listed arts, because if you take the 4 away, it can not stand on its own.

    I believe media arts is art, but I also believe it needs one or more of the four disciplines, dance, theater, music, visual arts to exist.

    This is just my current opinion.

  5. From art educator Leah Olson:
    it’s the future
    kids love it
    Steve Jobs would be proud!
    It would require arts teachers to be certified in it
    It might undervalue what arts teachers are already doing.
    Legislators might groan………
    Maybe it could be an offshoot of what we already do?

  6. From Music Educator Deb Large:
    My first reaction –

    To have it stand alone means it would not get the notice it deserves – we already have stand alones (dance and theater) that are in that category – how many schools have dance teachers? How many theater classes are offered at schools?

    To have it integrated in other areas will more likely get it to our students and get it into our classrooms.

  7. From Alice Sullivan, music educator:

    I teach a digital arts class with the visual art teacher and we use the existing standards. I allows us the best flexibility to tailor the class to the kids needs, I feel the digital arts are the tools we use to teach the other 4 areas – how we use digital tools to meet the standards in music, art etc. I’d leave it as four areas and integrate the digital stuff.

  8. From Shannon Campbell, art educator:
    my quick opinion is that it should be integrated in the 4 disciplines. It is more like a medium within music, visual art, etc. like paint or oil pastels in my opinion. When i think of some of the media art i love it is digitally created music or digitally created imagery. I cant think of any “media art” that i would not also call visual or music art.

  9. From Jake Sturtevant, music educator:
    Good discussion to have. I know the longer I am in Arts Education, and an artist, I see less and less distinction between the disciplines, and I would hope at some point there will be standards that are not discipline specific.
    That said, I certainly understand the need for standards in the media arts, as it is a growing discipline, and one which seems to encompass all thing technology that does not fit into one of the categories we have set up. There are also lots of majors popping up in media arts in colleges around the country and outside the country, so I understand the need to focus on this.
    But in general, it is another label, like creating another genre of music. We as humans feel the need to organize everything so that they fit in the boxes we define for them, and sometimes it is helpful, and sometimes it becomes stifling.
    Good luck, and keep me in the loop.


  10. In it’s current state, Media Arts should stand alone….until we do something about the certification requirements for teachers in that field. I don’t feel comfortable having students earn a Fine Arts credit under the guidance of someone who has taken a few technology classes and picked up some video equipment, unless of course the teacher is certified in the Arts. It happened here and we eventually had to drop the course as a Fine Arts credit as students were basically recording games and board meetings. It ended up being what we used to call an ITV class.
    Perhaps we should talk more to colleges about what they are doing in New Media in order to better prepare our students. The certification piece deserves a thorough discussion as well.

  11. Thanks for pointing out what the problems might be as part of this pathway of adding the 5th discipline.

  12. Since I teach a number of “media arts” classes here at York High School, including semester-long courses in Animation, Digital Imaging, and Video, I felt a need to respond here. I love media arts and feel that they should be a vital part of art education programs today. They have also become a very important means of communication in our world. As such, they help to validate the importance of a solid education in the arts.

    As far as I’m concerned the “new media” are simply additional media we use to create, and should not be a separate, 5th discipline in the arts. Media is being used in all four areas of the arts, and is embedded in those areas, not separate and distinct from them. In visual art “traditional” media include materials such as pencil and paint, clay, copper and silver. Photography, film, and animation are examples of media which already have been crossing the lines between traditional and “new” media for over a century now. So they aren’t new at all, altho’ the ability to create in those areas using computers and equipment that almost anyone can access and easily use has changed and evolved quite a bit in recent years. Graphic design has been around for many years, yet much of it is now being created using computers. There are forms of output and audience reach, such as websites and YouTube videos, that have into being with the advent of computers and the internet, but many of these connect directly with already established areas such as graphic design, animation, or film.

  13. I believe that media arts are purely a vehicle for expressing the 4 art forms already established. I see no need for it to be its own art form. Without music, art, dance and theater, media arts would not exist.

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