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Sheffield Hallam University Creative Commons Licence Digital Literacy Practice

The case study was inspired by David Hockney’s work and used the Brushes app to create images of flowers. These were compiled in a digital mural, ‘A Bigger Bloom’.

The aims of the project were to:

  • Extend the use of Web 2.0 tools to enable the class to participate in communities beyond the school
  • Explore the creative potential of digital technologies
  • Explore the use of iPads and in particular the Brushes app

Prior to the project, children had not used iPads at school, so Kate began by giving them iPads to play on and explore. She was impressed at how quickly they learned how to use them and found that there were many things they discovered without any formal instruction.

5182 Richard teaching iPad skillsThis project was supported by the Manager, Richard Johnson, an artist himself, from Sheffield Children’s Festival. He showed the children how to create a flower on Brushes using the colour wheel and brush tool. The children looked closely at flowers – dahlias, aubretias and violas – and used these as the inspiration for their paintings.

Richard was able to provide clear guidance for children in creating their flowers. Kate noticed that, because her children were confident with using iPads, Richard was able to focus more on developing the artwork rather than the use of the technology:

Transcript of video

Richard: The first thing I want you to do is to press the colour wheel. You know what that is I think, don’t you? [‘yes’] because you have been working on these already. Can you see the dark and light bar here? [‘Yes] I want you to scroll along there until you get a light green. And then I want you to go into your brush button, and I want you to choose a brush size of around about five – a very thin brush, ok? [It’s six’] That’s ok, six is fine. Now then, hands up who can tell me what shape that flower is there? Yes, Gabriella?

Gabriella: Oh well it’s a circle inside …

5182 sharing iPad skillsRichard: It’s a circle isn’t it? Now the secret I want to tell you is that an artist is very careful, and they don’t draw something in the shape that they think it is. They look very carefully at all the shapes of the thing that they are drawing and they try and draw the shape that it actually is. …. This bit is very important, so I don’t want you to rush it, I want you to take your time and do the best drawing of your flower that you choose … that you possibly can … Can you see that I am drawing and looking at the flower all the time. Drawing a bit … looking at the flower. I am not imagining any of this, I am drawing it as it actually is. Now there are some petals hiding behind those main petals, so I am going to put some of those in too … There’s one behind here … and there is one just sticking out there. I don’t want you to worry about making mistakes either, because we are going to add loads of colour to our pictures … and the last thing I want to do is we are going to tidy up any bits of this light green sketch colour that we have used that we don’t want. Alright? So I want you to very quietly and carefully go to back to your iPads, and start …

Sharing expertise video

Richard talked to one child, but the camera sweeps across the table to another child who is expanding and contracting her picture using a pincer movement with her fingers.

Transcript of video

I’ve used the eye drop tool to find the green in the background. I’ve got to brush 14 or 15, it’s that solid brush there.

Is this a pen? It’s like a pen, and we are going to get rid of …

The children quickly became adept with the app, and were able to use different tools with confidence. During the project, they interviewed each other about using Brushes and the iPads.

Yeah, because when you zoom in, don’t you, you can see very closely what you are looking at.

And that helps you if you want to do very good detail, you zoom in, and then you can do … brush strokes, and then zoom back out and you can see what it looks like.

The children were not afraid to experiment with the app.

5182 childs iPad flowerChild A: There’s like a little square box, and you can choose the colours, and if you first get it, it starts with a colour. And if you click on that there is a colour wheel, where there’s a wheel with lots of different colours, and there’s like a pallet, and there’s a pallet next to it, and you can click on the little brush thing and do a painting there.

Child B: To make it brighter, you can move the little switch right up to the high, and then if you want it darker you can move it back to the other end.

Child A: And you can put checks and you can put grey bits but the checks don’t work, you can’t see them, you have to have it on plain font … I think to make it work … we’ll have to try it out!.

Kate invited children to use the blog to reflect on what had happened during the project and how they had felt about using Brushes.

The individual flowers were collected in a digital mural – A ‘Bigger Bloom‘ – a meadow of all their creations. As this project was using Brushes app in a new way, Richard, the children and Kate had to experiment with the best way to enable individual images to be created that could be used as part of the large mural; the aim was to be able to access the work in different ways to both celebrate the children’s creations and provide insights into the process.

5.1.8 Bigger Bloom Meadow

This final artwork was displayed for a week in Sheffield Millennium Galleries in July 2012; members of the public, including children and teachers from other schools, were invited to explore and interact with the exhibit (see Bigger Bloom Digital Meadow). As visitors clicked on each flower, it brought up a trace of the process through which the flowers had been created, for example, a child’s comment from the blog, a video of the children at work or an interview with individuals about using Brushes (see Case Study 14)

As the followup to the case study, the children shared their experiences with parents, grandparents and siblings showing them how to use the iPads. The children were very much the experts, giving careful instructions about how to use various techniques and passing on their skills. Both children and teachers have become more confident in using iPads and the Brushes app in particular.

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