Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Explore & Imagine: Google Arts & Culture in Education - Report on Dimitris Tzouris's Session

With an enticing title and a toolkit full of ideas for the tech-lovers among us, Dimitris Tzouris took us all on a fascinating trip around the world's most famous museums and art galleries as he showed how Google Arts & Culture can helps us explore and imagine more.

Despite claiming not to be an arts expert himself, Dimitris showed how knowledgeable he is both historically as well as artistically by informing us that Google Arts & Culture started in 2011 (Art Project) with 1.000 artworks from over 17 museums. Now, the platform features collections from over 1200 museums and archives. Once visiting the platform, we have the chance to search by artist, art movement and material. What makes it a powerful tool for education isn't simply the abundance of artwork offered, but also their high quality. Pictures of artwork are organized in online exhibitions and visitors can explore both the art pieces as well as the physical environment where these are found. 

                                                                                                                         photo by Monika Izbaner

The pictures stored range from plain resolution ones to pictures with more than 1600 gigapixels (ultra-high definition). To demonstrate what this means in practice, Dimitris shared with us two stunning close-ups of Vincent Van Gogh's "Self Portrait" and Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Harvesters". Google Arts & Culture doesn't stop there though. Visitors can find objects, examples of street art and information about historical events, places and figures. Information can consist of exhibits, historical videos or stories. Apart from art galleries, we can also explore historical museums and sites by embarking on one of the 2600+ virtual tours. The latest addition to the platform was more than 50 of the world's leading natural history institutions. 

How can we then explore such a treasure trove of artistic and cultural materials? The first idea Dimitris suggested was to create learning scenarios in which we virtually visit the museums with our students by taking one of the virtual field trips. Once inside the museum, students could be asked to find pieces of artwork or find their way around the place. They could also view various genres of paintings and then describe and compare them in groups. Apart from allowing the students to explore paintings and artwork in more detail, the zoom-in feature also helps them develop a real appreciation for colours. Students can also become museum curators by creating their own collection or deepen their understanding of history by researching historical events. Dimitris continued to surprise us by taking us on a tour around the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as well as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. What better way to enjoy the museum experience by visiting different floors and trying to find pieces of artwork!

                                                                                                                                           Photo by Efi Tzouri

Dimitris also showed that visiting the platform can help broaden our students' critical thinking skills by exploring the Reading Visually gallery. Variations of the same painting such as Van Gogh's "The Bedroom" also offer a chance for fruitful class discussions regarding which painting students prefer and why. As Dimitris noted there are also video lessons based on the artwork found in the platform like the painting "In the Loge" by Mary Cassatt which challenges our understanding of gaze. Dimitris then moved on to present ideas on inspiring historical figures like Anne Frank as well as places such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Finishing his presentation, Dimitris showed us even more ways to explore this wealth of material by sharing links to Lesson Plans and Teacher Guides and experiments connecting the world of art with science. He also shared with us a glimpse of the latest addition to the Google Cultural Institute which is 360° videos of Performing Arts and reminded us that we could use Google Open Gallery to create our own gallery of artwork.

Dimitris, thank you for showing us the way to express our imaginative, artistic side!
Here's the link to the presentation slides Dimitris used: https://tz.rs/tesolmthartsculture

Report by Maria Theologidou

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