How digital arts boost career skills

Students in Fort Mill Schools in South Carolina learn photo editing, video and animation techniques to prepare for careers

Fort Mill School District students develop important career-boosting skills by learning how to use digital art tools, such as Adobe Photoshop and video and animation platforms, to complete their classroom assignments.

Two years ago, administrators in the South Carolina district launched a STEAM initiative. Rather than confine creativity to the art classroom, they expanded artistic design and construction to English, math, social studies and science classes. New staff roles were also developed to champion student creations, including a director of STEAM at the district level and classroom teachers serving as STEAM leaders.

Each elementary school grade has a STEAM leader along with a technology integrationist. In middle schools and high schools, STEAM leaders work in each subject area and collaborate to develop learning opportunities that align with standards.

“Creativity is the cornerstone of innovation,” says Victoria Brioc, director of STEAM and career and technical education. “Encouraging our students to develop a creative mindset will allow them to become solution seekers, embrace challenges, and ultimately be prepared for the jobs of the future.”

Collaboration and training

Professional development related to the STEAM initiative is intensive, Brioc says. A team of teacher leaders from each of the district’s 17 schools receives five days of PD focused on applying problem-based learning, planning and designing interdisciplinary STEAM units, using digital resources, and developing strategies for implementation.

When they return, the teacher leaders open up their classrooms to serve as learning labs for their schools and the district, and they provide support and training for their peers, Brioc says. 

In elementary classrooms, students focus their creative chops on creating videos that address real-world problems. For example, students produce public service announcements and posters to promote social or environmental causes. They also use an online bulletin board application to collect images, videos and other information. A collaboration platform allows students to design, curate and share presentations, as if they were in a workplace.

Digital arts in career pathways

As part of the STEAM initiative, teachers enter partnerships in which local companies and organizations give students real issues or projects that they want to solve. During these tasks, employees provide feedback to students regarding their art and design work so that the students can make adjustments. Students then present final versions to teachers.

For example, a graphic designer from a local sports marketing group presented to second-graders and discussed how typography, photography and illustration are central to his work. Learning about the art of visual communications informed the students during the creation of logos and advertisements for an economics project, Brioc says.

Such artistry is also a part of high school CTE career pathways, particularly in business, computer programming, digital arts and design, and media technology. High schoolers enrolled in these programs engage in work-based learning opportunities that often lead to internships and industry certifications for Microsoft, Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud for Graphic Design and Illustration, and Autodesk Inventor, Brioc says

Incorporating the arts and problem-based learning into high school programs has many welcome benefits, says Brioc, which include promoting collaboration and inclusion among students who might not otherwise interact. It also enables deeper development of leadership, creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills, and increases engagement and excitement for learning.

Most Popular