ASU's SMALLab uses art, technology to reach students
Since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, the arts and sciences have fused to create new understandings of the world around us.
To keep pace with the rapid technological advances of modern society and prepare students, K-12 educators must harness emerging technologies, enable collaborative learning, and bridge the physical and digital realms.
Researchers in the Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) Program at ASU are addressing students' diverse learning styles and engaging their creativity and curiosity in an interactive, life-sized multimedia learning environment called SMALLab (Situated Multimedia Art Learning Lab).
“SMALLab integrates recent advances in expressive computing interfaces, digital gaming, and leading edge educational technologies,” says David Birchfield, assistant professor. “Students interact with sonic and visual media through full-body, three-dimensional movements and vocalizations to explore complex concepts drawn from the arts and sciences.”
SMALLab invites participants to become the central characters, collaborating and learning together on a digital stage.
SMALLab's most recent experiment is with high school students from the Phoenix Metropolitan Arts Institute. Connectivity Stage 1, Interlab, is a collaborative project between the ASU Art Museum and the AME program.
Using AME's SMALLab technology and inspiration from the museum's art collection, students bring contemporary relevance to historical works of art through an interactive digital environment on exhibit at the museum through Sept. 29. Visitors can contemplate the original artworks while experiencing the students' interpretations through interactive video, 3-D graphics, audio and gesture. Visitors' behavior on the installation “stage” affects the resulting media responses they experience.
“The Arts, Media and Engineering SMALLab project is a perfect example of the progressive work that characterizes the Herberger College of the Arts,” says Kwang-Wu Kim, dean of the Herberger College. “It connects community, technology and diverse expertise to create artistic experiences that are inclusive and adaptive.”
The collaboration between AME and the ASU Art Museum has been a longtime vision between ASU Art Museum director Marilyn Zeitlin and AME director Thanassis Rikakis.
“This project exemplifies priorities of the museum as it goes forward,” Zeitlin says. “It invites the audience to take center stage, to interact with the work, to be the work. It makes creativity and spontaneity central to what we show. And it uses technology to be playful – acknowledging its ubiquity in our lives.”
Workshops and educational activities for teens are scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. Birchfield also will teach an “Interactive Gaming Intensive” workshop through ASU's Herberger College for Kids. The workshop runs June 4-15 and 18-29. Registration is open now.
Connectivity Stage 1, Interlab, is made possible in part through generous funding received from the Phoenix Youth and Education Commission's “Focus on Results” youth grant, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona American Masterpieces, and the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Program. Participants include AME faculty member Birchfield and research assistants Chris Todd, Aaron Cuthbertson, Sarah Hatton and Brandon Mechtley; Metropolitan Arts Institute photography instructor Aaron Abbott and high school students; and ASU Art Museum education coordinator Laura Stewart and Windgate curatorial intern Andrea Feller.