The engaging and artistic results of digitally manipulating images and video belies the complex coding required to create an interactive installation for The Bishop Strachan School’s (BSS) annual art show.
But while the Grade 11 computer science students at the Toronto school fathomed how to create, store, manipulate and display data by designing a webcam filter, they also learned an important life lesson – the concept that they can use technology to problem solve whether it is an artistic, scientific or mathematical challenge.
“The idea that the students can approach a problem and use technology to solve it is integral to the whole computer science program,” says Benjamin Lawrence, a teacher at Canada’s oldest independent day and boarding school for girls from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Support for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) at BSS is well established, where a new wing of the school, complete with maker spaces, labs, a high-tech theatre and a large art studio fosters interdisciplinary learning.
“Technology isn’t something that lives on its own; it’s integral to deepening understanding in other areas. The future of many fields is tied to technology, and what we will be able to create and learn in other fields is enhanced by using this technology – it is integral to every other subject,” says Mr. Lawrence, who has a doctorate in materials engineering.
Tackling her assignment for the webcam project – which required studying how images can be saved, distorted and displayed through an understanding of arrays and binary data – improved her coding knowledge and taught her valuable problem-solving skills, says BSS student Emma H.
“I encountered a lot of problems and had to learn how to deal with them [myself] or ask for help. I learned that a lot of things don’t go as planned but that I could do a lot more than I thought I could after studying computer science for just one year. As long as I want to do it, and put in a lot of effort, I can accomplish it,” says Emma, who is interested in pursuing machine learning and artificial intelligence at university.
Gia S., who modified a static photograph, says she enjoyed the independence and the ‘space’ to decide how she wanted to alter the image of herself she chose to work with. “I could be creative in my own way but seek guidance if I had any issues.”
One of the challenges she encountered was including a naturally curved eyebrow. “It was tough with the curves and colouring,” she recalls. Ultimately, with some support, she solved the problem by creating an eyebrow comprising small straight lines and dots.
“Because one encounters so many problems, I learned I had to be meticulous and methodical so every problem could be solved; nothing is impossible. Working throughout the year in computer science helped me develop a positive attitude about any problem I may encounter in the future,” she says.
The experience of both students illustrates the school’s philosophy to enable girls to discover first-hand that they can do anything through experiential, problem and project-based learning.
“One of the benefits of working across disciplines is that it allows us to find creativity and beauty in a technical subject like computer science. Having the work of our students displayed alongside the amazing pieces from our students studying visual and media arts shows the creative potential of this interdisciplinary approach,” says Mr. Lawrence.
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