Dr. Sean Justice and his students worked with families on Feb. 17 to use computer science in an artistic way.

Photo By Sonia Garcia

Coding mixed with art may sound unusual, but art education students are proving otherwise.

Sean Justice, assistant professor in the School of Art and Design, along with his art education students, have been working on Families Learning Together. Justice started the project in 2017 to research the way educators interact with students and parents together. The project has allowed Justice and his students to introduce families to technology that creates art.

Families Learning Together is possible with the help of a research enhancement grant provided by Texas State. The project includes weekend workshops and after-school clubs for families to come together and learn new computer science skills in order to develop an art piece with it.

The workshop times and locations vary but so far, the program has teamed up with San Marcos’ elementary schools and the public library. For the past two workshops, parents were encouraged to code with their children by using Scratch, a programming language and online community targeting children. Attendees faced challenges but ended up creating online visuals.

The stereotype behind computer science is that it may be difficult and primarily fitting for white men in isolated settings. Families Learning Together strives to challenge that stigma.

“We need to raise the status of computer science as an art form, so as a community, we can see computer science as something fun, creative and meaningful,” Justice said. “I would love it if, as soon as you thought of computer science, the image was everyone having fun and making stories and robots.”

Justice is extremely proud of the project’s contribution to the community. No one said parents and educators can’t continue learning beside children. The program Justice built created the reality that everyone can learn together.

Justice said teaching has been a constant in his life. While working toward his doctorate degree at Columbia University, he was part of a team that learned about how people operated artistically with machines.

When Justice started his job at Texas State in fall 2016, he wanted to work on something similar. Additionally, having children of his own made him much more aware of how school classrooms worked and he wanted to become involved.

Nidia Mendoza, studio art senior, said the experience she has gotten with Families Learning Together has been very beneficial to her becoming a teacher.

“Really understanding what computers, art and technology as a whole can do in a classroom is something I think I would integrate into my curriculum,” Mendoza said.

Justice is currently working with the SMCISD to see how he can apply his work in actual classrooms. He said there are a lot of different people who have similar ideas and concerns.

Analisa Esther, history and dance double major senior, said the community has been really receptive to the program by spreading the word about its existence.

“I feel like when I help people in the community it helps others in the community, like a chain reaction,” Esther said.

To stay up-to-date with Families Learning Together, visit its Twitter account: @FLT_SMTX.

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