Trends in Art and Education

Three new entries on diverse topics.

Ava Cotlowitz, whose beat is art, writes how technology is changing making of art and the art world in new and profound ways.

Alicia Ramirez, who covers technology in education, writes about the web programs that let yoou post your work — and display it to the world.  Her piece is called Forevemore.




Pixel Art in iPad Galleries

Technology is changing the way we make and display art

By Ava Cotlowitz

For Gladwyn Elementary School Kindergarteners, art class is a highly anticipated activity. Students aged five and six rush into the brightly lit classroom and take their seats around square tables fit for five. As the chatter of children elevates, Gladwyn art teacher Rebecca Wolfe returns from a nearby pantry with stacks of flat, black, iPads.

“Once you have your iPad in front of you, please turn it on and go directly to the Brushes application,” said Wolfe.

All around the room, miniature fingers elegantly swiped, poked, and prodded the angular tablets that lay flat on their tables like paper.

“Today you are going to be painting a scene that you experience in the winter,” Wolfe said, “Remember that once you are

An iPad Portrait of David Hockney

finished please raise your hand and we will go print out your picture.”

At once, a frenzy of motion swept over the room as fingers, hands, and fingertips moved rapidly about the iPads’ surfaces.

With an instantaneous tap of the screen, any student’s drawing tool, color, or erasure could be substituted.

Kasey, 5 sat quietly among his table of four classmates, concentrating on his current creation. Using the tip of his pinky finger, Kasey speckled his digital canvas with a multitude of blue dots.

“I’m making snow, and that’s me in the snow, and that’s a snowman,” Kasey said, pointing to the different elements of his painting.

When asked what his favorite thing about making art on the iPad was, Kasey said,

“I like that I can fix when I mess up and I like all the colors – there’s so may to choose!”

Of course, Kasey isn’t the only artist to share this sentiment.

British pop-artist David Hockney, 75, also uses Apple iPad’s Brushes application to create touch screen masterpieces.

Hockney’s iPaintings were even the subject of his 2011 art exhibition ‘‘David Hockney: Fleurs Fraîches’,” featured on gallery walls lined with iPads and iPhones.

“It took me awhile to realize it’s quite a serious tool you can use,” Hockney said, according to The New York Times, “It’s like an endless piece of paper that perfectly fitted the feeling I had that painting should be big.”

Within this age of technology, the digitized world has undoubtedly informed and altered the classical modes of art making. The traditional platforms of canvas and paper can now be substituted for Adobe Photoshop and Apple’s Brushes Application.

And the concept of fine art as high art, unattainable by the regular folks, has been usurped by democratizing online art databases and art sharing sites like Flickr, Instagram,, and QR Codes.

Now, fine art is not just an experience reserved for the museum or gallery, but is one that is only one click away.

Flickr is the most straightforward platform for exhibiting and sharing art online: upload artwork, leave and receive comments. According to Yahoo, since it started up in 2004, Flickr had a total of 51 million registered members and 80 million unique visitors in 2011.

Its users benefit from the digital gallery-friendly template by uploading artwork onto their photostream and categorizing their art into sets or collections, similar to a chronicle of exhibitions.

Continue reading


Thanks to the web, everyone now has a permanent record that all can see

By Alicia Ramirez

Finding eternity is possible. Just look yourself up online.

Among the first things that come up when you type your name on a search engine are the links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, if you have any of them. In a society where our information is currently at everyone’s disposal, students at Bryn Mawr College are becoming more cautious about what is published about them online.

Added to the growing list of things of things must now worry about is having their class work visible to the online world.

Not too long ago, most courses taken by Bryn Mawr students were limited to classroom discussions typically inside a designated room of a particular building. Written assignments were exclusively for a professor to critique and grade. Now with the Internet as the tool of choice, the norm for an effective classroom dynamic has changed.

Class discussions can continue online after class is dismissed using such programs as Moodle, widely used by students and teachers

Anne Dalke of Bryn Mawr

With Moodle, students can engage in discussions with other class members. They can access the materials for a specific class and post questions related to what was

covered and everyone enrolled in the class, including the professor, can read and comment on them.

Senior Lena Blount is open to submitting work online but the privacy settings of one of her class’ Moodle page make her slightly anxious.

“That is a question that has come up in my senior seminar in terms of posting drafts of our theses and posting our theses on Moodle and I personally don’t like that,” Blount said. “I wish that they (professors) would change the privacy settings so that we could never see who has turned in what and who hasn’t.

Blount said it contributed to the stress for some students who go to Moodle and find that they haven’t turned an assignment while everyone else has or someone turned in their draft and it was pages longer than theirs.

“In some ways it has been really problematic in terms of creating this competition and this anxiety between students,” she said. “I think there is probably just ways to change the privacy settings where students can still submit work online but not like be constantly comparing and judging themselves against their peers.”

Moodle is open to members of a class; Serendip Studio is open to the world.

Serendip Studio, formerly known as Serendip, is website where students and teachers can engage in discussions about different academic interests and post their work.

Bryn Mawr English Professor Anne Dalke’s favorite feature on Serendip Studio is its openness. In an email she described it as a “digital ecosystem,” open, on the web, available to be read by the world (not a closed corner of information exchanged by an insular group).

“I think it is a great place for students to practice being ‘public intellectuals,'” Dalke added, “speaking out loud about topics of interest to them as they are learning about them, writing papers that are “windows” for others interested in these issues, rather than as private demonstrations of competence to a professor.” Continue reading

People and Trends

Four more stories about trends and people.

Alicia Ramirez, whose beat is the digital world, profiles a Bryn Mawr student who is a fellow in ‘Digital Humanities.’  She explains what it all means.

Nell Durfee, who covers ‘green issues,’ writes about a new kind of environmental activism among college students that favors divestment and direct action.

Sydney Espinoza, whose beat is science, writes about the latest trends on college women majoring in the sciences.

Emily Kluver, who covers religion, writes about how college students who are devout in the practice of their faiths often feel stifled hwne it comes to discussing it on their campuses.

Can We Talk About God?

Is talk about religion taboo at Bryn Mawr, Haverford & Swarthmore?

By Emily Kluver

Bryn Mawr College prides itself on having a diverse and tolerant student body. But to Maryam Elarbi, a sophomore who is Muslim, the college does not offer her an accepting environment.

“I don’t get to have an opinion that doesn’t agree with them,” the 20-year-old says as she looks around at students milling around Haffner dining hall at the suburban Philadelphia school. “Religion is not a welcome topic. It doesn’t go along with the general agenda.”

While students are happy to talk about liberal topics centered on gender and sexuality, Elarbi siad she finds that open discourse on religion is rare and even frowned upon in different social groups.

“You become this ‘other’ when you’re more conservative at all on social or religious things,” Elarbi says, then laughs and shakes her head. “When I do something religious, it’s in its own little bubble, not integrated into campus life.”

As a practicing Muslim, Elarbi does not participate in the party scene on- or off-campus. “I feel like I’ve become very disconnected from the Bryn Mawr community because on a social level, I’m not there with everyone else,” she says.

The Bryn Mawr community is not the only school where students who practice their faith find this gap in acceptance of religion. Students at Swarthmore College and Haverford College see many of the same problems.

Carolyn Anderson, 21, a Presbyterian at Swarthmore says that while she feels comfortable talking to her close friends about religion, not all situations offer the same openness.

“I think the only situations I have been uncomfortable being open about my beliefs were in classes– religion for instance,” the junior says. “It’s very difficult to study your own religion in class because you have to deal with hostile reactions from others about things that are very dear to you.”

Twenty-year-old Robert Homan, a junior at Haverford and practicing Catholic, echoes Anderson’s feelings.

“With those I know well, it’s easier to talk about religion,” Homan says. “That said, in a more public setting it could become difficult. I wouldn’t be as likely to say something.”

Twenty-two-year-old Ben Goossen, a Mennonite at Swarthmore, wishes that people would talk more about their different beliefs.

“No one has ever been opposed to me at least after having a conversation with me,” says the senior,who notes that students often have problems with religion when they assume it connects directly to conservative politics.

Religious = Conservative

Pressures to conform in college are avoided by some students when they choose to go to a religious institution. But while the experience of students at religious colleges differs in the openness of religion, the experience is far from perfect.

Homan sometimes considers what his experience would look like at a religiously affiliated school.

“Perhaps there would have been more of a community around religious life and that could have helped me grow in faith and such,” he says and quickly dismisses the idea. “I wouldn’t trade Haverford for anything, and my experience being religious here has been great even if it had been challenging at times.”

Homan and Anderson have mixed feelings about the openness of students at their respective schools. And both have suggestions on how the attitude toward religion on campus could be improved.

Homan says: “There could perhaps be more willingness to invite religious speakers to campus and to have more dialogues about religion in general, just as one would about other issues like race or class.”

Anderson feels that the individual religious opportunities at Swarthmore are sufficient, but she says, “I would like to see more interfaith events and discussions, and I’d like to see the faith groups on campus having dialogues with the campus community on hard issues as well.”

Professor of Religion at Swarthmore, Steven Hopkins, says that he would like to see the college opening up a religious space open to all students of all faith traditions. He notes that being religious at college can be challenging because students who are confused in their beliefs have nowhere to go to openly question and explore religion.

“Being religious at Swarthmore is difficult because it is not seen as part of the skepticism or spirit of inquiry,” Hopkins says. “I don’t teach that way. I encourage intellectual as well as spiritual journeys.”

Lack of balance

Joyce Tompkins, an independently funded interfaith advisor at Swarthmore, feels that the college has a long way to go in providing avenues for students interested in exploring faith.

Tompkins says, “I think it would be helpful to have an official office of religious and spiritual life because students who are interested in exploring religious practice or spirituality in general really have nowhere to go.”

Tompkins acknowledges that the past eight years at Swarthmore have produced some positive growth toward encouraging religious exploration.

“The Dean’s staff are mostly supportive of my work and seem to appreciate that religion is important to many students,” Tompkins says. “Also, admissions has initiated conversations with me about how to attract and support religiously affiliated students.”

It can be challenging for unaffiliated schools to find ways to facilitate religious exploration on campus, but tolerance is not a one-sided goal.
Students like Maryam Elarbi feel that the college experience focuses so much on being accepting of ideas associated with liberal politics that it shuts down any dialogue about religion, which creates barriers between students. She asks the question, is the extreme tolerance of one group worth the exclusion of another?

“It’s a problem when it becomes about right and wrong, not different,” Elarbi says. “There’s not a balance of views.”

Lost in the Maze of Science

 Why aren’t more women going into  science & technology fields?

By Sydney Espinoza

The nonsensical hallways of the Park Science building at Bryn Mawr College are a combined source of frustration and humor among students. So much so that “I got lost” is a legitimate excuse for tardiness when getting to class involves navigating the building.

The women who decide to pursue majors in science, technology, and mathematics at Bryn Mawr are jokingly referred to as poor, lost souls who still haven’t found their way out of Park yet.

The infamous Park labyrinth has been steadily claiming more victims within its academic walls since 2006. Increasing numbers of science and technology majors at Bryn Mawr College reflects the nationwide push for women to pursue majors and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields that, historically, have been largely male-dominated. Collectively, they are known as STEM.

“I’ve talked to women scientists who are a generation or a generation-and-a-half older than me and they had a rough road,” said Dr. Tamara Davis, Associate Professor and Chair of the Biology department at Bryn Mawr College. “Like for my graduate advisor, it was just hard for people to trust her, to give her credit that she was due. It was a lot harder for women in science thirty years ago.”

According to Bryn Mawr College’s Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Assessment, an impressive 29% of its 1,300 undergraduates are pursuing majors in STEM fields, compared to the national average of only eight percent.

While a growing female presence within the scientific community is a promising step toward equal representation, another more-troubling national trend has become increasingly evident at Bryn Mawr: a largely disproportionate distribution of students pursuing majors in Biology versus other STEM fields such as Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science.

To STEM or not to STEM?

The number of Biology majors has undergone exponential growth, and recently tied with Political Science and Psychology for third largest department, with 26 graduating majors in 2012. Yet, Physics, Computer Science, and Chemistry have remained relatively stagnant in the number of completed majors.

According to the Physics department website, Bryn Mawr College has averaged nine Physics majors per year, making up approximately three percent of the graduating class, and nearly 50 times the national average. The Computer Science and Chemistry departments report similarly flat figures.

So, what gives?

Even at Bryn Mawr College, women interested in pursuing science generally shy away from STEM fields that require more computational skill.

“I don’t know if it’s because they come in, if there is something that prejudices them against those fields before they get here,” said Davis, “my guess is that it probably is.”

She also discussed the pre-med track as a natural draw to Biology, explaining that 30% of incoming Bryn Mawr students think they’re pre-med, but only eight-to-ten percent of the graduates continue on to medical school. These statistics, she said, show how awareness of careers in a STEM field can impact the growth of its female population.

“I think students, women in particular, are often less aware of what their career options are in other STEM fields,” said Davis. “In your life, you have been to a doctor’s appointment, so you can kind of see that as a career option, whereas it’s harder to think about careers in engineering or even in academics as really a career. That might be something that more physicists would end up doing or computer programing.”

Lack of self-confidence?

Saba Qadir, 2013, a Biology major and student major representative for the department, voiced similar sentiments.

“As a country, girls are still discouraged from improving their self-confidence in math,” said Qadir, “the disparity at BMC is probably because it’s really difficult to reject or change a belief about yourself and suddenly become a ‘math person’ if it has been existing for several years of your life.”

Those within the Biology department aren’t the only ones speculating on this concerning issue.

Caroline Bruce, 2016, an undeclared Physics major, was surprised and troubled by the underrepresentation within the STEMs at Bryn Mawr, given the program’s stellar quality and one-on-one learning experience.

“There is a lot of support and a lot of small student-teacher close classroom experience, and they try their very best to make sure that the women who are in these programs are getting the best education,” Bruce explained, “and with that kind of resource and opportunity, I am surprised that [Physics] isn’t a much bigger major.”

She discussed her negative experiences with science in middle school and high school that almost kept her away from pursuing physics or any kind of science at all.

“I thought that that was a fault of the subject instead of the teacher,” Bruce said. “There was this scary idea that science was strictly labs, and if I couldn’t enjoy a lab, then I couldn’t enjoy the class; so I was afraid that if I pursued a major in Physics, I wouldn’t get a good grade, then I wouldn’t enjoy it at all, and it would spiral.”

Even at Bryn Mawr College, a virtual hub of female empowerment, breaking into more math-heavy sciences proves to be difficult for women. So now the million-dollar question: what can be done to get women excited about these fields?

Looking back to her own personal experience as a woman and science student struggling with the dominant male presence, Davis suggests bringing in more women—as faculty, as visiting alumnae, and as examples of success—to serve as role models in these fields.

“It’s already hard being a woman in these STEM fields,” she said, “and without having that role model network and support network for young women who are entering those fields, it’s just harder for them to sustain their careers and reach those goals.”

As for the future of those choosing to stay lost in Park Science, wandering in search of Physics, Chemistry, and Computer Science?

In time, said Davis. “I think it will get better in these other, more underrepresented fields over time, but I think it’s going to take some time.”


Targeting the ‘Sin Portfolio’

Students are working to stop mountaintop mining through local action

By Nell Durfee

Environmental activism is often associated with shower-needy young people sporting dreadlocks and tye-dye, with Priuses, with LEED-certified buildings and marches in the streets. But a recent trend in modern flower power is a little different: new campaigns across the country are asking citizens to use their money for social justice.

Divestment and socially-responsible investing are being used by local and national campaigns to call attention and get action from large corporations. Near Philadelphia, the most significant movements are with the EarthQuaker Action Team (EQAT) and the work of Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore College students. Both EQAT and Swarthmore students are coming at

A mountaintp mining site

divestment from the angle of mountaintop removal coal mining, an extractive industry used throughout the Appalachian region. Coal companies use explosives to break apart the rock to find coal seams; many have criticized the process as being ecologically devastating, with terrible health effects.

Though the connection between environmental action and socially responsible investing may seem blurry, both groups feel strongly that their work is an appropriate way for them to make change on the issue—locally.

“We wanted to act on a personal and a different scale,” Walter Sullivan, a former leader involved with the EarthQuaker Action Team, said on why they chose investment.

The EarthQuaker action team has focused its efforts on PNC bank, which is the top investor in mountaintop removal. Though MTR itself is often cheaper than traditional coal mining, it requires immense initial investments, which PNC lends to coal companies. EQAT’s goal is to prevent this support, which would make it very difficult for coal companies to profit.

Sullivan explained that EQAT chose PNC bank as the target as a way for them to connect to mountaintop removal in a local way. Though the coal strip mining sites are located hundreds of miles away, PNC bank has a more personal connection to the Quakers involved with the group. It is actually the merger of two separate banks, one of which had Quaker roots and was patronized by many Quaker meetings and individuals. EQAT works with people on a local level to withdraw their accounts with PNC.


Aimed at PNC Bank

“We’re not a divestment campaign,” Sullivan explained. “Divestment works by selling your stock in a company—which means that someone else has to buy it. It works on a large scale, where if many more people are selling than buying, the stock value of the company will plummet… Instead, we ask people to stop doing business with PNC, to remove their accounts.”

Divestment is more effective on the level of institutions—which is what both Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr students are attempting. Swarthmore students involved with efforts to halt mountaintop removal coal mining had a revelation similar to EQAT—while they could go to the mine sites in Appalachia, it would be more meaningful for them to work on a local level. In this case, that was their own school, which has a large investment portfolio that includes coal companies and other fossil fuels industries.

Students describe their efforts so far as a challenge, as Swarthmore guards its investments portfolio carefully.

“They were the only school to not lose money during the recession,” said junior Ben Bernard-Herman, a member of Swarthmore Mountain Justice, due to their carefully monitored portfolio. Group members said that one method used in many successful divestment campaigns is the creation of socially responsible mutual funds, which allow institutions and people to invest in a host of socially responsible companies at once, without the concern that they contain morally problematic investments.

It was, in fact, the Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s divestment campaign that prompted prominent climate change activist Bill McKibben’s most recent campaign, “Do The Math,” which urges institutions and individuals to divest from fossil fuels.

The ‘Sin Portfolio’

This nation-wide campaign, as well as links to Swarthmore Mountain Justice itself, has led Bryn Mawr College to form its own divestment group. Unlike Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr’s administration has been much more open to the idea of divestment.

“The board of trustees really wants to make it into an academic argument so that we can learn about all the complicated sides to the issue,” says Lee McClenon, a student involved with the campaign. “[Bryn Mawr’s chief financial officer, John Griffith] said that historically the college has been super open to these kinds of conversations and he’s surprised they don’t come up more often.”

Haverford College, in a consortium with Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore, has begun its own talks in hope of having divestment from fossil fuels within the Tri-College system. At the moment, Haverford has several student and administrative groups focused on socially responsible investing—with a very different strategy than divestment. The groups specifically invest in corporations and institutions that the College disagrees with in the hopes that consumer support and investor feedback will promote change.

“We call it the ‘sin’ portfolio,” Parker Snowe, the Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford.



Digital Humanities

It’s the latest thing and Mirella Deocadiz is on the edge

By Alicia Ramirez

For Mirella Deocadiz passion for the media runs in her blood. Deocadiz comes from a family who works in the industry.

Deocadiz’s mother used to work in broadcasting but now both of her parents work in print journalism. Despite her young age, Deocadiz has also worked at both print and TV institutions where she mostly did news reporting.

Deocadiz, a soft-spoken junior born to Filipino parents but raised in Hong Kong, was kind enough to sit and chat about one of the topics she is most interested about, the Digital Humanities.

Mirella Deocadiz

On Sunday, November 4, at 2:00 p.m. on the dot, a petite woman with long brown locks, and maroon eyeglasses entered the Erdman conference room at Bryn Mawr College. She was bundled in a leopard-print scarf and a black winter coat.

Before the conversation went any further, there was the need to define: What is Digital Humanities.

“That’s a conversation that happens a lot! What is digital humanities? Even I struggle to come up with my own definition,” said Deocadiz.

Deocadiz added, “I hope by the time I graduate I really do come up with a stronger sense of what it is but right now my working definition of what is digital humanities is the application of digital technology to answer previous humanities questions and it’s also more interdisciplinary approach to examining and exploring the issues that come up in the humanities fields.”

Based on this defnition, Digital Humanities is a forum where students and faculty use technology to address issues in the different courses and topics that make up the humanities and make innovations that will benefit academia.


A busy woman

Deocadiz is a busy woman, in addition to her schoolwork and duties as a Digital Humanities fellow, she works at Bryn Mawr’s Writing Center and plays Rugby for “The Horned Toads”, the team of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.

In the fall of 2010, Deocadiz was one of many freshmen getting acquainted with college life and taking an Emily Balch Seminar – or ESem as it is known around Bryn Mawr. This is a semester-long freshmen writing seminar where students polish their writing skills and engage in vigorous discussion about a particular topic.

Little did she know the seminar’s professor and director of the Tri- College Digital Humanities program, Katherine Rowe, would be such an instrumental part in her development as a student.

“My freshman year I took an ESem, called “Bookmarks” with professor Katherine Rowe and I think that really change sort of my approach to thinking about media. I’ve always been really interested in media, Bryn Mawr is the only liberal arts college I applied to, I applied for media programs, communication programs I think that class really changed the way I looked at how I approach media studies,” said Deocadiz.

In this ESem students talked about different modes of communication such as spoken word, written word and progressed to talking about new media.

Deocadiz describes it as “a long arch of media history.”

At the end of the semester, professor Rowe put her in contact with Jen Rajchel, the Assistant Director of the Tri-College Digital Humanities program, who was a senior at the time. Rajchel had written her thesis digitally and had been part of the first ReHumanities working group.

ReHumanities is the first and only annual undergraduate symposium on new media.

From blogging about ReHumanities, to fellowships, to now organizing the symposium, Deocadiz has come a long way.

Thanks to her fellowship from the The Tri-College Digital Humanities Institute, she did a summer internship with Human Network Labs in Philadelphia. She was in charge of establishing a clean image for them to work on.


An independent major

Deocadiz’s interest in the Digital Humanities drove her to pursue an independent major in Comparative Media Studies. She admits that the process of getting her major was everything but high-tech.

“I did submit a traditional double-space, one inch margin proposal. That’s a technology right? The technology of written word… I emailed around I found that it is very difficult for an independent major to get guidance via email correspondence so I did sit down an talk with a lot of people to get to where I’ve gotten,” said Deocadiz.

This digital humanist relies on her iPad to be informed on the latest technological advances and do her course readings.

“I bought an iPad which one of my friends and I always joke that it screams digital humanist every time you whip it out and I have Flipboard on there. Flipboard is an app that sort of pulls together articles that are commenting about a certain topic so on that I

follow the technology section and I read that when I have time,” said Deocadiz with excitement.

Deocadiz transmits her passion for Digital Humanities up to the point it becomes contagious. However, her work is not complete, students are yet to take the hint.

Deocadiz said, “I’d like to see more hype about it. I know that people want to talk about this, I’ve been to various meetings. I went to a trustees meeting and all everyone wanted to talk about was technology. People are wanting to talk about it but we’re not given enough spaces and I don’t think it is fully discussed it and I don’t think that is, it is advertised.”