Digitalised artwork that you want to be proud of
A perennial problem in school art departments is how to document manage pupils’ artwork in all its forms - oil, poster, pastel, charcoal, acrylic and water colour to name a few. Originals can take up considerable storage space, get damaged when constantly being put up for display and often prove difficult to transport safely.
Skegness Academy, like many schools, had used digital photography for many years. "We always used point and click cameras to photograph artwork," says the school’s IT technician, Kevin Reeson. "But the pictures always seemed to come out wonky. Or students had to wait until their paintings were dry before taking them down to reprographics for photocopying, which again was not perfect."
There were long delays waiting for downloads, less student engagement and results that were not faithful to the original and thus not ideal for digital portfolios. Then last summer the school got a call from its long-term IT supplier XMA, inviting it to trial a new type of scanner from Fujitsu. Not the traditional flatbed design but a free-standing overhead model.
"It’s like a small lamp, shining a moving light that scans across the artwork laid flat on the table below," says Kevin. "When I first saw it in a box, I thought how is that going to work? But once it was working, I realised it was a simple idea that worked really well!"
The Scansnap SV600 had an almost instant effect on classes. According to head of art Vikki Thompson, it could not only produce scans up to A3 size at very fast speeds, dispensing with long waits for downloads, but was able to create such high quality images that it showed "painted images as they appear with all their lumps and bumps!"
Students had immediate access to scanning facilities, so they became engaged more consistently and they could get good quality digital images that were really worth their place in their portfolios. Prints of the scanned images were good enough to replace artwork in displays and thus preserve the originals.
Now during a big project, students can scan the different stages at the end of each lesson. The scanner has been set up in Vikki’s office and is linked direct to a laptop carrying the scanning software. Students simply have to log on, press the button and their artwork is scanned in a few seconds – a real time-saver in a class of 30.
The user is then asked where the new file should be sent and in what format (eg jpeg, pdf). The high resolution files are generally sent by staff to a common shared area on the school network where students can access them for use in or outside school hours and take their artwork home on a memory stick.
The Scansnap can save even more time by being able to scan multiple items at the same time and then log them as separate images – provided they are small enough to fit within scanning range. "You can, for instance, put text on one and save it as a document while saving the other two as pictures," says Kevin Reeson. "You can also edit what you have captured in the scan."
Evidence suggests operating the scanner is simplicity itself. After an initial demonstration and software installation, the school has not needed to approach XMA during the trial. "And after I’d shown the school how to use the scanner, they haven’t come back to me once," says Kevin.
"We’d not been aware of the scanners before. We’ve worked with XMA for a long time before they asked us to take part in the trial. We find them really good – sometimes we ask for unique stuff and they always seem to find what we want."
Kevin, who also services the IT needs of several local primary schools, believes there would be real interest among primaries, having seen how much schools encourage painting and messy play on paper. "A lot of people have this habit of taking photos," he says. "But if you could actually see how quick it is to scan a picture and then send the file to wherever you want, primaries would probably use it too."
Whether it be preserving a young child’s first painting or valuable A-level coursework, quality scanners like the Scansnap SV600 could well set the pattern for document management in art rooms for years to come.