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Multi-modal teaching and
research in art education

Dr. Mary Jane Zander
Assistant Professor,
Department of Art Education
Final Report on CTE Grant 2005

Today’s students read less and have shorter attention spans but are more influenced by visual media than ever before.  Art teachers, especially have an increased responsibility for teaching students how to approach content in a world that is becoming more and more influenced by visual and technological information.  Today, art teachers not only teach the history and processes of art, but they must also teach student to approach visual information with critical and reflective thinking skills as well as help them to interpret and analyze multiple forms of media.

My goals for applying for a CTE grant in the Spring of 2005 were to:

  • introduce art education graduate students to multi-modal (audio, visual and written) teaching and research in art education
  • to expand my own technological skills and,
  • to encourage students to use technology in arts-based research.

Art education graduate students are usually familiar with technology but they have varying abilities from being very experienced, if they teach graphic design or computer courses, to being relatively inexperienced if their schools do not have computers in their classrooms.

I was asked to teach a new graduate class for these students and my goals for the class were; to become more technologically proficient myself; to teach my students how to use a variety of technologies (including digital camera, I-movie and I-tunes).  I also wanted to use these technologies to encourage these students to both document and research their classroom or to explore ideas by combining these multiple forms of media to serve as the basis for developing curriculum around a thematic idea or question.

The CTE grant provided me with cameras, an LCD for showing student work and a student worker to help with my own training in these technologies and to assist in trouble shooting in the class with computer problems that went beyond my own expertise.

The class was introduced to visual ethnography and digital story telling through resources on the internet and through readings about educational philosophies and the importance of the visual image. Students were shown images of artworks and photographs that had an important impact on the political or social events of their time. The students compared these images within their historical perspectives or context.  After reflecting on the power of the visual image, students were introduced to the concept of “big idea” in which curriculum or research is focused around a culturally important idea such as identity, consumption, time, etc.  They were then encouraged to research a “big idea” or a topic that they felt was important to art education and their students.  I gave the  graduate students the choice to develop a three minute “digital story” based on their research or to use it as an idea starter for teaching their own students.

I was very pleased with the results.  One student who taught Graphic Design had been discouraged with the fact that his students approached his class more from a technological point of view and he wanted them to understand that good graphic design is also artistic.  He chose to create a digital story that compared aesthetics with pure design.  His choice of curriculum was to have students create an expressive work of art to incorporate in a piece of graphic design without loosing the expressive qualities of the work.  This student made numerous revisions and although he was probably the most technologically competent in the class, his struggle was to incorporate aesthetic points of view into a class which was largely technology driven. 

Another student used the digital photography to document the growth of her pre-school students as they explored a nearby “wild environment” or “woods”.  She took many more photographs than she used in her presentation, but the photographs documented behaviors which supported her interpretation of how children encounter unfamiliar spaces.  She found that very young children explore these spaces physically, by climbing, and exploring the environment before actually playing in them.   It is only after the children are familiar with the features of the environment that they begin to engage in imaginative play.  The play evolves into an appreciation of the space and the natural features found in it; such as, noting the kinds of creatures that lived there and expressing awareness of the cycles of change that took place in that environment over a period of time.  She recommends that this kind of involvement with the environment is important for students to gain appreciation of the natural world.

I feel I was successful in my goals.  Each of the graduate students (who is currently teaching in the schools) was able to research and create a 3-5 minute “digital story”  that will provide an explanation to their school audience, class room, or thesis committee the key points related of their topic.  It will also act as a catalyst for instruction. We did have some problems with image size that were addressed by my technology assistant and I learned how to avoid this in future classes.  My students were very happy with how they could use their I-movies and reported in their final evaluation of the course that it pushed them to think about things that were new to them and that they found the process made them think more deeply about the topic they had chosen.


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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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