Advancing Media Arts Education in Visual Arts Classrooms: Addressing Policy Ambiguities and Gaps in Art Teacher Preparation

Article excerpt

Since the mid-1980s, arts policymakers in Minnesota have positioned media arts -defined as the "study and practice of examining human communication through photography, film or video, audio, computer or digital arts, and interactive media"-within the realm of aesthetic education and considered it one of six arts areas. This article explores the historic policy decisions that led to the nations first academic standards in media arts education. We argue that implementation of these benchmarks in state public schools has been hampered by inservice and preservice art teachers' lack of familiarity with the theory and practice of media arts education. To that end, we propose initiatives that 1) develop an "add-on" certificate program in media arts for licensed arts teachers; and 2) require media arts coursework for preservice teachers seeking admission to arr education licensure programs.

This article critically examines education policy relevant to the Minnesota Academic Standards in the Arts K-1 2 (Minnesota Department of Education [MDE], 2003), specific to media arts. The authors of this article teach in an art education preservice licensure program at an urban Land Grant university. One is an assistant professor who taught photography and visual arts for 1 5 years in K- 12 schools, learning, often from his students, how photographic media and the promise of digital technology were changing artmaking. The other is a licensed art educator, teacher of animation and graphic design at her state's magnet high school for the arts as well as a doctoral student in art education. Our research explores the significance of describing learning in the media arts as aesthetic-based1 and defining the seemingly nebulous media arts as "the study and practice of examining human communication through photography, film or video, audio, computer or digital arts, and interactive media" (King, Ostrom, Paulson, & Richard, 2004, p. mal).We look at how this distinction permitted the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to write policy that establishes boundaries, both theoretical and artistic, for study in a still evolving interdisciplinary field. Furthermore we trace the history of the decision making that in the early 1 990s led to legislation that included these technology driven art forms as one of "six, distinct arts areas: dance, literary arts, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts" (MDE, 2007, emphasis added) in Minnesota's first iteration of standards.

We posit that creating content standards in the media arts represents policymaking that was ahead of its time, but as is often the case, there is evidence of shortsighted decision making both before and after this bold move was made. Examining this process can provide clarity and direction for future policy and classroom work. Mazzoni (1993) reminded us that Minnesota has a reformist tradition of activism in education policy making and considerable capacity for policy innovation. He included teacher certification governance of 1 973 that made licensure in visual art and other subjects mandatory and the charter school law of 1991 that arguably began the "outcome-based schools" movement nationwide, among other moves, as evidence of bold Minnesota policymaking (pp. 358-359).

This article shares findings from our study of media arts education in Minnesota. Fitst, we trace historical developments in art education that foreshadow the migration of electronic media into arts curriculum. Next, we explain our rationale for conducting this research and the centrality to this work of the question "Why have media arts standards not reached capacity statewide?" The sections that follow address that question by examining: 1) the progression of events that led to passage of a body of legislation that situated media arts in Minnesota's arts standards; 2) ambiguities in a policy that failed to legislate what type of licensure a highly qualified media arts teacher should hold; 3) the pronounced and seemingly ignored gaps in the media arts content knowledge of inservice teachers statewide; and 4) a model for a new Minnesota Board of Teaching (MBOT) sanctioned certificate program to enhance the knowledge of licensed art teachers, and new media arts prerequisites for preservice teachers entering art education licensure programs at our university and others. …