Teachers' Working Conditions and the Unmet Promise of Technology

Article excerpt

I consider the promise of computer-facilitated technologies for enriching the practice of teaching art. Selected art education writings highlight the potential of computer technologies for K-12 art education. In search of an understanding of K-12 teachers' experiences and perceptions about technology utilization, I examine aspects of teachers' widely varying technology working conditions. Research on technology and other staff development initiatives are then shared as they inform my own inquiries. In conclusion, I offer recommendations for those interested in facilitating teacher utilization of current and emerging technologies.

Working in an electronic age is both exhilarating and frustrating for teachers and teacher educators. Currently, many United States schools are outfitted with sophisticated networked computing facilities. Technology standards are listed by state boards of education as essential components of a K-12 education. School districts expect teachers to apply new technologies in their classrooms. Writings in art education highlight the promise that electronic technologies have for this profession. But what assumptions are made about teachers and their ability to join the technology revolution? Although I share a sense of optimism about the potential of technology, I seek to understand working conditions that impact teachers' incentives and abilities to integrate new technologies into their professional lives. I base my recommendations on my past 7 years of working with practicing teachers in varied subject areas and grade levels as they have learned how to utilize computer technologies in their own classrooms.

Technology and Art Education

Art educators have written about the importance of embracing computer technologies for over 20 years. These writings, predominantly descriptive, prescriptive, and promotional, explain the possibilities and values associated with utilizing electronic technologies in the art room. Authors have described how the electronic frontier and the profession of art education fit together, and offer compelling arguments in support (Madeja, 1983; Ettinger, 1988; Hubbard & Greh, 1991; Hicks, 1993; Krug, 1996; Freedman, 1997; Tomaszkiewicz, 1997; Halsey-Dutton, 2002, Garber, 2004). Art educators have explored how laser disc, CD-ROM, hyper-media, the Internet, and distance learning technologies facilitate and/or enrich inquiry (Anderson, 1985; Hubbard, 1989; Marschalek, 1989; Schwartz, 1991; Dunn, 1996; Keifer-Boyd, 1996, 1997; Roland, 1997). Some describe how students learn to make graphic images with computers (Greh, 1986; Stokrocki, 1986; Freedman, 1991; Madeja, 1993). Others consider how technology-savvy art teachers may assume leadership positions in their schools (Dunn, 1996). Art educators have suggested that teachers might write their own software programs (Gregory, 1989), or design educational web pages (Marschalek, 2002). Many extol the interactivity that occurs among teachers or between teachers and students in designing and engaging curriculum (Dunn, 1996; Heise & Grandgenett, 1996; Koos & Smith-Shank, 1996; Krug, 1996; Keifer-Boyd, 1997; Marschalek, 2002; Carpenter & Taylor, 2003). Studies also draw attention to the interactivity that occurs among students as they learn new skills in computer labs (Freedman, 1991; Chia and Duthie, 1993).

In recent years, art educators have also talked about how computer-facilitated inquiry can contribute to an examination of postmodern conceptions of art (Efland, Freedman, & Stuhr, 1996). Some suggest ways to engage students in consideration of philosophical, sociological, and political dimensions of the technology revolution (Freedman, 1991; Duncum, 1995-1996; Freedman, 1997; Garoian & Gaudelius, 2001; Krug, 2002; Freedman, 2003). Recent writings have explained how a technology-enhanced curriculum facilitates constructivist educational goals (Prater, 2001; Carpenter & Taylor, 2003). And writers have acclaimed the dialogical and liberatory aspects of hypermedia and electronic communication networks (Carpenter & Taylor, 2003). …