Leadership and Research: Reimagining Electronic Technologies for Supporting Learning through the Visual Arts

Article excerpt

Can you imagine teaching art in a world without paper, paint, and clay, or for that matter, without a sink or a classroom? For some teachers and students, this day arrived over 80 years ago with "snail-mail" correspondence courses and more recently through online distance education. For many of us, virtual education is unthinkable, when we consider the pleasure and significance that resonates in the rich sensory and cognitive experiences of making art. Then again, paper, paint, and clay were new technologies at one point, just as digital media was new when Charles Csuri made his first computer generated artwork back in 1963.

Electronic technologies inundate our daily lives through wired and wireless networks, televisions, computers, handhelds, phones, and a wide array of digital and analogue devices. 1 Using electronic technologies in schools, and in informal settings, has brought cyber- and real-life experiences together, influencing how people mediate virtuality composed of diverse forms of visual culture within their own communities and with people from around the world (Krug, 2002). Electronic technologies transform the ways people live, relax, learn, work, and play.

Art educators, and educators in general, have reached a crossroads regarding leadership and research of educational technologies. It is time to analyze critically our own positions, practices, and policies concerning the effective use of technology in learning. Leadership and research are now required to reimagine how technologies can be effectively integrated to support and enhance pedagogical practices. How has, does, and will technology literacy, technological fluency, and technology integration effectively support and enhance learning in and through the visual arts?

Technology Literacy encompasses "the ability to responsibly use appropriate technology to communicate, solve problems, and access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information to improve learning in all subject areas and to acquire lifelong knowledge and skills in the 21st Century."2

Technological Fluency explicitly includes the dynamic contexts of educational settings and the continuous need for professional engagement. The "power of technology" should not be assumed to effect learning. We should be asking: What are the necessary skills and forms of knowledge for technological fluency?

Technology Integration has become a pressure point in education that needs our attention. The infusion of technology in pedagogical practices moves on a continuum from entry to adaption and from adaption to transformation. To succeed in integrating technology within educational settings, The Milken Exchange on Education Technology (1998) suggests seven contextual dimensions for gauging its effectiveness:

Learners. Are learners using technology in ways that deepen their understanding of subject area content and, at the same time, advancing their knowledge of themselves, other peoples, and their world?

Learning Environments. Is the learning environment designed to engage participants in research-proven learning practices, rigorous curricular content, and contemporary technology?

Professional Competency. Is the educator fluent with technology and does she/he effectively use technology to the learning advantage of her/his students?

System Capacity. Is the education system changing sufficiently to systematically meet the needs of learners in a knowledge-based, global society?

Community Connections. Is the school-community relationship one of trust and respect, and is this translating into mutually beneficial, sustainable partnerships in the area of learning technologies?

Technology Capacity. Are technologies, networks, electronic resources, and support available to meet the educational system's learning goals?

Accountability. Is there agreement on what success with technology looks like? Are there methods in place, and time scheduled, to assess learning and report results? …