Computer Hypertextual "Uncovering" in Art Education

Article excerpt

Teaching for understanding is a traditional goal in education that is enhanced through what curriculum theorists Wiggins and McTighe (1998) called "uncovering." In this article the authors describe the ways that interactive computer technology--hypertext--facilitates this act of "uncovering" as students try out ideas, formulate questions, and rethink previous knowledge to reveal personal connections and associations among complex, abstract, and counterintuitive ideas. Using examples from high school and university graduate and undergraduate art education classes, the authors reveal ways that hypertextual uncovering transforms the traditional "hands-on" practice of teaching and learning in art to a "minds-on" approach that involves explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge.


"Understanding" through such hands-on activities as artmaking and critique has been a traditional goal in art education for many years. Teachers demonstrate and teach artmaking techniques or media following a discussion of a work of art and the artist responsible for its creation. Students then try out this newly acquired information by making something with their hands and the materials available to them. Aesthetics, criticism, and art history--the other aspects of the art world--are taught through research and course readings that are then discussed and "tried-out" through practical "hands-on" activities. Such activities may include formal class discussion, critique, and individual and group work. The goal of these "hands-on" activities is student understanding attained through practical application. The hope is that as students practically apply new knowledge and information they will try out possible solutions, formulate questions, and rethink previous knowledge to reveal personal connections and associations among complex, abstract, and counterintuitive ideas. Assessing, evaluating, and/or charting this process is a constant and continual challenge for art educators. Our students learn in idiosyncratic ways and no matter how many choices of hands-on activities are presented or are available in the classroom, not everyone will respond or understand in authentic ways. Not everyone will make personal connections and associations through hands-on projects. And even if they do, how do we know? How do our students know? How can we more directly involve our students in understanding beyond the art curriculum that which they begin to know in the art classroom?


Education curriculum theorists Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (1998) pointed to the aforementioned understanding process as "uncovering." It could be said that such uncovering is at the heart of the study and making of art. Aesthetician Arthur Danto (1992) looked at art history as a series of erasures of the rules of what could be art, rather than viewing the field as a series of advances or responses to past movements. "And that means that to understand [a work of art] requires reconstruction of the historical and critical perception which motivated it" (p. 47). The context in which the art was made and the context in which we view it affect our artistic interpretation. Such contextual recognition requires us to move past superficial and/or first impressions toward a more sophisticated process of research and thinking through active uncovering.

The idea of uncovering also refers to archeology and the notion that meaning is hidden, buried, and overlooked. That is, researchers and critics uncover meaning embedded within artifacts, material and visual culture, and works of art. Further, some theorists use the metaphor of "layers of meaning," to describe the relative complexity and density of information related to a particular work of art. Artists also consider layered meaning and the act of uncovering content in and through the works of art they produce. For example, contemporary artist Flo Oy Wong's The Baby Jack Rice Story (1993-1996) documents the story of her husband, Ed Wong, and his childhood experiences living and growing up in the segregated South. …


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