A Learning Ecology Perspective: School Systems Sustaining Art Teaching with Technology

By Lin, Ching-Chiu | Art Education, July 2011 | Go to article overview

A Learning Ecology Perspective: School Systems Sustaining Art Teaching with Technology


Lin, Ching-Chiu, Art Education


Infusing technology into art education practice has been a continuous endeavor for preservice and in-service art teacher education (Bastos, 2010; Mayo, 2007). In recent years, art educators around the world have researched issues related to the preparation of art teacher technology competencies, including art teacher perceptions of working with technology (Black, 2009; Phelps & Maddison, 2008), implementations of digital media in art teaching practice (Shin, 2010; Taylor, Carpenter, Ballengee-Morris, & Sessions, 2006), identifications of the key factors and obstacles of art and technology integration (Delacruz, 2004; Wood, 2004), recommendations of educational resources and applications (Burton, 2010; Gregory, 2009; Roland, 2010), and the challenges and potential of art and technology infusion (Delacruz, 2009a). Such research offers directions and models on what art teachers themselves can do to engage art and digital media more deeply in the art room, yet relatively little evidence exists on the interplay between art teachers' engagement of technology and technological support from the school administration.

This article presents a case study of an art teacher's adoption of and engagement with technology in association with the administrative support and technological infrastructure in a public high school, in which the vision of technology innovation fans out from the school administration to faculty and students. It describes how a technologically supportive school environment can influence the school culture and learning climate, as well as teacher motivation and satisfaction. Adopting a learning ecology perspective that highlights the network of learning relationships, I suggest the need to better understand how learning institutions, contexts, and conditions may support and foster art teachers' professional development in technology.

Toward an Ecology of Learning

A learning ecology perspective (Bruce, 1998; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009) might help art educators to conceptualize the use of technology in relation to art teaching practice and art teacher professional development Unlike the common ecological understandings of art education as an inquiry into the physical conditions of the natural world, the learning ecology perspective employs ecology as a metaphor for describing a space for learning with technology, and learning institutions are seen as an ecological system (Nardi & O'Day, 1999; Zhao & Frank, 2003). John Seely Brown (2000) described an ecology as an "open, complex, adaptive system comprising elements that are dynamic and interdependent" (p. 19), whereas Brigid Barron (2006) defined a learning ecology as the "set of contexts found in physical or virtual spaces that provide opportunities for learning" (p. 195). Such views consider learning not only as existing simply in the minds of individuals, but also as embedded in a network of relationships between participants, practices, pedagogies, and technologies in a situated environment.1 Recently, art educators have responded to the value of an ecological, networked framework in understanding artistic inquiries associated with digital media, examining the dynamic relationships of learning in art and technology infusion (Castro, 2009; Sweeny, 2004). Building on these scholarly insights, this article contributes to an understanding of the contextual interplay of art teachers' technology engagement and support.

Interplay of Technology Engagement and Support

Administrative Support

Newark Community High School is located in a rural Midwestern town with a population of less than 1,000, mostly Caucasians, whose principal industries are construction and agriculture.2 With fewer than 200 students, Newark is the only high school in this district and has a reputation for integrating technology into the schoolwide curriculum. Newark's vision of a technological focus began with the dedication of its previous superintendent, Mr. …

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