Published on March 15, 2014
Art Education / July 201112 I nfusing 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 chal- lenges and potential of art and technology infusion (Delacruz, 2009a). Such research offers direc- tions 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. A Learning Ecology Perspective: SchoolSystems SustainingArtTeachingwithTechnology By C h i n g - C h i u L i n This article presents a case study of an art teacher’s adoption of and engagement with technology in association with the admin- istrative support and technological infra- structure 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 technologi- cally 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 develop- ment. Unlike the common ecological under- standings 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 frame- work 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.
July 2011 / Art Education 13 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 reputa- tion for integrating technology into the schoolwide curriculum. Newark’s vision of a technological focus began with the dedica- tion of its previous superintendent, Mr. Roger Sanders, and has since been continued by the current superintendent, Ms. Pauline Berggren. In Berggren’s words, “Mr. Sanders was a tremendous force in making the faculty realize the importance of technology and using technology as a tool in education; not that it’s something separated, but that it’s integrated within the courses” (personal communication, April 24, 2007).3 Carrying on this shared school vision, administrative staff see themselves as a supportive force for teachers, financially ensuring the availability of resources and equipment and retaining responsibility for the school’s overall technical support. For example, the school regularly updates software programs and a collection of stock images and footage, provides several Windows- and Macintosh-specific computer labs for different educational uses, and offers technical and operational support through a full-time technology specialist. Newark’s commitment to technology is also amply illustrated by the faculty’s teaching equipment. For example, William Blidy, an art teacher in his early 30s, has access to one laptop and two desktop computers: one for his studio classroom and another for the computer lab. Blidy also oversees a computer lab with about 30 Apple Macintosh computers that is fully stocked with white screens, camcorders, scanners, and printers. Blidy has expressed his gratitude to succes- sive superintendents and principals as the school has regularly purchased any software programs he requested for the classes. Blidy’s Inspiration Blidy has taught at Newark for about 10 years. As a one-man visual arts department, he has designed and taught all art courses at this school as part of a 4-year visual art curriculum of eight courses classifiable as either hands-on (e.g., Ceramics, Art I, and Design I) or based on digital media (e.g., Computer Graphics and Multimedia). Besides being an art teacher, Blidy serves as the Webmaster for Newark’s school website, the technology workshop instructor for his colleagues, and a teacher-researcher on a funded project that explores the implementa- tion of videoconferencing in art teaching. He also manages an online school art gallery and an art class blog on which he posts students’ artwork and communicates with students and parents online. Blidy attributes most of his proficiency in teaching art with technology to Mr. Sanders, an advocate of school technology innova- tion and the former superintendent. Blidy’s initial encounter with technology began in his first year of teaching art at another high school. At that point, his usage of tech- nology consisted only of scanning pictures to make transparencies of his ceramics class for overhead projection. His later educa- tional use of technology as an art medium was sparked by Sanders’s encouragement, beginning at Blidy’s job interview with a question about teaching a Photoshop class. At that point, Blidy knew little about computer graphics programs but appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow. As he recalls, on his first day of teaching at Newark, Sanders placed a Macintosh computer, scanner, and printer in his art room and Multimedia class conducts a videoconference with Paul Ewen, a producer of public service commercials from New York City.
Art Education / July 201114 continued such encouragement on a regular basis: “Mr. Sanders would bring boxes of software and say, ‘Look, this is a 3D modeling program you might be interested in trying out. Hang on to that for a while’ ” (personal communication, May 3, 2007). With Sanders’s support, Blidy’s knowledge about and experience with teaching art with technology has developed greatly over his 10 years teaching at Newark, mostly through self-instruction: he researches online resources, reads manuals, and tries out the new programs. Blidy also recognizes that the technologically infused partner- ship with his colleagues has broadened his horizon as a teacher, as he frequently modifies his teaching by implementing new ideas taken from his colleagues. In return, understanding only too well the time-consuming process of learning technology alone, Blidy has designed and instructed technology workshops for his colleagues. Though burdened with multiple school duties, he has nevertheless been able to focus on his teaching, freed from concerning himself with the school budget and technical support. As Blidy remarked, “I have always been able to do whatever projects I wanted, and I have never had to worry about supplies or equipment” (personal communication, April 25, 2007). Although the workload at Newark is much heavier than at his previous school, Blidy admits to enjoying the current working environment: “I found the right fit. I think I found the school primarily fit for me” (personal communication, May 3, 2007). In addition, in my observation, Blidy’s achievement stems not only from the support of his colleagues and supervisors but also from his self-expectation of maintaining the quality of his teaching. Constantly seeking ways to improve his practice, Blidy’s perfectionist work ethic pushes him to do his best and never allows him to be satisfied. Blidy’s Instructional Strategies Blidy’s technological knowledge is mostly gleaned from his independent study, which is in turn motivated by a school-wide commitment to technology. Thus his instructional strategies exemplify the cultivation of a two-way collaborative knowledge production between teacher and students. I have observed that in his teaching technology-infused art curricula, Blidy shifted from being the sole source of knowledge about content and media to sharing expertise and authority with students. One major instructional strategy is evident in Blidy’s technology-related classes: program discovery, in which he encourages art student involvement through the explora- tion of software programs. As Blidy notes, he has developed his technology competencies through learning along with students in a school atmosphere that promotes peer assistance and knowledge sharing. When introducing a new software program, he first practices until he knows enough to teach it. He admits to his students that he does not have a full under- standing of the program tools and must learn along with them. Welcoming student input, Blidy then names the techniques after the students who discover it, such as “the Emily effect,” and then uses both the invented and actual names of the program elements interchangeably in his teaching. According to Blidy, his students, in turn, “seem receptive to this strategy and are eager to show me new things” (personal communication, April A screenshot of Newark Community High School’s online art gallery (www.newarkhs.k12.il.us/artgallery/index.html). The technologically infused partnership with Blidy’s colleagues has broadened his horizon as a teacher, as he frequently modifies his teaching by implementing new ideas taken from his colleagues. A screenshot of Mr. Blidy’s art classes blog (http://nchsart.blogspot.com/).
July 2011 / Art EducAtion 15 23, 2007). Within this all-learning-together environment, the art students seem less anxious about figuring out the software programs. In fact, they become visibly attached to the filters uncovered by their peers and themselves, as well as being willing to try these tools out and take the initiative in exploring the programs. Art Student Responses Blidy’s art students commented on the ease of learning technology, career preparation, and the collaboration related to their technology-enriched learning environ- ment. Although Blidy teaches sophisticated computer graphics and video editing programs, his students reported that learning these programs is not difficult. For example, Steve and Ashlee4 pointed out that Blidy always begins with small components so students can become familiar with the program techniques and imperceptibly develop their abilities to operate the applications. Likewise, Lindsey noted that Blidy makes it easy to adapt to new programs by comparing similar tools and concepts among several graphic programs. Having acquired the confidence to operate the program, the students enjoy expressing their ideas and trust that Blidy will help them to realize their ideas through the chosen medium and tools. Because of this trusting relationship, Blidy’s students are willing to take up the challenges he lays down. For instance, several students remarked that Blidy pushes his students to try their best but still respects student opinions and decisions. Referring to how strenuous and time consuming video production and graphic design can be, Ashlee and Ian admitted that Blidy’s encouragement and support have stimulated their persistence in challenging and refining their assignments. Exhibiting little panic at handling sophisticated computer programs, Jason and Emily acknowledged their technological knowledge has built up gradually through sequential learning in a step-by-step process. The art students are also aware of how Newark’s computer-enabled environment affects their learning by exposing them to technology in various other subjects: for example, learning video editing and photo manipu- lation programs in keyboarding class, creating a blog in history class, or making a video of a student-acted play in literature class. Thus, Ian reported an awareness of being “in an environment where we can put all our ideas and efforts into computer” (personal communica- tion, May 3, 2007), with which Lindsay concurred: “The atmosphere here at school is very computer friendly. It doesn’t matter what classes you take, you’ve got to be in contact with computers at some point” (personal communication, May 14, 2007). Technology also serves student career aspirations at Newark as staff and faculty convey to their students that technological competence is imperative in both society and the workplace. Affected by this orientation, many students see their learning with technology as a serious part of building for their careers and post-secondary education opportunities. Likewise, the art students commented on the school culture that values peer-assistance in learning technology. As they are encouraged to learn from, help, and inspire each other, they are exposed to technology-related collaboration and competition. Thus, Madison remarked that audience response was part of her motivation in making her video in Blidy’s class because the students have high expecta- tions for their peers’ digital productions, while Ellie reflected she got to work with friends constantly because most of her school projects required technology-involved cooperation among her peers. Student artwork showcases in the school hallway.Mr. Blidy’s computer lab.
Art Education / July 201116 Implications for Art Education Three particular implications of my study relate to the question of how school administrators and teachers can work together toward the development of a technology-enriched learning environment. Ecological Attention to Technology Integration The case study presented serves as an example, from a learning ecology perspective, of how a school can achieve tech- nological innovation. Newark can be viewed as an ecosystem of learning that sustains the network between its members (admin- istrators, teachers, and students), who work together toward a shared value of developing student potential through technology integration. This learning model highlights a set of collabora- tive efforts from institutional, pedagogical, and organizational aspects. It serves as an important reminder to both educa- tional policymakers and school practitioners across disciplines that successful school technology innovations are tied to the contextual relationship among the technological participations of all school members. Within this model, the understanding of technology moves beyond its function as a tool to highlight its social practice that involves human interaction and collaboration served by technology. Just as members of school communities can view school in general as an ecological system that supports interrelated collaborations between all roles, the responsibility and development of infusing technology into art education practice are shared and formed among administrators, teachers, and students. A Human Infrastructure for Supporting Art Teachers’ Technological Engagement Blidy’s case suggests that school support can significantly affect an art teacher’s use of technology. Research has shown that issues like time constraints, lack of resources, and limited support make the use of digital media a continual challenge to art teachers’ ability to maintain professional competen- cies (Delacruz, 2004, 2009b; Gregory, 2009). Moreover, such challenges influence art teachers’ motivation to implement technology in the classroom; they suggest a need for a “healthy human infrastructure and a functional and convenient technical infrastructure” that can stimulate teachers’ motivation to use technology in school settings (Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon, & Byers, 2002, p. 512). Obviously, overwork is common for dedicated teachers, but the difference lies in its consequences: Whereas satisfaction with working conditions motivates teacher dedica- tion, frustration with it diminishes teacher vitality. Even though many art teachers are resourceful and persistent in overcoming the obstacles to exposing students to the technology-infused art learning experience, providing art teachers with adequacy of resources and support in their technology uses can effectively encourage them to make changes in teaching and learning. Particularly, when art teachers have no need to worry about issues like technical maintenance, computer system compat- ibility, or negotiation of technology-related policies and procedures, they can dedicate most of their energy to innovative pedagogical practice. The Art Teacher as a School Technology Leader in Sustaining a School Technology Plan As Nardi and O’Day (1999) observed, “teacher leaders are nurtured with an ecology of information that supports diverse partners staying connected in continuous evolution and growth, and where local experience and experimentation provides guidance to a larger-scale planning and implementation process” (p. 75). My study provides evidence that technologically competent art teachers are capable of assuming such leadership positions in schools. An art teacher can act as a school tech- nology facilitator and leader to assist other teachers’ technology adaptation and implementation. Such an approach to the growth of teachers is important because it responds directly to teachers’ need for efficient professional development and practical knowledge. Why art teachers? Blidy, as the technology leader at Newark, offers an example of the deep ties between art education and technological innovation in teaching. His technological knowl- edge has enabled him to teach technology workshops to his colleagues. In these workshops, Blidy shares his teaching strate- gies and experiences, discusses ways to integrate digital media into a variety of subjects, offers applicable examples that can be modified to teachers’ situated teaching contexts, and encourages teachers to consider the aesthetic quality of their technology- infused presentations and projects in terms of effective visual communication. Commenting on Blidy’s school technology leadership, Newark’s Superintendent Berggren, herself a former art teacher, said, “Art itself is an integrated subject, and Blidy’s knowledge in art and technology helps the faculty to see the connections among subjects they teach and new technologies” (personal communication, March 21, 2007). Many of Blidy’s colleagues also showed respect for his contribution to Newark’s reputation for technology integration by positively commenting on his ability to oversee the technological potential and inspire other teachers’ technological engagements. In fact, scholarship on teachers’ need for productive, practical professional development in technology infusion has strongly suggested employing art teachers as school technology leaders (Dunn, 1996). It is important for administrators and teachers to recognize this value, since art teachers as technology leaders are capable of offering strength and expertise in coping with sustainable school technology innovation, as well as working with colleagues across subjects as a team to undertake the chal- lenges and opportunities arising from their technology use. The art teacher’s leadership is especially relevant to a school’s professional development program in technology, which helps to promote a school-wide commitment of pursuing a balance of creative and critical inquiries in the information age. Why art teachers? Blidy, as the technology leader at Newark, offers an example of the deep ties between art education and technological innovation in teaching.
July 2011 / Art Education 17 Barron, B. (2006). Interest and self- sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning ecologies perspective. Human Development, 49(4), 193-224. Bastos, F. (2010). Editorial: New media art education. Art Education, 63(1), 4-5. Black, J. (2009). Necessity is the mother of invention: Changing power dynamics between teachers and students in wired art classrooms. Canadian Review of Art Education, 36, 75-118. Brown, J. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work and education and the ways people learn. Change, 11-20. Bruce, B. (1998). The disappearance of technology: Toward an ecological model of literacy. In D. Reinking, M. McKenna, L. Labbo, & R. Kieffer (Eds.), Handbook of literacy and technology: Transformations in a post-typographic world (pp. 269-281). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Burton, D. (2010). Web-based student art galleries. Art Education, 63(1), 47-52. Castro, J. (2009). An inquiry into knowing, learning, and teaching art through new and social media. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of British Columbia. Delacruz, E. (2004). Teachers’ working conditions and the unmet promise of technology. Studies in Art Education, 46(1), 6-19. Delacruz, E. (2009a). Old world teaching meets the new digital cultural creatives. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 28(3), 261-268. Delacruz, E. (2009b). Art educa- tion aims in the age of new media: Moving toward global civil society. Art Education, 62(5), 13-18. Dunn, P. (1996). More power: Integrated interactive technology and art education. Art Education, 49(6), 6-11. Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age: Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should we take now? Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246-259. Gregory, D. (2009). Boxes with fires: Wisely integrating learning tech- nologies into the art classroom. Art Education, 62(3), 47-54. Mayo, S. (2007) Implications for art education in the third millennium: Art technology integration. Art Education, 60(5), 45-51. Nardi, B., & O’Day, V. (1999). Information ecologies: Using tech- nology with heart. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Phelps, R., & Maddison, C. (2008). ICT in the secondary visual arts class- room: A study of teachers’ values, attitudes and beliefs. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 1-14. Roland, C. (2010). Preparing art teachers to teach in a new digital landscape. Art Education, 63(1), 17-24. Shin, R. (2010). Taking digital creativity to the art classroom: Mystery box swap. Art Education, 63(2), 38-42. Sweeny, R. (2004). Lines of sight in the “network society.” Studies in Art Education, 46(1), 74-87. Taylor, P., Carpenter, S., Ballengee- Morris, C., & Sessions, B. (2006). Interdisciplinary approaches to teaching art in high school. Reston, VA: National Art Education Association. Wood, J. (2004). Open minds and a sense of adventure: How teachers of art & design approach technology. The International Journal of Art & Design Education, 23(2), 179-191. Zhao, Y., & Frank, K. (2003). Factors affecting technology uses in schools: An ecological perspective. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840. Zhao, Y., Pugh, K., Sheldon, S., & Byers, J. (2002). Conditions for classroom technology innovations. Teachers College Record, 104(3), 482-515. References Endnotes 1The notion of learning in this article refers both to art teachers’ professional growth in teaching art with technology and to students’ digitally mediated learning experience. 2 The school and faculty names have been used with their permission. 3 All quotes are taken from individual interviews with the research participants. 4 All student names are pseudonyms. Conclusion The case study of Newark Community High School’s commit- ment to technology, together with art teacher William Blidy’s technology engagement, presents one possibility of how the promise of technology innovation can be delivered in a public school setting from administrators to faculty and students. Although the success of this case ties to its context of the entire network relationship, this study shows the need for a technolog- ical infrastructure in sustaining a technology-enriched learning environment for art education. It also highlights a necessity of examining the practice of art and technology integration as posited in contexts and relationships, rather than looking into the single element, such as the teacher or digital media per se. As art teachers’ knowledge about, attitudes toward, and practices of technology are considerably conditioned by the adequacy of resources and support in the workplace, this article reminds policymakers and school administrators about their powerful and important role in providing frontline teachers with func- tional infrastructure and institutional support. Such support not only can contribute to working conditions that facilitate teacher engagement with technology, but also can provide students with a positive learning climate and a dynamic school culture. Indeed, given enabling conditions, art teachers are capable of integrating technology into their teaching, acting in the role of school technology leaders, sharing their expertise with colleagues, and contributing to school technology innovation. Ching-Chiu Lin is Faculty Advisor, Teacher Education Office, at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org NAEA Awards Nomination Deadline The deadline for the submission of nominations for most 2012 NAEA Awards is October 1, 2011. Watch www.arteducators.org/awards for revised guidelines for 2012 award submissions. For additional information, contact Kathy Duse, Executive Assistant and Convention/Programs Coordinator: awards@ arteducators.org, 703-889-1281.
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