I have mentioned in previous posts the profound effect my most recent Walden University Graduate course, Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work and Society, has had on me. I entered into the course with an unfortunate attitude that I knew what there was to know about technology, the internet and my classroom. I had worked as a Graphic Designer at a software company, I teach Computer Graphics, and I had already created and used a class blog. What could a class whose text was called “Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts” (Richardson, 2009) possibly teach me? In other words, I thought I knew it all. Luckily, I learned the hard lesson that I have a tremendous amount to learn and do. I had been approaching technology in the classroom in all the wrong ways. As Dr. David Thornburg has so cleverly explained, I was putting “old wine in new bottles,” and doing old things differently rather than doing different or new things (Laureate, 2008a). My blog was nothing more than an online lecture or bulletin board made by me, rather than an interactive communication space where my students are the authors and contributors. I was stuck firmly in Web 1.0. I had heard of and used blogs, wikis and podcasts, so this class did not teach me new technology, but new ways to apply technology. I either did not understand or did not appreciate the flexibility and power of wikis, and the first thing I want to do when I get back into my classroom is get started using them for Artistic critiques. I want to create a yearlong arc of projects and skills that serve a purpose and are building skills that are not only important in Art and technology but important in life. I feel like this class has given me more of a purpose as an educator, and that is due, in large part to the 21st Century Skills we learned about.
When thinking about student achievement and the use of technology to meet that goal, I cannot help but think that 21st Century Skills are the answer. They are the big picture goals that I have been looking for. I can have my students use computers to make Art, but if there is no greater purpose behind the Art pieces I have them make or the skills that I teach them, then my projects are just isolated activities. They certainly teach my students valuable skills and concepts but they are not working in concert to realize a larger objective. Using the 10 or so 21st Century Skills listed by both Dr. Thornburg (Laureate, 2008b) and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, I can incorporate technology into each of my projects and also keep the bigger picture (what will be important for success in the future) in mind. If I made small adjustments in each of my projects, two of which I will address below, while also making sure that I am promoting 21st Century Skills, I can help but help my students achieve more because I will be equipping them with life skills that they will use their whole lives long. There are things that I am doing in my classroom, like critiques and demonstrations that would be better suited and more interactive if they were done by the students online. It would be impossible in some of my classes, like Darkroom Photography, to do everything on the computer, but there are creative and intelligent ways to integrate technology into aspects of my classroom that I am not currently employing.
I have two major long term goals to expand technology integration and incorporate 21st Century Skills into my classroom. The first is that I would like to promote Self-Direction, which Dr. Thornburg listed as a critical skill in the future. A student blog can be used for a student to react to a new project and set a personal goal, such as improving craftsmanship, use of color or composition. Once a student is able to verbalize a personal goal, they will feel more invested in a project, like they are doing something for themselves and not just their teacher. I have seen other Art teachers have great success with reflection check lists or journal entries, and I think a blog would be an excellent forum for such an exercise. A student who feels personally invested in a project is working for themselves, not for a grade or for the approval of a teacher, and such an attitude can lead to success in any career or lifestyle. Secondly, I would like to improve the communication skills of my students, as I have struggled with this every year I have taught in the High School. I would use a wiki for students to run small group critiques of ongoing projects. The reason that I feel like a wiki is an appropriate forum for critiquing is that it gives a student a moment to think and formulate a thought on an artwork before having to respond. In a live critique students often feel like they are put on the spot; and a few thoughtful sentences written at home can be far more valuable than a verbal response off the cuff. Also, I think that students should prepare artists statements or to be able to talk about his or her work after it is complete. The ability to articulate one’s thought process and ideas is important, and this is something I want to help my students develop. With 21st Century Skills as a foundation, and technology as my tools, I feel like I can not only teach art, but I can teach my students how to become successful adults.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010a). The Emergence of educational technology. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society. Laureate Education, Inc.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2008b). Skills for the 21st century. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society. Laureate Education, Inc.
Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wiks, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.