Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Classroom Adjustments for Spring (based on NCECA programing)

I just got back from the NCECA conference in Milwaukee. It was nice to see people from college and graduate school. It was also nice to spend some time with my parents. I found a couple of really useful things in the conference programming and saw some interesting shows.

NCECA 2014 conference program

I've been having fun the last few days preparing my new spring quarter Intro to Clay class with some of the NCECA ideas in mind. The class is new to me this quarter. It had been on the books years ago but I made adjustments to it last spring and put it back on the schedule this year. I was on sabbatical in the fall and busy with something else in winter, so this will the first time I get to teach the "new" course.

posters and magazines and bags from the NCECA conference

The best thing I went to as part of the conference programming was a topical discussion called "Immaterial World" led by Sara Parent-Ramos. The online description indicated that we would focus on classroom structure and using new technologies in the classroom, something I am very interested in. Unfortunately the listing in the physical conference program gave the correct title and name, followed by an unrelated description, so attendance was sparse and people were a little confused. Ironic, I think, that those of us using technology to plan our conference activities got the correct description and people looking only at the paper booklet were misled.

the erroneous program description (with my edits)

The topical discussion focused on flipping the classroom and ways to use blogs, online student portfolios, videos, and video-conferencing to support student learning. I went to the discussion because I've started to do some of these things but would like to know how other people are using them. I figured I was just trying stuff out and didn't really know what I was supposed to do. The discussion, as it turned out, felt like a validation of what I am already doing.

When the discussion leader introduced the topic, she asked if the audience knew what it meant to flip the class. I indicated that I was familiar with the term since I regularly flip my Art Appreciation class and occasionally my design class. I explained how my students come to class having done the readings, then, during class, instead of lecturing, the students discuss, present or do a group activity based on their reading. Instead of being the "empty vessels" filled with knowledge by the "sage on the stage" the students are active in their own learning, spending class time applying what they've learned or articulating their knowledge as they present to their classmates. The discussion in class is more detailed and more valuable since the students are building on and refining their knowledge base rather than hearing the information for the first time.

Parent-Ramos then went on to talk about other technologies people are using in the classroom and why these technologies might be beneficial. She made a point of saying that technology should be an means to an end. My mom and I had been having an ongoing discussion about 3D printed work at the conference shows. There seemed to be excitement about this particular new technology, but I saw few examples where people are using it to do something they couldn't do using traditional throwing or hand-building techniques. This is an example of using new technology just because you can.

Printed work by Del Harrow at "Flow" (the NCECA Invitational exhibition). Why couldn't this work be thrown on the wheel?
The next day I went to a co-lecture about work being done at Otis College of Art. They showed examples of work created using a 3D printer, but also talked about their policy: if the work could easily be done using other methods, do it that way. The technology could only be used if it was the most appropriate way to achieve the form. The result was pieces where the technology was the means, not just an expensive toy to replicate existing forms.
Printed work by Christopher Basil Fong. This would be tough to throw or build with slabs.
The other interesting bit of the panel discussion was the conversation with other people using, or trying to use, new technologies or to adjust the classroom structure. I am apparently not the only one to make my poor students keep blogs of their work for class. Lots of folks are putting up videos of their own demonstrations for students, but this discussion was the first I had heard of using video-conferencing in the classroom. Parent-Ramos suggested using video chats to connect classes with artists who are geographically distant. The video-conferencing could be used to introduce students to other artists' work or methods, to demonstrate techniques using equipment not available locally and even to invite a "guest artist" to hold critiques with students at another campus. Exciting stuff! I'm looking forward to exploring more of these options.

The discussion gave me the sense that I am already doing somethings right. This confirmation and the ideas and suggestions from various participants got me thinking of ways I can increase my use of these technologies and classroom structure adjustments. Interestingly, though I frequently flip my other classes, I hadn't really incorporated much flipping into my clay classes. I have the students watch videos, handle pottery, and even read articles outside of class, but I've often considered this as supplemental to the class. Since it was the way I learned, I always assumed that clay class was for demonstration; homework time was for practice. I appreciated Parent-Ramos' phrasing of the issue: she said any information that can be "poured" into the students can be flipped. Students, in this approach, can watch demonstrations outside of class time, and come with that knowledge base. Then the classroom demonstrations are building on a foundation of knowledge, rather than starting from scratch.

new physical resources to supplement the virtual resources we discussed
Another idea brought up in the discussion was that instructor should act as a guide to help the students discover new information and help them navigate the resources. I've prepared some assignments and hand-outs for my students that are a kind of introductory guide to the world of out-of-class demonstration videos, new techniques and new ceramic artistss. I will give the students some choice in what they study outside of class and ask them to bring their favorites to class (or to one of our online resources). I can never cover, in class, everything that might be of interest to my students, but with this approach, the students will bring their own research and discoveries to class. It will be interesting to discover what they they find valuable on their own..

1 comment:

  1. Just read The Penland School of Crafts Book if Pottery. I got some ideas on how to use ribs to reinforce columns for large sculptures.


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