Rebecca Heaton on Art and Design Education

Investigating cognition in the creative arts.

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@Tate Modern

How did experiencing Phillippe Parreno’s Turbine Hall exhibit @Tate Modern develop artist teacher cognition? 

Third year artist teachers and I engaged with the Turbine Hall exhibit at the Tate Modern yesterday. We focused on how the work on show was accessible for vulnerable learners of art (Aged 5-11). We know that active art experiences, such as engaging with exhibitions first hand, enable learners, in this case university based artist teachers, to learn, solve problems and map cognitive meaning (Cuncliffe, 1999; Smilan et al 2006). But how did this exhibit specifically aid this learning to occur? The clip below provides an insight into Parrano’s ‘Anywhen’ exhibit the artist teachers and I experienced.

As you can see from the images below Parreno’s work uses the audience as part of the exhibit, the viewer, or in this case inter-actor, is experiencing the art but is also contributing to others experience of it. The artist teachers theorised a number of ways to engage young and vulnerable children with this concept. A couple of examples included 1) allowing children to experience the exhibit in different ways, such as with blind folds on, 2) drawing from different positions, recording sounds and 3) following different pathways through the work. The work is influenced by the concept of perception, the artist teachers made the connection that we all perceive in different ways, children would too.img_0018

One of the strengths of this exhibit is that due to the range of multimedia components used, evolving nature of the work and value of audience presence or lack of it, it naturally suggests accessibility to at least one sensory component. However, the university based artist teachers felt that the work may be far removed from what some children may perceive as art, this is of course dependent on their prior experiences and knowledge, so to make the piece accessible they identified a need to make links to the everyday world of specific children. The artist teachers trialled a number of strategies to achieve this, they included 1) Getting the children to draw their expectations of the piece before experiencing it so that relationships could be created between the two works  2) using a familiar object, such as a toy, household item etc. for the children to add into the exhibit as if they were the artist and 3) exploring the work with a focus on a particular sense, e.g. touch to feel the vibrations, and texture of the materials. By theorising these strategies the artist teachers were able to think about how to break down accessibility barriers for different groups of vulnerable learners such as those with Social, Emotional, Needs or Disabilities (SEND) or those with English as an additional Language (EAL), Traveller Children or children from different socio-economic groups or those with vulnerabilities such as feeling ill on the day of a visit or experiencing a bereavement. 

A personal reflection:

To document a more personal response to Parreno’s exhibit and gallery experience I shared with the university based artist teachers a poetic reflection I created:

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Each capitalised word represents a response to my experience, whilst the word string on each line intends to create visual imagery. I used the digital app Visual Poetry, to provide another metaphorical representation of my response and experience, suggesting that it is the connections involved in the experience, collaboration and reflection that have led to my creation of knowledge. By writing this blog post, generating poetry and creating the image below I have been able to identify how myself and learners are building their cognitive knowledge due to finding space to reflect. Through experience and reflection we built an understanding of self and other (Henry and Verica, 2015). We questioned contemporary culture through art experience, engaged with identities and generated knowledge in a collaborative capacity  to develop our cognition. 

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References:

Cuncliffe, L. (1999) Learning how to learn, art education and the ‘background’. Journal of Art and Design Education, 18.1, 115-121.

Smilan, C. Kakourou-Chroni, G. and Ricardo, R. (2006). Art Education at the intersection of creativity: Integrating art to develop multiple perspectives for identifying and solving social dilemmas in the 21st century. Worlds Arts Alliance. http://www.unesco.org/culture/en/artseducation/pdf/presentation104cathysmilan.pdf

Henry, S.E. and Verica, J. M. (2015) (Re)visioning the Self Through ArtEducational Studies, 51.2, 153-167.

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Cognition in a digital artefact

In response to the workshop discussed in the recent post How does art speak to enable cognition? in which a group of trainee teachers discussed the meaning of aesthetic discourse in art education, I have created a Sway to respond to it. The Sway, which is a digital artefact, draws together fundamental thoughts from my own, students and academics perspectives on the term. In this post I will attempt to discuss how creating this digital artefact has engendered thinking around cognition. Aesthetic Discourse Sway

Digital artefacts as art forms:

As an art teacher what constitutes an art form can be a controversial issue, What is art? is an age old question which many educators have deliberated (Duncum and Bracey, 2001; Hickman, 2005; Fleming, 2012; Edwards 2014). In short the academics referred to here summarise art as a concept generated in the minds of people, that adapts over time and communicates meaning or expresses creative skill. If I relate this to the Sway created here one could suggest it is a creative form of expression in which I have shared the opinions of others, it is generated through the compilation of others ideas critically addressed in relation to my own. It is a tool of the present time, capturing multi-media content and expresses creative licence through the presentation of visual and textual forms. However, is it really art?

As Hickman and I address in The Sage Handbook of Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment (2016), in our Chapter on Visual Art (Pages 343-358) the benefits of digital art tools are that creators can experience the cultures of others, generate new knowledge relevant to the time and diversify their practice building interdisciplinary bridges. These comments still resonate with my own practice, the digital tool Sway has enabled me to develop my own learning through engagement with a new tool, the beauty being that the tool is relevant to me as artist, teacher and researcher. I can visually present content with aesthetic control, as a teacher I can use the artefact as an interactive presentation device and as a researcher I have been able to gain feedback from those I share the outcomes of the work with. Of course this can also be achieved through more traditional artistic forms but digital artefacts can be edited multiple times with ease, shared socially in a quick time frame and can capture global commentary from others on the same platform within the same program.

Cognitive development through the creation of a digital artefact:

This particular digital artefact developed my cognition in the following ways, firstly it encouraged risk taking, I was reluctant albeit a little excited to create a piece of art on a digital program I had not encountered before. However, it was not without its small frustrations, although intuitive in terms of colour schemes I initially felt frustrated that I could not move objects around the screen with ease to reposition them in what I deemed to be more aesthetically pleasing way to the artist eye. This dilemma, enabled me to further understand how I think when engaging in art making (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2012). I intuitively expect to be able to maintain control over my own aesthetic output and when restricted build frustration. I became more consciously aware here of my own practice (Eisner, 2002) as an artist and a learner. In terms of cultural meaning (Efland, 2002) my awareness of digital presentation tools grew. I became equipped with a new tool to use in my own teaching, I like how the digital facility can bring in social media of our time, although I did not use the facility to embed tweets I can appreciate how this could be useful when presenting to my own students in future. I could generate discussion and set tasks that are relevant to live discussions taking place on social platforms, a new direction for university based academia, this tool alone will transform the way I teach. The tool also captures the movements of my mind (Sullivan 2005) particularly in relation to the format of the artwork, it utilises a scrolling technique similar to that on a blog page, allowing my thoughts to be organised and edited as they develop using multiple formats of transcognitive expression.

References:

Duncum, P. and Bracey, P. (2001). On Knowing: Art and Visual Culture. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press.

Edwards, J. (2014). Teaching Primary Art. Harlow: Pearson.

Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Efland, A. (2002). Art and cognition. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fleming, M. (2012). The Arts in Education. Abington: Routledge.

Hickman, R. (2005). What is art? Bristol: Intellect.

Hickman, R. and Heaton, R. (2016). Visual Art. The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. London: SAGE

Sternberg, R. Sternberg, K. (2012) Cognition. (6th ed.) Canada: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

 

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#EdDConf16

On 25th June 2016 Cambridge University EdD students collaborated to participate in the annual Education Doctoral conference. This years theme resonated around the concept of reflexivity. The thinglink below shares a research community contribution from participants in the Well-being and Creativity Research Group. I had the role of collating the groups contributions into this thinglink design to share our contributions during a presentation. In this post I will summarise the conference experience and will discuss how aspects of the conference resonate with my own research on cognition. 

Using the thinglink above I hoped to generate an artefact that would fuel aesthetic discourse around our groups key contributions. The artwork which hosts the groups content is a visual metaphor for our evolving EdD experience. All members of our group are on individual and collaborative research journeys, these journeys can be turbulent and frequently change direction, as a result of reflexivity the map like structure articulates this. Maps can be read or interpreted in different ways, you can take different routes to reach similar destinations and you can be influenced by people or experiences en route, this parallels with a doctorate. Different themes and events hold significance for each group member and these are shared through hotspots on the multimedia thinglink.

Conference Key Themes:

Word cloud

A few of the key concepts that were explored at the conference include: a) The meaning of reflexivity in a modern world, b) Reflexivity of the self, practice and professions and c) Physical and digital writing strategies. The word cloud above also depicts other themes discussed.

Professor Pat Thompson started the conference with a keynote concerning reflexive strategies in the contemporary world, a significant statement made was that we are all reflexive beings in todays life. Her presentation focused on how to deal with this in relation to research and how research can assist us in making informed choices about educational practice. The three images below further illuminate the messages touched upon.

Image one illuminates different forms of reflexivity, to contribute to this I am aware that reflexivity has been defined as a cause and effect process (Scott and Morrison, 2005) which can affect both the researcher and researched. When writing reflexively, through an artistic, poetic or as I believe technologic self, fluidity in research stories can be articulated (Reed-Danahay, 1997; Spry, 2001). This blog for example acts as an element of my personal reflexive self, in which as Pat Thompson suggests different modes of reflexivity may emerge. It would be interesting to analyse blog content in relation to reflexive forms to identify how I use this within my own research practice, an area in which the conference has evoked my thinking.

Image two moves the keynote story forward to consider how blogging the doctoral self contributes to the reflexive process. Suggestions made included scholary presence, knowledge sharing, the valuable nature of slow thought and pleasure. I can empathise with these ideas, blogging has enabled me to explore who I am as an art educator, this identity is still emerging. It  provides a platform to share thinking as it develops, enables a step back, self reflection and brings pleasure, if I’m honest tension also emerges-mainly in relation to what content or how much to share. But the ability to blog is proving so valuable to me as a multi-media tool to engage all components of myself: artist, teacher, researcher, learner, writer etc. in my doctoral story. To contribute to the consideration of how blogs can be used and analysed in higher education myself and colleague Helen Caldwell have recently published an article exploring this domain. Caldwell, H. and Heaton, R. (2016). The interdisciplinary use of blogs and communities in teacher education. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology. 33.3, 142-158. 

Image three determines a selection of the different categories doctoral blogs can come under, this led to discussions about how social media and a digital presence in general influences and impacts upon the doctoral self. Grushka (2007) discusses how exhibitions provide glimpses into artists’ worlds, enabling interpretations and reflections on the self and society whilst providing validation of self knowledge. As an artist and blogger, I feel this transcends across to my own discipline, if Joseph Beuys is correct stating we are all artists, then we are all able to exhibit our reflexive self, it is how we do this which becomes influential.

The messages shared in Professor Thompson’s keynote were revisited, revised and remodelled throughout the conference. EdD community groups presented, as identified in the thing link above, posters were shared and student presentations made. The conference became a web of connectivity and reinforced the value of reflexive collaboration in EdD journeys.

Conference Cognition:

In relation to how my own cognition developed through this experience I can honestly say that I am beginning to understand some of the ways in which I think (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2012), I am gaining awareness of my own consciousness as an art educator (Eisner, 2002). For example the narrative of this blog is helping me to make cognitive connections between my ideas whilst helping me to build an identity and awareness of my own culture and position in it. Learning connections are being made by writing and sharing digital content, this is fuelled by the reflexive process (Sullivan, 2005), I am capturing the movements of my mind in a two fold reflexive process by reflecting on experiences then reflecting upon these reflections. This strategy, which I have only just become aware of (an example of miscognition (Tavin, 2010) perhaps) is the entity which is helping me to understand how I am learning and engaging actively with my own transcognition (Sullivan, 2010).

References:

Caldwell, H. and Heaton, R. (2016). The interdisciplinary use of blogs and communities in teacher education. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology. 33.3, 142-158. 

Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Grushka, K. (2005). Artists as reflective self‐ learners and cultural communicators: an exploration of the qualitative aesthetic dimension of knowing self through reflective practice in art‐ making, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 6:3, 353-366. DOI: 10.1080/14623940500220111

Reed-Danahay, D. (ed) (1997). Auto/ethnography: Rewriting the self and the social. Oxford: Berg.

Scott, D. and Morrison, M. (2006). Key ideas in educational research. London: Continuum.

Spry, T. (2001). Performing auto-ethnography: An embodied methodological praxis. Qualitative Inquiry, 7, 706-732. Retrieved from: http://qix.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/6/706

Sternberg, R. Sternberg, K. (2012) Cognition. (6th ed.) Canada: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Sullivan, G. (2005, 2010). Art practice as research. (1st and 2nd eds.). London: SAGE

Tavin, K. (2010). Six acts of mis-cognition: Implications for art education. Studies in Art Education,52.1, 55-68.

 

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iPads and innovation

After attending two great iPad professional development courses hosted by Apple Education and the iPad Academy at Enysham Hall and Silverstone Study Centre it became apparent just how prolific the shift in teaching and learning pedagogy is when mobile technology is involved. The creative potential is phenomenal, teachers become facilitators and active learners alongside their students. Fantastic case studies by staff and pupils at Bure Park Primary School: Bicester and the Essa Academy demonstrated how mobile devices have changed teaching and learning in their schools for the better. Both schools identified the importance of enabling pupils to explore skills which may be used in the work place while also mentioning how mobile technologies allowed pupils to explore their world as it changed while keeping up to date with technological developments. Academic progress was not forgotten, by learning alongside each other and through focused personalised learning it was identified that the increased access to instant communicative forms may have had an impact on language development and significantly on creative/ problem solving techniques.

Interesting apps that were explored to aid the practice of teaching included:

Explain everything, book creator, puppet pals, showbie, socrative, pinnacle animation, comic life and green screen to name but a few.

The highlights for me being explain everythingphotospeak and animation hd. Explain everything could transform your classroom changing the way that you approach teaching- children can assess themselves, pre-record responses to questions, share work with others, break steps down and literally explain anything in really creative ways! Photospeak can bring characters to life, children can vocalise their ideas through alternative characters and this could be a really interesting/ motivating way to introduce a new topic, story or idea to children. Animation hd allows the pupils to become the directors of their own animations, the artistic potential here is also huge; children can bring their characters and stories to life!

Enjoy your explorations into the world of mobile technologies! Please add any innovate stories of mobile technologies and creative journeys to this post!

 

 

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iPads in Education @ Silverstone Study Centre

As most of us are aware iPads can have a huge impact on creative and digital learning in Education. Silverstone Study Centre host interesting and inspiring courses held at the Circuit to demonstrate innovative ways that educators can engage pupils in digital learning. A few apps/web apps that I became aware of, after an engaging day at the circuit, which may be useful for creative educators include: Near Pod, Auryn Ink, Phyzios Sculpture and Kids Paint. There are fantastic art apps around which offer a new sensory and digital art experience for pupils, however it is also important  to remember the learning taking place through engagement with these and to consider how they can be used in conjunction with, not as a replacement for other artistic methods. Teachers: I invite you to share any innovative ideas you have of how you have united apps and the arts in education.


PGCE students at The University of Northampton used the app pic collage to experiment with digital photography outside the classroom exploring modes of perception to engage with the natural world through art and design. There is huge potential here to explore the formal elements of art: line, tone, colour, texture and pattern through photography with children.

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