Saturday, 20 February 2010

Online Software Affordances for Visual Educators

Last night, I presented Online Software Affordances for Visual Educators to secondary and tertiary educators and Leon Buchner (DCES Visual Arts & Design). This followed a presentation by Peter Hyslop on a Proposed Online Portfolio Module for Visual Arts Learners at Bishops.

These talks were given as part of a mini-research project that John Roome (a senior lecturer from the Department of Fine Art and Jewellery Design at the Durban University of Technology) and I are doing to find out: "Do educators from relatively well-resourced academic environments appreciate the technological and pedagogical affordances of online portfolio software and their possible role for improving digital literacy amongst students?"

During the presentations, some interesting side-points were contributed by the audience... and speakers:

1 Online software could be used for improving the feedback process
Peter Hyslop said he'd like to be able to comment on, even sketch over, digital work when giving students feedback.

2 Viewing portfolios from well-resourced schools can help poorly-resourced, remote students better benchmark themselves
There can be large discrepancies in marks given to students, when aiming to balance out the advantages that students from well-resourced schools have. The downside of this occurs when less-advantaged students apply for access to tertiary institutions with portfolios that were marked "A" in matric, but are really "D" when compared with well-resourced students. It's difficult to expect lecturers to explain this to eager university enrolees!

3 The online portfolio could explain such mark moderation
Leon said that an individual's online portfolio could be linked with the moderator's report, giving a background for lecturers on school mark moderation.

4 Student-to-student and remote teacher support could help ill-trained students
In some instances, Visual Arts and Design courses are run by teachers with no background in the discipline (i.e. woodwork teachers!). In these cases, remote online education would help students improve their work, through exposure to the work of peers from other schools and interaction with other schools' teachers and experts.

5 Introducing High School students to Carbonmade's affordances is just the start of the online portfolio software experience
Peter said that Carbonmade's limited social media affordances are appropriate for grade 10 students. From grade 11, students should be emotionally mature enough to make use of online portfolios with social media functionality. They will also be encouraged to define their online portfolio strategy in grade 11, then to look at out-of-school opportunities in grade 12. Early preparation in the matric year is particularly important for those wanting to study architecture, for example, and the online portfolio project can play a key role in eanbling timeous preparation.

6 University students should also be introduced to online portfolio software
John said that university students should be encouraged to create online portfolios, too. While some students refused to work in the digital medium, I said that they may have a different attitude, if they were exposed to the affordances and not to think in terms of "either/or", but "and".

7 The online portfolio module will become a new media
Professor Johannes Cronje made the point that initially, online portfolios will be used to augment the traditional portfolio,
but in the future students will be encouraged to experiment with the unique opportunities a digital portfolio affords. This follows
the typical path of technological adoption.

8 It's important to explain to students the affordances of each media
It would be useful for students to understand the affordances of each medium, said Nirmi Ziegler. Teachers must be encouraged to help students understand the context and merits of a particular medium's use; whether it be etching or digital.

John and I will present the results of our small, one-week study at Monday's course on Education in Technology at CPUT's Faculty of Informatics and Design.

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