Wednesday 4 January 2012

The optimal adoption of Web 2.0 services in seven stages for Visual Arts and Design educators

Written for secondary and tertiary Visual Arts and Visual Design educators and decision makers.

The optimal process for a Visual Arts or Design educator to adopt Web 2.0 services (like social bookmarking and electronic learning portfolios) could involve these seven stages:
  1. Personal experimentation with social network services;
  2. Exploration of online services for curricular adoption;
  3. Personal use of these services;
  4. Achieving school management buy-in;
  5. Introduction of online services in a curriculum;
  6. Sustained adoption of these services in the syllabus;
  7. Self-publication with other web2.0-based services.
1. Personal experimentation with social network services.
Post the online self-publishing revolution, educators with an insider mindset will appreciate that the affordances offered by new technologies makes the world different for them and their students. As an example, Dr Paul Redmond highlighted in his talk; "GENerally speaking: Generation Y, Digital Natives and the challenges facing higher education" how the Millenial generation comes to university with different pedagogical expectations to previous generations based on their experience of growing up with technology. In particular, Dr Redmond argues that students now want interaction, peer-learning, contact and control. As a result, he encourages university educators to reconsider their curricular designs in light of addressing millenials' expectations.

Based on initial experiences with a few Visual Arts educators, I would argue that they are better able to appreciate the potential benefits of including Web2.0 services (such as social bookmarking and electronic learning portfolios) into their syllabi, after having personal experience of online social networking services' {such as Facebook or Google+} benefits. Through first-hand experience of finding old friends and colleagues, posting status updates, sharing pictures and other content, then rating it, educators can begin to appreciate how online media use might benefit them and why social network services are proving popular, particularly with their students.

2. Exploration of online services for curricular adoption.
It is important that Visual Arts and Design educators understand that there are many Web2.0 services outside the most popular social networking ones. Some of these are particularly useful to contemporary visual creative professionals. My research focuses on two types: 

Firstly, the varied online portfolio services that are used by creatives. These can be re-purposed to create free electronic learning portfolios (e-portfolios) in new syllabi at schools {ideally meeting these criteria}.

Secondly, social bookmarking services (such as Delicious and Diigo) make it easy for educators to create an archive of digital learning materials and to share relevant ones with different grades. This is particularly useful for sharing online museums', art magazines' and local galleries' content.

While my research originally promoted the use of online portfolios before social bookmarking's use, I now encourage the latter's use first; it faces fewer technical barriers and can be integrated more easily into educators' existing pedagogical practices. For example, students can be given exercises to search online galleries, track down artists' paintings and bookmark those not accessible in their textbooks or other curricular materials.

3. Personal use of these services.
In using online services for the first time, educators are likely to be exposed to digital literacies and new literacies they are inexperienced with: an example in using social bookmarking is bookmarking a website with appropriate tags, then sharing it with a list of users. Another is researching a service's preferred syntax for tags, exploring users who have contributed the most in a tag of interest, then searching their contributions to bookmark the most relevant sites.

Through personal use of online services, educators can develop their digital/new literacies, whilst being better able to motivate for, and adopt, online services into new curricula and syllabi.

4. Achieving school management buy-in.
Ideally, the educator should prepare a pedagogical rationale for management and his or her department's staff which provides credible justification for the curricular adoption of new media. Providing sound grounds for securing management support is vital: the initial resourcing required to support these services is likely to be underestimated and management support for additional funding could be essential for sustained adoption. An educator may also need school management to provide additional teaching resources, IT and policy support, plus online publication integration to fully realize any new curriculum's potential.

5. Introduction of online services in a curriculum.
In the complex schooling environment, the successful adoption of online services into a new curriculum depends largely on; school management support, the educator's pedagogical choices and students co-adoption of the service.

My research focuses on the latter's choices with portfolio and social bookmarking services, as their use of these services is likely to have the greatest influence on whether their educator chooses to sustain the curricular adoption, or not. So far, my research has revealed  
the importance of educators choosing a grade that is keen to achieve success in the Visual Arts or Design subject in launching the new curriculum. Alternatively, the curriculum can be adopted as an after hours activity with keen volunteers.

Research also highlights the importance of integrating the e-portfolio and social bookmarking curriculums with activities throughout the syllabus (rather than seeing the curriculum as a once-off, add-on). Only through sustained use of online services can students learn how to best use new media and produce showcase work.

6. Sustained adoption of these services in the syllabus.
After the initial adoption has proven successful, the educator should take steps to ensure that the use of online services in the Visual Arts or Design syllabi are sustainable. Three examples of these by a private school's Visual Arts department head were: improving his class' resourcing and ensuring his students were given access to digitization equipment in the school's library and computer lab, thereby addressing time constraints with scanning; getting school management approval for his department's new policy that all students from grade 10 to 12 should develop e-portfolios, and documenting how the best examples of previous student work could be linked on the school's Visual Arts website section. The educator has also been active in promoting the use of e-portfolios and social bookmarking to other educators at his school and in Cape Town.

7. Self-publication with other web2.0-based services.
The Department of Education encourages Visual Arts and Design educators to develop their own curricular learning materials. For educators who have visited interesting sites (such as those highlighted in one of my favorite documentaries; "A Country Imagined") and used their own curricular materials {such as descriptions, photographs and drawings} in developing classroom presentations, a site like Slideshare offers a platform to share one's presentations with a global audience. Another option is to share one's teaching via a blog (see the Monni Abbott's Art Class blog for a good example by a local art teacher).

By self-publishing one's educational content, educators not only have the opportunity to meet like-minded people online, they can also can raise the profile of South Africa and its artists online. A real win-win situation :) !

So, do you think these stages are optimal? Please let this blog's readership know by submitting your comment below. We appreciate your feedback.

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