Technoparticipation: The use of digital realia in arts education
This paper positions the digital technology applications Textwall and TitanPad as realia (objects from real life used to improve students' understanding of real life situations) and describes how they may be effectively implemented as tools with pedagogic value to provoke learner participation using technology (Technoparticipation), heighten engagement, nurture critical thinking/reflective practice and facilitate learners’ effective communication, and argumentative skills. Of prime importance is feedback from students which evidences how TitanPad engages students in live peer review/assessment of each other’s ideas; exercising varying levels of author anonymity, students’ written contributions are immediately displayed online and instantly subject to the scrutiny of their peers.
Mobile phone technology is part of most people’s everyday culture; many students use their phones all the time. By and large students know how to fully operate their mobile phone and this means that there is nothing technical for students then get to grips with when participating in the activity. Osing mobile phone technology is familiar to me and the students and do not require either party to be particularly tech-savvy. Audiences will learn how this technology has pedagogic value to galvanise participation, and through the apps discussed, encourage live contestation, deliberation and debate amongst students by using a form of technology that they can use with relative ease.
Everyday objects or ‘realia’ are used in teaching to improve students’ understanding of real life situations within the discourse of foreign language teaching. As this paper explores, they are equally applicable in arts education. For example: the well-known free communication application ‘Skype’, enables voice and video calls as well as instant messaging. Similarly, ‘Textwall’ is a free messaging app that allows students to post anonymous messages onto an online ‘wall’ (which are then sent to a group via SMS), where another free messaging app, ‘TitanPad’ allows students post messages (anonymously or otherwise) onto an online ‘wall’. Inspired by my experiences teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL), this article explores how these apps were deployed in an art school environment alongside wider literature and theories on their integration into art and design classrooms. Feedback from students who have used these apps (Skype, Textwall and TitanPad) in my classes took the form of spoken comments made in reflective discussions held after sessions making use of one or more of these apps. Student comments also took the form of written feedback using the apps Textwall and TitanPad – these apps proved effective means of gathering student feedback.
Art and design as disciplines require technical skills and abilities that mean art colleges in providing education, as well as training, emphasize ‘experiential learning’ as part of core teaching philosophy. As will be discussed over the course of this paper, digital (as opposed to object-based) realia were integrated into this fine art context. As part of a Loughborough University Teaching Innovation Award, I undertook a project that aimed to extend teaching as practice-as-research during the academic year 2015/2016 (Ingham, 2015). This involved developing learning strategies with a focus on technology-enhanced and blended learning, under the portmanteau/umbrella term ‘Technoparticipation’.
Using collaborative co-learning processes, it aimed to reproduce real life scenarios by incorporating digital realia into the classroom in real life discussions/objects/situations that facilitate kinaesthetic learning experiences. As well as being a fine art tutor I have worked as an English as a foreign language teacher, where realia is often used to help learners get to grips with the target language. Everyday realia, often in the form of day-to-day conversational gambits and role-play situations are a means of provoking kinesthetic learning. Realia not only stimulate the mind, they encourage creativity by inviting students to engage different senses in multisensory learning environments.
In expanding upon and unpacking the focused use of technology in the classroom this paper theorises how I have used different forms of digital realia including aspects of interruption as a phenomenological approach to performative teaching and learning.
When designing teaching activities, it is helpful to ensure that they do not displace students’ unique life experiences. On the one hand, teachers such as myself are keen to build students’ digital literacy by helping them to engage with multiple technologies. But on the other, I use the virtual classroom to prompt statements and responses from students as to these limits, using the learning environment as a space to not only reflect upon artistic practice but also to produce it.