|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2008, 24(1), 1-14.
ICT in the secondary visual arts classroom: A study of teachers' values, attitudes and beliefs
Renata Phelps and Carrie Maddison
Southern Cross University
For some 20 years the literature has been highlighting a range of benefits to be gained from integrating information and communication technology (ICT) in the teaching of visual arts. However, little research has depicted the 'state of play' regarding visual arts teachers' approaches to technology within the Australian context. This paper reports on a study of 14 visual arts teachers from a rural area of Australia and reveals broad diversity in individual teachers' social, artistic and educational values, attitudes and beliefs about ICT, leading to widely diverse approaches to both their personal and professional use of technology. The paper explores a number of key issues, including: whether teachers perceive dissonance between ICT and visual arts; whether teachers believe it is important to integrate ICT in their teaching; the role ICT is currently playing in classrooms; the issues teachers are experiencing and how teachers approach their own ICT learning. It is argued that effective ICT professional development for teachers must take account of teachers' values, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions not only regarding ICT, but in relation to teachers' own approaches to their personal and professional learning.
What little has been written of visual arts teachers' use of technology consistently indicates that, while some teachers have embraced new technologies, many continue to use ICT in a limited manner. Little, if any, research currently addresses the factors that impact on visual arts teachers' willingness to integrate ICT, particularly within the Australian context. This paper proposes that the values, attitudes and beliefs of visual arts teachers can have a significant impact on whether they embrace and integrate ICT as part of their teaching practice, and whether they choose to take up professional learning opportunities.
Drawing and painting software, digital still and video cameras, electronic portfolios, scanners, colour laser printers, samplers and sound mixers, image manipulation, video editing, 3D animation, Internet and web page construction can all play a role in supporting students' artistic expression (Ashford, 2002; Brown, 2002; Neylon, 1996; Taylor, 1999). Furthermore, as a medium for exploring solutions to design problems (Crowe, 1988; Freedman, 1991; Matthews, 1997), students are able to record and save ideas quickly, manipulate line and colour, modify and incorporate images and employ motion (Hubbard & Greh, 1991). ICT can allow students who might not possess skills with traditional media to focus more on the message and less on execution of art works, thus enhancing self expression (Long, 2001; Wang, 2002; Wood, 2004). Mistakes can be easily corrected, resulting in decreased anxiety and promotion of experimentation, which lies at the heart of creativity (Freedman, 1991; Grenfell, no date; Hicks, 1993; Wood, 2004). While new technologies do not, of course, replace traditional art processes they do extend the possibilities of art expression, communication and perception (Wang, 2002; Wood, 2004).
With an ever increasing emphasis on still and animated imagery, symbols and iconography in society, analysis, interpretation, extrapolation and evaluation of visual imagery has become just as important as art creation. Students need to be wise consumers, familiar with how the mass media operates (Hicks, 1993) and visual arts education has an important role to play in preparing students as visually literate and critical members of society (Brown, 2002; Schwartz, 1991). Furthermore, as the use of digital media has expanded, new career opportunities have opened up for visual artists. Students with knowledge, skills and proficiency in digital art and design are well situated to obtain employment in commercial visual arts contexts, such as advertising, film, animation and other computer graphic industries (Matthews, 1997; Taylor, 1999). Web 2.0 technologies such as Second Life and Flickr, together with the expanding games industry, represent environments in which digital visual art and design skills provide new opportunities for self expression, as well as enhanced commercial potential.
Technology provides exciting opportunities for enriching and transforming visual arts teaching, providing teachers and students alike with new tools to access, organise and present information and to enrich lessons through multimedia (Bridwell & McCoy, 1991; Garnons-Williams, 2002; Schwartz, 1991; Wood, 2004). Technology enables the establishment of communities of practice and cooperative learning (Henning, 2000; Hicks, 1993; Neylon, 1996), with communication not only between students and teachers, but between students from different schools, countries or cultures, and with practising artists from around the globe. The world wide web also provides a virtual international gallery for students' work (Loveless, 2003). ICT can engage and inspire students, and this has been cited as a factor influencing ready adoptors of ICT (Grenfell, no date; Long, 2001; Wood, 2004).
For instance, teachers' traditional ideologies concerning the framework of aesthetics, and their beliefs about the incompatibility between technology and art itself, have been identified as barriers to the adoption of ICT (Hicks, 1993; Matthew, Callaway, Letendre, Kimbell-Lopez & Stephens, 2002; Wood, 2004). Previous studies have indicated that some art teachers view ICT as gimmicky and easily misused, and some fear loss of student creativity (Crowe, 1988) and a focus on replication of art (Rogers, 1995). Interestingly, Taylor (1999) noted that photography, in its early history, faced similar resistance when debate ensued as to whether it should be considered an art form. Additionally, Loveless (2003) documented instances where teachers felt that the school network was set up on a 'business model', which was not helpful in the context of an 'art space'.
Wang (2002) reported continued reluctance on the part of visual arts teachers to embrace new technologies and refers to a study of accomplished art teachers and quality art education (Bamford 2001), within which no mention was made of the inclusion of ICT. While some resistance to integration might be attributable to age, research cited in Delacruz (2004) suggested that, although many art teachers are using more ICT, most use only basic applications (such as word processing) rather than applications designed to support creativity. Wood's (2004) work highlights that, while some teachers believe technology maintains student engagement and provides inspiration, others were concerned that students could be easily distracted by technology.
Resource constraints have been recognised as barriers by a number of writers (Delacruz, 2004; Henning, 2000; Wang, 2002) and these papers also identify poor training opportunities, lack of support and lack of time as significant impacts on visual arts teachers' willingness to integrate ICT. Professional development that does not focus on a specific area of content has been found to be less effective (Wood, 2004).
While we do know that some teachers are integrating ICT in their visual arts teaching with "open minds and a sense of adventure" (Delacruz, 2004), what remains unclear is the extent to which this is occurring across school systems, how practising teachers view or learn to apply technology in their professional lives (Phelps, Graham & Kerr, 2004) and the factors that impact on teachers' willingness to integrate ICT. This dearth of current research is particularly evident in the Australian context.
This study was prompted by these observations and curiosity as to whether there were factors specific to visual arts teachers that impacted on their decision to integrate ICT in their teaching. The research aimed to investigate the factors which influenced visual arts teachers' approach to ICT, and their own professional learning.
As outlined in Table 1, interviewees had diverse visual arts backgrounds. Most said they currently had limited or no time for their personal art practice, six citing their teaching work as the main reason for this, followed by family commitments. All of the teachers used word processing and Internet research in their teaching. Ten used specific graphic art software (such as PhotoShop) and nine used digital photography as part of their visual arts teaching. Six made use of data projection in the classroom, three mentioned the use of PowerPoint, and half used scanners and printers. Digital video/film was used by four teachers.
|Years teaching||Visual arts back-|
|Active visual artist?||Brief synopsis of current ICT use|
|Beth||7||sculpture and ceramics||Yes||Used computers almost daily for personal use and about every second day as part of teaching. Her confidence was generally OK. "I wouldn't mind some increased confidence with things that are new". Did not currently use any ICT with her own art, although would eventually like to use PhotoShop.|
|Diana||3||painting||Yes||Used ICT every few weeks to document of her own artwork and present images to galleries. Used home computer almost every day and was generally confident. Used ICT every day in teaching, including using a digital camera to document student art practice and as part of their body of work. Frequently used a projector and the Internet with her teaching.|
|Helen||20 (14 in VA)||*||*||Tried to keep up with ICT, used it in teaching 2-3 times a week. Did not feel confident (particularly with seniors). Owned a computer at home, which her children used more than her as "there are other things I would prefer to be doing"|
|Isabel||16||writer||Yes||Confident ICT user who enjoyed digital artwork, using laptop for sketching (PhotoShop). Used ICT everyday in teaching.|
|Jodie||6||fibre artist||No||Youngest teacher interviewed (in her 20s). Fairly confident with ICT, used personally about once a week. Classroom use about once every 2 weeks with junior classes and every second day with seniors.|
|John||7||painting||No||Eldest interviewee (in his 40s). Used ICT almost every night for work related tasks. Found ICT frustrating and time consum-ing. Old computers at school negatively affected confidence. Rarely used ICT with students and was concerned about the need to learn PowerPoint for the following year; "it will be a headache".|
|Kate||17||*||*||Reasonably confident with basic ICT, including digital cameras and PhotoShop, but recognised she had "a long way to go". Used ICT in the classroom daily or every second day.|
|Yes||Very confident ICT user. Had 'built' 5 home computers. Worked with digital photography, desktop and web publishing, graphic design and digital video. Integrated ICT into every year 7 and 8 unit. Used ICT every second period, including scanning, PhotoShop, page layout, Internet research and digital video. Desk computer turned on all day for easy access.|
|Liam||7||painting, drawing, print making||No||Very confident with computers used them daily, created diaries of sketches, scanned and used PhotoShop. Included digital artwork with all students using PaintPro8, digital photography, digital video and PowerPoint.|
|Noah||8||mixed media||Yes||Confident with ICT. Used computers personally at least every second day. Although he was "more than confident to teach the kids the basics", did not use ICT very often in the classroom, due to limited availability of hardware.|
|Sigrid||22||fibre arts||No||Generally very confident, daily personal use of computers. Only made moderate use of ICT in her teaching; a couple of lessons a year with younger students but more frequently with older students.|
|Mia||7||print making||No||Infrequent personal computer use. Confidence was affected by home computer problems. Did do some digital photo manipulation using PhotoShop. In teaching used ICT spasmodically, usually once a week. Encouraged student ICT use, including videoing presentations and having students email assignments.|
|Steve||5||painting and drawing||Yes||Generally confident with ICT. Only really used ICT in his own time for work related tasks. Used with students about once a month. Described how the students used ICT with an art exhibition, choosing artists, images and making the business cards, catalogue and invitations.|
|Tarni||9||sculpture||No||Used ICT everyday as part of her teaching (primarily Internet research) as required by her school. Somewhat confident, but mainly with junior classes. Felt that she would need more help if teaching the senior years, particularly with digitally produced works; "I am not very skilled in this area... I have been a bit intimidated with computers".|
|* This data was not obtained|
Notably, all teachers owned a computer at home, with one interviewee owning five computers. When asked about their personal use of computers, all used word processing, about half used email frequently and the majority used the Internet for research and work related activities. Six teachers used ICT in some way as part of their own art practice, including storing images, digital cameras, PhotoShop and graphic design. Two teachers were involved in digital video and editing.
Several teachers described ICT as a tool, much like a paintbrush, or a pencil or lino tool. Such comments were often made in the context of digital art forms not replacing traditional techniques. For a smaller number of teachers, technology was perceived as opening up new, exciting and progressive forms of expression. "It can extend the ability to create a body of work, organic to computer to four dimensional works. I love the experience of it" (Mia). Kevin described it as instantaneous and very liberating.
A number of teachers experienced tension regarding aesthetical aspects of engaging with images on screen rather than in books. Isabel, for instance, commented that "turning the pages of a beautiful large art book is a far more sensuous experience than sitting behind a computer screen". Similar sentiments were expressed by John and Helen, who believed that students absorbed information and kept focused best with books.
Four of the teachers saw ICT as important in relation to student career opportunities, for instance as illustrators, graphic designers or architects. A number of teachers commented that integrating ICT positively impacted on perceptions of visual arts as a subject. Jodie, for instance, noted that ICT brought different students into the art room, "not just the painters and drawers" and Liam believed that ICT helped art compete with other subjects; "When we use computers it makes art more attractive, more accountable. When we have subject selections we talk about the role of ICT in art and it makes people sit up and take note".
Seven teachers identified ICT as playing an important role in engaging and motivating students; "ICT is part of the real world; their real world" (Sigrid). "If imagery does not engage them they switch off. You have to be very clever in stimulating the kids and be clever, gimmicky, grandstand a bit to get their attention, or be more charismatic than you had to do" (Isabel). Only one of the teachers talked at length about the role visual arts could play in nurturing critical literacy. Isabel thought it was important to support students to be active and critical visual consumers, particularly in relation to advertising; "I talk to my seniors about this all the time. You don't accept an image just because it's presented on a computer screen". For Isabel, an important aspect of her role was to teach students "how to deconstruct, analyse and how to be critical consumers of art".
While most teachers used ICT for theory, about half indicated that they were using technology with their students to create art works. These teachers indicated that ICT helped students play around with art and see progressive changes. Beth, for example, encouraged her students to use ICT in their body of work, including digital photography and scanning images from pieces they had created.
Interestingly, however, none of the teachers referred to harnessing ICT to transform their pedagogy. For instance, no reference was made to implementing webquests, virtual excursions or other online learning experiences, or to including interpersonal exchanges, with students communicating with other students or artists from the community or from different cultures. No teachers referred to using the web to assist students to exhibit their work.
A number of teachers were highly vocal about issues of inequity. Hardware availability was associated with broader school values and levels of support and leadership. One interviewee discussed having to make do on a limited art budget. "We could buy pastels for the whole class at $25 each or one program. We have to buy books, the list is endless. How far will $5,000 go on computers and technology? We have been applying for a new scanner, A3 printer and digital camera for the last three years. There is just not that money in the school or priority given to the art room". In this school the two computers in the art room were quite old, unreliable, and one was linked to a printer that another staff member had donated.
While previous studies frequently cite time as a major restricting factor on classroom integration of ICT, in this study it was mentioned by only three teachers. John said he did not have enough time to learn about the application of new technology and that "ICT makes teachers' jobs so much more demanding". Noah and Mia both talked about trying to find time to squeeze more content into an already full program.
Perceptions regarding the influence of ICT on students' approaches to visual arts were diverse. A number of teachers felt that ICT, at times, stifled student creativity or resulted in students not using traditional techniques. Some thought that students with poor ICT skills were not comfortable with ICT based art making and Liam commented that art making via ICT could be "very removed". "Some kids are the hands on kind. ICT can take away their natural ability" (Mia). One teacher commented that students now had too many choices when it came to art making. Contrastingly, Kevin and Diana raised the issue that some students were too reliant on ICT and did not want to draw. Such concerns regarding the 'overuse' of technology were expressed by teachers particularly passionately. A number conveyed reservations, if not fear, that students would no longer develop foundational skills and that ICT took time away from areas such as painting and drawing. "I know that kids are impressed by it... they see it as something new but it's not really...the kids think it's an end product not a tool" (Kate). Noah felt it was important to get the kids to think creatively first before they used ICT.
Some issues were raised regarding students' over reliance on the web for information, about Internet information being at times invalid and students losing the ability to research with books. Although the issue of plagiarism (copy and pasting and changing a few words) was raised by a small number of interviewees, the more specific issue of "scanning and manipulating images" was also discussed. These concerns were interesting given that appropriation has such a firm foundation in art history. Sigrid acknowledged that many contemporary art works were now 'borrowed', however her concern was that "if kids rip off and don't understand what they are doing it can be a problem, but not if they initiate an idea". For Noah, concerns related to not being able to see the development of students' digital art work. "I need to see their workbooks, I need to see the stages of the work... as I would a sketch to painting". This comment perhaps reflects a lack of awareness or understanding of versioning strategies or assessment techniques such as digital portfolios.
Nine of the 14 teachers had undertaken some form of ICT professional development, with most of such activities having been carried out at school and covering skills with reporting software, word processors and publishing software, web page design, PowerPoint, spreadsheets and Moodle. Two teachers had undertaken an Adult Community Education course and one teacher had completed a course through Technical and Further Education (TAFE). Only four teachers had undertaken professional development specific to visual arts (for instance on graphic art programs or digital imaging). Kevin was himself trying to organise and run a professional development workshop for other teachers in the Diocese.
A range of factors were cited as influencing teachers' decision to be involved in ICT professional development. Notably, two teachers stated that they were not at all interested in ICT and thus not willing to be involved. In contrast, some indicated that they were already confident with ICT and thought that the type of professional development offered was not suitable for them. Four said most of the courses they would like to attend were only available in capital cities. Three of the female teachers said they found attending professional development out of school hours difficult because of family commitments. Having to meet the costs personally was cited as a barrier and one interviewee mentioned the timing of initiatives as problematic (e.g. first day of term). Several teachers referred to themselves as self taught, learning by playing around and talking to their colleagues, family or friends; "Basically the way I learnt was to get on and do it. I feel confident that either I will figure out what to do or ask someone" (Isabel). "When exploring something new I need a fair bit of time or else I tend to put it off until I feel comfortable" (Sigrid). Jodie made a suggestions that team teaching would be a very affective learning approach.
While five teachers believed they did not receive enough ICT support, the majority were happy with the assistance available; "There is heaps and heaps of help from people who are self motivated or self taught and are more than willing to teach other teachers" (Helen). For John it was an issue of "we discuss it or we sink". Some teachers saw principals as supportive, although this was countered by others.
Many interviewees commented that their students were at times more skilled in ICT than them. Notably it was the more confident computer users who indicated that they were happy to learn alongside their students. Liam, for instance, stated that "if I do not know I put it on the line and tell the kids. I tell them that teachers don't know everything. We do it together and that really builds kids' confidence. It is two way learning". Jodie similarly stated that "I am not stressed with it all. I am learning with the kids. I let them know if I don't know something". Steve also reinforced the value of these strategies, stating that "I have a good relationship with the kids. I am here to learn as well, so I don't mind asking them".
Length of time teaching did not impact negatively on ICT integration with some of the most experienced teachers being prolific in their use of ICT. Relatively recently graduated teachers (under ten years) were not necessarily integrating ICT more frequently or creatively than those with more experience.
The majority of teachers could articulate advantages and potential for ICT integration, particularly related to student engagement and motivation. However, a minority felt obligated to do so by wider educational pressures, imperatives or developments, and only a small number spoke of broader social needs for digital visual art literacy. Less than half of the teachers interviewed thought ICT was a fundamental part of the visual arts curriculum, despite recent syllabus changes. Many of the teachers interviewed did perceive tensions between ICT and visual arts practice and expressed concerns that using ICT would somehow undermine and replace, rather than supplement, traditional approaches.
Significant diversity was discovered between schools in relation to access to hardware and software, and this certainly did influence teachers' willingness to integrate ICT in their teaching. School finances, culture and leadership invariably impacted on this resourcing, however where teachers were not interested in integrating ICT, it may well be that little pressure was being exerted to pursue technology based resources.
A key finding relates to teacher learning. As has been supported in other research (Tearle, 2003; Phelps, Graham & Kerr, 2004; Phelps, Graham, Watts & O'Brien, 2006) those who are proficient and capable ICT using teachers learn predominantly through self directed play and exploration, while being supported by colleagues, friends and family, rather than remaining reliant on formal training or professional development. While workshop based approaches can provide a useful means of introducing new ideas, ultimately the most effective learning is occurring for teachers by 'getting in and having a go'. Building networks and encouraging dialogue between teachers specifically in relation to ICT should be seen as important, not just in passing on skills and knowledge but also as a means to addressing discipline specific concerns and influencing values and beliefs. As has been highlighted in other studies (Phelps, Graham & Thornton, 2006; Phelps, Graham, Watts & O'Brien, 2006), explicit collegial discussion concerning learning strategies can promote risk taking and encourage more ICT reluctant teachers to learn with and from their students.
In rural areas of Australia, where considerable distances stand between secondary schools, and where teachers may find themselves as the only visual arts teacher within a school (or one of only two), the importance of facilitating dialogue and idea sharing between schools is difficult but critical. The study indicated instances where teachers remained quite unaware of the level to which other schools were integrating ICT, and continued to see such integration as inconceivable. The diversity across the schools also reinforced that some level of benchmarking may prove essential, to attempt to diminish inequities in outcomes for students. Ultimately, however, teachers need to hold values, attitudes and beliefs that will lead them to support integration initiatives. Data obtained in this study would reinforce a level of optimism in this respect.
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|Authors: Renata Phelps and Carrie Maddison|
School of Education, Southern Cross University
PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Please cite as: Phelps, R. & Maddison, C. (2008). ICT in the secondary visual arts classroom: A study of teachers' values, attitudes and beliefs. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 1-14. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet24/phelps.html