Experiences as a student, artist and parent guide my teaching practices. My background is as a photographer and Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher. My areas of expertise include photography studio arts, basic film production, research, curriculum development, assessment, student guidance, grant writing and various other collaborative departmental activities. I believe that all children are unique creative beings with unlimited potential for growth and maturity. I also believe that students have a right to a thoughtful, progressive and free education that takes into account the whole individual, mind, body and spirit.
My goal as an artist and educator is to help my students develop life-long artistic and problem solving skills. To achieve these goals, I provide an open-minded, safe learning environment built on a foundation of strong technical skills. I encourage students to participate in class and express their ideas so they can grow as artists and productive citizens.
Digital media, film & photography, are art forms and communication tools. Digital media skills are utilized daily, in and out of the classroom to share experiences. These real life art forms reflect the social, economic, political and multicultural landscape of our city. It is imperative that students understand basic safety, legal and digital citizenship issues associated with using digital media in order to protect themselves and produce high quality work.
Helping students understand the social and cultural aspects of photography, they begin to see how they, and their projects, fit in the world. I use contemporary examples of photography to engage students to discuss, analyze and critique works of art using compositional theory with a historical perspective. This type of dialog and constructive criticism helps students develop language skills, builds confidence and creates a link between photography and the world we live in.
Not every student will choose to be a professional artist, but every student benefits from a diverse arts education. Digital media skills are quickly becoming the cornerstone of our creative and knowledge based economy. Film and photography classes promote 21st century technology skills found within the New York State Arts, CTE and ISTE standards. Digital art projects promote personal growth, foster creativity and innovation by incorporating hands-on independent and collaborative learning experiences mixed with self reflection.
Learning to read images enables students to see themselves and their place in the world more clearly. Creating and analyzing images enables students to develop their communication skills in a safe environment where they can actively question, reflect and define their personal goals related to a project. Peer-to-peer learning is an important and natural part of the arts education experience. Students benefit as they learn how to be critical and develop connections within formal and informal activities.
We learn by doing; by experiencing. This type of learning theory is referred to as Experiential. This educational theory has a proven track record and is a foundation for apprenticeships, hands on learning. There are several theorists associated with this style of learning, they include, John Dewey and David A. Kolb. In 2011, David Kolb & Angela Passarelli produced, “Using Experiential Learning Theory to Promote Student Learning and Development in Programs of Education Abroad”, for Case Western Reserve University, their research discusses the challenges and possibilities of these transformative experiences.
John Dewey, believed that experience develops a greater depth of understanding. He also believed in a child centered, whole child approach to education that included cooperative outdoor play. Dewey advocated for free education from kindergarten to College, and he believed this was necessary for Democracy to be balanced with equal access for all. Like Dewey, I believe that one must make connections between education, community, work and life. When we reflect on our process and the quality of our product, we discover more about ourselves and grow as craftsmen, students, teachers, citizens, artists and communities.
If I looked deep into my own teaching practices, it would be a giant spicy Goulash or Witches Brew. It would be seasoned with everything from a pinch of Vygotsky’s notion of the ZPD – Zone of Proximal Development – the difference between independent and assisted child learning; a splash of Skinner’s belief of actions and consequences, Operant Conditioning, (which I practice at home with my children), and a dash of John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory of Multimedia Learning, which uses multimedia tools to help students build associations (memories) between words and images.
In my classroom, hands-on projects are developed to engage and challenge students based on their individual interests and experiences. In order to reach all learners, I differentiate curricula and demonstrate a variety of instructional techniques and practices. I use the workshop model to foster individual learning styles. This includes, a short lecture with visual examples and/or a demonstratio; a practice task; a group or individual assignment; followed up with a class discussion and review. Each assignment includes a clear outline of my expectations, skills / benchmarks, and a description of what students are learning and how to apply it in their work. Once a project is submitted, I give constructive criticism and suggestions for continued improvement.
My teaching practices are more of a “do what I do”, reflect, adjust (make it your own) and repeat. I would say that it is not necessary to implement education initiatives through a specific theoretical lens. I believe we need many lenses, depending on our students and their specific needs, interests and limitations. The more we understand our students and ourselves, the greater our ability to reach them as authentic adults who wish to share knowledge.