Existing Learning Activites Critically Reviewed – Revision

I currently teach Photoshop software skills to senior BFA photography students, and earlier this year I taught a paper called DC2 – Digital, for Year 1 Design Communication students at Otago Polytechnic. I went through a Postgraduate Diploma in Multimedia Technology at Napier University, Edinburgh, UK in 2001/02. It is partly from this knowledge that I am drawing some of the following points for consideration in the development of this new Paper for the BFA at School of Art.

When I was taught Multimedia Technology it was specifically software based. I had come through a Bachelor of Arts and was specifically looking for Multimedia Technology as it related to arts practice, but I did not get this. (I admit to my own naivety in assuming that I would!) Furthermore, the sheer amount of upskilling that I was required to do in order to simply learn the software was enormous and thus application based teaching led the way. What did work well in some ways was a hard-copy workbook that contained assignments for the whole programme, which we filled in along the way for submission at the end of a semester along with a CD-rom of applicable files and a link to a website containing other files for submission. Towards the end of the semester is became clear how the integration of the software though the build up of these tasks was achieved, allowing a further understanding of context and more wordly view of the application of multimedia technologies. Another plus was that this was then an excellent, personal resource to dip in and out of after its completion for further projects and applications. This was however by no means a perfect way of working. There was little understanding at the beginning of the purpose of the workbook, and its relation to the class projects and assignments, and no attempt to explain this further. One thing I always do when teaching Photoshop is explain it’s relationship to what one would need to use it for in a photographic world, and the connection of each skill being taught to similar or alternative ones. There was also way too much work for the intended deadline, and therefore, I believe, little understanding/memory from the teaching staff of what it was like to source the answers to each question with little aid, when it is a very new subject.

Having taught the DC2-digital paper recently, I am now aware of some thinking here at OP of what sorts of things might be taught at this level. This paper covered the teaching of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign (All Adobe Creative Suite software) to the integration of a designed poster. It covered a little bit of typography theory, basic composition and some informal discussion of copyright. However, the paper was only 12 taught hours with students which was an incredibly short time-frame to teach understanding across these three distinct software packages. Although the intention was only to teach specific parts of each software programme there was a distinct need by the students to learn and understand the context of each, which there was little time for. I believe that this was a conflict partly caused by the development of the paper from a software-centred approach rather than contextualising the need to learn skills in software for Design Practice.
Other problems occurred with the disparity in computer skills previously acquired by the learners. This is something I envisage the learners will come with in the new BFA paper and something we will need to address accordingly. I believe that a well planned timetable of compulsory participation classes and optional/drop-in ones for specific skills will be a way to achieve this. This is of course also fraught with other problems. Students at this stage are not yet very self-motivated and so the idea of an ‘optional’ class will need to be administered carefully. I think it could work if the optional classes, run alongside compulsory ‘project’ classes where students are expected to complete their workbook tasks which develop the integration of practical skills with theory and problem-solving (i.e. context). This would mean that anyone who did not have the requisite practical skills would not be able to complete these tasks, and would be picked up by lecturers and asked to attend the relevant practical sessions. This implies a very hands-on role by the lecturer’s and attention will need to be made to the implications of this resourcing.

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