Head of Department, Department of Arts in Health & Education, Cork Institute of Technology
My teaching interests centre around arts-based learning, group facilitation, reflexive and reflective practice and research approaches. I teach modules in research methodologies, group theory and arts-based facilitation and practice on the Certificate in Arts in Group Facilitation and the MA Art Therapy. I supervise postgraduate students. In my Department we have two professional MA programmes – Art Therapy and Art & Design Education. I have always had a strong interest in experiential learning and value experience and reflection as an important foundation for locating theoretical input. This has always shaped my teaching methodologies and my own approach to learning. Currently I am a Head of Department. In this capacity I am required to cultivate an overview of all our courses and how they fit together. This is developing in me a strong awareness of the range of approaches to arts-based engagement and a more interrogative perspective on teaching and learning in these contexts.
I believe we are all different in our approach to learning and in how we process information. Many of us need to engage with a variety of methodologies for the learning to be processed. This is not always taken into consideration in a learning situation and the overreliance on words and numbers prevents us from reaching our full potential. Technology can broaden the learning experience and offer different ways to access and engage with the information. I am also a strong believer in the value of learning as part of a group. Technology can support group learning in a number of different ways, both within the physical classroom and across a geographical distance.
PowerPoint, Discussion Boards, Email, WhatsApp, Canvas, Pinterest, iPads and Mobile Phones
We have experimented over the years with discussion boards. I am keen to incorporate some online group work to some of our courses. We attract students from a large geographical spread so online spaces would be a valuable connection for students. Students already use WhatsApp for this purpose. We are beginning to use Canvas. iPads and mobile phones are incorporated into students teaching and learning both for recording and playing back to students, but also for their Apps (film-making, music-making and photographic projects especially). Some of our arts-based approaches are very process orientated and the end result can be quite ephemeral. Documenting the process can offer an additional means to reflective on the experience and also enables us to share the process beyond those who were directly involved, thus multiplying the impact of the teaching.
Beginning to use CANVAS has been very exciting. It enables a very user-friendly interface for managing teaching materials and assignments. I always love working with PowerPoint. I am a very visual learner so like to incorporate images into my presentations to animate the learner’s experience as much as possible. Working with some of the film-making apps has enabled students to create a visual narrative around their learning experience and to explore that within a group context. This enables students to consider their learning from a arrange of different perspectives and thus expands their understanding, or equally identifies gaps in learning. Effective use of technology makes it much easier to share material and learning with students and colleagues. When it works, for a small time investment at the outset, it can reduce a lot of time on organising class material and assignments which improves professional relationships significantly.
Working with technology always involves working with breakdowns in technology and the frustrations that go with that. Learning to work with the technology is one thing, but being able to get to the root of the problem when the technology stops working is an entirely different training. Many frustrated hours have been spent struggling with technological issues in class. Difficulties have also arisen in using phones and iPads with the need to set up accounts linked to personal credit cards. We have also encountered difficulties with where or how to store work produced on the iPads. It can’t be left on the device, if it is a shared device, and storing in an iCloud account linked to the device is problematic if the iCloud account is a staff members own account. Managing the loan of equipment has been another hindrance to really playing and experimenting with devices and their capabilities.
My involvement with a previous project - Transformation through Collaboration - was particularly useful as a means of building my confidence in how technology could be incorporated into our teaching and learning. Lack of confidence is the first stumbling block for most of us who are not digital natives. We need to believe we can learn how to use the technology before we can ever consider how it can be incorporated.