To teach a man how he may learn
to grow independently, and for himself,
is perhaps the greatest service that one
man can do another.
– Benjamin Jowett
Education has always centered on acquisition of knowledge, but in the 21st century, it is filtered through critical thinking and contemplative analysis, with focus directed toward emerging privations of the evolving world. Analytical competencies can help facilitate progressive insight necessary for success in today’s global community.
As technical and academic orbs continue to merge, academic programs struggle to redefine curriculum that can meet demands of an unforeseen future. The new era dilemma began with need for designated funds to support recurrent upgrade of technological equipment. Focus the shifted to renewed emphasis on critical theory as necessary precursor to prospective problem solving in the changing global marketplace. Meanwhile, digital technology sped forward with increased strength, doubling quality and cutting cost with every passing year. As digital technologies became seamlessly integrated into all areas of life, there was little foresight or preparation for outcome: closed bookstores, a bankrupt post office, and online sales that have transformed malls into internet warehouses.
Computer technologies were once considered the solution to laborious service tasks, but as digital programming advanced, technology became better suited to responsibilities of white-collar positions, leaving international populations in wonder of where future employment will lie. Computers cannot handle hands-on service, indicating future viability for hospitality, food service, medical, personal grooming, tech maintenance, child care, and cleaning. ‘Green’ industries are another developing possibility, with populations now seeking combat of ecological issues.
How should colleges respond to vicissitudes of this fast paced evolution? What happens to graduates trained for employment in vanishing career fields? Is it possible to plan curriculum for a yet unknown future? As college instructors, we must help students sort through confusion of these changing times.
The visual arts have been lucky. Technological capture has pushed visual imagery to the forefront of communication, which places updated, modern distinction on photography and new media. Society is awash with images that contact at conscious and subconscious levels. It becomes important for all students to learn, observe, and analyze the visual representation that inundates and manipulates mass populations. Young minds are often unaware of the strong influence imparted from visual sources. Individuals who learn to decipher imagery can better navigate the rising onslaught of surrounding stimuli, fostering clearer communication, and rationale decision making.
To equip students for that task, I foresee visual communication becoming a mandated core class. Courses could introduce interpretative techniques applied to signs, symbols, ciphers, metaphors, convergence, materials, process, and presentation. Repeat practice with visual analyzation would prepare students with interpretative skills necessary for continued decipherment of our evolving visual language.
Modern digital technologies have increased public awareness to photo manipulation, resulting in updated genre restrictions. To meet expected standards of each genre, students must learn to recognize genre differences. It is also important for students to consider how photography has been used, sometimes with disregard for the ethics and rights of others. My lesson plans consider international viewpoints, along with the complex interplay between creation of art, business of art, cultural influence, political or religious affiliations, class divisions, population control, dwindling natural resources, domination/subjugation of colonialism, identity, gender, beauty, exotica, and ‘other’. These types of classroom discussions induce deeper inquiry into every-day subjects, such as consumerism, stereotypes, media news, world issues, propaganda, and conflicting core principles, prompting students to reconsider their own intention for communication through photography.
Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
– John Cotton Dana
As a continual learner, I am enthusiastic about ongoing enhancement of professional skills. It is invigorating to become immersed in ideas that stretch boundaries of previous information, prompting fresh wonderment to areas once thought familiar. In my teaching career, I strive to infuse students with a similar fascination for knowledge, with hopes the enthrallment will foster permanent motivation towards independent scholarship.
Instructors can create a stimulating learning environment by merging visual, audible, and hands-on delivery of lesson material. My own presentation methods are based on course objectives and student capabilities, with added materials selected for amplification of the subject matter. When I recall my own education, the most valued courses had certain elements in common: instructors regarded students as responsible adults, assignments held clear objectives merged with creative freedom, and course lessons guided students through important areas of transformative learning. With that in mind, I try to establish an atmosphere to support self responsibility, inner motivation, increased confidence, and creative risk taking, which are necessary for unique problem solving.
A large part of teaching depends on astute observation of student motivation and learning. Although traditional classrooms are compartmentalized, recent studies show greater learning takes place when cross-connections are found. Introducing current events can increase student involvement, while also promoting growth in complex problem solving.
I strive to keep students active in the learning process by avoiding unnecessary lax time. Assignments overlap, encouraging abstract connections between lessons. Written artist statements sustain critical thought, while also promoting professional language and articulation of ideas. Rubrics are included with each assignment, providing advance knowledge of expected criteria, while also assuring evaluative fairness. Quick grading and feedback permits time for students to incorporate improvement.
Additionally, I introduce historical information that can help students find connections between past and present, which improves interpretation of the medium, and offers foundation for emerging visual trends. When photographic history is mixed with refinement of technique, students acquire a valid framework for critiquing the work of others. Combination of photo history, technical skills, and conceptual understanding supplies students with requisite verbal and visual vocabulary for interaction in the professional world. Diligent practice will promote technical mastery, building a skill repertoire that allows choice when considering how to best communicate the premise. Students come to realize that creativity begins in thematic conception, with technical and aesthetic decisions based on successful delivery of the intended visual communication.
“Education would be much more effective
if its purpose was to ensure that by the time
they leave school every boy and girl should know
how much they do not know and be imbued
with a lifelong desire to know it.”
— William Haley
Over time, one’s pedagogical methods expand and evolve. Throughout every semester, I keep lesson notes detailing methods of presentation, student responses, and possible alternatives. The notes are reviewed alongside end-semester teaching evaluations, which allow implementation of new strategies before the succeeding semester.
Today’s rapidly changing technologies require continual absorption through reading, research, and attendance at seminars and workshops. I attempt to keep pace with the surge in photographic developments, including smooth integration of past and present approaches. Updated information is gleaned from newspapers, journals, magazines, and online research. When possible, I attend conferences that expand knowledge base, opening new areas of connecting interests.
Memories of past academic experiences play heavily in my teaching methods, with memory of the profound impact of favored professors. As an instructor, I feel it is imperative to recognize the inherent power and influence of the position, with appropriate respect and humility applied to classroom interaction. In the optimal learning experience, connections run both ways: students gain knowledge from the instructor, while the instructor gains ongoing expansion from interaction with students.
As instructor, I hope to successfully convey course objectives, while also promoting intellectual curiosity and motivated effort, which support life long learning.