Skype: technological tools with pedagogic value part 1

By Lee Campbell (Senior Lecturer in Fine Art – College of Arts) – Staff Profile

My teaching philosophy emphasises experiential learning:  1) the usage of collaborative learning processes and co-learning and 2) reproducing real life in the classroom by incorporating realia (objects from real life used to improve students’ understanding of real life situations). Teaching activities are not displaced from the students’ own life experiences; there is often heavy student engagement in digital technologies.

Since starting last year as a lecturer in Fine Art at University of Lincoln, I have aimed to extend teaching as practice-as-research produced as part of a Loughborough University Teaching Innovation Award (2015-2016) that I was given to develop learning strategies with a focus on technology-enhanced and blended learning. I explored, identified and implemented Skype to: 1) expand the possibilities of the digital classroom encompassing different forms of participation and improve both teacher and teacher and learner’s digital literacy, and 2) to explore participation between an audience of physical bodies and a virtual speaker(s). This participation together played with ‘online-ness’ as a dynamic liminal space. Such a space rendered the human body as transgressive, being neither wholly present nor entirely absent when restricted to an online presence.  Bringing students into direct communication with established experts in their subject field (Fine Art) providing potential enterprise opportunities, I invited artists to speak to students virtually during lectures and seminars. Now at Lincoln, I recently invited artists Simon Woolham and Veronique Chance to present aspects of their practice virtually and then give students the opportunity to ask direct questions about how they engage in digital practice. Students told me afterwards that they enjoyed gaining knowledge directly from the speakers rather than through secondary sources and praised my innovation in terms of using Skype as a form of (positive) interruption to subvert the bog-standard presentation format of a lecture.

Extending Skype, I currently emphasise consideration of students at Lincoln engaging in mobile phone technology as a form of realia during teaching sessions. This technology is part of most people’s everyday culture; students use their phones all the time. They are very familiar with this form of technology. It is not intimidating for them to use. Textwall is a free and anonymous messaging application which allows students to post anonymous messages onto an online ‘wall’ sent to a private number by SMS. Textwall is an effective means of encouraging students (who do not wish to be identified or are too nervous to put up their hands to ask a question/share an idea) to participate in discussion with their group. TitanPad offers another means for students to share their ideas online and enable them to 1) identify themselves as the author and 2) edit the ideas of their peers.

In my next post, I will outline one first year teaching seminar I designed on the topic of humour in contemporary art practice which used Textwall and TitanPad to create a blended learning environment.

If you are interested in this article an extended version has been posted on the UAL Website

Lee Campbell is a Lecturer in Fine Art.