Scholarly article on topic 'Integrating Creative Photography Pedagogy in General Education'

Integrating Creative Photography Pedagogy in General Education Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Li-Hsun Peng, Sieng-Hou Chen

Abstract In our modern society, technology is no longer science-fiction. As technology lowers the technical threshold for creative end endeavours to the point where it has become a part of everyday life, the creative spirit seems to have lost its sacredness. Nowadays, a device like smartphone helps people to produce works without risks. However, it brings two problems: First, during creating process without risks, users pay less consideration. Second, great amount of digital wastes. To Find an efficient way for stimulating students’ artistic creation and set up the ecological thinking in young generations’ mind, this study selected a general education course at “University M” in Changhua, Taiwan to incorporate simple composition and posing techniques for students who had not been exposed to professional photography training to be re-introduced to photography as a creative medium. It is also the objective of this study for the students to see the elective course of general education – the “Organic Life and Health” in a different light through a new form of stimuli. This research is an Action Research to proceed an experiment and analyse the result to reveal the differences between before and after of their assignments. The results show that incorporating art into the course offered advantages and possibilities for creative development and application. Students who are familiarized to the virtual world can now live in the real world again, when providing a gateway for them.

Academic research paper on topic "Integrating Creative Photography Pedagogy in General Education"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 217 (2016) 183 - 191

Future Academy®'s Multidisciplinary Conference

Integrating creative photography pedagogy in general education

Li-Hsun PENGa, Sieng-Hou CHENb*

aDepartment of Creative Design, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, +886-923-150-246 bDoctoral Program, Graduate School of Design, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, Taiwan, +886-952-667-032

Abstract

In our modern society, technology is no longer science-fiction. As technology lowers the technical threshold for creative end endeavours to the point where it has become a part of everyday life, the creative spirit seems to have lost its sacredness. Nowadays, a device like smartphone helps people to produce works without risks. However, it brings two problems: First, during creating process without risks, users pay less consideration. Second, great amount of digital wastes. To Find an efficient way for stimulating students' artistic creation and set up the ecological thinking in young generations' mind, this study selected a general education course at "University M" in Changhua, Taiwan to incorporate simple composition and posing techniques for students who had not been exposed to professional photography training to be re-introduced to photography as a creative medium. It is also the objective of this study for the students to see the elective course of general education - the "Organic Life and Health" in a different light through a new form of stimuli.

This research is an Action Research to proceed an experiment and analyse the result to reveal the differences between before and after of their assignments. The results show that incorporating art into the course offered advantages and possibilities for creative development and application. Students who are familiarized to the virtual world can now live in the real world again, when providing a gateway for them.

© 2016PublishedbyElsevierLtd. Thisisanopenaccess article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Future Academy® Cognitive Trading

Keywords: creative pedagogy, curriculum incorporation, creative photography, creativity, appropriation

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +886-952-667-032. E-mail address: notmysky@gmail.com

1877-0428 © 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Future Academy® Cognitive Trading

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.02.060

1. Instructions

1.1. Background

Prensky (2001) claims that people who were born after 1980 lived most of their lifetimes in the virtual, and digital world. Though young, they were carried into the digital world, and named "digital natives". On the other hand, those who were born before 1980 are "digital immigrants" to the digital world. Unlike digital immigrants, digital natives are accustomed to digital media, including smart phones, mobile apps, and social networks instead of traditional communication, mechanical products, or community centres. Rising up in such an environment, they do not see technology as innovation, simply a piece of nature. Consequently, they often exhibit viewpoints and activities that defy traditional values.

For digital natives, everyone owns an instant camera - for instance, the smart phone - capable of instant shooting, viewing, and sharing. Taking photographs has become notjust simple but also intuitive. Worthington (2014) points out that the number of all photographs taken in the world annually has reached 809.8 billion in 2014 and the number was expected to reach one trillion in 2015. Compared with the year 1930, one century after the invention of photography, the number has grown 800 times (Good, 2011). Nonetheless, as photography becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, its sacredness and seriousness diminishes. Among digital natives, few understood the money, time, and risks involved in traditional film photography or the burden of a failed shoot. The convenience of technology also brings hazards. Tsai (2014) indicates that in Taiwan, discarded cell phone accessories including chargers, cords, and batteries, have reached six million units. Electronics manufacturers often sell their devices with accessories included despite the fact that most consumers own unified chargers. Therefore, many of the discarded accessories are first-hand, unused products. Studies showed that global production of solid waste is 3.5 million tons daily, 12 times that of 1900. By 2025, daily production is anticipated to hit 6 million. Without countermeasure, it will reach 11 million daily by 2100 (Hoornweg, D.; Bhada-Tata, P.; Kennedy, C., 2013). This scope of waste production would envelope the globe. When artificial products fill our lives and replacing greenery, what will our Earth to be?

In this study, interviews with instructors, observation of the original course, observation of the incorporation of art education, and focused interviews were used as parts of the experiment to obtain data. The step of research is shown as the following figure (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. The step of research. (Compiled by this study)

1.2. Research questions and purpose

1.2.1. Purpose of New course - photography

We are now in a time when people taking photography without risks. It is the purpose of this study aimed to offer digital natives a chance to be re-introduced to photography via simple concepts and characteristics of photography, as a medium and an important aspect of photography - the composition. As a result of the commonality, photography has become devoid of artistic sacredness and served purely as a recording function. Since the threshold of photography lowers to the pressing of the shutter button, the only difference left between artistic creation and visual record is the intention of the user (Lee, 2013). The purpose of this study was to plant the seed of artistic creation in the hearts of the students in hopes of inspiring the artistic perspective in them when they look at cell phone photography.

1.2.2. Purpose of Original course - ecological thinking

The essence of artistic creation was examined through artistic photography and "imitation theory." The second objective of this study was to utilize the concept of "artistic appropriation" and recreate the form of organic life with inorganic materials such as computer wires, thus allowing students who are accustomed to the virtual world a chance at operating physical objects in a secondary creative process in conjunction with photography and coming to a new understanding of organic life. Students were expected to return to organic life via photography through these processes and re-examine their understanding of the elective course of general education.

2. Literature review

2.1. Art and creativity

Much research suggests that children are capable of creativity, which is able to be enhanced by appropriate education and guidance. However, inappropriate education may cause imagination and creativity to diminish (Mao, Guo, Chen, & Lin, 2000). Therefore, pedagogical methods employed by educators are critical factors in students' creativity. Pavlou (2013) indicates that creativity opens the mind to more possibilities and develops the power within. Moreover, in the education of creativity, guidance from teachers is of critical importance. In traditional education, the five fundamental disciplines include ethical, intellectual, physical, social, and aesthetic education, among which intellectual and aesthetic aspects is related to the topic of creativity. Generally, the expression of creative development is superior to intellectual development. Therefore, the education of creativity requires a method of training other than that used for intellect development. However, artistic expression has been widely recognized as a kind of creative expression (Chen, Wu, & Chen, 2008). Therefore, incorporating elements of art in education is beneficial to the development of creativity. Rhodes (1961) believes that the selection of teaching material is of critical importance in the education of creativity. Treffinger, Isaksen, & Dorval (2000) also point out that with the education of creativity, the encouragement of innovation and revolutionary thinking, students can become a part of the education of creativity, thus enhancing students' awareness, thinking, and attitude of innovation. Because the education and learning of creativity result in a continuous expression of creativity, the result of learning is no longer the only criterion; the process is equally important (Chang, 2011; Williams, 1980).

2.2. The Standing of General Education

In Taiwan, general education of incorporated on the collegiate level of education because the start of discipline-specific education signified the need for general education. Contemporary general education began in the 19th century when academia in Europe and the U.S. were experiencing over-specification and over-division. There are two aspects to general education - liberal education; the training of basic knowledge is all disciplines, and holistic education, the development of personal potential.

General education in Taiwan began in 1984. With years of implementation and evaluation, it has become an established system acknowledged by educators. Another mission of general education is to allow students a chance to understand the "other" through education. Taiwanese culture of the 21th century centers around individualism, and excessive individualism may lead to parochialism or tribalism. Therefore, general education provides valuable opportunities for students of different disciplines to interact, the result of which is for students to learn to collaborate in addition to being liberally educated (Huang, 2002). Shi (2007) also expresses that general education allows college students to become indepent-thinking, holistic individuals.

However, researchers who cast doubt over general education, including Liang (2012) argues that the content of general education does not directly relate to the instructors, the students' interests, or their future careers. Therefore, students mostly do not have opinions on the courses. Mandatory general education even increases the burden on students. Some may aim for grades as the purpose of the courses, and others may forgo critical thinking and be influenced by the opinion of the instructors or consensus.

3. Content Of experiment

31. Pre-experiment survey

In this study, the experiment of incorporating creative photography into collegiate general education was utilized, the subject of which was a natural science general education course in a university in central Taiwan - Organic Life and Health" . Before the experiment, the author of this study (R1) conducted interviews with the instructor of the original course (T1), focused interviews with the students, and observation of the original course.

3.1.1. Interviews and observation The interviews showed that T1 initially planned to teach more specific knowledge on organic life, and because of the diverse background of the students, the syllabus was re-designed to be more relevant to their daily experience. However, T1 still hoped to teach organic and scientific values to the students and discuss some socio-political issues.

Because the subjects of the experiment were college students, R1 believed that the presence of T1 would affect the neutrality of the experiment. Therefore, two class sessions were handed over by T1 to R1 on the condition that the content of the classes did not deviate from topics of organic life and ecology.

During pre-experiment observation, R1 discovered that they tended to sit toward the back of the classroom because the students were not well-acquainted with the instructor. What's more, they formed respective clusters because students of different departments were not acquainted with one another. Despite T1's efforts in the lecture, most students were not attentive (Fig. 2). Only the students who sit toward the front of the classroom were attentive and responded to T1 's demands.

Fig. 2. Class in progress.

31.2. Pre-experiment focused interviews To prevent the interviews from being biased by students' concern for their grades, R1 selected 10 students of different majors and years out of the 58-student class for focused interviews after class with the guarantee that the content of the interview would not be revealed to T1. The results of the interviews differed from the preceding observation (Table 1): Though half of the students enrolled in the course for the credits, as indicated by aforementioned literature, nearly half of the students were interested in the topic of the course. Also, though most of the interviewed students showed low levels of satisfaction with the course, three of them held positive opinions. The rest of them found that the course was too difficult, that T1 was too politicized, or that the topic was not interesting. The only interviewed student of an agricultural background though satisfied with the content, expressed confusion over parts of the course. Some other interviewed students also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the course was all lecture without demonstration. It became clear that the method of conducting the class and the difficulty thereof as planned by T1 did not meet the students' expectations.

Survey results showed that half of the students held no anticipation for general education courses. When encountering questions, they rarely raise them. The other halves who were interested in the course rarely expressed themselves, either, resulting in poor classroom interaction. Also, when T1 discussed national policies as intended, some students perceived them politically, showing a gap in the understanding of the instructor and the students, which could be the reason that the instructor and the students did not interact well.

Table 1. Interview index, (Compiled by this study)

Reason for enrolling Opinion on course

S1 Credits Dissatisfied

S2 Organic life Dissatisfied

S3 Credits Uninterested

S4 Credits Disinterested by lecture

S5 Ecology Not bad

S6 Agriculture Interesting but difficult at times

S7 Credits Too politicized

S8 Credits Not bad

S9 Organic life Too difficult

S10 Credits Irrelevant

3.2. Course and assignments

R1 and T1 selected two class sessions with a total duration of four hours for the experiment. T1 was not present during the experiment. The process of the experiment and the planning by R1 were recorded and organized into the following.

3.2.1. First session - photographic composition The lecture was on the history of photography and composition. Limited by the classroom parameters, the lecture was conducted with PowerPoint slides, which contained rules of composition and examples. Interaction with students was attempted during lecture, to little effect. Student attention was particularly distracted toward cell phones and chatter during the use of PowerPoint slides.

Explaining each rule of composition was immediately followed by practice in which students were asked to take a picture with their phones using the rule explained, thus familiarize students with the basic rules of composition. The choice of cell phones as the photography device instead of more professional cameras was out of the intention to lessen the pressure by allowing them to use devices they were familiar with. On the other hand, using cell phones enabled immediate sharing and discussion. R1 created a group on Facebook for the class and invited the students to join when the class started. Facebook was an interface the students were well-acquainted with. The students were asked to share their photos on the group immediately after they were taken.

Fig. 3. Student work.

In the students' photography works, it can be seen that they were not yet familiar with the techniques and the creation therewith. For instance in A of Fig. 3, the student tried using the rule of thirds. However, unfamiliar with the transition between space and planes, the student mistook the connection of lights and the air conditioner for a line that divided the picture into thirds. A number of other students only looked for subjects on their desks and produced similar compositions (B of Fig. 3).

A number of other students were more attentive in class and in the practice and were more involved in the sharing and discussion process. One student took an extreme close-up of a clothing accessory, creating a radiating composition with a central point (C of Fig. 3). Another student used a friend as the subject. Though seemingly casual, structure can be found in the composition (D of Fig. 3). For presentation, however, most students could not express much thought, only offering few lines of comment. When class was almost over, most students started collecting their belongings, waiting for R1 to dismiss the class.

3.2.2. Assignment 1 - homework

At the end of the first session, R1 asked the students to take pictures with organic life and ecology as the subject, which should be people, events, or objects that interested them. The works of the assignment were to be uploaded to the Facebook group before next session.

In the second session two weeks later, R1 analyzed each work and asked the students to explain their work. Students stated

"Some of the images are not my usual subjects. "

"I usually only take pictures of my friends and of food. "

"For this assignment I looked for places that were more.... worth to shoot. "

Compared with the works from the first session, though there were not significant improvements, more students were willing to travel elsewhere to obtain subjects for their photos, and the photos contained more narrative qualities. When presenting the photos, the students offered longer comments on their works. It can be observed that the students responded better to hands-on practice than classroom lecturing. They were able to express their ideas through practice.

3.2.3. Second session - appropriation

R1 purchased discarded cords from a recycle plant, poster paper, and cutting and fixation tools for the students to work with.

Firstly, R1 used PowerPoint slides to explain the idea of appropriation in art. Learning from the previous class session, to leave more time for hands-on practice, the part of the slides was kept short. The students were then grouped and asked to select photos from the collection of student works or from those provided by R1 to create art works using the discarded cords with appropriation and recreation methods, so that they achieve the course objective of creating organic objects with inorganic objects. When the students were asked to start the practice, they quickly

formed a queue at the materials section for their materials, showing great initiative. The grouping and preparation were completed very quickly, and the students moved on to brainstorming (Fig. 4). When R1 attempted discussion with the students, they were willing to share their ideas. The grouping of the students was mostly based on their department, showing that they tended to form groups with the people they knew. Each group had their own problem-solving strategies and logic. However, some students also sought inspiration in the works of other groups.

Fig. 4. Practice in progress.

The results of the practice were diverse. Three groups used classmates' photos (A, B, & D of Fig. 5), and two groups used photos provided by R1 (E, F of Fig. 5). One group used neither to create their own work (C of Fig. 5). Each group had a unique idea. For instance, in A of Fig. 5, lines were used to form a bridge and railing. The students did not figure out how to present the trees, and they arranged lines into the word "tree." B of Fig. 5 shows the only work that involved chalk for coloring. R1 asked the group to make the bird stand out from the background, and after much discussion, the group chose chalk. C of Fig. 5 shows a 3D installation of twisted cords juxtaposed with a picture of a Formosan black bear. After discussion with R1, they replaced the bear with a pot of live plant. The idea behind that work was for the spectator to choose their own future. In D of Fig. 5, a radiating composition of color was attempted with the use of lines, and the emotion of the sunset was associated with the emotion of the explosion. In E, and F of Fig. 5, the details of the subjects were portrayed in their respective ways.

At the end of the class, unlike the previous session, some students were not eager to leave but stayed to appreciate the works of their classmates and informed R1 that they would like to experience more class sessions in that fashion.

Fig. 5. Student works.

3.2.4. Post-experiment Focused interviews Considering that the classes were taught by R1, for the post-class evaluation, T1 was tasked with selecting ten students for the focused interviews. The interviews showed that the students responded very positively to the classes, and many students stated that they would continue to pursue photography as an expression. They also stated that the classes helped them reconsider organic life and health. Three students stated that their most valuable takeaway was the understanding of creativity and imagination. A number of the students were also impressed by the teamwork in which they participated.

4. Conclusions and suggestions

Through observation we found that the traditional classroom mode of teaching can easily disinterest students from the course. In particular, when they see learning as a way to gain credits, their passion for learning then diminishes. The following changes were observed as results of the experiment:

1. Change of subject:

The subjects the students chose went from objects on their desks during the first class session to eventually a diverse selection with unique qualities in the group activity. Most students believed that they learned to use their creativity and gained new ideas.

2. Student interaction

Initially, students from different departments were separated by vacant seats. After the practice session that required larger spaces, such boundaries no longer existed. The students began to take interest in the works and ideas of students from other departments. Some students also believed that diverse ideas could be achieved through teamwork.

3. Desire for hands-on experience

The survey and post-class feedback showed that the students were particularly interested in practice. Hands-on experiences can be a tool for general education courses to achieve what had been impossible in the traditional mode of teaching.

4. Interview feedback

In addition to providing data for R1, the two phases of interviews helped the students better understand their learning objectives and performances.

In conclusion, though students who are digital natives are accustomed to the virtual world, they can immigrate to the "analogue world" when provided a gateway. Though guidance with artistic photography, they can also be guided to discover subjects in life that are worth exploring.

In general, this study resulted positively. However, there is room for future improvements, as explained in the following:

1. Teaching material

Because of time limitations on the preparation of teaching material, PowerPoint slides comprised most of the material, which caused many students to partially lose interest in the beginning. A better arrangement of teaching material should be considered for future studies.

2. Student background study

Because students of general education come from various backgrounds. To study those backgrounds and conduct investigation into the composition of the class prior to a general education study may allow a more streamlined and comprehensive lesson plan.

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