M.C. Escher Print Gallery, 1956 www.mcescher.com


Chapter I

The Problem Statement

The specific educational issues that concerned me during this research emerged from my long-term commitment to facilitating community organization for creative projects involving experiences of social equality and peaceful collaboration.


Cognizant of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and stunned by the slayings at Columbine High School in 1999, my question was how might educators be influencing the creation of knowledge towards or away from violence in interpersonal relations?

My perspective was that human beings were not capable of being neutral; emotions guarantee that we have feelings about everything. If we must have feelings about everything then how can educational researchers contribute to an evolution of the feelings contributing to violence in our schools?

Just a few decades ago, emotionlessness was considered the highest aim of intellectual life and the sine qua non of academic professionalism. Today emotionalism is still, perhaps rightly, distrusted. However, currently we have begun to seriously consider, because of the significant work of clinical psychologists, artists, philosophers, and practitioners, that intelligent behavior may very well require emotional resonance; and that rationalism unchecked by appropriate emotional responsiveness has contributed to crimes against humanity.

Howard Gardner (1983) proposed a theory of multiple intelligences. I imagine Gardner's intelligences as tonal qualities of mind, as potentials generating from human experience that can each be developed, and then coordinated into what Gardner called general intelligence. This general intelligence includes (among other factors) emotional intelligence.

Expanding our comprehension and appreciation of human potential has long been the project of humanist theorists. If we choose to educate ourselves through the use of force, threats, monetary rewards, and behavior modifications, we are using external motivators to generate fear of loss in order to produce desired outcomes. If we choose to engage in the creation of emotionally resonant interpersonal relationships within which we share the problems and challenges inherent in living, we must rely on self-discipline and internal motivation to generate positive outcomes. The humanist position generally favors the latter choice, minimizing the use of interpersonal tactics (like force) that tend to delay participant ability to self-actualize.


I am embedded in a socio-constructivist landscape, an ecology of meanings, in which my thoughts and feelings are co-active with those of others. Socio-constructivism is a democratic awareness of others, a respect for the contribution of others. This socio-constructivist research study does not make ultimate truth claims but incorporates deductive and inductive reasoning, self-reflection, and a sensitivity to psychological perspectives in a qualitative narrative describing the events and conversations that took place during an action research initiative in a high school. The initial purpose of the action research was to integrate technology into the fine arts curriculum

National Research Perspective

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994) made educational technology a funded educational priority. The same act recommended that art have a place in the core academic curriculum. Several Department of Education studies in technology integration have focused attention on the lack of teacher education in technology (MacPherson, 1994; White House 2000). Some studies have asserted that teachers are resistant to technology innovation in their classrooms (Hodas, 1993; Saba, 1999; Solmon, 2000; Slowinski, 2000). Other studies concerning technology integration into the curriculum emphasized the value of technology for math and science (Boser, 1998; Cajas, 2000; Pannabeker, 1995; Petrina, 1998). Only a few studies have attempted to analyze the potential value of technology for the arts curriculum (Ascott, 2000; Francastle, 2000; Petrina, 1998).

Teaching and Technology

Technology is more often integrated into schools as a tool before being introduced as a discipline in its own right. For the purposes of this study I was not concerned with technology as a discipline, a fascinating subject but one with very different parameters than the integration of technology as a tool to support and enable the evolution of existing curricula. In the state in which this study took place, the curriculum and the procedures for student evaluation were determined district-wide and teachers could make only minimal alterations. Teachers participating in this study were familiar with computers but not expert in any particular functionality.

I merged Dewey's assertion that experiential learning was fundamental to democratic education (1916, 1938) and Maxine Greene's (1978, 2001) concept of the creative potential of meaningful relationships in educational settings with Noddings' (1981, 1984), Goldstein's (1997), and Gilligan's (1987, 1988) assertions that caring relationships were just, meaningful, and educative. I wanted to explore the potentials of conversational and collaborative equality as a democratic principle in an educational setting. I thought that educational technologists were obliged, no less than any other educational professional, to promote democratic principles by engaging in democratic conversations and relationships.

Qualitative Research

The writing of a qualitative case study in education was itself an experiment. Methodologies evolve. Qualitative educational research is no exception. Methodologies represent the researcher’s concept of best practice with regard to the nature of the inquiry. At this writing, a qualitative researcher has many choices and creative possibilities open to her. My main challenge was to further the social science conversation while participating in the evolution of the ground upon which this conversation rests.

One explanation for the use of qualitative methodology in educational research is that education cannot be completely described, nor can education benefit, from an epistemological stance that ignores the concrete, the immediate, the affective, and the personal; and these qualities are, by their nature, not reducible to quantitative description and analysis. In addition, education must be considered a relational act; taking into account the interpersonal, symbolic, and communicative nature of instructional praxis will enlarge the scope and alter the impact of education. The increase in scope and the alteration of the impact that qualitative research implies and promotes, make it crucial for us to consider social responsibility a necessary element in the procedures of interactional (the life, natural, and social) sciences.

Qualitative research requires a stance grounded in personal perspective. My perspective as a researcher can be characterized as an abiding interest in the nature of ethical behavior in human interactions (Maimonides, 1200/1946; Spinoza, 1677/1883) and the power of relationships to manifest inter- and intra-personal change (Macmurray, 1936; Rogers, 1962). As an artist, I have not limited myself to any particular medium. I have used computers, publishing, television, theater, poetry, and rock and roll as media for individual and group expression. My artistic interests revolve around creative group process and specifically, the power of text to influence the formal qualities of relationships and social structures. As a researcher, these same interests came into play.

I am fascinated with how groups manage (or do not manage) to make meaning together and further, how group interactions and mutual interpretations affect a group's ability to create original (not previously existing) forms. I am intrigued by how comprehension of the textual (i.e. mental or actual scripts, books, rules, guidelines, philosophies, socially shared perceptions) affects what individuals in groups believe to be possible. What individuals consider possible is whatever they can imagine as achievable, creatable, realizable.

I use what is popularly understood as both sides of my brain. I never did better in English than in math, or vice versa. All my artistic experiences and creative projects have involved right-brain activities (creative imagination, poetic consciousness, relational and emotional perspicuity) as well as activities considered to be dominated by the left-brain (organization, mathematical and geometric design, facility with machines and technology). This dual facility is not unique to me. The popularity of the World Wide Web has shown that many people today are capable of working with both technology (a supposedly left-brain activity) and visual arts (an example of right-brain activity). This flexibility of the mind, the ability to read or to interpret from both perspectives, is evidence of a growing human ability to bridge what used to be considered incompatible modes of thought and activity. This study aims to aid in building this conceptual bridge.

Valuing Aesthetic Cognition: Art in Academia

Some educational theorists, firmly and fiercely devoted to the preservation of the centrality of art in the academic curriculum (Bruner, 1985, 1986, 1990; Eisner, 1976, 1978, 1998, 1999; Gardner, 1990), sought to justify the centrality of art education by asserting that art education contributed to the improvement of general intelligence. These writers asserted that, in order to keep art a subject in the core curriculum, evaluation methodologies corresponding to those used to measure achievement in other core subjects had to be developed and consistently employed. While I applaud these efforts, I hope that those of us committed to art in academia not allow ourselves to be swayed by the fallacy of total pedagogical uniformity, nor allow ourselves to participate in the subjugation of teachers (and students) to the stress and humiliation of "teaching to the tests."

Another branch of educational literature, exemplified by the work of Maxine Greene (1978, 1988, 1995, 2001) and William Pinar (1975, 1981, 1992, 1998), encouraged researchers and educators to appreciate the unique power of learning moments that are mutual processes of self-discovery and the value of individual perspectives. Greene and Pinar have repeatedly asserted that teaching itself could be a creative, ethical act.

There have been two main efforts in the struggle to promote art in the schools. First, the attempt to consider art from a generalized perspective, developing forms of classification and evaluation to secure art a central place in the curriculum, and second, the attempt to justify art education on the grounds that its communicative and creative power assures art’s universality and its centrality in society. Most readers will recognize that the second of these efforts is allied with John Dewey’s philosophy as he described it in Art as Experience (1934) and Experience in Education (1938). I subscribe to the second view: This study was designed to explore the efficacy of this perspective in the context of an action research initiative that would integrate art and technology in a high school curriculum.

Art and Ritual

In the development of human social systems and consciousness, art preceded science both as a mode of expression and as a techne (a shared procedural and linguistic system for the production of artifacts). Although it is often argued that the first tools were made for warfare and hunting, an equally persuasive argument can be made that the first technologies were for nurturing the body - cooking utensils, the manipulation of fire and ice, providing clothes, and shelter - and soul - music, dance, and decoration (Barber,1994). My assertion is that art and technology are mutually receptive: developments in either discipline have caused profound alterations and developments in the other. In the following, I will discuss some theories relevant to the perspective of an inherent and mutual receptivity between art and technology.

Ellen Dissanayake (1988, 1992) theorized that art was a behavioral, ethnobiological necessity. Dissanayake proposed that "making special" was a core drive, intrinsic to human nature. The act of transforming objects and persons satisfies an innate need to celebrate and signify. The repetition of creative acts of transformation caused their evolution into ritual while the artistic act itself, Dissanayake asserted, remains tied to biological and psychological needs.

Jane Harrison’s landmark work (1913, 1962, 1973) was in classics and art history and revolutionized conceptions of the origins of religion in western civilization. In her book Art and Ritual (1913), Harrison’s contention was that intelligence derived from an instinctual need to handle fear and pain. Her example was a mother, wishing to distract her child from the pain of a hurt finger, asks her daughter to identify objects outside the window. Engaging with the world causes the child to be distracted from her pain. Harrison stated that early societies created gods of thunder and lightning from painted, danced, and sung representations of these feared powers. Over time, these representations became secularized into what we understand as art forms.

Although there is a notable similarity between Harrison’s theories and Dissanayake’s, Dissanayake did not include Harrison in her bibliographies. I assumed that Dissanayake came to her conclusions regarding the social embededness of art, following a different path than Harrison’s. Similar conclusions arrived at by dissimilar methods has often been considered a sign of a resilient possibility.

Harrison (1913, 1962, 1973) insisted that action preceded understanding. Harrison showed that religion developed from rituals rather than the other way around. Using early Greek art as evidence, Harrison convincingly described the evolution of religion from ritualized acts and then the gradual independence of art forms from religious practice. Later, scientific questioning grew out of artistic exploration and then gradually became a discipline in its own right. Harrison’s assertion was that new cultural influences and discoveries must be integrated first into familiar forms. Harrison called this "new wine into old bottles" and insisted that this was the way all change occurred in ancient Greek society (1913, p. 146).

Changing the ritual. I am committed to the centrality of art in the academic curriculum. And I agree with the literature that considers art to be fundamental to the life and consciousness of human beings. In my view, art is a foundational cultural experience: Art does not surpass in importance later cultural and cognitive developments such as astronomy, math, science, or technology, but neither can art be entirely subsumed into these other symbolic systems (Cassirer, 1955d; Harrison, 1962).

Stages are often used in educational literature as a convenient and cogent way to characterize learning moments, cognitive development, and progressive mastery (Piaget, 1950, 1952, 1970, 1977; Mezirow, 1991). But, contrary to common interpretations of stage theories of development, I assert that traces of prior stages and experiences can be perceived in later stages. Early stages and experiences tend to influence any process, throughout its development. Art, language, science, and understanding all evolve. Often, it is in the realms of art and poetry that new concepts, relationships, visions, and values have been developed and articulated. Art has often inspired scientists. And scientific advancements, both technical and theoretical, have influenced art subjects, methodologies, and, of course, the lifeworld of artists.

It is my assertion that the mutual influence of science and art can and should be formally acknowledged by educators searching for methodologies suitable for new pedagogical practice suitable for the digital information age. Grounding in scientific principles can provide learners with the critical, intellectual tools they need to question facile or manipulative artistic assumptions and techniques. And, exactly the same is true in reverse: A grounding in artistic principles makes it possible to challenge the assumption of neutrality often taken by scientists and technologists who are anything but neutral politically, educationally, socially, or emotionally. Art and science are different enough in their methodologies and praxis to enable vital, mutual critique and support.

A complex democratic society, dependent upon a variety of technologies, including information technology, will require its members to be sufficiently dexterous in both scientific rationalism and creative imagination to participate autonomously as citizens (Apple 1982; Arendt, 1977, 1978; Bennett, 1996; Freire, 1998; Tarrant, 1989, 2001). One of the myriad challenges facing educators today is how to integrate these disparate domains while maintaining the integrity of their epistemological diversity.

In The Educational Situation (1902), John Dewey reported feeling frustrated by what he perceived to be non-substantive change in schools, merely "new wine into old bottles." He complained that no matter how many times progressive educators tried to introduce reforms, the reforms never changed the fundamental nature of school. If we allow ourselves to inherit Dewey’s frustration with what Harrison believed to be a necessary part of the process of social change, we may cripple our change efforts. Social change is inevitable but thankfully, change is slow to take root in human minds and hearts.

Technology in Education: Ethical Considerations

Distinct from the crises of legitimization daunting the art curriculum, the introduction, integration, and maintenance of computer technology and distance learning in schools seeks no self-justification (Cajas, 2000; Georghiades, 2000; Slowinski, 2000; Solmon, 2000; Walton, 2000, Warschauer, 2000). In the educational technology literature, technology in education is usually described as progressive and benign, while those who "resist" technology integration are described as unwilling or incapable of adapting to change.

At the beginning of the last century, Dewey led progressive educators in arguing for the inclusion of science and engineering into the curriculum (Dewey, 1938; Kleibard 1986, 1992). Dewey’s argument for progressive education was not the mainstream curriculum position of his time. However, by the later part of the same century, curriculum specialists were promoting constructivist principles (Kleibard 1986, 1992) as legitimate because they were progressive. Today, majority values in the United States are distinctly in favor of educational goals oriented towards scientific, technological progress. Dewey, it would seem, is at last victorious. (See Appendix A for state guidelines for technology education, 2001.) But Dewey’s argument was not that science needed to be included in the curriculum because science, in its essence, was progressive, but rather that scientific knowledge was going to be necessary for the evolution of a newly industrialized, engineering-dependent, United States. Dewey’s position was that a democratic education whose aims must benefit citizens can only accomplish this by taking into consideration the social situation, the actual lives of citizens, and looking to the future as well as to the past.

Rationale for this Study

There was little research literature on the integration of art and technology in the curriculum when I began this study. A qualitative methodology suited my aims because the methodology supports subtlety and interpersonal meaning-making. Because the literature on technology integration suggested that there was teacher resistance to the integration of technology into the curriculum, action research methodology suited my purposes because, without sacrificing the central goals of the change process, the methodology is flexible and can be modified according to the needs of participants

I decided to attempt the integration of technology into the curriculum of the Fine Arts Academy in which I had been invited to do research. When I embarked upon the project, the technological purposes were multifaceted but the specific action focus was the improvement of the fine arts section of the school web site. This activity focus provided an opportunity to explore my central question, whether technology integration could be effected primarily by means of conversational reality (Shotter, 1993a) and the ethic of care (Noddings, 1981). Action research methodology developed out of a concern with issues of justice (Atweh, Kemmis, & Weeks, 1998; Kemmis, 1993), non-violence, and social organization but so far as I could find, there have been no articulations of the ethic of care as a moral perspective within an action research approach. And, although conversational reality theory embodies many perspectives similar to action research theory, I did not find specific studies that encouraged the combining of these theoretical stances in educational fieldwork.

I approach technology as an artist: I explore the communicative possibilities that tools afford for socially ethical, creative action. The vast opportunity that computers afford for artistic and ethical purposes is not well explored in the educational research literature. I felt that a study that explored an artistic (essentially communicative) alternative for integrating technology could contribute to both the literature on technology use in schools and to the literature concerning art in education.

It was particularly tempting to use the World Wide Web (WWW) as the medium for a technology change initiative because the WWW embodies in its design the principles of collaborative meaning-making fundamental to artistic and democratic practices. This study was an exploration of democracy in education as manifested in socially responsible, conversational interactions during a technology change initiative in a public high school.

The action initiative sought to co-create a viable environment for continuous technological integration into the curriculum through a shared experience of one particular technology initiative. If the action initiative was successful, participants would be encouraged and feel confident to continue the process of technology innovation on their own, once the researcher had left the site.

Further, I hoped that this study would contribute to conversations concerning conversation itself used as a tool for change in educational environments. In the field of clinical psychology, conversation has been acknowledged to be a useful tool for interpersonal meaning-making but conversation has been less well studied in the fields of art and technology education. This study will use face-to-face conversations and mediated conversations to analyze some of the interpersonal interactions that affected a technology change initiative.

Another fundamental purpose of this study was to apply the ethic of care during a change initiative and to describe what occurred. I wondered whether a care perspective on the part of the change agent (myself) would ameliorate the anxiety surrounding the integration of art and technology thereby affecting teacher resistance to technology innovation. Perhaps a care orientation will turn out to be a necessary element of the collaborative, co-equal practice that Dewey and others have described as essential to democratic practice and education.

Before moving on to the literature review, I would like to share some of the hopes that I carried with me upon entering the research site. First, by helping a small group in a particular school develop the confidence to engage in participatory creativity, I hoped to contribute to a process of creative conflict that would last well beyond my consultancy. I dreamt that this process of creative conflict, once initiated, would establish itself as a ritual and then become a custom widely held, evolving to support ongoing negotiated, meaning-making. Then, by articulating an experience of art and technology integration in a specific high school, I hoped to join my efforts with those of other artists, technologists, and educational theorists who wish to diminish the destructiveness of educational mythologies that polarize as they divide.

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