Integrating Art and Technology
An Action Research Case Study in a High School

dissertation proposal by temi rose 2/20/02
click here for a pdf version

Table of Contents

A National Perspective
Art in Academia: Valuing Aesthetic Cognition
Technology in Education: Ethical Considerations
Art and ritual.
Learning, Change and Democracy
Rationale for this Study

Introduction: Weaving a Web
Art in Schools: Theory
Justice, Responsibility and Care
Conversational Reality
Motivation and Learning
Adult Education
Action Research: Methodology and Principles
Art in Schools: Practice
Technology in Schools
Conclusion: Seeking an Articulation

The Site
The Participants
Data Sources
Researcher's Role
Data Analysis


Chapter One: The Problem Statement

The writing of a qualitative case study in education is itself an experiment. Qualitative educational research is not yet a fully developed methodology. There are many choices and creative possibilities open to the qualitative researcher in education today. The challenge is to further the social science conversation while simultaneously transforming the ground upon which the conversation presently rests. The standard 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 can be considered a relational act falling within the general conceptual field of communication research; and taking into account the relational, symbolic, and communicative nature of its praxis enlarges education. This study will be a qualitative research study.

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, and the power of relationships to manifest inter- and intra-personal change. As an artist, I have not limited myself to any particular media. I have used theater, poetry, publishing, television 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 form. As a researcher, these same interests come into play: I am fascinated with how groups manage or do not manage to make meaning together and, further, how those group interactions and mutual interpretations affect the 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.

Finally, an anomaly in my perspective needs to be addressed: I indiscriminately 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, might be a significant cognitive leap. In any case, our growing ability to bridge what used to be considered incompatible modes of thought and activity, will undoubtedly influence our conceptions of learning and education. This study aims to aid in building this conceptual bridge.

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act made educational technology a funded educational priority. The same act recommended that art have a place in the core academic curriculum. Department of Education studies in technology integration have focused attention on the lack of teacher education in technology (MacPherson, 1994; White House 2000). Other studies have asserted that teachers are resistant to technology innovation in their classrooms (Hodas, 1993; Saba, 1999; Solmon, 2000; Slowinski, 2000). Many studies concerning technology integration into the curriculum concentrate on the value of technology for math and science (Boser, 1998; Cajas, 2000; Pannabeker, 1995; Petrina, 1998). Other studies concentrate on the expertise that can be channelled in from outside the physical boundaries of an individual school using distance learning technologies (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).

The goals of this study have been to: 1) contribute to a discussion of the value of communication technology in the art curriculum; 2) re-examine factors that may influence teacher resistance to technology; and 3) create, through an action research initiative in a particular high school, a viable technology-based element to their arts curriculum.

Synecdoche is a figure of speech that uses a part to stand for a whole or vice versa. Discourse on education is inevitably synecdochal: either we speak of education as a generalized category of human social endeavor or we describe a school or a specific educational experience. This study will alternate between both of these synecdochal perspectives, acknowledging that each is incomplete in itself but language and tradition make it impossible to speak from both perspectives at once.
In this chapter and the next, the emphasis will be on art and technology in general educational and philosophical terms. In the data and results chapters, there will be a more particular examination of the particular action research initiative that focused on integrating art and technology in a specific high school.
The following section of this chapter will address some issues presently of concern to art educators. There will follow a section concerning issues to do with technology education. Then social change and democratic process will be addressed as issues that are intrinsic to education initiatives in democratic environments. And, the final sections will consider the rationale for this study in the light of the preceding discussion.

Some educational theorists firmly and fiercely devoted to the preservation of the centrality of art in an academic curriculum (Eisner, 1976, 1978, 1998, 1999; Bruner, 1985, 1986, 1990; Gardner, 1990) sought to justify this centrality through an assertion of art’s cognitive value. These writers have asserted that, in order to keep art a valued element of the core curriculum, we must provide coherent evaluation methodologies that correspond to those of the other core subjects. Although I applaud these efforts, I am concerned that those of us committed to art in academia not allow ourselves to be swayed by the fallacy of an illusive curricular coherence and subjugate teachers to the humiliation of teaching to the tests.

Another branch of educational literature, exemplified by the work of Maxine Greene (1978, 1988, 1995, 1998, 2001) and William Pinar (1975, 1981, 1992, 1998), encouraged research that would increase the valuation placed on individual perspectives and the unique power of learning moments that are mutual processes of self-discovery. Greene and Pinar insisted teaching itself can be a creative, ethical act.

There have been two main efforts in the struggle to promote art in the schools. The attempt to: 1) consider art from a generalized perspective and to develop forms of classification and evaluation to secure art a central place in the curriculum; and 2) explicate the centrality of art in every communicative endeavor, in order to reinvest all education with the spirit of creativity. 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 potential efficacy of this perspective in the context of an action research initiative that would integrate art and technology in a high school curriculum.

The next section will consider some issues facing technology education in the light of what has been discussed concerning challenges facing art education.

Distinct from the issues and crises of legitimization daunting the art curriculum literature, educational literature dealing with 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). 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). In the later part of the same century, curriculum specialists were continuing to promote the validation of constructivist principles (Kleibard 1986, 1992). Today, majority values in the United States are distinctly in favor of educational goals oriented towards a scientific, technological future. Dewey, it would seem, is at last victorious (See Appendix 1).

However, the technological revolution and the information age are not universally regarded as beneficial to human society. The vision of pervasive information technology in schools is not an uncontroversial educational issue. Information technology’s role in education is highly contested in both formal and informal dialogues. Orwell’s classic 1984 (1949) portrayed the terrifying possibility of a technology used simply as a buttress for the ancient powers of negation, authoritarianism and greed to further oppress the individual. Since the 17th century, enlightenment and humanitarian thinkers and writers have fought these ancient powers with a vision, explication and description of an ethical society. The enlightenment vision of an ethical society sought to reconcile the needs of the individual and the needs of society by balancing a freedom to create a dignified life (individual need) with a freedom from oppression. Political oppression in this tradition is the result of an excessively detrimental impact on the individual occurring when the "needs of society" is in actuality the needs of an elite (Berlin, 1955; Freire, 1973, 1993; Spinoza, 1883; Shotter, 1993b; Apple, 1982). But science and technology have not traditionally been the fields from which ethics emerge. Today, new conceptualizations could emerge from art, psychology, education, and human resource development that would support ethical stances strong enough to balance the temptations of technological excess.

Teacher Attitudes towards Technology
Not only do issues regarding the ethical use of information technology in schools challenge humanitarian and enlightenment visions of education to a new articulation, but, in specific schools, in the practical application of technology, there are individual challenges to be addressed by practitioners and researchers. Teachers in the United States are pressed for time. Large class sizes and onerous reporting procedures limit face-to-face time with students and peers. When instructional technologists enter specific educational environments and suggest to teachers that they make time for their students to work with pre-packaged, pre-programmed computer-based learning programs, three primary objections are raised: 1) Time students spend on computers allows less time for face-to-face interactions; 2) Teachers do not necessarily trust information they do not provide, nor do they necessarily understand how to support their students in acquiring computer-delivered information; and 3) Teachers may not understand how to work the computers and/or the programs. The first two objections are issues of relationship and relational knowing. The last issue is one of teacher experience and education.

Although the final consideration at first appears to be simply an issue of teacher training and exposure to information, the premise of this study was that these are also relational issues. My assumption was that teacher training and a teacher’s comfort level with technology would be affected by the quality of the relationship the teacher experienced with the sources of technological information and expertise. My challenge as an action researcher and change agent was in part to affect a gentle, caring, and considerate relationship between myself as technology expert and the teachers and administrators who would be participating in the change effort. My analysis of the data will take into consideration how the quality of relational discourse did or did not affect technology skill acquisition and technology use in a particular high school.
In the next section will discuss art and its relationship to history, human biology, and science.

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). My assertion is that art and technology are covalent: developments in either cause alterations and developments in the other. This section will discuss some theories relevant to this perspective.

Ellen Dissanayake (1988, 1992) theorized that art is a behavioral, ethnobiological necessity. Dissanayake proposed that "making special" is a core drive intrinsic to human nature. The act of transforming objects and persons satisfies an innate need to celebrate and signify. The continuity of these acts of transformation develop into ritualized and symbolic forms of communication; while, on the other hand, the artistic act itself remains tied to intrinsic 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 contended that intelligence derives from an instinctual need to handle fear and pain. In her example: a mother is on a train with her child, when her child hurts a finger. The mother, in order to distract her child from the pain, asks her daughter to identify what she can see from the window of the train. The ability to focus on the world around her distracts the child from the pain in her finger. Harrison stated that almost all early religions had gods of thunder and lightning because ancient people were scared of thunder and lightning and they created art forms, dances, music, and sculpted, carved, and painted representations of the powers that they feared. Over time, these art forms became ritualized. Although, there is a notable similarity between Harrison’s concept and Dissanayake’s, Dissanayake does not include Harrison in her bibliographies. I assume Dissanayake has come to her conclusions following a different path. Similar conclusions arrived at by dissimilar methods is often a sign of a resilient possibility. The rituals, according to Harrison, preceded the invention of gods and goddesses. Harrison stated that religion is prior to theology; to prove her point that religion does not need gods and goddesses, she remarked that Buddhism is a present day example of a religion with no theology.

Harrison (1913, 1962, 1973) insisted that action precedes understanding. Harrison showed that religion developed from rituals rather than the other way around. Using the evidence of early Greek art, Harrison convincingly described the evolution of religion from ritual and the gradual independence of art from religion. She then explicated how science grew out of art and gradually came to be its own discipline. Early rituals, according to Harrison resulted from the primitive mind’s complete association with surrounding events. People felt compelled to mimic the powers they perceived as affecting their lives and as their mimicry was repeated, in an effort to understand and control their fear, pain, and confusion, mimicry became ritual. Rituals are embedded in all social life. New cultural influences and discoveries were integrated into familiar forms. Harrison called this new wine into old bottles and insisted that this is 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 this view art cannot be subsumed into science, math, language arts, or vocational training. Art defies definition. Art, as a form of human experience and cognition likely predates both language and science. Even though art may be a foundational human cultural experience, it does not surpass in importance later developments, nor can it be entirely subsumed into other symbolic systems (Cassirer, 1955d; Harrison, 1962).

Stages are often used in educational literature as a convenient and coherent way to characterize learning moments, cognitive development, and progressive mastery (Mezirow, 1991). But rarely do prior stages or experiences disappear entirely. Early stages and experiences tend to influence any process throughout its development.

Art, language, science, and understanding evolve. Often it is in the realms of art and poetry that new concepts, relationships, visions and values are experimented with and articulated. Art has often inspired scientists. And scientific advancements, both technical and theoretical have influenced the subjects of art and the methodologies, technes, and lived realities of artists. It is my assertion that the mutual influence of science and art can and should be formally acknowledged and perhaps even manipulated by educators searching for methodologies suitable for pedagogical practice in the information age. Grounding in scientific principles provides learners with the intellectual tools needed to question facile or manipulative artistic assumptions. And, exactly the same is true in reverse: grounding in artistic principles makes it possible to pose challenges to any pose of neutrality asserted by some scientists and technologists.

Art and science are different enough in their methodologies and praxis that they are able to both support and critique each other. A complex democratic society, dependent upon a variety of technologies, including information technology, requires its members to be sufficiently dexterous in both scientific rationalism and creative imagination to be able to participate autonomously as citizens (Apple 1982; Arendt, 1977, 1978; Bennett, 1996; Freire, 1998). The challenge facing educators today is how to integrate domains while maintaining their fundamental diversity. We see this challenge being played out in such areas as ethnic and gender diversity, collaborative learning, technology integration, and the place of art in the schools. In a culture like ours, heterogeneous, committed to individuality and democracy, the challenge to integrate and remain diverse reflects the continuing attempt to honor education’s basic values: to strive, to grow, to learn, and to change.

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 the 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. In the course of this action research initiative, there were many times when I chose to take Harrison’s perspective rather than Dewey’s. However, the following section will examine some of the issues in which Dewey’s perspective was certainly the salient one, issues of democracy and education.

According to the college textbook, Human Anatomy and Physiology (Hole, 1993), the ten characteristics of life are all processes. They are movement, responsiveness, growth, reproduction, respiration, digestion, absorption, circulation, assimilation, and excretion (p. 7). Life is undoubtedly a process. The life sciences define, delineate, and manipulate life processes. Learning is also a process, and it seems perfectly logical to contend that learning is a process that promotes life. Perhaps, to those of us committed to educational research, learning might seem to be the most critical of life processes. My point is that learning is not a thing, an object that can be examined, nor can it be iteratively articulated as a series of behaviors. The goal of action research is to create change. This sort of change is considered to be educative (in Dewey’s sense) and therefore a kind of learning. It follows then that the goal of my study was to participate in a learning process in the school. This section will examine some of the elements that went into my formulation of the type of learning I was hoping would occur during the consultancy.

Thought is another process. When thinking changes, learning occurs and usually, actions follow suit. Art is the realm in which changes in thought and emotion are closely examined. The results of these close examinations are then, more or less laboriously, applied through a means of expression, a medium. Finally the experience represented in the medium is shared with others. The first step of the process is self-reflective learning. The second step is procedural or constructivist learning. The final step is situational or collaborative learning. Depending on the media, the second and first steps will have elements of interpersonal communication and collaborative learning as well.

My assertions are that: 1) Art and the artistic process cannot be separated, because 2) art is a way to work with ontological comprehension in order to 3) share perspectives with others for the purpose of 4) making the world a less terrifying and more habitable place. 5) The value of art education consists in the articulation of these four processes so that the isolation experienced by individuals can be significantly ameliorated.

Art examines and explores the values and experiences in human (and occasional animal, superhuman, and alien!) life. In The Miracle Worker (Gibson, 1975), the moment Helen Keller is at last able to associate a word with her awareness is simultaneously the moment that allows her to communicate with another human being, and is also the moment that allows her to become a human being. This scene illustrates Vygotsky’s (1962) point that thought, language, and relationship grow in correlation.
This subsection has discussed thought, learning and art as possibly correlative. The next subsection will consider the relationship of these processes to issues affecting 21st century democracy.

In On Revolution (1963), Hannah Arendt described the American Revolution as the only successful democratic revolution. She defined success as the establishment of a permanent political democracy. According to Arendt, the success of the American Revolution could be credited to the fact that democracy was already the native, local political process. The constitution of the United States was therefore, not a vision statement, but a description of our political praxis, how we were then constituted. We were a practicing democracy. Our legal constitution reflected, and set out to guarantee that future Americans (us) would be able to continue the experiment. According to Arendt, and Dewey (1916), it is the democratic process that is the basis of democracy.

What is democratic process? According to Dewey and Arendt, the democratic process is not simply voting for the candidate most likely to get us what we want but rather, democratic process is a relational stance in which people engage in dialogue. The nature of democratic dialogue is itself worthy of explication. Democratic dialogue rejects the premise that the strongest will win. Democratic dialogue is an enlightenment concept based on a belief in the inherent value of individuals, of their right to a dignified existence and of their responsibility to participate in the creation and maintenance of that existence through collaborative exploration of mutual rights and responsibilities. Democracy is not an easy process. Enlightenment scholars never asserted that democracy was a natural state. In fact, it is often stated that the educational system in the United States, and the commitment to universal literacy, came about as a result of the realization that democracy requires educated citizens able to choose autonomously and to work collaboratively.

In James Tarrant’s homage to and extension of John Dewey’s book of the same name, Democracy and Education (1989), Tarrant put forward a well-founded claim that the moral element of education in a democracy consists in the commitment to educate citizens. Tarrant defined citizens as people capable of making the political and personal choices that affect their lives. Tarrant has further expanded his argument (1991) to specifically criticize the utilitarian philosophies of life and education. Utilitarianism asserts that people act for their own good, and that the ultimate good that people strive for is their own happiness. The educational philosophy that has emerged from that viewpoint justifies training people to work without teaching them how to effectively question the nature and the value of work.

In Democracy and Education (1916) and in Experience and Education (1938), Dewey made the claim that democracy is an experience, and that the educational experience in a democracy must be a democratic one. Dewey’s interpretation of democratic experience in education focused on the dignity and respect of persons, regardless of their class or background. In Dewey’s view, the teacher was to take seriously her student as an individua with rights and responsibilities. Teachers were to engage in an experiential, relational discourse with students. This discourse would develop the knowledge of democratic process that students could utilize and further develop as educated adult citizens

Arendt, Tarrant and Dewey have asserted that, before democracy can be a functioning political reality, it must first be a lived experience. Furthermore, Tarrant has asserted that there is a moral responsibility inherent in Dewey’s description of a democratic education. The moral obligation of a democratic education, according to Tarrant, is to teach students the skills of critical and self-evaluative analysis. As students matriculate and become citizens, these skills will be called upon in those realms particularly necessary for the democratic process to exist: continuous participation and choice.

Democracy can be understood as a living process. Living forms must reproduce themselves. Reproduction is not to be confused with cloning. Reproduction results in unique representations of the potentials of the originating system. According to Dewey and Tarrant, education is an arena wherein the reproduction of democracy is an ethical imperative. The ways in which this action research study influenced the democratic processes in the high school will be explored in the data and analysis chapters.
The next section, the last in this chapter, will provide my rationale for this study.

There is very little research literature on the integration of art and technology in the curriculum. I thought that a qualitative study would be a good place for me to begin because the methodology supports subtlety and interpersonal meaning making. Because the literature on technology integration suggested that there might be resistance to the integration of technology into any part of the curriculum, I needed a methodology that would be flexible enough to be modified continuously according to what would occur on site. Qualitative research would provide this methodology.

I decided to attempt the integration of art and technology in a high school in which I had been invited to do research. I saw the need for even more flexibility than qualitative research afforded, and so I chose to integrate action research methodology with qualitative research. I embarked upon a project the purposes were multifaceted but the focus was to be the improvement of the school web site. This activity provided an opportunity to explore my research question. Would we learn something by taking seriously the ethic of care in an action research project? Action research has long been concerned with social justice but there have been no articulations of the ethic of care as an alternative moral perspective within that methodological approach.

In order to help the high school art department integrate their curriculum with the available information technology, I assumed that I would have to use artistic processes. In fact, I was thrilled to be offered an opportunity to work with art teachers because I could examine the efficacy of artistic process during the course of an educational change initiative. And this afforded an opportunity to examine how engaging in artistic process might affect the oft reported teacher-resistance-to-technological–innovation.

I approach technology as an artist: I explore possibilities that the tool/media affords for communicative creative action. The vast opportunity that computers afford for artistic and ethical purposes is not well explored. I saw a parallel between the literature on democracy in education and the literature on integrating diversity into the curriculum. I felt that a study that explored alternative methods for integrating technology, methods that were intrinsically relational and conversational, would make a contribution to both the fields of technology and art in education. Because the World Wide Web embodies in its design, the principles of collaborative meaning making discussed in this chapter as fundamental to both art and to democracy, it seemed particularly valuable to use the Web as the media for the change initiative.

My perspective is exploratory and creative. This study seeks to explore the notions of democracy in education as manifested in socially responsible conversational interactions during a change initiative. The action initiative sought the creation of a viable environment for continuous technological integration into the curriculum by pursuing one particular technology initiative in such a way that the participants would be encouraged and enheartened to continue the process of change on their own, once the researcher had gone.

Further, I hoped that this research study would contribute to the conversation concerning conversation itself. The power of conversation as a tool for change has long been acknowledged in the field of clinical psychology but is less well studied in the fields of art or technology education. This study will closely examine the nature of conversational interactions during the course of the action research initiative.

Finally, all these factors notwithstanding, the fundamental research purpose of this study was to apply the ethic of care during a change initiative and to describe what occurred. I hoped that a care perspective on the part of the change agent, myself, would ameliorate the anxiety surrounding the integration of art and technological activities and methods. I also hoped that a care orientation would ameliorate resistance to change based on fear. And, lastly, I hoped that a care orientation would appreciably increase the possibility of collaborative, co-equal practice that Dewey and others describe as the essence of democratic practice and education. next