Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator by Glenn Rand and Richard D. Zakia
My reading began this summer with a scholarly text called “Teaching Photography: Tools for the Imaging Educator” by Glenn Rand and Richard D. Zakia. While collegiate professors wrote the text based on working with college students, it offers me a great deal of insight into the nature of Imaging Technology for high school students. The quotes below are from the first few chapters of the text, and are followed by my reflections.
“The valuable thing in education is learning, not teaching.”
The notion that teaching is not the most valuable thing in the classroom, threw me back for a moment. I, like most teachers am compelled to take responsibility for my students learning. Haven’t I spent years planning project based learning experiences, creating Keynote presentations, making instructional videos, providing one-on-one support, and setting up my own intranet filled with resources? That said, I think the point is clearly to reconsider what learning is really all about.
This might be a good time for me to review and reconsider some aspects of my teaching philosophy. I’ll begin by addressing many of the concepts that have guided me through much of my teaching and reassess the nature of learning in my classroom.
Bloom’s taxonomy has provided teachers with a structure to deal with the challenge of higher order thinking, while Gardner has pushed us to see the needs of individual students and their learning styles. Imaging technology is no different than any other subject when it comes to the structure of learning in the classroom. The cognitive, effective, and psychomotor aspects of Bloom’s hierarchy, as well as the individual learning styles of Gardner are all alive and well in the pursuit of great images.
Cognitive learning is about growing mentally in various forms of knowledge; building an intellectual store of information and being able to apply and synthesize those concepts. Like many artistic and technical pursuits there are distinct guidelines for composition, or technical skills needed to realize the success of the image. The knowledge base is the foundation of a students learning and needs to be established early and reviewed often.
Affective learning is rooted more in ones perceptions and making value judgments. An artist’s creative process is rooted in such value judgments. Here, this becomes a matter for the learner and not the teacher. The teacher may be able to plant some seeds, but the nature of their expressions comes from within themselves and their experiences.
Psychomotor learning is about being able to master the proper response or reaction based on your attentiveness, no mater how complex the situation. Ultimately you have to be up on your feet and engaged in the world around you in a meaningful way to produce interesting images. You have to know how to work with your equipment to realize your goal, while often making a snap decision before the moment is gone.
“There are many maps to how learning happens. These commonly include learning from perceptions, relationships, conditioning, motor activities, episodic situations, problem solving, and emotional understanding.”
Beyond these tried and true paradigms I have to mention the importance of 21st century skills that have breathed new life into my work in the past decade. Students are learning and producing in a new world, much different than my young educational experience. This new world of technology, and communication provides many different “maps to how learning happens”. I have so many students who come into my room with a sophisticated since of imagery, or a mastery of technology, others who have keen perceptive skills and emotional intelligence, and still more that are natural problem solvers. I think that there development is deeply rooted in these 21st Century Skills, and it comes down to a much more personal and meaningful learning style that can’t be ignored.
“The challenge is taking any eagerness the individual presents and then looking for ways to turn the energy created by the inspiration into methods for learning.”
All things being said, in the end it is about creating learning experiences instead of just teaching. Those learning experiences need to provide students the opportunity to learn, work, and produce images that reflect their own personal style as well as craftsmanship, and integrity. The hardest thing a teacher may face each day in the classroom is simply being there for all the students in their room in a timely matter. In the creative pursuits I teach there is rarely one correct answer, and it is imperative that I provide one-on-one support for the creative process. I need to work harder to utilize pure inspiration to drive my students forward in the learning process.
This leaves me to ponder how to create an inspirational atmosphere and help my students to become passionate and motivated people who are willing to take the risk of doing work that represents their best. Likewise I must also renew and build the passionate learner within myself if I can have any meaningful impact on their learning.