Black and White back stage view of dancer kneeling

Going to Reclaim Hosting’s Domains conference in Oklahoma was the tipping point in finally taking the initiative to start a blog. Being amongst passionate and fearlessness people from varied positions and disciplines within academia who collectively are working to empower students and faculty to “reclaim” the internet and harness its potential was inspiring. Swirling in my brain was the idea that we really do have a parallel universe, the Internet. Our physical realm is bound by time and geography creating barriers to communication and productivity. The internet its parallel and within its nebula time and geography do not exist. Poverty still pervades and affects both environments.

Since my dive into online education was exactly one year ago, I must thank my awesome team  at CSU Channel Island’s Teaching and Learning Innovations. They have been the foundation, support, and inspiration behind so many of my metaphorical “cliff dives.” I am not sure I would have taken the plunge without them.

Getting back on track to what I really wanted to discuss:

Online education needs Performing Arts and Performing Arts needs Online Education

I have read several articles and blogs, participated in faculty chat sessions and teacher preparation courses, and attended two edtech conferences in the span of a year. I have been dancing my whole life, which includes a 15 year professional performing career, a continued choreography career,  twenty years of teaching experience, 6 of those in higher ed. There are two things that I notice:

Ed-tech is innovative, and it really likes to use the term. There are talks of creativity, ingenuity, agency, and student led learning initiatives. Things that draw me to online teaching especially after my first experience last fall. Teaching Dance in History in a new environment was transformational and I am almost giddy planning for my next foray into online education this fall.

The Performing Arts are innovative, that is what we do as artists-to push the boundaries, reflect culture, pull into creation where none existed before, and make the audience think. Before edtech based much of its value system on innovation, performing artists have been living the practice- creativity, ingenuity, agency, student led learning initiatives and collaboration. And  while artists have charged into new environments, arts education, specifically the performing kind, is not as willing to break with oral tradition and explore online teaching. It is an easy jump to take arts history courses into online, but it seems unimaginable that an online dance technique course could be effective and meaningful.

Here is what I know:

While the world looks to tech to solve 21st century problems, they need to look to practices in the performing arts for what they have to offer young developing minds, fearlessness to try new things, creative problem solving, ingenuity to see the world from varied angles and empathy. The web is nonlinear, and performing artists excel in thinking on your feet and connecting the dots.

Simultaneously, performing arts needs to find the value and meaningful interpretations of its oral traditions in online forums. While I am not advocating for fully online PA programs, it is exactly the opposite. I believe blending of online content with face to face courses could provide students with deeper access to material. Students who might be shy, marginalized, or not even take the risk to take an arts course might do so online. Recently in my beginning dance courses, students who are not familiar with the unsaid code of dance culture want resources online to deepen their learning. They want more and they see online as a way have more access beyond the 4-6 hours in the dance lab(I don’t call it a studio).

So while I grapple with how to effectively and meaningfully take a dance technique course online I am increasing my available online content in my face to face classes. While we prize our oral traditions and feel that is what sets us apart and makes us special, we need to look at online with the same innovative lens embodied from practicing our art.  And, I will continue to fight and advocate for arts education. In an era where the NEA is extinct and tech is seen as the solution, I see the arts as the missing connection and correlation.

Start the metamorphosis, Arts-Ed-Tech.

#artsedtech  #metamorphosis

Photo by Benjamin Hytrek

Featuring Joshua Stapel

2 Responses

  1. I wish I could come learn to dance in your dance lab, Heather… but since geography gets in the way of that, I will just THANK YOU for all the sharing you are doing online. Dance on!!!

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