Saturday, October 22, 2005

Different kinds of images to teach art history -- from Flickr

Masaccio's "Tribute Money"
Masaccio's "Tribute Money",
originally uploaded by adamtart.
One of the issues that came up during our presentation in the CET yesterday was using Flickr in class -- I used the annotation feature in Flickr to have students comment on the works of art that we were studying. Steven is using it this semester in his NYC architecture class. Students, armed with digital cameras or cell phone cameras take pictures of the city that relate to the material they are studying. Used in this way, as Steven explained, the instructor gets to see what the students are seeing, what catches their eye, what interests them. It bring class into everyday life in the city -- and the city into class in a more meaningful way.

Another way of using Flickr images that we have been thinking about is using photos like this one -- taken of major art historical monuments (like the Brancacci Chapel featured here) from a specific (tourist) viewpoint. What is valuable here is that we have a sense of the moment -- of the way these works of art are experienced in the early 21st century. As art historians, we are used to discussing the art in class isolated from any context (a common criticism of the museum) -- on a black background, viewed from straight on -- most likely not a view of the work of art that anyone ever had! What we show in art history class is therefore analogous to the divine view of the middle ages -- a view that showed us the world in a way that human beings, with their single, moving viewpoint never see. Photos like this one make us think about a new way of teaching art history, one that emphasizes the bodily/experiential/contextual aspect of viewing.
I've been collecting these in "My Favorites."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Camtasia adventure

My fortune cookie today was uncanny, “Old associates lead to new adventures.” It was discarded after a lunch celebrating a terrific collaborative effort between myself, Eric Feinblatt and Beth Harris. We met together just an hour or so prior to our scheduled presentation in FIT’s CET (Center for Excellence in Teaching—our technology lab for faculty development). We were scheduled to discuss uses of multimedia in teaching and we were prepared to discuss exploratory work we had done using a variety of tools in the context of our own courses. These tools include Flickr, podcasting (using Audacity), and some preliminary work done with Camtasia. But Beth, in a flash of brilliance, suggested that we combine Camtasia with ARTstor’s OIV (offline image viewer) to move beyond the podcasts we’d already created at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for our online courses. We quickly settled on Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning as our initial victim. This, because I will soon be covering it in my online course, and I have found this collage especially difficult to adequately convey to my students. In our podcasts, Beth and I had stood before a painting in the museum, IPod with mic attachment in hand, and offered our students a spontaneous conversation about the work of art. What resulted was an unscripted discussion with a wonderful sense of discovery as each of us prompted the other to look anew. So the three of us sat down and we were now able to go significantly further than we’d been able to in the museum. Thanks to the OIV, some forethought, and Google, we were able to significantly reinforce our discussion with collateral images. Further we were able to zoom in and record our mouse movements--used largely as a pointer. This is an important advantage over simply placing descriptive text near the image and hoping the student can connect the two. The result, like with the podcasts, was an easy give and take that was meant to model for our students, the ways they might begin to freely explore works of art. As the three of us went to lunch after the presentation, we mused that if we created a Camtasia file with subsidiary documentary material, our students or anyone with a video IPod could stand in front of a painting in a museum and not only hear our analysis but also see sketches, variations and other supporting materials, truly creating a classroom without walls. Click here for the Camtasia video

Monday, October 17, 2005

Small Tools / Big Ideas Conference at FIT

Now that the dust has settled, we wanted to blog about our October 7th conference held at FIT. The premise of the conference was to understand the relationship between digital repositories -- specifically image repositories -- and the plethora of possible instructional tools that could make the repositories spaces for active learning. There were over 180 participants from more than 75 institutions across the country. Rachel Smith, from the New Media Consortium began the day with a keynote that reminded us that what we think of as technology is simply a normal part of our student's natural environment and that we, as educators, should not cling to a sense of its newness and artificiality, but allow what we think of as "technology" to become as invisible as it is to our students. The morning session, "Big Ideas," looked at a variety of different types of repositories. Barbara Taranto, Director of the Digital Library Program at the New York Public Library talked about the incredible success of that project which averages over half a million hits a day. The images on the digital gallery may be freely downloaded for personal, research and study purposes. Barbara lauded the variety of new and different contexts in which these images could now appear and pointed to the ways in which, on sites like Flickr, the images were sometimes stripped of their metadata and decontextualized. Barbara posed this as an issue, asking us to think about what happens to the meaning of an image, and the uses it might be put to, when it is removed from its context. In essence, she pointed out that this use of images, which is already rampant, could be further magnified as images become a kind of free currency disassociated from their sources and original uses. Using wikipedia as a model, Barbara suggested that informed communities could make it their responsibility to enhance the meaning of these untethered images. What fascinated us about Richard Baraniuk's (Director of the Connexions Project at Rice University), talk was not just the learning object repository and builder that allows faculty to, in essence, share learning objects that they've created, and reconfigure them as courses, but also, the way in which this was going to impact the textbook publishing industry. Rich mentioned Lulu -- and the idea that faculty could now self-publish these recombined learning objects (covered by creative commons licenses) and distribute them through Amazon. We were particularly impressed that Thomson publishing was on-hand as a sponsor to engage in a continuing dialogue about the future of textbook publishing. In fact, since we both teach art history online, and therefore have essentially written course texts, we are thinking about publishing via this new medium. Although faculty will draw from a variety of image repositories -- those that are institutional and those that are licensed (like Artstor), it is clear that they will continue to develop and maintain their own individual collections. The project Henry Pisciotta (Arts and Architecture Librarian at Pennsylvania State University and member of the Advisory Board of LionShare) talked about -- Lionshare -- allows faculty to share images among eachother and across institutions using peer-to-peer software that can authenticate users and allow for federated searches. Carl Jones and Ben Brophy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries talked about the intersection between the repository that MIT developed, DSpace (which is not configured well for images) and Stellar, MIT's learning management system. We were particularly interested in their efforts because of SUNY's work with uploading images from two SUNY campuses into DSpace to create a pilot digital image repository that can be shared across the 64 campuses of the State University of New York. After eggplant parmesan and some collegial chit chat, we reconvened for the second panel, "Small Tools," moderated by Michael Feldstein. Our idea here was to discuss tools that are important to making the image repository a learning environment and also to emphasize the necessity for interoperability. In our opening remarks, we used the metaphor of the repository as a planet orbited by different tools, that could be used as needed by faculty. The tools we focused on were an image annotation tool developed by Columbia's Center of New Media Teaching Teaching and Learning (not currently available outside of the Columbia community), Tuft's VUE, SFMoMA'sPachyderm, and Scholar's Box. At the end of the day, in the roundtable, Carey Hatch, Assistant Provost for Library and Information Services at SUNY, asked the participant (representatives from FIT, Artstor, MDID, and Almagest) to talk about integrating these tools within a digital repository based on their real-world experiences.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Picture Share!

A Picture Share!
A Picture Share!,
originally uploaded by beth h..