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Suzanne Goulet (October)
A Visual Art Educator at Waterville Senior High School, her business card reads, “Suzanne Goulet, Art – Traditional, Digital and Emerging Media.” In 1990, after hiking the Appalachian Trail and managing a small ski area, she began teaching professionally. In those 27 years she has created and guided classes of all levels; Introductory to AP (all approaches – no pre-requisite); Grades 9 – Adult Ed. A registered Maine Guide, Suzanne enjoys sharing her love of the outdoors and art with her students by advising the Outing Club (Fungi Photography, Watercolors and Canoeing, Pedals, Pedestals and Chopsticks, etc.) and is a volunteer sign maker with the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the International Appalachian Trail, also maintaining the historic Arnold Trail section of the AT. Suzanne recently completed the Continental Divide Trail (Mexico to Canada), is currently hiking, in sections, the Pacific Northwest Trail (Montana to the Pacific) and is adventuring through packrafting. Lucky enough to have an eagle’s nest in view of her classroom studio, Suzanne is eagerly awaiting this next year’s clutch. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Art Integration: Reflections on Challenges and Possibilities for Art Education | Main | Overcoming Challenges to Integrating Visual Art »

July 18, 2017

Selfies, Tourist Gaze and Authenticity: Engaging Middle School Students

From: R. Darden Bradshaw

All teachers, regardless of the age of their student, work toward and often question if we are meeting the needs of those students (Goswami, Lewis, Rutherford, & Waff, 2009).  I frequently wonder if I am doing all I can to prepare them for the complex, contemporary world in which they are living. This iterative cycle of questioning, adjusting my teaching practice, and evaluating the results of said practice supports reflection. For some teachers, especially those of us who work with middle schoolers, students can seem like “aliens in the classroom” (Green & Bigum, 1993 cited in Bigum and Rowan, 2009) and finding the right ways to get through to them can feel daunting.  I have found art integration to be a practice that celebrates multiple answers, encourages various ways of teaching, and results in students developing creative solutions (Bradshaw, 2016).  Art integration serves as a philosophical guide that supports the iterative cycle of reflective practice while also being a teaching process that celebrates the complexity of preparing students for their future.  In the current educational climate that asks teachers to move away from a focus on skills and shine the light instead on ways to help students develop “dispositions” that facilitate and foster the ability to acquire knowledge, respond to the demands place on them in their future work, personal and social lives, and critically and creatively question the world  - art integration stands at the ready.

For example, Megan Newton, a middle school art teacher in Miamisburg, OH has an opportunity each summer to travel abroad with a small group of middle schoolers and their parents through EF tours.  This summer, Megan says she noticed the interactions students (and even the adults on the trip) had with historical monuments and landscapes – specifically in the way in which they used photography.  In this setting, rather than simply extending their arm in a typical pose and snapping a photograph to document the moment, she notes,

“These students on tour were models! They would ask someone to take their photo and they would twist their body into perfect position--turn slightly to camera, bend a leg, tilt head, and put an arm on the hip. It was magical to see them whip these poses out in seconds.” 

1
Xailey Atkinson posing for her photo. Photo credit: Megan Newton

She continues, “One of the students even instructed another student on tour to take candid photos of her. She wasn't looking for the traditional posed photo. She was hoping for a more authentic photo of her experience. But is it authentic when she's instructing someone to do so?

Newton inquired further and states, “I also noticed that the adults were the ones doing the "typical" selfie. Is the traditional selfie out? Is this only something "old" people do?” 

2
Selfie of Megan Newton at Stonehenge, UK

Considering these questions, Newton had conversations with students about their photos asking them

* Why did you take that photo?
* Which one is your favorite? Why?
* What photos will you show your parents/post online to depict your 11 days in Europe?

Posing questions and engaging students in deconstructing their experience, Newton demonstrated the way adolescents need social interaction and ‘chit-chat’ to make sense of imagery (Buckingham and Sefton-Green, as cited in Duncum, 2002).  In asking students these questions, Newton states,

“I wondered about their ideas of authenticity. Were they taking tourist-y photos? What was their typical subject matter? These questions led to some great conversations with adults about the selfie culture, especially from the tour director who noted, "selfies are more about the action, not the image."

This statement encouraged Newton to pause and consider how to develop an art integration unit around authenticity, Tourist gaze, and selfie-culture for her students this coming fall.  Using their local community as the site in which their ‘tourist investigations’ will occur, Newton has begun developing the integrated unit as follows:

Lesson 1=tour downtown Miamisburg and take photos. The goal is to show someone who is visiting what Miamisburg has to offer--similar to a visitor’s guide

Lesson 2=print out photos and organize them by common themes in class. Discuss and deconstruct “tourist gaze” and “selfie culture”. Invite students to reorganize photos based on this new information. 

Lesson 3=Return to downtown Miamisburg with our new tourist lens and take another set of photos

Lesson 4=print out photos and reflect on the ways in which new information informed, challenged, or confirmed our ideas of “tourist gaze” and “selfie-culture.”

Newton was not just inspired by her interactions with students but she used her experience and their engagement as a springboard for curricular investigation.  The questions she is asking students to answer through this integration unit will allow them to become agents in their photographic choices, not necessarily followers and unconscious participants. 

This is a perfect example of the power for classroom transformation from one of the “emphasis on teachers covering material, getting through curriculum and transferring knowledge from their minds into the vacuous minds of students who must perform well on standardized tests” (Hinchey, 2004, p. 92) to one in which students are engaged in active creation of meaning, problem-posing and solution, and critical analysis of authentic understanding.   

References

Bradshaw, R. D. (2016). Art integration fosters empathy in the middle school classroom.  The Clearing House:  A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 89(4-5), 109-117. Taylor & Francis.

Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2009). Renegotiating knowledge relationships in schools.  In S. N. and B. Somekh (Ed.), The Sage handbook of educational action research (pp. 131-141). London:  Sage.

Duncum, P. (2002). Visual culture art education:  Why, what and how.  Journal of Art & Design Education, 21(1), 14-23.

Goswami, D., Lewis, C., Rutherford, M., & Waff, D. (2009). Teacher inquiry:  Approaches to language and literacy.  New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hinchey, P.  (2004).  Becoming a critical educator:  Defining a classroom identity, designing a critical pedagogy.  New York, NY: Peter Lang.

- RDB

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