November Provisions Session – Teaching the Visual

To listen to the podcast from this session, click here.

27 faculty members were in attendance for our 3rd and final Provisions session of 2014. The three presenters, who shared their experiences of ‘Teaching the Visual’, were Liz Richards, Visiting Instructor of Communications, Susan Meyer, Assistant Professor of Art Foundation, and Dr. Joanne Powers, an Associate Professor of Mathematics.

Proceedings began a little differently to usual, with Liz Richards and Susan Meyer collaborating to co-present their story about another collaboration that took place back in the spring semester. Richards, who teaches Multimedia Storytelling, a communications class, and Meyer, who teaches 3-D concepts, an art class, decided to merge their group of students together in the hope of creating a unique project centered on a type of installation art dubbed “inflatables”. Due to the common divide of city and country students, an urban vs. rural theme was established. For the art class, the task was to physically construct the inflatable installations using plastic sheeting material and a fan, while the communications students provided both visual and audio media that was projected onto them. In addition, the communications class combined their talents to document the collaboration, report on it, and form marketing and public relations departments.

Another notable difference between the two classes was that the 3-D concepts students were in their 1st year, while the Multimedia Storytelling were comprised of juniors and seniors. Richards and Meyer explained that, in spite of the gap, the two sets of students learned a lot from each other. Although they were only able to align their schedules to meet three times in person, the use of technology acted as a vital resource in maintaining and facilitating that contact.

Richards and Meyer added that, for the students who were used to last-minute cramming and starting and finishing work the night before due date, a project of this nature required a time of acclimation. By the end of the experience, Richards and Meyer learned that their collaboration acted as a great platform for their students to learn from each other, gain confidence, and that the project provided a visual example of their accomplishments.To see the collaborating duo’s PowerPoint, click on the link – Inflatables-4.

Dr. Joanne Powers was next up to present; she demonstrated how mathematical visualizations impact her teaching and, thus, the learning of her students. In Dr. Powers’ class, games can be used to help understand complex concepts. The chaos game allows students to see how a seemingly random process can result in familiar patterns; the Sierpinski triangle being one of them.  The students’ learning is further enhanced through the medium of an interactive geometry software program called “The Geometer’s Sketchpad”where students are able to visually explore a multitude of different mathematical areas. Dr. Powers showed the audience, with the Geometer’s Sketchpad, examples of how shapes can be constructed and, in turn, manipulated to provide visual representations of the changes that can take place in the figures. The students are able to see for themselves the answer to “what would happen if….?”  Dr. Powers stated that her students’ understanding of mathematical equations was made easier thanks to the visual model. Due to the visual nature of the world these days, a visual approach could surely enhance learning in any academic discipline.

As always, at the end of the presentations, the floor was opened up for discussions. These were a few of the points that arose:

  • There is a need for integration between courses in liberal education.
  • Having interdisciplinary students in the same classroom helps to provide welcomed diversity and different insights to a subject.
  • Creativity is not merely confined to traditionally creative classes such as music and art.
  • Students should be encouraged to take risks; the process of potentially making a mistake can lead to a greater eventual understanding.
  • It could be beneficial to spread out liberal arts courses so that students can take them when they are older and have developed their sense of critical thinking.

To listen to the podcast from this session, click here.

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