A Snapshot View of how Senior Visual Arts Students Encounter and Engage with Technology in Their Arts Practice

A Snapshot View of how Senior Visual Arts Students Encounter and Engage with Technology in Their Arts Practice

Martin Kerby (St Joseph’s Nudgee College, Australia) and Margaret Baguley (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-842-0.ch008
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This chapter reports the findings of a pilot research project that investigated how senior visual arts students engage with and utilise technology in the creation of art works during their program of study. During the course of a year, six students from two schools were interviewed and their work was visually documented to ascertain whether technology played a predominant part in their practice. Analysis of the interview data was framed within a social constructivist perspective and drew on notions of skills and expertise, support, access, awareness and inspiration. The findings revealed that the senior visual arts students regularly used technology as part of their process but often reverted to using traditional media with some technological aspects in the creation of their final work.
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Within the Australian senior visual art classroom young people engage in an intensive two year personal journey of exploration and expression. During this period they utilise higher order learning and thinking skills evidenced in their ability to articulate the process they have undertaken to create works of art which are informed, innovative and unique. However, this journey is complex and undertaken with varying degrees of expertise and exposure to a range of media and current/emerging technologies (Davis, 2008; Queensland Studies Authority, 2007). Additionally, students are under increasing pressure in their final years before potentially joining the workforce to choose subjects which are considered to provide as many opportunities as possible for career choice. There are many factors which can affect these decisions including issues related to gender, socio-economic factors and motivation (Kniveton, 2004; Lapan, Hinkelman, Adams, & Turner, 1999; Tringali, 1993; Morgan, 1986).

There is extensive literature regarding the value of the arts in engaging students in higher order thinking processes and the benefits the arts have in promoting creative and lateral thinking (Bamford, 2006; Davis, 2008; Gardner, 1993; Sawyer, 2006; Wright, 2003, 2004). The arts reflect issues which are occurring in society such as the impact of technology on everyday life. The recent Australian National Review of Visual Education (Davis, 2008) proposed that information which was formerly represented through words or numbers is increasingly being depicted by visual images and therefore an extensive amount of technology relies on the ability of the participant to be visually literate. Many students are already ‘connected’ with one another through various types of technology including email, instant messaging and chat rooms. They utilise the Web to search for information, play games in virtual environments, use their mobile phone to record and send images and manipulate images on the computer. Visual arts education endeavours to prepare students to read, analyse and create visual images in an informed and discriminating way; however the influences on young people are many and varied. According to the UK body, National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education (NACCCE):

... young people now live in a complex web of interacting cultures and sub-cultures: of families, gender, peer groups, ideological convictions, political communities and of ethnic and local traditions. They also live in a global culture that is driven by the interplay of commercial interests, the creative energies of young people themselves, and the enveloping influence of information technologies. (NACCCE, 1999, p. 23)

This article seeks to enhance our understanding of how senior visual arts students utilise technology in their arts practice and what factors encourage or discourage the use of this medium.



In Australia the subject Senior Visual Art is undertaken during the final two years of high school prior to students moving into university studies. The results students gain from this subject, contribute towards their overall score to be considered for university entrance. Two schools, from different states in Australia, were chosen for this study. The first, known in this study as School A, was a co-educational independent school from early learning (aged three years) to Year 12 catering for approximately 1100 students including boarders. It has a purpose-built building for sole use by Year 11 and 12 students which contains the visual arts department. The second school, known in this study as School B, is a private school for boys, which caters for approximately 1400 students including boarders from Years 5 – 12. The second school also has a purpose-built centre for visual arts education.

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