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Keeping students engaged with art

Published: 20 May 2020

Bernie Slater

Just like a sportsperson needs to warm up and train to stay at peak fitness, artists need to keep training and working to hone their skills. CIT Visual Arts Teacher Bernie Slater, has given his students the opportunity to do exactly that through a series of online tutorials.

During the recent pause to classes, Bernie wanted his students to stay engaged with their studies and their own creative processes. "They needed to exercise their creative behaviours, make art and think creatively," Bernie said.

"It is important that they keep their minds in shape and keep up with their creative habits, and I know many of our students have found these tutorials to be a valuable way to continue their artistic education, stay in touch with others, and also to share their work."

Bernie has produced over ten video tutorials for his students, with several more still to be posted. Tutorials focused on what he described as "creative warm-ups," some based on exercises taught in the classroom.

One such exercise is called "Pay Attention." Students go out and notice as many details in their surrounding as possible. Online, they were asked do this within their homes.

Adapting his classes to online learning has not been without its challenges. "In a classroom I'm able to watch the students and guide them through their creative process. Online I have to anticipate what challenges they will face and predict how I can best help them."

"I've been helping my students build a process of stepping back from their own work at critical points to check in or ask me for advice. It has made me re-evaluate how I think about teaching more generally."

Bernie said the trick to teaching online is to keep students motivated, having fun and providing them with a positive, encouraging environment. "It also helps to have your teaching broken down into small, more accessible chunks. This includes short engaging videos that still challenge your students."

One of Bernie's students, Sally Black said that while she was looking forward to a return to the classroom, the online warm-ups had been very helpful.

"Studying visual arts at home can be hard. You don't have that face-to-face contact and instant feedback, but Bernie's warm-ups have been excellent.  They have been like a springboard for me, just like in class. As students, we have been able to transfer his ideas into our own environments."

Bernie's videos are available online.