Nancy has 20 years of collegiate teaching experience. Currently, she is Adjunct Professor of Digital Art and Design at Eastern Connecticut State University where she teaches digital art and visual communication design classes. Other classes have included digital media, foundations and career development. Her publications have focused on experiential learning, the interdisciplinary nature of design, utilizing the design process as a tool for learning, and why design is important to creating artifacts. Nancy is affiliated with Hartford area artistic and mentoring programs, as well as regional and national fine art photography and design organizations.
A student’s mind can be stimulated by a variety of interactive and participatory learning experiences. In the classroom, my interaction with students is primary to their learning process. This interaction can be in the form of lectures, with the use of visual examples to promote creative inspiration. To inspire original thinking, I use digital images, the Internet, video, and podcasts of related topics. Lectures can be disseminated physically in the classroom, or sometimes through an “electronic classroom,” such as Blackboard. I also show examples of previous student artwork, assign reading material, and provide field trips to professional establishments, therefore promoting the importance of “looking” at history, popular culture and the professional process of design and/or art making.
My interaction also can be in the form of hands-on demonstrations, during which students actively apply techniques themselves. Because the physical body has memory, providing a physical experience helps students understand and recall techniques more fully. For example, teaching a student to use the computer as a tool for art-making or constructing a drawing on the computer requires technique. If this technique is practiced, the student will learn, understand, and perform the technique with greater proficiency than just learning the technique through lecture, reading, or watching a video.
I believe involving undergraduate students in professional activity is extremely important to their education. I strongly believe in the Scholarship of Application, and regularly involve students in my research. I believe if a student is immersed in the professional world, while still being taught in the academic world, they can exhibit tremendous growth in presentation, verbal, cognitive, intra-personal, and technical skills—well beyond what a classroom environment alone can provide.
In addition, the most important interaction I have with students is to acknowledge the individual student and build in time for one-on-one attention. When students learn how to use various tools for design or art-making, each student learns at a different level and will have specific questions pertaining to their needs or desired solutions. Through one-on-one interaction, informal assessments can also provide students with the opportunity to improve interpersonal communication.
Students should also conduct research outside the classroom so they can participate in discussions and critiques, inspiring new and thought-provoking discourse centered on or around their work. I believe in both leading critiques and letting students lead critiques, with my role being advisor or motivator. The formal assessment that happens in a critique allows for acknowledgment of their work, creating an avenue for them to measure their progress. It also allows for growth in interpersonal communication with their peers. Students must take public responsibility for their work, defend it, and learn to take constructive criticism. Ethical questions may arise from informal or formal discussions, or in response to a specific piece of artwork or design work. These questions are always allowed to be asked, discussed, and reviewed by the group. In these discussions it is important to point out historical and contemporary influences and acknowledge that the learning process is individualistic, as well as an intrinsic part of the overall construct of society.
The learning process should help students analyze their work, but more importantly it should spawn analytical thinking about the self and identity in relation to others. The learning process should also help students formulate questions about self and identity in relation to history and contemporary culture. — Nancy Wynn