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Craig Cornwall, MA

Department of Art & Design

Critiquing with VoiceThread

Craig Cornwall reviewing watercolor paintings for his PLUTO online class. (Photo/John Froschauer)
Craig Cornwall reviewing watercolor paintings for his class. (Photo/John Froschauer)



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As a visual artist, Craig Cornwall is always looking for new ways to teach and help students learn and develop visual literacy. Best practice and innovative approaches have always been of interest. Specifically, he has been looking for ways to teach the visual arts through online methods. It seemed challenging to teach visual objectives without the benefits of face-to-face interaction with a teacher. Text-based communication did not seem to be enough. Discovering new technologies that would allow him to use audio and visual communication, both individually and with a group, was the motivation to continuing exploring how to develop an online watercolor class

What is one instructional technique or project that is particularly effective, innovative, or engaging?

“Participation in the critique process is one of the most valuable practices in the visual arts.  Seeing how others solve a visual problem is very valuable. Seeing the successes from other students and learning from them is powerful. In addition, it is often easier to see ways to make improvement in someone else’s work, because you are just too close to your own, can make it easier to then see those same things in your own work. Personal feedback from the teacher on a personal level is essential.”

What related tool or strategy do you use that other PLU faculty might like to try in their courses?

“The program I found that would let me teach visual arts online with virtually all of the benefits of a face-to-face class is VoiceThread. This program allows the teacher and members of the class to comment on projects using audio comments, drawing on the art to define and refine comments and critique. It allows the class to function more effectively than traditional text-based comments, maintain a record of all comments and allow personal consultations with the teacher for work in progress.”

What are the benefits, for you and your students, of utilizing this tool or strategy?

“With VoiceThread I found that comments and critiques were even more thoughtful and meaningful than in a face-to-face class. My comments as the teacher were more personal and thorough. A sense of community in the class was developed because of actual voice interactions rather than impersonal text comments.”

What advice would you have for someone interested in trying this tool or strategy?

“VoiceThread is the program that for me makes teaching the visual arts online possible. It is not difficult to use and students recognize its potential. Like most technology it is not everything to everyone but for teaching and communicating with audio and visual elements, I found it to be a powerful tool and the right tool for visual arts online communication.”

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