The course Traditional Arts and ICT Art Tools for Teaching Your Subjects and Promoting Life Skills, organised in Barcelona in April, gave rise to new ideas on the role that slow reflection plays in learning. The art of Gaudí also stirred up strong emotions.
The week-long course organised by Europass Teacher Academy focused on the integration of traditional and digital art techniques and tools into teaching. The atmosphere was close-knit thanks to our small and lively group of only five art educators: me, two colleagues from Norway and two from Cyprus.
Most of the teaching took place in the classroom, by the computer, and over the week we were rapidly introduced to a host of different applications and websites. Our group, accustomed to experiential learning, was therefore happy to engage in a few practical exercises given to us.
All the participants had worked long in art education, and when we got together outside the official course hours, we shared our experiences and professional ideas generously. This was a major benefit of the course. It was interesting and encouraging to hear, for example, about Norway’s new curriculum for basic education, which emphasises art and design processes, arts and crafts, visual communication and cultural awareness. Perhaps we may get something similar in the future?
Apart from the classroom, where we concentrated on digital tools, we also ventured into the “analogue” world of art, usually on our own and outside of teaching, following our own interests as well as recommendations from our teacher. The guided tour of Catalan art nouveau injected an element of traditional art into the course. Led by a passionate architect, the unforgettable tour supported experiential learning and provided insights into the philosophy of Antoni Gaudí and his contemporaries.
The city of Barcelona actually served as our teacher, as well. Its cultural history, architecture, art, food culture and people provided a source of endless inspiration that fed our creativity, sharpened our senses and gave rise to fresh thoughts.
Working tightly seated at the computer made it clear that the senses, body, imagination and play truly are essential elements of the learning process and that the brain is only one of the body parts involved in it. Digital equipment is undeniably experiential in its own way and serves as a useful supplement to other teaching. However, I believe that using a touch screen to handle, say, a digital colour palette, does not replace the learning experience of mixing “real” colours, which involves tactile, visual and motoric sensations.
Referring to the future, creativity and presence are often mentioned as examples of the core human skills that robots do not possess. To succeed, growth requires sensitivity, a slow pace and reflection—it cannot be rushed. Do we opt for surface-level, seemingly dynamic activities or do we choose to stop and dig deeper into things? Do we emphasise efficiency and speed or quality and deep learning? As educators, we can create opportunities for learning to concentrate and pause and to openly marvel at things. Creativity isn’t something you take out of the cupboard from time to time for refreshment, revival or teaching. It sustains people and is valuable in itself.
Learning is also an experience that the immediate environment either feeds or erodes. My visit to Sagrada Família, the life work of Gaudí, was a stirring experience both emotionally and physically. However, it required me to slowly surrender—to pause and be present—since a quick tour through the camera lens would have left the sight looking much like any other.
Gaudí’s profound thinking also offers an inspiring approach to work: his way of using a divine scale for human-sized creations, which are both functional and organic. Incompleteness also takes on a different meaning in this work of art which, at the time of writing this, has been under construction for 137 years and is only now beginning to approach its completion. Aware that he would not be around to see the finished temple, the great architect humbly noted that he was not disappointed, because even if he grew old, others would follow him. Seeing yourself as a part of something bigger is truly impressive. One of the basic needs of us humans is to find a significant role in our community, society and the world, but it is perhaps less common for us to consider ourselves as pieces of a greater mosaic. For example, how do I affect what life on this planet will look like when I am no longer here?
My friend, Antoni, also said something else that I believe is true in art, pedagogy and life as the whole: “To do things right, first you need love, then technique”.
This article is part of a series of articles about learning experiences in the field of adult education in European context. Our ERASMUS+ KA1 project is called “European Educational Know-how Supporting Civil Society”.