Teaching Painting from Afar

Last spring, we asked our students which of our elective classes they wanted us to teach – both Stephen Rupsch and I had some liberty in our schedules to offer classes we don’t normally (unheard of in our discipline). They chose Directing for Stephen Rupsch and Technical Theatre for me. Technical Theatre is an intensely hands-on class that relies on class demonstrations and I needed a way to give the students instruction without being in constant proximity. Also, the last time I taught it in 2017, we spent more time talking about how-to instead of doing, which was not good.

To solve most of these problems, I decided to record my own demos for some of the projects and find some existing videos for others (especially for stage makeup, not my specialty). I had some good success with the demos I recorded in the spring of 2020 for my Design for Performance class, so I was fairly confident that I could put together useful (and entertaining) videos for my students.

Successes: The demonstrations are proving to be successful. The students were able to watch the videos beforehand and come into class relatively ready to work on their own. They were pretty accessible because I posted them up to YouTube so they could watch them anywhere, even during class. The level of student work is of a higher quality than past classes and the students seemed more secure in their abilities to work through the assignments. The videos also allowed me more freedom in the class to assist students with specific techniques or to do a live demonstration for the entire class for trickier aspects of the project. Another success is the consistency of learning. I had to break the class into two smaller sections because of space/proximity concerns. The demos allowed me to teach both groups the exact same way. The student can also re-watch the videos as many times as necessary, which is a big bonus.

Challenges: The videos took a lot of time and effort to make and process into usable demonstrations. This is not a complaint, but a reality of making sure the instructions were clear and easily understood and this necessitated multiple takes. I also had a problem with my computer processing speed – these were sometimes larger files but my poor laptop soldiered on gamely! I also had troubles with audio so I got a wireless mic, but my computer doesn’t like microphones, so I had to make sure I was facing the laptop to be heard. The document camera worked very well for most demos, until I was doing close-up work. It took a while to figure out the best location for the camera to film me working at the sewing machine. When I do video demos again, I’ll need to devise an overhead rig for a camera.

One part of the the experiment I needed to dump was the student making their own content, at least for now. I discovered that the projects were complicated enough, that to add a dimension of video recording and editing could overwhelm them. I will probably ask them to document their process for the last two assignments, as a way of keeping fidelity with my intent.

In conclusion, I deem this experiment a success and I plan on expanding and refining the use of recorded demonstrations to supplement in person instruction – they will not entirely replace the personalized and in-person, but I like the idea of the students having a secondary resource for learning in my classes. Anecdotally, the students have gotten a lot out of the demos, especially when my parrot makes an appearance, and the creation of these videos has forced me to be a more methodical and intentional teacher.

Thank you to Academic Technologies for the opportunity and Susan Ashley for her amazing support.

Below are links to the assignment sheets, videos, and student work.

Project 1: Paint Techniques

Paint #2 – https://youtu.be/02EVb732dOI

Paint #4 – https://youtu.be/SLa_9gWNx7M

Paint #5 – https://youtu.be/h7KcQERpOZA

Project 2: Materials Quilt in Paint

Marble Demo: https://youtu.be/Z4xfWuvAhQ8

Linoleum Demo: https://youtu.be/T4ini0afyaM

Cobblestones Demo: https://youtu.be/WeVNU9QtjJ4

Project 3: Sewing Techniques Quilt

Hemstitch – https://youtu.be/N9TXnE93QUA

French Seam – https://youtu.be/suL_wRLBe54

Applique Initials – https://youtu.be/42IGlvgyGtA

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