Fine Arts Teacher Spotlighted in Dean's Report
Like most college teachers leading a classroom lesson, Susan Ardern often peers into the faces of her students and asks them questions to make sure they understand the material. What sets Ardern apart among teachers is the added challenge of not having all the students in her fine arts class in the same Langley, VA, classroom with her. Some are not even in the same city or the same state. Fortunately, Ardern is adept at the use of video teleconferencing technology, or VTT, which permits two or more locations to share the same class time, and to see and hear each other via television monitors. Because of VTT, students at some Saint Leo locations that are too small to support an on-site instructor can still enroll in the same classroom-led courses with the same instructor as their counterparts elsewhere.
And since the course Ardern teaches most often––integrated fine arts––is required of all students at Saint Leo, her proficiency with VTT is essential.
So while Ardern stands only feet away from students in a Langley, VA classroom, she may also be teaching another five students at Naval Air Station Key West, FL, and another or eight at Shaw Air Force Base near Charleston, SC. “You really have to be on your toes,” she says.
While observing and engaging students in multiple locations, she must also stay within range of the camera broadcasting her image. She keeps in mind the advantages and disadvantages of VTT instruction given the various art forms covered in the course, as well. “Visual work is better than auditory. Music is not quite as successful because of a three-second sound delay.”
Accordingly, she instructs students to attend live performing arts events and write about them, and to visit a museum or gallery. For another assignment, she requires the students to stand in front of the lens and deliver oral reports to their peers about one aspect of the life or work of an artist, so that they are gaining experience not just in public speaking, but in public speaking on camera to their fellow students elsewhere. In the process of hearing those presentations, she says, she invariably learns something new about an artist, as do her students. “It’s really a joy to teach this class,” she says. “It enriches my life.”
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