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Technology Shiver-Shift! Shifting Movement & Shifting Agency in the College Dance Classroom

Dispositions of both teacher and student can significantly influence the role of technology in any learning movement. This blog post aims to explore the application of technology specifically in college-level dance education. In addition to making suggestions for faculty to improve dispositions towards technology in the dance classroom, we will consider some creative ways that higher education responded to the COVID-19 global pandemic and how technology may have served to preserve college dance education in ways never considered previously!

First, as dance teachers we know that music editing and video recording has been ubiquitous coinciding with the ease and usefulness of iPhones, iPads and various free, open-source cross-platform music editing software (MP3 Cutter, Adobe Audition, Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/), or SoundTrap by Spotify (https://www.soundtrap.com/). Some dance educators may be well versed in music editing and video capture, while others have been reticent, nervous, or outright resistant to these emerging literacies. In fact, it has been our students in many cases leading the charge in early adoption, being quick to embrace new technologies (Gullen & Sheldon, 2014; Richardson, 2019). Regardless of your position on the technology continuum, it has been clear since the early 2000’s that editing music proficiently is tantamount to creating meaningful choreography, and filming movement phrases has become the daily dance class wrap up for critique, reflection, archival and at-home rehearsal purposes.

The landscape of dance education has changed as technology becomes increasingly infused throughout our profession and we must shift our perception of dance instruction from teacher-centered gatekeepers of somatic and creative knowledge, toward a pedagogy of co-agency where student “agency is amplified by the integration of modern technologies… a potent mix for solving real problems in the [dance] world” (Richardson, 2019, p. 14). Choreographic innovation is a mechanism to self-actualization, and the millennial generation thrives on visibility, likes, and feedback. By inviting and incorporating technologies that improve our student’s technique class and performance experiences, their engagement lays the foundation for student-derived learning outcomes, enhanced through positive self-efficacy. We are catalysts of their success, but only by reimagining our role to become a facilitator of student-driven learning!

Through thoughtful integration of technology into our dance courses, we provide opportunities for our students to develop crucial employment skillsets, known as twenty-first-century skills (21CS):

  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation
  • Creativity and Entrepreneurship
  • Learning to Learn/Self-Aware & Self-Directed Learning
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Global Citizenship

Dance educators need a disposition of curiosity that shows our students, while we may or may not be confident in how to use technology, our eagerness to learn and explore new technologies makes a lasting impact on the culture of our classrooms and invites students to have a vested interest in their own success, as well as the success of the program. We have an opportunity to “engage students in creating a classroom learning community by learning and leading together” (Gullen & Sheldon, 2014, p. 37) where students can create, with guidance and oversight, dance department promotional videos for upcoming performances. Splicing together dance clips, overlay music, voiceovers and embedded still shots of their peers caught in dynamic dance moments, students use technology to promote themselves and the college with the school’s logo swooping across the screen, finishing with an informational drop in about the date, location, where to buy tickets, and how much to the semester showcase. Widely shared social media posts, as well as campus advertising are the new bulletin board of our age, and students are eager to grand jeté (leap) into this vibrant realm!

Figure 1. Electrifying dance in the twenty-first century (Prajapat, n.d.).

 21CS such as innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, learning to learn, communication, and group collaboration, students’ digital literacy can contribute to a dance department by harnessing their disposition to “connect their learning to the world around them” (Maas & Hughes, 2020, p. 240). So, let’s familiarize ourselves with the five stages of education reinvented through technology (ACOT 1995, cited in Tomlinson, 2019, p. 89; Gunter & Reeves, 2017, p. 1308) to situate the ongoing evolution of technology in our dance classes:

  • Entry-learning the basics of a technology
  • Adoption-using the new technology to support traditional instruction
  • Adaptation-integrating new technology to develop new pedagogical approaches
  • Infusion-assessment based on project-based, interdisciplinary work with workplace applicability
  • Transformation-discovering new uses for multiple types of technology in the classroom, outside the classroom and beyond

As dance movement and technology are always shifting and progressing, the shiver up our spine comes from the demand for more innovation than just artistic output. The entry, adoption and adaptation of technology will only enhance the attractiveness of our dance programs, as “colleges and universities must be ready to meet educational needs of today’s digital generation (West & Knight, 2012) and further, it becomes imperative that we continue to advocate for “consistent professional development involving authentic, integrated, subject-specific methods” (Gunter & Reeves, 2017, p. 1308).

New emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) might have exciting applications to establish new pedagogical reach beyond the mere consumption of information, toward the “creation and manipulation of information across and through multiple realities and dimensions” (Maas & Hughes, 2020, p. 232). Students could engage dance through VR, AR and MR infused throughout our curriculum. For example:

  • World Dance History-VR dance class in classical Bharata Natyam on the banks of the Ganges or movement class in Peruvian Marinera in situ at Macchu Picchu.
  • Ballet Class- An AR pre-recorded life-sized Mikhail Baryshnikov performs a pirouette, digitally overlayed on the student’s live execution of a pirouette, where the angle the knee in passé, the symmetry of the port de bras (arms) or the elevation on relevé (raised onto the ball of the foot) can be compared and contrasted to the technical execution of Baryshnikov’s perfectly precise pirouette.
  • Modern Dance Class- A discussion on Martha Graham’s Contraction and Release method could be delivered by an animated AR projection of Graham herself, leading technique exercises with students physically taking class from the late modern dance icon, while the faculty member circumambulates the room providing in person guidance and somatic corrections.
  • Zoom and Peloton-MR is already being developed with increased implementation of learning management systems (LMS) being adopted into the dance classroom that includes ConferZoom, Canvas Studio, VideoMaker, etc.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to dance education, but also “enabled a range of creative events, such as streaming performances, cyber tours, and online activities [w]ithin confined spaces… performing artists have quickly become digital experts in pushing boundaries (Zihao, 2021, p. 188). As evidenced by the #OpenCulture effort in New York City (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdarIGT8VBA) was a testament to how dance and culture were going to lead the way in our recovery, as the response to the lockdowns and subsequent dissolution of many of our face-to-face dance class interactions forced quick adaptation in education by infusing Zoom technology (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0YZ7DfcKK0) in a re-creative format to conduct synchronous dance classes in all styles of dance occurring in bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, garages, or poolside settings. Asynchronous format dance class emerged through assigned Discussion Board Posts, manifesting in uploaded video clips of student-generated movement, where peers viewed, critiqued, and responded to movement content.  These served as mechanisms to conduct coursework that inspired innovation, feedback and visibility for our students and illustrated our disposition for resilience and adaptability.

Lastly, dance educators must consider the student disposition as an important factor when implementing technologies. In Taiwan, a study was conducted using a learning portfolio system where a student movement video was uploaded to a digital dance assessment system, where scoring included: 1) choreography, 2) technical skills, 3) performance skill, and 4) rhythm (Hsia, et al., 2016, p. 61). Dance peers, as well as the dance teacher, would view and rate the technical execution of movement phrases, simply comment, or use mixed-mode, where both a rating and a comment were recorded. The study showed that mixed mode was the superior tool to cultivate positive student dispositions about remote learning of dance by accessing the dimensions of student psychology in terms of assessment, motivation, and self-efficacy (Hsia, et al., 2016, p. 68). Online peer feedback, utilization of synchronous Zoom, asynchronous Discussion posts or assessment tools are all pedagogical approaches to blended learning (BL), and all illustrate a successful approach to hitting all quadrants of the BL teaching matrix (Graham et al., 2017, p. 5).

Figure 2. K-12 blended teaching readiness (Graham, et. al., 2017).

So, while some technologies in the dance setting will prove more useful than others, “virtual platforms are congruent with current students’ learning preferences, and restrictions in space boost creativity and empathy” (Zihao, 2021, p. 188). Hopefully, this blog revealed some timely insights on technology in the dance classroom to foster further discussion and interrogate ways that dance education can creatively engage digital technologies in the future. Pairing our current use of existing digital tools with the resilient pedagogical response to the global pandemic, we might unite theory and practice to create a meaningful praxis of new strategies for online dance teaching and learning.

Debra Nichole Davis Worth

Northcentral University | School of Education

Ph.D. student, Curriculum and Teaching specialization

References

Gullen, K. & Sheldon, T. (2014, April). Synergy sparks digital literacy: Redefined roles create new possibilities for teachers and students. Journal of Staff Development, 35(2), 36-39.

Gunter, G. A., & Reeves, J. L. (2017). Online professional development embedded with mobile learning: An examination of teachers’ attitudes, engagement and dispositions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(6), 1305–1317.

Graham, C. R., Borup, J., Pulham, E., & Larsen, R. (2017). K-12 blended teaching readiness: Phase 1 – Instrument development. Michigan Virtual University.

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Generic-vs.-Modality-Specific-Competencies-for-K-12-Pulham-Graham/096dfb1971c811133c285bf00d061c518f48ca2f/figure/0

Hsia, L.H., Huang, I. & Hwang, G.J. (2016). Effects of different online peer-feedback approaches on students' performance skills, motivation and self-efficacy in a dance course. Computers & Education, 96, 55-71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2016.02.004

Maas, M. J., & Hughes, J. M. (2020). Virtual, augmented and mixed reality in K–12 education: a review of the literature. Technology, Pedagogy & Education, 29(2), 231-251.

Richardson, W. (2019). Sparking student agency with technology: Why should kids have to wait until after school to do amazing things with technology? Educational Leadership, 76(5), 12–18.

Tomlinson, C. (2019). Diving beneath the surface: Using ed tech effectively requires a second-order change. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 88–89.

West, T., & Knight, L. (2012, October 30). Office of Information Technology at NSU. Presentation at the Abraham S. Fischler School of Education Annual Faculty Retreat, North Miami Beach, FL.

Zihao, L.M. (2021). Creativity and opportunity: how COVID-19 fosters digital dance education, Digital Creativity, 32(3), 188-207. https://doi.org/10.1080/14626268.2021.1967406

 

Image Credits

Graham, C. R., Borup, J., Pulham, E., & Larsen, R. (2017). K-12 blended teaching readiness: Phase 1 – Instrument development. Michigan Virtual University. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Generic-vs.-Modality-Specific-Competencies-for-K-12-Pulham-Graham/096dfb1971c811133c285bf00d061c518f48ca2f/figure/0

Prajapat, P. (n.d.) Onextrapixel. https://in.pinterest.com/pawansinghprajapat206/dance-photo-manipulation/

 

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