Thursday, April 26, 2007

Why We're Here

Why a blog about teaching art history? And who writes this blog?

Art history like many other academic disciplines, has its own unique requirements, many of which center around the fact that our students need to be able to see reproductions of and/or original works of art, which tends to mean spending a lot of time in a darkened classroom. Historically, this has meant an emphasis on lecture courses, with seminars only for more advanced students. While lectures in darkened rooms are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, with increased use of technology in the classroom (PowerPoint, ArtStor, and Courseweb, to name a few examples), changes in pedagogy are underway.

At University of Pittsburgh, a good percentage of the grad students in History of Art and Architecture are preparing for teaching careers. Everyone in the program can expect to spend some time as a teaching assistant, and will probably also teach at least one stand-alone course. Consequently, we'd all like to improve our skills! We have an interest in finding out about and sharing best practices or innovative ideas, whether technological or not. Sometimes the best way to do something will be an old and familiar way, and sometimes it will be new and surprising. Our hope is to create a forum where we can share tips, resources, and lots of good ideas in an easy to access format.

For example, at University of Pittsburgh, we have CIDDE (the Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education) and a new, department-specific pedagogy course, but many of us haven't taken the course, and some aren't in residence so can't attend events at CIDDE. This is probably a very typical situation--certain resources are in place but not always accessible. A blog, we hope, will help put a variety of resources at our fingertips and provide a friendly forum for discussion as well.

How will it work? We'll post irregularly, as ideas occur to us. We'll have a variety of topics, applicable to different aspects of the field. The blog will be searchable by category (for example, ArtStor, Courseweb/Blackboard, Lecturing, Tests, General Tips) and will include links to other useful sites. Using categories allows easy access to a wide variety of topics, some of which may prove to be a bit more tangential (job interview tips, for example). Readers can comment on the posts, which will provide additional ideas and information.

We hope this blog will prove useful and enjoyable both for the grad students at University of Pittsburgh and for anyone else interested in improving their ability to teach art history and/or visual culture.

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