Alice in Wonderlands - the digital leap in teacher training

Teacher training students took a major digital leap in this autumn’s visual expression course. The literary classic Alice in Wonderland served as the theme and inspiration for the group of 16 students, who studied various means of artistic expression, particularly focusing on the creative combinations of digital and traditional media. The results of the group’s work will be displayed in the lobby of the Minerva Learning Centre until 8 December 2017.

Digital leap into virtual worlds

The Faculty of Educational Sciences digital leap funding has been used to acquire a HTC VIVE VR (Virtual Reality) system for teaching and study use. The equipment enables both the exploration of virtual worlds and the creation of new ones through, for example, Google’s Tilt Brush application. Under the tutelage of their teacher, University Lecturer Martina Paatela-Nieminen, and Educational Technology Coordinator Mikko Halonen, the students in the Basics of Visual Knowledge course created five different virtual worlds. The process involved drawing and painting in a virtual environment, building 3D objects digitally and bringing real-world objects into the virtual world through photography and photogrammetry. This video will let you peek into these Wonderlands.

Making art in virtual reality is a rewarding journey

Even though Martina Paatela-Nieminen has been using digital media and following its development since the previous millennium, she considers this leap into the virtual world to be particularly significant and inspiring.

– It’s interesting to be inside the artwork, to scale it big and walk through the brushstrokes, or to teleport yourself into the virtual space beyond, with unlimited room for artistic expression. The virtual space accommodates different media and texts, expanding visual thinking, says Paatela-Nieminen of the opportunities afforded by the new tools.

In addition to the virtual worlds, students also created more traditional art in the course. However, digital tools were used at all stages and in many ways. For example, a digital sketch made on a tablet computer was used as the basis of an acrylic painting, and digital text and photos were added to the scan of an art print.

Students on social media

As there is no life outside social media, the students also established their own Instagram account, where they posted photos and videos of the artworks and the creative process during the course.

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How is the digitalisation of art education brought to the schools?

According to Mikko Halonen, schools already have a good amount of digital technology at their disposal. The most important thing now is to find good new ways of using it that would support teaching and learning, and genuinely open up new opportunities. In addition to art education, virtual reality could easily be applied to the teaching of technical and textile crafts, for example. Teacher students specialising in these subjects should be allowed to study the latest methods and practice using them in teaching already during their studies. The goal is to offer all students a taste of proven methods as early as the Bachelor’s degree stage. The Faculty has already been using digital tools, particularly mobile devices, especially in the teaching of visual arts. The tools have been used to make animations and short films, and to draft a digital portfolio to showcase the processes and finished works of the students in various social media applications.

The latest technologies are usually tested and first adopted in a small group. The use of virtual tools in teaching is in its very early stages, and spreading the competence more widely is still quite a challenge. Students in the art education course will face an important mission. They will be tasked with teaching the use of the digital tools, such as Tilt Brush, also to students who are not specialising in art education.

What next?

During the next courses in the basic module of art didactics, students will apply digital tools to the intertextual study of art and short film. The students will also explore making a 360-degree video in a project where they will study a specific place primarily from a local perspective, but also with an intercultural approach, in cooperation with American and Taiwanese students. They will also study 3D planning and printing. Finally, they will develop a Tilt Brush teaching experiment that may also include augmented reality, which the students learned about during previous years.

The digital leap in the Faculty of Educational Sciences

  • The Faculty of Educational Sciences has decided to emphasise the development of learning environments and digital competences as the central development targets in the effort to adopt digital teaching methods at the Faculty and throughout the University. This will be done by supporting education and encouraging an experimental culture while networking extensively with other institutions in the field.
  • The digital leap project at the Faculty of Educational Sciences is led by a group chaired by Vice-Dean, Professor Leena Krokfors.