On November 25th, I set some goals for my self-appointed, stay-at-home sabbatical. I vowed to spend more time with my kids, and to reflect on those experiences on this blog. As this period is coming to close it’s time to consider the path ahead.
I started writing here for two primary reasons. First, I wanted to start writing again, and I have. Second, I wanted to explore the contours and boundaries of my life as a work-from-home art educator.
Since I started this blog, I’ve been wondering why I am bothering to write here at all. Is it really just to satisfy some intrinsic drive, or can I count this in some way? Some of you may be asking, “Count for what?” Those in academia will know that when I say count I mean in the course of hiring, tenure, and promotion in higher education. The answer to this question could influence what I write or how I write. It could influence how much time and energy I devote to this project. Or it could have no bearing at all.
Writing on blogging in the sciences, Keener (2010) suggested “If scholars are to be truly evaluated on their impact to the field, a blog that fosters healthy debate and discussion, and ideally advances ideas or problems within the field, is a strong indicator of immediate impact.” My blog isn’t generating as many comments or discussion as I would like at this point, but I do know that people (around the world!) are reading it. I feel like my words are having an impact on people as many are responding to me off-site about how much they enjoy the writing and thoughts set forth here. That’s much more than I could say for my dissertation.
Seems like an argument that I am doing something useful with my PhD. But is it scholarship or something else?
Writing about the work of historians, Kelly (2008) defines scholarship as “the result of original research; it has an argument of some sort and that argument is situated in a preexisting conversation among scholars; it is public, it is peer reviewed; and it has an audience response.” Kelly goes on to make some interesting distinctions between digital scholarship and digital work based on his own work and experience with tenure review.
I’m not sure anyone is asking these questions in art education yet. If they are, I would love to know. Ours is a hybrid field. We work in with students preschool-age through adulthood in schools and museums, private studios and public rec centers. Some approach research through artmaking (with or without students) and others in the library. In my own case, I am not a full-time employee of any institution at this point. I don’t have the patronage of a program, driving or supporting me, to produce research for particular contexts. In other words, I teach 12 months a year. I don’t have any paid leave time for research and writing. I’m also teaching nearly 100% online. The digital domain is my classroom so it makes sense that I would be publishing my ideas here. As we adopt new understandings of what a classroom looks like and how it operates, then wouldn’t it follow that we would reconsider scholarship as well? In all likelihood, if I continue teaching online, I will never have a full-time position. I may always be working outside the lines of traditional academic life.
Last year I developed a course for the University of Florida called “Art Education in Alternative Settings.” The course is designed for graduate students who are interested in teaching art outside of traditional K-12 school settings. Through reading and observation, we explore the role art educators play serving various interest groups including people with disabilities, the elderly, LGBTQ youth, hospital patients, prisoners, and homeschoolers as well as those with general interest in the arts at museums, libraries, summer camps, community centers, artists’ studios, and online. I’m beginning to contemplate this blog according to those terms. In other words, how is this blog functioning as professional art education writing in an alternative context from journals like the National Art Education Association’s Art Education Journal?
One area I would like to focus on in the coming months is building my readership to include more of my professional peers. As Kelly (2011) suggests, “Peer review does not have to take place prior to publication to qualify as peer review… what matters is the quality of the work and the quality of the peer review, not the order that these two things happen.” I can’t be sure of exactly where this will lead, but I hope that it will enrich the conversations I’m trying to start with parents and other members of the general public about the importance of, and opportunities for, art and education in all of our lives.