Technology Obstacles in the High School Theatre Classroom

Theater Arts, by definition, is a performing art. At the very center, it is meant to be a moment shared between a performer and audience in a live setting. Technology is already woven intricately into nearly every facet of the theater. We are still left with obstacles. The Common Core, student performance fears, and the ability of all students to have computer/device access are the top three obstacles to technology integration in Theater classrooms and stage.

The Common Core does not directly address Theater Arts specifically. (Neither does the textbook for this class.) I feel that Common Core becomes our first obstacle. When it is not a stated priority but inferred to be part of English/Language Arts, then the true value of Theater is left off the table. States are left to adhere to Common Core, or like Colorado, create their own statewide Common Core that addresses the Arts. More states should write their own CC standards and push for a revision of the National Common Core. This would also help administrators grasp what Theater can actually do for a school, both as a challenging class on its own, integrating into a variety of curricula and as a platform for teaching responsibility and live literature in the performing space.

Student fear is real and palpable in many of the first time Theater students. Studies have shown that just doing it does not solve issues for introverts. It takes time and patience to teach someone the skill of having their butterflies fly in formation. My solution would be a blended environment, incorporating many MMORPGs and virtual environment experiences to all for a greater number of basic skills to be taught and confidence increased. “Whatever the purpose, the nature of the virtual reality is such that students have the potential to become engaged in a simulated activity and collaborate in a dispersed setting that more closely replicates the advantages of being face-to-face” (Eschenbrenner, Nah & Siau, 2008, p. 92). Eschenbrenner, Nah and Siau also state that not being directly in the space with the other person allowed “more daring interactions among students/avatars” (p.93). Many of the lessons previously taught in real time could be enriched by “creating an interactive environment” that would allow these lessons to go in directions only imagined in previous years (p.110). I still feel that Theater is a performance art and a blended environment still recognizes that ultimately we will perform in front of a live audience in real time and place.

This leaves us with questions of access. As a football, soccer, ice hockey and track coach, I never had to ask twice for anything I needed to include software programs to make running those programs and teaching or coaching easier. Mentoring numerous Theater programs, I often had to fund raise or reach in my own wallet to pay for needed items. Wanting to employ technology to stage design and save the school funds, I was denied the opportunity to use a school device and was denied funds for the software and ended up supplying both from my own pocket. Many schools are faced with funding decisions to supply classes addressed in the Common Core devices to reach clearly defined nationwide goals. Added to this obstacle are the differences in funding from area to area, locale to locale. “Disparities in computer and information technology use can be found among individuals in rural and urban locations, with the division drawn upon socio-economic lines” (Kidd, 2009). Kidd further addresses the issues of “home access to technology, therefore impacting urban student achievement associated with homework” (Kidd, 2009). It is hard to flip the classroom if the student cannot view the material at home. One cannot simply purchase devices without planning for their maintenance, software, upgrades and eventually replacement. My solution would have to involve long-term fund raising and grants. In order for that to happen, once again, stakeholders would have to be involved and educated on the value Theater Arts brings to the high school student and curriculum.

References:

Colorado Arts Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://www.cde.state.co.us/coarts/statestandards#Drama

Eschenbrenner, B., Nah, F. F.-H., & Siau, K. (2008). 3-D Virtual Worlds in Education: Applications, Benefits, Issues, and Opportunities. Journal of Database Management, 19(4), 91–110.

Kidd, T. T. (2009). The dragon in the school’s backyard: A review of literature on the uses of technology in urban schools. International Journal of Information and Communication Technology Education, 5(1), 88-102.

Roblyer, M.D. and Doerling, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Advertisements

About "B" Bernheim
“B”, his nickname, returns to the other side of the desk after many years. Graduating from UNC-Charlotte in 1983 with a BA in Education (K-12), he entered active service with the US Army. He began teaching high school upon completion of his tour of duty. B taught Language Arts and Social Studies for one year at the middle school level. English, Composition, Public Speaking, Theater, Forensics, and Technical Theater are among the subjects he has taught in public high school settings. Most recently, he was a Strategies of Instruction teacher, Assistant Dean of Students, dorm parent, girls’ hockey coach and rock climbing instructor at The Forman School in Litchfield, CT. The Forman School is a 9-12 boarding school specifically targeting students who learn differently.

4 Responses to Technology Obstacles in the High School Theatre Classroom

  1. Nick says:

    David,

    This is a great piece that really illustrates the digital divide amongst schools and also common core classes to other “elective” classes. The continuing trend of cutting budgets and making arts classes “electives” will only continue to create a growing gap in funding. I would be curious to see if there was a local group or band that could help fundraiser to promote arts within the schools to help you raise money. Our school brought in a couple local bands and held a talent show to fundraise in order to purchase a new lighting system.

    It would be awesome to see some of the creative interactions you could create using technology. I would also think you could use some devices to help record and study lines or certain pieces to show the students; almost like a football coach showing his players. Great work!

    • "B" Bernheim says:

      Nick,
      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I am familiar with devices “like football coaches use” (smh – dwelling on semantics). Certainly, they add layers to what is happening. There are apps for scripts, apps for speech critique and sharing, not to mention the computerized lighting systems with their design features, sound boards and set design programs.
      As to fundraising, this is a sore subject with me. Yes, the football programs bring in $$ but each public school has required me to work in the stadium regardless of whether I was coaching football or not. The return favor for arts performances does not exist. The most lucrative program was creating a monthly comedy improv troupe at one of my schools. At least the kids were performing rather than selling cookies/candy. Previous to that experience, my students and I did radio spots for an ad agency. Again, I could justify the fund-raising as performance-related.
      I do appreciate your feedback and interest, Nick. I value your thoughts. ~ B

  2. Kevin Ramsey says:

    Hi ~B.
    I would like to address your common core obstacle if I may. Idaho has the ability to redesign the national common core standards so I hope Colorado follows our example. From my own perspective, I don’t really know much about Theatrical Arts but I would think that there are some creative solutions that can be used to satisfy the core. I think of the common core as a type of Pirate code, they are more of a suggestion than a law. Check out Pirate of the Caribbean if you don’t catch my reference.

    As for your technology integration. There are some cool talks that have recently been added to TEDTalks about technology and what people are doing with it. There may be some sources there for you. Check this out just for fun.

    Thanks for the blog. Well done.

    Kevin

    • "B" Bernheim says:

      Kevin,
      Colorado did one better. They wrote their own as I mentioned in the entry. That takes really forward-thinking people throughout the stakeholders.
      I live on Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. I have been here since Prop 1, 2 & 3 failed. The issue with Theater Arts is finding someone in Idaho who will write Theater Arts into its own category rather than an off-shoot of Language Arts as it stands now.
      I enjoyed your Pirate reference. Most of the voting folks I’ve met lately tend to view it as stone tablets rather than code. I will use your reference in further conversations. 😉
      Thanks for the TED talk suggestions. Computer music still must be performed at some point. Theater has many areas where technology interfaces…must still end up in a live performance in front of a live audience, even if parts of media generated.
      I greatly appreciate your feedback. ~ B

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: