In March 2017, I delivered a seminar to a group of thirteen first year Fine Art students at Lincoln whose specific intended learning outcomes related to students being able to understand and describe key concepts relating to humour within the field of contemporary art practice; discuss effective communication skills using e-technology; and develop effective argumentative skills. I trialled using TitanPad for the first time in my teaching, as a development of my existing usage of Textwall (which I previously effectively used with the same group of students in a previous seminar).
At the start of the session, I showed students video documentation via a YouTube clip of the artwork Painful Cake (2012) by Makode Linde. The work represents a torso made of cake above which Linde’s own face sat, both designed in the caricature-esque style of an African person. Viewers are invited to cut into the cake while Makode screams in pain. Despite the initial humorous reactions by many viewers to this work, it was intended to raise awareness of female genital mutilation and to recall the imperialist colonization of Africa and the damage it inflicted on the people there. King Leopold of Belgium famously referred to European nations claiming slices of the “African cake”.
As students watched the clip, they were asked to post their comments about the work anonymously to Textwall.
I then asked them to respond to the following statement using TitanPad: ‘Painful Cake is racist/degrading/bad taste … NOT ART’ (some students used their mobile phones whilst others typed on laptops). This activity provoked healthy contestation, deliberation and debate amongst students about the (un)acceptable limits of humour in art – students adding to/editing their peers’ ideas. This provided them with a live form of peer assessment/critique/feedback.
In a reflection discussion I held with the students towards the end of the seminar, many praised Textwall and TitanPad. Many mentioned that they liked being able to write a lot, see who had written what/ ‘knowing exactly who is part of the conversation’, and edit other people’s comments all with TitanPad unlike with Textwall. Indeed, as one student suggested, TitanPad is ‘useful for having instant interactions in which you can interject one another’s comments and thoughts without creating arguments and speaking over one another. All voices can be heard’, whilst another student suggested Textwall’s anonymity ‘allows total freedom of speech’.
From a small seminar group of thirteen students, I have now begun to use both Textwall and TitanPad to engage larger numbers of students during whole-year group lectures (with the potential of nearly 40 students) e.g. recently I held a debate on the topic of Performance Art using TitanPad.