A history of digital technology in drama education and its three dimensional future
By Polly Sheppard
MA Applied Theatre
Sustained Writing Project
This research investigates the historical role of digital technology in drama education and assesses the impact of the computing curriculum on drama pedagogies that use digital technology and online platforms. The research investigates the role of the digital revolution and the theories of Marc Prensky’s digital native in developing drama pedagogies that developing skills in digital technology. Research was conducted using the learning theory of the Rhizome, investigating the Internet as a Rhizome structure and tests the structure as a methodology for the digital age. This research interrogates the hypothesis by Anderson et al. that the drama pedagogy should push the technology in drama education and retrospectively assesses drama projects for this hypothesis. The study proposes a method of using augmented reality technology HoloLens, Mantle of the Expert and process drama to fulfil learning objectives in the computing curriculum.
I understand Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s definition of plagiarism and declare that all sources drawn on have been formally acknowledged.
19th September 2016
‘Educators need to think seriously about how pedagogy can push technology, rather than the technology pushing the pedagogy’ (Anderson et al. 2009)
This journey begins with someone who is neither a Digital Native nor Immigrant (Prensky, 2001). Born in 1985 I am of a generation crossing between analogue and digital technology. Neither and both the native and the immigrant: a unique lens through which to view the rhetoric surrounding the digital revolution and its implications for drama education. Prensky’s proposition of Digital Native and Immigrant is criticised as simplistic (Pontefract, 2011) neglecting the willingness of individuals who are not Millennials, born between 1982-91 or ‘iGeneration’ (Gen Z) born after 1993, to immerse themselves in the digital revolution.
I have been increasingly interested in incorporating digital technology and the World Wide Web (WWW) into facilitation through my Masters in Applied Theatre focusing on researching, writing and experimenting with how young people use, are affected by and effect the development of digital technology. Documenting how, as a drama education facilitator, I can harness digital technology in my practice and the digital global communities role in a drama education setting.
Examining the history of digital technology in drama education I hope to hypothesise about its future. Digital technology is on a fast paced evolution with affordability, miniaturisation and processing power exponentially expanding (Collins 2008). I started my practice in drama education using photocopy hand-outs, accessing music through tapes and C.D’s and longing for a video camera but now work from digital text, streaming music from Spotify and filming everything on my smartphone.
The speed digital technology develops makes writing about the subject difficult. When this piece of writing is assessed new, more pervasive digital technology will have been introduced to the world, new applications developed and the ever-expanding WWW added too. Much of the digital language of virtual reality and online platforms is compared by drama educationalist to the terminology associated with drama education pedagogies. Digital story telling, virtual worlds and user-generated content can be linked to freeze framing, process drama and improvisation (Anderson et al. 2012).
Key projects in the history of digital technology in drama education from 2008 to the present use a range of digital technologies to document, augment and enhance the drama education process. The research will theorise how drama pedagogies enhances the practice of teaching computing. In 2014 the U.K introduced the Computing Curriculum (DfE 2014) to bridge a digital skills gap in the labour market. Teachers are in a difficult position, the Digital Immigrant, to an every evolving digital education system (Prensky 2001). I will examine how the latest developments in digital technology could be enhanced by drama education pedagogies to introduce a computing curriculum that has empathy and imagination at its core.
The key theorists for this writing are Marc Prensky, chosen for his influence in popularising the terms ‘digital native, digital immigrant’, referring to generations born into the digital revolution and those adapting to the possibilities and limitations it has had on education. Prensky writes passionately about the potential of digital technology in education and is critical of those refusing to see potential in harnessing it. His work is referenced by many of the key drama practitioners that this research draws upon and is a driving force behind reimagining the digital world of education for young people.
Michael Anderson, David Cameron and John Carroll’s Real Players? Drama, Education and Technology (2006) and Drama Education with Digital Technology (2009) are key theorists and have collated projects drawing on different aspects of digital technology in drama education. The quote at the beginning of the essay has formed the overarching question to which this essay continually refers back to, ensuring the research focuses on how pedagogy can drive developments and understanding of the digital.
Throughout the research the most frequent pedagogy to explore possibilities of drama education and digital technology is credited to Heathcote: Mantle of the Expert. This drama-based pedagogy is interrogated for it’s potential in realising knowledge and skill of Prensky’s digital native and situates the teacher in the role of the immigrant.
Finally I focus on the work of C&T and artistic director Dr Paul Sutton. Sutton has collaborated with Anderson and Cameron on the Research in Drama Education journal in 2012 furthering their research into drama education and digital technology. C&T’s evolution from Theatre in Education company to Networked Theatre explores the many opportunities offered by digital technology, framing the work through the drama pedagogies of Heathcote and others.
The essay will start with methodology using the theories of Deleuze and Guattari who introduced Rhizomatic learning. I will frame this research by examining the Rhizomatic structure of the Internet and the possibilities of multiple entry points to knowledge.
This style of research, using the Rhizome theory, is key to my literature review. It focuses on different elements that are central to examining the impact of digital technology and it’s potential in drama education. Starting with access to technology and how futurologists envision its development sets the context for the research. With increased access to digital technology I will examine the material our digital worlds is made up of; user generated content (UGC). Examining what UGC is I will begin to build a picture of the possible relationships with the digital world.
UGC brings up questions of digital morality; I will define the term and its importance to a drama educationalist incorporating digital technology into their work. To frame questions surrounding digital technology I will explore two drama pedagogies and their theoretical underpinning. These theories lead me into the final questions to consider before considering case study research; what is digital literacy? How does it affect empathy in young people and children? And what it means to cross from the real into the digital and how the two begin to merge together with new digital technology.
To consider these questions I will retrospectively interrogate drama projects that use digital technology from 2008 to 2016, looking for changes in the techniques, forms and questions asked about our relationship with digital technology. Leading into a deeper case study examining the evolution of how C&T’s access to digital platforms changed their model to a Networked Theatre. This leads into my final case study, Performing the Computer Curriculum, using research and drama pedagogies in this essay alongside the newly released technology to plan a drama project fulfilling the Computing Curriculum (2014) criteria for Key Stage 2.
The Rhizomatic net of knowledge
The methodology of the research is uses the theory of the Rhizome. In the 1970’s Deleuze and Guattari theorised an alternative epistemological model from Western rationalism, which often uses a tree metaphor (Genosko in Cull O Maoilearca 2012). The Rhizome learning structure is borrowed from the field of Botany; the Rhizome is a vast, non-linear root structure growing horizontally. Deleuze and Guattari’s writing led to the reimagining of the pursuit of knowledge, which has since been developed by many educationalists. Juha Suoranta discusses the idea of Wiki learning (2010), which proposes the change of institutionalised western rationalism education into an open-sourced, collaborative rhizomatic structure.
The Rhizome learning model is characterised by the connectivity of the root. Each point of the rhizome is connected to any other at any given time; knowledge does not stem from one individual point but accessed and connected in a never-ending series of ways. The Internet can be viewed as a rhizome structure. This research process follows the learning model of the Rhizome, the interconnectivity of the WWW and following pathways to information. This dissertation is concerned with the role of drama education and digital technology, both are linked to Rhizome learning, the methodology behind the research follows the same model (Keyte-Hartland 2015, Philip 2004).
A notable comparison of Deleuze and Guattari’s work to the Internet and WWW is a media project in 2004 on blogspot.co.uk by Philip. He explored the Rhizomatic nature of the net by ‘surfing’ (Philip 2004) and logging the diversity of http sites visited. Interestingly the comment section didn’t include any reference to the blog but is a blank advertising space with links to Deltic Timber Corp, and a site offering degrees in two weeks, emblematic of the Rhizome structure of the web.
The Rhizome structure is often linked to creative education, Keyte-Hartland (2015) likens the philosophy of the Rhizome to Reggio Emilia, an Italian creative education pedagogy developed by Malaguzzi after World War two that, similar to Rhizome structure, moves away from a traditional ‘tree’ metaphor. Hundred Languages of Children (Edwards, Gandini & Forman 1998) discusses how it values the child’s inquisitive nature and the variety of methods used to investigate and exhibit knowledge. Similar to the Rhizome the Reggio Emilia pedagogy has no central point of knowledge, the teacher is a guide for a child’s own pursuit of knowledge.
In this research information, data and documents are all, bar one book Computers as Theatre (Laurel 2014), sourced, verified and connected by the WWW. Using the principles of the Computing Curriculum digital literacy skills are used to verify information gathered. This is exhibited in the hypertext in the electronic version of this dissertation, found at https://technologyanddramaeducation.wordpress.com.
Using the rhizomatic WWW has limitation, as any research methodology, in ensuring accurate results, finding unbiased and valid information. However it is the rhizomatic WWW that allows for these limitations to be surpassed, through following links, verification through alternative texts and performing background checks on authors. The issues of the limited amount of drama education and digital technology specific texts can be manoeuvred with intelligent searching and developing a useful vocabulary of search terms to find key texts provided in PFD’s (Portable Document Format), or interviews with authors.
Access to technology
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report (2015) focusing on ownership and usage of digital technology summarised ‘Smartphones over take laptops as UK internet users’ number one device’; of those surveyed 33% regard smartphones as the principle device for going online. The report also claimed 90% of 16 – 24 year olds own a smart phone, compared with 66% surveyed as a whole. Prensky’s Mobile Phone Imagination (2005), claims smartphones to be ‘an amazing phenomenon – and a harbinger of the great changes to come in the 21st century’. As smartphones evolve, developing powerful features and apps how will they change the way people interact with digital spaces and technology?
Key to this question is researching smartphone affordability. Ofcom surveyed 1,890 adults across the UK using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interview), suggesting those interviewed were likely to have digital devices in the home. An alternative approach to investigating accessibility of smartphones is researching the price of the iPhone since it’s release (2007). An iPhone with a 16GB storage retailed at $499 in 2008 (original iPhone) and in 2014 a 16GB iPhone (6 plus model) costs $299 (AAPL Investors). A direct comparison is not possible due to the feature differences between the two models, as a guide the original iPhone had a resolution of 320×480 pixels (Gadgets) compared to the iPhone 6 plus which has a High Definition 1920×1080 resolution (McCann 2016).
The BBC claimed that in 2013 ‘the average teenager owned six digital devices’, including smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, game consoles and music devices. However examining changes in smartphone features since 2013 parallels can be drawn with Ofcom’s claim that the smartphone is an individuals principle device. In my digital suitcase I have a digital camera, video camera, iPod and MP3 player and since 2014 I rarely use these devices, instead opting for a more personal device, the iPhone, which can do all of these things more efficiently.
So it is into this world that our youngest children are born and by the time they reach 11, iPad’s will be a historical piece on display at the Design Museum in London and replaced with smaller, more intimate devices capable of so much more… (Keyte-Hartland 2014)
Manney (2008) writes about the relationship of storytelling, digital technologies and empathy, asking ‘Can we feel as much for the hi-tech have-nots if we don’t hear their stories?’ It was published in 2016 there are 1.9 billion smartphone owners across the globe (Poushter 2016). The Pew Research Centre compiles data on the percentage of population owning smartphones across 40 countries. Topping the list in 2016 is South Korea at 89% and the bottom is Uganda at 4%, showing disparity in smartphone ownership. By contrast India smartphone ownership was estimated at 12.8% in 2013, which increased to 60% in 2016.
Internet access is also set to increase; last year Facebook announced Aquila, a solar-powered drone providing Internet access to traditionally hard to reach rural areas. Jay Parikh, the Vice President of Engineering at Facebook said, ‘Our mission is to connect everybody in the world’ (Hern 2015) and in 2016 the drones first test flight was successful.
A thousand years from now we will look back at the first century of computing as a fascinating but very peculiar time; the only time in history where humans are reduced to living in a 2D space. (Kipman 2016)
Kipman discusses the use of screens and personal media, imagining living in a world where ‘people not devices are the centre of everything’. Many experts in the field of futurology of digital technology makes various claims about it’s role in the future of humanity (Pearson 2016, Woolaston 2014, Kiger, Ye 2016), however most are in agreement that it does have a future.
User Generated Content (UGC)
Considering developments in features of personal digital technologies, and increased rate of ownership what do we do with them? Kipman observes that ‘Less than half a century ago two courageous men landed on the moon using computers less powerful than the ones in your pockets’ (2016). Produsage, a word coined by media scholar Axel Bruns, refers to the ‘type of user-led content creations that takes place in a variety of online environments’ (McGeoch & Hughes 2009) and ‘the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement’ (Bruns 2006). USG is increasingly present in the digital world, Prensky’s Why YouTube Matters (2010) discusses various theories around UGC and it’s ability to move quickly around the globe, shared, commented upon, reimagined and parodied.
Many of the drama education projects researched use digital pedagogies with importance placed on UGC. Anderson et al. (2012) recognise the potential of users becoming participants or creators in the wake of the digital revolution. O’Mara in Research in Drama Education (RiDE) observes a classroom using Game Maker, software that allows users to design and build environments and create digital narratives.
Rhetoric surrounding digital pedagogies includes criticism of superficial effect of becoming an author or creator. Manney poses digital spaces create bubbles or vacuums contributing to narcissism in young people where we do not encounter the other. Manney reduces young peoples UGC to ‘OMG, does anyone else out there think will.i.am is HOT’ (2008).
Manney redacts young peoples online output, but asks valid questions about digital morality in online spaces. Key concerns for educators are online spaces shared by both children and adults where both are part of the digital community. A word associated with antagonistic and bullying behaviour online is ‘troll’ coined in the popular game MineCraft, when troll avatars where purposefully destroying the digital spaces being built by users.
Facebooked; Romeo and Juliet as education theatre: an improbable fiction? (Zdriluk 2016) explores digital morality; a reimagining of the Shakespeare play performed in Canada to 12 and 13 year olds. Whilst devising Zdriluk questions her university students about using live tweets from the audience in the performance. This anonymity, she states, ‘makes students less accountable for their actions, and the university students felt that it would be very easy for an elementary students to tweet inappropriate comments and disrupt the performance.’ (Zdriluk 2016) The phrase catch 22 can summarise this problem, where practitioners who are attempting to create digital drama pedagogies that explore digital morality are trapped by it. Prensky emphasises the important of ‘cultivating digital wisdom in education – and not just digital knowledge or digital fluency’ (Prensky 2012) and Manney (2008) foresees the demise of our species unless we increase our level of empathy as the complexity of digital technology and online spaces increases.
Drama education pedagogies
Issues surrounding digital morality and empathy are often explored through the drama education pedagogies (Anderson et al 2009). Outlined below is two pedagogies used to investigate the role of morality, empathy and the human in the digital world in the case studies researched.
Mantle of the Expert
Dorothy Heathcote is credited with being the developer of the drama-based pedagogy Mantle of the Expert in the 1980’s. The pedagogy places the learners at the centre by imagining they are experts in topics such as science or history. The word mantle suggests a growing of knowledge that surrounds the learning, however Heathcote emphasises this knowledge is not bestowed but grown from within the learner. In 1992 Hughes proposed an alternative wording; enactment of the expert that draws on Heathcote’s works but clarifies the nature of the process ensuring that the term expert is not something bestowed upon the learn but that they are enacting the role to discover knowledge.
The role of the teacher is ‘…to create the conditions whereby a mantle of leadership, knowledge, competency and understanding grows around the child’ (Aiken 2013). In Conquerors of the World: Mount Everest O’Toole and Dunn use Mantle of the Expert and play the role of clients commissioning experts to propose how virtual worlds can be used in education to create more enhanced learning experience. This drama pedagogy is central also in Zdriluk’s Facebooked: Romeo and Juliet as education theatre: an improbable fiction? (2016), the university students who devised the project took on the role of expert, harnessing knowledge of social media and digital technology and the teacher and students work together to problem solve.
Process Drama is used to investigate participants’ relationships with digital technology and questions practitioners and participants understandings of the digital worlds we live in. Process drama has developed from the work of Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton, pioneers of Mantle of the Expert, and Brian Way who established Theatre Centre a modern children’s theatre in an educational setting. Process drama’s aim is to create imagined worlds where the participants perform in role to develop the action. The facilitator, both in and out of role, guides, offering new situations and questions the significance of the action for the participants. The goal of process drama is open-ended exploration, in principle it does not seek to answer specific questions but to find alternative points of view for those involved (O’Neill in Anderson et al 2009).
Flintoff’s Second life/simulation in Drama Education with Digital Technology (2009) is a crossover of the digital and dramatic through an investigation into online game Second Life. Second Life is based on immersive role-playing in an ever-expanding world where players guide avatars around islands. Players can interact by live chat, buy accessories and build upon the existing digital universe. Flintoff’s work is comparable to O’Toole and Dunns project Conquerors of the World: Mount Everest. In the initial stages of planning the process drama project O’Toole and Dunn ‘…weren’t prepared to spend months creating an expensive virtual world simply to replicate a dramatic world we knew we could generate in moments simply using the power of drama’. (Dunn & O’Toole 2009)
Flintoff’s decides to financially invest in a Second Life Island facilitating process drama through his avatar. Participants login as their avatars and assigned roles in The Lost City, a process drama that investigated the governance of the Internet. Flintoff engineered the pre-text of the drama in the aesthetic design of Godot Island. His pedagogies can be examined through O’Mara (2012) understanding of process drama, she writes ‘It is at the interface between the process drama leader and the process drama participant that an important distinction is made. Whereas, in the case of digital gaming, the interface is with the machine’ (O’Mara 2012). Flintoff included a Skybox in his design of Godot Island where participants’ come out of their process drama roles to discuss the action and question the emotional drivers. Flintoff’s understanding of process drama and digital technology contrast with O’Mara’s understanding of its limitations and how alternative connections with another human beings could be explored through digital technology.
Young people and drive
Drama pedagogies that work with digital technology placing learners at the centre, like Mantle of the Expert, brings us back to the critical debates surrounding young people and digital technology. Prensky (2001) claims those born into a digital world, the Digital Native, forms a generational gap between Native and teacher, the Digital Immigrant. These claims are criticised as overly optimistic of young peoples digital literacy, the ability to analyse and be critical of the digital world.
In The fallacy of the Digital Native (2011) Pontefract argues that whilst the
Net Generation may be in fact somewhat technology savvier than their GenX or Baby Boomer ancestors, but it doesn’t mean a) they actually prefer learning in an all-digital way or b) that older users aren’t using technology to augment their learning styles (Pontefract 2011)
In Drama Education with Digital Technology (2009) Anderson and Cameron refer to Buckingham’s critiques on the naivety of romanticising the skill and understanding of the digital native in Youth, Identity and Digital Media (2007).
This relentlessly optimistic view inevitably ignores many of the down sides of these technologies – the undemocratic tendencies of many online “communities”, the limited nature of the much so-called digital learning and the grinding tedium of much technologically driven work. It also tend to romanticize young people, offering a wholly positive view of their critical intelligence and social responsibility that is deliberately at odds with that of many social commentators. (Buckingham 2007:14)
The criticisms of Buckingham and Pontefract are echoed in Manney reductive comment ‘OMG, does anyone else out there think will.i.am is HOT’ (2008). Prensky is regularly invited to talks at education conventions discussing theories of the Digital Native. In The 21st Century Learner (2008) he outlines some of the students’ comments that he has invited to sit on a panel. Opposing the view shared by Pontefract, Buckingham and Manney a student comments ‘“You [teachers and educationalists] think of technology as a tool. We think of it as a foundation – it’s the basis of everything we do”’ (Prensky 2008). So perhaps the superficial and limited knowledge Buckingham and Pontefract are referring to is a reflection on the way in which digital literacy has been taught in schools?
Empathy and Digital Literacy
Through continued research into young people, digital technology and drama education two key elements present themselves in answering the criticisms above, empathy and digital literacy. The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy ‘As the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation’. Teaching Leaders, an national organisation promoting leadership programmes in schools, invited Bennie Kara, then Head of English in The Bridge Academy in Hackney to discuss the role of empathy in the National Curriculum on the panel Engaging every pupil, every day of the year (2013). Kara’s subsequent blogs outlines an ‘empathy lead curriculum’, writing
If the majority of a child’s interactions in early years are with a screen, and they grow up to interact using technology and have very few mechanisms for human interaction, it is not hard to see the possible impact that might have in the classroom. (Kara 2013)
Kara is not opposed to the incorporation of digital technology into education, she outlines key concerns that isolated and unlimited access to digital spaces has on a child’s early education. Searching through the government’s documents outlining the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1-4 the word empathy is not mentioned.
Empathy is the subject of research of Tanua Singer and colleagues who published the paper Empathy for Pain Involves the Affective but not Sensory Components of Pain (2004) using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate the neuroscience of watching loved ones experience pain. The research found that parts of the brain associated with experiencing pain were activated when empathising. Manney’s articles Empathy in the time of technology (2008) uses similar research which investigates understanding others intentions on social behaviour, ‘Mirror neurons are premotor neurons that fire when the monkey performs object-directed actions such as grasping, tearing, manipulating, holding, but also when the animal observes somebody else’ (Iacoboni et al. 2005).
In Farewell Information: It’s the Media Age (2005) Saffo used futurology methodology to examine the growth of personalised digital platforms in relation to news and advertising. Manney notes how Saffo’s analysis and predictions on the future of the digital age could affect empathy. The centre ground of the mainstream media is removed on digital platforms and we ‘create our own personal media walled garden’ (Saffo 2005:6) which removes ideology we disagree with creating a lack of empathy from the users.
Instead of engaging in a common conversation around a steady stream of information from the outside, we risk huddling into tribes defined by shared prejudices, co-conspirators in shutting out unwelcome reality. (Saffo 2005:6)
Whilst Manney and Saffo are not luddites who shun the digital age, they are also not the technophile that many see Prensky to be. However even Prensky argues ‘What are the key “human” skills of a teacher not replaceable by technology?…I would propose empathy as the most important element a good teacher offers that technology cannot replace’ (Prensky 2012). Studies into the effects of screen time on children differ in recommendations on the screen time advisable for children (Palmer 2010). The digital revolution is an on-going, changeable period of time where effects are difficult to measure, but in researching effects of digital technology on children and it’s correlations with empathy I believe more research needs to be conducted on how to teach usage of digital platforms and technology with empathetic learning objectives. There is a generation of children who grew up during the digital revolution whose access to education on digital literacy was few and far between, I received no digital literacy education other than what was provided at home (Hope and Livingstone 2013, HRDirector).
Literacy and Digital Literacy
Department for Education (DfE) have outlined three key areas in the Computing Curriculum (CC) computing science, information technology and digital literacy. The arguments surrounding digital technology used by children and young people focus on the latter. Being digital literate is defined as understanding the role of information technology beyond the education setting, being discerning about how information is presented online and using digital technology safely and respectfully. Elements of digital literacy relate to English literacy, simply characterised as the ability to read and write but encompassing discerning different types and uses of the written word and how they are used to effect.
There are arguments, like the following from Sue Palmer, that are concerned with the early age that children are introduced to and amount of time spent using digital technology.
While digital technology extends our brain-power in many other beneficial ways, there’s a growing concern that introducing children to digital learning too early may make it more difficult for them to develop ‘old-fashioned’ literacy skills (Palmer 2010)
The adverse effects of screen time on children is mentioned alongside television as well as personal digital devices effecting children ability to become proficient in literacy in schools (Sigman 2009).
Prensky is extreme in his opposition to such claims about digital devices and literacy standards. Arguing the American education system is already failing in achieving literacy. ‘…writing and reading—although they have enjoyed great success and primacy for several hundred years—are very artificial and unnatural ways to communicate, store and retrieve information.’ and ‘We have a remarkably high percentage of ―’functionally illiterate’ in the U.S.—some claim it is as much as 40 per cent’ (Prensky 2009). Prensky proposes that the accessibility and visual nature of digital education should replace traditional notions of literacy for those who struggle extracting useful meaning out of the written word. Keyte-Hartland (2015) underlines this approach observing that the failure of students in literacy creates a chasm disconnecting the child and alienates them from the education system.
Prensky focuses his argument asking what is it we want our students to be good at? What useful qualities does literacy promote? ‘…and focus, rather, on communication of ideas. How do we put ideas out there, clearly and succinctly, for other people, and how do we take them in? This is what we want our students to be good at, whatever medium they use’ (Prensky 2009). O’Mara investigates using computer games as digital texts in Process drama and digital games as text and action in virtual worlds: developing new literacies in school (2012) documenting the multi-faceted nature of the digital text to be deconstructed. Exploring visual, narrative, collaborative, and aesthetical elements working towards literacy objectives in a KS3 English unit. She noted the similarities between this and how drama is used to investigate character, plot and motives in literary texts. In a conference Prensky chaired a student remarks ‘ “A lot of teachers make a PowerPoint and they think they’re awesome…But it’s just like writing on a blackboard…[referring to digital technology] If it’s the way we want to learn, and the way we can learn, you should let us do it”’ (2008).
Digital literacy is present in my own practice in 2015 I facilitated an exercise with a group aged 10 -15 years old creating a soundscape of a brainwashing scene from the popular novel series The Hunger Games (Collins 2008). I asked the groups to devise an aural experience for the audience. Out of the five groups, four created soundscapes using their voice, bodies or objects. The fifth group asked to use the speakers and played, from a smartphone, a recorded soundscape sourcing online sounds and live voice. Initially I explained that it wasn’t what I had asked them to create, but in discussing the technical skills involved and creative approach to the task I changed my opinion. In fact it has completely altered my approach to how digital technology is used and harnessed by young people.
Crossing the Digital Line
During this research I’ve seen an increase in schools, students and practitioners crossing the real/digital line. Work being developed with digital platforms and real world experiences can add value and create collaborative forms of digital education. Developers of recently released digital technology focus on holograms, arguing that this predominantly screen based period of technology will disappear in the coming decades (Kipman 2016, Gribetz 2016). Developers of technology like Hololens, Magic Leap and Meta 2, all augmented reality, seek to remove barriers of the screen from the digital world. Augmented and virtual realities are the pioneers dissolving of the line between the digital and the real.
Another trend that crosses the digital line is called the New Aesthetic. Described as ‘the increasing appearance of the visual language of digital technology and the Internet in the physical world, and the blending of virtual and physical’ (Brindle, date unknown). For example the tumbler account shows an image of the application Haylo, where users login and submit or follow prayer request and pray with the whole world through an app.
Cited as the first virtual reality device is by designer Morton Heilig in 1957. The Sensorama was a personal theatre space (fig. 1) that stimulated the senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, immersing the user in a virtual world albeit not digital. In 1975 Myron Kruger was the driving force behind Videoplace, an artificial reality project that created a digital visual world around the user without the use of goggles or gloves. The term virtual reality, allegedly coined by Jaron Lanier in the 1980’s, hit key development stages during this decade. VPL Research, Lanier’s company, developed the first mass produced headset and data glove offering an immersive virtual experience. Mainstream virtual reality climaxed in the early 1990’s when Virtuaility released the first arcade virtual reality machines, costing $73,000. During the 1990’s virtual reality was side-lined with computer developers focusing on developing Web 2.0 and the WWW. In the late 2000’s virtual reality became of interest again and in quick succession from the launch of Google Maps in 2007 pioneering 360 degree cameras, came Oculus Rift in 2010 (fig 2), and the release of Virtuix Omni, a virtual reality head set and omni-directional treadmill in 2013. In 2014 Google released Cardboard, a virtual reality using a smartphone to see 360-degree videos available to download.
Figure 1. Figure 2.
Much of the time during the 1990’s when virtual reality went out of fashion it was being worked on in universities (Laurel 2014) where much of the developments were in motion capture technology in the film industry. The virtual reality movement moved away from mass-produced game play and into industries such as the military and medical research (Manney 2008).
Many drama projects in the 2000’s begin to focus on crossing the digital line, bringing it into the dramatic world. In more recent projects like Keyte-Hartland’s 2016 We Think Everywhere, funded by Erasmus, will spend three years investigate the creative potential of working with digital technology. Aiming not to separate digital from real but how exploration in bringing them together can develop creative early years pedagogies. The project, still in the initial stages, will take place in the U.K. and Sweden.
The justification for such research comes from experiences of teachers working with the digital natives. Keyte-Hartland refers the viral video uploaded to YouTube in 2011 showing a child, aged one, moving between interacting with an iPad and a magazine. There are many varying opinions on this video which are shown in the comments below with Trollologics asking ‘what do you think will happen to this baby in 10 years time?’ O’Mara’s (2012) describes a scene from home where her two children, aged three and five play Toca Tea Party on a iPad, the game does not cater enough spaces at the digital table for their toys, ‘so the rest of the their toys are set up with a ‘real’ play tea set’, what O’Mara notes is ‘the way in which the children shift seamlessly between the physical objects and the virtual ones as they serve tea and eat cakes around the table’ (O’Mara 2012).
A history of Drama Education with Digital Technology
Examining a variety of projects using digital technology is important in assessing gaps of knowledge in delivering quality drama education. This research began with the quote: ‘Educators need to think seriously about how pedagogy can push technology, rather the technology pushing the pedagogy’ (Anderson et al. 2006) articulating the ethos of this paper. Thinking about the future of digital technology’s role in drama education I will retrospectively assess its incorporation in the field by using four case studies.
The digital revolution is a period where equipment in the home switched from analogue electronic technology, such as record players, VCR’s and terrestrial television to digital devices, like computers, CD players and digital television. A range of dates is referred to for the digital revolution. The first point-contact transistor, which was developed in response to unreliable vacuum tubes used in the Bell Telephone system in WW2 (Techopedia), is cited as the beginning of modern computing. Some sources focus on the shift from analogue to digital technology in the home (DEA) and the introduction of the home computer in the 1970’s. Others argue (Platt 2014) that the digital revolution is still in it’s infancy, with the rapid change of individual forms, such as music; from record, to tape, to CD, to MP3 to being streamed online; the scale of this revolution is still to be seen.
It’s clear from research the digital revolution is a broad subject with many unknown elements. For the purposes of this retrospective I will draw specific boundaries and look at incrementally changes of drama and digital pedagogies over a period of 8 years, from 2008 to 2016. I will interrogate each case study by framing it within the following key questions.
- ‘Educators need to think seriously about how pedagogy can push technology, rather the technology pushing the pedagogy.’ (Anderson et al. 2009) What drama pedagogies are used to drive the project?
- How does digital technology drive the pedagogies of the project?
- What effect does digital technology have on the interaction of the participants?
2009: The Virtually Impossible Computer Company
Drama practitioners O’Toole and Dunn (2009) worked with virtual worlds interaction designer Turner exploring connections between digital game design and process drama. The end product was a workshop with Australian students aged 11 and 12. It was based on a previous project run by O’Toole and Dunn called History’s Purchased Page. Their objective was to analyse play in the two environments and to find potential collaboration using the actual, the dramatic and virtual to develop pedagogies for using digital technology in drama education.
Similarities were drawn between vocabulary of game design and process drama, it was broken down into four areas as seen in figure 3 leading them to their first question: in which ‘world’ did this project take place? For Turner the aim was ‘…to create a virtual world that completely replicated the dramatic one’ (Dunn & O’Toole 2009) however with the time and financial constraints the ease of setting up the dramatic world of process drama was preferable; ‘we could generate in moments simply using the power of drama and the imagination of the participants’ (O’Toole & Dunn 2009). They aimed to discover how the virtual world could develop the ‘shared illusions of realness’ (O’Toole & Dunn 2009). This approach embodies Anderson et al’s quote, where the drama pedagogies are being used to drive digital, creating open questions about how the students imagine the virtual worlds interacting with their experience of process drama.
The pre-text of The Virtually Impossible Computer Company asked students to work in pairs, taking on the roles of researcher and historian. The brief, delivered by teacher-in-role, was to research and propose an education CD/game entitled Conquerors of the World: Mount Everest. The project sought to explore two key questions through observation: firstly, what aspects of the process drama would be more engaging using virtual worlds and secondly, what elements of process drama need to remain in the dramatic world? The dramatic world of The Virtually Impossible Computer Company was intentionally ‘low-tech [to] give students a chance to identify and design the kind of virtual world they themselves felt they needed to support their learning’ (O’Toole & Dunn 2009). This included web-based media such as images and films.
In reflection students identify areas that would be enhanced by virtual worlds and areas that needed to stay within the dramatic world. O’Toole and Dunn summarised students would have like to go into a virtual world to explore the conditions and journey to Everest as research for their game development. They featured experiences such as seeing, feeling, or hearing the weather conditions, wanting to hear the snow crunching under their shoe. O’Toole and Dunn suggest creating an virtual experience room that researchers could enter for a different understanding of the Everest environment.
In contrast, it was thought to be important to keep discussion in the dramatic world, the student’s reference being able to see facial expressions and physical reactions. In conclusion O’Toole and Dunn ask two questions about the relationship between the virtual and dramatic worlds: firstly, ‘what kind of virtual environment can we design where the fragile world of the imagination is not obfuscated by the virtual world itself?’ And secondly, ‘How can we re-invent the depth of sensory immersion required to aid visualization for the imaginative world without damaging it?’ (2009).
2012: Newspaper Twitter
In 2012 RiDE featured Newspaper Twitter (Wotzko 2012), a pilot project in digital technology and drama education. The participants, undergraduate students of Communications in Australia, were introduced to Newspaper Theatre (Boal 1979:121) conventions placing the project in drama education pedagogy. Wotzko is exploring reading news and information in the digital age where narratives presented in main stream media outlets are questioned through the liveness offered by social media platform Twitter.
Wotzko starts by reimagining Newspaper Theatre conventions using the Twitter micro blogging format and how Twitter can be used a grassroots tool. Wotzko explores contradicting narratives in the mainstream media by creating alternative narratives with hypertext, image, hash tags and retweeting. Wotzko creates a new Twitter account @NewspaperT, the T referring to both Theatre and Twitter. The students are introduced to Newspaper Theatre conventions, and then discuss Twitter; Wotzko notes that 8 out of the 25 students have previously used the platform. They explored the limitations of the digital platform, such as the likelihood of incorrect or misleading information being presented as truth.
The students work in groups using one Newspaper Theatre convention to devise a piece of live theatre and an accompanying tweet. Wotzko was clear she wanted the students to work without having been influenced by her preconceived ideas about how hypertext, images, hash tags or retweeting could be utilised in creating Newspaper Twitter to ‘test how they might apply the methods themselves’ (Wotzko 2012). Wotzko analysed the use of the Newspaper Theatre conventions, the live drama created and the accompanying tweet. She noted that ‘The tweets created by the students summarised their live performance ideas but did not explicitly apply a Newspaper Theatre method to a tweet’ (Wotzko 2012). Whilst limited in duration, completed in a hour, it indicated that ‘it is essential to develop a clear manifesto for ‘Newspaper Twitter’ to successfully apply Newspaper Theatre methods to the micro blogging platform to use it as a performance channel’ (Wotzko 2012)
2016: Facebooked: Romeo and Juliet
Facebooked: Romeo and Juliet as education theatre: an improbably fiction (Zdriluk 2016) analyses a student project created as part of an undergraduate degree in Drama in Education. Students collaboratively devise an age appropriate play for children in a local elementary school. Zdriluk focuses on two themes, the devising process of the students and the role of the teacher. The students use issues around digital citizenship, particularly focusing on emotional relationships with social media in the lives of young people.
Zdriluk uses Heathcote inspired pedagogy enactment of the expert, acknowledging her own limitations in digital technology and citizenship. She comments ‘The undergraduate students were comfortable with functional technology, but they had not been exposed to its potential in educational settings. I was experience in designing educational projects, but I was not proficient with functional technology’ (Zdriluk 2016). The experts are the third year students with the knowledge of digital technology and social media.
The students driving force was including digital technology in the performance opposed to starting with a drama pedagogy and this highlights the reason the students face obstacles in realising their ideas. Zdriluk’s role contrasts by employing enactment of the expert to facilitate the group in making decisions and documenting the process of the devising, enabling them to confidently alter their plans. One issue that comes into the project is the unreliability of using digital technology in a live performance. Zdriluk challenged the students to reduce the amount of intermedial aspects of the performance due to factors like the host schools limited technology available and rules on personal digital devices.
What Zdriluk notes is the way the students were able to adapt their use of technology, not to reduce it, but to make it more reliable in a performance context, ‘…they opted to bring their own laptop, with the Power Point on an external drive’ (Zdriluk 2016). Many of the dramatic conventions were driven by the digital technology available, and when the digital technology became problematic, the student used their knowledge to find solutions that did not impact upon the projects overall aims and objectives.
Zdriluk claims that the performance and accompanying workshop was highly valued for it’s accurate reflections of the young people’s lives to whom they were performing. In addition the students acquired agency to think critically about digital citizenship and their responsibility to engage the young people in their exploration of digital social platforms in the devising process that was principle in the outline of the unit.
2016: Dorothy Digital Platform
Finally the research led to an outreach project facilitated by Drama, Applied Theatre and education students at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. In 2016 the students collaborated on a weeklong residency at St. Levan primary school in Cornwall with children aged between 3-6 and 7-11 years old. Nina English-Darmstadt’s (2016) Critical Reflection titled The Challenges to teaching of introducing digital elements to the learning environment and its impact on child creativity is the basis of this case study. The project used process drama to set up a Space Cadet Academy where children enrolled to exploring the universe and rescuing an alien from Mars.
The students used a range of digital elements to enhance the process drama and create an imagined world with a sense of discovery and urgency. Google Cardboard was used and the students created videos for the children immersing them in the dramatic world. Reviewing their project with the younger age group English-Darmstadt raises questions about the reliability and responsibilities of facilitators manipulating digital equipment and the impact on children’s’ imagination once introduced to the digital space Dorothy; the space rocket.
English-Darmstadt highlights two moments in the project that impacted on her critical reflection, both focus on the highly rich digital space created and its temperamental nature effecting facilitators and younger children’s experiences.
I found the digital elements as the week progressed to become more of a distraction as they became more of a requirement instead of an enhancement to the project. (English-Darmstadt 2016:4)
The children were introduced to the digital platform of Dorothy after the early part of the week was spent simulating the rocket launch with finger puppets. On their first journey digital issues prevented the children from travelling back to earth in Dorothy, but the children wanted ‘the real rocket’ (English-Darmstadt 2016) opposed to the finger puppets. This she says altered her perception on the how necessary the digital space had been and how the children found it hard to use their imagination after being inside Dorothy.
Much of the set up of Dorothy was undertaken by the students prior to their weeklong residency but English-Darmstadt in reflection askes if this was the right choice. The pedagogy of the project was based on process drama but the children had limited agency in the digital platforms. ‘For the students aged 3- 6, the puppets were an effective tool to teach and encourage empathy and ownership, something Dorothy could not pertain to, as the students had no input in her creation.’ (English-Darmstadt 2016)
With limited information I can only hypothesise how the students could have drawn from the children’s knowledge to create opportunities to give agency in the building of Dorothy but their inclusion resonates with important points in this history of digital technology in drama education. The student’s knowledge and capacity to manipulate digital technology explores Prensky’s hypotheses of the Digital Native. Students attending university in 2016 are likely to have been introduced to digital technology from a young age, also reflected in Facebooked: Romeo and Juliet as education theatre: an improbable fiction? The students aged between 18-21 would have been in their early teens when smartphones were release and would have been using computers throughout their primary education.
Examining a history of digital technology in drama education has drawn interesting comparisons between the real and digital with questions around the imagination of participants, as seen in the first and last case studies. There is a need for drama education projects to be simultaneously experienced in the real world as well as include the possibilities of being digitally enhanced, challenging how drama pedagogies are applied.
The research demonstrates students with an inherent knowledge and skills manipulating digital technology are at ease creating digital worlds. These projects did have technical difficulties, which are always a consideration; the problems were approached with ingenuity and problem solving skills that have been acquired through being a digital native. The research also shows a difference in availability of technology since 2008, Dunn and O’Toole’s apprehension of cost and time to build virtual worlds is easily achieved by CSSD student’s who created Dorothy; a digital space giving a deeper understanding of the environmental contexts of the project.
Case study C&T The Networked Theatre
Theatre in Education company C&T was established in 1988 in Worcestershire. During its formative years it delivered curriculum and issue based performances and workshops in schools across the Midlands with children, young people and adults with learning disabilities. C&T’s ethos focuses on long distance learning material originally delivered in print and published forms. This long-distance learning network is the foundation on which C&T reinvented their pedagogy.
C&T describe the “The Local Education Authority shake-ups of the ’90s and young peoples’ affinity for an emerging digital society [as] both the practical and creative prompts for the company’s reinvention of itself…” (www.candt.org) beginning their interest in putting digital technology and drama at the centre of their pedagogy. C&T investigates young peoples habitual use of digital technologies and interrogates the “synergies between these habits and drama’s processes” (Sutton 2009).
C&T focused on two key questions. “First, in the dramatized landscape of our emergent digital culture, what synergistic relationships can be built between theatre and other dramatising media; and second, what form(s) might such applied theatre practices take?” (Sutton 2012) The company began creating work that blurs lines between live and online performances, and possibilities of collaborating with remote geographic locations. Moving from working within geographic boundaries to working remotely across the world “C&T would now attempt to serve a community of interest…” (Sutton 2008)
A Networked Theatre
Sutton describes how the digital revolution moved C&T’s work into online spaces. The increased UGC online changed how C&T used digital platforms; their projects were “finding new ways to embed process drama models and methodologies into its online practice, placing students’ voices at the centre…” (Sutton 2012) C&T were aware of criticisms surrounding the Internet “as a force for cultural dilution” (Sutton 2012) but saw potential for building a space for exploration of localised cultures across the world.
As C&T developed creative applications of drama and digital technology they became aware of a knowledge gap in their partner schools ‘…these teachers often lacked the skills and confidence to manipulate effectively the social media tools and websites…” (Sutton, 2012) that became central to C&T’s projects. In 2006 C&T decided that a re-invention of their structure was needed to address this gap.
C&T describe The Networked Theatre (TNT) as “…a collision of pedagogy, technology, aesthetics, drama practice and business” (Sutton 2012), developed by analysing the difficulties C&T found implementing drama and digital projects in schools. In this analysis they created the central principles of TNT:
- Mirroring best practices of process drama in an online collaborative community of applied theatre practice.
- Ensuring long-term development of the online community
- Building a community of practice that uses the internet to offer access to diverse partnerships
- Offering on going and regular support and consistency of experience
C&T describe TNT as
…a commitment to the transformative potential of drama in the curriculum and for community development, the radical potential digital technology offered to learning in the classroom and, in an age of accelerated globalisation, a curriculum that connected classrooms to the wider world. (Sutton 2012)
The focus on long-term commitment is for both C&T and the partnership schools, developing 3-year plans highlighting areas in the curriculum or skills gaps so C&T can design projects meeting these needs. TNT was piloted with two Secondary Schools in 2006 and increased to work with nine Secondary Schools and 16 Primary Schools across England in 2011.
TNT developed using three principle components: firstly to meet the initial difficulties C&T experienced placing projects in schools and the skill shortages in teacher staff by creating the role of Animateur. The Animateur is a C&T facilitator placed in a partner school, to guide, facilitate, engineer and evaluate the on going projects. Since TNT’s pilot in 2006 C&T and head teachers have seen the Animateur directly benefit the professional development of teaching staff (Sutton 2012). The second principle is access to C&T’s dramatic properties; online authored projects that are catalysts for activity. Thirdly: digital platforms where schools, students and teachers upload work to share and explore creative projects.
As C&T developed online platforms they considered how timelines could focus the online space to maximise the collaborative nature and shared work. They are comparable to social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter however C&T’s emphasis is not social interaction but collaborative drama and digital tasks. As students enter the digital platforms they are invited by their Animateur to share or under take dramatic property tasks and can only interact with others by sharing images, audio or video that relates to, questions or develops another’s work.
Each dramatic property has its own online timeline, with start and finish dates. Users who visit their projects homepage encounter a timeline where a new items stage is noted, such as ‘going-live’ or ‘being archived’, a method of site management; ensuring a focused, ‘clutter free’ timeline that is valuable to the user. It also “create[s] a quality of liveness to projects, instilling in users a sense of urgency…with participation happening in real time.” (Sutton 2012) Managing the timeline gives C&T the ability to curate the projects live, dividing it into three phases, research, dramatising the issue and reflection to coordinate a greater dialogue between users.
Contextualising the Digital Technology in Drama Education
C&T’s dramatic properties are developed using process drama pedagogies and are a catalyst for projects. The narrative, experienced through various multimedia platforms, include dramatic tasks to create UGC that adds to narrative. Sutton explains that
Underpinning the rational for the model was the belief that in the post-modern era young people needed a method and system for engagement in theatre practice that equated to their culture and their values, not one driven by the pedagogic considerations of the National Curriculum… (Sutton, Date Unknown)
Dramatic properties use Prensky’s 12 elements of digital game design from Fun, Play and Games: What makes games engaging in Digital Game-based Learning (2001). They are not complete projects; Sutton suggests they are ‘playful resources to be deployed across projects…’ (Sutton 2012)
C&T also uses Heathcote’s The Rolling Role, a pedagogy where teachers and students share work. Her 1993 videotape Rolling Role and the National Curriculum (David 2013) highlights the lack of opportunities students and teachers have for creating collective learning opportunities. C&T used her method to develop their digital platforms, a space for students, teachers, Animateurs and other professionals involved in the project to add value to the work of others by comments, creating work in response to or juxtaposing their own ideas creating new understanding of the students relationships with digital technology through the dramatic properties.
In 2009 C&T’s project LipSync is featured in Digital Technology with Drama Education. Lip-syncing is a digital trend that developed from older examples of individuals who mime along to a song (Sutton 2009); this is then recorded and posted on digital platforms. Since 2009 lip-syncing has become popular with young people with app’s like musical.ly where you share and comment on other’s musical.ly lip-sync videos, to television programmes such as Lip Sync Battle hosted by rapper LL Cool J. C&T’s LipSync uses the premise to explore issues faced by young people.
Sutton discusses changes in access to music and the rise of digital devices offering access to ‘perhaps 40,000 song [and] can now be programmed to conjure music for every mood…playlists that provide the soundtrack of our daily lives’ (Sutton 2009). The project invites participants to digitally and culturally decode the song choices we make, and asks ‘what is the potential in using these music collections as the catalyst for creating contemporary, authentic, ethnographic dramas?’ (Sutton 2009)
The dramatic property devised for LipSync draws on personal relationships to music and explores the digital spaces where we access, share and listen to music. A website introduces the user to Todd whose insecurities in his social life are paralleled with his confidence in computer programming. Todd invites you to download the computer virus Epiphany which syncs with your personal musical device and ‘then sit dormant in your music collection. Until one day – one moment, one song – when Epiphany will boot up and kick in’ (Sutton 2009). The virus takes over your music device and consciousness, Sutton describes the outcome as ‘suddenly you will experience a musically inspired epiphany: clarity, insight and understanding enabled by the virus and your personal music collection’ (Sutton 2009). The website asks those who’ve had an Epiphany to film and upload their experience. The videos take a number of forms; students examine their chosen song then work to juxtapose images, contexts and characters to create their own unique digital drama contribution. For example Sutton discussed a group exploring
Boys II Men song ‘End of the Road’, traditionally interpreted as being about the break-up of a boy/girl relationship. However, as part of early devising, participants listened to the song while watching a PowerPoint presentation of images of car crashes. (Sutton 2009:93)
The students uploaded a digital lip-syncing video exploring issues surrounding drink driving.
LipSync explores digital habits of young people, interrogating them for dramatic relevance, using a dramatic property which openly asks participants to explore relationships with music and its contextual relevance by juxtaposing images or narrative to bring about the ‘epiphany’ and sharing this through the original digital phenomena form online.
Oxfam and Millennium Development Goals
In 2010 Oxfam was seeking projects to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) outlined by the United Nations (UN) aiming to be achieved globally by 2015. Oxfam’s concern was that the 2008 global financial crisis put these goals at risk of being negated by the UN countries and approached C&T to engage young people in raising the MDGs awareness. C&T developed a 12-month programme using TNT; schools were given one main and two additional MDG to create an overlapping of research across the TNT. The end product would be a collaboration with advertising agency Publicis to create ‘an advertising campaign to promote the MDGs’ (Sutton 2012).
The MDGs project used two C&T dramatic properties: firstly The Living Newspaper (TLN), used in a variety of C&T’s projects prior to their evolution into TNT. TLN frames the retelling of local and global events in an online news outlet through the voices of young people. It was used in the early stages of the MDGs project in ‘researching and then theatricalising fact-based evidence’ (Sutton 2012). Using online platforms schools posted evidence and data around their MDGs in a ‘Twitter-style news feed…whilst the Actions/Guides feature offered video tutorials through the Living Newspaper ‘Five Rules’ (Sutton 2012).
The second dramatic property was Everymap, which is a drama-based digital mapping tool, allowing users to share information creating narrative maps of ‘navigable journeys through sequenced waypoints on the map’ (Sutton 2012) These dramatic properties led C&T to develop a broader networked platform through which the schools, C&T Animateurs and team members of Publicis could share, comment on and guide. This was key to developing the platform discussed earlier in the case study, with time constraints and phases to drive the project forward.
Sutton describes the outcomes and development of C&T pedagogical approaches to including digital technology in his summary
In many ways the MDG project exemplifies the best aspects of the Networked Theatre praxis: a process-driven drama, drawing on aspects of Heathcote’s Rolling Role and Commission models, framed by ethnographic and documentary considerations and deployed through a virtual interface enabling a glocalised learning experience. (Sutton 2012)
Sutton describes developing a partnership with Child Peace Kenya (CPK), a charity working in difficult conditions in the Korogocho slum of Kenya. CPK were supplied with a range of digital devices and access to TNT platforms, enabling schools in the U.K to collaborate with, make comparisons of and develop new understanding of the MDGs and their relevance in global communities. International partnerships can be increasingly seen in C&T’s projects as Internet access and digital technology become more widely available, and makes dramatic properties such as TLN and Everymap more significant in C&T’s ‘glocalised’ (Sutton 2012) learning pedagogies.
Information Technology to Computer Coding
Since 2013 C&T have been developing a range of new dramatic properties to reflect the changing National Curriculum. In 2014 Sutton write in the C&T blog ‘what’s the difference between a drama game and a video game? Some people – from both fields – might answer ‘everything’. C&T would argue ‘very little’’ (Sutton 2014), this launched C&T new initiative Code Makers. The project uses building computer games to embed the skills of the computer science curriculum. Aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2 it brings together the dramatic and digital worlds: in the dramatic world ‘users’ learn the language of computing, received badges and medals replicating the gaming world and leads into online platforms where users complete tasks in coding. In many ways the project closely follows the models seen in TLN or LipSync with an updated focus: the language of algorithms and debugging.
Similarly C&T’s new project Augmented Reality (AR) develops specialised AR software bringing classroom displays, books or numeracy to life. This is delivered in three ways according to C&T’s website: firstly creating ‘bespoke workshops and learning materials that connect AR to the subjects you are teaching’ (www.candt.org), secondly to use it across the school, not just in the classroom ensuring it’s wide reaching and developing a programme of teacher training. The combination of the most newly developed projects at C&T are recognising the potential the increasing three-dimensional future digital technology has and is working toward demystifying and empowering those who use it.
Performing the Computer Curriculum
In 2010 Ed Vaisey, Minster for Culture, Communications and Creative Industry, commissioned Alex Hope and Ian Livingstone to undertake a review of the skills gap in the increasingly digital workforces needed to keep Britain at the forefront of innovation. In 2011 Next Gen. Transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for the video games and visual effects industries was released. The report formed the basis of the Computing Curriculum (CC) drafted by The British Computer Society (BSC) and the Royal Academy of Engineers in 2014. Alongside the CC £1.1 million was available to schools for retraining teachers in the skills needed to deliver the new CC across Primary and Secondary Schools (DfE 2013).
Computing at School (CAS) and The National Association of Advisors for Computers in Education (NAACE) collaborated to create an advisory school guide for implementing CC in 2014. The guide distributed as a free eBook and copyrighted under the Creative Commons states the aim of the CC is to:
…gives schools the chance to review and enhance current approaches in order to provide an even more exciting and rigorous curriculum that addresses the challenges and opportunities offered by the technologically rich world in which we live. (CAS & NAACE 2013:5)
Broadly CC is made up of three subject areas: Computer Science teaches the principles of digital systems and programming, Information Technology uses knowledge of digital systems to build programs and content and Digital Literacy focuses on expression and developing ideas through information and communication technology. These subjects are not designed in isolation; Figure 4 demonstrates how CAS and NAACE instruct schools to view the new CC.
Figure 4 (CAS & NAACE 2013)
Key figures CAS and NAACE highlight in the guide include Seymour Papert and David Jonassen. Papert worked at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology building on work from his mentor Jean Piaget, an educationalist, whose work inspired Papert to develop the pedagogy Constructionism in his book Situating Constructionism (Harel & Papert 1991). Papert is credited with developing Logo, a programme language, in 1967. Logo is described as an educational programming language introducing children to computer science. It is characterised by a turtle that responds to commands and draws lines either on a screen or with a robot. The Logo language is still being used in teaching programming with products such as Bee-Bot, Pro-Bot and Roamer. Constructionism focuses around the act of creating or building, a student-centre learning model encourages children to explore using pre-obtained knowledge to develop. It has similarities to Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert, for example the role of the teacher is to facilitate and has a clear focus on removing the giving of knowledge to students but rather allowing them to discover it.
David Jonassen has continued developing the pedagogy of Constructionism. In CAS and NAACE’s guide Jonassen’s theory of meaningful learning is described as being five components for creating Constructionism projects. These are: active, engaging students in the learning, constructive, constructing meaning and new things, intentional, a degree of choice, authentic, projects reflect the lived experience, and cooperative, collaboration reflected in the professional world of computer science.
Finally I will consider drama education pedagogies that could deliver the CC, with a focus on the most up to date digital technology available. To fulfil the aims and objectives of the CC and the skill gap that is highlighted in the Next Gen report we must consider and use the most current digital technology on the market, by only focusing on two-dimensional screens we are not adapting to the future of digital technology.
Augment reality (AR) is cited having the same inception as virtual reality; the Sensorama of 1957 by Heilig, but from this AR takes a different path to the digital hardware and software sold in 2016. AR does not close off the real world in favour of the virtual world, but blends the real and virtual together. The journey begins in technology like EyeTap, pioneered by Steven Mann in the 1980’s, ‘EyeTap is a device which allows, in a sense, the eye itself to function as both a display and a camera. EyeTap is at once the eye piece that displays computer information to the user and a device which allows the computer to process and possibly alter what the user sees.’ EyeTap is one of the key developments in AR and many of the most current AR technology created for mass production cite as its influence (Kipman 2016, Gribetz 2016).
During the 1990’s many AR applications were military, the most notable was a wearable Battlefield Augmented Reality System (U.S. Naval Research 1999). Development in AR was driven by military funding and in response to increasingly complex warzones. AR has become mainstream since Google released Glass in 2013 which, although taken off the market, demonstrated new ways of interacting with personal digital devices. Google Glass are glasses that were designed to be a hands free smartphone, released as a ‘beta’ product, implying a test phase, they continue to be developed in secret since 2014 (Metz 2014).
Google Glass was followed with the launch of the company Magic Leap, backed by Google and valued as $3.7 billion (Riley 2015) before the company even released information about how or what they were developing in AR. The company website says ‘We’re so excited to show you what we’re building. So while we work to get it exactly right for you, please keep in touch and know that magic is right around the corner’ (Magic Leap). There are theories about methods Magic Leap will use, ‘which it describes as a “3-D light sculpture,” onto the viewer’s retina’ (Markoff 2014). With Magic Leap still being developed there are other AR options available to buy. The most notable are Microsoft’s HoloLens, developed by Alex Kipman and Meta 2 developed by Meron Gribetz. Both AR headsets have been demonstrated at Technology, Education and Design (TED) conferenced in 2016, with the HoloLens head set available to buy now at a retail cost of $3000, and Meta 2 set to be released shortly and sold for $949.
My next stage of research focuses on using HoloLens as the primary hardware component for developing a drama focused pedagogy for teaching the CC. The programming of HoloLens software can be found in tutorials released by Microsoft and independent programmers, with a range of interfaces to work in. For the purposes of this research I will focus on the products released by Microsoft for creating holograms in AR using HoloLens. These programmes are similar to software released by Adobe like Photoshop or Premiere Pro. Since my first Apple Mac laptop in 2008 I have acquired various versions of these programs and have become self-taught through play. I will propose an outlined project that focus on drama pedagogies driving the development of skills using the digital technology of HoloLens focusing on learning objective from the CC. Using previously research drama education pedagogies I will suggest a project that could be used to develop knowledge in computer science, digital literacy and information technology.
Master Set Builder Programme
The project uses the pedagogy of Mantle of the Expert to gain knowledge of the CC learning objectives and creates a pupil-centred programme for learning the basic programming and design used in HoloLens. The students enter the drama studio as a blank space, except for HoloLens headset for each class member. Students are assigned a role before entering of either computer scientist or theatre director, and engage in team building drama games.
The goal of the project is for the computer scientist and theatre director to design a programme that builds theatre sets using AR. The basic inter-face the group will use is the hologram building program software sourced through Microsoft. The teacher is in role as producer, explaining their role to the students and the possible assistance they can give.
As a group the student work with the producer using elements of process drama to decide the best theme for set building. This will be used as proto-type for selling the programme software to other theatre companies using the model of commissions in Mantle of the Expert. Once the theme, perhaps a specific play or an open-ended theme depending on the discussions lead by the students, has been established the group must decide on how they will collaboratively develop this software. The process, guided by the producer should include breakaway groups, discussion, demonstration, and research as well as basic programming language. As part of the project each HoloLens would be enabled with a toolbox, this could include anything from lists of words, video tutorials, images, and interviews.
To chart the development of the student the producer would encourage capturing their experimentation via the inbuilt video mode on the HoloLens and during the process these can be played back to the group as a whole or used to highlight logical reasoning. The process of rehearsal will include the group collating their knowledge, development and successes on the stage and testing out the set building completed through the process with the experts giving the reasoning behind their choices explaining the decision making process in the programming.
The finale of the project would be framed as a presentation given to theatre directors, either another class or teachers, drawing on aspects of The Rolling Role. The presentation would have stipulations on what should be including demonstration, discussion, logical reasoning, live performance and debate. The final discussion should take place around the incorporation of the digital into the theatre space and the limitations, and possibilities this might have for audience members and actors. Discussion points might include whether performance could be scene without the AR, if the actor needs to see the AR, or if the use of AR limits imagination. These discussion points are designed to encourage students to think empathetically about the introduction of technology.
The aims of this project bring together the key drama education pedagogies discussed through my research, using enactment of the expert, process drama, rhizomatic learning and the rolling role. It also embodies David Jonassen’s five elements of building a constructionism project. Figure 5 outlines at the aims and action of the project in relation to the above mentioned pedagogies.
In conclusion to this dissertation I will summarise the research conducted, identify the methodology used to collect data and its limitations and strengths within the overall body of research. The conclusion will then go on to discuss the importance of the research in the wider context of drama education, national curriculum and the role of digital technology in the future.
This research proposed that ‘Educators need to think seriously about how pedagogy can push technology rather than the technology pushing the pedagogy’ (Anderson et al. 2009) and with the view that the increased availability of technology and amount of time spent interacting with the digital world offers drama pedagogy a unique position from which to interrogate this hypothesis. This writing has researched the decrease in price of high quality digital technology, the criticism of young people spending high proportions of their time online and a range of drama projects that attempt to cross the line between the real and digital worlds to deal with issues facing young people and the National Curriculum.
The methodology of rhizomatic learning was employed through this research in reflection of the original hypotheses and the pedagogy informed the collection of data. The appropriateness of this methodology has been evaluated throughout this research in the form of hypertext. This paper is submitted in digital and hardcopy format, the latter contradicts how this methodology is presented in the text with only the digital version including hypertext that continues the rhizomatic journey of knowledge. In reflection there should have been methodology in place that documented this process for the hardcopy text, a browser history of the dissertation that could be interpreted and shown to exemplify the rhizome structure.
The results of this research show a variety of data collected regarding how digital technology is developing in the life of the individual and across the world. It investigated a range of drama education projects that are presented as a retrospective over the previous 8 years showing how pedagogies of drama education have evolved to integrate fast paced technological developments. The research also details varied developments in three dimensional technology and contextualises it in an updated National Curriculum adapting to include a thorough education for children in computer science, digital literacy and information technology.
The research shows an increased interest in using drama pedagogies with digital technology to develop a deeper understand of human nature and learning. The projects researched in this dissertation analyse how technology is utilised and is increasingly available to the drama educationalist. Wishes of drama educationalists in 2009 are readily available to be employed by students in 2016. Fundamentally what the results of this research shows is how important including the most up to date technology should be in designing drama pedagogies with children. The skills gap articulated in Hope and Livingstone’s Next Gen report (2013) will keep being repeated if children and young people don’t have access to the newest technological developments and aren’t able to experiment and play with these form.
To conclude this thesis I refer back to the central question regarding the pedagogy driving the development of technology, this ethos I believe is key to creating a future of, not just digital natives, but digital designers, whose ability to interact with digital technology is equal to their ability build, adapt and utilise digital technology. This acquisition of skill should be cultivated using empathy, employing drama to address the human elements of digital technology and empowering children and young people with the skills and the understanding of the power and potential they have.
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