Technological Choices and Challenges in Preparing Resources for Teaching Children's Dance Composition

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Lethbridge]On: 04 October 2014, At: 00:23Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Technological Choices andChallenges in Preparing Resourcesfor Teaching Children's DanceCompositionJohn Schiller aa The University of Newcastle , New South Wales, AustraliaPublished online: 07 Jul 2006.

    To cite this article: John Schiller (2001) Technological Choices and Challenges in PreparingResources for Teaching Children's Dance Composition, Early Child Development and Care,171:1, 1-10, DOI: 10.1080/0300443011710101

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    Technological Choices and Challengesin Preparing Resources for TeachingChildren's Dance Composition

    JOHN SCHILLER

    The University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

    Through a National Teaching Development Grant this project facilitated the compilation, productionand trial of a series of videotaped sequences, production and use of original music for dance on a CD/audiotape, and development of a self-instructional study guide for use by early childhood/primarystudents studying via a distance education mode. This paper reports on the challenges in designingand developing these resources for pre-service and in-service teacher training programs in whichchildren's dance composition was the focus and flexible learning was the emphasis.

    Key words: Distance education, dance composition, videotape production, young children,self-instructional materials

    Teaching dance composition is a difficult challenge for the majority of EarlyChildhood/Primary teachers in Australia who do not have specialised training inthis area. Through CAUT (the Committee for the Advancement of UniversityTeaching), a collaborative teaching project was awarded to a metropolitan and aregional university in NSW, Australia to "Demystify the teaching of movement/dance composition in early childhood distance education". The project focus wason teaching movement/dance composition to young children and the aim was toimprove skills, confidence, knowledge and practice of early childhood/primaryundergraduate teachers in relation to dance composition (arguably the mostdifficult component of the Creative Arts Syllabus in NSW). The NationalTeaching Development Grant to support this project facilitated the compilation,production and trial of a series of videotaped sequences, production and use oforiginal music for dance on a CD/audiotape, and development of a self-instruc-tional study guide for use by early childhood/primary students studying via adistance education mode.

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  • J. SCHILLER

    This paper reports on the challenges in designing and developing these re-sources for pre-service and in-service teacher training programs in which chil-dren's dance composition was the focus and flexible learning, involving distanceeducation strategies, was the mode of operation.

    LEARNING AT A DISTANCE

    As learning through doing was the underlying rationale for this project, aiearner-oriented' as distinct from a 'subject-oriented' approach to planning(Rowntree, 1990) was the major consideration in the development of self-instructional resources. A systematic planning approach was used in which fouraspects; namely, purposes, design of learning experiences, evaluation, and im-provement, determined the overall project structure where the needs of thelearner provided the starting point (Lambert and Clyde, 2000; Laurillard, 1993;Rowntree, 1990).

    In considering the purposes of the project, the following contextual factors hadto be considered: (a) teaching dance composition to young children is complexand perceived as daunting for student teachers who lack confidence in theirmovement ability (Dyer and Schiller, 1996); (b) a rapidly changing teachereducation environment in Australia, characterised by reduced funding for uni-versity courses, greater emphasis on the learning needs and outcomes of studentteachers, and increased accountability for the diverse needs of students in whichthere is a move to more flexible delivery and interaction in university courses(Alexander and McKenzie, 1998); and, (c) the challenge in early childhood/primary teacher education courses is to incorporate appropriate teaching/learningapproaches which use accessible, cost-effective resources for teaching dance withyoung children.

    Further, the young child moves to learn and in so doing, learns to move (Meier,Hansen and Olsen, 1991) so movement play, dance, gymnastics and games areessential components of early childhood/primary curriculum and are included inteacher education courses. However, skill in teaching movement (specificallyintroduction to creating and composing movement/dance sequences) depends ondevelopment of positive interaction and rapport between teacher and students inworkshop sessions (Stinson, 1988; Dyer and Schiller, 1996) which does nottranslate easily into distance education modes of delivery. University subjects aretaken via distance education by students whose circumstances prevent themattending lectures. For example, early childhood distance students in this projectwere scattered throughout all states of Australia.

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  • TECHNOLOGICAL CHOICES AND CHALLENGES 3

    Previous unit evaluations by distance students had identified a mystique aboutchoreographing movement sequences for classroom settings and assignmentsfrom distance education students who lacked the creativity and enthusiasm evi-dent in the work of their on-campus colleagues in the same movement/dance unit.Therefore, as very few Australian resources existed, the challenge in this projectwas to develop materials which fulfilled the same purpose as workshop sessionsin building students' confidence and competence, but applied them to a distanceeducation context.

    A project team was established consisting of an early childhood movementexpert who had taught movement composition through a workshop and lectureapproach to early childhood teacher trainees, a dance expert, experienced inproviding workshops for practising teachers in dance and creative movement,including dance composition, and the author, who had worked extensively indesigning and producing distance education teaching resources for student tea-chers. The project was based at a city university where early childhood teachertraining was a speciality but the design and production expertise was located at aregional university located over two hours travelling time away. A collaborativeteam approach to developing self-instructional teaching and learning resourceswas critical to the success of this project because each member brought differentlevels and types of expertise to the group.

    A range of options in using teaching media in higher education including audioand video as well as computer based technologies was considered (Laurillard,1993) but as computer based technologies using the Internet were not sufficientlytechnologically advanced nor as available to all students at that time, more tra-ditional media, including printed resources, were selected. The challenge was touse these media to achieve positive outcomes for student teachers who had little,or no experience in movement/dance and were studying at a distance.

    DESIGN AND PRODUCTION CHOICES

    Having decided on production of videotaped sequences, supported by self-in-structional printed materials and music resources in the form of a CD, the pro-duction team spent considerable time developing a simulated workshop approachwhich could be used at a distance by student teachers with varying under-standings of dance composition. This approach replicated the workshop approachas much as possible by using the on campus, adult student teachers in a workshopsetting and then working with these same student teachers paired with three andfour year old children from a nearby daycare centre. To give additional insight

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  • 4 J. SCHILLER

    into working with children, the lecturers also demonstrated the same conceptswith Kindergarten to Year 3 classes in an inner city public school (Schiller andSchiller, 2000).

    Producing Videotape Sequences

    Techniques were developed for videotaping dance composition workshops usinga two camera video crew, working without rehearsal and without the need formultiple "takes", in university workshop and school settings with groups ofadults interacting with young children (including children with learning dis-abilities). Stimuli for the teaching sequences included use of classroom objects(such as chairs) as props and inexpensive resources (such as lengths of elasticmaterial, soft woollen balls, ribbons, children's shoes, and lengths of material).Integration across the curriculum (using maths, language, art, music, science anddrama) was highlighted in the videotaped lessons in order to make the content ofmovement/dance accessible to all teachers. Movement for relaxation using TaiChi techniques was also included in the videotaped lessons with adults andchildren to enhance perception of different philosophies and cultural diversity inmovement styles.

    A common videotaping format was used for all teaching sessions. Two videocameras recorded the entire lesson with both cameras videotaping continuously.One camera remained stationery to give an overview of the class and teacher, withsome panning to ensure that the teacher remained in view all of the time. The other,hand-held camera was moved around the room with the teacher as the central focusin the viewfinder and attention being paid to interesting movement sequencescreated by the children as determined by the camera operator. This gave twoperspectives for each lesson; that is, teacher and learner. This technique enabledvideotaping for complete lessons with only minor breaks as videotapes were ex-changed in each of the cameras at the end of either 20 or 30 minute sequences.

    Previous experiences with videotaping teaching sequences had demonstratedthat the recording of sound in a classroom setting would be an important issue(Schiller, 1992). Therefore, a remotely-controlled transmitter microphone, clip-ped to the lecturers clothing, ensured quality sound and allowed for flexiblemovement around the room. In addition to this major sound source, a secondmicrophone on each of the cameras recorded the general sounds from the roomon a second channel on each of the videotapes so that sound sources could bemixed in the final editing. All sessions were videotaped under normal lightingconditions in a movement studio at the University and an old assembly hall in theinner city school. As the aim of the project was to make dance accessible, settings

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  • TECHNOLOGICAL CHOICES AND CHALLENGES 5

    and materials were kept simple and realistic and the intrusion of technical gear forvideotaping was kept to a minimum. All children in the classes participated,including children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

    The rationale for videotaping entire lessons was to ensure minimum disruptionby the technology and to ensure that, during the editing process, specific sequencescould be isolated to show interactions between individuals, pairs and small groups.With post-production editing, the intention was that the flow of sequences could bestopped at appropriate times so that the viewer (the distance education student)could reflect on the concept before trialing it with a small group of children. Thefacility to stop and start the videotape and to repeat more complex sequences untilthe concept was clear, was seen as the major strength of using videotape to de-monstrate movement/dance concepts. However, it is accepted that the linear natureof this form of access to movement sequences would not fully meet the needs of theadult learner, so future plans are to place these sequences on CD-ROM or theInternet where non-linear computerised access is possible.

    Producing a Self-instructional Learning Guide

    The other major emphasis was to develop self-instructional materials in printedform to accompany the videotape. This self-instructional guide supplemented thevideo by (a) detailing concepts and sequences, (b) providing an educational ra-tionale for each component, (c) suggesting ways of working with adults andchildren, (d) proposing ideas on how to organise and approach the teaching ofmovement/dance, and (e) encouraging development of concepts for local contextsand specific communities. The printed guide was divided into five major topics.Each topic contained an overview of issues involved, background material, sug-gested teaching strategies, a list of the accompanying video sequences, requiredreadings and referenc...

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