ART AND TECHNOLOGY'S IMPACT ON CREATIVITY
HAND-CREATED AND COMPUTER-CREATED
IMAGERY IN THE VISUAL ARTS
For a visual arts teacher at the secondary level, student engagement was much
higher for hand-created imagery than for imagery created with the computer. Art and
Technology's Impact on Creativity is a case study exploring the influence hand-created
and computer-created imagery had on student engagement. Engagement is linked to
creativity. Engagement levels were measured using Self Determination Theory's anteced-
ents to engagement; autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Data showed higher levels
of autonomy, competence, and relatedness came from hand-created imagery. A review
of the literature encompassing interdisciplinary theories from noted scholars in evolution,
anthropology, neuroscience, media ecology, and creativity provide insight into the nature
of hand-brain processes on student engagement and creativity; work involving the hands
is the underrated link to higher levels of student engagement.
ART AND TECHNOLOGY'S IMPACT ON CREATIVITY
HAND-CREATED AND COMPUTER-CREATED
IMAGERY IN THE VISUAL ARTS
Presented to the Department ofArt
California State University, Long Beach
In Partial Fulfillment
ofthe Requirements for the Degree
Master ofArts inArt Education
Carlos Silveira, Ph.D. (Chair)
Karen L. Kleinfelder, Ph.D.
Lila Crespin, Ph.D.
Christopher Miles, M.F.A.
B.B.A., 1982, University of Massachusetts
UMI Number: 1493047
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All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against
unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
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I dedicate this work to my beloved Marshall, who has always believed in me and
supported me. With you I am fulfilled, happy and free, that is truly love.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES vi
1. INTRODUCTION 1
Statement of the Problem 2
Purpose of the Study 3
Need for the Study 3
Definition of Key Terms 4
Limitations of the Study 5
2. LITERATURE REVIEW 6
Hand—The Origin of Our Creativity 8
Art—The Beginning of Our Design Tendency 11
Brain—The Ordering of Our Experience 13
Technology—The Extensions of Our Biology 17
Engagement—The Focus of Our Attention 20
Creativity—The Transcendence of Ordinary Experience 24
3. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 28
Self Determination Theory 28
Case Study Methodology 34
The Research Artifact 34
The Research Setting 35
Study Participants 36
Data Sources 37
4. RESULTS 39
Student Self-Report Survey 39
Peer Self-Report Survey 43
Work Sample Assessment 45
5. IMPLICATIONS 47
A. PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL STUDENT RUBRIC UNIT 1
B. PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL STUDENT RUBRIC UNIT 2
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Motor homunculus 9
2. Eight laws of artistic experience 16
3. About the concept of engagement 30
4. Antecedents to engagement and creativity 31
5. Flow and Self Determination Theory 32
6. Data sources 38
7. Student responses—autonomy 39
8. Student responses—competence 40
9. Student responses—relatedness 41
10. Peer responses—autonomy 42
11. Peer responses—competence 43
12. Peer responses—relatedness 44
13. Work sample assessment—autonomy and competence 45
14. Photography journal student rubric unit 1—computer-created 50
15. Photography journal student rubric unit 2—hand-created 51
"A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands
and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his
heart is an artist" (Nizer, 1948, n.d.).
For a visual arts teacher at the secondary level, student engagement was much
higher for hand-created imagery than for imagery created with the computer. This
phenomenon runs counter to enthusiasm surrounding the use of computer technology in
education and is of critical interest to teachers and administrators intent on promoting
engagement and creativity in education.
Data from the students' perspective showed clear interest, enjoyment and en-
thusiasm for creating imagery by hand over computer-created imagery. Data from the
teacher's perspective showed superior effort and interest in learning outcomes came from
hand-created imagery. Learning outcomes were (1) to transfer understood visual arts
concepts; Competence, (2) into one's own personal expression; Autonomy. Both students
and teacher preferred the greater social relatedness and collaboration that resulted from
the hand-created classroom environment.
The data provoked a basic question. Why did hand-created imagery have a posi-
tive effect on student engagement over computer-created imagery. Self Determination
Theory defines the criterion for engagement and hand-created imagery better meet those
conditions. A review of the literature from the interdisciplinary theories of noted scholars
provided insight into the origins and nature of our creativity and the impact technological
extensions have on the "psychic and social adjustments that users and their society un-
dergo when they adopt the new form" (McLuhan, 1964).
This case study presented insights on why and how hand-created imagery en-
hanced student engagement by examining relevant theory and concluding with implica-
tions for the art teacher and administrator interested in educating for creativity.
Statement of the Problem
A lack of understanding exists about the factors that art and technology bring
to bear on the emergence of engagement and creativity in education. Current research
shows that creativity is clearly declining in America (Bronson & Merryman, 2010).
Alongside this trend is a strong demand for the collaboration of art and technology in
the workforce. Employers are voicing their needs to education, "We want thinkers, we
want people skills, we want problem-solvers, we want creativity, and we want teamwork"
(Jensen, 2001 p. 10). Daniel Pink (2006), best selling author on future workforce skills,
points out that employers want competent problem solvers who are able to collaborate and
be creative. Industry and academia are looking to the arts for guidance.
Creativity has long been strongly associated with the arts. Art is a multifaceted
human act, it has existed for all human time and is a core human instinct (Dissanayake,
1992). What cognitive functions do the arts have, what are the underlying neurologi-
cal mechanisms of art thinking? Neuroscience is now studying how art thinking works.
"Scientists can learn about the mind by reverse-engineering art," says V.S. Ramachandran
(2009), a neuroscientist and Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition. How our
native creative ability and the drive towards technological progress are reconciled in our
environment is a fundamental question for those interested in educating for creativity.
For the beginning art student, hand-created and computer-created methods had
distinct consequences on the level of engagement with the task and environment. Cre-
ativity was more likely where student engagement with the environment was strong and
where hand-created methods were implemented. I propose that engagement is a teachable
trait and the employment of the hands in an interesting, challenging project are the ele-
ments that ignite creativity. Creativity transcends the ordinary and if fortunate, reaches
the extraordinary. This study uncovers why students are more engaged by hand-created
processes, explores the underlying hand-brain feedback and mirror neuron mechanisms,
and the effects of technology on engagement.
Purpose of the Study
Four secondary visuals arts classrooms were studied to investigate the influences
computer-created (c), and hand-created (h) imagery had on supporting student engage-
ment. Every student created a photography journal. The photography journal served as
a highly suitable work sample for assessing engagement because it is descriptive of the
student who created it and the environment it was created in. Students used computer-
created imagery to compose the first six pages and hand-created imagery to compose the
next six pages of their photography journal. Environmental supports remained constant
for both methods.
Engagement is dependent upon satisfying the individual's need for autonomy,
competence, and relatedness and were used to measure engagement levels with computer-
created and hand-created imagery. Data was gathered from surveys and work samples to
evaluate which of the two variables best satisfied the needs.
The work sample assessments were completed by the teacher and measured
competence and autonomy. Self-report surveys from students were coded for measuring
autonomy, competence and relatedness.
The impact each method of imagery creation had on student engagement makes
up the investigation of this study. The case study is written from the perspective of
Need for the Study
Research places student engagement high on the list of factors for successful
school reform. Self Determination Theory is a broad framework on human motivation
with widespread applications for education. The implications for art teacher training
show a need for art educators to be savvy with computer technology and not supplant
hand-brain processes which foster greater engagement and creativity. The importance of
designing project-based learning experiences that support students' needs for autonomy,
competence and relatedness is stressed for their positive effects on engagement.
Because students are not always internally motivated, they sometimes need to
borrow motivation from someone they respect, this motivation is found in the environ-
mental conditions that the teacher creates. A teacher's style is pivotal to engagement; re-
search has shown that teachers who are encouraging, provide feedback on skills, are clear
and enthusiastic and who model the intrinsic desire to learn support engagement in the
classroom. Structuring meaningful learning experiences that foster a space for creativity
will become a crucial skill for the most advanced teachers of art and technology.
Definition of Key Terms
Affordance: properties of the environment which present possibilities for action
and are available for an agent to perceive directly and act upon. Also applied to human-
computer interaction. Proposed by James J, Gibson (1977).
Artifact: the photography journal is seen as an artifact. In the scope of this study
an artifact is descriptive of the student who created it and the culture it was created in.
The photography journal is a bounded physical document of a body of information de-
signed by the student with the intention to communicate visually.
Artificial Intelligent Technology: a branch of computer science concerned with
making computers act like humans. It includes gaming, expert systems, natural language,
neural networks and robotics. Artificial intelligence, is intelligence made in imitation of
our natural intelligence.
Computer Technology: a combination of software and hardware technology used
for page design and layout.
Creativity: a vast and multidimensional aspects of human life, in short an enigma.
The causality of engagement to creativity is established through the research reviewed in
Engagement: is defined as effort tied to interest, enjoyment and enthusiasm for
students personally invested in a challenging project. Noted experts have established
engagement as a strong precursor to creativity.
Intelligent Technology: is the engineering of technology to think for us, in many
ways it is beneficial, however for fostering engagement and creativity in the beginning art
student it is often counter productive. Our native, instinctive creative thinking is radically
different from pre-programmed technology.
Meta-Cognition: the reflection and understanding of visual arts concepts and
their application across different mediums.
Personal Expression: is present when students originate imagery which demon-
strates their own unique style.
Limitations of the Study
The sequence of methods may affect the students' preferences, for example,
students may recall the hand-created methods more readily than the computer-created
methods since the former were most recent in their minds. As well, relatedness may be
more associated with the hand-created classroom environment since social processes had
time to develop whereas the social processes in the computer-created classroom environ-
ment were just beginning to form.
Researcher bias is an acknowledged factor in this case study and an unavoidable
factor. To reduce researcher bias and improve triangulation of data from multiple per-
spectives it would have been beneficial to have an administrator assess engagement also.
Additionally, data gathered from students asked for a preference and would have
been more complete if the survey also asked the reason for the preference.
To support and collaborate the findings of this case study, I reviewed a number of
published articles, research studies and theories related to art, technology and creativity.
This chapter summarizes my research.
The fusion of art and technology in the visual arts classroom presented an op-
timum environment for research into conditions that support engagement and foster
creativity. Engagement is critical to education and a key precursor to creativity (Csik-
szentmihalyi, 1996). The intrinsic factors and environmental supports that best engage
students are well established by Self Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan 1985) and
provide the framework for this case study. Many studies have validated the continued
relevance Self Determination Theory has for us today.
Daniel Pink (2010), best-selling author on workforce skills states that the secret to
high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply hu-
man need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by our-
selves and our world. Autonomy, competence, and relatedness are the three basic needs
of the individual defined by Self Determination Theory.
We all share a need to grow by mastering new challenges in our environment.
Supporting the individual's needs in the environment lead to many benefits including
greater well being, achievement and creativity. The needs (autonomy, competence, and
relatedness) are antecedent to engagement and were used to measure engagement lev-
els with computer-created and hand-created imagery. Hand-created imagery had much
higher levels of engagement.
This outcome provoked a critical question: What factors did hand-created imag-
ery have that made it clearly more engaging to students? The process of discovery in-
volved going back in evolutionary time to the origins of creativity and art; extending both
into our technologic present in order to rejoin the question. Evolution, neuroscience and
media ecology provide verification to support conclusions made in this case study.
Early hand-use formed a hand-brain feedback system; capable of abstract thought,
art, and the progression to technology. Mirror neuron mechanisms allowed one to grasp
the intentions of others, and spread learning and formed culture. Literature review for
this case study investigated the neural mechanisms likely responsible for better engage-
ment and creativity in the hand-created classroom: hand-brain feedback and mirror
neurons. These mechanisms were better activated by hand-use and the tangible, observ-
able, demonstrations of hand-use. Their primeval origins do not diminish the importance
hand-brain feedback and mirror neurons have for us today, rather the review of literature
substantiates their durable link to creativity.
Evolution is the underlying framework that steered the development of art. Cogni-
tive neuroscience is now able to de-code, translate and map the neural mechanisms that
underlie our cleverness. "The deepest mysteries facing science in the 21st Century con-
cern the higher functions of the central nervous system: perception, memory, learning,
language, emotion, personality, social interaction, decision-making, and motor control"
(NYU Center for Brain Imaging, 2010). Thinking processes run through the brain in a
feedback system rather than originate from the brain alone. Research in neuroscience can
now validate the overlooked role of the hands in our creative development.
The new paradigm envisages a human nature that is the result of a feedback be-
tween biological inheritance and life-experience. Feedback is a nonlinear pro-
cess, in which the chain of causes and effects is not a simple unidirectional one,
but contains loops and mutual influences, giving all participants in it both a say
in the result and an environment and context determined by its neighbors. Such
a feedback system is capable of generating unique and unpredictable emergent
features. Human genetic inheritance is not enough to make us what we are; nor is
the human social inheritance into which we are born. Both sets of determinants
are involved in a complex process of development that can produce the unique
quality of creativity that we prize so highly. (Turner, 1999)
Hand—The Origin of Our Creativity
"Imagination is basic to tool-making" (Napier, 1980, p. 99).
Scott H. Johnson-Frey (2003), a neuroscientist at the Center for Cognitive Neuro-
science, explains, "A fundamental question in human evolution concerns the relationship
between phylogenetic changes in the brain and the development of hominid tool manu-
facture and use" (Johnson-Fry, 2003). The species change that Johnson-Frey refers to
happened when tool-use evolved into tool-making and developed human abstract thought.
Although many creatures are tool-users, humans are the sole tool-makers. Hand-use
was the vital component to the whole scheme. Creativity of humans begins with the tool
maker using his hands and brain together to further his capacity for imagination. The use
of the hand is the overlooked link to engagement and creativity.
John Napier (1980), a professor of evolution and a physician specializing in the
hand, made the important distinction between tool-use and tool-making; humans by defi-
nition are a tool-making species. "The difference between using and making is largely
an affair of the central nervous system and involves a qualitative shift in cerebral activ-
ity from percept to concept. . . Abstract thinking is not a talent of non-human primates"
(p. 99). Here lies the essential connection of hand use to creativity, it is hand-use that
made possible tool-use and hence tool-making; it is the hand-brain connection that is
likely responsible for the outpouring of human creativity. Napier further explains the
hand's vital role in shaping the brain for abstract thought. "Increase in brain size is more
and brain are developed and refined, and how that process relates to the unique character
of human thought, growth, and creativity" (p. 6). "The hand is so widely represented in
the brain, the hand's neurologic and biomechanical elements are so prone to spontaneous
interaction and reorganization, and the motivations and efforts which give rise to indi-
vidual use of the hand are so deeply and widely rooted, that we must admit we are trying
to explain a basic imperative of human life" (Wilson, 1998, prologue).
"Inherent in this definition of tool-making is the maintenance of continuity in suc-
cessive generations by means of example and demonstration" (Napier, 1980, p. 2). Dis-
covery of mirror neurons in the brain are the likely ancient mechanism that transferred
learning and formed culture. Mirror neurons in the brain allow us to grasp the intentions
of others as well as learn skills through observation. Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramach-
andran outlines the fascinating functions of mirror neurons. "I suggest that once the abil-
ity to engage in cross modal abstraction emerged—e.g. between visual 'vertical' on the
retina and photoreceptive 'vertical' signaled by muscles (for grasping trees) it set the stage
for the emergence of mirror neurons in hominids" (Ramachandran, 2009, video file).
"Only recently discovered, these neurons allow us to learn complex social behaviors,
some of which formed the foundations of human civilization as we know it" (Ramachan-
dran, 2009, video file). Education and mirror neurons go together, as teachers know, in
one demonstration we can impart learning that took us years to gain.
Creativity has been strongly associated with the arts. Art practice has always used
hands, tools, and mediums as a means of creative expression. However, the fast paced
adoption of computer technological has obscured hand-created processes and methods
in much of today's professional and educational practice. This case study showed when
students were able to use their hands to learn they were more engaged. "When the hand
is a rest, the face is at rest; but a lively hand is the product of a lively mind. The involve-
ment of the hand can be seen on the face, which is in itself a sort of mirror to the mind"
(Napier, 1980, p. 4).
The philosopher Heideggar, describes the use of tools in our ordinary experience
as ready-to-hand or unready-to-hand. Ready-to-hand is a state of experience where we
see through the tool to the activity we are engaged in and pursue this process of growth
unfettered; the tool or technology is a seamless, imperceptible extension of ourselves.
Unready-to-hand is a state of experience where the tool or technology malfunctions
or there is a break down of seeing through the tool to the activity; the tool hinders our
engagement rather than facilitates it. The case study data showed that computer-created
imagery was less engaging to students. Computer-created imagery was unready-to-hand
and did not allow students to see through the tool to fully engage in the experience of
creative expression and originality. The work sample assessment show that traditional art
tools and mediums are ready-to-hand and better facilitate understanding and engagement
with visual arts concepts.
"Bodily movement and brain activity are functionally interdependent, and their
synergy is so powerfully formulated that no single science or discipline can independently
explain human skill or behavior" (Wilson, 1999, p. 8). Wilson envisions a new disciple,
neuroanthropology. "No credible theory of human brain evolution can ignore, or isolate
from environmental context, the co-evolution of locomotor, manipulative, communica-
tive, and social behaviors of human ancestors" (Wilson, 1999, p. 321). The tool-maker
with an instinct for art, hand and brain together, evolved an imaginative brain and mirror
neurons spread learning by demonstration and observation.
Art—The Beginning of Our Design Tendency
"The elements of art are human nature's fundamental elements, though often, in
modern Western art, they appear in nonfunctional manifestations" (Dissanayake, 1988, p.
What is art? Western aesthetic theory has wrestled with this question, mostly in
terms of Western artistic behaviors. It has neglected to take into account the vast artistic
behaviors of all human cultures nor does it seem to acknowledge that Darwinism also
applies to aesthetic behavior. Ellen Dissanayake (1992), anthropologist and independent
scholar, fills in the blanks of traditional Western aesthetic theory by asking a clever ques-
tion; Who does art? Her interdisciplinary theory on art as an enduring element of all
human cultures from prehistory to present re-frames art as an evolutionary core instinct.
"Such broadening requires that one understand the human species' evolutionary history
and its evolved psychology—in particular, that engagement with the arts is an integral
and necessary (adaptive) part of a common human nature" (Dissanayake, 2008, p. 241).
Many believe that anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake's scholarly framework will displace
much of current aesthetic theory (Crain, 2001).
There is no human culture that lacks art, the arts take quite a lot of time and
energy, art is pleasurable, and children naturally respond to the arts. Therefore art is a
core instinct and fundamental to human experience. Art is what we all do and according
to laws of evolution, art is with us for a reason. Her theory on where art comes from and
why has major implications for art education, engagement and creativity.
As she argues extensively in her books, there is one feature that stands out and
cannot be substituted by anything else: this is the fact that all art involves "making spe-
cial". We focused our attention on what mattered to us and used art to, "make it special"
over the mundane reality of everyday life. "Via art, experience is heightened, elevated,
made more memorable and significant" (Dissanayake, 1992, p. 224). Vilayanur Ram-
achandran (1999), a neurologist and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition states,
"The purpose of art, surely, is not merely to depict or represent reality—for that can be
accomplished very easily with a camera—but to enhance, transcend, or indeed even to
distort reality" (p. 16). Transcending everyday reality to reach a more ordered and in-
tense world is, according to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), a very pleasurable human experi-
Dissanayake states that language ability is an innate predisposition for all chil-
dren; "similarly, art can be regarded as a natural, general proclivity that manifests itself
in culturally learned specifics such as dances, songs, performances, visual display, and
poetic speech" (Dissanayake, 1992, p. xii). Art is intrinsic to our species and Dissanayake
champions everyday creativity and art education for all. "Art is a normal and necessary
behavior of human beings and like other common and universal occupations such as
talking, working, exercising, playing, socializing, learning, loving, and caring, should be
recognized, encouraged and developed in everyone" (Dissanayake, 1992, p. 225).
Although art is a core instinct, language has dominated, supplanting hands-on
experience that keeps us in fresh sensory contact with our world. Perception rather than
conception allows for a more direct experience of the world. We must turn away from
"language-mediated ideology," as she calls it, and regard the affordances with which we
evolved for millions of years: "stones, water, weather, the loving work of human hands,
the expressive sounds of human voices, the immense, mysterious, and eternal" (Dis-
sanayake, 1992, p. 220). Traditional artistic methods of working with the hands interact
with the hand-brain feedback loop on the direct perception of experience. Other students
can both observe this process as well as grasp the intent of the other's work, it is corporal
Western aesthetic thought sought to place art within the exclusive domain of the
high artist, Dissanayake (1992) dispels this notion and believes that art is our biological
inheritance. What does this core tendency to art tell us about the beginning of human-
ity's design tendencies, does art have underlying cognitive universals? The power of
abstract thinking is rooted in the arts. This way of thinking—the neural mechanisms of
art thinking—are now scientifically codified through Neuroesthetics.
Brain—The Ordering of Our Experience
"Visual art contributes to our understanding of the visual brain because it explores
and reveals the brain's perceptual capabilities" (Zeki, 2001).
Art is a core impulse of humans. The instinct evolved a cerebral method for the
ordering of experience. Art is universal to humankind and the neural mechanisms that
mediate it are being formulated by neuroesthetics as a framework for understanding the
brain. If art is a core instinct of humans then art thinking is a core instinct and native to
human brains. Neuroesthetics use the arts to understand the brain. "The artist is, in a
sense, a neuroscientist, exploring the potentials and capacities of the brain, though with
different tools," observes Semir Zeki (2010, para.5), a neurobiologist at University College
London and director of the Institute of Neuroesthetics.
Given the evolutionary evidence for the link between tool-making and brain ex-
pansion it might seem past due that science is studying art to learn about the brain. But
according to Zeki (2002), great artists turn out to be the world's first neuroscientists.
Evolutionary biology and neuroesthetics both garner evidence from human biol-
ogy, the former from the hand and the latter from the brain. Vilayanur Ramachandran
(2009), a neurologist and director of the Center for Brain and Cognition asks, "Why does
art work? That's the question we're trying to answer." Ramachandran overlooks an im-
portant factor, while artists created artworks that speak from their brain's visual percep-
tual capabilities—they used their hands and their brain's visual perception to do it.
Dissanayake (1992) describes cognitive universals and how evolutionary anthro-
pology and neuroesthetics can elucidate the nature of our perception. The elements of art
in brain perception; pattern, contrast, balance, in the auditory; rhythmicity, resonance,
alliteration, assonance and rhyme, in the kinetic, all derive from the sensory system of
humans (Dissanayake, 1992).
Hubel and Wiesel demonstrated that the brain is concerned with perception over
conception. Instead of responding to pixels, cells in the visual cortex respond to straight
lines and angles of light. The neurons prefer contrast over brightness, straight edges over
curves; contrasts allow us to more efficiently pick out objects. Hubel and Wiesel became
the first scientists to describe what reality looks like before it has been conceived, when
our mind is still creating our sense of sight. The findings wowed the scientific communi-
ty and won Hubel and Wiesel the Nobel Prize. It turns out that the raw material of vision
is incomprehensibly bizarre, that all of our visual perceptions begin as a jigsaw puzzle
of lines, edges, and angles. The experimental results help explain the aesthetic appeal of
"Scientists can learn about the mind by reverse-engineering art." Ramachandran
(1999) asks, "might there be some sort of universal rule or 'deep structure', underlying all
artistic experience?" (p. 16). He developed eight laws that underlie human perception and
their evolutionary rationale. As the neurologist, Zeki has noted, it may not be a coinci-
dence that the ability of the artist to abstract the essential features of an image and dis-
card redundant information is essentially identical to what the visual areas (of the brain)
themselves have evolved to do.
What is art? What constitutes great art? Why do we value art so much and
why has it been such a conspicuous feature of all human societies? These
questions have been discussed at length though without satisfactory reso-
lution. This is not surprising. Such discussions are usually held without
reference to the brain, through which all art is conceived, executed and
appreciated. Art has a biological basis. It is a human activity and, like all
human activities, including morality, law and religion, depends upon, and
obeys, the laws of the brain (Zeki, 2002, p. 53).
Ramachandran's visual-cognitive laws of artistic experience, extends Napier's
thesis. Abstract thought followed an "ancient primate trend involving the hands, the eyes,
and the brain in three-way coordination" (Napier, 1980, p. 102). The instinct for art is
de-coded by the mechanisms of neuroesthetics. The tool maker with an instinct for art
has a visual system hard-wired in the human brain: hand-eye-brain feedback loop.
Eight Laws of Artistic Experience
PEAK SHIFT: Artists deliberately exaggerate creative components such as shading,
highlights, and illumination to an extent that would never occur in a real image to pro-
duce a caricature. These artists may be unconsciouslyproducing heightened activity
in the specific areas of the brain in a manner that is not obvious to the conscious mind.
Currently, it is unknown how the visualpathways accountfor this.
GROUPING: Itfeels nice when the distinctparts of apicture can be grouped into a
pattern orform. The brain likes tofind the signal amid the noise.
BALANCE: Successful art makes use of its entire representational space, and spreads
its information across the entire canvas.
CONTRAST: Because of how the visual cortex works, it's particularly pleasing for the
brain to gaze at images rich in contrast, like thick black outlines or sharp angles—or,
as in the geometric art ofMondrian, both at once.
ISOLATION: Sometimes less is more. By reducing reality to its most essential fea-
tures—think a Matisse that's all bright color and sharp silhouettes—artists amplify the
sensory signals we normally have to search for.
PERCEPTUAL PROBLEM SOLVING: Just as we love solving crossword puzzles, we
love to "solve" abstract paintings such as cubist still lifes or Cezanne landscapes.
SYMMETRY: Symmetrical things, from humanfaces to Roman arches, are more at-
tractive than asymmetrical ones.
REPETITION, RHYTHM, ORDERLINESS: Beauty is inseparablefrom the appear-
ance of order. Consider the garden paintings of Monet. Pictures filled with patterns, be
it subtle color repetitions orformal rhythms, appear more elegant and composed.
GENERIC PERSPECTIVE: We prefer things that can be observedfrom multiple view-
points, such as still lifes andpastoral landscapes, to thefragmentary perspective of a
single person. They contain more information, making it easierfor the brain to deduce
what's going on.
METAPHOR: Metaphor encourages us to see the world in a new way: Two unrelated
objects are directly compared, giving birth to a new idea. Picasso did this all the time—
he portrayed the bombing of Guernica, for example, with the imagery of a bull, a horse,
and a light bulb.
FIGURE 2. Eight laws of artistic experience. (Ramachandran & Hirstein, 1999)
Technology—The Extensions of Our Biology
"We shape our tools then our tools shape us" (McLuhan, 1964).
Tool-making began in pre-history and has progressed to technology-making to-
day. Scott Johnson-Frey, a neuroscientist at the University of Oregon, Eugene, conducted
a study on the neural bases of complex tool use in humans and found our brains have the
ability to create neurological maps to represent tools as if they were literal extensions of
our biology, this unique ability "was no doubt a fundamental step in the development of
technology" (Johnson-Fry, 2004).
From the beginning of knowable time, we have used our hands and brains in the
making of tools and technologies, from the wheel to the computer. It may be difficult to
see how a wheel is like a computer, however, Marshall McLuhan, "the sage of Aquarius"
clarifies this concept by unifying all tools and technologies as mediums that extend our
human biology. "All media are extensions of some human faculty—psychic or physical"
(McLuhan, 1967, p. 26).
Like all mediums, technology is an extension of human biology and electronic
technology is an extension of the human nervous system. "The computer is the most
extraordinary of man's technological clothing; it's an extension of our central nervous
system. Beside it, the wheel is a mere hula-hoop" (McLuhan, n.d. a). "The wheel is an
extension of the foot the book is an extension of the eye clothing, an extension of the skin,
electric circuitry, an extension of the central nervous system" (McLuhan, n.d. b).
The extension is usually invisible and can be more clearly seen by an inventory
of effects on our biology. "Technologies are not simple additions to human existence,
technologies change how humans think, feel and act, even the individual's perception and
information processing" (McLuhan, 1988). Specifically, a medium is a side-effect of a
technology, generally invisible; it consists of all the psychic and social adjustments that its
users and their society undergo when they adopt the new form. (McLuhan, 1995, p.393).
"The medium gives power through extension but immobilizes and paralyzes what
it extends" (Gordon, 2003, p. xiv). McLuhan wishes to train our perception to see "the
medium is the message" and prevent the "failure to understand media as extensions of the
human body and the failure to perceive the message (new environments) created by media
(technology)" (Gordon, 2003, p. xviii).
Verification of McLuhan's premise comes from neuroscience. Ramachandran's
research reveals our brains adapt and modify themselves at a far greater speed than ever
realized. His research on phantom limbs show that brain maps are highly adaptable; not
fixed at birth as was previously believed. Neural networks form and reform to coordinate
complex activity. "In humans the brain is the most variable and fastest evolving organ"
(Zeki, 2001, pp. 51-52).
Research on tool-use has verified that the brain does assimilate tools and tech-
nologies as extensions of itself. "You're so tightly coupled to the tools you use that they're
literally part of you as a thinking, behaving thing" (Keim, 2010, p. 1) says Anthony
Chemero, a cognitive scientist at Franklin and Marshall College. The computer is liter-
ally an extension of our nervous system. "The tool isn't separate from you. It's part of
you" (Keim, 2010, p. 1). "The person and the various parts of their brain and the mouse
and the monitor are so tightly intertwined that they're just one thing" (Keim, 2010, p. 1).
The computer is a literal extension of the human nervous system; the brain does actually
assimilate it into its own neural mapping. The results demonstrate how people fuse with
their tools, said Chemero.
There is an important distinction in the effects of tools and intelligent technol-
ogy. The tool has no pre-programmed code and the computer does, it is artificially intel-
ligent. We assimilate the program as apart of our brain. When we do this we stop our
native artistic thinking and assimilate the thinking of the programmed code. Intelligent
technology requires that we interact with it on it's own terms. "The medium gives power
through extension but immobilizes and paralyzes what it extends" (McLuhan, 2003, p.
xviii). The computer gives powerful extension of visual perception but immobilizes and
paralyzes the hand-brain feedback which is native to our perceptual thinking.
By favoring certain senses; mostly visual perception over other "secondary"
senses such as the tactile and auditory, technology has the unintended consequence of fa-
voring conceptual thinking over perceptual thinking. Concepts are pre-packaged and de-
fined, precepts are open and creative. Limiting the perceptual associations made within
the neural network maps of the prefrontal cortex, the creativity organ, limits creativity.
Creativity has long been strongly associated with the arts and McLuhan believed
this to be true because the artist is able to bypass the familiar which obstructs perception,
stressing the common orientation (Gordon, 2003). McLuhan observed that "The artist is
the person who invents the means to bridge between biological inheritance and the envi-
ronments created by technological innovation" (McLuhan, 1995, p. 378). Art practice is
perceptual and does not connect heavily to common concepts therefore it can more read-
ily tap into creativity.
McLuhan makes a important distinction between percept and concept, assigning
their difference to human understanding. We say one is perceptive when some-
thing is penetrated, extracting uncommon insight. Perception is enhanced when
attuned to the "secondary" senses, the tactile, olfactory, and acoustic. Only when
all the senses are at work, can the eye see. Percepts function via the sensory
world, not by concept. Percepts are participatory, involved. Percepts feel. The
tribal mask for instance is sensory, and transmits subliminal energy. Concepts
in contrast are detached systems that neutralize participation by explaining the
world. Concepts distance us from objects by relying on the passivity of the eye.
The visual unlike the tactile tends to stand back and inventory the situation from
a safe distance. Concepts lead one to viewing life as the eye surveys the terrain,
without involvement. To explain we generate concept after concept, and then
more concepts, as we get further away from our powers of perception. These
powers diminished at every step, surrendering common sense, instinct, intu-
ition and free thinking. We become literal, deprived of participation and insight.
(McLuhan and the Senses, n.d. d. para. 2).
Concepts distance us from direct perception by relying on the passivity of the eye.
The computer-created environment relied on vision as a primary sense extension to the
exclusion of the "secondary" sense of tactile hand-use. Computer-created imagery lacked
the perceptual understanding of the "secondary senses" the tactile hand. Hand-created im-
agery was a better approach to experiencing the open system of percepts by activating the
native intelligence of students' hand-brain feedback and collaborative mirror neuron mech-
anisms. The computer-created environment promoted a detached, pre-defined system of
concepts by relying on the computer's artificial intelligence and students' passive vision.
For McLuhan this is the work of artists: poets, painters, filmmakers who are com-
fortable with the unfamiliar. They are by nature experimenters in touch with the senses.
"... Their power to see environments as they really are" (McLuhan, 1964 p. 88). "The
future masters of technology will have to be light-hearted and intelligent. The machine
easily masters the grim and the dumb" (McLuhan, n.d. c).
Engagement—The Focus of Our Attention
"Autonomy demands engagement, only engagement can produce masery—
becoming better at something that matters" (Pink, 2009, p. 185).
The eminent scholar and educational philosopher John Dewey wrote passion-
ately about education during his lifetime (1859-1952), his writings were a reaction to the
paradigm shift of the Industrial Revolution however they hold relevance to the pedagogic
implications of this case study. John Dewey's educational philosophy adds credence to
Self Determination Theory and connects the work of Napier, Dissanyake, Ramachandran,
and McLuhan in an interdisciplinary band of brothers.
Dewey thought of the classroom as an environment for promoting engagement.
Dewey called it an "experience" and Csikszentmihalyi called it "Flow" however both
eminent scholars provide similar descriptions of engagement. "In such experiences, every
successive part flows freely, without seam and without unfilled blanks, into what ensues"
(Dewey, 1934, p. 206). Flow is a mental state in which a person in an activity is fully im-
mersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the
activity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
John Dewey, like Self Determination Theory, was concerned with the learner in
their social environment, having an "ordered richness of experience". The meaningful,
directed activities of the teacher for the enhancement of the learner shaped the possibili-
ties for the student's growth. John Dewey charged the teacher with understanding the
very nature of human learning and devising experiences that were most valuable for the
student's future contribution to society. Dewey endorsed education as an exploration of
experience rather than an imposed agenda of required learned topics. In Art as Experi-
ence, Dewey makes art central to the exploration of experience.
A sound bite of Dewey's philosophy is heard in the phrase "learning-by-doing"
and while this is a vital component it is not the whole story. Reflection upon the doing
is the other vital component, one learns by both doing and by reflecting upon the doing.
The Photography Journal served as an artifact for student's meta-cognitive reflection
upon their aesthetic experience.
Dewey and Self Determination Theory agree on the environmental conditions
that support the student's need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. According
to Dewey, the student should explore their own problem solving abilities and not have
the curriculum imposed upon them. The art teacher must devise a curriculum "that will
reduce the force of external pressure and will increase that of a sense of freedom and per-
sonal interest in the operation of production" (Dewey, 1934, p. 357).
For Dewey the ultimate of experience would involve the whole body, mind, and
soul of the student, "hence the expression is emotional and guided by purpose". Dewey
felt the body and object create a feedback loop of perception and cognition. His account
of the body's central role in cognition helps to undermine what had been a long standing
theory of mind, that the mind acts separately and independently from the body.
The very problem of mind and body suggests division; I do not know of
anything so disastrously affected by the habit of division as this particular
theme. In its discussion are reflected the splitting off from each other of
religion, morals and science; the divorce of philosophy from science and of
both from the arts of conduct. The evils which we suffer in education, in
religion, in the materialism of business and the aloofness of "intellectuals"
from life, in the whole separation of knowledge and practice—all testify to
the necessity of seeing mind-body as an integral whole.
The division in question is so deep-seated that it has affected even
our language. We have no word by which to name mind-body in a unified
wholeness of operation. For if we said "human life" few would recognize
that it is precisely the unity of mind and body in action to which we were
referring. Consequently, when we endeavor to establish this unity in hu-
man conduct, we still speak of body and mind and thus unconsciously per-
petuate the very division we are striving to deny (Dewey, 1928, pp. 25-40).
Every work of art [likewise every tool, machine, or instrument] has a
particular medium by which, among other things, the qualitative pervasive whole
is carried. In every experience we touch the world through some particular ten-
tacle; we carry on our intercourse with it comes home to us, through a specialized
organ. It is not just the visual apparatus but the whole organism that interacts with
the environment in all but routine action. The eye, ear, or whatever, is only the
channel through which the total response takes place (Dewey 1934, p. 195).
Dewey did not directly address the philosophy of embodied cognition during his
lifetime however we can conclude from his writings that he would have endorsed the hu-
man body as a holistic cognitive vehicle acting upon the experience. Dewey was also not
able to comment on the prevalence of computer technology in our contemporary experi-
ence. However Dewey, with intuitive foresight, has delineated for us the consequence of
computer technology's segregation of hand and eye from the holistic body. As we interact
with computer technology, we mainly use our hands for mouse clicks and typing on a
keyboard, we use our eyes to look into the screen portal. Dewey explains the hand-brain
feedback loop that exists in aesthetic experience.
As we manipulate, we touch and feel, as we look, we see; as we listen, we hear.
The hand moves with etching needle or with brush. The eye attends and reports
the consequence of what is done. Because of this intimate connection, subsequent
doing is cumulative and not a matter of caprice nor of routine. In an emphatic
artistic-esthetic experience, the relation is so close that it controls simultaneously
both the doing an the perception. Such a vital intimacy of connection cannot
be had if only hand and eye are engaged. When they do not, both of them, act
as organs of the whole being, there is but a mechanical sequence of sense and
movement, as in walking that is automatic. Hand and eye, when the experience
is esthetic, are but instruments through which the entire live creature, moved and
active throughout, operates. Hence the expression is emotional and guided by
purpose (Dewey, 1934, p. 50).
Dewey like Dissanayake thought of art as rooted and intrinsic to all human expe-
riences; and both have common agreement on art as a means to heighten some experienc-
es over others and "make special" as Dissanayake has so aptly named. As Dewey states,
a true work of art is a refined and intensified form of experience.
The hand-brain feedback and mirror neurons mechanisms are native human
mechanisms that promote engagement and creativity. If you want to understand engage-
ment and creativity, look to the direct perception that is the work of the hands.
Dewey understood the embodied creative impulse and wished to re-connect its in-
tensified form that constitute "works of art" into everyday learning and engagement. Art
is not looked at as a product but as an experience that brings fruition to the product. He
believed the real experience is the making or encountering the art. When we consider the
art object as separate from the human cognitive processes that made it, we disconnect our
hand-brain feedback and mirror neuron mechanisms from the end result. What is left is a
lack of understanding of art, and a stunted ability for personal expression.
Creativity—The Transcendence of Ordinary Experience
"...one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from ev-
eryday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own
ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into
the world of objective perception and thought" (Einstein, n.d. a).
Creativity is a multi-dimensional human enigma with many theories but few
universally agreed upon definitions. Perhaps creativity should remain a complex part of
human nature that will always elude a finite definition. We may not be able to arrive at a
definitive study of creativity but experts agree that creativity is a property of individuals
and also a property of groups. Once engagement is activated by facilitating the indi-
vidual's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness, a synergy of group creativity
will generally follow. The link between engagement and creativity is established through
Self Determination Theory and supported by contemporary experts: Daniel Pink, Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, and Keith Sawyer.
Pink looked at 40 years of research on motivation and found the things we do for
reasons of interest, enjoyment, and enthusiasm produce far more creative results than
things we do because we get some reward. We use very limited thinking when we as-
sume students are motivated by rewards only, in fact for creative work students are moti-
vated by interest, enjoyment and enthusiasm, in short they are motivated by engagement.
Pink advises us to abandon external rewards as a motivation for creativity. We should
focus our efforts on creating environments that meet students innate psychological needs.
"This era doesn't call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-di-
rection," (Pink, 2010, video file). Autonomy, the urge to direct our on lives; mastery, the
desire to get better and better at something that matters; and purpose, the urge to do this
in the service of something larger than ourselves. Correspondingly, Self Determination
Theory describes Pink's drives as autonomy, competence and relatedness.
Daniel Pink studied the research, and found that extrinsic rewards, like money
and grades actually decrease creativity. What does work, is giving enormous amount of
freedom of choice, in an environment of optimal challenge with recognition and feedback.
The real pathway to creativity is the autonomy orientation framework of Self Determina-
tion Theory, where you allow people to complete the task in their own way. "This works
better than the carrot and stick method which is the framework of compliance. In con-
trast, when the reward is the activity itself—deepening learning, and doing one's best is
the only way" (Pink, 2010, video file).
Pink explains why creativity flows more from intrinsic factors that from extrinsic
factors by the way the brain prepares to solve the problem. Open tasks, ones that allow
the individual control over the solution have a more exploratory mode whereas actions
motivated from extrinsic rewards have a task completion mode. The sequential left brain
is more task oriented, the right brain is more exploratory. Creativity is more likely with
open possibilities, focused directed activity of the left brain tends to narrow possibilities
in order to complete the task. Creativity is a non-algorithm process. If you want creative
exploration you must allow individuals to direct their own solutions, work on what inter-
ests them and collaborate with others. "Solving complex problems requires an inquiring
mind and a willingness to experiment one's way to a fresh solution" (Pink, 2010, video
Creativity expert and winner of "Thinker of the Year 2000," Mihaly Csikszentmi-
halyi, has devoted his life to finding out what makes people truly happy and fulfilled. He
believes engagement and creativity is the answer and outlines the eight conditions for a
"Flow" state and the internal blocks of boredom and anxiety that interfere with the ability
to focus attention. Correlations between Flow and Self Determination Theory are strong.
Self Determination Theory calls it "engagement", Csikszentmihalyi calls it "flow",
both refer to the same phenomenon. Csikszentmihalyi (1997) is in agreement with Self
Determination Theory and Daniel Pink that intrinsic rewards function best to promote
engagement and creativity. The individual needs and environmental supports focus on
mitigating boredom and anxiety through autonomy, competence and relatedness. He first
studied flow when he noticed that artists were thoroughly immersed in their work with
great enjoyment. Additionally, surgeons and musicians show the highest states of "Flow",
interestingly the hands are critical to both professions.
Keith Sawyer, educator, creativity expert, and author of Group Genius explains
creativity in terms of the group. Sawyer collaborated with Csikszentmihalyi on the role
the group plays in creativity (Csikszentmihalyi & Sawyer, 1995). For example, one of
the subjects quoted in their research said: "I develop lots of my ideas in dialogue. It's
very exciting to have another mind that is considering the same set of phenomena with as
much interest as one is. It's very exciting, the sparks, and dynamic interaction, and very
much newer things, new ways of looking at things, that come out of those conversations"
(Csikszentmihalyi & Sawyer, 1995 p. 348).
According to Sawyer (2003), the arts foster collaboration admirably. He rec-
ommends unstructured play with peers where children can relate to other children and
develop their own stories. Self Determination Theory also identifies relatedness as one of
three main needs of the individual necessary for high levels of engagement. The hand-
created environment in this study facilitated unstructured play with peers (hand-brain
feedback and mirror neuron mechanisms where better activated) this better supported
students in developing their own personal expression. The hand-created environment
clearly improved relatedness over the computer-created environment, kindling the cre-
ative power of collaboration.
According to Sawyer (2003), innovation always evolves through a series of small
sparks. It is a myth that creativity happens on a solely individual basis, no one is creative
alone. He states that it is hard to become creative across all areas and that collaborative
interaction makes connections among diverse types of knowledge. He believes a broad
education in the liberal arts is best. This helps the brain to make many connections and
trains the brain to explore.
Sawyer (2003) uses jazz and improvisational theatre as exemplars of successful
collaboration, the kind that fosters creativity. Improvisational theatre and jazz musicians
are good examples of the collaborative nature of creativity. Possible through relatedness
with others (mirror neurons) and immediate feedback of the task (hand-brain feedback).
The best collaborative groups have "Group Flow" where things come together seemingly
effortlessly. A network of individuals creates a super mind. Each mind adds her unique
experience and associations to the group. Sawyer's top recommendations for increasing
creativity; (1) Make sure you are doing something you love and (2) Get involved with a
group of like-minded people.
Self Determination Theory
How does Self Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) provide the context for
investigating art and technology's impact on engagement and creativity in the classroom?
Self Determination Theory has wide ranging applications to education. It asserts that
all individuals have the inherent desire to grow, and identifies the individual needs and
environmental supports that nurture the growth imperative. This is the groundwork that
leads to engagement and experts agree that engagement leads to creativity. Engagement
is of critical importance to education. Without engagement the endeavor to educate for
creativity is compromised. "Engagement is associated with positive academic outcomes,
including achievement and persistence in school; and it is higher in classrooms with sup-
portive teachers and peers, challenging and authentic tasks, opportunities for choice, and
sufficient structure" (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004, p. 1).
Students who are intrinsically motivated will engage through their own inter-
est, enjoyment and enthusiasm to complete tasks. Students extrinsically motivated will
engage through outside factors, such as grades or parental control, to complete tasks.
Research shows that in education and in the work force, intrinsic motivation leads to
many benefits including greater creativity. "These intrinsic motivations are not necessar-
ily externally rewarded or supported, but nonetheless they can sustain passions, creativity,
and sustained efforts" (Deci & Ryan, 2010, para. 1).
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his seminal work on engagement and creativity;
describes his theory of "Flow"—as a state of optimal intrinsic motivation where you are
"completely involved in an activity for its own sake" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997 p. 117).
Flow is a state of optimum engagement with the domain so that distractions and anxieties
are dissolved and one can transcend everyday reality to reach a state of deep understand-
ing with the concepts of the domain. Csikszentmihalyi's eight conditions of a flow state
underscore Self Determination Theory's individual needs and environmental supports as
the antecedents to engagement and their important link to creativity, (see Figure 5)
Teresa Amabile, Harvard professor, reviewed studies showing that the same fac-
tors that stimulate intrinsic motivation also stimulate creativity. In fact, providing clearly
defined goals can boost creativity (Amabile, 1998). "Freedom about process also allows
people to approach problems in ways that make the most of their expertise and creative-
thinking skills" (Amabile, 1998, p. 82). Additionally, it is important to provide the physi-
cal space needed to work comfortably in groups (Amabile, 1998). Through Amabile's
extensive research the Intrinsic Motivation Principle of Creativity was developed: Intrin-
sic motivation is conducive to creativity and extrinsic motivation is almost always detri-
mental (Amabile, 1983, 1996).
Antecedents to Engagement
Determining aspects of the learning environment that best support individual
needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness is critical to engagement. This case
study compared computer-created and hand-created imagery to determine which better
supported individual needs and thereby supported engagement.
Antecedents to engagement can be organized by individual needs and environ-
mental supports. The degree the needs are nurtured in the individual and supported in
the environment effect motivation, engagement and creativity. "Conditions supporting
the individual's experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster
the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, in-
cluding enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity" (Deci & Ryan, 2010, para. 2).
Individual needs. There are three psychological needs that motivate the self to
initiate behavior; autonomy, competence, relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2002). "Autonomy
If About the Concept of Engagement
As applied to schools, Fredricks, Blumeofeid, & Paris (2004) stress that
engagement* defined in three ways in the research literature:
* Behavioral engagement draws on the idea of participation; it includes
involvement in academic and social or extracurricular activities and is
considered crucial for achieving positive academic outcomes and preventing
teachers, classmates, academics, and school and is presumed to create ties to
an institution and influences willingness to do the work.
» Cognitive engagement draws on the idea of investment; it incorporates
[complex ideas and master difficult skills.
They also emphasize:
Antecedents of Engagement can be organized into:
• School levelfactors: voluntary choice, clear and consistent goals, small
size, student participation in school policy and management, opportunities
for staff and students to be involved m cooperative endeavors, and
academic work that allows for the development of products
• Classroom Context Teacher support, peers, classroom structure,
autonomy support, task characteristics
• Individual Needs: Heed for relatedness, need for autonomy, need for
Engagement can be measured as fellows:
« Behavioral Engagement: conduct work involvement, participation,
persistence, (e.g., completing homework complying with school rules,
• Emotional Engagement self-report related to feelings of frustration,
boredom, interest anger, satisfaction; student-teacher relations; work
* Cognitive Engagement investment in learning, flexible problems solving,
independent work styles, coping with perceived failure, preference for
challenge and independent mastery, commitment to understanding the
FIGURE 3. About the concept of engagement. Center for Mental Health in Schools.
(2008). Engaging and re-engaging students in learning at school. Los Angeles, CA.
FIGURE 4. Antecedents to engagement and creativity.
Flow and Self Determination Theory
1. Clarity of goals, clear ultimate goal
and clear step-by-step procedures to
reach the goal.
2. Immediate feedback, keeps people
3. Right level of Challenge, neither
too easy, nor too difficult.
4. Focused concentration emerges,
inner harmony, greater energy.
5. Transcend everyday frustrations,
operate in the present.
6. In control of your experience
7. Loose self conscientiousness,
one of the obstacles to "Flow" is to
worry about what others think and
how we look.
8. Time transforms
Self Determination Theory
(Deci & Ryan, 1985)
FIGURE 5. Flow and Self Determination Theory.
refers to perception of a sense of agency, which occurs when students have the op-
portunity for choices and for playing a significant role in directing their own activity."
(Bluemfeild, 2006). Competence refers to higher level thinking, meta-cognition and the
ability to transfer understood knowledge to other contexts. Relatedness refers to a sense
of social connection and belonging. It is grounded in feelings of safety, students who
feel connected to their environment show greater interest and well being. The needs are
genetically predisposed but must be nurtured by the environment.
Environmental Supports. Teachers in support of the individual's needs provide
peer collaboration, classroom structure, choice, and a relevant, interesting project. In ad-
dition student's receive important feedback on their progress. Feedback is recognized by
Self Determination Theory and Csikszentmihalyi as an essential support for sustaining
engagement. The photography journal student rubric is evidence of the environmental
support for the individual's needs.
Self Determination Theory asserts that all individuals have the inherent desire to
grow, be proactive, and engaged. However not everyone exhibits growth. Students are
also vulnerable to disengagement and passivity. The state of engagement or disengage-
ment in students can be mostly influenced by the degree to which their individual needs
for autonomy, competence and relatedness are supported in their learning environment.
Classrooms that offer choice, challenge and connection with others are supportive of
individual needs and promote engagement, "excessive control, non-optimal challenge,
and lack of connectedness, on the other hand" (Deci & Ryan, 2000, p.76) are disruptive of
individual needs and thwart engagement.
Engagement levels with computer-created and hand-created imagery were mea-
sured using the individual needs of Self Determination Theory. The individual needs;
autonomy, competence and relatedness are antecedent to engagement and when supported
in the individual result in higher levels of engagement. Several valid research studies
show that engagement is strongly linked to higher achievement, persistence and creativity.
Case Study Methodology
Engagement and creativity are multifaceted human phenomenon that manifest
under many circumstances and as a result elude true experimental methodology. Case
study methodology offers an appropriate framework for investigating engagement and
creativity within its' real-world context. Case study methodology generates suppositions
from the evolving characteristics of the case rather than formulate a hypothesis prior to
testing. Therefore it is an ideal methodology for formulating connections, recognizing
trends, suggesting areas for future investigation, and offering recommendations for sec-
Suppositions garnered from case study research are unique to the research setting
and do not always have applications across similar settings. The application of theory to
explain the phenomenon direct avenues for further research.
The Research Artifact
Every student, in this year-long visual arts course, created a one-of-a-kind photog-
raphy journal, one section used computer-created imagery and one section used hand-cre-
ated imagery. The photography journal is seen as a highly suitable artifact for measuring
individual needs because it is descriptive of the student who created it and the environ-
ment it was created in.
As an environmental support, the photography journal student rubric provided
structured learning, clear goals and feedback that are supportive of individual needs.
The photography journal remained identical in format and structure for both environ-
ments, what changed was the method used to create the imagery. The artifact resulting
from both methods, computer-created and hand-created, was assessed from the student's
point of view through self-report surveys and the teacher's point of view through works
Photography Journal Instructional Design
The photography journal student rubric is evidence of a challenging and struc-
tured project that provides support for the individual needs. The photography journal
draws heavily upon student interests. It is a project using photography and graphic design
in which they are the main character. The artifact is complex, with several parts to each
page. Much instructional time is spent getting students to understand visual arts con-
cepts; contrast that creates an edge, expressive typography, use of space, and use of scale.
The photography journal evaluates this complex learning, it is the same as finals are to
other disciplines. Meta-cognition occurs when students understand visual arts concepts
and can transfer and elaborate their understanding into their own design. "Similarly,
success in creating an artifact or mastering an idea or skill can lead to greater feelings
of competence and greater perceived value of the endeavor, and result in higher levels of
engagement" (Blumenfeld, 2006).
The photography journal is also an assessment of originality and personal expres-
sion. In this assessment the arts show that there is no one right answer. Beyond compe-
tence in visual arts concepts, the idea is that the photography journal is representative of
one's autonomy through choice, interest, and personal expression. The idea is to foster
originality and have a degree of self authorship through the understanding of visual arts
concepts. Having everyone's work look the same would be a failure. Assessment of au-
tonomy was the demonstration of originality and personal expression.
The Research Setting
Four secondary visuals arts classrooms were studied to investigate the influences
computer-created (c) and hand-created (h) imagery had on supporting individual needs for
autonomy, competence, and relatedness, the antecedents to engagement. Instructional de-
sign and teacher support remained unchanged for both methods. The case study is writ-
ten from the perspective of participant-observer and took place in a year-long course in
which I teach the visual arts disciplines of photography and graphic design. Foundational
visual arts concepts are taught and many applied examples of these concepts are given in
the photographic and graphic design mediums. Students learn and apply the visual arts
concepts of contrast, typography, space, and scale. The desired learning outcome is that
students will transfer the visual arts concepts learned in one medium to the other medium
to create personally expressive pages in their photography journal. They do this by creat-
ing a body of original photographic imagery and use the imagery and visual arts concepts
of contrast, typography, space, and scale in the page designs of their photography journal.
Students used computer-created imagery to compose the first 6 page designs and
hand-created imagery to compose the next 6 page designs. Data from self-report surveys
and work sample assessments measure the degree computer-created imagery and hand-
created imagery supported student needs. The survey questions were coded for measur-
ing autonomy, competence and relatedness. The work sample assessments were complet-
ed by the teacher and measured competence and autonomy. The impact each method of
imagery creation had on student engagement makes up the investigation of this study.
Teacher orientation has an impact on engagement. Nurturing students' needs
for autonomy, competence and relatedness in a supportive way, (autonomy supportive)
has been shown to foster engagement. A controlling style of teaching has been shown
to dampen engagement. The teacher orientation questionnaire yielded an autonomy-
supportive style for this researcher. Engagement is strongly associated with an autonomy-
supportive teacher. The photography journal student rubric guided the instructional
design for both environments and teacher supports for autonomy remained unchanged for
The research population composed of students enrolled in four sections of a visual
arts course. The total number of participants in the study equals 100 students (n = 100).
The case study is situated at the secondary, high school level. Most students do not have
prior knowledge of the visual arts domain as this is their first course. Demographic
profiles of students' gender, socioeconomic status or ethnicity were not considered to be
relevant factors to the case study objectives.
Data instruments assessing the antecedents to engagement include the student
self-report survey, peer self-report survey and the work sample assessment. The two
surveys consisted of 10 questions each. The questions asked respondents to rate along
a scale or make a clear choice between two randomly ordered options; hand-created or
computer-created. Each question was coded for autonomy, competence, or relatedness.
Student Self-Report Survey (n = 100)
The student survey asked one hundred students to evaluate their own photography
journal. Students were asked to look at both sections, recall the processes they used to
create each section and answer each question by comparing their own computer-created
and hand-created work samples.
Peer Self-Report Survey (n = 97)
The peer survey involved students reviewing another peer's photography journal.
The photography journal peer reviews were assigned at random. Nine questions were
asked, each question was coded for autonomy, competence, or relatedness.
Work Sample Assessment (n= 16)
Sixteen student work samples were evaluated by this researcher for evidence of
competence and autonomy. Evidence of competence was present when students reflected
upon their understanding of the key visual arts concepts and applied their knowledge to
their page designs. The key visual arts concepts assessed in this study were the use of
contrast, typography, space and scale. Evidenced of autonomy is assessed by the degree
of originality and personal expression present in each page design. Evidence of autonomy
was indicated when students demonstrated personal expression by developing original
and unique page designs. Page designs that have high originality and personal expression
are presumed to be due to student's greater levels of choice, interest, and self-direction.
Student Self-Report Survey
Students were asked to make a choice between computer-created (c) or hand-
created (h) imagery. The questions were coded for the individual needs of Self Determi-
nation Theory; autonomy, competence and relatedness. The following results indicate
which method elicited higher levels of student engagement.
#1 Rate how expressive your type elements are with each method.
#2. How much personal satisfaction didyou experience with each method?
#9. Which method was more enjoyable?
#10. In thefuture which method would you prefer to work with?
FIGURE 7. Student responses—autonomy.
Autonomy—Questions #1, #2, #% #10
Data showed a clear preference for hand-created imagery. Greater choice, expres-
siveness, enjoyment and satisfaction made hand-created imagery a clear student prefer-
ence. The data percentages represent the total of high and very high ratings.
FIGURE 8. Student responses—competence.
Competence—Questions #4, #7, #8
Results do not show an overwhelming preference for either method with regards
to competence of visual arts concepts; contrast, typography, space, and scale. These
results may indicative of the beginning student's inexperience with assessing visual arts
concepts or may just indicate little preference between methods. The data percentages
represent the total of high and very high ratings.
Relatedness—Questions #3, #5, #6
These questions sought to draw out a preference for the environment embedded
with each method. The three variations of the same question all yielded a very strong
preference for the environment of hand-created imagery. Hand-created imagery was far
more collaborative which clearly supported students9
need for relatedness.
I find these questions to be very significant because they are direct, require no
prior knowledge, and are easily answered without much thought. These questions were
significant since they indicate satisfaction with the classroom community. One student's
FIGURE 9. Student responses—relatedness.
feedback expressed that computer-created methods were a bit lonely since it is only you
and the screen. For John Dewy, learning is inherently a social activity in which the in-
terests of the student should play a leading role in the course of study, the environment of
hand-created imagery supported social learning. Hand-created imagery was clearly more
a "make special59
experience, (Dissanayake, 1992) as evident from the desire to show
hand-created work to a friend, this spoke to a sense of pride in hand-created imagery that
was absent from computer-created imagery. The data percentages represent the total of
high and very high ratings.
FIGURE 10. Peer responses—autonomy.
Peer Self-Report Survey
The peer survey required students to assess another students's photography jour-
nal (randomly assigned) in terms of autonomy, competence and relatedness. They were
not in contact with their own work but were to evaluate another's work. Preferences for
methods in terms of autonomy were not as clearly expressed as they were when student's
evaluated their own work, perhaps this is due to the more difficult nature of assessing the
work of someone other than yourself.
FIGURE 11. Peer responses—competence.
Autonomy—Questions #1, #3, #4, #9
Data did not show a clear preference when peers assessed another's work, however
when making a choice for themselves the majority chose hand-created imagery.
Competence—Questions #2, #6 ,#7, #8
Peers attributed greater competence of visual arts concepts to hand-created imag-
ery. However they judged computer-created content to be more easily understood.
The environments of computer-created and hand-created imagery were very dif-
ferent. Students in the hand-created environment worked at tables with other students.
#5. Rate your own satisfaction in working at the tables with others.
2% (low) 16% (medium) 82% (high/very high)
"'Until your sitifsfecttotii In working nt fh# tutslns with otliOfs.'
FIGURE 12. Peer responses—relatedness.
They could readily observe others progress and were more collaborative and happily
engaged than they were in the computer-created environment. This could be attributed
to the time it takes to acclimate to a classroom community or it could be attributed to the
isolationist quality of human-computer interaction. This educator experienced a much
more engaged classroom with hand-created methods than with computer-created meth-
ods. Students clearly preferred the greater collaboration and relatedness resulting from
the hand-created environment.
Work Sample Assessment
Sixteen student work samples were evaluated by the teacher. As noted in the
literature review, understanding the process behind the artifact is key to assessing the
artifact for evidence of competence in visual arts concepts. So while the end product may
• ft* Aytonomy
FIGURE 12. Work sample assessment. Students used computer-created imagery to
compose the first 6 pages and hand-created imagery to compose the next 6 pages of their
"look artistic" to the lay person, I as art educator can retrace the thinking processes that
the student used to create the artifact. The end product serves as a map for me to retrace
the student's cognitive process. Evidence of competence is present when students trans-
fer understood concepts and knowledge (competence) into their own personal expression
(autonomy). Relatedness was assessed from the students' perspective and not from the
Key visual arts concepts measured were the use of contrast, typography, space
and scale. Evidence of autonomy was present when students chose to create original page
designs and invest effort into personal expression. When evaluating competence with
computer-created and hand-created imagery, it is important to be knowledgeable of visual
design concepts. Computer-created imagery can easily show a veneer of competence but
on closer inspection reveal a shallow application of visual arts concepts. A trained art
educator can easily retrace the student's process to understand how they arrived at their
final page design. With that is mind, it is understandable that a lay person may have dif-
ficulty distinguishing the competent from the superficial in imagery creation.
Competence was much lower with computer-created imagery. Work done with
computer-created imagery appeared to be spatially flat, lacked contrast and spacial depth.
The typography was uninteresting and very similar across students. It was difficult to
determine which student did what, computer-created imagery all looked too similar.
In contrast work done with hand-created imagery had an easily identifiable
creator. As a group, hand-created imagery presented much more depth and variety of
solutions. The page designs showed a higher level use of visual arts concepts, had more
detail and the design held more unity among elements. Personal expression was far
more apparent with hand-created imagery. Additionally, the art room community was
more collaborative and happily engaged with hand-created methods than they were with
computer-created methods. This educator experienced a much more engaged classroom
with hand-created methods than with computer-created methods.
"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal"
(Einstein, n.d. b)
This case study represents a pause in the acceleration of technology so we may
consider the nature of our human creativity and our brain mechanisms that evolved over
time; hand-brain feedback and mirror neurons. How do we educate for creativity, what
mistakes can we avoid through consideration of the findings outlined in this case study.
Our engagement is a powerful thing, it allows us to focus our energies on reach-
ing a state of transcendence of ordinary experience. Superficial engagement renders the
emergence of creativity unlikely. Creativity has fueled the human evolution of tools and
technology, in many ways this is basic to what it means to be human. Without a doubt
technology has a critical place in education however it does not have a paramount place.
Artists have a long tradition of using their hands on a variety of processes, materi-
als, and tools. However in a short time span the practice of using technology has become
ubiquitous in nearly every facet of the visual arts for the professional and the student
alike. Before we short circuit the natural feedback loop of hand-brain on the direct ex-
perience of the beginning visual arts student, we should look carefully at what promotes
engagement and fosters creativity.
McLuhan's theory that new technologies never simply coexist with older technolo-
gies rather they push older technologies into extinction. Computer-created methods may
be fast and efficient but it is hand-created methods that give students the "making spe-
cial" experience that is fundamental to their nature and to their engagement and collabo-
ration with others. The fundamental connection between our hand and brain is broad and
foundational, supplanting this process leads to less engagement, less creative expression.
Students spend a great deal of their time interacting with computer technology in
digital space. Stemming this tide is not a possibility, we will only be going forward with
this framework. Many researchers have conducted studies on the pervasive existence of
screen time on children so I will not reiterate their findings here. However, one of the
features of art-making identified in the literature review is that art-making is essentially
an embodied process. "It is the framework which changes with each new technology and
not just the picture within the frame" (McLuhan, 1995, p. 273). As the new framework
obsolesces the old framework it is important to consider the words of Jerome Kagan.
Ph.D., keynote speaker at the 2009 John Hopkins University Summit, "The combined use
of hands and imagination makes an important contribution to what it means "to know"
something" (Kagan, 2010 p. 29).
This researcher hopes we can find ways where computer-created processes do not
obsolesce hand-created processes for the beginning visual arts student. For if we wish to
promote creativity we should do so with beginning students.
PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL STUDENT RUBRIC UNIT 1
Photography Journal - Unit 1
Composition and Digital Basics
1 page • title: A Year in the Life
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text" • Use your partner's story about you.
• image: "use your photo booth picture"
1 page • title: Printed Light
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text" • Use your Technical Critique and Resolution worksheet to
describe how imagery is turned into pixels and worked in Photoshop.
• image: "use 3 images from your sunprint contact sheet"
and the original sunprint papers (optional).
2 pages • title: Masters of Photography- Alfred Stieglitz
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text" use text from • "How to critique a Photo", • story on Alfred.
• image: "use" • one image of Alfred and • one image of his work • draw time line
2 pages • title: GreatlYC Sight
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text" (your own words) Describe how you used the composition skills
below while shooting your Abstract Holga assignment.
Framing Filling the Frame
Backgrounds Creating Abstract Form
Rule of Thirds. Strong Focal Point
• images: "use any of your images from your Holga film scans, fill the pages w/ your
70 pts/ Completion: Page elements are complete.
30 pts/ Craftsmanship: Attention to detail and application of skill so a
quality project emerges
FIGURE 14. Photography journal student rubric unit 1—computer-created.
PHOTOGRAPHY JOURNAL STUDENT RUBRIC UNIT 2
Photography Journal - Unit 2
Light & Portrait
2 pages • title: Masters of Portraiture- Avedon
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text" use your "reading the face descriptions" and "Titles of Portraits".
• image: Use the Portraits from Avedon, as many as you want.
1 page • title: Seeing Light-Seeing Shadow
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you create text " (in your own words)
Define what is meant by the Direction. Quality and Mood of light in photography. How do
you know the quality, is it hard or soft light? (hint: look at the shadows) Why is directional
light more aesthetic to the eye? (hint: creates form)
• image: "use images from your "Window Portrait photo shoot"
2 page • title: The Photo Shoot
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: Describe how you used the any of the skills below to create your Portrait assignment.
/ Backgrounds Mood/Gesture of the Subject
Direction of Light Photoshop Corrections
• images: "use all of your images from your Studio Shoot contact sheet.
Optional: Exchange images with other friends (ie. trading cards)
1 page • title: Note to Self
• subtitle: "you create subtitle"
• text: "you created text" Use you Personality Type Sheet"
/ Fold and place in envelope seal (your choice)
• images: "use your Missing Peices Self Portrait
70 pts/ Completion: Page elements are complete.
30 pts/ Craftsmanship: Attention to detail and application of skill so a
quality project emerges
FIGURE 15. Photography journal student rubric unit 2—hand-created.
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