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Pivoting in Times of Change

By Benny Kharismana
Pivoting in Times of Change

Students screen printing at Utahloy International School of Guangzhou. (Photo source: Benny Kharismana)

Last semester, my school in Guangzhou, China had the challenge of pivoting back and forth between online and onsite teaching due to the continuous changes regarding COVID-19 cases. In my visual arts class, this meant the lesson plan and material used had to be very flexible. 

During an online setting for about two weeks, my year 10 students explored several digital image manipulations by using free online resources. First, students selected portraits of their favorite person (celebrity, idol, family, friend, etc.), then they manipulated their contrast in only black and white (threshold effect) but still maintained their clear recognition. Next, the results were elaborated into several layers. The layers and their various techniques were concepts we highlighted during online lessons. At the time, we didn’t know how long we must study from home, so we just went with ideas that worked and were flexible with our learning approaches. We continually developed the work into digital photomontages by combining various photos of textures and patterns found at the student’s home as well as manually made drawings, paintings, or collages. Students were excited because it allowed them to make whatever they wanted, regardless of their level of skills or interests. When we were told the good news that we could go back onsite, I had to think of possible scenarios on how I should continue the lesson in the next several weeks, thinking we might go back online after a while again. 

After finishing some earlier works that we had started before the online learning week, I decided to develop their threshold portraits into screen prints. This was risky because of two reasons. First, there’s no guarantee that we would stay onsite until the end of the school year. We could be told to go back online anytime. Second, I had started experimenting with screen printing several months ahead but for a class of 13 students, we must prepare more material and equipment in a short time. To manage the activities better, we decided to vote for only four favorite designs to be developed into screen prints. After learning the basic techniques, students were then grouped so they could work collaboratively until the end. In groups, they had to work together in deciding the layers, printing ink color mixing, printing order, and color registration. They were able to transfer their prior skills and knowledge of layer and montage techniques from digital into analog settings. Although we faced small issues throughout, we were fortunate that we could finish the whole project on campus.  

Overall, students were very happy with the project. We were all very excited about the results and how they turned out. There were many happy surprises. Students were able to make a meaningful connection between their learning online and on campus. It was wonderful experimentation and an accomplishment for everyone in the class. We now live in the world of inevitable change. There will be challenges and limitations but if we can take a deep breath, pause for a while, and be willing to adapt, we are sure to find creative and better solutions. 

Benny Kharismana is a passionate art teacher with International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and Middle Years Programme experience. He is an avid urban sketcher and watercolor enthusiast with a high interest in photography, printmaking, and design. Originally from Indonesia, he now lives in Guangzhou, China with his family. Currently, he is the head of the Arts and Design departments at Utahloy International School of Guangzhou (UISG).

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05/09/2023 - Anthony
I enjoyed reading this article. I have learnt throughout my teaching that giving choices to students and being flexible bring out perfect results and learning experiences. We'll done.
09/28/2022 - Myrat Hezret
Would like to get more information about innovative teaching and learning



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