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ECLAP 2012 Conference, 7-9 May 2012, Florence, Italy: REPORT Workshop on best practices for educational services

on the workshop on Education
Author Josefien schuurman

Name of the working group: Working Group A Education and training tools
Title of the workshop: Educational services for the performing arts
Day of the workshop: Mai, 8 2012
Chair: Robin Boast
Keynote Speaker: Heather Nathans
  • Dorota Sosnowska
  • Angela Di Iorio
  • John Casey
  • Henk Borgdorff
  • Peter G.F. Eversmann
On Tuesday the 8th of May the Department of Theatre Studies of the University of Amsterdam organized a workshop on educational services for the performing arts on behalf of the ECLAP Working Group A. The Chair of the session was Prof. Robin Boast from Cambridge University. The workshop featured five talks and a keynote presentation.
Key challenge
Heather Nathans (professor in Theatre Studies at the University of Maryland, USA), presented her paper on the relation between archival structures and academic research, You can’t get there from here’: Re-thinking the maps in a digital archive.
The central topic in her presentation was students using database effectively in there learning experience, decomposed in the following key themes:
  • ‘How can professors help students use digital archives to create and understand histories of live performance?’
  • ‘How can we teach students to think like archivists?’
  • ‘What are the issues of knowledge vs. skills in navigating an archive?’
  • ‘What role do emotion and empathy play in the our research, and how do we communicate that to our students?’[i]
One major aspect is how capable or well prepared students are to find online resources and secondly use these resources to enhance their learning experience. Her sparkling presentation engaged the audience in issues around educational IT and performing arts databases from the perspective on a (super) end user and her students.
Stakeholders and initiators of online archives speak fundamentally different languages. Archivists, academics, practitioners, IT developers have different starting points and paradigms in dealing with online archives and education. Students have a hard time learning to synchronize these different ‘languages’ and extracting from them what they need to be able to use performing arts online resources. To unite these initial ‘languages’ in effective, multi-valued educational services facilitating the different needs and perspectives of end users is a key challenge.
The paper presentations were in the following order:
Dorota Sosnowska from the University of Warsaw with Performance art studies at the dawn of the digital age. Discussing the theoretical framework and relevant art, cultural and sociological theories in which the academic discourse on performing arts, digital media and education takes place.
Angela Di Iorio from the University of Rome, La Sapienza, Sapienza digital library: a cross-disciplinary support for education. Discussing approach, standards and provisional lessons learned in a project to integrate all (performing arts) collections and libraries of La Sapienza in one all-encompassing online educational resource.
John Casey, from the University of Arts London, presenting a paper written by John Casey, Wolfgang Greller (Open University of the Netherlands) and Gareth Waller (EDINA, University of Edinburgh) on Open Networks for Culture and education: ONCE. Discussing issues and theoretical questions arising from the newly created infrastructure ALTOfor creating, sharing and engaging with open educational resources.
Henk Borgdorff, School of Arts The Hague, The Research Catalogue as Platform to Document and Disseminate Staff and Student Research Projects. Discussing the concept and challenges of creating the Artistic Research Catalogue, a platform to document and disseminate staff and student research projects.
Peter G.F. Eversmann, University of Amsterdam, Knowledge Management in Performing Arts Education, with a paper on discussing and redefining methodologies and models to analyze and understand knowledge creation within the arts and the interactions between education, IT and specific contexts.
Outside the framework of our workshop, but quite relevant to our case and cause was the demo presented by people from the Greek Technical University NTUA. They showed the (beta) VLE of the Natural Europe Learning Pathways. It’s an educational framework based on learning trough events. In their case the event is a visit to a Natural History Museum, but what would happen if we would change the museum visit into seeing a performance on-site or online?

A range of different perspectives on education, research and educational resources were presented during the workshop. The domain of educational and research IT is huge and fragmented, every project and case study has its own specificities. Still there were some evident recurring themes during the workshop. One of the main ones was the importance to understand your users and the needs of your user groups. The more specific a project is able to answer to those needs, the more chance it has to be successful.
A second recurring theme was that, parallel to tearing down the walls of the heritage institutions and their closed data silos, one could observe that the same is happening with educational and research environments and resources. On national and international scale educational silos are opening up and umbrella systems are developed to bridge and combine access to their resources. Talking about interoperability, sustainability and the importance of creating and keeping knowledge, all presented initiatives are implementing communication and infrastructural design strategies to ‘open up’, as much as they can.
It seems paradoxical but trying to find a good balance between developing something very user group specific and in the meantime profiting as much as possible from combining systems and resources is another great challenge appearing from the presentations. Going beyond experiments, local initiatives and demo version, creating long term synergies between research and learning frameworks, educational resources and the rich European heritage is one of the next big steps in developing relevant educational services for the performing arts.
In a simultaneous process existing theoretical and methodological models are being redefined to be able to understand the implications of the systems we are creating and, at least as important, the impact of catching cultural and art in online educational resources. The presentations specifically dealing with the arts had two distinct common notions in this last respect. One is the importance of ‘the mode of presentation’ when dealing with arts projects.[ii] Artists devote their lives to create unique works, often in their nature being esthetic perfectionists. Archivists, educators and developers, being intermediaries in the presentation of and engagement with their work, should be aware of this condition and of their responsibility to answer to that same level of (visual) quality. The second notion mentioned several times in different terms was ‘the provisional and contingent nature of creative knowledge’.[iii] Notably the inherent relationship between art and knowledge in contrast to academic or scientific knowledge.
We like to conclude by paraphrasing John Casey, one of the presenters, that within the framework of educational IT everyone is getting more and more aware of the necessity to change from positivist, determinist, and technocentric perspectives to more socio-technical approaches and user-driven development processes.[iv] It’s clear that bringing these approaches effectively into practice in the arts however is not so easy.
-ECLAP 2012 Conference
-ECLAP 2012 Conference proceedings

[i]Heather Nathans, You can’t get there from here (2012) p. 2.
[ii]Henk Borgdorff, The Research Catalogue as Platform to Document and Disseminate Staff and Student Research Projects, (2012) p. 5.
[iii]John Casey, Wolfgang Greller and Gareth Waller, Open Networks for Culture &
Education: ONCE. Opportunities & Challenges(2012), p.6.
[iv]John Casey, Wolfgang Greller and Gareth Waller, Open Networks for Culture &
Education: ONCE. Opportunities & Challenges(2012), p.4.