Back in July, I posted an article lamenting about how newer technologies are frequently used in such a way that it reduces the need for developing craftsmanship that older technologies required. The blog post specifies how modern desktop publishing allows lesser qualified individuals to easily create publications without the skills or knowledge that it once took to create printed materials. In the days before digital printing and Microsoft Office products, letterpress operators need to have skills in typography, typesetting, running the press, inking, choosing appropriate papers,and a wide range of other skills that seem less important today because built in templates and digital printers take away the necessity for most of those things. Therefore, the quality of the craftsmanship back then was integral to the trade. Today, the quality seems to be in the design of the technology and software rather than in the finished product that is produced.
What I didn’t mention is that even the printing press required a different set skills—and therefore (perhaps) lower craftsmanship—than was needed to hand write beautiful scrolls that were made by scribes. Perhaps one could argue that there is a danger with any new technology that supplants an older one that some skills will be lost, and craftsmanship will suffer. Generally, technologies are adopted because they make a process easier and/or more accessible to a larger group of people. If they didn’t, no one would use the technology.
Near the end of the July blog post I made the point that “New technologies could be used in conjunction with craftsmanship, but people need to understand why they shouldn’t let the technology do all the work without much input or skill from the user” (Sutton, 2015). Yet, I never returned to this point to explain how teachers can use technology differently to ensure that this is done. That is what I hope to rectify with this post.
As an educator who teaches art, digital art and design, and webpage design, I am always bridging the gap between new and older ways of doing things. I appreciate the traditional ways that artists have created and produced their arts over the centuries, but I also can see the advantages of using and teaching art production using digital media. Furthermore, as an artist and graphic designer, I create using both traditional and digital mediums. Yet, I would not say that my projects that involve digital media require less skill or lack craftsmanship. If that is so, then why do new technologies seem to make it more difficult to teach students craftsmanship?
The answer lies in the way educators tend to use technology in school. In my experience, most educators use technology to make the same kinds of worksheets and materials for student consumption they have been teaching with since before the advent of digital technologies. The only difference is that the materials are delivered digitally instead of on paper. While at times students may be required to type short responses or even longer research papers, students are mostly using technologies to consume materials made for them by the teacher. At home, they do the same thing. Much of their use of technology involves consuming videos and games made by others. They rarely produce anything with their technology that requires much craftsmanship.
However, there is a tremendous amount of production power in digital technologies and mobile communication devices. Student should be using their technology—or the school’s technology devices—to produce more than—or at least as much as— they consume. They should be publishing digital stories on video, writing blog posts, designing and creating games, taking and creatively editing photos, composing and playing music, and a wide range of other production activities that all foster creativity and craftsmanship. Furthermore, their publications and other creative productions should build on the skills and interests that they already have, as well as teach new skills. Their productions should stress the quality of craftsmanship. When teachers allow technology for production as well as consumption of information, using new technologies will necessarily require and foster the development of craftsmanship.
Sutton, C. (2015, June 10). The inverse relationship between technology and craftsmanship [Weblog}. Retrieved from https://arisutton.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/the-inverse-relationship-between-technology-and-craftsmanship/