The development of the internet was a great boon for individuals wanting to learn about art on their own, and for instructors facilitating art history and art appreciation classes. The internet provides two sources for learners: first, full color reproductions (called “images”) of art by artist as well as by subject, and second, content in the form of articles on the artist and/or on specific works.
When we started offering adult continuing education classes some 40 years ago, the best we could do was to find a photographer to take photos that were then translated them to slides. The slides were put into a Kodak carousel, and that was, aside from a few loose pages from a magazine or book, the extend of the visual stimulation the instructor could provide.
Now-a-days, we almost always use a portable computer (iPad) and a computer-compatible projector to enlarge a painting (or whatever, sculpture, fabric art, etc.) for discussion. Participants are encouraged to bring their own portables, and we always offer to do individual instruction on use if desired. Another thing we do is encourage the participants to make “posters” of an idea they are interested in by integrating a graphic and text on a page, and then, of course, sharing their ideas with the group. Most adult education venues (especially public libraries and continuing ed program in local colleges and museums, etc.) have color printers available.
We never work with adults as bench-bound learners in lecture style. We use only discussion-based methods and participants are also urged to research an idea and make presentations in the next session. We also never do a class without a handout. That way, learners can see Sofinisba Anguissola’s name as well as hear it. Most people learn better visually than orally.
Another concern we have is that libraries and adult educators continue to do “show and tell” programs for seniors in resident facilities. These residents spend their whole lives watching television, and the last thing they need is another sedentary presentation. What they need are “art therapy” (or music therapy, etc.) classes, where they are actively engaged. A number of colleges are now offering Art Therapy majors, and programming for these older citizens should be required (by law) to be participatory. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is said to have a smash up art therapy program.
Finally, it is interesting to note that the acronym STEM is now frequently amended to be STEAM, which adds Art as an essential ingredient to contemporary education, especially for adults.