This paper considers the complexities of online studio art teaching in the COVID-present, specifically in relation to the ‘digital naivety’ of ‘Digital Native’ students. The rapid shift to online-learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis was accompanied by suggestions that so-called ‘digital natives’ would be well-positioned to readily adapt. Instead, teaching studio art online laid bare the shortcomings of this out-moded moniker, and the ever-urgent need for newly responsive ways of considering studio teaching practice.
Stemming from a present-first-hand experience of online and face-to-face visual art studio teaching, this paper describes observations made of learning experiences during the COVID crisis. Despite their digital native status, mid-degree visual art students being taught online struggled to identify and creatively act upon from their autodidactically-privileged position. Instead, they remained adrift in an online-ocean of unexplored experiential, creative, and critical possibilities – digital naifs struggling to turn their digitally-centric lives to the pursuit of artmaking at all. This paper considers these observations in relation to self-determination theory and argues for the need to rethink how students are supported in their growth toward self-determined, critical digital nomadism. While ‘the studio’ can be a potent pedagogical place, its displaced status in the COVID-present demands a radical revision both online and ‘off’.