Over the years I have spent an inordinate amount of time teaching creative software techniques and discussing design theory. My instruction essentially comes in two forms: hands-on or lecture style. Regardless of the format, one thing remains constant when I'm instructing: It's all about the student. I'm not a big fan of the "sage on the stage" teaching style in which the presenter dispenses wisdom to receptive students. In the classroom, my ego is in check.
Teaching at CDIA, 2005
At the Center for Digital Imaging Arts in Waltham, I was not only the program director of the Graphic and Web Design program but also taught many of the courses.
The structure of the CDIA full-time program was (and is) unique in that students learn subjects in modules. Unlike the traditional academic model where classes are split up into short 45-60 minute blocks, students study a single subject over a week or two and then move on.
What made the CDIA classroom great for the educator was the ability to "simulate" the real world of design. The 8-hour class day mirrored a typical workweek and as a teacher I could role play as a creative director or nightmare client. Depending on the situation I might choose to stir things up by shortening deadlines or increasing the scope of a project, just like real life! Occasionally I would add a layer of competition to keep things interesting, a popular project was to design posters for a student film, the winner of which would actually be printed and used for marketing purposes.
Although I wanted to fold in real-life lessons, I never lost sight that students were using unfamiliar tools and techniques. Class critique needed to be respectful yet honest. The question is: at what point in a 9 month long program do you help someone grow the thick skin needed to survive the design industry?
Presenting for Adobe, 2004
Over the years I've presented in a number of different settings: in corporate environments, in classrooms and conferences. I define the term "presentation" loosely here, my presentations are sometimes closer to "demos", where I am demonstrating software but the audience is not following along on computer.
I've come to realize that presentations are simply stories and good stories often have an element of suspense. I began incorporating suspense into my demonstrations by framing situations as problems that would be solved through a series of unique steps. Again, this is not a particularly original solution, the trick is making sure that you frame the problem accurately so the audience understands why they should care about the solution.