Academics: teaching philosophy


s a teacher, I want to give my students a sense of perspective beyond what they‘ve been able to encounter through unstructured interactions with technology and pro­vide them with the metaphors they will need to solve creative problems with tools which are not necessarily tuned to their way of thinking. More than that, I want to enable access to what could easily be considered the arcane world of technology in order to excite the imaginations of creative individuals with the potentials for expression.

Having had to hammer through many non-intuitive technologies in order to explain them to the world – a task I was explicitly hired for by Macromedia, developer of Flash, Director and Dreamweaver – I have found that the best way is a multilateral approach. You need to dive in and try, combine that with a deep examination of the underlying structure and reasoning behind it, and combine that with an understanding of the creative process. For example, it is important to try and make a high-quality extraction of an object from its background in Photoshop with each of the various tools provided for use in a photo-collage – but until you understand the premise that an 8-bit alpha channel controls the look of the selection, you won‘t have the basis of knowledge to choose the best tool for the job. However, Photoshop is still just a tool. It is equally or more important in the same context to examine the history of collage‘s roots in early modernism and have a discussion on its contemporary place in the arts and politics. (I recently gave a lecture that included a discussion of the doctoring of a photograph of an Iranian missile launch in which they faked the number of missiles – only after I pointed out the obvious duplication of clouds was the class able to detect the fakery). I try to make assignments that include all three approaches – practical interaction, technical proficiency and cultural/creative exploration.

Critiques are a major part of any Fine Arts or Design class, and I was fortunate at UCSC in having multiple courses that focused on methods for creating safe and useful environments in which to generate critical dialog. The ground rules are simple, be positive and draw out the contributor‘s thinking processes. And for myself, I always ask for a critique (and here it‘s OK not to be positive) of the assignment itself – did it accomplish its stated goals, and where the stated goals the right goals?

After a reasonably long and fruitful career as a profession designer of interactive media for corporations like Apple, Adobe and Oracle, I‘ve chosen a career as a teacher. Teaching to me means interacting with the world in a new way, by sharing the knowledge that I have gleaned from doing creative work and managing creative people. I teach to give back some of what I‘ve learned. I teach to get the “aha!” moment, which you can see in someone‘s face when they grab the Gestalt of how something is done and what they can do with it.


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This page () was last updated on July 24, 2017