Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is the sharing of knowledge, skills and experiences.

I had not always planned to become a teacher. When I was young, my interests lay in making art, doing design and playing with technology. I absorbed the tools and skills of the trade quickly, teaching myself web design as a teenager in the 90's. Throughout undergrad, my mentors helped me navigate various paths, and I fell in love with the concepts and theories behind art and design, while learning that tools and technology can help shape what is created but does not create meaning. During those years, I often found myself helping my peers, teaching them the skills I had learned as a teen and debating the concepts and theories we struggled with. As I moved into the professional world, I taught my clients about design processes so they could better understand what I was doing and how I would come to specific solutions.

These experiences in part fuel my philosophy that learning happens through curiosity, exploration, experimentation and practice, and teaching happens when curiosity is encouraged, a safe environment is created for exploration, experimentation and failure, and time and patience are given for practice.

The role of a teacher is to guide, to show students a path to explore, and then to mentor, helping them back up when they trip and fall. As a guide, my goal is for students to learn the tools necessary for their journey down the path as an artist and designer. It's important that they learn how to read the trail so that they can adapt to the bends and curves that come with new technology. I believe that students must learn and travel the paths that came before them in order to ultimately blaze paths of their own. For example, as students learn to tell stories in my Interactive Animation course, they must first break down and analyze a movie they grew up with, then retell the story as a 30-second short. As a mentor, I find it important to encourage a student's journey. A mentor is an enabler of those seeking a path to deeper knowledge. Artists and designers must constantly seek more knowledge, e.g., new skills to adapt to changing technologies, or staying informed about the world to come up with new ideas. Mentors teach students that failure is not an end point but simply one more lesson picked up along the journey. As a mentor, I strive to inspire future leaders and thinkers, and foster students' ability to create with the highest standards and speak clearly and confidently about their work, so that they can eventually guide others down a creative path. Through class critique sessions, I encourage students to carefully analyze their own work and the work of their peers, asking them to state what works, what does not and how they would improve it. Through regular critiques, students gain both confidence in speaking about their work and also continually improve its quality. I believe that teaching at its best entails a mix of lecture and discussion, demonstration and practice, and time. Lectures should spark class discussion and plant seeds that will grow students' curiosity. I regularly show work that is produced in MIT's media lab, in IDEO and that is featured in Ted Talks to inspire my Designing for New Media Students, and initiate discussion on the future of technology. Demonstrations should provide examples and be springboards for students to begin practicing their own methods. In my HTML Toolbox class, not only do I demo writing code, but students must be working on experiments that they demo for the class. This serves two functions: first, students learn from each others' methods; second, they practice communicating their process. Finally, time must be given to each student to meet with their mentor, work alone, grow and explore. Time must also be carefully watched as too much time can result in students becoming lost on the path, whereas too little time can lead to frustration.

Learning objectives within the arts are shaped by its standards and trajectories. The purpose and design of the academic program, the constraints and potentials of the profession, and the desires and capabilities of the students are all taken into account in my development of relevant, aligned learning objectives. One of my goals is that students learn to be adaptable. Technology changes rapidly, so if students are simply being taught to use software, they are not being prepared for its eventual change. To be adaptable, students must learn to be fearless with technology. In my Intro to Web Design class, I explain the purpose of HTML, CSS and the concepts behind them, then allow my students to experiment and discover what they can do. Once they understand its purpose, fear diminishes making it easier to experiment with everything the two languages can do. This adaptability and fearlessness alone is not enough, though. Being able to use software does not make quality art or design. Students must learn to be rigorous and have instilled within them high standards for craft and process, and to know when to use technology and when to use traditional methods of making.

New media artists enter a variety of occupations, including creative directors, designers, technology and exhibition coordinators, and curators. I prepare students for a profession by teaching them the language of the web, user-centered design, and iterative processes. However, training in new media art is not attending a trade school. The study of art has an impact on the individual, and art confronts and influences societies. I believe that art begins with personal reflection, grants insight to the artist and the observer, and offers social critique. I teach my students to look beyond how technologies can serve them, and seek ways to engage the world at large. For example, projects in my Designing for New Media course require students to observe how different groups of people engage with technology, then they must design a product for those specific groups. This challenges students to create for an audience beyond just themselves and their peers. For these reasons, success in the discipline requires certain understandings, skills and attitudes that I hope to instill in my students. Important among these are critical thinking, experimentation, curiosity, social awareness, and a process driven by the highest standard of quality.