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robertogreco : direction   10

Design tutorials: the basics | SB129
Within design education, there’s little shared wisdom about how to conduct a tutorial. The tutorial is the bread and butter of design learning; the main pedagogic object of interaction. But we, the design community, rarely share the nuts and bolts of how to navigate and steer a student through a successful project; how to encourage, provoke, inspire and lead a designer into new and fascinating territories.

In this post, I’d like to outline a few basics. It’s me, stating the obvious, in what I consider good pedagogic practice; how best to support, guide and get the most out of students and their work.

I believe the things I’ve learnt over the last ten or so years are applicable to other disciplines and within the professional context of design. Whether as a Creative Director or a Design Manager, the following points are a good place to start when it comes to directing creativity;

Listening is Key

At the heart of a good tutor is their ability to listen. Understanding ideas, position and intent allows for more connected, meaningful feedback. Asking questions to clarify is key to aiding your understanding. Sometimes students take a long time to get to the salient point, they can skirt around the topic due to a lack of confidence, confusion or perception of expectation, so be patient, let them ‘talk out’, only respond when you understand what’s in front of you. Wait until nerves die down to get to the heart of the matter, then you’ll be in the best position to advise.

Ownership and embodiment

It’s all to common for design tutors to try to design vicariously – to direct a student in a way that they would do the project. This, in my opinion, is a flawed approach. It has a history in the master/apprentice model of education; watch, copy, admire, repeat (where learning is a happy side effect). However, it rarely allows the student to feel ownership over the content and learning experience.

Within Art and Design, intellectual ownership is a tricky subject to navigate. The messy and complex network of ideas become distributed across a number of different references, conversations and people, the genesis of an idea is difficult to locate. Tutors that have a ‘that was my idea’ attitude rarely survive or remain happy and motivated. Intellectual generosity is an essential quality of a good educator. Having the humility to understand and value that the adoption of ideas ‘as their own’ is an important part of learning – it allows for the embodiment of the ideas into the identity of the designer.

Mutual exploration

However, in the age of the Internet, the tutor as gateway to all knowledge is long gone. The ability (or illusion) of a Professor having read ‘everything’ in their discipline is a distant memory. When knowledge is acquired and disseminated in such a radically different manner, it calls for educational revolution. Sadly, the rise of the MOOC isn’t the revolution I was hoping for.

The abolishment of levels and the flattening of hierarchies are at the heart of how I believe education needs to change. Breaking the often fictitious boundaries between teaching and research to allow for the mutual exploration of ideas is a fundamentally different model of education. Sadly, due to financial scalability, this remains relevant only to an elite. But as a tutor, see your conversations with students as a space to explore ideas, be the learner as much as the teacher. Reframe higher education away from the hierarchies of expertise towards mutual exploration of the distant boundaries of your discipline.

Expanding possibility space

It’s important to remember that a tutorial should be expanding the cone of possibility for the student. They should leave, not with answers, but with an expanded notion, a greater ambition of what they were trying to achieve. It’s important to be ambitious and set tough challenges for your students, otherwise boredom or (heavens forbid) laziness can take over. Most student’s I’ve met love being thrown difficult challenges, most rise to the occasion, all learn a great deal. In order to move towards the goal of a self determined learner, the student should control the decisions of the design process. If you’re telling them what to design, not opening up possibilities and highlighting potential problems, you’re probably missing something.

Understand motivation, vulnerability and ‘learning style’

Every student we teach, learn in a different way, have different hopes and desires, react to feedback in a different way. Navigating and ‘differentiating’ these differences is really difficult. Some tutors take a distanced intellectual approach, where the content in front of them is a puzzle that needs to be solved, this is the classic personae of the academic, distanced, emotionally arid, intellectually rigorous. But this doesn’t alway mean a good learning experience. Other tutors operate on a more psychological level; the try to understand the emotional context of the situation and adapt their advise accordingly. Whatever happens, understand you have a individual in front of you, they have lives outside of the studio, they are going through all manner of personal shit that will effect their attention and engagement. They come from different cultures, different educational backgrounds, so their response to your advice is going to shift like the wind, be adaptive, read body language and don’t go in like a bulldozer (I have definitely done this in the past!).

In terms of learning style, without this becoming a paper on pedagogy, understand that your advice need to be tailored to different students. Some (a lot) need to learn through a physical engagement with their material, others needs to have an intellectual structure in place in order to progress. Throughout a project, course or programme, try to understand this and direct your advice accordingly.

Agreed direction

Tutorials shouldn’t just be general ‘chats’ about the project or world, they should give direction, tasks and a course of action. I have a rule: Don’t end the tutorial until you’ve both agreed a direction. This can be pretty tough to manage in terms of time, as I get more experienced, I get better at reaching an agreement within my tutorial time allocation, but I still often can overrun by hours. The important thing to work towards is the idea that you both understand the project, and you both understand how it could move. End the tutorial when this been reached.

Read and respond

It’s really important, in design, to respond to what is in front of you. To actual STUFF. It’s far too easy to let students talk without showing evidence of their work. This is a dangerous game. Words can deceive, hide and misrepresent action. Dig into sketchbooks, ask to see work they’ve done. If they haven’t done anything, ask them to go away and do something to represent their ideas and thoughts. Production is key to having a productive tutorial. Only through responding to actual material evidence of action can a project move forward. At its worst, students can develop the skill to talk about stuff, making it exciting in your mind, but fail to produce the project in the end. But this isn’t the main reason for this section, it’s more about the ideas of design residing in the material production, not just the explication. You can tell me what you believe something does or means, but it’s only when it’s in front of me that I can fully grasp this.

The art of misinterpretation

Another reason why it’s important to dig into sketchbooks and look at work, is that looking at something and trying to work out what it means – the space of interpretation – is an important space of learning. By interpreting and indeed misinterpreting work, you and your student can find out things about the project. If the student intended one thing and you understand something else by it, you’ve at least learnt that it was poorly (visually and materially) communicated. But the exciting stuff happens when misinterpretation acts as a bridge between your internal mental processes (with all references etc) and your students. Your reading of a drawing acts as a way to generate a new idea or direction. This is when there is genuine creative collaboration.

References

One of the roles of a tutor is to point students towards relevant and inspiring resources. In the age of the internet, when student’s roam the halls of tumblr and are constantly fed inspiration by their favourite design blogs, the use, meaning and impact of tutor driven references has changed. Be focussed with reading, ensure students know why they are looking at a particular reference and make sure that you contextualise the work within the ideas that they have."
mattward  2013  teaching  pedagogy  cv  howweteach  howwelearn  design  art  tutotials  canon  listening  ownership  understanding  interpretation  misinterpretation  embodiment  making  exploration  apprenticeships  hierarchy  hierarchies  possibilityspace  motivation  vulnerability  feedback  constructivecriticism  context  empathy  conversation  audiencesofone  differentiation  contextualization  process  documentation  reflection  reggioemilia  emergentcurriculum  evidence  assessment  critique  communication  collaboration  mentoring  mentorship  mentors  response  action  direction  mutualaid 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Surprising Psychology of How Names Shape Our Thoughts : The New Yorker
"These studies suggest a sort of linguistic Heisenberg principle: as soon as you label a concept, you change how people perceive it. It’s difficult to imagine a truly neutral label, because words evoke images (as do maluma and takete), are associated with other concepts (as are “north” with up and “south” with down), and vary in complexity (from KAR to RDO). Still, you don’t need to worry too much about what you name your children. The effects are subtle, people with non-fluent names succeed all the time, and norms change."
names  naming  language  2013  linguistics  sound  directions  perception  simonlaham  peterkoval  danieloppenheimer  adamalter  christianmorgenstern  words  wolfgangköhler  bentleycoffey  patrickmclaughlin  leifnelson  josephsimmons  psychology  maps  mapping  direction  elizabethloftus  johnpalmer 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Nat Case – One warm line
"But the world itself is not linear. Life stretches out around us, unrelievedly three-dimensional, and our pathways through it are neither straight nor simple. Robert Frost’s two paths were not his only choices. He could have ducked off the path altogether, ignoring the ‘No Trespassing’ signs in the Vermont woods. What is more, the line of our life is full of little loops — from home to work and back, upstairs and downstairs again, tossing back and forth in our beds. We fairly hum with movements that don’t go anywhere except back to where we just were.

If so, how do we do that, while knowing that there is no forward inherent in the world except for the direction we happen to be facing? How do we inhabit this intractably complex, three-dimensional world, even as we trace the line of our lives across its two-dimensional surfaces?

Me? I do fieldwork."



"On a smaller scale, the work of collecting and documenting specimens, getting bearings and creating detailed maps, even the day-to-day discipline of cooking, cleaning, eating, and generally making camp, was work that required concentration and care. The evidence from their [Lewis and Clark's] journals suggests that the work was often difficult, but that discipline, and the work of detailed note-taking, were assiduously maintained throughout.

We view the narrative arc of the entire two-year expedition as its great achievement, as did the American public of the time. But in life, this arc is made up of smaller accomplishments, smaller arcs. And this is how most human accomplishment progresses, in small arcs. "



"How can we not fall in love with the land we pay close attention to? My job, like Dike’s, is not to tell the world about my love. It is to give people tools to find their way, to make unfamiliar places navigable. When someone no longer needs my map, because the place has become familiar, my work has succeeded.

How do we make the moving trajectory of our self join with that beloved life all about us? What if we just stop every so often, like Dike out on his treeless, billowing prairie? What if, instead of measuring out the land for others, we take a handful for ourselves? I imagine the artist Albrecht Dürer finishing his watercolour The Great Piece of Turf (1503), a random section of lawn, his attention moving slowly back and forth, studying every visible detail of every leaf. He must have owned that piece of earth in a way few of us ever do. It must have owned him, so he could see pieces of that patch of meadow in his sleep.

This is what I want, to own and to be owned so thoroughly by even a tiny scrap of this earth. That is how I can be not just a line, but part of that three-dimensional world my one warm line passes through."
design  geography  maps  rituals  mapping  linearity  life  direction  cartography  2013  belonging  ownership  place  meaning  meaningmaking  orientation  attention  linear  ritual 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Toward Independence – Indiecade 2012 | Molleindustria
"There is a practical way to conceptualize the immensity & absurdity of this continuum. I borrow it from the Utopian & Anarchist thought.

Utopia is by definition unattainable but it provides a direction.

Utopia is a tiny flickering mirage at the horizon.

By the time you reach it Utopia already moved forward…yet an utopian idea is fundamental because it provides a direction.

It encourages you to a constant tactical engagement with the status quo. It pushes you to continuously break away from the forces & entities that make us miserable & are screwing up the world.

This is how I like to think about independence in gaming and in culture.

Not a status but a tension and a direction to pursue.

And the corollary is that we should not be here at these indie festivals to celebrate our little club, to exchange tricks on how to milk the indie brand for profit.

No: we should be here to conspire about how we can be *more* autonomous. About how we can move another steptoward independence."
freedom  independent  indie  corporations  post-fordism  alienation  creativework  automation  capital  autonomy  fordism  history  paolopedercini  cv  improvement  purpose  values  utopian  utopianism  utopianthinking  indiegames  anarchism  control  power  economics  videogames  molleindustria  2012  direction  vision  utopia  capitalism  labor  creativelabor  creativity  making  gamedesign  games  purity  vectors 
december 2012 by robertogreco
notes.husk.org. It was fairly common in medieval times to put east....
“It was fairly common in medieval times to put east at the top. Which has a logic to it: when traveling across open terrain, the one consistent thing you had to orient yourself by when you broke camp in the morning was the sunrise. In fact, that’s the source of the term “orient yourself”: it literally means to face east.” —Carl Muckenhoupt
orientation  travel  medieval  direction  language  maps  mapping  north  east 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Palomar5 Parallel process collaboration
"We had a phrase at Palomar 5 marked by a grave – “concensus killed my idea”, parallel process collaboration arose from this thinking on how to proceed without concensus. The answer is just to proceed, with people addressing the issues in the manner they think is most
consensus  palomar5  collaboration  tcsnmy  teams  teamwork  autonomy  sharedvalues  parallelprocess  learning  goals  classideas  direction  administration  management 
june 2010 by robertogreco
maps
"People I’ve met from Portland have a very ‘special’ way of orienting themselves, which is reflected in both maps that I’ve received from there. While taking for granted that the top of the page meant “North,” my first map has Southeast in the top right corner. Portlanders divide their city into quadrants, with the Willamette River, which runs North to South as the division between East and West, and a centrally located main street (Burnside Ave.) to be the other divider. This is all fine and good, except that I didn’t realize that when they draw maps, they portray the river to run East to West, instead of the direction that it ‘actually’ runs. As a result, for a solid five days I believed I was staying at a friends house in Northwest Portland when really I was in the Southeast. Imagine my disorientation when the sheet was finally pulled from over my head.""
portland  maps  mapping  behavior  regional  oregon  direction 
september 2009 by robertogreco
PartIV » Blog Archive » “Sunbathing satellites”
Boy scouts used to be able to tell which way was north by the side of the tree that the moss grew on. Nowadays, I suspect they’d orient themselves by the direction of satellite dishes."
architecture  behavior  via:cityofsound  society  change  wayfaring  scouting  direction  technology  nature 
march 2008 by robertogreco

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