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SEPTEMBER 21, 2010


Students looking at work on wallI've been teaching for twenty years, and I've had to adjust my expectations many times. At the start of every semester I'm optimistic that this time I'll get it right. I'll be such a dynamic teacher that every student will throw him/herself into the class work and do everything I ask. And more.

By week two or three I'm scaling back those expectations, having been drenched by the cold splash of real students with other priorities and lives not be as focused on web design as mine.

Truth is, a lot is beyond my control. The mix of students in each class makes a huge difference. Sometimes you get a lively, happy group and the class becomes fun without much extra effort. Other times you can play all the "get acquainted" games you want, create "fun" assignments, ask provocative discussion questions, and the students just sit and stare.

This semester the stars seem to have aligned. It's week four and all of my classes seem lively and productive. I'm particularly enjoying Media Design (pictured above), where on Tuesday they stunned me when everyone showed up with 50 sketches for a logo. Now you may think that's just how it should always work—and it should—but it usually doesn't. So today I'm a happy camper.


I'm wondering why this assignment in this class got such a positive response. It may be that the students themselves are simply highly motivated and they'd have done this no matter how I presented it. On the other hand, I wonder if how I presented it prompted more effort.

For these sketches I emphasized that our focus was on quantity, not quality. That lots of ideas was the goal. That they had to work quickly on paper rather than using the computer. I told them they'd be graded strictly on quantity: 25 ideas = C, 35-40 = B, and 50 = A.

Another ongoing theme in the class is the need to make ideas visible, and when we put these 500 ideas up on the walls it was energizing. You looked around and saw creativity.

This little experiment seems to have been a success. Now we just need to build on this momentum.

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