01 August 2012

Treating Class Like a Creative Firm

The Small Multimedia Operation
During college I had a brief stint as a small local multimedia company. We made commercials, promotional videos, the standard multimedia stuff. The boss was just a little older than me, dropped out of college when he realized he already had what it took to get work. He went out and got the jobs and split up the work between the handful of us who would operate cameras, edit, etc. He would work directly with the clients and try to communicate what they wanted into what we made. He would also try to use our unique skills more effectively. For example, I was good at motion graphics, but he had others that were better at video editing and cinematography, so when he could, he would use us each in our strengths.

The High School TV Class
During my undergrad I observed a TV class at a high school that blew me away. They ran a live news broadcast every morning at school. It was entirely executed by students and the teacher was merely there to watch over it and help when necessary. It was incredible. Students were autonomous, they were responsible, they were creating something to be proud of. Every few weeks they'd rotate responsibilities. Jobs ranged from reporting the weather, to transcribing reports written by other students, to switching audio. Whether or not any of these students go into broadcasting later, they will all come out with a whole bunch of experience in a professional work environment with stress and responsibility.

The Junior High Translation
I teach Graphic Design and Multimedia to kids from 12 to 15 years old. The beauty of school is that there are so many ways that these skills can come in handy. For example, we have plays, concerts, sports, and other events that both need to be promoted and documented. We don't have the equipment of a professional multimedia crew, nor that of a high school broadcasting operation, and the age group isn't ready for that kind of responsibility.

So, when there's an event coming up that the school wants to advertise, I volunteer my classes to design posters for it. I give requirements based on what the client wants and give them a bunch of class time to work on it. During that time I wander around helping direct the students' ideas. At the deadline, I pick a few that have good ideas and I tweak them slightly to make them more presentable. Then students can brag to their friends when their design is picked, which makes them feel good and promotes my class. Students who don't get picked are motivated to try harder to make a good design, and start looking harder at the better designs to try to learn from them.

In fact, during class, when a student asks me, "What else can I do to this?" or "I don't have any ideas" I tell them to walk around the room and look at other people's designs. "Isn't that stealing?" All designers do this. It's not stealing, it's inspiration, as long as you don't straight up copy an idea. Sometimes you can even see a bad idea and it gives you a good idea.

The Nutshell
So basically you find projects that the school needs and you simply guide their work toward a good solution. It fulfills a need, it motivates, it shows how practical the skill is, it promotes the class itself, it tests their technical skills, it's really just an all-around winner.

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