Teaching

I believe it all began when I was facilitating workshops for the VideoWomen group, showing women how to use video equipment, camera, audio, lighting, and basic editing. In those days we were suddenly aware of the role of women in media imagery, so I prepared workshops on that topic as well. It was my first foray into the realm of teaching adults, and I loved it. At that time I also created ongoing VideoWomen-sponsored public events and screenings, along with our weekly cable tv interview program. I saw all of it as teaching, on some level.

In Edmonton, I co-taught an evening course on Meditation Techniques at Grant McEwan Community College. We went over the usual information on the chakras and sitting postures, mantras and concentration exercises. At the same time I was facilitating and leading a sufi group, which also involved meditation instruction, and individual study.

Later I came up with a continuing education course about the coming computer revolution: “Computers Feed My Family and Pay My Taxes.” This was a riff on a popular Alberta bumper sticker of the times: “Oil Feeds My Family and Pays My Taxes.” Both seem applicable today. In that 8 week course I presented an overview of the effects of computers on society and the transformations that could be expected in the years to come. I also showed the students innovative (at the time) video of computer-generated imagery and tried to open people’s eyes to the changes that were just around the corner. This was in the early 80’s, in Banff, and was the only course I taught there.

In Vancouver, I taught an 8 week course on Writing Skills at Langara College’s Continuing Education Department. When I began I was working with the course materials the previous instructor had passed on to me, but soon I had prepared my own. I then expanded to two additional 6 week courses: Writing the Opinion Piece and Research Skills for Writers and Reporters, both of which I developed, prepared and presented.

I was sad to stop teaching in the evenings, but had to do it, as my day job at that time (with THA Media) required travelling so I wasn’t be able to commit to the courses. So it wasn’t until I was working at VFS that I could get back into it.

While at Vancouver Film School Multimedia, then New Media, I taught several courses, and many of them shifted and changed with the industry over the years. All the courses I created and taught were 8 weeks in duration. I first came in to teach Marketing, and I prepared the curriculum and course plan for that aspect of the program. It was a combination of lecture, anecdotes and hands-on work from the students, who presented at a mock trade-show at the end of the course. (Marketing was not a favorite course for students who wanted to just create media.)

I also gave an overview that I really enjoyed, on the history of multimedia from cave paintings and synaesthesia through to Vannevar Bush to the Xanadu Project to Alan Kay to the the world wide web – with lots in between. The information was in two parts: History of Media, and History of Multimedia. If my notes ever turn up, I’ll find a way to add them to this blog.

Other courses I prepared and presented over the years there were PreProduction for Interactive Media (involving groups making pitches for their interactive projects, and presenting their production plans), Portfolio Preparation (in which individual students prepared resumes and their final work for jury assessment), Writing for Interactivity (an optional and exploratory course also offered in the evenings), Proposal Writing (developing skills in preparing materials and writing effective proposals), and the ongoing and often-changing course Introduction to Multimedia (sometimes featuring guest instructors in specialized areas, also offered in the evening program).

These courses were all hands-on, and any theory was presented in order to be applied, keeping in mind the student population at VFS were individuals who had chosen to go there to learn skills, not necessarily for theory. For example, the Industry Speaker Series which I facilitated for several years was not well attended as the students would much rather work on their computers than listen to someone present. It was a pity, because innovative artists and the people who were driving the new media industry in Vancouver (and who could have perhaps hired these students when they graduated) were weekly guests in the main theatre, and they showed all their latest and greatest in software, projects or industry stats. Whenever anyone “big” or “important” was coming to town, I tried to bring them in to speak to the students as part of this course.

By the time I left VFS, I was done with teaching for a long while, and had shifted myself away from that presentational mode. But just now, I was thinking about all that effort, all the energy and dynamism of the students, and of the great experience it was to take material and find ways to present it to people in such a way that they could grasp it and make it their own.

It’s been fun just remembering the teaching I’ve done in adult education and community colleges. I certainly learned a great deal from the course and curriculum development work and from implementation of the planned materials. All that stuff about learning outcomes, it’s still rambling around in my mind.

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