This morning I woke up to a post on a class blog from a new student after she had her first “a-ha” moment induced from my strategies demonstrating creativity and creative mindsets (Thanks IDEO). It was an exciting development since last night was our first class for the semester. Last night was the first session of the most experimental sandbox course that I teach at Monmouth University called Responsive Media. This sandbox is where I teach ideas and practices from communication, visual arts, interaction design, creative coding, game studies, creative coding, and experience design.
I believe the musings in that post show the student’s maturity in engagement and perception of the materials presented and her academic progression. But this “a-ha” moment reminds me how much I love and care about the ideas and materials that I teach in this experimental course. The passion and planning of this course is an energy that can be transferred to other nervous systems when the experience design of the teaching-learning interaction is considered and centered in the lesson plan. And, not so secretly, it feels really good to know that others are picking up what you are laying down. Even when empathy is strong, sometimes staring into the sea of faces, I do not know what folks think about my reflections and interpretations about technology, media, and culture.
My creative practice has often been comprised of technical exercises, self-prompts, observations, slow hunches, and, most importantly, avid experimentation. These days I simply call my experimentations “Play”; my experience in attempting to stay current with technological innovation vis-à-vis digital media, interactive media, and emerging platforms for two decades can be essentialized by saying that I have encouraged myself to just keep playing. Such play has taught me to sense change, observe pattern, think laterally, understand troubleshooting, design and build films/music/applications/devices, and project fearlessness in the face of ambiguity. It is that sense of play that I want to share with and encourage in my students as a strategy for operating in and learning about the world. Every student will someday face making sense of the world, even as it changes. Being comfortable with ambiguities, remaining open to possibilities, and practicing fearless creativity can benefit practitioners of any field.
As a teacher, I work to be prepared and organized with a plan so that I can walk into the classroom and forget the plan. I want every class to have the experience of working on the learning outcomes using methods of Flow Theory. I do not want students to be bored or anxious but challenged and engaged. I try to establish an environment that nurtures group cohesion. Early in the semester, I try to learn what is important to my students’ sense of self for the future, and I ask them to see if they can connect what we will learn in class to the vision that they have for themselves. I work very hard in and out of the classroom to demonstrate my respect and openness for the learning process and my willingness to help guide students in their progress.