We live in a media saturated culture where critical understanding and mastery of media are both in demand and in crisis. It is not enough to teach students simply how to use the media tools that exist, instead working artists need to be able to recognize and contextualize form, process, power dynamics, and significance. Media practices are integral drivers of human culture, knowledge, power, and function as cyborg extensions of the human body.
I believe that developing technical and theoretical understanding through active participation is critical to long-term applicability of skill development. By learning process mechanics in tandem with content orientation, students gain the flexibility to apply information across subjects and disciplines. I require students to begin working with the subject matter in project form. We then review their work under the theoretical lens as an exercise. I approach both as an experiment in order to familiarize the students with the implications of mechanics and application beyond a simple evaluative critique. I feel that this approach preserves student creativity without imprinting my own aesthetic preferences, as well as teaching students to explore the making of process and form.
I focus on active questioning during the creative process to develop a more nimble perspective in students. As creative professionals, sensitivity and flexibility of approach are critical to working in collaborative projects as well as pointing a way through the inevitable experience of blocks and dead ends. Promoting interdisciplinary cross-pollination and collaboration skills broadens the applicability of students’ existing knowledge and enables them to envision how their skills can be applied in disparate fields.
I place a high value on working individually with students. At close range, I can better identify creative expansion opportunities and offer the student tailored guiding questions. These questions serve to help students sort through their thought processes and to begin considering their work from multiple perspectives. Coming to interdisciplinary contexts from the dance field, I approach all subjects as though they were a studio practice. A commitment to practice requires time investment on the part of the student that both fosters skill mastery and generates a site for long-term evolution of creative work. Investigation of theory through readings, viewings, and discussion is another major component of my classroom. I view these processes as active and consider discussions to be a way of “labbing” abstract concepts.
I cultivate a classroom environment in which making and theory are not deposited by me, but tested, questioned, and practiced by students for them to take out of the classroom. A point of great personal importance is teaching students to become informed consumers of media culture. Whether the materials are academic, commercial, political, or popular, providing students with a framework for dissecting the construction of that cultural artifact assists them to place it within a larger context. This is critical not only for the media professional but for all of us as citizens living in an information era.