lou suSi @ MassArt

2011 MFA Design graduate from DMI

Is Humor the Best Way to Teach?


i just bumped across an interesting article out on LinkedIn about teaching called ‘Is Humor the Best Way to Teach?

as most people that try to wickid oversimplify things down to a word or singular concept, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine, Adam Lashinsky, wants to know ‘… whether humor is really the best way to teach.’

he talks a little about a start-up called Schmoop and Formation 8 and its founders and funding and Khan Academy, Quizlet and Cheggs { they don’t really seem to directly mention edX or other new options like Skillshare and Udemy — or even old, tried and true sites like Lynda.com and others } — but at the end of the day he seems to be asking us whether or not a teacher needs to somehow entertain students in the classroom

oddly enough, the examples he provides in the article are mostly online learning environments — and although i’m not entirely sure how interactive these experiences actually are and if they feel anywhere like an in-classroom experience — i think the experience you get in

  • an online-delivered tutorial
  • a physical, real-space, real-time classroom
  • a learning management system
  • a more interactive and engaging and sometimes event-based online learning environment { like the one experienced on Animation Mentor }
  • and that of a MOOC { or Massive Open Online Course }

are most likely entirely different from each other and deliver a different experience that fall upon different stops in a learning engagement spectrum for us all to really consider with more careful consideration

first of all, i’m not sure where Adam is coming from here or what kind of feedback he’s really asking for — why doesn’t he take a few different classes and start doing some reflective assessment of different teaching styles and the feeling of each learning environment, online or off? i for one would appreciate just a bit of context here since he doesn’t seem to address the humor- or entertainment-value manner in which he might want to measure those particular factor of a learning experience

but anyhow, here was my response to this LinkedIn post { oddly enough, LI doesn’t seem to allow me to add comments to articles anymore, which i hope isn’t intentional }:


I don’t think there is one particular way to teach. I think every effective educator brings a huge part of themselves to the table, whether it be through humor or acting or straight up passion and enthusiasm for the topics they decide to teach. And then, those that are ineffective might be failing in one or several possible ways. But I think that factors like: passion; personality; understanding of the subject matter being taught; clear and reasonable sequence and pacing of the curriculum; variation of approach from session to session; in-class versus outside work; the range of activities and ways to explore the subject landscape; focus; openness; personal guidance and feedback; properly setting and maintaining expectations throughout a course; and delivery methods all lend various degrees of success or failure to a given course section in and over time.

I personally use a lot of humor — but I make sure to bring valuable insight that also lends to the serious, actual learning portion of teaching a course like Interaction Design at MassArt. As a performance artist and professional designer, too, my methods are a bit unusual and more, well, performative. I’m a little chaotic, which sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t work as well, depending on the individual students’ learning styles. I try to provide a balance just to keep ME entertained, energized and moving in a postivie and exciting way for both me and the students. I do feel that, like in parenting, there’s a certain energy behind real, human presence in a classroom — when the teacher is fully ‘there’ and into what they’re doing in the moments that are shared with the students in the time and space spent together — and that energy { good, bad or somewhere in-between } gets transferred and sometimes invisibly effects attitudes, personal presence from each student and the ability to learn from each and every participant in an educational setting.

Author: lou suSi

lou suSi is an accomplished designer focused on ux, design education, curation, performance, dynamic media, humor and cyberSurrealism — lou earned his MFA in Design from Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2011 — he currently works as an interdependent artist and lead user experience designer and innovation architectural consultant as lou suSi DESIGN

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