lou suSi @ MassArt

2011 MFA Design graduate from DMI

September 17, 2013
by lou suSi

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.

May 6, 2013
by lou suSi

..:: teaching IxD ::..

this Spring semester at Massachusetts College of Art and Design — which is, like, almost over, sadly enough — i got the distinct pleasure of taking the materials, sequencing and my approach to teaching Interaction Design { by night for MassArt’s Continuing Education Department } and filtering the entire course down into an independent study with Aliyah Domash

i didn’t realize it until we met up to work on the fine details of how Interaction Design might work at this independent study scale — but, that whole ‘small world’ kind of aspect of the design community in Boston was working its crazy magic from the onset, and strangely enough, i already met Aliyah and got to see her work from a semester or 2 back by sitting as a guest critic in one of the final presentations of Alison Kotin’s Foundations of Graphic Design course — anyhow, flashback to that class and i got to see a lot of hand-drawn, amazing depictions of an artichoke, all in black and white, cropped and composed and mounted very professionally and pinned to the wall — it was a fantastic and dynamic final critique that i’m sure involved a smörgåsbord of hummus and cookies and water and other potluck snackage as a part of this wonderful celebratory discussion of all the fine work and progress each student made over the course of the semester

so, as you can probably tell, i have a certain obsession with foodly comestibles AND a little bit of an issue with portion control, right? ;]

but, back to our regularly scheduled topic — meeting Aliyah in Alison’s design class

anyhow, that night and these sorts of conversations with students and faculty and different nuance of design potentialities always makes me happy and excited about the kind of design community we have at MassArt and in the Greater Boston Area in general — and what? with AIGA Boston, BostonCHI, Boston Cyberarts, Dorkbots, IxDA, Pecha Kucha Night Boston, Refresh Boston, Upgrade Boston, UXPA and the myriad university-driven lectures, hackathons and networking opportunities steeped in designery, you almost can find it difficult to keep up with just the community, forget about the most current trends, buzz and general discourse that accompanies the fine world of design in the general locality

who would’ve known that a year out i’d be working to teach and mentor Aliyah at MassArt in this wonderful independent study setup, right? small world, crazy small, in fact — and then, its just utterly phenomenal to see how quickly a student like Aliyah comes in on day one, starts up with the first 3 more analytic exercises in experience design deconstruction and all — and then through reading, dissection, personal and professional reflection and our near-weekly conversational sessions at MassArt and the project work that puts the focus on active exploration of interaction and user-centered design as a theory and a practice and an empathic journey to guiding this bizarre, almost otherwoldly force we call Design in a way that keeps real, live people at the center of our approach and goals as design professionals — well, its just amazing to see Aliyah’s progress over the semester and to see the full spectral journey of her final project work for final critique and completion of the course

its been a really wonderful semester — really interesting to see how i’ve had to flex and bend the materials and approach, only slightly in all actuality, to keep the design of the course itself ultimately very interactive, human and fun

i’m really looking forward to the final critique, although i know we’ll miss meeting up on a semi-regular basis with the good excuse of putting some credits on the roster while hopefully also digging into what design can really mean for all of us as both professionals and people exploring the world through the filter of human-centered experience design

Skip to toolbar