If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. ~ Sir Ken Robinson

At the heart of my teaching practice lies a commitment to care––caring for each student’s potential and intellectual growth, long after our time together has ended. In the true sense of the word, education means to lead forth. To me, this means creating a space of possibility and an interactive, nurturing environment conducive to learning, risk taking, creativity, and achievement. It also means, treating every student with respect and copious amounts of encouragement.

My classrooms teem with a wide variety of student skills, backgrounds, languages, ethnicities, expectations, and learning preferences. Given such diversity among students as well as rapid changes that arise in academic technology, I continually refine and adjust my teaching approaches, topics, and methods. One problem I see is that grades take the front seat for many, often at the expense of innovation and deep creative exploration. To encourage my students to take risks, I have developed a framework I refer to as “the failure mark.” I grade the students on their learning path and the intellectual risks they take rather than exclusively on the final outcome. Sir Ken Robinson’s point about being “prepared to be wrong” conveys the spirit of my approach to nurturing students’ capacity to imagine the world differently.

Karin Schmidlin teaching UX
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In a reality where information, resources and tools are readily available online, the role of educators is shifting. As such, I believe face-to-face interactions take on an increasingly critical role. At the beginning of a course I spend time with each student to identify and understand their goals, the challenges they are facing and most importantly, their passions. With this knowledge, I embed a real-life context into the curriculum that reflects the student’s lives and expectations alongside the world at large. To encourage students’ participation, I incorporate various social media platforms, such as Collaborize Classroom, Google+ and Twitter, which allow me to reach students who are less likely to voice their ideas in a large group setting.

One of my proudest moments as a teacher took place a few years ago in one of my portfolio design classes. The course objective was to develop a unique design style and identify a discipline to pursue after graduation. One of my students, a young man suffering from a severe mental illness, which was unknown to his classmates, took the great personal risk to develop a video project that openly addressed the health issues he faced. His experimentation and exploration enabled him to discover a formerly hidden talent and strong propensity for videography, as well as the joy of overcoming a huge personal obstacle.

At the midpoint of every course I solicit the students for feedback with the stop-start-continue method to gain direct insight into my teaching effectiveness and to make sure the learning objectives are met. I then use the collected data as a starting point for discussion in the next class. This has proven invaluable for me and the students appreciate the opportunity to actively shape the course and their learning experience.

Teaching is my passion. As a teacher I strive to instill a sense of wonder and curiosity in my students and challenge them to think deeply about the impact that technology and design have on all our lives. My measure of success is reached when I see my students working successfully and creatively in their chosen careers. Over the years they have become colleagues, employees and in some cases, friends. Working closely with students inspires my desire to improve my skills as an educator and continue on my own life-long path of learning.