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September 12, 2011 / Cameron Campbell

Training thoughts

Years ago I worked at McGill University for The Daily. I was ad designer, computer tech, emergency production night support, bottle washer and head geek in charge of video gaming on my lunch hour.

It was an interesting job that allowed me to meet a lot of smart, ambitious uni students, many of whom have gone on to do really cool things since. We worked with a printing company on Montreal’s south shore and every semester I tried to get at least the editorial core/production team out to the press for a tour.

My theory was that the students would be more able to get their work done by deadline if they knew who it was they were keeping at work late. I also realized that the production of a newspaper, especially for people who’d grown up with laser printers on their desks, is a pretty abstract concept. So we’d go and see the film guys, how the plates were made, the offset web press, the finishing room (folding machines! Collators! Woo!). I don’t know that it helped much in getting the paper done, but I thought that everyone involved should have a vague idea about what went into actually printing the paper.

Recently I gave a little how-to lecture as part of Marketing 101. The students have been presented with a scenario where they are starting a small Pizza company and have an angel investor willing to help them out with start up costs etc. The wrinkle is that the investor is overseas and won’t be coming in for a meeting. So the small company must pitch itself via video delivered on YouTube. My role was to create a how-to hand-out and then come into the class and run them through the steps needed to upload video to YouTube.

I think that it’s been about 2-4 years since I last spoke to undergrads. I’d forgotten that they they stare blankly. I’d forgotten that some of them look like they are falling asleep. I’d forgotten that none of them ask questions (actually, I got two. Teacher friends tell me that this is a huge victory for me.). I’d also forgotten how the built space of teaching can be totally counter to any ideas I have about collaborative learning and “flipping” the classroom (rooms with seating that steep should have gladiators and lions at the bottom – but I digress).

So, my solution to this is that I’m going to make a pledge: at a bare minimum I’m going to attend a bigger class (this one had 180 students registered) once a semester from now on. Ideally I’d like to give at least one partial lecture per term, but I hardly count as a subject matter expert in most fields that Universities grant degrees in, so that’s not practical.

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