Ben is a lecturer of media design at Victoria University’s School of Architecture and Design. He teaches creative coding, 3D modelling and animation, and creative electronics courses.
DSDN142-Creative Coding 1 is a first-year course in the School of Architecture and Design. The course introduces students to basic concepts of coding (programming) and generative design. Students explore the fundamentals of visual perception, form, colour, motion and interaction through experimentation with code. In Trimester 2, 2017, there were 105 registered students in two streams for DSDN142.
A key underpinning aim for the course is to develop creative thinking, and to encourage students to take risks in their learning and assessment. Ben is very aware that students are often risk-averse, so he wants to overcome this fear through his teaching methods. Coding requires practical skills as well as conceptual understandings and Ben is concerned to ensure that there is a tight fit between theoretical and applied knowledge. This is a driver for innovative approaches in his teaching.
Drawing on his experience as a tutor for many years, Ben centres his teaching on an informal tutoring approach based in the studio. Taking a ‘flipped’ approach, studio time focuses on practical application of key content, so Ben is able to focus on more individualised monitoring and support for students. This feature of his teaching was endorsed by a student focus group.
In addition to this ‘close tutoring’ style and flexibility, Ben also creates his own video clips to engage students with course content. These are less than 15 minutes long and students can view this ‘how to’ knowledge at their own pace. An 'accidental' bonus of the video clips is that the videos can come with language captions for international students.
Students report finding the videos very useful because they are able to watch them as many times as necessary, and they can stop and review parts if needed. They commented that this left time for hands-on practical work in the studio and as Ben and the tutors were available for one-to-one questions and advice, the students were able to learn more effectively. The students appreciated the support for them to work at their own level, so those with more experience can create very complex artefacts, while those with less, or who were focused on learning the skill for some other purpose could create something of use or interest to them.
Ben’s approach emphasises a safe and open learning environment, being approachable and ‘real’ with the students, offering a more individualised pedagogy, so each student is able to achieve to a high standard. Ben also believes learning is about more than skills or content or grades. His goals for students are broader and deeper than the course goals. Instead they take into account dispositions (such as not to be afraid of taking risks) and ‘lifelong learning attributes’ that are more than just ensuring students are great coders. Ben starts with what students know and then considers how to improve their learning. He adapts ideas from a range of sources and is flexible in his practice, focusing on what he thinks students need.
Ben's approach to teaching is supportive and holistic. He employs active and applied learning during studio time, along with video clips for students to engage with content. This contributes to students feeling positive about their learning.
This case study was written as part of the Innovative Pedagogies research project.