S2E1: 21 things I learned teaching Photoshop last semester

Welcome to Season 2 of my award-self-nominated podcast. This season is more personal stories and anecdotes. If you didn’t like last season, good news! It’s not about books. If you like books, bad news! It’s not about books this time around.

To kick off this season of Justin’s Podcast, I’ve got a list of 21 things I learned while teaching Photoshop at IU last semester.

Here’s the summary:

  1. Asking pointed questions elicits pointed answers.
  2. Having two tracks makes double the work for me, but seems worth the cost.
  3. Need to discuss logos with clarity early in the semester. It comes up a lot.
  4. Having uniform rubrics is impossibly hard for visual arts. And devolving to technical criteria risks making everything too easy — like repeating a flower 20 times for sake of hitting a “minimum layer target”. Better to let people run with their instincts and trust they’ll rise to the occasion.
  5. I wish I had a better way of recording and editing more visually interesting videos.
  6. The first week’s swipe file assignment is probably too easy and not considered by anyone later in the semester, despite being a truly useful way of collecting good ideas. Probably just isn’t vital to most people, most of the time, though.
  7. Creating a newspaper ad would be an interesting challenge due to color restraints. But maybe not super applicable.
  8. It’s not clear to me that it’s clear to most students on the business track that most of the requests, files, ideas, and “emails” are, truly, from client interactions I’ve had over the years.
  9. Canvas stats show many people aren’t viewing the videos, suggesting they’re too long or boring. Not sure if the value of “real world” demo versus “tightly edited like a cooking show” is worth it or not.
  10. Almost no one takes advantage of office hours or focus times, despite being a problem most readily admit to needing help with. Not sure if that’s because of timing or not.
  11. A shockingly high percentage of students will wait until the last few hours before a deadline to submit. I don’t recall this from my time as a student at IUPUI.
  12. Halloween week was probably the most fun, despite not being particularly common for sake of future career use.
  13. There should probably be more opportunities to post in the forums, but without a point penalty no one will. Also conflicts with my student experience of assuming the forums were shallow and people just reply for sake of replying with banal comments. But many students do exceptionally good work — and having others see that level of quality is valuable. Everyone in this class will be competing against everyone else for work someday very soon.
  14. I wish more than I thought I would that I could talk and interact with students more, if only via Zoom.
  15. Most students need the weekend to work on projects. Regardless of when or how the semester starts and ends, try to permit a schedule that allows for two weekends instead of one for projects. 
  16. There is a significant gap — perhaps from mere lived experience — between thinking about what a project needs and what a project demands. 
  17. Some students will face challenges in their lives that I can’t do anything to help with. But sometimes, just asking seems like more than most people do.
  18. Messaging students directly is vitally important to better understand students’ careers, hopes, and needs. Can tailor work for them while class sizes remain modest.
  19. The price students pay for this class must live up to that cost, even if they may not realize it until months or years later, if ever.
  20. Students who aren’t self-directed, or aren’t sure if they’re self-directed enough, should be advised early this class might not be for them.
  21. It’s incredibly hard to teach or even relay what is good taste, style, and panache. 

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Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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