Ceramic Arts Daily video shoot: Using pressure to become a better teacher

During my recent cross country journey I had the opportunity to shoot a demonstration video with Ceramic Arts Daily. Over the course of three days we shot five "chapters" covering throwing and altering, handbuilding with foam molds, and decoration techniques. The video will come out later this year so I'll post to the blog when it is available for purchase.

I have to admit I was really nervous before we started shooting. I did a bit of video work when I was in China but most of it was for CCTV's local Shanghai news. Knowing that many of the people watching wouldn't be paying close attention helped decrease the pressure of the situation. It helped me convince myself that no matter what I did on camera they probably wouldn't edit it out. This is part of the "we need a foriegner on TV" phenomenon. It is a bit of meme within Chinese broadcasting to have a token foreigner on a show to add interest. 

This photo shoot was the exact opposite situation. When a viewer buys a demonstration video they will listen to every word of what the presenter is saying. Knowing that ratcheted up the pressure in my head to say something smart. In my experience this type of self conscious monitoring can be the deathknell of a good lecture. Thankfully that head space only lasted for the first hour or so. As I got more comfortable an entertaining game emerged from the process. Jennifer Harnetty (producer extraordinaire for CAD) helped me develop a script with bullet points so I knew going into each scene what I needed to cover. The challenge was to say as few words as possible and to nail the scenes in one take. With efficiency as the goal I turned the video making experience into a constructive teaching exercise. 

I recommend this exercise for all of you who are educators. Turn a camera on yourself in the studio and practice teaching. You don't have to teach something difficult or profound for this to be helpful. Anything that interests you will do. After doing a few takes try to edit your words so that only the most important verbal cues are present. Let your body movements and demonstration do the rest. Keep practicing each "scene" until you have refined your speaking parts to a smaller and smaller proportion of the video's content. After only an hour of filming you will notice a big difference in your delivery. Verbal efficiency is something I have always admired in a good teacher and this exercise gets you one step closer to that goal.

The other advantage of using video making as a teaching tool is that you have lots of videos left over to to post online. Host sites like Youtube, and Vimeo, are readily accesible for uploading and playback options. Simple concise videos often get lots of hits so you will have the opportunity to receive feedback on your teaching style. Of course, it also gets your name out there for future teaching opportunities. I was fortunate to recently have a Youtube video reach 12,000 views. Beyond being pretty exciting in its own right the video has helped point people towards this blog and my podcast. There are a few potters out there that use video making as serious teaching tools. I recommend John Brit, Adam Field, and Kyle Carpenter as just a few of the many great pottery video-makers filming today.

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