Stanford University Summer Camp – A Teaching Assistant’s Perspective
Written by Kenneth Chan
Last summer I had the pleasure of being the Teaching Assistant for four amazing classes at the Digital Media Academy at Stanford University summer camp: Final Cut Pro (300) with Tom Wolsky, Final Cut Studio Integration with Mark Spencer, After Effects CS4 Studio-Advanced Techniques with Betsy Kopmar, and Advanced Web Design Techniques with Sandy Novak. I had my troubleshooting skills tested in these four challenging and fun-filled classes, learned from four awesome and dedicated instructors, and helped four diverse sets of motivated and talented students.
What I love about being a TA are the truly thrilling challenges and learning opportunities that present themselves when troubleshooting student projects. I see my primary role at summer camp as this — to do everything possible to keep kids on track with the teacher’s instruction. When everything in class is going smoothly, I learn a lot by following along with what the instructor is teaching and reinforcing my own knowledge. But where it gets really interesting for me is when a student stumbles into a way to “break” the program or get stuck during a complex project. And if a class has fifteen students, they will often find fifteen different ways to get stuck somewhere along the way. That’s when I get to play the detective and figure out what’s wrong and how to get them back on track. Seeing the smile break out and the sigh of relief from a student who can now continue moving forward in the project is pretty rewarding. Further, I love the partnership I have with the instructor — the more efficient I am at proactively keeping our students on track, the more effectively the instructor can present their lesson material without getting slowed down by unexpected problems on an individual machine. Everybody wins when these goals are achieved.
It may sound funny, but I particularly love it when students run into a new problem that I’ve never seen before. The more bizarre, the better! There is no way I could, by working solely on my own projects, come up with all of the different “problem” conditions that may arise during normal use of these sophisticated software applications. That’s where the students of each class really do me a big favor when they raise their hand and have something “really weird going on” to show me. Often I can inspect their project and quickly spot the step they missed or the keyboard shortcut they need to input to get back on track, but every once in a while, I really get stumped! And for me, that’s where some serious learning and troubleshooting starts. It drives me crazy if I can’t adequately answer a student’s question in class, so I’ll often find myself trying to reproduce the problem on my own and doing online research until I come up with a satisfactory solution. It’s a thrill to be able to wrestle with a mysterious problem, grow to understand the nature of it, and then come up with a viable workaround for it. My expertise in an application grows each time I encounter and troubleshoot a new problem.
Finally, this entry wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention some of the awesome lessons I have learned and the projects I have seen come out of the Digital Media Academy. I’m truly astounded by the personal growth and quality of projects many students have achieved after just one week of instruction at the Digital Media Academy summer camp. Even as a TA at Stanford University summer camp, I love to work on the in-class projects to bolster my experience with the applications, and I thought it would be fun to share a few examples with you here:
This video was created in the Final Cut Pro 300 class.
This animated DVD menu sequence was designed in the Final Cut Studio Integration class.
Thanks for reading, and hope to see you at a future Digital Media Academy summer camp!
About Me: When I’m not TA’ing for the Digital Media Academy, I manage the Multimedia Studio and Meyer Tech Desk at Stanford University, a drop-in facility equipped for students and faculty to learn to use image, audio, and video editing tools to realize their creative visions for academic and personal projects. I also teach the Multimedia Production class at Stanford University during the Academic Year, which includes the basics of Photoshop, GarageBand, video production, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and iDVD. You can find me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/niftyken