Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Brave New World Teaching

I am what you would call an "old fashioned" teacher.  I spent the early part of my career teaching four nights a week in the Adult Education classes which were popular in California during the 1970's and 80's.  That meant I taught Decorative Arts classes for each semester, which required 18 different 3 hour classes.

After 15 years of that type of teaching, I moved on to giving specialized classes in the Decorative Arts at various universities and colleges, generally on the quarter system.  Those classes were very popular at first, but the fashion of collecting antiques gradually went away and after the end of the last century, my teaching was reduced to occasional lectures for various groups.

My teaching  methods focused on providing as much information as possible in the time given.  During a typical 3 hour talk I would spend the first hour with a chalk board giving necessary background data on the subject, as well as introducing all the relevant research material such as books and museum sources.  The second hour would be spent on showing and discussing as many as a dozen examples of antiques for that topic as I was able to bring to class.  It is essential in teaching conneisseurship about quality, style and construction that the student is able to directly examine the object.  The third hour was showing slides of the different objects which represent the topic in question.

When I say slides, I mean that I used two carousel projectors with 80 slides in each.  By showing two images simultaneously you can begin to make subtle comparisons.  Also, with so many slides and so little time there was no falling asleep.  You had to pay attention, as you only had about 30 seconds for each image to see what was important.  I found that by throwing this much visual information at the student in such a short time that they subconsciously were able to absorb quite a bit.

Those days of teaching in person and with "hands on" methods seem like ancient history now.

I am reminded of the time some 40 years ago that I ended up buying a fake console table from Benjamin Ginsburg in New York.  I bought it from photos and when I had a chance to examine it in person I quickly determined it was put together.  However, Mr. Ginsburg (one of the most respected antique dealers in NY) was very old, and mostly blind.  I guided his hands over different surfaces of the table to convince him it was not right.  Eventually he agreed and I was refunded my money.

That was really a "hands on" experience!

These days the new format is YouTube videos, blog posts and more recently Zoom, GoToMeeting and many other apps for internet groups to meet.

Just last week I was able to participate in my very first virtual lecture.  I was asked by George Adams,  representing the New Hampshire Woodworker's Guild, if I could give a group talk about using protein glues.  Of course I was excited to try this new format, so we worked out the technical issues and Patrice helped make it work.

They asked me for a two hour lecture, and I said fine.  It turned out pretty well considering we did not know what we were doing.

You may enjoy the video by clicking on this link:  Protein Glue Talk