I’ve been teaching classes on interaction design, new media and professional practice at the Lawrence Tech University for two years as an adjunct faculty and as an artist in residency. I really enjoy teaching and for several reasons. For one, it gives me a unique glimpse into the workings of other minds as they approach and consider the same problems that I am deeply interested in. Seeing how my students solve those problems enriches my own thinking immensely. Another reason is that I found the Latin proverb “Docendo discimus” – “by teaching, we learn”, to be very accurate. An eager learner myself, I’ve learned a tremendous amount while trying to prepare for the classes and answer my students’ questions. And finally, I am very enthusiastic about what I do and what I teach – design and art in the new media. I never knew how exciting it would be to share this passion and to light a spark of interest in somebody – until I started teaching. I am truly grateful to all my students for making me feel this excitement.

In my approach to teaching I try to combine theory and practice. In my opinion, the ‘how’ is meaningless without the ‘why’ and the ‘why’ is useless without the ‘how’. One of my favorite quotes by Gilles Deleuze: “Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.” Source. My New Media classes included extensive discussions on history of new media, its place in cultural practices and its personal meaning – and lessons on HTML, CSS and WordPress blogging platform. My goal was to meaningfully engage student in the new media practices – and give them tools to do it effectively. In my Interaction Design classes we worked through principles and methods of current design practice and tried to apply various methodologies to a wide range of design problems – from sustainable and socially responsible practices to challenges in self-expression and personal empowerment. All concepts that were crated – and there were so many truly brilliant ones – we tried to embody in prototypes of varying fidelities using Processing, JavaScript and Swift (for mobile platforms). The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the medium and the tools and have our design practice be enriched by this understanding.

Here are some of the responses I got from my students about the course I taught. Those are all taken for end-of-semester evaluations and so they are all anonymous.

New Media:

“I liked the structure of the course and how lectures were planned for one day of the week and coding exercises were planned for the another. The challenge of the final project pushed me to do my best work but I would have liked more time.”

“The class was boring with no incentive for the students to get more involved.”

“Maxim is always willing to help, and encourages us to do better than the minimum. The emails he sent regarding grades were very helpful in determining my standings in the course. He always presented material enthusiastically, and encouraged discussion and reactionary thought. He was fun.”

“Maxim is a very good professor and knows the content very well. He could be better about responding to emails however.”

Interactive Design:

“Maxim is a great professor. He is extremely knowledgable(sic.), and I have loved being able to work with him. He is always very excited about the topics and it makes the class so much more enjoyable. He is always more than willing to work with you if you need help, and he always makes himself available if you need to talk to him.”

“Maxim is always willing to go the extra mile to help, and I have learned more in this class then I have ever learned in a semester. I’m still not perfect, but I know that if I ever need help with anything in this area I know he would be willing to help. P.S. He is comparable to Philoctetes in Disney’s Hercules”

“Coming in, I had no idea what to expect on the first day of class. The description online was not helpful, but I ended up loving this class!”

And some of the examples of my students’ work:

Amanda Espinoza, ADD Converted. We were working on the problem of representing disabilities. How would you communicate what it feels like to have ADD if you never experienced it? Her proposal was to create an add-on to an operation system that would make your computer behave as if it had ADD.

Jack DiLaura, Deceptitron. Jack is trying to challenge some of the basic principles of interaction design – that the interface should provide clear conceptual mapping, afford desired user actions and provide unambiguous feedback. Deceptitron has none of those, in fact it’s exactly the opposite. The toggles and knobs invite the user’s actions, but there is no telling what comes out. The machine makes you tickle it, seemingly for its own internal purpose.

Mick Brege, Yellow. We were working on ideas for socially responsible design, the solutions to big problems facing our communities today. Mick came up with a proposal for ab interactive hub to help the homeless in Detroit. The hub would provide warmth, light for safety and vital information about resources, like food and shelter. This was a project that sparked one of the riches discussions while trying to argue all of its pros and cons.

Andrea Slalamay/Jess Moon, Space Balloon. The conversation started with the attempts to design solutions for sustainable future. As we discussed the main challenges facing us today a big concern came up around the fact that we the humanity have put the space exploration into the back burner. Andrea and Jess decided to find ways to spark grassroots interest in that area and came up with a concept for modular high-altitude balloon aimed at hobbyists, akin to Arduino and DIY drones, to get people excited about having their own contribution to space exploration.