Teaching Information Architecture Tangibly
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When I was offered an opportunity to teach User Experience to industry professionals, I knew Information Architecture was going to be a key part of the curriculum. It would be easy to justify to ...
When I was offered an opportunity to teach User Experience to industry professionals, I knew Information Architecture was going to be a key part of the curriculum. It would be easy to justify to students that it should be covered, as Jesse James Garrett’s model of UX was well known IA had a secure place in his model nestled tightly next to its more popular brother Interaction Design.
As well I felt I had to teach IA. I was growing increasingly concerned about my industry’s fading interest in it. Where I live, in the Silicon Valley, the title has almost completely disappeared, unfortunately taking with it the skills and knowledge IA’s posses. Workshops and lectures with Information Architecture in the title are poorly attended, despite the knowledge they’d impart would radically improve the bottom line of the companies that eschewed it. IA was deader than God in the software industry. I had to convince students of its relevance, rather than let them think of it as some quaint holdover from the dot-com era, like the single-pixel gif hack. I did that Upworthy-style, with humor, storytelling and sharing.
Beyond caring, I wanted them to retain the knowledge i imparted. If they did not internalize the knowledge, they would not keep it. So how could I help them understand the power of a taxonomy when often I had only 4-8 hours of class time to cover all of IA?
In five minutes, I will take the room though my model of teaching, which is stories/making/reflection. I will cover the stories that resonated most deeply with the students, from Netflix's race to find a better algorithm to the catholic reclassifying Cabybaras are fish so people could have protein on a Friday. I'll discuss my fun "bouncy ball" exercise, where students make four different classification systems for a ball store as they giggle over inappropriate puns. And we'll discuss the power of reflection through discussion, diarying and presenting.
When we learn skills with our hands and our hearts, we keep them into all the aspects of our lives. What other point is there for teaching?
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