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Learning by Teaching: Building the Community of Practice

We at Factor believe strongly in the community of Information Architects, so we engage whenever we can. This spring, Factor has three wonderful opportunities  — two past, one yet to come — to grow our community of practice.

Bram Wessel recently got to teach Information Architecture as part of the School of Visual Concepts,UX Certificate Program, the first time IA has been offered by SVC. This is Bram’s third stint at SVC, an institution in the Pacific Northwest creative community. Factor’s Sarah Barrett and Rachel Price guest-lectured in Week 2, reprising their Taxonomy Bootcamp talk about user research for taxonomy design, which Bram’s students found extremely useful.

Gary Carlson just finished hosting World IA Day Seattle, helping put together a slate of programming and a panel discussion bringing in perspectives from within and adjacent to the IA discipline. The event, held at General Assembly in the historic Seattle Tower, was a success. Some of Bram’s SVC students were among the attendees, and it gave the Seattle IA community exposure to the global community of practice, as the event was held simultaneously in cities all over the world.

In March, Gary Carlson and Rachel Price will be offering a half-day workshop on Thursday April 23 at the 2017 Information Architecture Summit in Vancouver, BC. The topic is designing and building taxonomies. The IA Summit, now in it’s 18th year, also attracts a community of practice from all over the world.

Putting together a day long set of talks, or a half-day workshop, or five weeks of classes are all very demanding pursuits. They require structuring content, assignments and activities that culminate in something attendees can use to market their skills. They also require delivering many solid hours of high-quality content, because attendees are paying  for actionable instruction.

The education we conduct at Factor reinforces our belief that great ideas can come from anywhere. It’s extremely rewarding when attendees or students are able to think completely outside the established patterns and paradigms to come up with innovative design solutions.  Seeing how students tackled exercises gives us new insights into design problems we’ve spent years grappling with in our own careers. The bottom line is that there’s always room to innovate on an established, even mature, set of methods and practices.

There is a lot of potentially great talent out there waiting for opportunities to emerge. Talented new IA’s are eagerly absorbing instruction and material from great resources such as SVC, General Assembly, and the IA Summit.

But there are also hard working, talented and extremely smart folks already working in job functions not traditionally associated with IA who are developing a passion for user advocacy and evangelizing for it in their organizations. It’s these grassroots activists who are helping IA achieve critical mass. Communities like SVC, WIAD and IAS, and practitioners who are teaching and learning from each other will bring this grassroots into the mainstream business environment.

We’d like to express our gratitude to Larry Asher, Linda Hunt, and the whole team over at SVC, Andy Fitzgerald and the team of volunteers at WIAD Seattle, and Marianne Sweeney, Dave Cooksey, and Susan Mercer, this year’s organizers of the IA Summit for offering us these wonderful opportunities. And a special shout out to Stuart Maxwell, who’s involved in all three as a WIAD and IAS volunteer, and the next Information Architecture instructor at SVC.

Have you had an education experience, as a student or instructor, that has changed your perspective on your practice? We’d love to hear about this in the comments or connect with us on Twitter at @factorfirm.

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