The stuff you're taught in a particular course won't always
appear immediately relevant
"Will this be in the test?"
I can't remember how many times I've been asked this over the years.
The fact is, many people expect to be taught only what's going to be
assessed, and that what's being assessed is all that needs to
be taught. Which makes for a very narrow definition of education.
The V.E.T. in VET Sector stands for Vocational Education and
Training. If we look up definitions for these, we see the following
The word 'education' is still used when we talk about TAFE. This
implies that merely training for a particular proficiency or
efficiency isn't enough. Likewise, the stuff you're taught in a
particular course won't always appear immediately relevant.
I'm currently teaching a class in creating digital 2D animation. A
large part of creating animations involves planning: the timing, the
camera view, the sound - all of these need to be specified long before
the actual animation is produced, usually by creating a series of
sketches called a storyboard. It's very difficult to get students to
invest a lot of time in storyboards, because everyone wants to sit at
a computer and start animating.
So we've begun giving them tasks that require them to step back and
plan, draw, collaborate - without going near a computer. To do this,
we get them to design and build Rube Goldberg machines.
A Rube Goldberg machine is defined as: "a deliberately
over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task
in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain
It's named after an American cartoonist and inventor.
Rube Goldberg machines are often used as team-building and planning
exercises. You may have seen the famous Honda Cog
advertisement, or watched the elaborate OK GO
music video. These had budgets of millions of dollars and
involved many months of planning.
So how does this fit in with an animation class? We give students
three hours, some basic materials, and a brief (eg "Design and
build a Rube Goldberg machine to ring a bell"). They are broken
into teams, and the team whose machine takes the longest time
to ring the bell is the winner.
This is a great team exercise. The challenge, the team building, and
importantly, the need to plan really prepares the students for the
mindset needed to make an animation. You can view the machines in
So if what you're studying appears to have no immediate relevance -
keep with it. There's a lot of trimming and cost-cutting happening in
the VET sector at the moment. But let's keep the 'E' in VET.