How to be a better origami teacher: Lessons learned from making video tutorials

How to be a better origami teacher: Lessons learned from making video tutorials

[Mick Guy] 10 years ago it was BOS 40. This was the first time I met Sara. And as I remember it we had a TV crew in and I was doing a little bit of whatever and they said
“We could do with somebody else to interview” and it just so happened that there was this young lady looking glamorous. And I said “Oh, you’ll do.” (laughs)
I think that’s what I said, didn’t I? And she spoke very eloquently and whatever
and it was very nice that she appeared on the program as well. Since then, of course, Sara has flourished
into this wonderful origami teacher and has taken video to – not just one step up,
but many steps up. And so it was lovely when I said
“Sara, how about doing this?” and she really responded in a lovely way. And so, here she is
and please welcome Sara Adams. (applause) [Sara Adams] So, thank you very much. It was an absolute honor to be asked to give a talk here. And when I go to conventions, very often people
say, “Oh, you’re the video person!” (laughter) So, I don’t just do videos,
I’ve done a lot of teaching sessions, but Mick is right,
my very first convention was the 40th anniversary BOS convention
and it introduced me to a whole new world of origami. Indeed, I had not been folding for that long when I attended that first convention of mine. I’d started the same year. But when I was at the convention I had already started my video project, uploading tutorials to YouTube. So, some things have changed, I learned a
lot over the years, of course, but the essence of what origami is to me now was already there at that very first convention. And that means in some ways, I have 10 years of teaching experience. That’s not the larger point, though, that I want to make. It of course, perhaps, gives some credibility to me giving some tips on
how to be a better teacher in origami but the thing that I think is relatively unusual is that I started teaching workshops about a month after I started folding. Now, there are other people that do that,
too, and usually they are school teachers, that maybe introduce origami in art or in mathematics. But I started folding just for the joy of it and I was at university and they had a small, tiny origami society there and they were in dire need of teachers. And I’m someone that very easily gets enthusiastic and wants to contribute. Why am I talking about this? Well, the thing is, to me origami and teaching how to fold a model is very strongly interconnected. And I think that’s because ever since I’ve been folding, I’ve been teaching. And this has the effect that when I fold a model the very first time I immediately think about how to teach it. And because I record a lot of videos, when I fold I try to move my hands out of the way. I’ve kind of developed a technique
of not covering the paper, and it’s kind of gone into my “private” folding, too. So, what is the profit of thinking about teaching when you’re folding [a model] the very first time? Well, the thing is, this is the closest you’ll get to the people you’ll be teaching. Because most of the time, people sitting in a class will have never folded the model. And they will be puzzled by what to do. And you’re only in that situation the very first time,
and maybe on the second fold. After that, you kind of know where you want to go and you feel more comfortable. That means it’s more difficult to identify what other people will struggle with. And I’ll be giving 15 tips in this talk here, and the very first one is the most important one. You need to identify the most difficult steps and find a way to show them very clearly. Now, most people that teach a workshop have folded the model many times before they actually think about teaching that workshop. It’s a model they’re very fold of, maybe, and they want to share with others. So, here are two techniques that I find can help still identify difficult steps even if you have folded the model many times
and you know it in and out. First, use a different paper type
and a different paper size. Use much smaller paper than you usually would and use maybe softer paper or thicker paper
than you usually would. This increases the difficulty, everyone knows this: Bad paper makes folding – unbearable sometimes. But if you want to teach a workshop and you need help with identifying difficult steps, do that, because suddenly you’re uncomfortable and that’s what you need to identify difficulty. Things don’t quite work out and that means you now know
what to concentrate on in the workshop Now, once you’ve identified the steps that you really should polish, take a much larger sheet of paper. You’ll still feel uncomfortable, because it’s harder to fold with very large paper, so you still have that momentum of really thinking about what you’re doing. You can’t go into this automatic
“I’m folding the model, because I know it”, but you also have a large paper size that lets you really look into the details of how to perform a step. And think about suddenly, “How am I moving my hands? How am I manipulating the paper to get a clean finish?” And when you know how to get a very clean finish, you can then translate that into explaining it. The people in your class will have paper that’s hopefully easy to fold with and an adequate size, so it won’t be as uncomfortable to them, but because you know what they’re supposed to do, they can then kind of get that same result. So, very very important. And I know some less experienced teachers – including myself when I started – kind of try to hide sometimes that some steps are “messy” or difficult to perform and you just say “Do something like this and it’s OK, it’s not visible”. Try to avoid that, if at all possible. I speak from experience, and because I post my videos online people can be very – straightforward in the comments section. (laughter) The same thoughts are in the people
that are sitting in a class but they may not voice it. And we want everyone to have a great time
folding, right? We want to spread the joy of origami. So try and not waste too much time on the simple steps and focus on the difficult ones even if it takes more work. Because that really leads to some “Aha!”-moments and people learning something and them really appreciating how much work you put into the workshop and appreciating the model they end up with. So, when teaching, and I’ve kind of touched on this already, you are in a very different setting. Now, teaching has very many different forms. You might be teaching at a convention, in front of a large class or a small class, you might be teaching in the evening,
just a couple of people around the table, you might be teaching just person-to-person,
a personal session, you might be recording videos. These are very very different modes and you need to behave very differently in them. Usually you will know
which setting you are going to be in, so practice that. If you teach at a convention, think about: Do you want to sit down, do you want to stand, do you maybe know what the
setup of the tables is? And then practice that. For example, very often
people stand in front of the class, they have a sheet of paper in front of them
and they start folding. When do you do that
when you fold just by yourself? Fold in the air, in the front without seeing
what you’re doing? No table nearby? It’s very strange. You might also think about, “Oh, do I want a table nearby,
so that I can arrange some folds and then hold them up to see it?” Some people like fold against the wall, because it’s much more visible than a table. But in some rooms the wall is too far away
or the wall is covered by things. But practice that, not just to improve your
skills, but also to feel more comfortable. Because you might feel a bit nervous when teaching and practice calms down your nerves, because you kind of know what you want to do. Also practice folding, so that you don’t cover the areas. You know, “We need to align this corner here”
[covers the corner] and if your fingers are here or here, it might cover it. There might be some shadows,
so that it’s not easily visible. Especially when you’re in a convention setting, don’t just say here, but you might say,
“Oh, I have this folded edge, I have this raw edge” to differentiate what you’re doing, not just saying “this edge”, or “this layer” –
“there are three layers here”, or “this is the colored layer”,
“this is the white layer”. Add context, so that even if people don’t clearly see what you’re doing, they have some extra information to figure out what you’re actually pointing towards. So, show and explain both your hand
and your paper movements. Very often people forget the hand movements. Some people don’t talk about the paper movements,
but quite a few do. Not as many people talk about the hand movements. And if you’ve seen some of my videos, I very often say “I like to catch this point and then roll the paper over like this, moving it over” and like really
going into the movement of the paper. Or I might say
“It’s best if you use your thumb and your index finger to pinch this and hold it in place”. And these tips people do not have to follow. There’s many ways in which you can fold
a specific step. But for people that are not as experienced these are really really useful because in the end origami is about paperfolding and folding doesn’t just involve the paper, but also someone doing the folding. More advanced folders
may still find these tips useful. They may use them or not,
they may adjust their own folding method, but there’s no harm in including that information. And I think it’s very important, very often
we forget the hands, we just think about the paper.
So don’t forget the hands. When teaching think about not just the paper type
you’re using and the paper size, and I’m going to talk about the paper size in a second, but also the color. Let’s use black paper. (laughter)
Can you see a square, at least? OK, then, I’m going to add a crease here very quickly. I’m going to make a sharp crease, we have
to be fair. And then I’m going to unfold it. And how much of that do you see? You see basically none of it, especially
– well, it depends on the lighting. I might be able to manipulate it a little
bit, but the problem is you see creases because of shadows. But what is a shadow on black? It’s darkness on darkness. So you go over and you say “OK, well, black
is bad”. So, how about this dark brown? Can you tell me, have I added a crease to
this paper or not? So, you see a very slight crease line right
here, right? But it’s still not enough. So, it’s much better to use a paper color
like this. And if your model is a tree and you want a
dark brown, it doesn’t matter. You’re teaching. Right? It’s more important to see the colors. OK, then, I wanted to talk about this
black for two reasons. I actually wanted to find a color in the color
of my jacket, but I didn’t quite accomplish it. When I record videos, I have a gray backdrop. I usually use gray Elephant Hide,
because Elephant Hide is beautiful. I use gray, because white is still quite visible on gray. So, if you have a white backdrop, it’s bad
to use paper that’s white on one side. You will know this, if you fold on a white
table, you will always go like, “Ah, am I aligning this correctly or not?
Where’s the paper edge?” Just avoid that.
It’s so easy to pick the right color. It’s not a lot of work,
you just have to think about it a little. And of course when you’re teaching in person, you don’t have a backdrop, but actually you do. You have what you are wearing. Think about what you’re wearing. Does it really have to be that extremely patterned blouse or can it be a relatively plain top? And then don’t choose the same color paper
as your top. Of course you shouldn’t choose black, but if you have a hot pink top, don’t use hot pink paper. And then, when you’re folding modulars, very often modulars look very nice if you use
the same color module every time, but in assembly
you want to see how modules interlock. So use different paper colors
and they should be contrasting. And because choosing paper is so easy, let’s also think about people with color blindness. Try not to use red and green and, well, here’s the thing. Suppose you were on a computer
and you put everything to grayscale. It would be nice if the colors
had different grayscales. So you would have a light color, a medium
color and a dark color. That helps and then even red and green
aren’t that big of an issue anymore, because they are a different lightness. But when folding a modular,
please don’t use three shades of green. It’s much easier to say, “Use the red module. Use the yellow module. Use the green module”, rather than say, “Use the light green. Use the normal green.”
and “Use the dark green”. Simplify life by doing that. You might get nicer effects if you use these colors, but think about teaching first
and not a superb model. Because people will have seen a display model, or they should at least.
I’ll touch on that later, too. So really consciously choose the paper color. And when we’re talking about color, there’s
also lighting. Because depending on the light the colors
will appear differently. The creases will appear differently. So if you have a chance to test the lighting in the room that you’re teaching in, do so. When I record my videos,
of course I have control over the lighting. I usually block out all natural light and just use lamps to manipulate my setting. And if you want to record videos, too, I suggest you do a couple of setups, record just a couple of seconds
where you add a couple of creases to a paper and then see which setting you like best. When you have your setting done,
then you can do the real recording. And usually you do this once and you have
your room set up, and you don’t need to do it again. This also helps – sometimes I record the video,
I edit it, I figure out some sequence doesn’t quite look right and then I just use the same
colored paper and just fold a couple of steps and then insert in there and it’s seamless. Because I have the exact same lighting. Which is why I block out sunlight. Now, at a convention you go into a room. You think about: “Where will I stand”? For example, if there’s big windows, don’t stand in front of the windows, but let the light hit you. Or let it come from the side. Else, you know, you’ll just be a shadow. You know, making photographs against the sun is very difficult. You can get nice effects, but usually the
person in the foreground is just a black blob or something like that. And adjust it. You can adjust lighting. Check if turning on or turning off specific
lights helps. Check whether moving curtains or something like that
to block out or to let in sunlight helps. Usually, the brighter a room, the better, because people need to see their creases. And it’s easier for you to adjust your position in the room, rather than making everything quite dark. So do that. And especially at a convention, you usually
know which room you’re teaching in and you can have a quick look around. If you’ve got a friend, you might even be
able to position them somewhere, so that you can take a look what it looks like. And while you’re looking around in that room, pick a spot in the back of the room and then check how much of the paper you see. So, if I use a 15cm square and someone in the back looks at that square, it’s going to be tiny. It’s going to be very very difficult to see
what’s going on. And I need to put in a point here about paper color, because I missed it before. I also wanted to mention that,
don’t use shiny paper. Try to use matte paper. Because reflections are very very distracting. It’s very difficult to see what you’re doing. OK, but back to paper size. So, this is too small. And maybe this is better, but you have to
check. You have to check in the room,
it also depends on how many people you have. If you have six people in a session or if
you have 40 people in a session, it’s a very different setting. And you might restrict how many people are coming,
you might not. But in general, I think for conventions there is no too large [paper] in some ways, as long as you can still handle the paper, of course. And when I do my videos, very often I need to zoom in, so that the model within the frame, the picture in the video, takes up a reasonable amount of space. You might say, “Well, you know, with a camera I can just zoom in,
it’s very easy”. It’s not that much more difficult to zoom
in when you’re teaching a workshop. You just need to prepare a little. You start with this paper, you fold a preliminary base and suddenly your paper is much smaller, a quarter of the starting fold. So maybe then, prepare a very large sheet, fold it into your preliminary base and then say, “We’re just going to zoom in now,
and this is what we have”. Very very easy, just needs a little thought. If you’re teaching very complex models, you might want to zoom in multiple times. So identify steps where the size of the model has shrunken to it not being visible enough anymore, prepare folded models up to that
and then zoom in. Sometimes you work on details. You can do just a cutout view. You know this from diagrams, right? Sometimes there’s a zoom-in,
you have this black circle and they just show part of the model, because the rest of the model doesn’t matter. So you can use a sheet of paper, fold your flap that you’ll be forming a nice claw on and then you can show the details on that
and then everyone’s got their claw. And then you can continue
with your normal model again. This is important, because you only have
that large paper to work with, right? So, you sometimes can’t zoom in that much
just by paper size. So think about that. It helps a lot and it’s much better than walking around in the room
and showing every single person what they need to do. This can be very frustrating, because first people say,
“Ah, I don’t know what to do”. We don’t want frustration, we want joy,
we want happy folding, right? And also, people will have to wait if you
walk around the room. The last person has to wait until you’ve reached them and the first person has to wait
after they’ve seen what they’re supposed to do until you’ve reached that last person. And it wastes time. And there’s always a time restriction on workshops. Of course. So try that. And if you have ever watched one of my older videos, you will know that I had “magic lines”. Draw in references whenever they’re important and when you think they might not be visible enough. So, in my old videos, I drew in every single
crease line, in some videos at least. Because I had a webcam, so the recording quality
was very bad, and the technology just wasn’t there yet. So I knew people could not see the crease
lines, so I had to draw them in. And I think that’s one of the things that
differentiated my videos from others. I didn’t want the distraction, so I actually
cut out the sequences where I drew in the lines,
which is where the “magic” comes in. But in convention setting it’s very very important
to draw in lines. And then sometimes people take that to heart and they say,
“Yeah, I’m going to draw in a reference. So, we want a pinch mark here”. And then people say
“What? Where? Where?” So, please, use a marker. So, this is much better. This should be better already. But if you’re using large paper, no worries, it’s not going to distract, let’s just make it a little thicker. “OK, now I know where I need to go”. So don’t just draw in references,
which is very important, but also think about which kind of pen or marker you’re using. And, please, don’t use pencil. If you need differentiation, you can choose different colors. Markers easily come in red and blue and black and they’re usually good enough to differentiate. So, all of the things I’ve mentioned so far you can implement in different teaching modes, also in video and also in workshops. But I wanted to now go on to some tips that only apply for in-person teaching. So one-to-one and workshops. Especially workshops, because
that’s where the most difficulties occur. There are some advantages to teaching
in person in a workshop and there are some problems that I don’t need to handle when I do a video. So we’ll touch on both. So, the first one is a luxury. And that is, you can pass around folded models. People can look at them, they can turn them around. I can’t do that [in a video]. So please, take that advantage. You have display models. But take that advantage in not just that sense
of the finished model. So, I was saying, sometimes you know,
you have references, you draw them in, you might zoom in, and that might not be enough. Maybe you do have to walk around and show everyone exactly how the model’s supposed to look,
because of all the layers. You don’t want to do that if you have a large workshop. But what you can do is, if you know beforehand, “This is a crucial step”, and we talked about that in the very first tip, right? – you can fold a bunch of models [to that step]
and pass them around in the room. You’re not suddenly walking around in the room saying, “Here, this is what you want”
and they just take a quick look and they say, “Ah, OK” and then you go to the next person. You’re not necessary, it’s just the model
that’s necessary. So think about that. Then, if you’re teaching a model with 3D-finishing, pass around models when you’re in that shaping stage. Very often shaping is “to taste”, right? They say, “Ah, there’s no exact reference
here, you kind of want to get this look”. At that point,
you’re not teaching that much anymore. And then it’s really valuable for people to
look at a model at that point and then it can probably be a finished model. Because shaping is usually the last steps. And they can fiddle around with it and look at what they want. You might even want to have models
with slightly different shaping. That depends on you. A note of warning, though. If you pass around models in the beginning, so people can look at them, I would collect them. And that’s the same reason that I suggest you do not pass out diagrams
at the beginning of the workshop. Because I think a workshop should be
a joint experience. I know some people like to teach like that: pass out diagrams, everyone folds for themselves, and you’re just there to answer questions. That works. But it’s a solitary folding and not a community folding anymore. And if you have models passed out that are done and you have some experienced folders
in there, of course, and some not quite as experienced folders. And then the experienced folders have some time to fiddle around, and they’re going to say, “Oh, I’m going to look at this model
and try to reverse-engineer”, which is not a problem in itself. But, not even consciously, I think, they’re excluding themselves from the workshop. And it’s not that community anymore. And the people that aren’t that far along
are going to feel insecure and say, like,
“Should I have done that already?”, or the advanced folders might not catch up with the the workshop, because they are totally consumed
in that they don’t find out the right way, and suddenly they lost a couple of steps. So try to prevent that. And talking about people’s folding speed, some people fold more quickly, some fold slowly, and that’s totally fine. But you need to know
when to continue with the next step when you’re teaching. And very often people ask, “So, how are we getting along?”,
and, you know, “Where are we at?” I don’t think that’s the best way to figure
out whether you want to go along or not. I usually ask, “If you’re done with the step,
hold up your model”. Because, this is now visual and not a,
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re done”. Because you don’t know how many people said
“yes” and “no”. And you’re not disturbing the people still
working. Do not disturb the focus
of the people that still have work to do. So address the people who are done. “If you are done, please hold the model up”. I can immediately see who’s not done and maybe they need some help, maybe they just need some more time, but it’s very very quick. So think about that. And while we’re at it, sometimes people do
need help. And sometimes you are teaching very large
workshops. So find yourself helpers. This might be people that you bring along
to the workshop, that are designated helpers. But it might also be people you identify
either during the workshop or before the workshop. At the beginning there’s no problem with asking, “Who’s quite experienced and who’s comfortable with perhaps helping out others while we’re
folding?” or you might ask,
“Who feels a bit unsure or a bit uncertain? Who would like to have a folding buddy, someone that helps them out if they struggle a little?” So if you’ve identified people who’d like
some extra help, or you’ve identified people that want to be helpers, place them strategically, you know. If you have two people that say, “Yeah, OK, I feel comfortable with this.” and sometimes you don’t even need to ask, because you look around the room
and you know some people and you just ask them directly,
because you know their folding skill, and – and then place those in the room,
so that they’re nicely spaced out. And that helps a lot. Especially for large sessions. If you’re teaching six people, it’s fine. You don’t need a helper. But if you’re teaching –
I think the limit here at the convention is 40, which is why I’m always mentioning 40 as a large number – if you’ve got 40 people,
it’s very good to have helpers. And people will be honored to help and they enjoy helping. But there is a way in which you should help and should not help. And this is very important not just to people holding workshops, but to anyone attending a workshop. Or to anyone doing a one-to-one session. In the evening or whatever. If at all, try to avoid ever touching the
other person’s paper. And there are multiple reasons for this. And I’m going to go into a couple. First, do not take away the pleasure and the feeling of pride that someone has when they have folded a model. It might not look perfect, but if they did every single crease, they will be proud of it. They will be proud of themselves. So do not take that away from them. And you take away that feeling every time you do a fold for them. Because they know they didn’t do it themselves. Second, especially in a workshop,
if you take someone’s model and you fold it, their confidence goes down. They weren’t able to perform a step. So when another difficult step comes, they’re going to think,
“Oh, I’m not going to be able to do this. I’m going to ask that person again.”, whereas when you showed them in a way, so that they performed the step themselves, their confidence goes up. They say, “This is a tricky step, but the last time around I managed to do it, too. I’m going to try just a bit more, just see
whether I can figure it out”. Also, when someone does the fold themselves, they will learn so much more. Teaching i s about learning. It’s not about getting through the workshop, or getting through the fold. It’s about giving someone knowledge. So, show them. And, well, what can you do to simplify it? Well, usually, in a workshop, or when you’re
folding one-to-one, you have your own model. Unfold a step, show it. Explain the paper movement, explain how you’re handling the paper with your fingers, where do you put your hands to manipulate that paper? If you’re usually opposite, rotate, so that you ‘re looking in the same direction. Orient the paper in exactly the same way. Maybe point towards the point on their model and say, “See, this point is the same as mine right here. Observe that point”. It might take some time, but it’s really really valuable. If you do need to touch the paper, always first ask. “May I?” and then just show the movement, “Look, it works on your model, too. I’m not adding a crease. Now you do it”. If that’s still not enough, add a light crease, just very light, so the paper kind of wants to go
where it’s supposed to go. And if that doesn’t work, add the creases, but unfold it and let them still fold it, so they still have that sense, “I got the movement. I did that myself”. So, I know you can’t always avoid touching the model, but only do it if you really need to, and do as little of it as possible. And you will love seeing the joy in their faces when they can actually manage. This is a difficult one. You want everyone to finish in a workshop. And in my workshops that usually works out. In my videos, no. Right? Many people leave the video. If they struggle, they’re just going to turn
it off, that’s fine. You want everyone to be able to finish, but it’s not always going to work out. And I had one very difficult experience and I want to share that with you. So, I was at a convention and I was teaching the “new rose” by Toshikazu Kawasaki, which is his rose that is on a 22.5 degree rotated grid. So, it was rated as an advanced or complex workshop,
something like that. And I had someone sitting in there, folding the grid and I noticed he was struggling. The creases were soft, the creases were not parallel and he was behind a lot, even though we’d just started folding the grid. And I knew it was not going to work out. And very often when you’re in a workshop you see someone and you say [to yourself], “This is not going to work out”. And what I did,
I went to him and said very directly, “I think this might be too difficult for you right now for this workshop. How about we sit together later and fold the model together and then I can explain in detail what you need to do. In can’t do it in this setting, unfortunately”. And you cannot imagine the show of relief
on his face. (laughter) Because he knew it, too. And I think everyone in the room appreciated that I made that call, but it was very difficult. You know, it’s very uncomfortable going to
someone and saying, “Maybe not here”, but it’s very very important. Think about the whole workshop, and not just a single person. And make difficult calls, if they need to be made. Another option would be to identify someone more experienced that might help them out, but in this case it was so extreme that even having someone help him wouldn’t have worked out. Because that person [the helper] wouldn’t have been able to attend the workshop anymore. Talking about the good of the whole workshop, be weary of latecomers. Think about how you want to manage latecomers before the workshop. Because when you’re put on the spot, you might feel uncomfortable with rejecting someone. If you don’t have that much teaching experience, I’d say usually, don’t accept latecomers, that’s it. If you’re a more experienced and confident
teacher, you might accept them and, you know, while others are folding a specific step, you show them the first steps. Or you might have a helper that helps them
catch up. Or, what I have done in some cases, I give them a model that I’ve worked with, and say, “Take this, continue with this model”, and I’m quickly going to do the first couple of steps. Because latecomers will not be that late,
right? They won’t come in half an hour late. It’s easy to reject them. But if it’s 5 minutes, you can easily reproduce the steps. They might have a different paper size
[than the other participants], but so what, you know? They should be happy that they can still attend. So think about how you want to deal with them and then go with that, but never sacrifice a whole workshop for one person. Because everyone else was on time and that person wasn’t. So, finally, because this was kind of sad, there’s two more points, that don’t just apply to workshops, but also to videos. I was talking about confidence in people
that lead a workshop. And you might be very nervous when you’re teaching a workshop, especially if you’re teaching in front of a very large class. That means when you’re nervous you’ve got all these adrenaline hormones and whatever in your body that make you maybe fidgety or whatever. It’s great to have those hormones, because they improve your performance, it’s not a bad thing to be nervous. And knowing that already changes your perception. Knowing that feeling stressed out is good and not bad changes a lot. But also, you do need to calm down. So, how can you achieve that? By having a good start. Right? So, plan out how you’re going to start the
workshop. And it’s very easy. “I’m going to be teaching
this model by this designer. This is how I learned about it. This is the kind of paper that I recommend.” – whatever you want to mention here. Maybe some rules about the workshop. You know, “Feel free to chat when you’re done with your steps, but please, whenever I’m talking or explaining something, do not talk. I do not want to have to repeat myself, because someone else wasn’t able to hear what I was saying or you weren’t able to hear what I
was saying, because you were distracted.”, right? So, you know, these kind of rules you can
mention in the beginning. Or, like my rule, “I’m going to periodically
ask you to hold up your model if you’re done. So kind of watch out for that, even while
you’re chatting”. You might have other rules. You might want to really write out what you want to say and practice it. You want to practice the whole workshop, but practice the first 30 seconds or one minute many more times, so that you just feel very comfortable with it. So even when you’re nervous,
you kind of know what to say. And because it’s standard stuff, it’s not
bad even if it feels practiced. And after that you will have calmed down and you can start with your normal workshop. And you will feel – you will appear much more confident, but you will also feel more confident. And this is very important. It’s not just about others enjoying your workshop. It’s also about you enjoying the workshop. I love teaching! There’s so many sessions where I’ve learned from others. Because they have a different way of performing a step. Because they accidentally performed a step differently and they came up with an interesting, new result. It’s great. It’s just so wonderful to also share and give back to the community. I always feel we get so much
from all the people contributing – be it the organizers of a convention be it people designing, be it people diagramming and publishing books, it’s so much work. It’s so much goodness we’re getting. Be it just the great conversations we have,
with being together. There’s so much goodness, which is why I love origami. It’s the connection to the people, it’s this generosity within this community. So, I think a lot of the joy of teaching,
for me at least, is giving back. But also learning. When you’re doing videos, for example, I contact designers – I love it. Because I can get in touch with designers, I establish a connection with them, and then when I’m at a convention, I kind of know them. It’s beautiful. And the same holds when you’re doing a workshop. Suddenly, people see you differently, right? They’re going to come up to you and thank
you and you’re going to have conversations you would maybe not have had otherwise. The same holds when you’re just folding a
model in the evening and someone says, “May I join you?” – “Yeah, sure! Why not?” – It doesn’t matter that I’m going to take
longer to finish that model. I’m going to have a great time. Meeting someone, folding with them, and just having that social interaction. Origami can be very solitary, but especially at conventions, to me, it should be very social. And at home, if you’re watching one of my
videos, I hope it’s kind of social, too. I do know I have a lot of connections, even if they’re just through comments or emails, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. So with that I want to thank you for your
attention and now I’m going to open it
to questions from your side. So, who has a question for me? Yes, please! So, the question is: “Will this talk be presented in a video that’s online?” and the answer is, well, there’s a camera standing right there and hopefully a version of this talk will go online, and if it doesn’t, then I plan to make a video, maybe even with these exact slides, where I just talk over it. Because I think it’s valuable. So, most probably yes, I don’t have an exact date yet, though. Yes, please. The question is, “What type of video equipment do you use?”. So, I have a camera that records 1080p videos, I think it’s by Canon. I think I’ve posted somewhere online exactly which camera it is. But I can look it up later, too, I just don’t have it on the top of my mind. I have a tripod by Manfrotto, which has an arm that you can swing 90 degrees, so it’s above my hands. I used to use two lamps that simulate daylight, so it’s maybe 5000 Kelvin lamps or something like that. But now I have one big panel in my room and I use that and I use a white umbrella to soften the light, so that the shadows aren’t as extreme. I use for editing Final Cut Pro X, which is an editing program on Mac. And for my photos and stuff, I just use Gimp, which is an image editing software that’s free. And for diagrams I use Inkscape, which is also a free vector graphics program. And I think that’s pretty much it. I use some tools, of course, but those are tools that you’d use for normal folding, too. Does that answer your question? Good. Yes, please, in the back. Well, I’ll be happy to accept it. Do you want to give it to me now or later? Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much. I’ll later have to give you a gift, too. I’ll put it here for now. It’s beautiful – two little butterflies. Yes? So, I have done some teaching with children, but not too much. Usually, the tips are: It’s good to have a story, so feel free to say, you know, “This looks like a house.” and whatever. And don’t restrict what colors they use or whether they color the paper or whether they stick on goggley eyes or something. Choose models that are fun, so that they’re really excited to finish them. Action models, models that make sounds, that fly, stuff like that, is really helpful. And praise them, maybe a bit more than adults. Usually I select models where extremely precise folding is not of the essence. So, for example, one of the models I taught
was a “Rotating Tetrahedron” by Tomoko Fuse. And when you spin it, the paper is going to move in the right place. So even if the folds are imprecise, while actually rotating, it’s going to balance out errors. I guess there is a lot of other stuff you could say, but I’ll keep it at that. I hope everyone heard the question. It’s how to deal with people that are distracted, because they’re posting things online while a session is being taught. Well, probably what I would have done is – they were doing this while they were folding? I would have probably said something like, “It’s really great to see how excited you are and I love that. And I’m happy for you to share all of that, because that’s beautiful. But how about we focus – now, the time we have is limited. Let’s focus on folding together and share that later, so you get the most of me right now.” So, that’s a very positive way of saying, “Stop that”. (laughter) Yes, please. [Mick Guy] I just want – a little thing to add. Absolutely right – write a script for the first 30 seconds. If you’ve ever been taught effective presentation, they tell you to do that. The important thing is: Say it first, just like Sara did, and write it the way Sara said it. In other words, Sara didn’t say, “I am”, she said, “I’m”, right? And write it down in spoken English. So if all of a sudden you’re there awfully
[…] – and it happens to the best of us – we all freeze – you’ve got it there and you can read it out. It comes out in spoken English, rather than
written. [Sara Adams] Yes, yes, that was a beautiful addition. Make it colloquial. I mentioned before if you write a script, it might seem a bit practiced. Try to decrease that effect as much as possible. It helps a lot. OK, so I think we’re pretty much out of time, so if no one has a very urgent question, I think – yes, one urgent question, please! OK, so the question was, “You’ve improved a lot over the years. What are you still trying to improve?” I’m always trying to improve my videos. Always. Showing steps more clearly, identifying which steps to slow down on, which ones to speed up. Now I sometimes speed up sequences within a video and sometimes I’m unsure, should I be doing that or not? Am I speeding it up too much, maybe? Sometimes folding isn’t as smooth. The words I use, I try to pronounce better and use the correct terms. I don’t write a script for the folding, because it gets too unnatural and it’s also very very difficult to do that. But, you know, just details. Sometimes I’m not also – at some point I’m going to invest in a 4k camera, which is going help, because I can then very easily zoom in in the editing phase. There’s a lot of things I want to improve. I’m always very critical of my work, but – and this is very important: “Strive for perfection” – this is a tip I could have included here – “Strive for perfection and be aware that you cannot achieve it”. At some point you just have to say, “This has to be good enough”. And that’s OK. So in every video I make, I see things that I would like to have presented differently. But I just say, well, you know, that’s what it is. I only have that much time. I invest a lot of time in my videos and I have a full-time job, I have a family, I have two little kids, I have other things I do aside from origami – (laughter) and at some point you just have to say stop. So, there’s always things to improve. Lots of them. So, and it’s exciting. Right? It’s exciting. Life is about learning and improving. You’re never done learning. So I hope you learn a lot at this convention and you enjoy it a lot and I thank you very much. I’m going to release you to your break and then lots of folding. Thank you very much.

21 thoughts on “How to be a better origami teacher: Lessons learned from making video tutorials

  1. So I just sat down for a little Friday night video game session, and while my game was installing, I switched over to YouTube. Guess what was right at the top of my subscription feed, having just been posted minutes before. "OK, I'll just watch this for a few minutes." Then, you showed the "worst video on YouTube" comment, and I was going "Oh, no, now I have to watch the whole thing to see if any of MY comments show up in this presentation." When no other comments appeared, I'm not sure if I was more relieved or disappointed to not see my user name appear, hahaha. That said, I think it was an hour well-spent. I've made one attempt to teach an origami model to a friend's parents, and according to the pointers made in here, I could not have done a worse job. Now I know why they haven't called me in four months. Guess I should call and apologize for being such a bad teacher. [sigh] You are indeed a great teacher, both in the quality of your instruction and in your patience and encouragement. This was a very well-presented talk on the topic. Thanks for taking the time to edit it and post it here.

  2. As promised, here's a video of the talk I gave at the 50th Anniversary British Origami Society Convention last weekend. Let me know what you think!
    Which tip is your favourite one? Which ones would you have added?

  3. Ein gelungener Vortrag! Ich fand den Punkt "Identify difficult steps and teach them clearly" besonders wichtig. Wenn man selbst erfahrener Falter ist erfordert es zum Teil viel Geschick sich in den Lernenden hineinzuversetzen und den kritischen Punkt im Faltprozeß zu identifizieren! Auch der Punkt "Show and explain both hand and paper movements" wird viel zu oft vernachlässigt und stiftet im Lernprozess Verwirrung. Bei einem weiteren Punkt musste ich selbst über mich lachen, da ich das, wenn ich meiner Tochter etwas beibringen möchte, offensichtlich immer falsch mache: "Look, but don't touch." Ich gelobe Besserung, auch wenn's schwer fällt 😅

  4. I really enjoyed your talk! And I found it so important that you focus on and think about your audience/students. I think that is why your videos are so popular; there are a lot of origami tutorials around but yours are so clear and detailed.

  5. Thank you for this Sara, I teach some teenage children at a children's home and these tips will really help me.

  6. Love it 😍😍. Have you ever teach preschool or elementary school students ?? I experienced it once, and it was not very easy. 😅

  7. Excellent video. Allways interesting learn about teaching origami. I like to share the folding with friends,and its very important do it the right way. Thanks like always!

  8. Great presentation. While I was seeing the video and started hearing your explanation, I realized that many of the poiints that you mentioned not only apply to Origami, they can apply to many other type of talks (for teachers, business presentations, etc). I really want to thank you for this excelent review on how to approach these situations. The part in which you show the feedback from the users, and how you thransform that to something positive is really great. Great work.

    Gran presentación. Mientras mira el video y comencé a escuchar tu explicación, me dí cuenta que muchos de los puntos que mencionas no se aplican solamente al Origami, también se pueden aplicar a muchos otros tipos de charlas (maestros, presentaciones de trabajo, etc). Quiero agradecerte por este excelente resumen sobre como abordar estas situaciones. La parte donde muestras los comentarios por parte de los usuarios, y como lo transformas en algo positivo es muy bueno. Gran trabajo.

  9. It shines through so much that you really care and are passionate about being a good teacher. That is my favorite part 🙂

  10. Sara, thanks for the advice I will incorporate the tips I still don't do.
    I have another one I've found useful and it is having a copy of the diagrams with me, even pictures of the steps in my phone would do. You never know when your memory is going to betray you no matter how hard you've trained.

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