The dangers of teaching without doing

I love teaching and writing about user experience and design, and have often wondered what would happen if I tried to make a full-time career out of doing that. My main fear (well, apart from the fear of failing miserably) has always been that if I stop designing and building products, those muscles might atrophy.

Bret Victor puts that fear into words in his great pieceĀ Some Thoughts on Teaching:

Can you trust a teacher whose only connection to a subject is teaching it?

How can such a teacher know if what he’s teaching is valuable, or how well he’s teaching it? (“Curricula” and “exams”, respectively, are horrendous answers to those questions.)

Real teaching is not about transferring “the material”, as if knowledge were some sort of mass-produced commodity that ships from Amazon. Real teaching is about conveying a way of thinking. How can a teacher convey a way of thinking when he doesn’t genuinely think that way?

It’s a great reminder of the value of making things – especially if we often write or talk about the process.