As a teacher, I am inspired to develop methods that encourage students to become active participants in their own learning. Moreover, I am committed to devising multimodal projects that not only enhance student learning, but also prepare students for professional life and public service. Finally, I engage with digital technologies to maximize and diversify approaches to writing and communication both in and out of the classroom.
I create projects that empower students to become “experts” on selected subjects. In 2009, I introduced a group project on “Contexts in American Literature,” in which students become experts on one specific historical, literary, or cultural theme in American literature. As experts, the students led one class period for which they assigned the reading, gave a lecture, and generated class discussion. In 2010, I assigned a group blogging project, in which each group chose an area of expertise related to consumerism, such as sustainability, debt, poverty, community engagement, or social media. As experts, the students published blog entries with an air of confidence I had never witnessed in freshman composition. A “panel of experts” often led class discussion, and I found that this change in the power dynamics of the classroom empowered some of the most reserved students to speak at length on critical issues.
To prepare students for increasing demands for innovation in academia and the workplace, I ask students to create projects in various modalities. In service learning projects, for example, students conduct surveys and interviews, create web sites and pamphlets, and produce videos and other visual presentations. In teaching presentations, students select suitable reading material for their classmates, provide a visually stimulating lecture, and create a thoughtful line of questioning to gear class discussion toward a specific objective. Most recently, I asked students to create a nonprofit organization that will promote sharing and collaboration on college campuses. Students designed viable sharing networks hosted on a website that they created, and they promoted their network through advertising and a public symposium held on campus.
As students join a world that is increasingly communicating through online technologies, I have developed classroom activities that experiment with different forms of interaction. For many years, I have optimized the capabilities offered by Learning Management Systems to collect and grade student work. I have also used the discussion forums for students to compile multiple drafts of their work, accompanied by peer reviews. With peer review taking place in an open discussion forum, I am able to provide constructive critique on the reviewing process. I have also used the course wiki for compiling student responses to reading prompts, and a personal blog for conducting in-class writing. I have facilitated discussions in online chat rooms, introduced my students to collaborative writing on GoogleDocs, and provided resources for reading and commenting upon digital texts.
Overall, I am committed to making the classroom a space in which students develop confidence and engage with technologies and modalities that will enhance their ability to communicate effectively in an increasingly digital world.