Teaching is a passion for me. My teaching philosophy is fluid and changes as I learn and grow. One theme always remains: a safe, student-centered environment.
Banner Photo: "bright future" - by Valerie Robin
Recent technology has a heavy influence on my philosophies about teaching. Technology has altered rather drastically since I began teaching more than 8 years ago. The change occurring in our language is occurring from heightened exposure to a globalized world where everyone with know-how composes, repurposes, remixes, and distributes text in an instant. Therefore, I try to learn as much as possible from my students about what they are engaging in both online and off, creating an environment that is student-centered, where learning is reciprocal. My priorities involve creating a relevant, collaborative and accessible environment for all students.
In her book Textual Carnivals, scholar Susan Miller argues that “making new knowledge is a shared rather than an isolated process” (187), and even though students often expect to be lectured to in a big hall, I believe that an environment of collaboration and discussion is a much more effective and relevant way to reach students and promote lifelong learning. Since the early 1990’s, computers and writing scholars like Cynthia Selfe, Anne Wysocki, and Jay David Bolter have been claiming that we must move our focus increasingly onto the visual and the digital in order to stay relevant as a discipline. I stand firmly behind Cynthia Selfe’s argument in Writing New Media, “teachers of composition should not only be interested in new media texts but should be using them systematically in their classrooms to teach about new literacies” (44). The authors that contribute to Writing New Media all have different ideas about new media and how to use it, but they all agree that “the choices we make in producing a text necessarily situate us (or can try to avoid situating us) in the midst of ongoing, concrete, and continually up-for-grabs decisions about the shapes of our lives” (4). The use of computer mediated texts and student compositions bring a deeper understanding of writing, reading and our current social and material situations. Students must know more than just how to write and format an essay. They need to know how to collaborate, compose, and address specific audiences. Therefore, it is important to incorporate activities and major assignments which reflect changing student needs. I stress the importance of what I call ‘knowing your resources.’ To do this, I have reserved computer labs periodically so we can explore an online platform or a software resource that Daniel Anderson calls ‘low-bridge’: free and easy-to-use in a collaborative and hands-on environment and increase student knowledge and access to online tools.
Navigating a visual and digital environment can be confusing for many students, and it is important they know where to can seek assistance, particularly since students have varying needs. I show them resources we have available on campus, such as access to Lynda.com, or the Digital Aquarium (unique to Georgia State University) where they can get extra media help from their peers, and borrow media equipment. Further, I do not rely solely on the required text, but supplement readings according to the interests of each group of students and their diverse interests. I encourage students to form open-ended questions, lead discussions, and form collaborative groups so some can learn by teaching and others feel comfortable accessing resources beyond the teacher. I have high expectations for my students’ learning, so access to technology, knowledge, and community are crucial.
As a teacher-scholar, I want to change the world, create the best writers imaginable, and make scholars of them all, but this is not realistic. As an experienced teacher, I know content relevance is key to my classroom, since I am training tomorrow’s leaders for tomorrow, not for yesterday. Access and a safe collaborative environment cannot be neglected, particularly in a diverse environment like we have at Georgia State University. I am confident that with these elements, my students strive for learning beyond the classroom, and continue to use rhetorical and compositional concepts they learn in their short time in the class we build together.
- English as a Second Language
- GAP - An ESL Graduate Academic Preparation course at NAU
- Reading and Writing IV at NAU
- Speaking and Listening IV at NAU
- English Literature
- ENG 130 - The World of Literature at NAU