Instruction (and Technology)
Digital technologies are transforming education profoundly and the rate of technological change is accelerating. The computer, the engine behind this paradigmatic transformation, has also brought a fast rate of change in the scholarship of many fields. Undoubtedly, keeping up with the technological changes that deeply affect pedagogy and keeping up with fast moving bodies of knowledge are some of the serious challenges that higher education faces today. At the same time, the vast amount of reliable and meaningful information available on the Internet puts into question pedagogical approaches based on memorization and retention of knowledge. In the same way the calculator reshaped the instruction of mathematics (for example, today most students do not know how to perform a square root), the Internet will have an extraordinary effect on what cognitive processes will be relevant to operate fully in an information based society.
If digital technologies (the computer and the Internet) have proven to be disruptive technologies fueling a paradigmatic change, how can we make everything work today and tomorrow to deliver the best possible higher education?
My understanding of pedagogy has increased over the years. My participation as a faculty mentor for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Sacramento State led me to collaborate with colleagues with a lot of experience in pedagogy, and that collaboration has brought amazing learning experiences for me. My immersion into effective pedagogy increased even further when I had the opportunity to coordinate CTL’s Teaching Institute the last 2 years. Learning about pedagogy at CSUS has empowered me with the ability to connect my teaching and learning goals with technical applications and solutions in very clear and measurable ways.
Today, my knowledge about learning styles and adult learning theory, mixed with a repertoire of teaching techniques, allows me to construct technologically-enhanced class activities that foster participation, engagement, and learning during the semester, and seek to encourage a positive attitude towards lifelong learning (including ability to adapt to how our changing technology delivers information). My pedagogical approach assumes that students have an intrinsic curiosity that needs to be sparked. In my classes, normally using the Internet as a resource, I guide students through an inquiry process meant to respond to authentic and “heart-felt” individual questions regarding the course subject. More often than not, I am able to engage my students in a self-propelled quest for knowledge that I guide and supervise.
While formally this pedagogical methodology responds to an educational theory known as Constructivism, which has oriented some of my instructional choices, I often try not to define my work within a theoretical framework for the sake of having a more heuristic response to my class experiences. Another theoretical framework that has guided but not curtailed my decision making is Connectivism. This theory, as well as Hypertext theory, describes very well some of the transformations I perceive in today’s Internet-enhanced educational experience. One of the central tenants of Connectivism is that the ability of connecting pieces of information is of high value for the educational experience. In my classes, my first endeavor is to help students discover their intrinsic curiosity for learning, and once that has been achieved, I focus on empowering students with reliable knowledge repositories (academic databases, compendia, media collections, etc.) and guidance, as needed, so they can make meaningful connections on their own.
Finally, anchored in the constructivist and connectivist pedagogical frameworks, I promote collaborative efforts in computer-mediated environments. Based on my understanding of current trends in the development of broadband infrastructure and new media technologies, information literacy and the ability to collaborate online will be very important market skills in the short term future. Pedagogically, the intersection between social constructivism and connectivism is what better addresses the technological environment we live in.
Adequate use of communications technology
While I use new communication technologies in all of my classes, in two of my courses (ComS106 and ComS149) I have used the affordances of digital media to reshape completely my interaction with students creating an effective new model for higher education. Since these two classes are about communication processes taking place on a computer, I decided to produce interactive video lectures by capturing the computer screen and my voice as I go through well rehearsed lessons. Students then have to cover on their own time these pre-recorded lectures, which explain digital media principles through the construction of multimedia projects. In other words, the recorded lecture cannot be experienced passively, my students need to be actively engaged while experiencing the lectures or they will not be able to deliver each lesson’s homework. In my classes, I divide my time between interacting with students (solving doubts about the assigned lecture and connecting the lecture’s content with their own interests) and evaluating their home assignments (through a process of “showcasing” their weekly work).
Producing these lessons, using both my authoring skills as well as my understanding of course content, has been very time consuming, but the pedagogical results have been very gratifying. Transferring my lecturing to the students’ time and using class time solely for interaction and evaluation has proven to be successful in increasing student learning.
My Digital Media Primer interactive videos have been used in classes of up to 110 students. Each student in this course completes and uploads to a Wiki an average of two homework assignments per week. In order to grade such a large number of assignments without the help of a Teaching Assistant, I have also developed a “crowd-sourcing” methodology anchored in the theoretical framework of the Web 2.0 movement. Using self-programmed applications that provide anonymity to participants, online forms and a process of supervision using random sampling, students take part in a process of grading their peers’ homework. In order to guarantee a fair grading method, students have the ability to appeal their grade by using another online form. Also, my Functional Director videos, which teach students advanced multimedia authoring with Adobe’s Director software, served 20 students per semester for several years.
Reiterative class evaluation and research
While I am always seeking to improve student learning through a combination of well-planned endeavors, I am not always successful. I know this is the case because I am constantly engaged in evaluating thoroughly the methodologies I implement. In the last Teaching Institute I had the opportunity to give a presentation entitled “A pedagogical approach using interactive video. Combining the production and delivery of new online formats with a reiterative research model” covering the details of my assessment methods. Using ICTs for pedagogy will only go so far without a deep understanding of the effect they have on learning. I find this ongoing evaluative process not only important for my own growth as an instructor but also important for the sharing of my experiences with colleagues across the university.
Content Knowledge (Dedication, collaboration, and openness)
With the exception of my American Culture and Communication class, my multimedia production courses and my computer-mediated communications theory/research courses need to evolve every semester. I have found that engaging myself in both the production and the research of Information and Communication Technologies is the best way to keep currency and be able to bring that to the classroom as first-hand knowledge. Nevertheless, as specialization in my field grows, it is harder for me to remain fluent in all of my field subdivisions, produce new pedagogical methods, and teach my classes keeping high standards. As a result, I have also incorporated methodologies in the classroom for generating content that can be used in subsequent semesters. In both my Seminar in New Media and my Computer-Mediated Communications (graduate and undergraduate) courses I ask my students to make intense use of our library resources to find the latest research in the field. Through their work and their individual new media experiences, I refresh my own knowledge with the latest scholarship and new media trends. Therefore, my teaching philosophy also entails understanding the educational experience as a collaborative endeavor that I use for self-learning purposes.
Lingo by Osmosis. First set of interactive lessons I authored for COM575, Communicating with computers, at Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University. These lessons teach students the basics of programming interactive media experiences using Adobe Director and Lingo, its programming language.
Functional Director Documentation. Lesson showcase. This video shows small segments of each one fo the lessons in a sequential manner. This screencapture was made in 2006.
Functional Director Documentation. In this video I show students where they can legally access and download digital media from the Internet using Creative Commons licenses. This screencapture was made in 2006.
Interview about my use of Functional Director made in 2006 by the Center for Distributed Learning for the California State University. Those days I traveled plenty to Italy, and I think I was notoriously influenced to groom and dress like that...
Functional Director Student Showcase (2006-2008)
Below you will find a final project showcase of students who used my Functional Director tutorials. It doesn’t fit well the design of my website, but it gives you the ability to briefly see my student work. If you would like to see these showcase videos in a full browser window, please click here.