Influential Figures: Educators.

As a teacher, I pride myself on loving what I do. Draider’s (2002) article resonated with me, stating that some teachers find what they want to do at a young age. For most of my young life, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. It turns out that I was always the one helping my brother with school work, playing “school” in our basement with me as the “teacher” and him as the “student.” I taught him how to ride a bike; all of this while our parents were at work. It was not until my junior year of undergrad that I decided to get my PhD and become a professor–it was actually only after I had met my favorite professors that became mentors. Looking back, I realize that the most influential people throughout my life have been educators. They have been the ones to inspire me and give me the greatest lessons. I would like to spend today’s blog post talking about influential educators in my life that are the reason I am an educator today.

Miss. Glinka – I had Miss. Glinka my entire four years of high school. She was my required art teacher for ninth grade, and then I took her ceramics class the next three years. She was, hands down, the most influential teacher I have ever had. She did not have children herself, so she cared for her students as if they were her own. I brought her a chai tea latte every Tuesday morning, and she gave me more gifts than parents on Christmas when I graduated. I would stay after school for three hours every Wednesday, just me and her, chatting about everything. She helped me through all of my angsty teen years, especially helping me with my relationship with my mother. She wanted nothing more but for her students to succeed, and went the extra miles to ensure it. For some reason, her art classes attracted all of the misbehaved and cognitively impaired students. Whatever it was that you were going through, you put it aside and played with some clay for 47 minutes. She retired the same year I graduated, so we joked that we were graduating together. I was editor of the high school yearbook, and dedicated the entire yearbook to her that year. She doesn’t have email, so I haven’t spoken to her since high school. It kills me. She made it seem like she didn’t do the job because it paid the bills (probably a large motivation), but because she loved her students. Teaching with love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Miss. Glinka, 1972. Right: Me, Miss. Glinka, and a friend.

Disclaimer: it was 1980’s day in the picture on the right, I did not normally dress like that.

Kyle Holody – Kyle was my professor/ mentor at Coastal Carolina University. I did not take his class until my senior year of college, but it had been rumored that if you wanted to do quantitative media research, you had to take his class. I had signed up for his media effects class and was immediately enthralled. He was always making sure that the students were understanding what he was saying, and his PowerPoints were some of the most detailed I had ever seen (this is why my PowerPoints are always “too wordy” according to my boss). He is also the most compassionate, considerate people I have ever met. If he thought that he said something offensive, he would immediately back track. Sometimes, he would come back the following class meeting and apologize if he had thought he offended someone. He taught with passion, and you could tell that he cared about his students more than the material. He is also the reason behind what I research–I went to a “study hall” hour to ask him for a grad school letter of recommendation, and he asked if I would like to help him with an academic chapter studying the mediatization of mass shootings. Fast forward a year and a half later, we are published co-authors. He taught me to teach with passion.

Above: Kyle Holody (I wish we had a picture together!)

Andrea Bergstrom – This professor/mentor from Coastal quickly became my friend. She was teaching my intro to communication course that I had to take as a freshman elementary education major (lol). It was in her class that I learned you can research the media and communication, and was flabbergasted. I changed my major. Over the years, I did an independent study with her that won top paper, took her communication theory course, and her family communication course. I loved her “tell it like it is” attitude, and she proved to me that you do not have to sacrifice your personality in the classroom. You can teach because it’s what you love to do, without risking your genuine persona. She taught me that students can see right through it if you’re fake. I would spend hours sitting in her office with the door closed, chatting away. We quickly realized that we are very similar. Fast forward to today, and we text all the time. She texted me when Biden won the presidency, and we have a monthly Zoom call where we catch up. She taught with passion and reality.

Above: Me and Andrea

With all of this being said, I would like to take a minute to reflect. It speaks volumes that all of the most influential people in my life (besides my parents) have been my educators. It is why I do what I do. I can only hope to have such a lasting impact with my students. I want to teach with passion and love, but also critically. Students can be held to a high standard while still knowing that you love what you do, and only want them to succeed. This class has afforded me the tools that will allow me to do the same to my students.

The Trial and Error of Digital Pedagogy

Group post by Chris Clements, Austin Garren, Jazmin Jurkiewicz, Andrew Knight, Malle Schilling, and Brittany Shaughnessy

What do we mean by digital pedagogy?

Digital pedagogy presents a unique set of issues that one may not think of when first stepping foot in the classroom. Digital pedagogy hosts a myriad of definitions for different people. As with anything, digital pedagogy’s definition is situational–different disciplines could utilize digital pedagogy practices in unique ways. For us, digital pedagogy is where teaching practice and teaching philosophy intersect (Stommel, 2013), and the use of technology enhances the teaching and learning experience in our classrooms. Digital pedagogy can range from the utilization of laptops and phones to interact with a group assignment, or even responding to live polls regarding trivia or course content to engage all learners. It is vital to note the difference between digital pedagogy and online learning. Whereas online learning denotes the environment in which students and instructors interact, digital pedagogy focuses on the tools used to generate interaction and promote learning. It requires instructors to respond in real-time to their students noting engagement, adjusting as needed, and reflecting on what works and why.  

 

Students are able to shape the online learning experience and pedagogical philosophy by working with the instructor in real time to develop the most engaging and helpful class activities and assignments. Learning on the fly provides students with significant opportunities to give feedback and hopefully participate more in class that is based on their needs and interests. We believe that online pedagogy is constantly evolving to the students just like technology is constantly evolving and changing to the world’s demands. Furthermore, digital pedagogy is flexible and hopefully works toward including all students to have more confidence participating in more unique ways, such as through the chat, anonymous surveys, polls and comfort of being in their home space. If digital pedagogy is made for students to be more involved in class and feel supported, we believe that digital learning can be more interactive lead to greater student growth!

 

One important aspect that also needs to be considered when thinking about the different types of technology to incorporate into the classroom is the instructor’s style of teaching. Some forms, such as online games, are meant to be fun for both the students and the teacher. However, some teachers prefer to convey a more serious or informational tone in the classroom. For this type of teacher, trying to conduct a game when they are not completely comfortable with that style of teaching may come across as insincere or even simply boring for everyone involved. Similarly, in some classes, games may not be appropriate for the topic being discussed or a competitive aspect may not encourage all students to participate. With the rapid adjustment to online learning, many instructors had no formal introduction to digital tools and their adaptation to digital pedagogy has been done on an individual basis in addition to changing course material and content to fit the new teaching format.

 

We have discussed the trial and error aspect of digital pedagogy in the sense that teachers may have been thrust into the digital platform of teaching during this Covid-19 pandemic and have to ‘learn on the fly’ what works for both the teachers and the students. Three of us teach public speaking, with forty students in each section. In March, like every other faculty member in the United States, we had to take a public speaking course and move it online. Granted, this was an easier task than most, as the course was already using a hybrid model, but there was a lot of trial and error involved. Before we had started teaching after “second spring break,” we had a meeting that lasted all afternoon, brainstorming how we could keep students engaged when we were having a tough time engaging ourselves. I’m not sure if we ever found a “best practice” last semester, as it was trying to make the best of the worst possible situation. This semester, it looks like each of us have crafted our own digital pedagogy practices, each providing our own voice and teaching style to the online classroom. 

 

References

Stommel, J. (2013). Decoding digital pedagogy pt. 2: (Un)mapping the terrain. Hybrid Pedagogy. https://hybridpedagogy.org/decoding-digital-pedagogy-pt-2-unmapping-the-terrain/

Communication: A Haven for Case-Based Learning

In continuing my quest to show people how vast the communication discipline is, I present case-based learning. Before I start, it should be noted that not all communication classes use case-based learning, and sometimes it is not appropriate. However, even communication undergraduate studies are not centered around memorization and tests, but rather focus on how the student can apply this knowledge to the real world. As with any discipline, at times it can get theoretical, but there is always a silver lining: communication theory is typically applicable in real life, and not bogged down in molecular jargon. With this being said, I understand that sometimes the hard sciences require memorization. My boyfriend is an aerospace engineering PhD student and had a three-question test this weekend that took him the entire time. Without memorization, the test would not have been possible. On the other hand, I usually spend the last two weeks of every semester writing around 90 pages for my classes. I don’t even know what would happen if he was tasked with writing that much.

Case-based learning is just that–a case-by-case basis approach to learning. It is getting students to see how your content can be applicable to not only their life, but to situations that have (or have not) occurred in reality. In communication, it is not difficult to pull communication theories into reality and make your students realize their utility. This is especially easy because many communication theories are founded in reality, based off of real phenomona. Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that these are just theories, and none of them can be “proven.” Instad, they can be explained by using real-world examples:

Agenda Setting Theory

Defined (roughly): The news media set the public agenda for what is important in the public eye. “The media do not tell you what to think, but rather what to think about” (McCombs & Shaw, 1972).

Case example: The Vietnam War was the first time that the media’s opinion differed from what the government was saying. The United States government was stating the the United States was winning the conflict, and that is why they had to stay deployed. Meanwhile, Walter Cronkite and the media interviewed soldiers on the ground, that stated they did not know what they were fighting for. This all came to fruition with the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which stated that the government knew the United States did not have a chance at winning. This media coverage set lots of public agendas, but most saliently the agenda that the United States should not be in the Vietnam War. The public listened.

Framing Theory 

Defined (roughly):  An application of the media’s gatekeeping (choosing what the public reads in a news article) power — the power to take tidbits of information and make them newsworthy, spinning a story in a direction that makes them stand out from other news organizations (Shoemaker & Vos, 2014). When there is a breaking news story, there is often more information available than a journalist is able to publish, forcing them to focus on one aspect of the story and tell the story through that lens.

Case example: Following a mass shooting, journalists often pick one frame to write a news story about. For instance, this frame can be a gun control frame (e.g. this shooting would not have happened if the perpetrator did not have access to guns), a video game frame (e.g. this shooting happened becuase the perpetrator played violent video games), a familial frame (e.g. the perpetrator had a tough childhood, leading him to commit this crime), etc. If you were teaching a communication theory class, you could ask students what they would do if they were the journalist in this position. Maybe don’t pick such a violent topic–I only chose it because it is my research area.

Expectancy Violations Theory 

Defined (roughly): In all interactions, whether interpersonal or with technology, people have expectations for how it will go. These interactions can end in one of two ways: your expectation is met, and leaving you satisfied, or your expectations can be violated, often leaving you frustrated.

Case example: John and Heather are on their first date after meeting online. John and Heather have been texting for several weeks before meeting, and think that they have a good grasp on each other’s persona. Upon meeting, John realizes that Heather has a very aggressive personality–one that was not expressed through initial text messages. John’s expectations were violated, and there was no second date.

I could go on, but it is evident that there are many different case-based approaches to teaching communication theory. Communication does not stop at theories, but the entire discipline derives from reality, which I think is pretty neat.

In the communication classroom, especially the graduate communication classroom, there is rarely a day that goes by without a case applied to the topic at hand. I distinictly remember my undergraduate media effects class, where the class was always enthralled with what the professor had to say. Although we were learning theory and other phenomena, all of the concepts were applicable to the real-world, with constant examples played in class.

I can get behind case-based learning, as I have seen it’s potential unfold in not only classes I have taken, but classes that I teach. I agree with Foran (2001) from the University of Michigan case-based teaching page: case-based learning increases student engagement by miles.

References

Foran, J. (2001). The case method and the interactive classroom. The NEA Higher Education Journal, 17(1), 41-50.

McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 176-187.

Shoemaker, P. J., & Vos, T. P. (2014). Chapter 6: Media gatekeeping. In D. Stacks & M. Salwen (eds.), An integrated approach to communication theory and research. Taylor & Francis Group.

Inclusive Teaching: Sometimes you need to have that challenging conversation

For this week, we are focusing on inclusive teaching and how to make every student feel comfortable in your classroom. To me, inclusive teaching means that every student of mine feels comfortable participating in class, standing in front of the class to give a speech, and feels comfortable to sit in my class knowing that they are safe. Most professors I have had go to great lengths to ensure that the classroom is an inclusive environment, even when faced with a challenging situation.

Sometimes, you need to have the tough conversation.

In the communication field, a large portion of research examines race, gender, representation, and communication amongst different cultures. Our graduate classes are small, and are no bigger than 16 people usually. We call them graduate seminars, and spend most of our class time discussing the readings and answering some discussion questions. Often, these discussions tackle challenging and largely controversial topics that are not typically discussed in the classroom. Our seminars are filled with “tough conversations.” Last fall, we were each sharing a life-changing event, and the class ended with many of us in tears.

The tough conversation often yields a better understanding of not only your peers, but also the topic of discussion.

After the video on microaggressions, I realized that a woman’s life is filled with mircoaggressions. As a woman myself for 22 years now, I did not even realize what a mircoaggression against women was. This prompted me to look it up, and took me to this article from The Way Women Work, describing several different kinds of microaggressions that women can experience in the workplace.

The first that they stated was calling a woman a nickname. If we are being completely honest, I thought that this was my own pet peeve that I always hated when men called me “sweetheart,” “honey,” “darling.” The second was that men are often described as “young and promising,” when women are often described as “young and inexperience.” I remember reading somewhere that a woman will not apply to any job that she feels she is the least bit unqualified for, and a man will apply to jobs that he feels he is remotely qualified for. Maybe this is a result of the way that we describe young woman as compared to how we describe young men? The other microaggression that stood out to me was men superiors getting in a woman’s personal space without permission. I once had a boss that would constantly lean over my shoulder and rest his chin on my shoulder, which would make me very uncomfortable.

These may be instances in the workplace, but it is imperative to be mindful of these microaggressions when teaching in the classroom as well. Students from all walks of life are going to be walking into your classroom, and you must be prepred for any lived experience a student can carry, as well as the unlived experience that a student has. A student with no similar lived experience can sometimes cause more damage than a student that has experienced many microaggressions.

In undergrad, I was in a women in American politics course. It was a class of 20 women and three men, and two of the men hardly spoke. The one man that spoke felt that it was necessary to state…aggressions, not even microaggressions at the class against women. And he had a girlfriend. The professor would listen to his opinion, then open it up to the class, where he would get it handed to him daily. I cannot imagine that every woman in the class was able to brush off his comments, though, and sometimes they cut deep.

As a teacher,  it is imperative to consider that your actions have consequences–even the smallest thing you do. Homero put it best a few weeks ago, when he stated that someone in your classroom is always looking up to you. You are always a role model. The inclusive classroom is yours to make.

 

Discovering my Authentic Teaching Self

For this week’s blog post, we were to take a look at what we think is our authentic teaching self. I have spent the week pondering this question, as I have found that my authentic teaching self is something that I pride myself on. It took me a long time to find my authentic teaching self, and I am glad on where I have landed so far. With that being said, I am cognizant of the fact that teachers are learning just as much as their students, and that each day can present a new challenge. I find for me, staying true to my authentic real-life persona is the best way for me to teach my students and develop a connection with them. Deel’s notion of remaining true to yourself reigns true to me, and is imperative in creating meaningful relationships.

To start this blog post, it is appropriate to begin at the start of my teaching, where I was sitting in training. We were going over what it means to be friends versus friendly with your students, how to make your personality shine through without being overbearing, and allowing your students to feel comfortable around you without thinking you are a pushover. I was immediately faced with a predicament: I am a tough personality to like if you do not take the chance to get to know me. I was suddenly faced with so many fears I had not had before: How would I get my students to like me? Would it matter at all if they liked me? Is it better to be feared than loved? What are the repercussions of maintaining your personality in the classroom?

The truth is, the answers to these questions did not come until I was face-to-face with my students in my classroom. There is something to be said about the feeling of 40 pairs of eyes staring back at you, simply wanting to learn. My personality was not something that was shoved to the side, but was rather secondary compared to my ultimate mission of getting the students the information that they needed to succeed in the course. In my experience, I stepped into my classroom on the very first day and knew that it was what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. Granted, I understand that not everyone feels that way. For some, teaching is a “side hustle” that is required for you to conduct your research.

Following the first day of class, I thought that my teaching persona would be set in stone–each day, I would come in and be the same person that I was before. Fast forward to my second year of teaching, and I have realized that some days are harder than others.

Just today, I had to have a tough one-on-one conversation with a student of mine. The student had been logging into Zoom meetings, but would turn off their camera and walk away from the computer, not paying attention to the class. Today, the student was asked to participate in an in-class activity, and they stated that they “had not been paying attention this whole time, and did not know what was going on for this entire unit,” and asked if I could explain what this speech was supposed to be about, which had been reiterated many times throughout this week. Recorded lectures were also posted as well as PowerPoints. When considering your true authentic teaching self, this was a very challenging position to be put in. As for my teaching persona, I pride myself on keeping a very nonchalant environment in class while also maintaining my authority. I definitely did not want to lose my mind on this student, but also wanted other students to know that this was not okay. My official response was asking him to stay after class, and to be the last one that was left on the Zoom call. Once there, I told him that if he was not going to be attentive in class and constantly be distracted, there was no need for him to come to class. He followed this up by asking if I did not want him there, which I found baffling. His attendance in my class does not effect my grades, nor does it make me lose sleep at night. Nonetheless, as a teacher, I want him to learn the material, and understand that not everything boils down to a grade for me. We ended the conversation on good terms.

As a teacher, professor, or any other mentor, you are constantly faced with challenging decisions. Sometimes, these decisions come down to the question: “What is my authentic teaching self?” Sometimes, this question requires you to dig deep not only into your teaching self, but into who you are as a human being. For me, I am a human being with empathy, humor, a work ethic, and compassion. It is imperative that I show all aspects of myself in the classroom, to create meaningful relationships with my students. You never know who is looking up to you, no matter how little you feel your decisions matter. One small decision on your behalf could inspire a student to make a life-altering decision.