Week 12 (Critical Pedagogy)

This week’s readings talked about critical pedagogy and brought forth a lot of different ideas and thoughts. For me, especially, the readings hit home in the sense that they made me look at some different aspects of my own teaching that may or may not need to be changed. (Freire) spoke about the ‘banking system of learning’ and explained that this system, the idea of students being vessels for knowledge that the teacher is in charge of filling up, is used throughout higher education. Although I disagree with some of his writing, I can see where, with time and classroom constraints, this system can be beneficial to some students, and that needs to be understood by teachers as well.

This semester, we have talked a lot about changing the way higher education is taught and maybe changing our own teaching techniques to fit in with some of this semester’s readings and ideas. This week’s readings have shown me that, yes, higher education can use some changes and a contemporary pedagogy approach may be beneficial to higher education and set forth some ideas for change. However, there are some ways of teaching that do work for student in higher education. I am not saying to stick with the ‘old school’ lecture and test model for all classes and students. But I am saying that the old school system may work in some instances and for some students. I think that critical thinking is not only crucial in higher education but I would even say it is the point. I understand that the ‘lecture’ model may just be a way for students to memorize information and restate it on a test but there are some students, in specific classes, that think critically and ask questions to fill in gaps and can ‘get,’ understand, the material critically thinking. All I am saying is that some methods that have worked for ages may still work in today’s society, even with the inordinate amount of changes going on around us.

I think this class, contemporary pedagogy, is extremely beneficial in the way that it gives me ideas as to how to change my teaching. It allows my mind to open up and understand and accept how these changes can change my teaching style as well as my students learning. I can see amazing benefits to some of these changes. But, to be honest, I can also see benefits to the classical ways of teaching. Not everything needs changing. Knowing each student and how they learn and each class and how it can be taught is of extreme importance when trying to be the best teacher you can be. So, the knowledge this class has given me has made me ‘critically’ think about what changes I can and should make and what changes may not need to be made.

Digital Pedagogy (Group Post)

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/ 

Week 10 (Digital Pedagogy)

This week’s reading discussed digital pedagogy and the future of education that includes the digital world.  One of the most interesting aspects to me about the digital classroom is the accessibility aspect. The accessibility allows for students of different age groups and income groups to have access to a higher education. However, is this good for the future of education? Does the education and actual pedagogy suffer when classes and full degrees are moved to only digital platforms? Digital pedagogy is a process that is always changing. As the readings state not all teachers are adept in pedagogy and therefore are not adept in digital pedagogy. Being a newer concept, it is hard to master or even understand the fullness of digital pedagogy. It is a concept that teachers must learn as they go and see what works best for them, the teachers, and what works best for the students.

In my own experience, as a public speaking teacher, I have switched to online teaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic and have noticed several differences, even though the class is still structurally similar. I feel that it is more difficult to ‘connect’ with my students. It has taken me a semester and a half to figure out how to start connecting as I felt like I did in in-person classes. I mention this because of my earlier comments of how learning digital pedagogy is trial and error. I have used many different strategies to increase classroom engagement for a synchronous digital platform. I do not believe I have mastered it at all, but I do think that I am improving and I think that is what some of this week’s readings are describing, the trial and error aspect of a new king of pedagogy.

The last thing I would like to discuss are a couple of cons that digital learning brings and the ways that digital pedagogy can be utilized to improve these cons. For example, I feel that it is difficult to create a safe environment for all students in a digital class and I feel that adapting your teaching style with this in mind would be and is beneficial. From experience, I think that putting yourself out there and understanding that students will follow your lead is a strategy that can be used to try to turn this con into a pro for your individual class. It is obvious that digital learning is here to stay and for right now is almost the norm. Knowing this, teachers need to understand the positives and negatives of this relatively new teaching platform and incorporate a different kind of pedagogy.

Week 8 (Problem (Case)-Based Pedagogy)

The idea problem-based pedagogy (PBL) is an idea that needs to be practiced more in all rungs of education. PBL has been described as a learning style that utilizes real world problems and solutions as teaching tools. For example if a teacher wanted to teach a student about engineering, a real world problem such as overflowing levees in New Orleans or a weak bridge over the New York Harbor may be introduced as a starting point for the students to examine and try to find an engineering solution for. I do say students, (plural), because I believe, along with others, that PBL is at its best when students are asked to work together in order to solve certain real world problems. PBL is a way to teach, train, and mold minds to interpret, analyze, and solve real world problems.

I do want to add a personal note to this post about PBL. I was a bartender in Blacksburg for 15 years prior to returning to Virginia Tech to earn a degree in Communications. I saw student after student come into the bar and seemingly have no idea of how things work. Students using parent’s credit cards, students not knowing what running a tab meant, and even students not being able to add tips to tabs (or not even knowing what a tip was). These students who were probably as ‘book smart’ as they come could not maneuver through simple real world tasks. This is where I believe PBL can and does add value to education. What good is it if you can memorize the pages of a book or a map or a theory, if you can not start your own bank account, pay rent on time, or understand how to turn on power to your house. PBL adds a dimension to education that can not be learned through just books and theories.

PBL learning can increase the participation of students in classrooms, build skills that are practical for the real world, help students to learn cooperation, and expose students to life outside of the school walls. A major component that is missing with education, from the early years onto college, is the skill of critical thinking. Critical thinking is a crucial asset that needs to be possessed by any student that is seeking employment after college. PBL creates and helps to maintain critical thinking in students no matter what level of education. PBL, when practiced effectively, can add depth to any student’s education. A depth that will only be beneficial in the long run.

Week 6 (Inclusive Pedagogy)

Teaching is not an easy task to master. I think that many people outside of teaching believe that teaching is easy and that anyone can do it. This may be true, but not just anyone can teach well. There are many things going through a teacher’s mind while they are teaching. Did I make my slide correctly? Are my student’s understanding what I am trying to teach them? Did I mention what homework is due? Is there learning happening in my class room?

Before class last week and before this week’s readings, I am not sure that inclusion was at the forefront of my thoughts. However, after our class discussion and the readings, I feel that a ‘seed’ has been planted in my head. Possibly, that is all I need, a seed that can grow and blossom. I would like to think that I, as a teacher, have been throughout my career, inclusive to all students. I am sure that there are students that would agree with me and probably some that would not agree. We all have certain biases ingrained in ourselves that have been grown there through our experiences. These readings have allowed me to acknowledge the fact that these biases exist and that there are things I can do, as a teacher, to not let them affect my teaching.

I want learning to be the number one priority of my students when they are sitting in my class. I realize, through the readings, that in order for that to be the case, I need to foster a safe environment for all of my students, not just some. This is easier said than done. Like I said before we have all been brought up and raised with certain biases and these biases produce ways of doing things that may not always be inclusive. This week’s readings have made me think a lot about micro-aggressions I may be exhibiting while teaching and about some of the examples I may be sharing while teaching. And I think that ‘seed’ that I referenced earlier can blossom into more clear thought as to how to include all students and create a space of safe learning for anyone who takes my class.

Like I said, although it may be easy to be a teacher, it is definitely not easy to be a good teacher. But classes like this one that give you a glimpse of other things to think about can only help in growing my acknowledgement and knowledge of ways to create safe environments for learning, which should be the goal of any teacher.

Week 4 (Teaching Style)

This is my start of my second year teaching Public Speaking at the School of Communications at Virginia Tech. I have learned many things in the first year both about teaching and about myself. I have realized that there are many important parts to being an effective teacher. For instance, preparation, approachability, and overall, even detailed, understanding and knowledge of the subject matter are all things that go into creating a successful teacher and therefore, creating successful learners.  I have come to understand that a teacher, well at least me as a teacher, needs to find a balance between these factors and other teaching attributes like fairness, accountability, and even fun. Although it is not easy to balance these factors, experience and common sense play a big role an allowing me, as a teacher to find a way to come up with a ‘formula’ that works for me as an individual. Over the last year, teaching with my colleagues, I have realized that there is no ‘cookie cutter’ format that denotes a good teacher.

After reading Sarah Deel’s musings on her struggles and accomplishments in her own graduate school teaching years, it dawned on me that teaching is not easy for anybody. I feel, like Deel, that a person’s teaching style must reflect that person’s individual qualities and can not be put into a ‘How to be a good teacher” box. Deel explains her struggles with finding her voice as a teacher when all she had to look up to was past teachers and professors that she had experienced as a student. The struggle of trying to emulate someone else’s teaching style was not working for her and will not work for a lot of new teachers.  I struggled my first year in finding my voice but learned that being myself and controlling what I can control took away most of my anxiety when teaching. I stopped worrying about the little stuff and looked at the big picture.

I believe the big picture is that the students learn. I don’t know if all teachers agree with this as a teaching philosophy but I, as a second year graduate student believe this to be the case. As we learned in Contemporary Pedagogy class, ‘learning’ has different meanings to different people but I believe that if a student can gain information for a teacher that will help that student in both his/her future schooling and future career, then a teacher did something right.

What I believe my teaching style boils down to, is a style that promotes learning where students feel safe and comfortable to be able to both learn and come to me with questions or concerns they are experiences in the class. I also believe that my teaching style is and always will be changing and hope that it changes for the better. I know that there will always be new experiences for me in my teaching career. I will learn innovative ways to present knowledge, novel ideas on how to connect with students, and new technologies for displaying materials but I feel that if I am open to changing and acknowledge that there is always room for improvement I will be a better teacher for it. Oh yeah, and always, always be myself.