Using a variety of technological tools, my pedagogy encourages students to develop critical and creative skills as well as intellectual independence. I run a paperless classroom using Moodle (learning management system). Through Moodle, I provide detailed syllabi that feature information on the course (texts, rubrics, assignments, due dates, reading schedules and policies governing the course), grade attendance, compute grades and house discussion and peer-review forums. In order to maximize student success and independence and articulate high standards, I used a variety of strategies.
Embedding images, audio and video as well as links to such material allows me to supplement my instruction of various texts and the contexts that surround them. I also instruct students on the proper use and citation of such material for their own research. In Satire in African American Literature, I use an illustration from Arthur Beardsley and Oscar Wilde’s illustrated Salome to give a visual reference to the idea of fin-de-siècle decadence. Wallace Thurman uses this very idea of decadence to characterize Harlem Renaissance writers in Infants of the Spring. This strategy is particularly useful in interdisciplinary courses like American Studies at the Millennium, where I used the editorial cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel to highlight the cultural construction of the racial identity of blacks, whites and the Japanese against the global backdrop of World War II. Students can always access such images for tests or later research.
Guided by the contextualization of “texts” with multiple cultures and histories, I use a comparative approach that allow students to use multiple modes of analysis. Frequently, I pair readings so that students can get more than one point of view on a text. In my ENG 238 African American Literature to 1945 course, students post commentary and hyperlinks to Internet material that relate to the day’s reading, linking their understanding of early African American literature with contemporary issues.
I also endeavor to choose challenging critical texts for students and encourage them to use them as a basis for pursuing their own interests using databases and the Internet. In my College Writing course, students read selections from World of Ideas, which features foundational texts from philosophers, writers, economists, and scientists. They also trace the use of these ideas on a blog they choose to follow for the duration of the semester. In my ENG 370 The Atlantic World course, I supplement primary textual and visual sources from the 15th-19th centuries with a range of articles from Journal of World History and American Literary History, which students access using one of several academic databases.
Many of my classes are discussion-based, allowing students the opportunity to critically engage the ideas of others in the class. My discussions reflect high quality in that I was often able to get students to engage even controversial topics. Such discussions utilize tools such as the forum in Moodle to foster student participation. These discussions are also saved, which means students can access them at a later date to prepare for tests.
I use technology to encourage students to participate in the course. In my Science Fiction course, I supplement small group work by providing space in Moodle for them to post the results of their discussion for later access. The discussion work by these small groups is based on discussion prompts posted by fellow classmates. By posting both the prompt and the answer based on collaboration, all students benefit from the work of small groups. This also works well for peer review.