Albert Einstein said, “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Similarly, I create a collaborative learning space where my students can explore the intersections of literature, rhetoric, critical thinking and technology. I am an accomplished and innovative educator with nearly a decade of experience teaching British, American, and World literature; freshman composition; and technical writing.
I use multimedia and technology to make literature from the past relevant and engaging for my students in the present. Living in America’s currently embattled political and social landscape, I chose to focus on the issues of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in my online American Literature since 1865 course at Tarrant County College Connect. My aim was the expose students to the way American authors have depicted and responded to our country’s long history of sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia. For example, I scheduled a week of “Black Stories Matter” referring to the Black Lives Matter movement, and had students read Reginald Betts’ poem on the death of Tamir Rice alongside Booker T. Washington’s, Up From Slavery, and the New York Times video “A Conversation on Growing Up Black” This combination of readings and multimedia allowed students to contextualize the current mistreatment of black people into a larger conversation about slavery and racial inequality. The response from students was largely positive and one student e-mailed me that he appreciated the course readings since he would not have sought out literature by writers of color before this class. To share their insights with fellow students and the public, students contributed to a class blog and experimented with multimedia in their posts.
During my time at UNT, I integrated digital projects into my literature students’ research and writing to prepare them for the future of scholarly engagement. In my Spring 2011 British Literature survey, I instructed my students to write a 3 to 5 page critical essay on a multimedia work by either Dante Gabriel Rossetti or William Blake using the William Blake or Rossetti Archives as a source.
To model what they would do in their critical essay, I used the William Blake Archive to show my students multiple versions of the engravings for Blake’s poem “The Chimney Sweeper” from Songs of Innocence (1789). We reflected on how the differences between each engraving affected our reading of the text. Students thought the Houghton Library’s 1789 black and white version of the engraving was ominous for a supposed song of innocence, while others felt the vibrant colors of the engraving’s later iterations temporarily masked the poem’s dire subject matter. Comparing engravings in the 1789 edition, the first printed version of Songs of Innocence, to later versions gave my students a valuable glimpse into Blake’s creative process.
I’ve used technology in the composition classroom to examine the new rhetorical modes that emerge when writers use networked spaces of digital communication. My Spring 2013 College Writing II class read Nicholas G. Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (2010), where the author argues that the internet’s overload of information compromises our ability to write and communicate because it leaves little room for us to reflect on the meaning of this information. I asked my students to use Twitter and WordPress to challenge Carr’s using the very mediums he was critiquing: blogs and social media. Additionally, the open accessibility of these tools allowed my students to engage in this rhetorical conversation with people and organizations outside the classroom. In addition to these weekly blog entries, students used Twitter to communicate with me and each other.
I used the TAGSExplorer Beta tool to archive their tweets and created an interactive visualization that showed students the connections they were making with their classmates. I also utilized Twitter’s character limit to teach the importance of concise writing, challenging my students to write a complete fable in the style of Aesop without exceeding 140 characters. Communicating via Twitter and weekly blog entries improved the connectivity between me and my students, increasing their overall success in the class, and underscoring the continued relevance of writing and rhetoric in a digital medium.
My dedication to improving pedagogy extends outside the classroom. I collaborated with Dr. Shari Childers to redesign a blended version of college writing I and II. A blended course is a hybrid of traditional-face-to face instruction and web-based learning. I contributed course module introductions, interactive Prezi presentations, quiz questions, and taught both courses, providing feedback to ensure their success. I also recently participated in the open peer-review process for Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, a curated collection of reusable and remixable pedagogical artifacts for humanities scholars edited by Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers.
For both writing and literature courses, I create a collaborative environment where my students use digital tools to discover new insights and outlets for intellectual growth and creativity. My knowledge of digital pedagogy and passion for teaching provide unique learning opportunities for students with a variety of learning styles, making my classes both engaging and transformative.
Dr. Laredo has helped me learn to appreciate literature through the texts and books readings she required us to complete as well as the assignments.
I learned a great deal about writing and the various cultures that make up our society. Interesting class.
Dr. Laredo is an outstanding instructor.