It is not enough, I believe, for students to memorize information about computers, the Internet, and digital media. Such data and capabilities are important first steps, but they are not in themselves sufficient. My pedagogy aims to move students beyond this point, developing sophisticated skills in critical thinking and information literacy, productive collaboration, and creative problem solving. This approach, which is both content and skills oriented, is essential for educating critically engaged scholars and technology professionals for lifelong success in the twenty-first century.
Presidential Teaching Professor Award Video
Produced by Jennifer Howard - NIU Media Services
As Assistant Professor of Communication at Carthage College, I introduced, designed, and taught seven new courses in communication, providing students with instruction in media literacy, communication technology, and media production. I also participated in the college's core curriculum, teaching all four sections of the Heritage Studies courses and developing several Heritage Modules for adult students. I have also taught introductory course in philosophy at DePaul University and graduate seminars in Robot Ethics and Environmental Ethics at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw,Poland.
My teaching and scholarship complement each other. My approach to education and teaching goals are, therefore, informed by this synergistic relationship. In particular, my pedagogy aims to develop a form of interactive and collaborative learning that, like my research, does not adhere to transmission models of communication and instruction. This approach, which is both content and skills oriented, is, I believe, essential for educating critically engaged scholars and technology professionals for lifelong success in the twenty-first century.
One of the principal assumptions underlying the development and implementation of information and communication technology, like computers and the Internet, is the conventional understanding of communication as a form of information transfer. According to this model, initially presented in the middle of the last century, communication is a process by which a sender transmits data to a receiver who remains essentially passive and receptive. This conceptualization is commensurate with a model of education that understands the learner to be a passive receiver of information that is dispensed by an expert instructor. Just as my research aims to critique this formulation in theory, my pedagogy works against this model in practice. I therefore approach teaching as a collaborative transaction in which instruction is not simply delivered by the teacher but is co-created by both teacher and students. This method of education places emphasizes not on expert knowledge and its transmission but on critically engaged dialogue that encourages and supports individual curiosity, productive experimentation, thoughtful questioning, and shared discovery. For this reason, I see my primary role in the classroom to be that of a model learner, who demonstrates to students in both word and deed the strategies and techniques that are necessary for critical inquiry, informed problem solving, and successful learning. This approach to education, which is rooted in the Socratic tradition, not only provides students with necessary information and cognitive skills but demonstrates and encourages participation in effective lifelong learning practices that will serve them well both within and beyond the walls of the university classroom.
Clearly one cannot pursue this kind of education by way of standard academic lectures, prefabricated textbook exercises, and multiple-choice examinations. Instead I employ a variety of pedagogical strategies and teaching tools to construct a classroom environment that is clear about operations and procedures, rigorous in its approach to the material, explicit in its methods of evaluation and grading, and, perhaps most importantly, supportive of individual inquiry within the context of a vibrant learning community. All my courses are articulated and structured in such a way that students know, from day one, exactly what material will be covered and why, what is expected of them in terms of classroom conduct and their own work, and what they can expect from me. My method of instruction, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, is organized around student-centered presentations of course material, research and creative projects that encourage participants to collaborate with each other and with individuals and organizations outside the university, and writing and assessment activities that challenge students to synthesize theoretical knowledge with practical experience and skills. This approach to learning is particularly important in courses addressing new media and technology. It is not enough, I believe, for students to memorize information about computers, the Internet, and digital technology. Such data and capabilities are important first steps, but they are not in themselves sufficient. My pedagogy aims to move students beyond this point, developing sophisticated skills in critical thinking and information literacy, productive collaboration, and creative problem solving. This is, I believe, what a quality university education is all about—the cultivation of engaged critical thinkers who can ask the right questions and make connections between recent innovation and the complex social, historical, political, and cultural contexts in which they are situated.
In summary, my approach to teaching and student learning can be illustrated by redeploying a rather well-known parable: "If you give someone a loaf of bread, s/he eats for a week. If you show that same person how to bake bread, s/he eats for a lifetime." In my experience, effective higher education is not about providing students with prefabricated information, intellectual sound bites, and accepted factual data. Instead it is about showing students how to become enthusiastic and successful lifelong learners. This involves, I have found, an active engagement with students that demonstrates how to ask the right questions, how to identify and critique the myriad of assumptions that already control debate and regulate current controversy, and how to adapt to and retool one's knowledge and skills for a changing and dynamic world. Consequently, my primary educational goal is not simply to provide my students with the right information and skills but to cultivate the development of engaged critical thinkers and creative problem solvers who are not satisfied to follow what has come before but are enthusiastic about and adequately prepared to lead.
This undergraduate, media production seminar introduces students to the basic technologies and techniques of web programming and design. The course focuses on the core technologies of web content development: hypertext markup language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). It also develops facility with interactive media design strategies for effective communication, provides instruction in web graphics and industry-standard graphics manipulation software like Adobe PhotoShop and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), and cultivates practical skills with project planning and management. Instruction is organized around three web projects--a personal site, a web-based information or training application, and e-commerce. In the process of completing these projects, students plan and develop actual working websites suitable for a professional portfolio, learn how to write and style content for web delivery, and achieve proficiency with web programming languages, Internet technology, and interactive media design practices.
This undergraduate seminar addresses recent innovations in computer-mediated communication (CMC), providing students with the following: 1) Critical overview of the significant technological developments in computers, digital media, data networks, and information systems. 2) Facility with the important questions, issues, and problems that shape contemporary debates and conversations about CMC. 3) Knowledge of the influential individuals and organizations that define the field and help shape our increasingly technologically dependent society. In the process, students not only investigate recent innovations in communication technology but develop proficiency with the literature, history, major theories, and important practices of CMC. The objective of the course is to cultivate informed, critical citizens and decision makers, who are confident dealing with both current and future technologies.
This seminar addresses advanced technologies and techniques for developing interactive multimedia. The course addresses client and server side scripting languages for creating dynamic web pages and database driven content. Students will learn and become proficient with web development tools, interactive program methodologies, user interface design, and critical problem solving. Course instruction is comprised of instructor-lead demonstrations followed by student practice and discussion. Student learning and achievement is evaluated on the basis of two web projects. The projects require students to apply one or more web development tools for the production of interactive programs, which are created in conjunction with a client or content provider. Completed projects will be uploaded to the student web server and will be presented to the class during scheduled critique sessions. This advanced course in interactive multimedia and web development presupposes the following computer skills: basic understanding of the Windows and UNIX/LINUX operating systems; experience writing web pages in HTML (versions 4 and 5) and CSS; practical knowledge of application software like PhotoShop, GIMP, and PowerPoint; and facility with the Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Internet Explorer web clients. For this reason, the course has the prerequisite of COMS 359 or instructor's permission.
This undergraduate seminar investigates the important points of contact between artificial intelligence (AI), social robotics and communication, providing students with the following: 1) Critical overview of the significant technological developments in AI, robots, algorithms, and autonomous systems. 2) Facility with the important questions, issues, and problems that shape contemporary debates and conversations about AI and robotics. 3) Knowledge of the influential individuals and organizations that define the field and help shape our increasingly technologically dependent society. In the process, students not only investigate recent innovations in AI, robotics and communication but develop proficiency with the literature, history, major theories, and important practices of work in this field. The objective of the course is to cultivate informed, critical citizens and decision makers, who are confident dealing with both current and future technological innovation.
This graduate seminar addresses recent innovations in information and communication technology (ICT), providing students with the following: 1) Critical overview of the significant technological developments in computers, data networks, information systems, and artificial intelligence. 2) Facility with the important questions, issues, and problems that shape contemporary debates and conversations about communication technology. 3) Knowledge of the influential individuals, organizations, and research programs that define the field. In the process, students not only examine recent developments in technology and gain familiarity with the literature of ICT scholarship but actively participate in the field by producing original research projects suitable for the MA thesis, presentation at an academic conference, and/or publication in a scholarly journal. The objective of the course, therefore, is to cultivate informed, critical citizens and decision makers, who are confident dealing with current and future technological innovation.
This seminar addresses the technologies and techniques of video production for education and training. The course considers instructional methodologies, critical pedagogy, and content design for both traditional (linear) and interactive (non-linear) video programs. Seminar members will practice critical reading of instructional media and training programs, examining content design, presentation methodology, and general effectiveness. They will engage in the production process, writing, producing and editing educational/training video programs in both tape and interactive formats. And they will cooperate to assess and to evaluate the design and effectiveness of each others work.
This seminar provides an introduction to the legal and ethical issues surrounding mediated communication. The course fosters both a functional and critical understanding of the legislative acts and juridical decisions that are most relevant to professionals in the field of communication. The seminar is topics oriented, engaging seminar members in an examination of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, libel, privacy, obscenity, and electronic media regulation. Instruction is interactive and achievement is evaluated through examinations.
This practicum concerns scriptwriting for non-broadcast media, which includes but is not limited to corporate training, employee orientation, public service, public relations, corporate image, and product demonstration. The course considers content design and presentation methods for both traditional formats (film and video) and interactive systems (multimedia CD-ROM, web pages, etc.). Seminar members will practice critical reading of corporate media programs, examining content design, presentation methodology, and general effectiveness. They will engage in the scriptwriting process, producing video and multimedia scripts for specific clients and objectives. And they will gain practical experience with client relations and project presentations.
One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Although initially limited to "other men," the practice of ethics has developed in such a way that it continually challenges its own restrictions and comes to encompass what had been previously excluded individuals and groups--foreigners, women, animals, and even the environment. Currently, we stand on the verge of another, fundamental challenge to moral thinking. This challenge comes from the autonomous, intelligent machines of our own making, and it puts into question many deep-seated assumptions about who or what constitutes a moral subject. This seminar engages students in a critical examination of state-of-the-art thinking in technology and ethics. The course is primarily organized around the reading of seminal texts in the field in order to provide students with a survey of the relevant literature on this subject and the basic knowledge and skills to engage effectively in the debates concerning this new development in moral thinking.
The field of environmental ethics emerged during the later-part of the 20th century and initiated a revolution in moral thinking by inquiring into the moral status of the natural world and non-human entities. This innovation in moral philosophy not only challenged the anthropocentric privilege that had persisted in ethics for over 2000 years but opened moral and legal consideration to other forms of "otherness." This seminar engages students in a critical examination of the opportunities and challenges of environmental ethics. The course is primarily organized around the reading of seminal texts in the field in order to provide students with a survey of the relevant literature on this subject, knowledge of the fundamental debates and controversies that shape its configuration, and familiarity with of state-of-the-art innovations in this relatively new field of philosophical inquiry.
An introduction to the theory and practice of argumentation and persuasion. Students learn and practice a wide range of approaches and methodologies by which to interpret, to assess and to produce effective communication.
This course fosters the development of critical reading and analytical skills with respect to media communication and popular culture. It affirms that the viewing and/or consumption of media does not constitute a passive endeavor but is a cultural activity for which each individual must take responsibility.
This course reflects on the historical deployment of different approaches to argument and persuasion and, at the same time, investigates the persuasive tactics employed in the very articulation of this history. The course begins with the classical era, proceeds through the medieval and modern periods, and ends with the recent rehabilitation of rhetoric in contemporary critical theory and literary criticism.
An examination of advanced information systems, cyberspace, and computer-mediated communication. Students not only learn methods and approaches for investigating and assessing the economic, social, philosophical, and political ramifications of information technology but also explore this technology through practical engagements with computer-mediated communication systems (Internet, World Wide Web, CD-ROM, Virtual Reality, etc.) In this way, students learn and exercise the skills that will be necessary in order to be intelligent and active participants in the "age of information."
This course comprises a critical examination of the structure, significance and cultural politics of the technologies of communication. It takes a global perspective and considers whether the technologies of mass communication (i.e. print, radio, cinema, television, and networked computer systems) reflect or direct cultures.
This course explores the common bond between communication and communities--a bond that lies in the very concept of commonality itself. In particular, it examines the cooperation and relationship between different communicative operations (language, writing, and online interaction) and the formation of distinct political organizations, cultural identities, and social matrixes.
This advanced undergraduate seminar introduces the methods and technologies of desk-top video and multimedia production. Seminar participants work in teams to design and to produce electronic media programs.
This first course in the Heritage sequence challenges students to reflect on the ideas, values and assumptions shaping their education in the West. Through sustained study of texts including Shakespeare's The Tempest and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Freud's Future of an Illusion, students confront questions about the nature and consequences of personal and cultural knowledge.
This seminar deepens the inquiries of Heritage I, challenging students to understand and respect cultural differences within and beyond the West. By studying the different perspectives Joseph Conrad and Chinua Achebe bring to colonialism, the different ways they look at the world, for example, students begin to see themselves and their own culture more clearly.
In this course students are challenged to make personal and intellectual sense of another culture. For 1994-1995, this seminar will focus on the cultures of Japan and India. Questions of individuality and community, tradition and innovation, rationality and spirituality, war and peace will be engaged. The course intends to foster cross-cultural and global thinking, understanding, and communicating.
In this course students study ideas, values and assumptions intrinsic to American cultures. Questions of individuality and community, difference and mutuality, memory and change are engaged. What does it mean to be an "American?" What are the challenges and benefits of a multicultural society?
This course takes the task of introduction seriously. It introduces the discipline of philosophy through a close examination of those texts in which philosophy has endeavored to introduce itself. We will read Plato's Apology, Rene Descartes' Meditations and the Prefaces and Introductions to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.