As it is central to my pedagogy, I am honored to be named a “First at LAS Faculty Fellow” in 2022-2023, working with the Center for Advancement in Teaching Excellence to improve my classes to be more equitable for first-generation students. In this program, I work with instructional designers to implement and test new approaches to a large, required course to reduce drop and failure rates and increase degree completion, then later impart this knowledge to other faculty through mentorship. Also aligning with my research and service alignments with open access, I was a recipient of an Open Educational Resources Award at UIC for designing courses without textbook costs, which helps to increase student success.
Telling students how to think is often counterproductive, so students need to explore these complex ideas and come to conclusions themselves. I engage students with techniques based on reflective questions and critical engagement. I believe failure is one of the most important aspects of learning, and so I give students space to fail, especially when trying new things. I encourage them to celebrate failure and reflect on it. The classroom is a space where students can try new ideas, try new approaches, and learn new things. I use “universal design” to allow accessibility for all types of learning and ability, which engage both low-stakes assignments and earlier higher-stakes assignments allowing for feedback and encouragement.
I try to “flip” the classroom in all my classes, engaging the students around the material and how it personally affects them. I believe that critical engagement cannot be forced, and classes are there to help mediate and guide students to their conclusions. Along with my research, my favorite tool to engage students with is Wikipedia. Students learn to understand and combat systemic biases and increase critical information literacy. Wikipedia forces students to participate in “public” writing, which my research has suggested is motivating to students and a key motivator to success. My students have participated in major public writing exercises, authoring Wikipedia articles on important Chicago community projects and nonprofits such as My Block, My Hood, My City, The Dreamcatcher Foundation, Dreams for Kids, One Tail at a Time, Rebuild Foundation, Urban Growers Collective, Hope for the Day, PAWS Chicago, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Chicago Cares, GirlForward, Open Books, The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, and One Million Degrees, among others. Additionally, my students significantly improved the Greater Chicago Food Depository articles and those of Life After Hate, Howard Brown Health, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the Alzheimer’s Association.
There remains ample room within teaching technology and digital media to bring in lessons around systemic biases, digital literacy, epistemology, and cultural production, helping to weave a more holistic understanding of our digitally mediated culture. These lessons run throughout all my courses, as they ask students to critically engage with a complex mediated world where truth is negotiated, and meaning is determined by numerous forces.