At a very early age in my K-12 education, I was put in the learning impaired classes. I struggled profusely with handwriting. It was not revealed to me until one of my teachers in my elementary school put me in front of a computer and asked me to type out my thoughts that, beyond the lens of what constitutes traditional learning styles, I was capable of learning. I hold this very close to the core of my own teaching philosophy: different people learn differently. For me, learning has been an experiential process, with the knowledge that technologies can augment the process. I hold to this core philosophical belief that technology acts as an enhancement for the learning process; PowerPoint is a tool, but one of many tools, available to the instructor to engage students in the content.
As a lecturer in a university setting, I hold to the core value that critical thinking is among the most important abilities an education can instill in an individual. The ability to think critically spans all fields and disciplines, and stays with the individual for the duration of their life. I strive to instill this in my students by the virtue of the logic required for the technical classes that I have taught, as well as the virtue of the underlying concepts gained in conceptual classes. I strive to challenge the disengaged student in back row who has already been exposed to the content on their own by framing the content in a new light that would be relevant to their experiences. ‘Oh, so you learned object oriented design on your own? Here’s a challenge for you then: build a class that can automate your physics homework and explain it to your classmates,’ would be a conversation I have with this type of student. I seek out these students who already know the content and are taking the class for ‘an easy A,’ and challenge them to go above what they have demonstrated by asking them to teach it to their peers who may not be as ahead in the course content as themselves. This is core to my assessment of learning: can the student teach me?
The challenge of the disengaged student stems from a requirement to be in the lecture. For me, the natural way to approach this challenge is to put myself in that student’s shoes: what made me engaged in lectures that were mandatory? For example, what value does a philosophy requirement behoove an information systems major? The answer to this question comes from framing the content in a way that was relevant for my education: the instructor told me I was not being taught philosophy; I was being taught how to win an argument. All it took was that little bit of context to engage me in the class. This lesson holds true, from my experience, for all variety of students. To better engage any student, I seek out what they hope to gain from the class beyond the required grade component. The question I ask the easy-a student is what can I give them that is more valuable to them than the grade? The student more times than not answer this question with vigor, and I strive to fulfill my role as an arbiter of knowledge to grant that student the opportunity to learn.
In my lectures, I incorporate a variety of methods and technologies to engage students. Most prominently, and most acclaimed from my teaching reviews, is the utilization of screen capture software to record my lectures and upload them. This enables a student to review content should they miss a lecture or just need to hear the lecture again. This gives the student the real-time lecture in its natural context, all of the points that were addressed, and any questions the students may ask during the lecture; video and audio are both captured for the student to review, and for review sessions for tests, I reference timestamps and coordinate those timestamps with content from the textbook. The magic behind this technology is that it enables a diverse delivery mechanism for lecture content to a group of students with different learning styles. The auditory learner now has full audio from the lecture; the visual learner now has a video recording of whatever was presented that day; the hands-on learner now has a mechanism to ask questions in class and play and replay the video as well as coordinate that content with their textbook.
At its core, I love to learn, and I believe this is required for any great teacher. I get excited about learning, and I strive to convey that enthusiasm for learning in my lectures to my students. Whether that enthusiasm stems from showing students how to secure a network by hacking the network first, or a discussion around the applicability of Porter’s Five Forces in saturated markets, the key is to love what you do. I have known from the time that when it was first revealed to me that I can learn by typing on a computer instead of handwriting, that a student’s ability to learn is greatly enhanced from a good instructor and I strive to be that instructor.