In the past few years, I have actively practiced, improved and grown in my ability to teach. The five areas that best describe me as a teacher are enthusiasm, communication, practical approaches, clarity and a high regard for students.
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Enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious. Digital graphics, Web design, or a core class for basic computer skills are all exciting. I want students to feel my enthusiasm and commitment and apply it in their own work. I try to create excitement for the subject matter by giving students choices and options and by using a variety of teaching methods for the many learning styles and the diverse student population. YouTube videos, PodCasts, Google+, interactive Camtasia lectures, written tutorials (see example -2.3 MB), hands-on projects to demonstrate learned skills, PowerPoints, discussion forums, Google docs (see example), screencast, Voki (see example), and social media (@GRCCphotoshop andWeb Design on Facebook, and Celly)are used to help engage and reach the wide range of different learners. I am always well prepared for class and knowledgeable in the subject. Students and peers often comment on my enthusiasm, preparedness, and subject knowledge. My hope is that my enthusiasm will inspire students. I sometimes present the highlights early in a course so that students become excited about the material too and will want to continue the journey on their own.
In an effort to encourage discussion, I am always available to students; virtual office with Blackboard Instant Messaging, discussion forums, email, video (when I helped pilot Bb Collaborate), Google+ hangouts, Google interactive calendar so they can find me on campus, and cell phone. IM, forums, and email automatically forward to my smartphone so that we are constantly connected and I can provide a prompt response. Student course feedback is encouraged at any time during the semester. For all courses, I let the students know that the Student Feedback discussion forum option is set to “anonymous” to encourage honest feedback. I value this feedback and consider it an opportunity to continuously improve the course.
I believe many of our students at GRCC are hands-on and interested in practical approaches to the subject area. I’ll often include examples from my experiences creating graphics and Web sites. Using real-life examples makes the concepts I teach more readily understandable and relevant. Many of my courses require the students to demonstrate the culmination of learned skills with a final project reflecting real-life skills. For example, in my Advanced Photoshop course, Web design students are required to create a Photoshop Web page mock up for planning a site, slice the mock up, and create optimized Web graphics. Most of the materials to learn the skills to create a mockup are not in the textbooks; I developed these based on my own experience.
Clarity is a theme woven in all my thirteen courses I have taught at GRCC. My expectations are made clear from the first day; what students can expect from me and what I expect from them. Rubrics (see example and screen reader friendly example 292 KB) are provided so that grading is clear, lectures begin with an outline of what will be covered (and key points summarized throughout), due dates are provided in a calendar and View Grades in Blackboard, and a clear syllabus (see example 155 KB). To keep concepts clear, I prefer simplification in order to enable my students to approach them; and also relate the concepts to the real-world.
High Regard for Students
It is the responsibility of faculty to create a learning environment and teach in a way that allows all students to succeed; regardless of culture, experience, background, age, learning styles and more. I have a high regard for students and feel it is important that they have the best possible college learning experience. This high regard is what motivates me to go above and beyond when developing lectures and Blackboard courses. For example, when I learned that I had a visually impaired student in one of my classes in Fall 2012, I consulted with faculty in my department, contacted the University of Central Florida, reconnected with a disability expert at the University of Tennessee, completed extensive research, and finally, invited the student to test the Blackboard course and provide feedback three weeks before the semester began. When the student told me that my course materials and documents were not only accessible, but easy to navigate with a screen reader, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment and truly happy for the student. I still remember “hearing her smile” over the phone when she easily navigated to exact locations of my long syllabus using the JAWS screen reader. I shared my accessibility knowledge in a faculty session I developed and presented, and also have it readily available online on my Web site and YouTube.