Teaching

In my teaching I have worked mostly with undergraduate informatics majors: technically savvy technology lovers who will likely become informaticians, programmers, and interaction designers. My goal in teaching is to challenge and enable them to take critical perspectives on digital technologies in order to see beyond the technical to their everyday social, political, and ethical implications.

One of my primary goals as a teacher is to provoke students to see digital technologies and associated media in new ways and from multiple and critical perspectives. One of the ways I do this is by addressing technologies that are part of their own everyday lives, and exploring ways in which these technologies shape the ways they live. I try to point to examples that will challenge their existing conceptual frameworks and engage their critical thinking, in the process perhaps helping them realize that their current assumptions may not be entirely adequate for understanding and dealing with the messy realities in which all technologies are embedded. Throughout my courses I want students to not only learn critical approaches in an esoteric way, but to actively use them in thinking about the role of technologies in their own lives, and society more generally. By the time they leave my courses I hope that they will have acquired new conceptual lenses that will enable them to see the social dimensions of technologies, as well as the technical; and that these will continue to inform their thinking as they go on to become technology professionals.

In addition to being an associate instructor for a number of Informatics courses, I have been the instructor of record for a 200-level social informatics course (twice), a 100-level summer topics course on informatics and computing (three times), and a 300-level course on media arts and technology (twice). The latter I also completely redesigned before teaching it the first time, most notably instituting a semester-long course project in which the students produce a digital artifact of their choosing, learning some sort of new technical skill along the way. The rationale for this is that, given the pace of technological development, technologies can quickly become outdated and technology professionals constantly need to be able to pick up new skills as needed. The main skill that students learn in this course is thus the skill of learning new skills, as well as project management, research, and production skills. This format has been quite popular with the students: they have the freedom to create things they love and learn technical skills they want to learn for course credit, and they also at the end have finished projects that can become part of their professional portfolios. The lecture component of the course deals with new media theory, which I emphasize as being practically relevant when living in and working with media. This is reinforced by a set of analytic papers the students write in which they apply the theory in looking critically at their projects.

Since one of the main outcomes that I want to achieve in my classes is critical thinking, most of the activities and assessments that I see as appropriate involve writing. Good writing is not just an outcome: it is first a process of careful thinking that has been captured in tangible form. In addition to more standard paper assignments, I have also used a class blog for the media arts and technology course mentioned above, where students post summaries and applications of the readings as assignments, as well as their final projects and peer critiques. (The blog is at mediaartsandtech.wordpress.com.)

While I am comfortable teaching courses like those mentioned above, I would also be able to teach courses dealing with digital theory, philosophy of technology, HCI design, and human-centered computing. I would also welcome the opportunity to teach interdisciplinary graduate-level courses related to my own work on the role of digital technologies in experience and society.