When I began teaching Spanish in the mid-1990s, if I wanted the students to read a newspaper, listen to a pop song or watch a video in Spanish, I had to bring the physical copy to class. This entailed lugging around bulky TV carts and wasting time cuing up the right moment on VHS cassettes; or maybe taking the portable CD player along with you (when that became more viable than the tape and vinyl); newspapers and magazines we collected on our travels were hopelessly out of date by the time we passed them around in our classrooms months later. I remember the excitement I felt when the front page of El país (Spain's major daily newspaper) slowly--oh so slowly--began to appear on my screen over dial-up connection in the early nineties. If I wanted my students to have this experience they would have to go wait in line to use a computer at the lab. No classroom was equipped with this technology, and you couldn't expect students to have it either... no tablets, no smart phones.
Fast-forward twenty years. The entire Spanish-speaking world--music, news, videos--is at our fingertips, in and out of the classroom, in real time. My Fellows project in 2016-17 encouraged me to create modules for students that incorporated this amazing level of access to Spanish-speaking communities. To provide just one example: I created a YouTube playlist for SPA 2320, including about 50 songs/videos by artists performing in diverse styles/genres (traditional and contemporary) from Iberia and Latin America. I was able to incorporate this playlist into daily assignments on Canvas in an interactive way (embedding video, linking to discussion boards, linking other websites for cultural context, creating space for students to respond in audio recordings of their own). My goal was to create an immersive virtual space where students could become part of the Spanish-speaking community outside of the classroom. Twenty years ago, the classroom was the only place where I could create a space for that kind of practice. Now our students' practice during class time is enriched by "real" connections to the Spanish-speaking world outside of class. Thanks to the ATL and its Baylor Teaching Fellows program for providing the encouragement, the resources, and the forum for exchange of ideas! All of this contributed to helping me "flip" my classroom, and create more opportunities for our students to practice their communication skills.
My students and I have benefited greatly from my participation in the 2016-17 Baylor Fellows Program. The program offered a wonderful opportunity for participants to not only learn from the Academy of Teaching and Learning, but also from Baylor colleagues.
I am still using many of the techniques discussed during the 2016-17 program year. Most notably, we emphasized incorporating a flipped or blended method of teaching in the classroom. My classes are now more interactive and student-focused. I will be forever grateful.
I am grateful to have been part of the Baylor Fellows program. As a mid-career teacher, this year-long opportunity to reflect on my own teaching and that of my peers has been a much-needed boost to my teaching. With the cohort’s encouragement to experiment with new ways of presenting materials and the chance to dialogue about my finding with others, I grew as a teacher, and my students have benefited. Similarly, the opportunity to present teaching perspectives that have worked for me to the broader Baylor community caused me to reflect and evaluate not only on areas in which I need improvement but also on places where my teaching has been effective. I am indebted to the Academy for Teaching and Learning for this much-needed, and highly appreciated opportunity. It was an honor to participate with such an astute group of colleagues.
The Baylor Fellows experience was tremendous! The collaboration and interaction experienced within the group not only sharpened my teaching ability due to my colleagues’ insight, but it also prompted me toward more innovation in my future classes. I was incredibly inspired by the other Fellows and I’m thankful to have made friendships with such great scholar-teachers from across campus.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Baylor Fellow for a variety of reasons. First, the program encouraged me to take time to reflect on my teaching strategies. Often in the rush of the semester, I forget to take time to think through why I teach or assess a concept the way that I do. In the past, I formed teaching habits that I had never took time to question. Baylor Fellows encourages you to be thoughtful in regards to teaching. Second, I enjoyed working with colleagues from across the university. I made new friends and a learned a lot from people that otherwise I may have never met. Finally, I was inspired. I gathered a great deal of teaching strategy ideas from my colleagues and I was inspired to try these in my own teaching.
Being a Baylor Fellow has been pivotal to how I think about our teaching at Baylor University. The interdisciplinary nature of the group introduced me to colleagues around campus and allowed me to return intentionally to conversations about teaching that do not always occur in our busy academic lives. Innovations shared in our project development stage allowed me to think more creatively in my own discipline and develop my thoughts on how to assess and create a learning environment that is supportive and promotes greater student responsibility. Baylor Fellows provides a forum to share new ideas and receive immediate, creative feedback on everything from a lesson or project concept to its final assessment. In the course of my project I was able to anticipate problems in my design prior to implementation and also be flexible as the project went forward. Perhaps most importantly, I have been motivated to take my teaching to new places and to integrate undergraduate research into my classroom in new ways. The program provided me with a library of people and resources that I continue to consult as I seek to encourage our students on their academic journeys.
Involvement with the Baylor Fellows has first and foremost provided a supportive space for risk-taking and fellowship with some extraordinarily talented teachers. We all need opportunities to break free from our usual habits and normal routines. I have been so inspired by the passion and creativity of this group of professors. I never thought I would be so moved by watching videos on theatre history narrated by a colleague’s dog. Having fun while invigorating our teaching with fresh perspectives is what the Baylor Fellows program is all about.
"If we want students to change, they have to have a chance to express their ideas and values in words or actions and see how they work. They need reactions not only from teachers but also from peers and others who share or oppose their positions" -McKeachie, 1994, p. 383.
"Change is the universal constant that allows you to get the most out of living and learning" -Burger and Starbird, 2012, p. 8.
The Faculty Fellows program for me has been about change. I gained a new understanding of teaching that includes the development of knowledge as well as the development of students and so made the decision to seek and secure a tenure track position. I ventured out of my introvert personality type and partook in every opportunity the program afforded: FIG, SET, Provost’s Faculty Forum, Focus Group Leadership, and Teaching Observations as well as the monthly Fellow meetings. I tried several new teaching innovations including the addition of a student generated course objective and student generated measurement of their own objectives. In some cases I was changed by the intentional chipping away at old paradigms and designing new paradigms. In some cases I was changed by the simple act of contact/listening in a room with colleagues like the impact of waves reshaping the shore. The Fellows program became for me my individual personal version of Transformational Education. Perhaps like the Christian model, we must first be transformed before we are able to share transformation with others. Thank you for the life changing transformational experience which I expect to bear much fruit through the years.
It was an honor to be named as a Fellow, but I wasn't prepared for the impact the experience would have on me, both personally and professionally. Listening to and learning from some of Baylor's most distinguished faculty members renewed my own dedication to teaching, and allowed me to look at the classroom experience in ways I'd not considered. Most importantly, interacting with these colleagues reminded me why I came to Baylor, and provided a tangible example of Baylor's continuing commitment to teaching excellence. As much as I enjoyed this year, I'm even more excited about implementing what I've learned in future classes.
The Baylor Fellows- a wonderful opportunity to explore, discuss and share creative teaching ideas with other faculty members. Being part of the Baylor Fellows last year gave me a timely and much needed “energy boost" to my teaching. Our meetings were always an interesting and exciting exchange of ideas.
In the footsteps of Galileo. As a pioneer in visualization, Edward Tufte (2006) recounts how - upon seeing the satellites of Jupiter - Galileo sketched hundreds of annotated and scaled images. This year as a Baylor Faculty Fellow, I wanted students to mimic Galileo as they discovered new facets of consumption and the marketplace for the first time in my principles of marketing course. To do so, we found inspiration to visualize from scholars like Tufte as well as authors, bloggers, and cultural creatives like Dan Roam (Back of the Napkin), David McCandless (Information is Beautiful), Mike Rohde (Sketchnote Handbook), Grant McCracken (Culture and Consumption), and Pixar, to name a few.
Three essentials helped make our visualization journey a real treasure this semester.
First, visualization needed to be a key learning objective. Thus, one of our five course objectives was: "to learn and play with visualization and graphic story-telling techniques to analyze problems, create solutions, and communicate more powerfully." Students needed to know from the beginning that whether the results were good, bad, or ugly, we were committed to visualizing in class.
Second, we needed a creative landscape. Several advocates within the Casey Computer Center in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor came to the rescue by spearheading an effort to paint the back of the classroom with white-board paint. My students and I were rewarded with several hundred feet of free space to doodle, model, and visualize to our heart’s content. Along with having enough colored markers for everyone in the 50+ person class to "hold the conch," this space provided the creative "servicescape," we needed to visualize.
Finally, we attempted to strike a balance between exploratory and guided intake of visualization. As such, we engaged in organic, free-flowing visualization at various points in class, structured assignments to teach visualization techniques to the rest of the class, as well as insights from experts. As an example of the latter, we brought in speakers such as Dr. Alden Smith to discuss the intersection of linguistics, symbols, and branding and Raymond Blanton (PhD student) who is an expert in visual rhetoric and media to convey how images powerfully shape consumer culture.
By the end of the course, we practiced a host of visualization approaches, including class graffiti, story-boarding, mind-mapping, radar diagramming, flow-charting, perceptual mapping, 3D modeling, and geo-spatial modeling. Along the way, we found the use of technology very helpful. Often times, we would sketch things on an iPad, project the visual, and then annotate for all to see. We also attempted to make use of platforms like Google Sketch-up, Dropbox, Twitter, and Pinterest to create and share our activity.
Students seemed invigorated by our focus on visualization as exemplified in this note I received:
"I think what made me really enjoy this class was the visualizations. We did so many of them that it is hard to pick the best one, but i think that all the visualization we did on the walls were my favorite…Overall, I think that visualization in this class was imperative to my learning…I would keep that for next year!"
(See Chris Blocker on Pinterest for additional student quotes and class examples)
In the end, although there were several misfires along the way, I saw a greater level of creativity, engagement, and learning than I have seen in years in this course.