New Featured Faculty: Stephanie Smith, Richard Ferdig and Enrico Gandolfi
Stephanie Smith: Creating Community During the Pandemic
Associate Professor | Media and Journalism, Communication Studies | Kent Campus
Professor Smith says that what inspires her is her Kent State students. As she says “That's it. I am a complete nerd for them. I think they know this. My courses allow me to meet undergraduate and graduate students from many different colleges and departments, so I'm blessed.” She works to create a community of learners and has said that “the richest learning takes place when students feel the power of community. I believe community learning has never been more important than during these corona semesters. I've been teaching "remotely," and I chafe at the term. As well intended as it is, it's a rather clinical description of the personal, highly engaging learning environment we want to create and students deserve to have.” She builds community through various approaches, but as she says, it always returns to this: “ Create relationships, partnerships, interdisciplinary collaborations, group storytelling and story sharing. The alchemy varies from class to class, of course. Sometimes it's small, silly things: Tell me the story of how you got your name (it stuns me how many big life stories come from that simple question, which also helps us get to know each other by name); creating commemorative days, like wear your social justice cause day, or favorite mask day, or favorite sock day. I've done class sing-a-longs. Yes, I am shameless. But creating community early is always my goal. Even resisters -- those who simply don't want to participate -- can at least feel the common experience.”
"Once we've done some of those things, we can then begin to focus on content. When we have a circle of comfort or at least familiarity with one and other, we can help each other through difficult and tedious concepts or controversial materials. We can examine big questions like, "Would you shelter a refugee?" or "When we say we stand for journalistic objectivity, whose standard of objectivity are we using?" This semester, my media advocacy students studied the essays of activists as diverse as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Russell Means and Phyllis Schlafly. These essayists provoked critical thinking, argument and ongoing conversation. I know the content is sticking when I hear students take an idea that was brand new to them in week three--like Dr. King's famous references to moderates and negative peace--and apply it to very different contexts in week 10.
I recently read some very smart stuff about focusing on the content, not the container (the method of delivery). I agree. I want all students to have easy access to our synchronous sessions and I want all the tech to work (I often think I should sage my computer before every class!), but what I want most is for students to be so inspired or provoked by content that they feel compelled to share it with others. I sponsor a global book club every spring and it brings me joy when students tell me their parents, significant others and even their grandparents are reading along with us. That really matters because it creates an extended community and it means we will have larger, continuing conversations about content. And I must say that this expanded sharing is happening more, not less, during these corona semesters. That's been interesting and is challenging me to think about how to maintain this level of engagement when we return to the classroom. (I had to laugh [and wince a little] when a student told me she listened to my lecture "live" while waiting in line to vote and everyone in line with her enjoyed it.)
Finally, I believe in the notion of ethics of place. Place is sacred. And a sacred place includes not only our air, soil and water but also our homes, churches, storefronts and community gathering places. Even (and especially) on days when I fall short, it is always my goal to create an ethics of place in the classroom: A sacred physical or virtual community where learning is collaborative, contagious and joyful."
Richard Ferdig and Enrico Gandolfi:
Platinum Teaching Award Recipients
Research Center for Educational Technology, Education, Health and Human Services| Kent Campus
Drs. Ferdig and Gandolfi were each awarded the Platinum Teaching Award for their outstanding scholarship and leadership in teaching and learning. Their work explores how gaming, virtual/augmented reality and and other technologies enhance student learning. They presented their innovative research “Collaborative Gaming as an Agent of Motivation to Increase Retention in Online Learning” at the E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare and Higher Education.
Richard Ferdig, PhD
Enrico Gandolfi, PhD