Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Humberto Garcia
Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Humberto Garcia, Assistant Professor in the English Department talks about his teaching philosophy and interests:
“By using YouTube videos, paintings, e-mail, films, blog websites, etc., my goal is to access my students’ media ecology, the sites in which active learning occurs regularly: the social media networks, texting, and blogging that instructors such as myself rarely venture into.”
As a British Romanticist scholar, I approach teaching as an edifying art form. Like any other art, it does not involve the one-way transfer of information, but a two-way process of imaginative self-transformation. This teaching philosophy is summarized in the statement I repeat to my students: “I am here only to teach you how to teach yourself.” In other words, teaching is a mode of experimental learning in which instructors model for students the methods of creative problem-solving, close reading, oral communication, critical argumentation, and effective writing. Especially when teaching challenging courses in my research area—Islam in English Literature—my role is to implement innovative pedagogies that help mediate student responses and transform learning obstacles into productive moments for student and teacher self-reflection.
To help fulfill this role, I have instituted journal writing in and out of class, as well as engaged students through various teaching technologies. I have learned that a successful course requires interactive in-class activities that target specific learning needs. In response to students’ mid semester evaluations, I have adopted visual media and online tools in many of my courses. By using YouTube videos, paintings, e-mail, films, blog websites, etc., my goal is to access my students’ media ecology, the sites in which active learning occurs regularly: the social media networks, texting, and blogging that instructors such as myself rarely venture into.
Although foreign to an older generation of instructors, these sites are the places where students actually think, read, and write, not in the eighteenth-century novel or the academic research paper. The use of interactive digital technologies allows students to engage with abstract concepts and unfamiliar texts imaginatively in a comfortable learning environment. As such, they are able to grasp the immediate relationship between any given theory and its application in ways that were not accessible to them by doing traditional close readings.
Thus, teaching students how to teach themselves requires a balanced bargain between instructor and student: “I will meet your learning needs in the world of YouTube and Facebook as long as you meet me in the world of the eighteenth-century novel and polished academic writing.” Of course, the leap from online blogging to research papers is never easy, presenting a formidable challenge that I plan to address as a Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow. I look forward to improve current courses and develop new ones by learning how to harness the power of teaching technologies and visual learning aids effectively. For example, I plan to design an honors undergraduate seminar in Spring 2012 titled “William Blake and Enlightenment Medias,” which will approach this Romantic poet’s multiple use of visual tools, paintings, and illustrated poetry through interactive activities centered on the Blake Archive: a website that includes, among other learning resources, digital reproductions of various versions of Blake’s illustrated poetry and engravings.
Overall, I want students to experience literature in its several medias—visual, verbal, and digital—without assuming that the literary text (or the instructor) conceals on true meaning.