I consider knowledge transfer, including teaching, to be the primary responsibility of the academy. For me, teaching is a creative exercise in which I am personally challenged to construct a course that is engaging, insightful, and enjoyable. I believe that students learn best when the learning experience is pleasant and the quest for knowledge is exciting. I am also a firm believer in making material relevant, despite the often abstract nature of computing topics. Such material should also be as current as possible, since technology changes at a rapid pace.
I believe that education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity, race, disability, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. To this end, I prefer to use experiential learning, creative exercises, tutorials, and team-based projects over traditional lectures and examinations. Based on my experience, this approach broadens participation and increases achievement for students from underrepresented groups, as it reduces the incidence of stereotype threat. I also utilize and develop open educational resources (OERs) to reduce the financial burden on students and their families.
In traditional and hybrid classes with face-to-face meetings, I primarily utilize flipped classroom techniques, in which material that would be covered in a traditional lecture is instead assigned as homework. Class periods may then be utilized for answering questions, engaging in group discussions, and working on experiential learning activities. For distance learning courses, I design the course with activities and exercises that promote experiential learning. Discussions and peer interactions are typically conducted via forums and other communications channels.
In all my courses, I encourage active student participation both in class and outside of class through group projects, peer assistance, discussion, and individualized attention to each student. True learning requires exploration beyond the knowledge one already possesses, which implies that the first solution one finds to any given problem may not be correct, and the first implementation of a solution may not work. Thus, I believe that students should have opportunities to learn and practice new skills and techniques prior to evaluation. I strongly encourage students to ask questions during class, utilize office hours, and send questions via e-mail when problems arise.
The greatest challenges I see with reaching students in the modern era are overcoming distractions and anxiety, while learning to experiment with new solutions. Today’s students are tied to addictive technologies, such as social media and video games. While these technologies enable unprecedented communication, they also tend to produce cognitive effects that lead to anxiety and depression. At the same time, students have been conditioned to avoid guessing and experimentation (as a result of standardized testing mandated by the “No Child Left Behind” act), which often translates into difficulties in learning new technologies. I am constantly adapting teaching techniques in order to find an optimal approach with this current generation of students.