Spring 2022 was definitely a semester of learning and re-learning as we came fully back to teaching in person, maskless. As new media professors we are always learning new ways to engage with the students, re-think our course materials, andragogical approaches and in general facilitate a “creative space.” This semester definitely caused us to reflect on our courses and appreciate the relationships we fostered with our students and as colleagues.
Below you will find Dr. XIaofei Song’s, Ph.D. Candidate Anthony Ramirez’s, Jonathan Guajardo’s and joey’s reflections on the their semester and see examples of student work. We hope you all find this useful whether you are a student or a professor.
Dr. Xiaofei Song
A notable change this semester was a reflection video to be made after students complete their projects. This was a change from the former behind-the-scenes documentation assignment. The reflection video allowed students to not only showcase their project creation process, but also reflect on this process. Students often discussed how being a content creator gave one a very different POV from that of the audiences, such as recording a live conversation from afar versus listening to a film’s well-captured, noise-free audio; or filming a cooking tutorial video in one’s kitchen versus watching a popular cooking video on YouTube. For many, such a different POV also brought challenges as the individuals aimed to make their projects as professional-sounding/looking as the “ideals” everyone sees on popular media; and overcoming the challenges naturally became a goal that many students constantly worked on during the semester.
In addition to the reflection on technical aspects, students made remarks of how creating the projects had helped them to build a deeper connection with the subject matter (i.e. project topics of their choice), which ranged from rebranding through social media to getting involved in faith-based student organizations. Students also mentioned skills they didn’t expect to learn yet had fun learning on their own, such as InDesign for making contents for a social media page.
Seeing from an instructor’s perspective, I also found it interesting that students seemed to be somewhat more sincere and thoughtful in this reflection than in a BTS documentation. Maybe it was because the reflection encouraged the students to emphasize on themselves/their roles as the content creators more so than a content-focus documentation, and maybe it was just because the term “reflection” sounded more personalized than “documentation”. Overall, I was glad to see this trial of change worked well enough as part of the learning assessment for COMM 230. In the meantime, students’ reflections indicated success in COMM 230’s main pedagogical goals – to learn through creating projects that exude one’s passion, and to motivate students to become motivated learners.
Ph.D. Candidate Anthony Ramirez
This spring semester was great but incredibly fast paced. As per usual, I always get reflective on my past semester and ask myself what can I do better and what did I do well? I had the privilege of teaching COMM 230 – Communication and Technology Skills for the first time ever. I was incredibly excited to teach this course as I have become more and more interested in project based learning. One of the things I learned this semester is that I struggled to find a balance of how to teach a class like this as I was not used to this style of teaching. I am very discussion oriented and do include project based learning in my classes, but this class pushed me to think both critically and creatively, which I encouraged my students to do as well. What I mean by that is that, I had to think about how I wanted to teach my students how to develop various technology skills, but also how to be creative in the process of things. I really started to find “my groove” after spring break and felt like I was helping my students as best as I could. I was incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful group of students who wanted to use this class to learn new media techniques and to have fun. One of my educational philosophies is that education should be fun. This class was fun for me, and I wanted my students to make awesome and fun projects! I was so happy to see that my students exceeded my expectations and beyond. One thing I want to improve on is setting a foundation for my students to be creative. I noticed this was one thing my students struggled with and I felt that I could teach or facilitate better. I have already begun to think of ways to set this foundation for this class and other classes moving forward. Additionally, I know I need to improve and continue to learn technological skills regarding video editing and photography even more. I used this class as a beginner’s crash course of technology skills, new media techniques, and portfolio building. I not only want to improve my skills for my students, but for myself as well, as I want to learn how to be a better photographer and to continue to make short films. With all being said and done, I enjoyed and learned so much about my teaching styles while being an instructor for COMM 230 – Communication and Technology Skills. Moving forward, I want to continue to use the skills I’ve learned and lay more building blocks to the foundation I have built while teaching this course.
Although I went into the Spring with a lightened course load (purposefully, because I was getting married to my best friend and life partner, Areeba, on March 12th), this past semester was anything but light in terms of productivity and creative work. I only taught 4 courses this semester (the basic Lecturer workload) instead of the usual 5 with an additional Public Speaking course. These courses were as follows: COMM 377 New Media and Entrepreneurship, COMM 476 Advanced Social Media, and two sections of COMM 250 New Media and the Independent Voice. I also acted as Course Director of COMM 275: Introduction to Social Media and used this semester to monitor the course in its current form so I can work on some alterations that I’d like to make next semester.
This Spring was also my second semester teaching COMM 377: New Media and Entrepreneurship, and one of my main goals was to continue building communities like I had in Fall’s 377 cohort. As the first semester fully back in-person from COVID-19 distance learning, that class found a home for themselves in the COMM 377 learning environment. This new Spring cohort had just as much passion for building community as last semester’s and featured many new enterprises that spanned a variety of industries. I will make a separate detailed post about this course, but this class’ collaboration and ingenuity are definitely worth noting in my Spring summary.
In addition to my teaching work, I began collaborating with Undergraduate Coordinator Nancy Street and the New Media Lab’s own Dr. Joey Lopez to work on building a minor in New Media Production. I will make another more in-depth post about this proposal, but it is worth noting that this is the culmination of a dream that I had when I was looking for colleges to apply to out of high school. While it had been a lifelong dream of mine to attend Texas A&M University as a Freshman in 2009, the only reason I even investigated other universities (and eventually accepted a full-scholarship to UIW) was due to the lack of a production-centric Communication program at A&M. It is my hope that this program, in addition to our New Media Lab, will provide an academic home for students who are interested in growing more as producers and curators of existing and emerging forms of New Media.
Another memorable Spring moment occurred towards the end of the Spring, when I decided to apply to the Ph.D. program in Higher Education at Texas Tech University and was accepted for admission in the Fall of 2022. For everyone reading this who knows my strong love and affinity for Texas A&M, there might be some confusion as to why I would look into continuing my education in Raiderland and not Aggieland. In short, I’m becoming a Red Raider to stay an Aggie Prof. I want to be able to stay teaching full-time at Texas A&M while having the freedom to obtain my Ph.D. in an online format from another Tier 1 research university. Right now, I’m looking to focus my doctoral studies on extending the research that I did into Black Mountain College for my Master’s capstone thesis, but adapt it to the way teaching and learning communities have evolved with the advent of new communicative technologies, especially in a post-Covid collaborative environment. I’m super excited to begin the journey towards my terminal degree and I look forward to the amazing learning opportunities and insightful colleagues that I can meet in this new program.
All-in-all, this semester was a whirlwind of blessings, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds both in our work in the Communication Department here at Texas A&M and IN my own educational journey at Texas Tech. Gig ‘Em and Wreck ‘Em!
Wow! What a semester! This semester really took me on a roller coaster. The students were so excited to be back, but at the same time I could tell so much personal interaction was exhausting and tiring. Watching the resilience of the students play out throughout the semester was great. I taught 4 courses this semester:
COMM 275 Introduction to Social Media
I had never taught COMM 275 before so I used the common syllabus which did not include projects, so unfortunately I do not have any projects to show from it, however I did learn if I were ever asked to teach that course again I would definitely make it all project based learning and have some great ideas. I believe maintaining a blog reflecting on various social media topics covered throughout the course with vlogging check-in’s would go a long way.
COMM 230 Technology Skills
COMM 230 definitely caught me off guard in that the students base skills were very developed when it comes to video and audio creation. I did learn a couple of things for next time:
Student now have pretty advanced video knowledge compared to 20 years ago, this means we can focus on story telling that much more, that much sooner. A lot of projects revolved around students sharing their lives, which was great, however many of these projects lacked a narrative and or thematic arch. I would like to work on new approaches to integrating story telling early on so that their later projects are more developed.
Speaking with Xiaofei Song I also learned from her a reflection video rather than a documentation video can go a long way in terms of students learning about themselves and their interaction with their work. So I will be integrating this in the future.
Project wise this spring they turned in some stellar projects, which you can check out here:
Playlist Link: https://youtu.be/r9bfoGsPh38
COMM 410 Radio, Records & Popular Music
When I took over COMM 410 a couple years back I was super excited and last semester I published an article about how I revamped the whole course as it is a W course. So you can get a full run down of the course here. My hopes for improvement if I were to teach this class again (I am not schedule to) would be trips to recording studios and music events, as well as more guest speakers. I did integrate creative in class group projects this semester and they were great. Here are some links to student blogs I would like to highlight:
COMM 340 Communication & Popular Culture
I have been teaching Popular Culture since spring 2020, two years later I haven’t changed the course much, however the projects have just been getting better and better. The students are tasked with creating videos about a chapter and/or lecture that has inspired them. Below you will find a set of videos I believe exude the spirit of the class: