Keynote Q&A with Shauna Chung
As educators, how do you equip students with the tools and skills needed for them to become effective communicators? How do you encourage them to use digital storytelling to join the larger conversation outside the classroom? On May 16, one of the keynote speakers at InnovateX will take on these questions and more.
Shauna Chung is a PhD student in the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program at Clemson University. Her experience as a first-year composition teacher has afforded her with opportunities to push and rethink the boundaries of traditional writing genres and to involve students as active participants in the creation and dissemination of meaning through digital technologies.
At InnovateX, Shauna will share her expertise on digital storytelling and show how students can expand their modes of communication, build skills in a fail-forward environment, and use digital technologies for civic engagement.
InnovateX: Excite, Explore, Experience. What do those mean to you and to technology within education?
I love that these three words are in the imperative mood. To me, they serve as necessary and recursive calls to action. At times, the ancillary stresses of the classroom (from both a student and teacher perspective) transform the teaching and learning process into a series of deadlines and boxes to check. I forget that in order to get my students excited to engage in the classroom, encourage them to explore issues outside of their comfort zone, and/or offer them hands-on experience in pairing digital technologies with academic concepts, I must first practice what I preach. What makes me excited to use technology in the classroom? Do I explore outside of my current, comfortable range of multimodal affordances? Have I experienced what I’m asking my students to do in their multimedia assignments? I’ve learned that when I join students in this process of invention and discovery with technology—when I begin tapping into the rich and vast resources available—I not only inform my own teaching but also energize and activate a well of creativity that I never knew I possessed. I’ve slowly realized that the possibilities that accompany teaching with technology are endless but will remain out of reach/lifeless if I do not first excite, explore, and experience my own teaching, learning, and creative processes.
How do you use technology to keep students excited, rather than distracted?
Instead of outlawing smartphones and surveilling laptop screens, I try to teach students that these technologies can be used for activities beyond Instagram and Facebook. Arriving at this outcome requires me to actively incorporate technology into the classroom and invite students to participate on their own devices. For example, I often work with software that allows for online collaboration and plan lessons that ask students to join me in shared online spaces and to actively contribute. I’ve found that when students can see invention happening in real time and realize that they have something unique to contribute to this creative process, their attitude toward technology and the classroom changes dramatically! They’re excited to share, to collaborate, to learn.
What makes the youth of today different and unique?
I think that because today’s youth have grown up in a media-saturated world, they innately know what is rhetorically effective when it comes to digital artifacts. They’re avid consumers of digital information and are particularly adept at picking up on trends and identifying patterns in media. What they need, however, is the ability to move from consumer to creator—to use these intuitive insights to fuel creativity and productively engage in the world. I strongly believe that students today are more than capable of rising to this challenge and working toward more civic-minded goals through the lens of digital technologies. They just need an invitation and opportunities to participate in these ways in the classroom.
How has your dual role as instructor and student shaped your teaching strategy?
Because I’ve been the student who has gone through the (oftentimes grueling) process of learning how to operate various technologies, grapple with difficult editing software, and pair these technologies with complex scholarly ideas, I have so much more empathy for my students and their efforts toward digital fluency in academia. This work is time-consuming, meticulous, but so rewarding, and it requires a considerable amount of support from instructors! I’ve realized that I can’t just hand students a camera and tell them to create a video essay. We have to examine exemplary multimodal works in class, develop a vocabulary to critique media artifacts, and experiment with editing/production methods in an effort to gain meta-awareness of effective digital communication strategies. Being on the receiving end of such pedagogies has taught me the importance of equipping my own students with the tools and theoretical frameworks necessary to thrive in the creative process.
Why do you think students creating digital artifacts to show off their learning is so important?
In this age of the digital portfolio, the curriculum vitae-turned-website, and the strategic use of social media for academic purposes, digital artifacts seem to be the lifeblood for showcasing identity and cultivating a professional presence. Thus, providing students with the opportunity to create scholarly work in a digital format could help them communicate their ideas to target audiences online more effectively, build a strong digital portfolio, and, as a result, be more competitive candidates on the job market. More importantly, however, digital artifacts allow students to share their work with a wider audience, to participate in communities beyond their academic institutions, and, thus, to see the classroom as a platform—not a closed cage—for a larger scholarly discussion.
Join us Thursday, May 16, at the Ohio Union for the 2019 Innovate Conference. InnovateX marks the 10th year of our conference. We'll find new ways to excite students about learning, explore teaching opportunities outside the classroom and delve into the student experience.