Award-Winning English Teacher Models Dynamic Use of Technology
Posted: August 24, 2011
Associate Professor Elizabeth Richmond-Garza
Elizabeth Richmond-Garza’s teaching style garnered even more praise and distinction this year, when she received the student-selected 2010 Texas Exes Teaching Award. She also is a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a recipient of a UT Board of Regents Outstanding Teaching Award. The College of Liberal Arts recently spotlighted Dr. Richmond-Garza for her innovative use of websites and social media to enhance and enrich classroom instruction.
Dr. Richmond-Garza uses two custom websites developed with LAITS for her Masterworks of Literature (English 316K/Comparative Literature 315) and Modernity, Anxiety, and the Art of the Uncanny (UGS 303) classes to deliver customized content to her students. “These websites eliminate all paper course handouts,” she says. “In one course, it completely replaces a textbook; in the other, the students need only purchase 4 classic texts to read offline.”
Dr. Richmond-Garza developed these sites by teaching similar courses in previous semesters. By placing the courses in a system that she can access and update anytime, she is able constantly to keep the material fresh by infusing historical content with contemporary relevance. “I like to refer to the latest film or current event, things that might not have been available if I had posted everything at the beginning of a semester,” she said. “To me, the multimedia is robustly integrated into my teaching. Without it, these courses would not be the same.”
This multimedia includes a wealth of images, film clips, audio files of music, and texts relevant to her subjects. “It’s hard for students to understand the diverse and international material that I teach, which come from times and places that are so very different from Texas today. I wish I could take them all to Vienna in 1900, Tokyo in 1600, or Moscow a hundred years ago, but I can’t. Online multimedia and high definition DVDs in the classroom allow me to provide context, to show them these worlds.”
Dr. Richmond-Garza, whose scholarly interests involve comparative drama, appreciates the kinship between dynamic and vivid teaching, and the art of live performance. She is also intrepid about seeking out new ways to connect with her students. Most recently, she’s invited students to use Twitter, the popular social networking website, as an in-class discussion tool.
“In a smart classroom, I usually have one screen showing my multimedia materials, and the other showing my Twitter feed. We use a specific ‘hashtag’ for the course, and students post 140-character or fewer comments throughout the class, which everyone in the class—and in the world—can see.” She continued, “Twitter is particularly useful when I’m showing a film clip and want to make a comment to the class in real time without interrupting the dialogue. It’s an optional activity, but I find about 50-60% of the students do participate.”