I am a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I have been a member of the faculty at EMU since 1998.
I began my teaching career as a graduate assistant in 1988, just a few months after I completed my bachelor’s degree. I think back on that first semester of teaching every once in a while. I’ve learned a lot about pedagogy and the craft of teaching over the years, and I’m a better teacher now. At the same time, I do remember that thrilling and impossible to repeat feeling of it all being new. After finishing a unit or exercise during that first section of first year writing, students asked me what we were doing next. “I don’t know,” I answered– and that was an honest and exciting response.
My approach to teaching is based on the orthodoxy of my field: the classroom should be a “student-centered” space focused on the process of learning because that process is as important to the content being studied. My main job is to foster interaction between students and to facilitate the opportunity to learn. To do this, I emphasize collaboration, short writing activities, and small group discussions to encourage student interests. At the same time, I think there are limits to these orthodoxies. Fostering a student-centered space means acknowledging for both myself and my students the realities of the teacher’s role as leader, facilitator, and ultimately authority both in terms of expertise and evaluation. It can be difficult to manage the tensions between the “student-centered” ideals and the “professor-present” realities, and I think the first step is to acknowledge that this tension exists.
Most of my teaching has explored the relationships between writing and technology. Technology can’t replace good teaching nor can it solve the problems of bad teaching. But effective instructional technology both facilitates and questions the student-centered classroom in ways that I think helps students learn and helps me grow as a teacher.
I’ve been teaching online courses as a part of my regular teaching load since 2005. I don’t think I’d say I prefer it to teaching face to face courses, but I do like the format, and I do believe online courses are as effective as face to face courses. There isn’t much point in comparing which one is “better;” rather, it’s all about the affordances of the different formats.
I’ve published scholarship about rhetorical situation, multimedia/new media, blogging, writing pedagogy, self-publishing, and “the profession” writ large. Lately I’ve been focused on Massive Open Online Courses. I’ve published a few articles and chapters about my MOOC student experiences, and (along with Charles Lowe) I edited a collection of essays about MOOCs called Invasion of the MOOCs: the Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses, which was published by Parlor Press in 2014. I’m finishing a book called MOOCs in Context which will hopefully be published in 2019.
I’ve also given many presentations and I’ve participated in roundtables and workshops at a variety of different conferences.
Like many composition and rhetoric specialists, I’ve taken on a variety of different administrative roles throughout my career. I’ve been the associate director and the interim director of EMU’s First Year Writing program, the English Department’s computer lab and technology coordinator, and the coordinator for the Bachelors and Masters Degree Programs in Written Communication. I’ve also been on all of my department’s major committees at one time or another, and I have chaired several faculty hiring committees.