The CDS Teaching with Technology Series: Debra Levine

As part of our effort to highlight interesting work being done by our faculty, we are launching a Teaching with Technology series on the CDS blog. We will occasionally write posts that feature NYUAD faculty using technology in interesting ways in their research or teaching.

Deb Levine

Teaching with Technology: Debra Levine, Assistant Professor of Theater

Rather than merely writing about the technology I use in my class, I first want to address why I use technology. I prioritize using web-based platforms for all of my classes – my core classes as well as the theater studies and senior Capstone seminars—in order to transform the classroom into what the Digital Humanities Alliance, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) calls a “free and open community.” I use technology to redefine the alliance of learning. The class websites I create make all class participants, whether they are teachers, GAFs or students, visible to one another. The site provides a centralized virtual location where all involved can read one another’s writing, comment on one another’s work, view other’s comments, share supplemental information, and experiment with new and hybrid modes of scholarly expression.

All my classes have a centralized website (when I began at NYUAD, I first used Scalar, the USC developed digital humanities platform, but now I primarily use the NYU build out of WordPress) that includes the syllabus, an archive of the articles that are available on pdf, links to web-based readings and rich media artifacts, an ongoing announcements page, a discussion forum, an updated calendar, slideshows, and windows that display any social media content created by the class (blogs, twitter feeds). Depending on the class, students are expected to keep blogs of class notes and assignments, post all class assignments (or link to them) on the centralized website, input citations as metadata, organize group work within separate areas of the site, and link their pertinent social media posts to the site. Student presentations are also uploaded to the website and archived so that all their work can be utilized as learning materials and displayed when the ideas or the content they have generated is brought up for discussion. The website serves as a robust class presentation tool and assists in the student’s ability to speak knowledgeably about their scholarship. I have found the WordPress interface to be far more intuitive than NYU Classes.

Some of my classes incorporate lessons on how to use digital platforms as archives. Because the senior Capstone students are expected to create a digital portfolio of their work product to document their Capstone research, rehearsal process (including artist statements, research materials), final paper and performance, I introduce a variety of digital platforms and tools in the Capstone seminar: Zotero for scholarly research, YouTube and Vimeo for capturing video, and a variety of archiving platforms such as WordPress, Tumbler, CargoCollective, SquareSpace, and Scalar. (Craig Protzel, the Visiting Assistant Professor in Interactive Media has been extremely helpful in identifying useful new platforms for student projects.) The students are expected to find a digital archiving platform that suits their project, that best expresses its themes and will be useful in capturing and telling the “story” of their work.

I also give assignments that ask students to use social media to capture the ideas and experience of events. I have asked them to live tweet performances. Here the learning objective is to formulate and condense the critical views of the performance into short haiku-like observations. Blogging about all of the theatrical and performance events they have attended ensures that they maintain a weekly writing practice. Some students have continued to add posts after the class has ended because they use the blog as a diary and reminder of influential performances they have attended.