Ramsey Musallam - This Is How I Teach at SSU
“I think the distinction “public liberal arts and sciences institution” is a calling for the school to truly integrate the disciplines in meaningful ways through systems already in place at the school. For example: How can Biology and the Humanities connect? What can the Engineering and Chemistry departments do together? Can Arts and Physics unite?”
School: Education, Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education
In addition to teaching at SSU, you also hold several other positions that inform your work with our educational technology M.A. area of emphasis. Can you tell us a little about your professional experience?
This is my first year teaching for SSU. I taught EDCT 552, Educational Technology Praxis. This is a course that is designed to instill in teachers a simultaneous appreciation for educational theory and methods for merging theory with their own classroom practice. I also teach science courses at Sonoma Academy, a High School in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve been in that position for 7 years. I’ve taught 15 years at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory K-12. I talk about my experiences teaching science to kids in TED Talks, such as 3 Rules to Spark Learning. I have also worked as an educational consultant for 15 years (see: http://www.cyclesoflearning.com).
Tell us about a project or collaboration that you are proud of.
I am very proud of the structure of EDCT 552 Educational Technology Praxis in general. Students were assigned “Rapid Prototypes,” or playful experimentation, each week with a human-centered approach called “Design Thinking” to develop a prototype using a specific piece of technology to address a hypothetical classroom problem. Because all students were building prototypes for the same problem, we had an opportunity to compare and contrast their approaches, discuss pedagogical differences, and share ideas. This instructional strategy created an environment that felt very much like an educational “Think Tank” rather than a traditional class, while also modeling a strategy for building prototypes and embracing a reflective approach to teaching and learning.
What have you learned from the students?
Keeping with the “Rapid Prototype” assignment structure, each week presented an opportunity to not only review student work, but review work that represented a novel, authentic, and spontaneous approach to addressing a classroom or school problem. Because these prototypes forced students to be creative in a short period of time, ideas surfaced that normally would have been filtered out because of student insecurity, imposter mindsets, or other reasons why we do not take risks in the classroom.
I found myself constantly learning from the work students submitted. For instance, I have students create short instructional videos about concepts they’ve learned in class. It was a great opportunity to analyze current trends in education such as the Flipped Classroom and Mastery Learning. They then used technology to create what I call “curiosity sparks” or hooks to launch inquiry.
What are some of the practices you use to create an inclusive learning space?
Reducing cognitive load, or demands on working memory, during online instruction was a priority for me. All of the technology for the course was implemented thoughtfully, with priority given to tools that could easily be archived, used on any device, and allowed for student interactions. For example, I used Google docs for reading reflections and students were assigned to specific rows to record their responses. This way, all responses were readily available for others to read or comment. This approach created an inclusive learning environment while simultaneously reducing cognitive load.
Another approach that creates an inclusive learning space is by giving students verbal feedback using a Google Doc plugin called “Mote”. Given the online nature of the course, this commenting feature not only modeled good use of technology, but increased the human to human interaction in the class.
What do you think it means for SSU to be a public liberal arts and sciences institution (the only member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges in the state of California)? What role does the integration of digital technologies play in Liberal Arts education?
I think the distinction “public liberal arts and sciences institution” is a calling for the school to truly integrate the disciplines in meaningful ways through systems already in place at the school. For example: How can Biology and the Humanities connect? What can the Engineering and Chemistry departments do together? Can Arts and Physics unite? What mechanisms need to be in place for this to happen? Educational technology can amplify and streamline collaborative processes.
What does that mean for your approach to teaching and learning in your discipline?
Media literacy would be the natural result of a connected curriculum. This literacy would greatly empower our teaching. A common language around professional and creative writing, or design, would empower already highly technical departments such as CS to develop a language and way of communicating that is understood by all disciplines.