Humanizing Online STEM Showcase

Aryana Safaee, Lecturer, at Mesa College

This site provides examples of instructional resources created in the Humanizing Online STEM Academy, a professional development program funded by the California Education Learning Lab and administered by the Foothill DeAnza Community College District.

Reflections

Where I was.

Before this class, I still would have considered myself to be a student oriented professor. However, I still had a lot to learn regarding tools for accessibility, integration of new technologies for humanizing my classes, and overall  becoming more approachable. Since I am a young professor, I think I leaned more towards being more "professional" in fear that I wouldn't be taken seriously if I showed more of my personality. 

Where I am.

I am now at a point where I am much more comfortable with being myself in class, and understanding that many students will appreciate a more personable professor. I really liked the module on becoming a warm demander in particular, because it shows that you can have a good relationship with your students without becoming a completely permissive teacher that doesn't have any clear goals or expectations. I also have gained an understanding of how to connect with students, even if the class is online. Another valuable thing I learned in this course is to put myself in the shoes of my students, and understand the unique challenges or situations they may be dealing with while in college. I liked the discussion we did on "Wise Feedback" because it was a good example of the responsibilities some students of ours might be balancing, and why it's important for us as teachers to be attentive and understanding. 

Where I am going.

Overall, I want to use the tools from this class to be the best professor I can possibly be to all my students. I want my students to feel comfortable speaking to me if they have concerns, and I want to create an environment in which everyone feels as if they have the tools they need to succeed. I also plan on being more flexible with assignments, and giving students alternatives (for example, just using audio v. requiring a video recording). Lastly, I want to use my class as a space for students to grow and build community. I think online tools like Flip are great for students to get to know their classmates better online, rather than viewing them as text they're reading on a computer. I also will work on making my classes more accessible for the visually impaired by using alt text for photos, and using descriptive links.  

Screenshot of liquid syllabus.

Liquid Syllabus

I was not familiar with liquid syllabi prior to taking this class, but overall I think the one I have created will be a big asset to my students. In addition to providing them with information about the class in a less overwhelming way than a traditional syllabus, it also does a good job at showcasing my personality through things like the introduction video and commitment to the success of my students! The pact in particular does a great job at demonstrating that the class is a collaborative effort between myself and the students. Personally, if I was a student I would feel much more comfortable going into a class with this type of syllabus because it would give me a much better idea of who I would be learning from.  

Screenshot of my course card, which features a group of people at a protest.

Course Card

For my course card I decided to use a picture from a protest. I purposefully chose an image in which the message was not clear because I didn't want any students to feel alienated if they didn't agree, or to think I was pushing my agenda onto them. The photo however, is a good way to show the purpose of my course which is encouraging action. I want my students to take in the information, but also use the knowledge they gain to make informed political decisions and become more active in their community. I think this image also helps humanize the course by emphasizing how politics are ultimately about people, and provide a way for groups to make changes together. 

Homepage

For my homepage I selected a banner that is cute and lighthearted to convey my personality better. It also contains information they will need regarding how to contact me. I also made sure to include some useful links to things such as mental health resources, tutoring, and disability accommodations so students have an idea of what reasources the school provides them with. 

Getting to Know You Survey

The goal of my survey is to understand my students understanding of politics, and also to gain information on how to adapt the course to their strengths and interests. One question that does this is when I ask what type of learner they are. I include a link that discusses different types. Using their responses I will be able to adjust my teaching style. So for example, if I have a lot of visual learners I will incorporate more images to my lectures. Another question which will help me improve my class is asking about what they want to learn in this class. This will give me an idea of their interests, and by emphasizing that in the class it'll keep my students more engaged with the material.

Ice Breaker

For my ice breaker I start with some basic information like preferred name, pronouns, and major. Then I ask for them to discuss a piece of media they like. I do this ice breaker in my classes currently, and students really like to talk about their interests. It's also a nice way for students to get to know their classmates, and find out what they have in common. Plus, I notice that students get excited when they realize I know or like the same media as them. Overall, a nice little way to build connection! Lastly, I have them discuss a political value they find important. I think this also humanizes the class but in a more serious way, and also gives them the opportunity to think about politics and what it means to them.

Bumper Video

This bumper video will be an introduction to a discussion post. I really like how it turned out, I think the Adobe software is a great tool for shorter form videos like this. I think it's a lot more attention grabbing than using Zoom. The video will be great for students to understand the difference between republics and democracies since these two concepts get mixed up a lot. It will also be a good refresher of these concepts from the corresponding lecture before they respond to the discussion prompt. 

Micro-lecture

This micro-lecture will serve as an introduction to a unit on poetry. At the beginning of the lecture I discuss how this fits into future topics, as well as the theme of intersectionality which comes up a lot in my course. This lecture will improve my students' learning experience because this piece in particular can be a bit daunting, so it's good to spend some extra time covering it. Audre Lorde is also an author my students can select for their essay at the end of the semester, so it'll also serve as an example for them on how to analyze text since I go over specific quotes in more detail.