Bacca Fellows Faculty Reflections

The process fostered a new engagement with antiquity: ancient texts were reanimated through the use of technological tools, and the students, working from their homes and in libraries, in North Carolina and beyond, often separated by hours as well as miles, shared texts across a digital diaspora. The work of the textual scholar has always been, in my experience, one of solitude.  I assemble a pile of reference books, open browser tabs to various online tools, and sit with my material.  Whether I am analyzing a work or… read more about Creating Community in a Digital Diaspora »

Before starting their own individual research on online communities and tribes, I asked my students to work together in groups of 3-4 and to research an online bobo community in order to pinpoint what characterizes community as such:  What does community feel like? What keeps it working?  What happens when it’s not working? When does being part of something online become a mere performance, a way, in other words, to monetize by using “community” as a platform. My objective in teaching the seminar “Hashtags Memes and… read more about THE REEMERGING COLLECTIVE »

I was able to develop a simple strategy that allowed me to create an engaging learning environment in which students were encouraged to ask questions, actively participate, and contribute to class content--a solution was a stress-free and very low-tech.               In the first paragraph of my proposal for the Bacca Fellowship, I wrote: “I am very interested in the challenge of shifting from a seminar format to a larger lecture setting for one of my classes, ‘Religion and Sport,’ which I will teach in Spring 2022 for… read more about Scaling-up /Scaling-back »

“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”  John Dewey We have co-taught Spanish 310 (Translating English-Spanish, Spanish-English) for several years. Over time we have continued to define and refine many aspects of the course. Some fundamental challenges remain, however, and that’s why we applied for the Bacca Fellowship. 1. How can we process the critical reflections efficiently and provide students meaningful feedback?… read more about Mise en abyme: a reflection on reflections »

In Spring 2022, during my fifth year as a Ph.D. Candidate in the Romance Studies Department, I had the opportunity to design and teach a course in my major field, Spanish Cultural Studies. As a language learner myself, I often felt that songs and music videos were reduced to occasional listening for leisure or fill-in-the-blank exercises, without considering their potential for critical thinking while practicing a second language. Influenced by my engagement in Sound Studies, I wanted to place music, performance, and sound… read more about From Podcasts to Music Interviews, and Other Sonic Assignments »

This year I decided to make a change in my pedagogy for Intermediate Hindi 203 and 204, in order to help my students become proficient in speaking through creating podcasts. In this blog, I will discuss why I chose the podcast format, the process of making a podcast, the challenges my students and I faced, the support I received from the LAMP group, and the areas I hope to improve.   Why the podcast format The problem with oral presentations is that there’s little room for correcting students’ mistakes.… read more about Is anybody listening to my podcast? »

The Spring 2020 was marked by a big cataclysmic change in French 101. No, I am not referring to COVID-19, but to a changing of textbooks! Many teachers know how profound and sometimes scary changing textbooks may be, but I will say that doing so for my course opened an incredible opportunity to creatively redesign it.  The switch in textbooks was motivated from a desire to update 1) the methodology of the course and 2) the content/layout of the materials. Our "old" textbook, Motifs, was heavily based on the communicative… read more about Redesigning French 101 from the Core »

In an interview, author David McCullough stated, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it’s so hard.” In other words, we frequently don’t know what we are trying to say until we start writing down our ideas, weighing the arguments as we draft them, organizing loose thoughts into a coherent whole. This is a useful concept for the students in my Writing 101 class, who often believe that they need to know exactly what they are going to say before they start writing. This expectation can, in turn,… read more about Teaching is Thinking »

A confession; I am a performer not a writer. I am a musician to be exact, or more exactly, a trombone player. And as such, I enjoy developing ideas and expressing with others. Not that I’m the most talkative person in the room, it’s just that interacting or performing for people seems to put me in a state of mind more conducive to idea development.   However, like most of us, my job requires that I write a lot. This has been particularly true in the past six months. Normally, this would have been a huge chore, but I have… read more about Improvisation as Process »

At the request of the Music, Dance, and Theater Studies departments, I designed the course “Writing about Performance,” which I taught this past semester for the third time. At each iteration, I’ve expected it to attract mostly students majoring in the arts, but in fact, they’ve come from a wide range of social sciences, humanities, and STEM disciplines. What the majority have in common, though, is a familiarity with the stage. Some are dancers; others are composers or choreographers; many have played a musical instrument… read more about Writing About Performance »

Somewhere around two-thirds of the way through the semester, I start falling behind. Even when I’ve taught courses many times, I finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with my teaching commitments than I did as a new faculty member. And since I see the same pattern across multiple classes, I have to cop to the possibility that the problem lies not with the students but rather with my own approach to teaching. My colleagues at LAMP helped me figure out why teaching seemed to be getting harder rather than easier. I… read more about Letting Go: Less Is More in Student Writing Assessment »

A feminist, a psychoanalyst, and a young conservative meet on a nineteenth-century Russian train. They carry steaming mugs of tea balanced between gloved hands, and chatter animatedly as the train lurches between stations in the remote countryside. The topic of conversation is a recent domestic homicide in the capital. The murderer unexpectedly boarded the train a few hours earlier and spoke at length about his case to another passenger. Having eavesdropped on the conversation, the three now debate the merits of the man’s… read more about The Tragedy of the Commons: Dramas of the In-Class Oral Presentation »

Each spring, I teach a course called Intensive Elementary French, which has become one of my favorite courses both for the students it allows me to interact with and the pedagogical puzzles it presents. The class attracts a group of students who are ready to devote a significant amount of time to learning French for personal, academic, or professional goals that are as lofty as they are varied. However, it also presents something of a perennial casse-tête. How do we best manage to fit a year’s worth of French… read more about Everyone's a Critic: Genre-based Writing for Beginning French Students »

How does technology change how we read and what stories we tell one another? And how does digital technology in particular influence narratives in contemporary culture? These two questions have guided my Writing 101 classes for three years to show how reading and writing have always been and continue to be mediated by technology (in the broadest sense of the word), in practice and theory. This year, I built on this notion to explore how narrative occurs in the most unlikely of places: in poetry and the archive. Digitally… read more about Building Rhetoric(s) of Narrative in the First-Year Writing Classroom »

My biggest take-away from participating this past year in the LAMP program is that, while I’ve taught at Duke  35 years, I’m still grappling with the basics of good course design!  In my case, productive conversation with LAMP colleagues and leaders have led me to make two substantive changes to a new undergraduate capstone seminar in Political Science I’m developing for next year, PS430S, which will focus on how scholars in that discipline, and in History, study the origins of, and in one instance the avoidance of, major… read more about Making Choices and Taking Risks in Designing a Seminar »

A few years ago, a Colombian professor of literature revealed the mystery of the signature of Manuel Quintín Lame. Leading an indigenous insurrection and advocating for an intercultural model of education, Quintín Lame was arguably the most influential indigenous leader of the twentieth century in Colombia. His signature had always been a bit of a puzzle for researchers and commentators. Next to his name, which could be easily identified, he signed with what many people considered to be a curious and shapeless doodle. It… read more about Language and Knowledge Go Together: Building an Experimental Website on Linguistic Rights »

In Fall 2017 and in collaboration with colleague Matthew Kenney, I offered a new course entitled Physical Computing, a critical media studies approach to the emerging ecosystem of internet-connected devices known as the Internet of Things, or IoT. When paired with Wi-Fi circuitry and augmented with sensors, virtually any object – a toothbrush, a lightbulb, a refrigerator, even a John Deere tractor – can become a “smart” thing that senses, collects data about, and responds to the world around it.  The discourse surrounding… read more about From Paper to PCBs: Printed Circuit Boards as New Media Writing »

When I was five, Dad ran down the driveway holding onto my wobbling bike. He let go, shouting words of encouragement even as I crashed onto the pavement. My elbow and knee were bleeding, but what hurt worse was my pride. “I can’t ride a bike without training wheels,” I cried through tears. After only two unsuccessful attempts, I concluded that I did not have biking skills. I stormed inside to do something else I already could do well. Forty years later, I still have that stubborn desire to excel at everything and that… read more about Getting Back on the Bike »

As a writer, I approached my first syllabus many years ago as more “to-do” list than work of imagination or meaning. My goal was to divide up the fourteen weeks of the semester into rational, discrete chunks. Once I did that, I soothed myself, it was only a matter of managing weeks, not wrestling an entire hairy, unruly, terrifying school term. Why did I choose this approach? I thought there is enough unpredictability to go around in any given semester. There are the known unknowns, as one US Defense Secretary once said,… read more about Putting Students Into the Driver’s Seat »

I had a lofty goal: to get a group of our undergraduate students to set long-term civic engagement objectives for themselves. My proposal was a new Spanish course, named Engaging with the Latino Community Through Photography, with the purpose of adding applied social context to our curricula and helping our students in their own and personal path towards civic engagement. This course had as its final goal the creation of a Digital Archive of the local Latino Community, which is to remain as an online resource… read more about Images to Inspire Undergraduates Civic Engagement »

Background and Goals of Redeveloping PS321 International Law and Institutions (PS321) introduces Duke undergraduates to the domain of international law. In this course, I focus on the political conditions that affect the formation, content, and efficacy of international law, the latter defined as the capacity of international law to shape and constrain the behavior of states. Since I began teaching this class in 2009, I’ve also emphasized research and writing as a core element—the class receives both an R and a W. LAMP… read more about Redevelopment Effort for PS321: Experiences and Lessons »

As a Bacca Fellow, I offered an undergraduate course “Web Design and Narrative” in 2016–2017. The course was based at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University and drew a fairly broad cross-section of students, the majority of whom were either majoring in Computer Science or Visual Media Studies. Some students came into the course with a clear idea of what the content focus would be of their semester-long website projects, where others did not yet have a project focus in mind. As I saw the course ahead of… read more about Balancing Technology and Content in Teaching “Web Design and Narrative” »

For several years now I’ve meant to start a blog, and I’ve even come up with a title: Teaching Language. I first began teaching Spanish as a graduate student in Georgetown University in 1990. To say I was wet behind the ears is too kind; as a first-generation college student who stumbled into graduate school, everything was new and foreign. I had to learn everything from scratch, for myself, and on the fly. I guess everybody does, when you get right down to it. (And now that I look back, my friends from that time of my life… read more about Slowing It Down »