Exploring Utopia

Exploring Utopia

Heather Mitchell-Buck was recently named an Apple Distinguished Educator, recognizing her as one of the most innovative educators in the world, for her use of technology in the classroom.

Mitchell-Buck, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, uses technology, specifically the iPad, to challenge students to be more active in the learning experience by using digital and online resources such as e-books, apps, the college’s course management system, blogs and online class projects. She also encourages students to continue discussions outside class time using their devices. Her students enhance their work and research using the varied media available on their tablets, including images, sound, text and video.

In her ENG 364 Exploring Utopia class in the spring, students used Twitter to communicate outside of class by raising concerns, asking questions or live-Tweeting books or films.

“Every week, students were required either to initiate a conversation or respond to some of their colleagues’ thoughts outside of class,” said Mitchell-Buck. “We used our special class hashtag, #Utopia364, to keep up with each other. It’s been really beneficial.”

The innovative style of teaching caters to a wide variety of students.

“The way she teaches class, using the more informal blogging and Twitter assignments, really provides the opportunity for any type of student to succeed,” said Sara Eckard ’16, biology major and member of the Honors program.

Zach Willis ’15, an English major, enjoys the sway that the students have in the discussion topics.

“Dr. Mitchell-Buck helps facilitate and designs the syllabus, but as a whole, the students get to steer the discussion,” he said. “It’s cool that in a utopia class, she kind of mimics the structure of a utopia. That’s different and makes it way more enjoyable.”

As the class progressed, Mitchell-Buck said the topics expanded from talking just about the texts the class was reading to having related discussions about the real world.

“It’s truly a liberal arts class,” said Logan Samuels ’17, an English major. There’s a lot that comes up in class that I see in my other courses. There are a lot of overlapping themes and topics. We get to talk about things that are relevant in today’s society and compare them to what we’ve seen in literature.”

Mitchell-Buck will teach the class again during the 2016-17 academic year.

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