Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2020: FIT – Mario Valero
Mario Valero is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. He received a B.A. in Economics from Universidad de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela, an M.A. in Art Market: Principles and Practices from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University. He teaches Spanish grammar and conversation courses at all levels, and Latin American cinema and cultural history.
If I were required to summarize in one word my understanding of teaching I would propose the word “performance.” The several meanings and multiple interpretations that this term elicits reflect adequately my approach to education. No other word can express more eloquently the connection I have always sought to establish between the class environment and my own personal experience of everyday life. Thus, teaching online courses has represented a challenging experience, but over all, it has been a learning process that has influenced my conception of teaching. How to maintain the lively face-to-face performance? was the first question that came to mind. Thus, I made sure to express my presence through the course layout, the combination of images and video that reflects the course’s focus; most importantly, to promote continuous interaction among the members of the learning team.
The fundamental reason to introduce or expand technology into my teaching is to improve my pedagogical strategies to better reach my students, keep their attention and entice their interests within the current technological environment and the new forms of communication required nowadays. In my particular case as instructor of languages and cultures the use of technology offers a myriad of possibilities to focus on an essential aspect when teaching a second language: communicating effectively in the target language using current means of communication and social media. Acquiring a language is also acquiring the culture that uses it and, regarding this aspect, technology also offers the possibility of expanding the students’ abilities to approach a specific subject matter from multiple perspectives and therefore to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of a topic. I experienced this improvement first hand when I realized the increase in the quality of the assignments turned in by my students from the online course I teach on the Mexican Revolution; even compared to those produced by the students when I taught the course face to face.
Technology develops the students’ relational and analytical abilities by offering them the opportunity to apprehend diverse types of information simultaneously, thus it also demands from the instructor to understand and present the material differently. This dynamic not only has arisen my curiosity for other technological formats available to use in my teaching but, most importantly, has made reflect on my own teaching philosophy and how to convey knowledge through a more dynamic and inclusive learning experience.