Faculty Experiences - Karl Lisovsky

Karl Lisovsky - photoKARL LISOVSKY

Writing Programs

Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?


Exercises & assignments

Immediate feedback

Learn by doing

Publishing work

Student motivation


Class web site


Multimedia projects

Communicating a Message

What is important to me is that my students learn. I am a writing teacher, and our job is to teach someone how to do something rather than to teach them to learn a body of knowledge. I want my students when they leave my classes to be able to do everything else more successfully that they are doing at the university. I teach writing, but I also teach communication--for students to be able to communicate a message clearly and honestly in a way that comes from the heart. That's what's important to me.

If I had to choose one form or the other, I would have to choose pencil and paper. I cannot see myself teaching writing without live interaction. Writing happens when the student writes a paper, submits it to me, and I comment on it and we talk about it. That's where the rubber meets the road--that's the heart and soul of writing. Remember we are talking about learning how to do something not memorizing a body of knowledge like history where a student has to know the Civil War, for instance. In that case, it's nearly all content so the web can significantly lend itself to expanding students' access to content gathering. In writing, there has to be this feedback in more or less real time. Can the Internet do that? Not really. Writing is really pretty low tech.

However, I have used technology in appropriate ways to teach writing. One such strategy is my "Museum" assignment. It started when I was looking for something different to energize the class, something different from the typical 5-page paper. So I thought maybe the students could develop their own web pages, and these would convey the same kind of message as a traditional "paper paper." Students now post one of their essays on the course web site. It is motivating for them see their writing reflected back to them on the web. I think seeing their stuff like that has a different kind of value than my comments--both are useful, but the web's status in our culture is such that inevitably if your stuff is going to be on the Internet, you're going to give it special attention.

In my Freshman Composition class, each student constructs an "exhibit" for the Museum of Modern Mythology: a semiotic analysis of some "thing" US-American like the hand-held computer game, the Pacific Design Center, the Diesel Jeans ads, Eminem, "Friends", or any other artifact of US culture. The web page assignment requires them to incorporate graphics as well as text; this is more than a nod to today's highly visual culture. All together, the students' work constitutes their class' Museum of Modern Mythology. This assignment takes some time and so gives students something to focus on throughout the quarter, galvanizing the class and providing a good dose of team spirit. Plus they learn how to write a web page! They are published. It's pretty cool.

Oral Interview: May 23, 2003