Faculty Experiences - Abigail Saguy

Abigail Saguy - photoABIGAIL SAGUY


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?


Critical thinking

Show what you're talking about

Student participation


Acrobat PDF

Class web site

Discussion board


PowerPoint (software)

Challenging Students to See their Lives in a Different Light

It is important for me to communicate effectively to students, and technology--used well--can facilitate that. Sociology classes can be particularly eye-opening for students because they have direct relevance and can challenge them to see their lives in a different light. Apart from the subject matter, I feel strongly that college students should learn how to read effectively, which includes thinking critically about what they read, and to write clearly.

I challenge my students by giving them original texts, thus requiring that they think independently, make connections between readings, and struggle with inconsistencies and contradictions among different authors. We do not have a standard text book because I do not want to provide students with one uniform perspective or an oversimplified account of the literature. They also write two long essays--one which includes an empirical component--during the quarter, which give them opportunities to experiment with sociological methods, work on their writing, and formulate their own ideas.

I have used technology in several ways. First, all of the course readings are available online through electronic reserves. They can access these through the course web site and print out the articles on a week by week basis or all at once, as they prefer. Second, I show certain films in class that convey some of the difficult themes in the readings in a different way. Third, I use PowerPoint, in some but not all of my lectures, to help students understand some of the more difficult readings. With PowerPoint I can summarize materials very succinctly and present them more effectively. One of the traps of PowerPoint is that you sometimes lose spontaneity, but I have developed various techniques to deal with this. I have not yet learned how to incorporate movies, images, and the like into my PowerPoint presentations but plan to soon. I solicit student participation in lectures regardless of the medium.

I use the class web site for some of the basic things like putting my lecture notes up after the class sections. I use the MyUCLA Gradebook regularly as well. Students can get their grades right away and that's very efficient. The students post questions about the readings each week on the TA web sites, which are connected to the main site. There is also some general activity on the main discussion board where students are encouraged to reflect on the readings and communicate with one another. In addition to the course readings, I also post press articles of interest when I or a student comes across them.

Making reading materials available online is very easy for a professor. I select the materials and the electronic reserve staff at the library scan them in. I set this up all at once before the class takes place. After the quarter is over, the library makes available all the material on a PDF file so that I can use it in subsequent quarters.

I think providing students with an alternative to buying the course reader is important because many students work to pay for their education. Reducing the costs for students can keep them focused on their academics. The fact that many students are working today to pay for the rising cost of education is probably one of the biggest differences with today's students compared to those in the past.

In course evaluations, students generally express appreciation for how the class is taught and how I use technology. They enjoy and learn from the films. They find the PowerPoint presentations --which I also make available online--helpful, and they like having the lectures and course readings available online for no cost.

Oral Interview, May 21, 2003