Faculty Experiences - Steve Sherwood

Steve Sherwood - photoSTEVE SHERWOOD


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?

How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?


Relate Theory to Practice

Student Motivation

Using authentic materials



Discussion Board


Conveying Material Through Technology

Technology is a wonderful supplement to my teaching. I see it as having both form and content, with the form supporting the content or “story”.

What matters most to me in teaching is conveying academic material, in particular, translating abstract concepts and theories into something that students can understand. Students in my courses are here to learn new words just like they would in a language class, so it is important for me to translate those abstract concepts in order for students to gain an understanding of how sociology is related to their lives. I consider myself a storyteller. I use a narrative approach in teaching and encourage students to think about stories to make sense of their own lives.

Technology is a wonderful supplement to my teaching. I see it as having both form and content, with the form supporting the content or “story”. The three major forms of technology I use in my teaching are DVD players, online discussion boards, and a class website that students can access from anywhere. During lectures, I rely on overheads, which while not very technically advanced, work well for my purposes. Technology can also make my lectures very soulful because I show cultural materials such as iconic features from the 60’s using visual and audio mediums. This approach enables me to bring freshness to the young people today who are highly adept at technology.

I build on what they know with sounds or images that relate to today’s media-centric culture. For example, I’ll start every class with listening to contemporary music and then tie it into historical moments using video segments or discussions on lyrics. In other words, through technology I can relate to students better and give them a way to immediately grasp concepts from past eras. This approach makes the content more interesting for them and relates to what they know as I bring them back to historical times but relate it to current experiences.

The level of technology I use is not important for me, but rather the response I get from students. Many times students are gauged by their cultural competence, such as knowing about iPods or YouTube. Year after year I increase my use of technology because students respond positively. They say it makes it easier for them to sit through a 2-hour lecture. Written evaluations indicate that students appreciate these advanced concepts and ideas presented with advanced technology. I want to enhance what I’ve done so far, because it has been successful. The core of what I do is via the web so working on the website is my immediate goal. I’m not technology driven; however, if the university offers new services for faculty then I’ll definitely incorporate them into my teaching.

I can’t complain about the current level of service provided by Social Sciences Computing (SSC). My experience is that technological sophistication is superior at UCLA in comparison with other institutions. SSC has been very helpful to me. One improvement would be to increase the advertising about their services to instructors since that is what prompted me to start using them. I would like to see awards go to Mike Franks and Caroline Tam because they have done a phenomenal job. Their approach is great because it makes technology more accessible and immediate.

Oral Interview, March 2007