Seeking Purpose in the Digital Age

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Jessica Gonzalez.



I learned about VoiceThread when I started my new job in 2015. I work in the Center for Teaching & Learning at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX. Primarily, my office works on teaching best practices with the faculty. VoiceThread, I came to understand, was an online tool that professors could use to add a human connection to their online coursework. At least, that is how the website and YouTube videos would describe VoiceThread. I would come to learn that VoiceThread was a tool that has the potential to propel the digitally disinclined, such as myself and my classmates (all grad students of English), to teach to the next generation of digitally inherent undergraduates of all majors.

Let me begin by saying that I am not a teacher. I have never been in front of a classroom to give a lecture or been a guide for the coursework. I am preparing myself to become a professor and I am currently in a job where the teaching is well…about teaching to teachers. That was enough to keep me motivated in becoming certified as a VoiceThread Educator when the opportunity arose for me to take the certification course.

English, unlike technology, has no problem with making human connections due to its fascination with the human story. However, I began to see that teaching reading and writing was dreaded by students who had no patience for it. How attractive is a simple book with pages in comparison to the smartphone with all its buttons, swipes, scrolls, and visuals? Technology always wins the attention and therein was the problem. I thought to myself, how could the English class include technology in its pedagogy? I thought about the current group of undergraduates who obtained smartphones as pre-teens and I thought about the next group coming after who will most likely know how to take a selfie by the age of two. Technology continues to refresh and I felt that the English classroom needed some upgrading.

For my capstone presentation to become a certified VoiceThread Educator, I asked my professor if I could introduce VoiceThread to the class. The class was called London in Literature and it culminated with an actual visit to London, England for a week. My professor had no knowledge of the tool and I went to her office to give her a quick tutorial. She agreed to it to my delight. For the presentations, my classmates went up one-by-one to give their presentations on books they had read outside of the required texts about London. When I went up, I gave them directions instead of a literary presentation. I directed them on how to use VoiceThread. I also instructed them that they would have a week to respond.

Even though there was no grade for participating, a few of the students joined the conversation. My fellow classmates told me that they enjoyed using VoiceThread and one of them, a graduate who was teaching a composition class, said she would use it for her coursework. I was very glad because I wanted my classmates, more than anything, to find the value using online tools like VoiceThread. Creating conversations everyone finds engaging is always a challenge and this is something critical to consider as I continue on my journey to become a professor in this digital age seeking purpose.

About the Author:

Jessica lives in San Antonio, TX after growing up in El Paso, TX. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from New Mexico State University in 2011. Currently, she is working on her M.A./M.F.A. in Literature, Creative Writing, and Social Justice at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). She is set to graduate in spring 2018 and hopes to one day become a professor specializing in British literature. She is employed as the Administrative Assistant/Instructional Technologist for the Center for Teaching & Learning at OLLU. Her interests include literary analysis, technology’s social impact, and faith-based movements. You can connect with her on twitter at @jessczalez.