Our Pedagogical Wishlist: Dreaming of The Perfect Teaching Technologies

Every Tuesday here at the Futures Initiative, our fellows and staff gather, update one another on our work, and brainstorm solutions to complex problems.  A key component of our work is professionalization and helping our cozy community of scholars blossom into the best versions of themselves. The content of this blog post originated in our 9/26 weekly meeting, where Chris McGuinness led the group through a discussion about the future of educational technology. The text of this activity has been edited and reformatted to fit a wider, public audience.

Here at the Futures Initiative, we’re always considering how to become better educators and scholars, and what we could change or implement to build a university worth fighting for. Recently, during one of our weekly full-staff meetings, fellow Chris McGuiness led a roundtable discussion on the futures of educational technology. The whole team came together, and imagined what pedagogical tools we would want to implement, if there were no financial or technical limitations. We found ourselves thinking in different but equally fascinating directions – and what follows is a wishlist of all the technologies we wished we could bring into the classroom. If your institution happens to have near-infinite resources, add these items to your budget!

A Camera – Who doesn’t love a good picture? Photography helps our students better understand and write about their neighborhoods, their families, and their personal histories . Photography allows us to incorporate issues of social justice into our teaching , and talk about diversity and the archive in a much more tangible way. (Coline and Beiyi)

A Blackbox Theatre – Whether you’re teaching introduction to performance studies or the history of theatre, actually having hands-on experience with the mechanics of a transformable, educational space allows for a more of a visual representation of how staging and different types of performance happen (Jasmeene)

Interactive Maps, Digital or Otherwise – It can be really difficult to understand our place in the world, especially without any sense of direction. Whether you’re studying coastlines or just doing some introspection, our students always benefit from getting their hands on learning, literally. By asking students to map their journeys to school, their neighborhoods, or even their minds, our hope is that we get students to be more introspective and purposeful in their daily activities (Beiyi, Jasmeene, Will)

VR Headsets – When we’re in “meatspace,” there are inescapable realities we have to deal with – our bodies, and their physicalities and limitations. But when you’re fully within cyberspace, the possibilities of who you can be are truly limitless. So many misunderstandings, prejudice, stereotypes are reinforced because of limited exposure to different groups. In a totally VR space, our students would experience reality in wholly new ways, activating a wider empathy and a depth of sensory immersion we can only just imagine. (Rod, Lauren)

A Traditional Printing Press & Bookbinding supplies – We take so much for granted in our daily lives, it can be really difficult to appreciate all the labor that goes into everyday objects, especially when you think more historically. The ordinary book, for example, once required a team of several individuals, each one responsible for one step in the process of making a manuscript: Dredging paper together from pulpy fiber; cutting and aligning the paper into the ideal shape; organizing the characters into the printing press; rolling ink across the letters and beating the ink to an even layer; Pressing the print into the page with a startling amount of strength; binding the page together with thread and leather. Studying these steps, our students would get a much grander appreciation of the physical labor of operation and economic effects of printing – rethinking how we distribute knowledge and wealth. (Cathy, Will)

A Sound Room – Have you ever heard a noise, and wanted to just live in it? This is the ideal way to experience that emotion. Imagine if you will, a room filled with floor-to-ceiling speakers that sonorously bathes you in music, a space without any words, just relaxing sounds enveloping you into a cocoon of auditory appreciation. Ideal for your budding musicologists, and those who study sounds in all forms! (Kelsey)

Pencils – the most unassuming of writing implements, pencils come with the most important tool in the classroom: forgiveness. Those little erasers balance out the graphite point, and remind us that we already have the tools we need without a lot of excess. (Recommend by Faculty Co-Chair, Shelly Eversley

Put together, our list here highlights a few core virtues that all of us at the Futures Initiative firmly believe in: that innovations in technology and pedagogy are essentially linked; that teaching empathy & understanding is always the goal of higher education; and that even without all these dreamy tools, it only takes a pencil and a group willing to come together and write to change the world forever.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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