October 28, 2020

Stommel Comments on Cellphones in Classrooms, Teacher-Student Communication

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer of Digital Studies

Jesse Stommel, Senior Lecturer in Digital Studies, commented in several national media outlets on students’ use of cellphones in classrooms. “It’s better to help students figure out how to manage distractions instead of trying to eliminate it,” said Stommel to NBC News. He believes that schools shouldn’t ban the devices from classrooms. “It’s better to harness it and help make it productive.”

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“What I’m particularly opposed to are blanket device bans that fail to recognize that different humans learn in different ways at different times,” Stommel said in another interview with Yahoo news.

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Stommel also spoke to Inside Higher Ed about email communication between students and teachers:

Stommel “warned against advocating broadly ‘for one specific way students should address teachers.’ The relationships between teachers and students are ‘idiosyncratic and influenced by the pedagogical approach of individual teachers, the institutions where they work and the specific courses they teach,’ he said. “And teachers from marginalized communities have different challenges than those with more privilege. There is no one and no easy solution.’ ”

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Digital Native

Caitlin Murphy ’12 knew she was prepared for a job that combined her history and digital studies degrees and thought a position at PBS would be the perfect fit.

Not long after she submitted her application, Murphy got a call from the internationally renowned public broadcasting network.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

They had reviewed her resume and delved into her online portfolio, which she developed while a student at the University of Mary Washington, and it wasn’t long before she had the job.

“When I applied for the position, they said my online portfolio was one of the main reasons they had contacted me,” Murphy said. “It really helped me get a foot in the door. I don’t think I would have gotten called if I hadn’t had the portfolio I did.”

Murphy is a program associate at the PBS headquarters just outside Washington, D.C. She screens upcoming programs, like “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Foyle’s War,” to make sure they meet PBS’ standards.

The position requires an eye for detail and the ability to research, skills Murphy said she honed while a student at UMW.

“Caitlin took full advantage of the liberal arts experience at UMW,” said Jeff McClurken, chair and professor of history and American studies. “Not only was she a history major who wrote a thesis that earned her departmental honors, but she also crafted a second major in digital studies, anticipating our development of the formal digital studies minor by nearly two years.”

Her digital studies major combined her passion for history with her love of technology in a multi-disciplinary way, combining classes in English, art, history, computer science with ds106, UMW’s open online digital storytelling course.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s portfolio, which she shared during her job interview with PBS, included work from her classes and internships, as well as her work on the James Farmer Lectures project.

“She co-produced a site making the words, sounds and images of Civil Rights leader James Farmer available to anyone,” McClurken said. “She then took an assignment in my class to create a digital portfolio and ran with it, producing an amazing site featuring her projects in several classes in multiple departments.  It’s no surprise to me that PBS hired her based on her work.”

Now, all incoming students have the opportunity to create an online presence like Murphy, through the Domain of One’s Own initiative, launched in August 2013. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios.

“Mary Washington does a really great job of providing opportunities for students,” said Murphy. “A lot of departments are working really hard to integrate digital media into day to day classes and projects. The integration of creating a website, blog or video project to create content that is still valid and historical really provided something a traditional class didn’t.”