Digital pedagogy specialist supports FASS educators to innovate their teaching

July 02, 2024

By Casey McCarthy


Carman Fung, a faculty member in Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS), is empowering Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) educators with training and support on educational technology, artificial intelligence, and digital pedagogy.

As a Faculty Teaching Fellow, Fung is leading projects with the goal of informing FASS’s response to the challenges and opportunities created by rapidly evolving technologies. Fung makes recommendations related to academic integrity and teaching innovations, and provides training workshops and self-guided resources for FASS instructors.

Drawing on her ongoing research on queer online communities, Fung has gained unique insight into how young people engage with digital culture in their everyday lives. As Teaching Fellow, Fung is sharing methods instructors can use to foster meaningful technology-assisted learning.

Empowering students to examine social media with a critical lens

When teaching online and blended undergraduate courses at SFU — such as Queer Fandoms (GSWS 319) and Gender Talk (GSWS 101) — Fung encourages students to take a deeper look at the representations of gender and sexuality they encounter as they scroll through their social media feeds.

“For this generation of students, social issues are not experienced independently from the online world; digital culture is already a part of their daily lives,” Fung explains. “For us educators, switching to an online environment can be an advantage because we can engage with students on a deeper level.”

Asking students to illustrate theoretical concepts in feminist scholarship by finding online examples both resonates with students — and requires them to pause and consider the societal impact of fast-moving digital media. “Discussing how bodies are represented through online brand promotion gives students opportunities to practice doing textual analyses, while also reflecting on how people of all genders might be objectified in contemporary consumerist cultures,” says Fung.

Online activities reveal students’ understanding of course concepts

While academic institutions have traditionally used graded essays to measure student success, Fung believes that online learning activities — including practice quizzes and experiential creative projects — help students shift their focus towards personal reflections, rather than just performance.

“Assignments come with pressure, for both students and instructors,” says Fung. “Practice quizzes allow students to meet the course’s learning objectives in ways that are less stressful; students can take the quiz as many times as they like, at their own pace, while also seeing an explanation on why an answer is correct or incorrect.”

According to Fung, starting a course with a practice quiz can also help instructors gauge their students’ familiarity with the subject matter and adjust their focus towards areas where extra attention is needed. Re-taking the same quiz throughout the course allows students to see how their understanding of a subject has improved.

Fung also calls upon her students to share their creativity through experiential learning. In Fung’s Queer Fandoms course, students can create a fan-video of their favourite media and submit an accompanying personal reflection as a graded assignment. “I really enjoyed Carman Fung’s innovative approach to teaching,” says undergraduate student Hannah Arntorp. “The fanvid project in particular was very fun and allowed me to learn about affordance and intertextuality through one of my existing creative hobbies.”

For many students, completing an experiential creative project online is also an opportunity to personalize their learning. “I appreciated how adaptive and accommodating Carman Fung was regarding students' unique interests and abilities, such as helping me connect a Beyoncé fan video to course themes," says undergraduate student Connor Buzza.

Providing guidance and teaching resources for educators

With the availability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots, such as ChatGPT, many university educators are concerned about upholding academic integrity in their classrooms.

As one of her primary projects as Teaching Fellow, Fung is developing an online activity where students are invited to contrast AI-generated and human-written essays on the subject of intersectionality to understand the continuing importance of effective communication skills.

“While the AI essay is not necessarily wrong, it is too abstract and too general,” says Fung. “In a world where it seems that ChatGPT can do our thinking and writing for us, I think it is all the more important that we develop our own voices and our own opinions. This is especially important for an academic discipline like gender, sexuality, and women's studies. We know the issues in ways that AI cannot, and this understanding comes from our lived experiences and critical thinking.”

The online writing lab is being developed with support from the SFU Centre for Educational Excellence. A Canvas module will be available for FASS educators to use in their courses as a resource to teach students about essay writing. Students will be able to complete the ungraded lab at their own pace.

“I am also working with Transforming Inquiry into Learning and Teaching (TILT) at SFU to investigate how the writing lab can help students’ learning, both in terms of grades and what they want to get out of their classes,” says Fung. “Inviting feedback from students will be an important next step in the project.”

Explore undergraduate programs in SFU Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. Carman Fung will be teaching Queer Fandoms (GSWS 319) in Fall 2024. 

Watch videos created by undergraduate students in Carman Fung's Queer Fandoms course (GSWS 319):