Fall 2020: A Customized Learning Experience

Fall 2020: A Customized Learning Experience


St. Michael’s Profs Use Creativity to Remotely Engage Students

Dr. Paolo Granata is no stranger to the beguiling magic of digital media, and the transition to remote learning this year has brought out his own penchant for magic tricks, including one found in a video he created for students to give them a sense of what they’ll experience this semester. (Spoiler alert – keep your eye on the apple at the end of the video!)

St. Mike’s Book & Media Studies professors have a reputation for keeping students engaged, and their subject matter expertise gives them a deep understanding of the pedagogical advantages of teaching online.

Granata, a scholar of legendary St. Michael’s media theorist Marshall McLuhan, refers to McLuhan’s famous dictum when discussing the possibilities: “As the medium is the message, we do approach online course delivery as a medium, and try to find the uniqueness of that medium, to experiment with that medium, and eventually understand how it works, what are its intended and/or unintended implications,” he says. These formal dimensions of online learning and remote teaching are things he explores with students in his classes, as well.

For Granata, accessibility is another area where remote teaching provides unexpected and unique benefits.

“Recorded lectures can be more accessible and, to some extent, more inclusive,” he says, mentioning the benefit of closed captions and variable playback speeds. “Accessibility means also engaging students using different means such as the class chat,” he says, and because he’s also better able to customize the experience for individual students, “nobody is left behind.”

Granata’s remote teaching toolkit includes the ability to swap out the video source, making it possible to move from a standard lecture to a close view of a special text or physical artifact students might not have access to under normal conditions. This and other approaches open up a number of possibilities for St. Mike’s courses he is teaching this year, including Media in Culture and Society, the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology and the Media Ethics Lab.

One question remains. How did prof Granata do his apple trick?

His reply: “The magic is in the eye of the beholder.”


Consult Fall 2020 for current updates on St. Michael’s plans for the fall semester.