As we wind down to the end of the semester (well, honestly, it’s winding up…), I am in the middle of grading a giant pile of final papers for the Personality Psychology course I teach. As always, there are a few brilliant gems that stand out of the pile and amaze you. This semester, one of my more brilliant gems is a literature review of personality traits and online multiplayer games (MMOs). The student wrote a strong paper that was well-developed, organized, did an amazing job of covering a very sparse literature, and most importantly, that you could tell she was passionate about. She talked about which personality traits are most linked to developing an interest in MMOs and, even more interestingly, how individuals create characters within the framework of MMOs to both express and explore their own personalities. It was a delight to read, which is sometimes hard to find at the end of a long, exhausting semester.
But seeing the joy on her face as she discussed her project was the largest success I could ever ask for as a teacher – to give a student a platform in which they can engage in something they are passionate about. It reminded me that technology is something that most students really, really connect with and are often passionate about. Certainly not all students are, but I have to remember as a professor that new media is such an integral part of my students’ worlds. Thus, as the professor, I must walk a fine line between engaging them in that passion and also challenging them to step outside of their own comfort zones. And that’s just it – isn’t it? New media is meant to push the bounds of what we already do! That’s why it’s sometimes received with such skepticism.
As we draw to a close on our New Media seminar, I am reminded that the important thing is that we are passionate about what we do and open to learning new things when it comes to technology. There are aspects about technology that I learned about this semester that fascinated me and others that underwhelmed me, but the point is that we are open to learning about these things, trying some of them out, and ultimately attempting to become better teachers in the process.