teaching with tech chris reymer
Zaylea's students working on a production project.
Chris Reymer

Laura Zaylea's courses are a combination of online classes, large lecture and studio production, to name a few. She has incorporated the digital teaching platforms Nearpod and TopHat into her classroom methods, which facilitate interactive lesson plans using mobile apps. She has also used Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat as modes of classroom discussion.

In her class Introduction to Media Technology, Zaylea has her students use Photoshop to design graphics, Audacity to edit audio and Adobe Premiere to edit video, all of which is housed on a student-designed website using WordPress.

On March 31, at Temple's Teaching with Technology Symposium, Media Studies and Production teacher Laura Zaylea received this year's Innovative Teaching with Technology award, sponsored by the Temple University Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Zaylea first incorporated technology into her Temple courses in 2012 through Twitter, which she used to make her large lecture class seem more intimate. 

"It was really helpful to me to have a conversation," Zaylea said. "Between classes, I could be in conversation with people and tie what we were talking about to life outside the lecture because people carry around their phones all the time."

Zaylea did her undergraduate work in art semiotics, which involves the theories behind creating and storytelling, mainly in the area of video. She got a Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied experimental approaches to film. In the classroom, she has been introducing new video technologies to her students, taking video out of the traditional realm.

One such technology is 360-degree video. A student in Zaylea's Emergent Media Production class created a fake unboxing video, a YouTube genre that showcases the unwrapping of a product from its packaging, most popularly items like smart phones or other tech devices. The student put the 360 camera on a table but also placed various clues that manifest in flashing lights and someone entering the space.

"It's almost horror-ish," Zaylea said. "He really played with doorways and hallways and the front entrance. He thought about the physical layout of this living room the way that a cinematographer does, planting not lights in this case but narrative elements."

Zaylea's students also used the app Aurasma to do projects involving augmented reality. With the app, students can use almost any image to trigger video, audio or graphics. In this case, her students made physical books and used their phones or tablets to activate video content from an image in the book.

Augmented reality does not necessarily work for every project, which Zaylea regularly reminds her students, but there are some ideas that lend very well to the use of the technology. This past year some of the students in her Emergent Media Production class made an augmented reality book in which characters walked through a cemetery and played around with the notion of being followed by a ghost. 

"If it's a ghost story, that's another reason why it might be augmented reality because it's not quite physical, it's not quite real," Zaylea said. "It's like something that might be there or might not be there. It's a good metaphor for the technology."

In her Genres of Media Production class, Zaylea has her students make interactive videos where the audience can choose how the story pans out. 

"It's been a really fun class to teach," Zaylea said. "And our end-of-year screenings are really fun because the audience is engaged."

Zaylea received a $1000 stipend from CAT and plans to use it either to buy new 360 video cameras, or to pay actors who would act in the 360 video projects.

"In the more advanced classes we have a casting call," Zaylea said. "I think 99 percent, maybe 100 percent of the talent we work with is not paid. Which makes sense, because they're volunteers. But at the same time, a lot of people are really talented and are giving a lot of time. It would be great to compensate them."