Summary of Teaching Experience:
My teaching portfolio reveals a track record of high distinction and a diverse range of experience. I received the SET Teaching Excellence Recognition every semester as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut and have demonstrated teaching expertise in Computing and Engineering Ethics, Philosophy of Technology, Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence, Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Normative Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, and Philosophy of Film & Literature. As a postdoc at the University of Notre Dame, I will teach a course entitled Internet Ethics next semester as part of the Technology Ethics minor. During my time as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, I served as the primary instructor for the Contemporary Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE 3000) course in the computer science & engineering department (Fall 2019-Spring 2022) as well as the Problems of Philosophy (PHIL 1101) (Summer 2021, Spring 2022), and Social Ethics (PHIL 1104) (Fall 2020) courses in the philosophy department. I also have experience teaching gifted high school students at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP), where I taught the Philosophy in Literature and Film and Ethics and the Little White Lie courses at the Duke East and West campuses during the summers of 2018 and 2019. Beyond teaching in the classroom, I have engaged in public philosophy through my podcast Tent Talks, which features solo commentary on topics in the philosophy of technology as well as a series of interviews with philosophers like Susanna Siegel, Philip Goff, Quassim Cassam, and C Thi Nguyen.
General Teaching Philosophy:
The goals of education are not merely epistemic but also ethical. That is, the role of educators goes beyond helping students become good thinkers; universities also seek to produce good people and responsible global citizens. It is important to acknowledge that these different educational aims are intertwined in various ways. For example, fostering an inclusive, respectful learning environment that values fairness and diversity creates the moral conditions necessary for achieving positive epistemic outcomes. I bear this truth in mind as an educator and prioritize both the moral and epistemic aspects of teaching.
One of my primary objectives as a philosophy instructor (regardless of what course I am teaching) is to help students foster critical thinking and writing skills. Writing philosophical essays is crucial to becoming a good philosopher, as the act of writing forces students to clarify their thoughts, structure their ideas, and discern any confusion on the topic at hand. Most of my classes require that students write at least two standard philosophical essays throughout the semester. I take time to explain how to write excellent philosophical essays and prioritize providing detailed feedback to help my students become better writers. My curriculum also typically includes participation, a few reading quizzes, and a final exam consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions.
A simple but crucial way that I promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom is to assign the work of authors from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups. Doing so is necessary to avoid perpetrating longstanding epistemic injustices in philosophy that favor white male authors. Relatedly, drawing on a diverse range of philosophical traditions in one’s pedagogy is essential. In my Social Ethics class at the University of Connecticut, for example, I integrated readings from a variety of philosophical schools of thought, including (but not limited to) Ancient Greek Philosophy (e.g., Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics), Buddhist Philosophy (e.g., The Pali Canon), Africana Philosophy (e.g., W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk), Feminist Philosophy (e.g., Miranda Fricker’s Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing), and Existentialist Philosophy (e.g., Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism). Educators must be cognizant of the fact that no single intellectual tradition has a monopoly on philosophical insight and that the aims of philosophical instruction are best served through a pluralistic teaching approach.
Such a pluralistic approach should not be restricted to the syllabus but extend to one’s general pedagogical practices as well. Beyond standard assessments like philosophical essays, quizzes, and participation, I also value more open-ended assignments that enable students to exercise their creativity and focus on aspects of a topic that most interest them. For example, after discussing Utilitarianism, Deontology, and Virtue Ethics in my Philosophy in Film and Literature course at the Duke Talent Identification Program, I asked each student to identify some piece of film or literature that exemplifies one of these normative ethical theories and construct a visual and vocal presentation explaining how the chosen artwork illustrates the ethical theory in question. Of course, while assessing student performance is important, it is equally essential to have metrics in place to evaluate teacher performance. I collect anonymous student evaluations of my teaching performance at the end of the semester and multiple times throughout the semester. This allows me to figure out what is working (and what is not) in real-time and adapt my methodologies accordingly if necessary.
Computing Ethics, Digital Technology, and Pedagogy:
Contemporary Issues in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE 3000) provides a forum for computer science and engineering students at the University of Connecticut to explore the societal, ethical, and wider philosophical implications of computer science and engineering technologies. Teaching CSE 3000 from 2019-2022 has arguably been some of the most consequential work I have done as an educator, as the future of ethics lies largely in the hands of computer scientists and engineers. Society runs on software in the digital age, meaning that computer engineers have an unprecedented ethical obligation to responsibly create and design the technological tools that people are increasingly dependent upon in their daily interactions with the world. Further, there is no escaping ethics as a computer scientist, for the decision to engineer (or not engineer) a technology in a particular way is often itself an ethical decision. Topics covered in CSE 3000 included automated driving, algorithmic bias, virtual reality, drones, 3D printing, open-source software, internet censorship and the dark web, cybersecurity, hacking, encryption, digital privacy, intellectual property and reverse engineering, blockchain and cryptocurrency, and social media and fake news. The central aim for each topic was to explore how it connects to the five core course learning outcomes of ethics, professional growth, social effects, legal considerations, and professional responsibility. I teach my computer science and engineering students to avoid the follies of both techno-utopian and neo-luddite strands of thinking and to not resign themselves to rigid frameworks of technological determinism but instead allow empirical, data-driven approaches to drive their perspectives on issues and developments related to new technologies. Moreover, I advise that while we do not want to stifle technological innovation with premature regulation, our regulatory measures cannot be purely reactive instead of proactive, especially in the context of increasingly power and autonomous technologies like machine leaning systems.
To conclude, I will say a few words about how my research on the philosophy of technology and virtue epistemology informs my pedagogy. I believe the epistemic aims of education and strategies employed by educators should be appropriately sensitive to new technological developments, especially as they relate to information and communication technologies. For example, the traditional educational goal of fact retention is arguably increasingly gratuitous in an age of high-bandwidth digital learning where students can access any fact via a Google search. The so-called ‘Google Effect’ refers to the idea (supported by empirical evidence) that people are encoding less information in biological memory nowadays because they know practically all information is quickly accessible via external computing devices. Some writers like Gary Kasparov offer an optimistic perspective on how the Google Effect shapes human cognition, claiming that by alleviating the need to encode information in biological memory, digital technologies give agents the mental bandwidth to pursue more worthwhile cognitive and educational endeavors. Others like Nicholas Carr convey a more pessimistic perspective, arguing that the Google Effect has a detrimental impact on our memory capacities and that we should be wary of replacing biological memory with computer memory.
I tend to fall on the more techno-optimistic side of the spectrum regarding the Google Effect. Much more important than the educational goal of fact retention in the 21st century is the goal of intellectual virtue cultivation; specifically, the development of what might be called ‘online intellectual virtues.’ Intellectual virtues are character traits that advance epistemic flourishing (e.g., open-mindedness, intellectual humility, intellectual autonomy, intellectual diligence). ‘Online intellectual virtues’ refers to the application of intellectual virtue in the context of online environments based on a background understanding of such environments (e.g., the topology, design features, and epistemic harms of such environments). The internet contains many epistemic dangers related to technological manipulation, data privacy, fakes news, autocompleted web search, filter bubbles and personalization algorithms, deepfakes, bots, and the online attention economy. Students must be aware of these epistemic dangers and know how to navigate online environments in an epistemically responsible manner in order for information and communication technologies to function as productive educational tools. Generally speaking, I believe educators should focus on teaching students to virtuously navigate the sea of digital information at their fingertips (intellectual virtue cultivation) rather than getting students to cram digital information into biological memory (fact retention).
Further, educators should not just rethink the epistemic aims of education in light of new technologies, but also use new technologies as a means to promote learning objectives. For example, educators can use virtual and augmented reality devices to generate convincing virtual representations of future possibilities, historic sites, and fictional scenarios. The VR app Unimersiv allows students to take virtual field trips to historic sites like Ancient Rome and the Titantic, and the technology is becoming more realistic by the day. As an educator and philosopher of technology, I constantly look for innovative educational uses of emerging technologies.