Published: July 8, 2014

Ed RiversCU Boulder English Professor Dr. Ed Rivers says that he has not assigned his students to purchase textbooks in 15 years.  Instead, Rivers is doing all he can to teach with technology.  "I think they appreciate that," he remarks.  Indeed, students nominated Rivers for a 2013 ASSETT Teaching with Technology Award for his course English 4060 Modern Short Stories.  Rivers has enjoyed access to classrooms in ATLAS, where he can also provide laptops to all students during class.  "It's not only a monetary advantage, but I think it's an intellectual advantage because the laptop gives them access to the whole world."

Rivers says that with all students on computers, "Among other things, they work on research questions right there in class."  He explains that if students are reading a piece of literature that makes reference to a painting or piece of music, or even a particular musical performance, then, with a computer in front of them, they can look up the painting or the musical performance immediately:

YouTube, in my opinion, is the greatest teaching resource that's ever been invented ... With computers, [students] can find out instantly what the music sounds like or what the painting looks like ... Then, once it's found, they can find out why [the reference] is there and why it's mentioned ... That couldn't have been done in the old days ... It breaks down that rigid classroom structure ... stimulates discussion and stimulates thinking.

Rivers also uses the computers in class to demonstrate best strategies in how to conduct scholarly research so that when reading a piece of literature, students can go, "... past the point of what you think it means, and then read what other people have said."  Rivers expresses gratitude for the access to the computers that students can use in class: "I think it's a real privilege to be able to use that kind of technology," he explains.  "I feel lucky to be able to."  However, Rivers also says he wishes such resources could be available in all CU Boulder classes: "It's a characteristic that should be available in every classroom here ... It would be great if every class here could have that ... I think we should have them in every room," he says.

In addition to using technology in their learning, Rivers encourages students to create creative responses with original YouTube videos or podcasts.  Students also spend class time working together in groups to write their own short stories.  Every student having a laptop makes this process easier: "Instant revision--everyone can have a copy."  Also, with everyone on computers, Rivers doesn't overlook the potential of online audience.  He encourages students to submit their short stories for online publication.  And they do get published--Rivers shares links to published students' stories with the entire class even the semester has finished.

Rivers has ventured out of the traditional English course realm even further, creating the courses English 3856-001 Multimedia Composition and English 4116-001 Multimedia: Sound.  With access to ATLAS resources, students learn to put writing to music and/or video.

Rivers says that he first became inspired to teach with technology by a CU Boulder Faculty Teaching Excellence Program's Teaching with Technology summer seminar workshop in 2001.  The workshop was under the direction of the current Faculty Teaching Excellence Program Director Mary Ann Shea.  "That was a life changing event.  It all started there," he says.  Rivers explains that the summer workshop changed how he thought about teaching and how he shaped his career: "The seminar planted the seeds ... It gave my career a whole new direction--a whole new jolt of energy."  Shortly after, Rivers also enjoyed an ASSETT Teaching with Technology Seminar.  He says that he enjoyed the opportunity to learn alongside other colleagues.

Ultimately, Rivers wants his students to, "Look where other people don't look," and also to teach students how to be their own teachers:

My main goal as a teacher is teaching them how to do without me as a teacher ... I think the main goal of teaching is just a disappearing act ... like the Chesire Cat--to disappear gradually so that they are their own teachers.

Rivers plans to teach with the new CU Boulder College of Media, Communication, and Information.

"At this point, I don't think I'd teach any other way ... There's no end to it really."