While some urban studies courses were in-person this semester, including those taught by Garth Myers and David Lukens, others took place in a remote format. Professors Jonathan Elukin, Laura Delgado, and Julie Gamble elected to host their courses virtually. Engagement with the community and using the city as a classroom are key features of urban studies classes at Trinity. Thanks to the careful planning of these professors, the remote urban studies offerings this semester were no different.
“I wish this class could have been in person and that the students and I could have gone into Hartford together, but we all found ways to bring the city and its communities into the class,” writes Laura Delgado, Kelter Postdoctoral Fellow in Urban Studies.
Delgado invited several guest speakers and encouraged students to attend community meetings and work with community partners to help students get to know Hartford. She summarized, “First, the students attended virtual community meetings in the Hartford area and wrote papers about their experiences at these meetings. Second, we had guest speakers who visited with us on Zoom from three Hartford organizations: HartBeat Ensemble, the Hartford Public Library, and the Center for Leadership and Justice. We also had a guest speaker from the University of Toronto talk about RedHook WiFi in Brooklyn, New York. Third, some students paired up with the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA) for their final projects to work on a commercial development plan and homeownership initiative in Hartford.”
Professor Elukin also invited guest speakers to his class to deepen students’ understanding in his Cities Program course The History of the City. Several of his guest speakers would have been unable to speak in person, demonstrating the possibilities that remote learning unlocks. For example, one guest speaker was Jan Gadeyne from Trinity’s Rome campus, who gave the class a virtual tour of Pompei.
Professor Gamble found several digital tools helpful in keeping her students engaged. The online platform Padlet, which allows users to write post-it style notes and respond to each other’s notes, was a favorite tool her class this semester. “For my students, I think the best parts included breaking out into small groups to debate ideas and having the Padlet as a site to reinforce what was discussed,” says Gamble. Other digital tools used by Professor Gamble included podcasts, videos, and mapmaking on Social Explorer.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic and the limitations of remote learning, the urban studies professors that taught remotely this semester demonstrated how engagement with the community and each other can continue on a digital platform.