Lionhearted Leaders: Mark Mabrito
PNW’s Lionhearted Leaders are faculty recognized for their exceptional work inside and outside the classroom.
Meet Mark Mabrito, professor of English and a Lionhearted Leader in the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.
What changes have your brought to your discipline?
Because I am in an English department, many students who take my classes initially find their focus and content to be different. Many of these classes focus heavily on understanding and composing with interactive and digital media and privilege texts that are multimodal.
As such, students mistakenly think that they are “learning how to use technology.” However, my overarching pedagogical purpose is to teach students how to become critical thinkers and how to evaluate and make choices as communicators in a world that is increasingly becoming multimodal and digital.
Technologies always will change and evolve. Cultivating in students the ability to question the tools and channels by which they communicate is most important. Critical thinking always will be version 1.0.
A major focus of my teaching philosophy is centered around making connections for students. I show students that what we do in the classroom has applications in the real-world, not always an easy task to accomplish in the liberal arts. For instance, I created the department’s Certificate in Writing for Interactive Media; many of the classes here are designated as experiential learning.
Every class I teach involves assignments which require students to create at least one or two major projects designed for a specific real-world client or organization. These may range from a social media plan for a local business, a usability study for a client, a proposal to solve a problem, a serious game intended for training employees, among others.
Not only is it important that students understand how the classroom experience connects to their future professional lives, but also that they are able to build a portfolio of work for future employment opportunities.
What are one or two of your proudest professional accomplishments?
One accomplishment is the certificate course, English 43500: Writing for Digital Media. This course provides students at PNW, most of whom are in the humanities, with marketable job skills in writing for new media. English 43500 promotes experiential learning by providing opportunities for students to network and produce digital projects for local nonprofits. Additionally, English 43500 students are challenged to learn a variety of digital tools to create new and innovative projects for their selected organizations. This course addresses several critical needs both within the classroom and in the community.
Many students in the humanities lack experience working with and understanding the rhetorical affordances of digital media. As students acquire this knowledge, they then produce digital marketing projects for their local nonprofit while building their individual portfolios. Sample student projects include infographics, podcasts, screencasts, vlogs, meme campaigns, among others.
As a result of this approach, students synthesize course concepts in unique ways, gain valuable skills working with new media, and provide a service to the nonprofit community in Northwest Indiana. Many of these organizations otherwise would not have the resources to produce such projects on their own.
My research also intersects with my teaching and focuses on emerging technologies in the humanities and developing/employing new methodologies for gathering research in the workplace and digital/virtual environments. These efforts include researching writing and communication behaviors in workplace settings and virtual and game worlds. I have published on topics such as digital badging, serious games and game-based learning, online learning, and workplace communication practices.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I particularly enjoy working with students outside the classroom. In my free time, I also enjoy watching movies, especially documentaries, and whenever possible, wandering around the Gulf Coast.