Jennifer Ruth Hosek
- Outstanding Teaching Award (University of California, Berkeley, 2000)
Associate Professor, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LLCU)
Cross-appointed with Film and Media Studies
Also associated with the Cultural Studies Program and The Queen's-U of Havana Exchange
Teaching should encourage sustained concentration and human-to-human communication, none the least because much of contemporary society hampers these capacities. Such pedagogy would involve improving interaction between people and building on ideas in groups, together. E-tools like LinguaeLive can further these aims; much so-called educational technology thwarts them.
Gaining competence in a foreign language-culture has never been easier because of the changes Jennifer Hosek has brought to the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. A world-traveller herself, Hosek's early school years were spent on the US military bases of southern Germany. After some 20 years there, she headed to Berkeley and Stanford for a PhD and Post-Doc in Comparative Literature. It is not all that surprising then, that her primary areas of interest are transnational German culture and film. But Hosek, like many academics, came to this profession by rather a serendipitous route.
"As a teen, I wanted to do international environmental law. I loved thinking about cultural production, as well as social structures, however, and my steps lead further and further into the Humanities. It is such a privilege to work at a university because we are paid to grow and to share knowledge. I am convinced that thinking is a way to make our society better. If citizens understand that we can have fun while--and indeed by--thinking deeply, that is a good place to be as humans."
Transforming students into academics...
Hosek encourages her students to see themselves as intellectuals. She feels that they need teachers who are not only enthusiastic about their subjects, but who recognize where students are at individually and then push them further.
"I think it is important as a teacher to be a networked thinker. When teachers are interested in connections across the disciplines and between ideas that might not be obvious, they can also help students tease them out."
That hers is a non-toxic class environment is important to Hosek. "In the Humanities, in particular, we often translate what we talk about to our lives, which can be uncomfortable. And there is always a power dynamic between professor and students, so it is important to actually talk about that and create a safe space."
Hosek embraces growth in herself as much as in her students. "As I gain experience, I change as an instructor. Earlier in my career, I might have simply opposed a wrong-headed opinion and in so doing perhaps discouraged budding thoughts. Now I try to find aspects of student comments that engage my pedagogical arc for the course and expand on it in my response. We need not stay in the register of any particular statement. By shifting the focus, we can often move the larger conversation forward in a trajectory that's more fruitful for the class."
In LLCU, Hosek teaches Film in the New Europe, as well as German language and culture at all levels. Former student, Susanna Miller, had Hosek for all four years of her undergraduate degree. She says, "She is passionate about what she teaches and immensely interested in what you, the student, think. She pushed me to always work harder, delve deeper and never stop asking questions. She knew what I was capable of even when I didn't. Professor Hosek transformed me from student to academic. What is apparent to everyone, whether working with her for years, or just sitting in her class for minutes, is her inherent love of learning and her insatiable curiosity."
Making connections...Hosek is also very involved with the beloved and unique Queen's-U of Havana program. Each fall, Queen's hosts a University of Havana professor and each spring 35 Queen's students spend an intensive two weeks in Havana as a crowning of their preparatory learning about Cuba during Queen's winter semester.
But her biggest project right now is LinguaeLive, which aims to make language acquisition easier. This web-based tool that Hosek developed with engineer, Andy Stevko, and a team of volunteers including Queen's Japanese instructor, Mayu Takasaki, connects people who want to learn each other's language. "Back in the day we used pen pals, but now students can have real time eTandem communications. Learning comes alive for students when they can speak in their target language to a peer who is expert in that language and then converse in their own expert language to help that peer learn. LLCU's German stream has an active exchange and partnership with Martin Luther University in Halle, Germany. Colleagues teaching other foreign languages are also getting on board, at Queen's and across the world."
"LinguaeLive is a tool for peer-to-peer discussion that facilitates rapid acquisition of cultural-linguistic competence. Instructors can connect their classes even if they don't know instructors in other lands. We are all super busy, so LinguaeLive aims particularly to save administrative labour. For instance, the matching is automated and instructors can easily access summaries of the lengths of each student's session. LinguaeLive is a versatile e-tool that does not participate in today's wrong-headed attempts to supplant person-to-person with person-to-machine. It leverages the connections between human beings that matter most and work the best. I delight in seeing the many ways in which my fellow instructors around the world are employing LinguaeLive to advance their teaching aims."
Hosek has forged many connections with her own students. "I learn so much from conversing with students. It seems that the more experience I gain, the better I can hear them and the better that I can work with their ideas. They help grow my own ideas and our work together increases our enthusiasm for what we are doing. Students want In Real Life (IRL) discussion and connection. They want the opportunity for that joyous mind expansion that nearly makes your brain hurt."
Profile by Patricia Henderson