The essence of education is about more than arming students with knowledge; it is about awakening their curiosity. As Albert Einstein said: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” It is curiosity that is the driving force behind a hungry mind. This is why I try to encourage students to be curious, both inside and outside the classroom, and to help them to develop the skills they need to pursue their curiosity. I do not tell them what to think; I want to help them to discover how to think. I encourage students to find answers, but more importantly, to learn how to define problems.
Menu of Curiosity
Media and Everyday Consumption: Food and Fashion
This course offers an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective to examine the interplay among media and consumption, and its impacts on Hong Kong citizens in their everyday life. The course focuses on two areas of consumption: food and fashion. We explore the cultural tastes of food and fashion in Hong Kong and Greater China, and their historical roots and international connections. We discuss basic concepts and theories so students can engage in critical thinking on various formats of social inequality such as gender stereotypes, race, class and status. Students are expected to participate in class activities, site visits and group projects.
To cultivate interest in the subjects I teach, I try to bring fun and humour into the classroom. I borrow from the famous Latke-Hamantash Debate from the University of Chicago and create a Chinese version in my class: The Rice ball-Dumpling Debate. Students in my General Education courses come from various disciplines and they are asked to choose one food to defend. They need to use concepts, theories and methods from their home discipline to argue why one food is superior to the other. Students have cried with laughter during these debates while at the same time they begin to get a sense of the other disciplines.
This course introduces students to communication through visual imagery and media. Students will learn the concepts, theories, aesthetics and skills of visual communication, covering visual persuasion, photography, graphic design, cultural and ethical issues, and visualization of ideas. Emphasis will be placed on the ability to conceive creative solutions for specified communication issues. Relevant project works and case studies will be discussed. Basic techniques will also be introduced for accomplishing visual communication tasks. Guest lectures will convey ideas of how to achieve effective visual persuasion and communication. Through hands-on practice, students will learn to apply theories into practice and to become creative and effective communicators in the media world.
I use a variety of new technology resources and tools so that students enjoy the learning process. For example, after teaching in Hong Kong for a few weeks, I realised that local students can be shy about sharing their opinion in class. So I started using an online platform so that they can answer questions and post their comments in a way they find more comfortable. I then project their answers and messages on a screen and I have found students to be very curious about what their classmates have to say.
Most students in this class have no experience with camera nor making videos. They learn to use various visual elements to tell their own urban stories.
Communication Research Methods
COM 2103 BA
COM 5104 MA
The course aims to offer students the basic logic, concepts, and skills of communication research. By the end of this course, students are expected to become proficient to evaluate both qualitative and quantitative research reports; design and implement data-driven research projects; perform basic statistical data analysis and interpret analysis results; write up research reports; and present research findings in a professional manner. For PhD level, students will be exposed to more advanced statistical models and they are expected to: i) comprehend and critically evaluate empirically based scholarly publications; ii) design and implement, independently and originally, empirical studies that employ scientific research methods; and iii) produce a research proposal or a conference presentation that is related to their dissertation.
Education can be fun, but the learning process also requires a great deal of effort. I have taught the research methods course for several years, and students often comment that it is one of the most challenging courses they have ever taken. Many students tend to view numbers and statistics as dull and difficult, which can affect their motivation to work hard. I experiment with different strategies to excite their curiosity and boost their confidence. For instance, in the first class, I help students to see statistics as a way of thinking by showing them movie clips, advertisements and news stories where statistics are used or misused. I use many real-life examples that are of interest to young people to illustrate how statistics work. I also collect data from the students on their personal characteristics, their opinions on social issues and their cultural consumption behaviour. Throughout the course I apply the methods taught in the class to the data as examples. Students find these examples interesting and fun.
Media and Society
This class examines a range of conceptual and theoretical issues concerning the relationship between media and society. It introduces basic concepts and major perspectives in the study of media communication. It also discusses issues that are highly important to mass media in Hong Kong and China. By the end of the class, students are expected to have the ability to think critically about and discuss in-depth the roles media play in society, politics, and our everyday lives, the relationship between media and culture, and the impacts media have on individuals and institutions.
I encourage students to express their thoughts in multimedia formats since this is a generation of media-savvy students. In addition to written essays, I offer them the choice of how they deliver their messages: through videos, photos and even cartoons. For example, in my media and society class, I offered a choice of Theory-in-Cartoon for the weekly report on theories and concepts we learn. Many students draw interesting cartoons to illustrate media theories and to apply theories to explain recent news events. Some of their cartoons have been published in the department magazine.