Joined USJ: 2014
Breaking Down Educational Barriers
Though Don Siler was often placed in classes for “gifted” students in high school, he was so bored that he dropped out in his sophomore year. “It felt detached and pointless like I was doing work just because it needed to be done,” says Siler. Based on low African American male high school graduation rates in cities like the then-impoverished North Philadelphia neighborhood where Siler lived, he was not the only one. Siler felt many urban youth did not see models of success outside of athletic and entertainment careers. Add to that, he says, the youth’s educational success was often based on standardized tests with few alternative tools to engage their interest in learning. Siler completed high school with a general education degree (GED). As a professor, he embraces the value of “cross-curricular arts in schools.” He also remains sensitive to the struggles of urban students. Siler is committed to breaking down barriers in academic education with visual arts and digital technology – areas that interested him and his peers the most. He works to make school curriculums “connect with” students.
The Artist and the Educator
Siler aims to “create reflexive, student-centered, multimodal classroom environments.” Throughout his career he taught high school art, undergraduate college courses in globalized education, and a course on the socio-cultural foundations of American education. In these settings, Siler’s students used technology to mesh classroom assignments with real-world experiences and the arts, such as using Rap genre songs and theatrical presentations in their assignments. Academic curriculums were imbedded into what the students were doing. “It shows that education does not have to be formalized and social learning is absolutely huge,” Siler says.
The Future of Art and Digital Technology
Siler’s research focuses on “the potential benefits of differentiation and arts integration in urban classrooms” and using digital technology as a more prominent learning tool. At USJ, he teaches a graduate-level course on digital technology assessment to students who are on a track to become teachers. Siler wants to show them how to make learning more accessible. His goal is to implement assessments that will help motivate and engage students to want to learn more. He notes that the University of Saint Joseph “is a school that places the students at the center of their own education, and promotes different facets of life and learning.”
Ph.D. candidate, Temple University
M.Ed., Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (2)
B.S., Temple University