Utah Tech University

Faculty Spotlight: Kari Gali

By Malia H Adamson

Dr. Kari Gali, Assistant Professor of Education, has been at Dixie State University (DSU) for about four years. Dr. Gali has a background in special education but has recently been teaching general elementary school education. Outside of work, Prof. Gali spends most of her time with her family. She loves reading, walking outdoors, and cooking and eating good food. She also loves Korean dramas and enjoys watching them in her free time.

Innovation in Teaching

The Movement to an Online Teaching Experience

In the spring of 2020 when the pandemic began, there was an abrupt and immediate shift to online teaching. Prof. Gali felt that she, like many others, had not been prepared and that many of the methods that she used during that semester were inadequate for online teaching. As a result, Dr. Gali dove into online teaching techniques to find a more effective way to teach. She wanted to engage her students in the learning process whether they were online or learning through Hyflex teaching. Dr. Gali researched online course structure, learned how to write effective questions and tests in a Hyflex or Online environment, found new activities that could be completed in the online classroom, and learned about how to get students engaged in these environments. Prof. Gali wanted able to gauge how much the students were learning and what they were falling behind on. That way, she could go over it in class and prevent students from falling behind despite the learning situation.

New Techniques and Technologies

One of the ways that Dr. Gali accomplished this goal was by using Flip Grid. Flip Grid is a social, video-based classroom that Prof. Gali utilized for her teaching. In the program, the students record themselves answering a question for a prompt and post it, and then students can reply to their classmates in video form. Dr. Gali reported that the students have really enjoyed it because they like being able to do something more face-to-face with their classmates rather than type to each other through a discussion.

As well as this, Dr. Gali started using a program called Jamboards, which is a program that is offered by Google that allows you to work as a group at the same time on a single brainstorming board. You can add text, images, post-it notes, and whatever else you want to add to be able to collaborate together. She uses Jamboard to interact with students during the class, and as a great side effect, it allows her to create these slides of notes on a topic that they have all contributed to and can look back on later. It has been especially helpful in a hybrid classroom because the program updates in real-time, so both the students in the class and online can be working together and contributing in the same environment. There is also a laser pointer, so Prof. Gali can point out what they are talking about and communicate it easily to the rest of the class.

The last main area that Dr. Gali focused on improving after this shift was her quizzes. She wanted her quizzes to be more engaging and unique for the students. Instead of using quizzes as a rigid set of questions and answers, she wanted them to be able to share and apply what they had learned from the readings, videos, or audio from the section. So instead, she had them submit feedback using a format called “SPUNKI”. S stands for something that surprised them, P was something that was puzzling, U was something that they understood after the reading, N was something that was new information, K was something that they already knew, and I was something that they found interesting. This format helped the students to engage and identify with what they were learning in class and during their own study time.

Kari Gali
(UMAC 2021)
Kari Gali Presenting from the front of a classroom, her arms outstretched gesturing in the air.
(CTL Classroom Photoshoot 2020)

Get to Know Me Better

Kari Gali in front of students with her hands conveying excitement
(CTL Classroom Photoshoot 2020)

What is your favorite teaching experience?

With the Jamboards, Prof. Gali says it has been amazing to see how engaged the students are with each other. It helps students to communicate and feel involved. As well as this, Dr. Gali makes sure to have the students go into breakout rooms often, so that they can have time to talk to other students. She has found this helps the students feel more comfortable in the class and make connections with other students.

Why did you decide to come to DSU?

Dr. Gali and her husband moved here from Hawaii about 15 years ago. Originally, she was contacted by a DSU dean, who is a close friend of Prof. Gali, to teach a course that was in need of a professor. At the time, she had been retired from teaching for about ten years but agreed to do the course. The next semester, she ended up teaching two classes, the year after, was offered a year-to-year contract, and afterward applied and was accepted as a tenure track faculty.

Kari Gali in a small group of students listening to them discuss. There are various other groups of students in the background.
(CTL Classroom Photoshoot 2020)

What advice would you give to other faculty teaching at DSU?
  1. Take it slow. Dr. Gali explains that, while she has made some good changes in her teaching, she feels she still has so far to go when it comes to teaching in this online way. So, take it slow and be willing to make mistakes along the way.
  2. Try new things. Even if it is just one thing, one new program or method, it will help so much in teaching online. For example, one of the things that Dr. Gali first tried was the in-zoom blackboard, which did not work at all for her classroom. She wanted students to be able to be in breakout rooms and talk to each other, but still be able to see the board. But because that did not work, she was able to reach out to others at the university and was able to learn about Jamboard, which happened to be exactly what she was looking for and has become a staple to her classroom. So, even if what you try does not work, it can lead to something better that will.
  3. Prof. Gali believes that it’s important to acknowledge, as a professor, that we are still learning, especially in times of stress like the pandemic. As professors, we will make mistakes, and we are still trying to learn how to function just as much as the students are, so we need to be lenient to them in the same way that they need to be lenient towards us.
  4. Check in with your students, learn what their other professors are doing, as well as talk to others in your department and see what they are doing that might be helpful or effective in your own class.