A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

UK College of Communication and Information utilizes clear face masks to create normalcy

By Meg Mills
University of Kentucky

Thanks to an innovative teaching idea from University of Kentucky faculty in the College of Communication and Information, students were able to experience a sense of normalcy in their public speaking and writing courses — with the help of clear face masks.

One of these faculty members is senior faculty lecturer Allyson DeVito, who turned her CIS 112 final presentation into a TED-like-talk utilizing the clear face masks. Students had the option to deliver their six to eight minute speeches on a subject they are passionate about via Zoom, or in-person using a clear face mask.

A UK student presenting in a clear face mask during the fall semester. (Photo by Mark Cornelison)

The masks were purchased by the CI dean’s office, and were given to the students ahead of their presentations so they could practice speaking while wearing them.

“Whether the students chose to deliver their presentations via Zoom or in person, it was great practice for them,” DeVito said. “Most job interviews are happening in virtual settings, so this assignment gave them the opportunity to think about how they would conduct themselves virtually — decide what to wear, how they would keep eye contact, etc.”

About 40 students in multiple sections of CIS 112 chose to deliver their talks in person.

Brennen Mullins was one of those students. “The chance to give my TED Talk in-person, using the clear masks, gave me more incentive to practice and prepare my speech. During a semester where many classes were online, it was refreshing to build anticipation for an important, in-person, and relevant talk. I feel like I am better prepared to speak in the future, after we move on from this virus, because of my choice to use a clear mask.”

The clear masks allowed students to show facial expressions to their audience as well as move around the room — both important aspects of public speaking.

“It was obviously not safe for students to remove their masks, so we did the best we could to give the students the experience of delivering speeches to an audience,” DeVito said. “I believe this adaptation provided a sense of normalcy for the students, as well as for myself. Even with the masks, I didn’t feel my class was drastically different compared to last fall.”

Looking forward to the spring semester, DeVito hopes to use a similar teaching style and hopes more students will choose to deliver the speech using the clear masks.

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