February 15, 2023

DAUS Faculty Spotlight: Adjunct Assistant Professor Dino Sossi

Born in Canada to Italian and Slovakian immigrants, Dino Sossi is an adjunct assistant professor at the NYU SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies. Before joining NYU, he was a research fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, creating media for the Digital Public Library of America, i-Lab, Digital Problem-Solving Initiative, MIT Media Lab, Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching, Zeega storytelling platform, and UNICEF–Youth & Media Lab’s conference. As a learning experience designer, he produced curricula on pandemic public policy for Toronto Metropolitan University and social media-driven human rights mobilization for OCAD University.

During his career, Sossi has worked as a producer/videographer (Alliance-Atlantis, Shaw), writer/reporter (AOL-Time Warner, Columbia, Toronto Star), radio host/producer (CIUT 89.5FM, WBAR), and photographer (Columbia). He has created content for CBC, CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNN, CTV, Discovery, The Globe & Mail, IFC, The New York Times, The Second City, the UN, and vh1. His documentaries have been screened at festivals in New York and Los Angeles, and at Berkeley, Cambridge, Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and Pennsylvania.

What do you teach at NYU SPS, and how does your background tie into what you are teaching?
I teach Artificial Intelligence, Data Visualization, Design & Programming for the Web, Designing Data–Infographics, and Social Media. Teaching combines my passion for sharing ideas in dynamic forms and media.

I earned a doctorate in Instructional Technology and Media at Columbia and a JD from Queen’s University, where I won the Leonard Prize in International Economic Law and edited the Queen’s Law Journal, a peer-reviewed English/French journal. I was a member of Mensa, the world’s oldest high-IQ society. I performed with the Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe during grad school. Stand-up comedy attuned me to classroom dynamics.

These experiences help me engage incredibly smart students with complex ideas during a chaotic and censorious time when some look at education with suspicion. We must address the post-COVID world’s challenges, but temper the mood to maintain perspective and avoid pessimism. Learning should be about hope, possibility, and transcendence.

What are the trends in technology, AI, and the metaverse that our curriculum is uniquely equipped to address?
Our curriculum and faculty are well-positioned to address issues across the digital landscape, regardless of the technologies in question or platforms in use. NYU SPS has a unique blend of scholars and practitioners who inhabit the fertile space between academia and industry. Our broad interests and diverse skills give us a vibrancy of thought that can be missing in traditional academic environments. If anyone can nimbly guide us through the dislocating impacts of technology and the perils it has wrought, it is the fine people at SPS.

Could you talk briefly about ChatGPT and its ramifications for teaching? Where do you see it heading?
ChatGPT is an incredibly powerful chatbot that provides detailed responses across subjects. It is the latest technology threatening to disrupt education. ChatGPT should free us from some of academia’s mundane text-based tasks. I worry about it amplifying disinformation and harming our information ecosystem. Potential remedies include improved digital literacy and instilling pride in complex thought.

What has your experience been in the classroom?
I studied in a wonderfully nurturing K–12 teacher training program at York University. It helped me think about the interplay of social, economic, and political factors contextualizing learning. As a research assistant with the Harlem Schools Partnership for STEM Education, I worked with unbelievably welcoming faculty. I later taught K–12 in Toronto, New York, and across England and Wales.

I am shifting my pedagogy to personal assignments that reflect student values. The more personal the assignment, the more they should be motivated to create work based on experiences that resonate with them deeply. ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI)-driven technology will ideally complement learning rather than being the focus.

We must be proactive in how ChatGPT and analogous technologies impact teaching, learning, and civil society. Confronting these challenges seems inevitable as AI becomes increasingly pervasive, sophisticated, and imperceptible. Talking about AI’s ethical dilemmas honestly is key. We can hopefully learn to use AI in ways that meet NYU’s ethical standards and help students responsibly experiment with these tools at university and beyond.

Please tell me about your other areas of interest or projects you are involved in.
I am excited to present on copy-and-paste literacies, visuals fostering literacy, and online surveys at the 2023 American Educational Research Association conference.

Finally, I am finishing a book proposal. Wish me luck! I could write a book about the obstacles in writing a book, mostly self-inflicted!

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