One of the biggest reasons educators make the switch to using blogs in history courses is that the format facilities discussion. Sure, students could share their work through Blackboard, the popular online course management system. However, Blackboard’s discussion board section makes it easy for students to upload their work without reading anything their student peers have written. From personal experience, I can attest that clicking on each thread is tedious and that it is difficult to develop broader insights from the posts when they are on different pages. Blackboard, in this case, serves a repository for student writing no more useful than a document folder on a computer.
Luckily, the higher-ups in the tower have decided, for a host of reasons, to switch UT to a new management system, Canvas, starting next fall. This latest newcomer in learning management systems, which Instructure Inc. developed in 2011, is, according to the UT website, “designed for the 21st century learning environment.” The Canvas website claims that the system “isn’t just a product. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s an educational revolution.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what it would actually look like to practice a form of scholarship and teaching that could bring together the strands that I’ve been reading about: social justice & activism, digital history, public history, and history attuned to individual narratives and local communities. This week, I wanted to explore who’s already doing this kind of work, and what, if any, models are out there for bringing this kind of thinking into undergraduate history classrooms. It didn’t take long for my search to bring me to the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project — and once I’d found it, I didn’t leave.
My posts seem to be getting more and more specific as I continue down the path of trying to articulate a plan to redesign the undergraduate survey. This will certainly be my most specific post yet as I take the ideas that I’ve developed over the last few weeks and try to give shape to the classroom that I’m imagining. Building on my previous two posts, this week I want to bring in primary and secondary source documents into one of the thematic sections that I’ve imagined as part of the post-Civil War undergraduate survey.
As I discussed in previous posts, each TA would lead a section and each section would have a theme (agreed upon by the TA and the professor before the semester started). For the purposes of this post, let’s imagine a section titled something like “Contesting the Narrative: Native Voices in Post-Civil War America,” or it could be more broad, perhaps exploring multiple groups whose voices have often been missed in the traditional “coverage” style of the undergraduate lecture. Regardless of the title, the section would pay careful attention to teaching students that history is much more than the decided, removed, third-party perspective of a textbook.
Let’s dive in.
After this week’s research I sat down to write my post and thought, “It’s funny how things seem to just fall into place sometimes.” Here’s why.
My hope this week was to wrap up the literature review aspect of using material culture (MC) in the classroom. I found less than I thought I would, but I took that as a sign that I’ve found a satisfactory amount of literature and it’s time to move to the next step of analyzing MC for myself. Great! What’s more, I found two different ways of analyzing MC, which have helped me better understand the process. Finally, I read something that opened my eyes and has made me more comfortable with leading a MC analysis.
In this blog post, I wanted to follow up with responses and feedback to the classroom activity I planned last time to introduce the Beats, as well as to discuss other potential activities I could implement to address cultural memory and history together.
After presenting my activity to the class, we took time to discuss some of the pros and cons. Fortunately for me, everyone in the class seemed to respond positively to the use of the typewriter in conjunction with the sound recording and specific “mood music” chosen for the writing task. Some of the responses mentioned that the activity was “fun,” but also “difficult” in adapting to the older medium. A few people pointed out the level of noise produced, not only from using the typewriter and music, but also coming from the students waiting in line and encouraging each other to write out their responses. I was pleased to hear that my synthesis of what it all meant—pointing out the irregular rhythms of the typewriter as a form of music that shares a level of spontaneity with Kerouac’s writing process and bebop music—made sense, providing a clear picture between the experience of using the older technology and listening to the sounds in conjunction with each other.
Posted in HIS 392
Tagged allen ginsberg, cultural memory, feedback, Historical thinking, interactivity, James Paul Gee, kerouac, multimedia, response, Sam Wineburg, the beats, think alouds, typewriter
In my last post, I discussed the possibilities of integrating cultural memory into the history classroom and pedagogy filtered through my own research in Beat Studies. I left off only speculating on what could be done to incorporate memory into historical analysis, but this time, I wanted to present some possible ways in which to practically engage with what is known outside of the classroom in dealing with the Beats through a multimedia approach.
For a class assignment, I thought it might be interesting to bring in my very own 1940s Underwood typewriter, a particular item I purchased this past summer for personal use. I chose this device because of its significance in the life of Jack Kerouac, who used a similar typewriter in his early stages as a writer (his early work was collected posthumously in Atop an Underwood). The typewriter was a crucial instrument for the construction of many of the most famous Beat works—including On the Road, Howl, and Naked Lunch, among others—so it made sense to fit it somewhere in the classroom (the idea to use the typewriter as classroom artifact was inspired by Dominic’s work on material culture).