Category Archives: learning

next text: new media in history teaching and scholarship

The next text project came forth from the realization that twenty-five years into the application of new media to teaching and learning, textbooks have not fully tapped the potential of new media technology. As part of this project, we have invited leading scholars and practitioners of educational technology from specific disciplines to attend meetings with their peers and the institute. Yesterday, we were fortunate to spend the day talking to a group of American History teachers and scholars, some of whom created seminal works in history and new media. Over the course of the day, we discussed their teaching, their scholarship, the creation and use of textbooks, new media, and how to encourage the birth of the next generation born digital textbook. By of the end of the day, the next text project started to take a concrete form. We began to envision the concept of accessing the vast array of digitized primary documents of American History that would allow teachers to formulate their own curricula or use guides that were created and vetted by established historians.
Attendees included:
David Jaffe, City University of New York
Gary Kornblith, Oberlin College
John McClymer, Assumption College
Chad Noyes, Pierrepont School
Jan Reiff, University of California, Los Angeles
Carl Smith, Northwestern University
Jim Sparrow, University of Chicago
Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University
Kate Wittenberg, EPIC, Columbia University
The group contributed to influential works in the field of History and New Media, including Who Built America, The Great Chicago Fire and The Web of Memory, The Encyclopedia of Chicago, the Blackout History Project, the Visual Knowledge Project, History Matters,the Journal of American History Textbook and Teaching Section, and the American History Association Guide to Teaching and Learning with New Media.
Almost immediately, we found that their excellence in their historical scholarship was equally matched in their teaching. Often their introductions to new media came from their own research. Online and digital copies of historical documents radically changed the way they performed their scholarship. It then fueled the realization that these same tools afforded the opportunity for students to interact with primary documents in a new way which was closer to how historians work. Often, our conversations gravitated back to teaching and students, rather than purely technical concerns. Their teaching led them to the forefront of developing and promoting active learning and constructionist pedagogies, by encouraging an environment of inquiry-based learning, rather than rote memorization of facts, through the use of technology. In these new models, students are guided to multiple paths of self-discovery in their learning and understanding of history.
We spoke at length on the phrase coined by attendee John McClymer, “the pedagogy of abundance.” With access to rich archives of primary documents of American history as well as narratives, they are not faced with the problems of scarcity of assets. This led to the discussion of the spectrum of teaching in higher education. The motivations and resources of history teachers differ greatly. Many history teachers lack the resources, (particularly the adjunct history teacher) or the creativity to move away from the traditional “march” through the standard history survey course and textbook.
The discussion also included issues of resistance, which were particularly interesting to us. Many meeting participants mentioned student resistance to new methods of learning including both new forms of presentation and inquiry-based pedagogies. In that, traditional textbooks are portable and offer an established way to learn. They noted an institutional tradition of the teacher as the authoritative interpreter in lecture-based teaching, which is challenged by active learning strategies. Further, we discussed the status (or lack of) of the group’s new media endeavors in both their scholarship and teaching. Depending upon their institution, using new media in their scholarship had varying degrees of importance in their tenure and compensation reviews from none to substantial. Quality of teaching had no influence in these reviews. Therefore, these projects were often done, not in lieu of, but in addition to their traditional publishing and academic professional requirements.
The combination of an abundance of primary documents (particulary true for American history) and a range of teaching goals and skills led to the idea of adding layers on top of existing digital archives. Varying layers could be placed on top of these resources to provide structure for both teachers and students. Teachers who wanted to maintain the traditional march through the course would still be able to do so through guides created by the more creative teacher. Further, all teachers would be able to control the vast breadth of material to avoid overwhelming students and provide scaffolding for their learning experience. We are very excited by this notion, and will further refine the meeting’s groundwork to strategize how this new learning environment might get created.
We are still working through everything that was discussed, however, we left the meeting with a much clearer idea of the landscape of the higher education history teacher / scholar, as well as, possible directions that the born digital history textbook could take.

reed elsevier and the arms trade

reedchild.jpg They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And so I’m pointing to this upsetting story about educational publishing giant Reed Elsevier’s complicity in international violence through a subsidiary (Spearhead Exhibitions) that runs one of the world’s largest arms fairs. There are the beginnings of a movement for academics and others to demand that R.E. drop this sordid business.
(via Crooked Timber)

we teach success.

trump.jpg That’s the motto of The Donald’s latest business venture, Trump University. Yes, you heard me right, Donald Trump has started an online University, complete with lectures, seminars, blogs, chat kiosks, esteemed faculty, and of course, distinguished Chairman of the University, Trump himself.
Like the University of Phoenix, Trump has built his online learning initiative on a firm business model. The mission of this so-called university is “success,” in a trade-school kind of way. The ambition is to teach skills and “trade-secrets” that are designed to turn a quick profit in the marketplace. The site is replete with self-help euphemisms like: “what’s the altitude of your attitude,” “bloom where you are planted,” and “your mind can build castles, just make sure the foundations are in place first.”
Self-help schlock notwithstanding, I was tempted by some of the offerings. For a mere twenty-nine dollars, I could get a “Career Assessment Profile.” A 76-question online test that measures key dimensions of my personality and can predict job performance. According to the site, the test can “tap into your hidden abilities and find the job that best matches your personality.” Twenty-nine dollars seemed like a small price to pay to tap my hidden potential. What if low-paying scholarly work really isn’t my thing? Maybe the assessment will reveal that I’m better suited to wheeling and dealing at the top of the corporate ladder. The only thing that stopped me from signing on was the memory of a similar test I took in high school which revealed that my true calling is police work (a noble profession, but, if you knew me, you would roll your eyes at the thought of kim white, the enforcer).
I also had to restrain myself from using the institute credit card to sign up for Trump’s intriguing “Women-Centric Studies program”

Trump University is developing a new “women-centric” curriculum, starting with Prof. Karen Kahn Wilson’s live course, Success Strategies for Women. This four-session course, scheduled for September and October, will be delivered over the Web. It will focus on the distinct strengths that women bring to the workplace and how they’re related to findings in the latest research on female neurology. It has always been “common knowledge” that men and women think and behave differently–in the workplace and elsewhere–but these differences can now be explained through hard science.

Could it be? Is the business community finally realizing the unique contributions women have to offer? Are courses like this designed to change the business environment so that cognitive skills native to the female become highly respected and sought after? Or does Trump University offer this course because they know that this is what I wish for, and what I might pay for?
From the “Trump University Winner Wear” collection