Comments on: How we teach history? Thoughts on the work of professional historians. http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: MOOCs vs. House of Cards smackdown : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-1933210 Tue, 25 Feb 2014 15:58:03 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-1933210 […] Joshua Kim is channeling our pal, MOOC skeptic Jonathan Rees!  It’s almost unbloglich!  (I’ve jumped on Kim before and was kind of a jerk, but he was a thoroughly decent guy about it all, contacting me in a personal email.)  In a post […]

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By: A book is not a toy. « More or Less Bunk http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-881651 Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-881651 [...] of course, it gets worse. This is from the same guy who Historiann eviscerated a couple of weeks ago: At $199 for the Kindle Fire, a program could pre-load all course video [...]

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By: Z http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875817 Thu, 22 Sep 2011 02:42:27 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875817 AHA, so surveys are gone from English (not where I am, though), then that explains something I read at Undine’s. I’m in Spanish and Portuguese and I teach ‘em, lots of ‘em, in different ways. Cassandra’s recommendation is how a hip survey is done. In my field lots of people do them that way. Those who don’t are trying to teach everything and teach it as an example of a single national story, or a Volksgeist or something, and it’s boring. But doesn’t have to be.

I had surveys in Spanish and Danish as an undergraduate and some were too survey-ish; I always liked the ones that went more in depth on representative texts instead of going for “coverage.” In French they didn’t have them, but had courses on different centuries, instead. More focused surveys. I liked those.

In history we had surveys, too, and I liked those, too, but we didn’t have document readers. We had a textbook with boxes on some pages with excerpts from primary documents. Then we had a few books we had to read that were primary documents. Like Hobbes, Leviathan, we read it in an early modern survey. Then, still in those history surveys, they’d give you these assignments where you ended up in the rare book room looking at primary documents. I thought those were really smart courses, are they out of style???

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By: Contingent Cassandra http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875305 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 21:56:33 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875305 Like Canuck, I was thinking of how all this applies to English (where we are also plagued by readers — anthologies — full of fragments, though there are also some good ones available). On the one hand, we almost have to do some variation on the roulette wheel — finding some very obscure texts for our students to work on — if we want them to practice skills at all, since if we present them with a text someone else has already analyzed (i.e. any canonical or semi-canonical text), it’s impossible, short of locking them in a room with no internet access, to get them to practice analyzing it themselves, rather than looking up someone else’s “right” answer. And since they have very little sense of cultural or literary context, one also has to provide materials for that, without suggesting “right” answers through those choices (or at least find a way to help them formulate and answer questions about parts of the text that require context to interpret).

On the other hand, one of the reasons students have very little sense of cultural or literary context is that survey courses, which provide broad narratives into which texts can be slotted (or, in some cases, to which they can be contrasted), have gone out of style. I think we’re eventually going to have to find a way to re-create such classes, though probably in ways that tell multiple intersecting narratives rather than a single one determined by the dominant culture at the time. It’s been a while since I taught a survey course — or an above-intro-level literature class at all — but I think my ideal would be one where the professor and/or textbook provided an overarching narrative (and/or several competing ones) and fairly standard, contextualized, analyses of better-known texts (with some chance for students to practice such analyses in class, away from the internet if possible), while paper assignments and some portion of exams focused on exercising those skills on lesser-known texts with enough similarities to allow students to apply what they’d learned about context as well as analysis. Whether that’s salable or not, I don’t know.

I’m not sure what the English analogy to suggesting students read 1493 would be — maybe suggesting that they read contemporary, perhaps YA, historical fiction, set during a period, or a movie “based on” a novel, rather than a work actually produced during the time period ostensibly being studied?

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By: The “Love Boat” analogy is a joke, but the sentiment is serious. « More or Less Bunk http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875267 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 19:31:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875267 [...] affects your understanding of whatever it is you teach. Conveniently, I can use yesterday’s brutal blog-beating by Historiann of some tech dude at IHE to explain precisely what I [...]

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By: Western Dave http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875213 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 17:16:53 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875213 I was in a foul mood this morning due to factors beyond my control. I took my rage out on Kim. I don’t regret it. I posted:

Dear Dr. Kim,

There is this thing called hubris. Maybe you learned about it in history class. Maybe you learned about in English. You need to revisit the concept because this article reeks of it.

Let’s revisit some of the premises shall we? “Probably doesn’t conform to the way postsecondary history is taught.” You couldn’t do a quick google search of syllabi to find out? And this is the technology and learning blog? And it’s not like H-Net groups aren’t searchable either.

Second, your assumption that post-secondary education somehow avoids, geography, maps, and dates, in favor of primary sources. The last time I checked maps often were primary sources. And maybe you were (un)lucky but most large lecture classes, the ones the vast majority of students will take, are still narrative based. And there’s this thing called historiography where you learn about the strong opinions historians have and how they derived them. I’m sorry you never got the chance to do that as an undergraduate.

Post-secondary history teaching isn’t just about pleasant content delivery (although there are certainly folks who think that’s the case and teach that way). It’s also about developing your bullshit detector and learning how to use facts to make a persuasive argument. It’s about learning how to do basic research skills that are widely applicable in your later life.

The real rub here is that you are thinking of history teaching as content delivery rather than skill development. Like so many technologists (although not the ones I am fortunate to work with at my own institution), you miss the point of education completely.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875157 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 15:01:35 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875157 Perpetua & all: I’ve used the Pearson DIY readers too with good success. You can choose whatever mixture of primary or secondary sources you like, and they’re quite reasonably priced.

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By: Perpetua http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875104 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 13:08:54 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875104 OT: For everyone who despises readers and works on non-US topics, I just want to throw in that I made a custom text book for my grand intro to the history of the universe class this term. I’m not sure it was worth it, but I discovered in the process that the company I used (Pearson) actually has a reasonably substantial collection of primary material available (like descriptions of Sumerian floods, the Code of Hammurabi, etc etc). It lacks the diversity that I would like, but the documents themselves are pretty meaty (esp in comparison to the 1 page or less reader version). So you can custom make a reader. Again, it won’t have everything you want, but it’s better than all the pre-fab things I’ve found out there. FWIW.

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By: A1066 http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-875007 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 08:26:39 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-875007 Document readers are my bane! I had an alright one in my undergraduate Mexican history course, but mostly because it was unexcerpted and as a result was huge, and really heavy to carry.

They use them in political science, where I teach, an awful lot in survey courses. Invariably they are collections of things a student can usually get for free.

But I ran into the worst offender this semester. The wife went back to school to finish her degree finally and they forced her to take a political philosophy course. The reader she has is nigh incomprehensible. Many of the excerpts are from the same sources, but spread throughout the book under artificially constructed “themes”. That’s pretty painful to have to try to sort through, especially since I read many of them in their original, unhacked up form, in graduate school. So I have to help the Mrs by trying to put them back together in my head to remember what they are actually saying. And some of these stupid things are A PARAGRAPH LONG, where it looks like the editor searched the manuscript for a single keyword, and cut and pasted the paragraph containing it, regardless of what the G-D thing says.

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By: Z http://www.historiann.com/2011/09/19/how-we-teach-history-thoughts-on-the-work-of-professional-historians/comment-page-1/#comment-874958 Tue, 20 Sep 2011 05:11:30 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=16583#comment-874958 What’s a document reader? Is it an electronic device or a book? Is it an anthology? Is it made of whole texts or of excerpts?

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