Teaching reading notes

When I was in college, a friend of mine made a joke that he couldn’t read novels without a pencil in his hand, because he was so used to note-taking his philosophy books. My father is a professor, but I don’t remember ever seeing him read a work of fiction, and always remember him having a manuscript to work on in his spare time. One of the goals of the historical methods class at CSUF…

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Teaching theory in history (part two of some) – or – In Theory podcast meets Typhoid Mary

Big theoretical concepts can help us to see the world in new ways.  Big theoretical concepts can help us  see historical events in new ways.  This is especially important for methods classes like the one I am teaching now, since these courses seek to bridge the gap between history as a set of stories that someone else tells, and history as a practice that students themselves can engage in.  We want students to leave these…

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Teaching theory in history (part one of some)

I’ve recently had conversations with several colleagues about teaching theory in history.  As a discipline, we’re not as obviously theory heavy as some of our compatriots in the social sciences, and much of the theory we use is grounded, or embedded in assumptions we make about sources, voices and narrative.  Given the importance, but relative invisibility of theory in history writing (and given that students – especially new majors in historical methods classes – are…

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Safe Spaces in the Life of the Mind

The University of Chicago recently sent a letter to incoming students which has made me – for the first time – embarrassed to be affiliated with my undergraduate institution. This letter (as Kevin Gannon has noted) seems to be equal parts pedagogical statement and public posture.  It certainly needs to be understood in terms of evolving debates about college campuses, academic politics and student life. I, however, want to address it from the perspective of…

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Streamlined Grading with Linked Documents

First comes the start of the semester; then comes grading; then comes the inevitable wondering about how to make grading less of a chore. I realized a few years ago that much of my dislike of grading came not from an aversion to reading student work, or even to writing comments. Rather, for me, it came from navigating the systems that meant that I was spending more time collecting, archiving and returning student projects than…

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An agentic moment

This week I assigned Jeff McClurken’s article on Omeka and “productive discomfort.”  I’ve had students read this article before, and while the resulting conversation was interesting, the article has never before resulted in the kind of robust debate about discomfort, barriers and technology that came out of the reading response blog posts for today’s class. I could summarize, annotate and curate their posts, but (drawing on Andrew Rikard’s recent argument about student agency) I thought…

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Imaginotrasnference technology -or- books as technology

I’m teaching a class on early American communication technology/introduction to digital history next (almost this!) semester.  For one of the early classes, I wanted to drive home how books (and pens and paper and presses etc.) fit into a history of technology.  While there are some great theoretical articles on book-as-tech, I ended up going with an extended quotation from Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots, on the genealogy of books – and then…

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Sleepy Hollow continues to be weird

My students asked today for a Sleepy Hollow update – which I wasn’t fully prepared to give.  After they found the Lost Colony of Roanoke (on a magic island in the Hudson Valley, no less), I had sort of given up on the show.  I caught up tonight – and it continues to be terrible, but in some rather odd ways. For one, some officers of the British army are also demons, which takes the…

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Quick note on language and westward expansion

I’ve been writing/learning to write history for a bit now, but I don’t think that I’ve ever been as aware of my language as I am this semester teaching American history.  I find myself, more and more, using North America in my U.S. survey, in part because the borders of the United States shifted so quickly in the 19th century that what counted as outside of the United States one year mightn’t be the next. …

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Let us talk about Sleepy Hollow

I am an unabashed fan of badly realized history in books, TV and movies.  I started my U.S. survey this semester with the opening scenes from National Treasure, I legitimately enjoy Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy (though, to be fair, the history in that is spot-on, with the exception of the witches, demons and magic bits) and, predictably, I really liked the new Sleepy Hollow TV series premier.  It’s not that I think that badly…

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