Category Archives: Reading Responses

Responding to Some Readings and Stuff

For our class readings tomorrow, I was drawn into a piece on Writing History in the Digital Age that was similar in content to research I had done last semester in a composition studies course, research that I will be presenting in April at our Undergraduate Research Symposium on campus. Composition studies is fantastic, for the record, and everyone should take a comp studies class at some point. That’s just my two cents, though it’s beside the point. Anyways, what’s important is the research I completed in my class. My topic? To create a new, writing based pedagogy for lower-level history courses that focuses on developing critical thinking skills. The traditional introductory survey course in history is lecture based with little chance for writing or critical thinking and my proposed pedagogy incorporates both, utilizing writing as a tool to develop critical thinking skills, specifically those skills that are necessary for learning to think like a historian.

Naturally, with this in mind, I was drawn to the piece in Part 3 entitled, “Towards Teaching the Introductory History Course, Digitally.”

I read the first paragraph and immediately and excitedly thought, THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY UNDERSTANDING WRITING PROJECT PART II!!!!!!!! (I may have gotten a little too excited, there). But truthfully, just from the first paragraph, it did. I didn’t focus at all on incorporating digital learning into my new pedagogy, which makes sense as I was focusing more so on writing; with this essay, I was thrilled to start thinking about my own research a little differently, with the digital-based pedagogy presented here.

I was initially really intrigued by this essay because of the very obvious connections between it and my comp studies research. However, it more importantly got me thinking about the Century America class in a new way. I always knew what I was doing for this class was a wholly unique experience. Although I’ve done archival research before, I have zero experience with creating a website, besides the extremely user friendly wordpress.com, where my personal blog is located. But seriously, you don’t even need to worry about HTML over at wordpress.com, though you can if you want. So, though I’m thankful to have basic WordPress knowledge because of my personal blog, this whole building a website business is pretty daunting.

Generally speaking, I feel that we here in Hist 1914 are being exposed to the same pedagogical opportunities presented in Harbison and Waltzer’s essay, albeit a little differently: we are certainly being active as we write on our own blogs and prepare to create our own website. Bringing the ideas we discover in the processes of blogging and website planning to our virtual classroom adds for a much more enriching experience. In blogging, we are being social. We are encouraged to comment on each other’s blogs and we are engaging with the rest of the interweb on these public blogs. Because our blogs, and eventually websites, are public, we are being open with who we interact with and how we interact with them. We have learned about copyright and are aware of the procedures we must go through to abide copyright laws, in order to maintain successful public sites. Our sites will, undoubtedly, be media rich, as we incorporate and embed pictures, maps, and timelines into our project. There is certainly a lot of metacognition going on, as we actively consider the way are websites will be planned out and how we will arrange the layout and the pages to best convey our messages. Lastly, this is certainly one of the most immersive experiences I’ve personally had at the college level. As Harbison and Waltzer state, “The publishing environment enriches the class as a laboratory does in the hard sciences. It gives students hands-on experience with the skills of the historical trade, especially analyzing primary documents.” Not only are we learning how to become better historians in this class, but we are also learning a wide variety of technological skills that will undoubtedly help us later on in life, regardless of where our paths take us after college, in this world of increasingly technology that we are living in.

So, not only does “Towards Teaching the Introductory History Course, Digitally,” have a lot in common with my comp studies research, but it also reinforces a lot of what we are learning in Hist 1914. Though I wouldn’t consider Hist 1914 to be an introductory course, these skills are invaluable to practice throughout the college experience. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to learn from this course in that respect. I guess my extensive ramble about comp studies is my yay for liberal arts moment? I mean, I love making connections between classes! Okay, anyway, onward to the next point…

The other article I looked at was The Future of American History from Perspectives on History. Hochstadt focuses in on some really important aspects of the teaching of American History, how focusing in on historically underrepresented groups is imperative for fully understanding history as a whole. History cannot and should not be told from one perspective (i.e. the white, upper class male perspective). While not specifically related to digital history, I did appreciate this essay for reinforcing a lot of what I have been exposed to throughout my college education in history. The new pedagogies that are including the histories of this underrepresented groups are invaluable for the future of historical education. I thought a bit about how this article could help me in my own research for this class and thought about how, though the story of the WCSA during the World War I era isn’t necessarily the story of underrepresented individuals–unless you count the women students there–it is a story that is invaluable for further understanding the time period in its own right; in focusing my part of the website in on the WCSA, I am adding to an American History that is continually expanding as more information is being discovered and more perspectives are being shared and analyzed with the historical community.

And so ends my offering of reading response insights for the day.