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Week Two: Toward Teaching the Introductory History Course, Digitally


January 19, 2015 by rjordan10

After finishing up the readings and articles assigned for this week, there was one section in particular that stood out to me, even after I had finished all of the readings. The first essay in Part 3 of the book Writing History in the Digital Age, written by Thomas Harbison and Luke Waltzer, called, Toward Teaching the Introductory History Course, Digitally, seemed especially relevant for several reasons.

One reason was that the article show how often the use of digital history (like the use of class blogs, etc.) is being utilized in history classes; even lower-level history classes, like the one mentioned in the essay. In the essay, Harbison even mentions how the history class he is writing about will probably be the last history class most of his students in the class take. (pg. 100) Another reason I thought this section of the book was relevant was because it shows how, due to the fact the most students at the university and graduate school level have some grasp of technology, it is easy for a history (or any type of class, for that matter,) to have a class blog where students can post, whether it is an advanced level class (like at the graduate level) or a lower level class (a freshmen introductory class.)

Two other interesting things that I highlighted from this section of the book was when the authors of the essay wrote about a WordPress plug-in on the class blog they were talking about, that allowed students to track their work over their college careers, as well as the ability to set up a profile picture for the class blog (pg. 102.) Obviously, for a small, specialized class, putting up a profile picture of yourself is not that important, since probably most students already know each other, but for a bigger class, having students take the time to do this could actually be a really good idea, so that for things like class discussions, they would be able to “put a name to a face.”


  1. Alexandra Troxell says:

    I also found it very poignant when the author pointed out that the introductory level history classes are the last history class that most people will take, even those that may be teaching the subject to young students later in their careers. The essay is a reminder of just how important intro classes are. While many students, and likely many teachers, see them as a class taken simply because it is required, it is also likely the only chance to teach students the importance of topics like digital history. Most people get their information from online sources- when they see or hear about a topic they’re not familiar with, they immediately turn to google. For history topics, an intro level course can help teach these students the validity of various sources and even if they have no intention of pursuing a career in history, it can help them become a better and more informed (re)searcher.

  2. Adina Langer says:

    Becky, I’m glad that you found the section on history teaching in Writing History in the Digital Age edifying. I think that you will particularly enjoy our March 31 class on K-16 audiences for digital history sites. Your comments on the personalization opportunities provided by digital tools are interesting. All too often, digital tools seem to make it possible to be more anonymous in public. In what ways can they personalize our research and learning experience?

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